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Black Ties and White Lies: Chapter 56


I’m reeling from excitement when I walk back into the penthouse. I was seconds away from spilling the good news to Ezra in the car when I thought better of it.

No matter how upset or disappointed I was with Beck, he was still the first person I wanted to call when Camden Hunter agreed to display one of my pieces.

My work is going into Camden’s gallery. I’m still too stunned to believe it. There’s a red mark on my arm from where I pinched myself the entire car ride home to make sure I wasn’t in some elaborate dream.

It’s a miracle he even got to see my work after I’d fumbled for so long as I tried to get the paper to lay flat. He eventually put me out of my misery and put paperweights on the corners so he could see the piece.

When he’d asked for details on the piece, I’d stuttered and jumbled my words, but my point got across.

He’d shockingly been really impressed with the concept.

I’d shown him one I’d created almost a year ago when I’d been visiting New York with Emma and Winnie. We’d been walking and gossiping about one of the girls who lived in our dorm who was about to be on some reality TV show. I’d been listening to Emma rattle on about how she may give a reality dating show a go when I’d noticed this man reading a newspaper on a bench.

He was elderly, his hands wrinkly and almost purple. He’d worn a newspaper hat and a coat with coattails. He even had a pipe slid in his mouth. Next to him sat a fresh bouquet of flowers neatly wrapped in tan butcher paper. I’d wondered why he was alone and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I’d obsessed over him so much that I eventually returned to the bench, wondering if I’d find him there again. I wanted to ask him everything about his life, to figure out why he was sitting there alone with the flowers.

When I returned, I was disappointed he wasn’t there. I felt sad and defeated. I wanted to know everything about him. Why was he always alone? Who were the flowers for? I became obsessed with creating a new life for him in my head. One where he didn’t sit alone. One where he had a partner sitting next to him holding the flowers.

In my rush of sadness, I almost missed the plaque that was on the back of the bench. I’d leaned in and read the name and dedication over and over. It was for someone who had passed away—a memory bench. I’d read everything on the internet there was to know about the woman whose name was forever etched in stone.

Come to find out, the man sitting there was her husband. They’d been married fifteen years before the woman passed away in a car accident. He’d later found out she was pregnant with their first child together after they’d tried for countless years to have a child. He’d been a billionaire, heir to one of the top communication companies in the world and had sold some of his share in the company to his brother after the accident. He still partially owned it, but he didn’t want the control he had before. The man never remarried. Apparently, every Saturday he’d sit on the bench and buy her flowers, claiming Saturday was always her favorite day of the week, and she wouldn’t go a week without getting fresh flowers throughout their house.

I mourned the loss of his wife with him, even though we were complete strangers.

I hadn’t talked to Emma or Winnie for a week when I’d drawn the piece. On one side, there’s the man on the bench with his flowers sketched in pencil. The other side I completed by painting it, bringing it to life with the colors.

It was the life I’d imagined for this man—for his wife and their unborn child—if only reality hadn’t been so harsh.

The bench had been continued from the black and white sketch to the painted portion. In black and white he’d read the newspaper alone, but in color, his wife sat next to him, holding a bouquet of flowers. They’d both looked down at their grandchildren playing at their feet.

Camden said he loved it. He’d asked so many questions about the man, about the concept of me reimagining a life for the man who was a stranger to me. It sparked a conversation about most of my work. How I take someone I see, someone who’s a complete stranger, and imagine what their life is outside of that moment in time that I saw them.

He said he wants to eventually discuss the opportunity to do an entire show based around my concept.

I still can’t believe it.

I’m so lost in the excitement for the day that I almost call out for Beck to tell him the good news. I stop myself, realizing that I’m alone in the large space. It seems eerily quiet. My feet start walking toward the room Beck and I shared on their own accord. I just want to spend a few minutes there. To see if it still smells like him despite the fact the house cleaners had already come by for the day and cleaned.

I’m about to step into the room when I notice a door a few feet away from the bedroom left slightly ajar. I’ve never gone into the room. Beck said it was an office he never used, so it never interested me. But now with him gone, I’m curious what’s in the space, and why he doesn’t use it often. Whatever it is, the house cleaners must’ve been cleaning in there and forgot to close the door all the way.

I can’t help myself. My curiosity gets the best of me as my fingers push against the wood door, pushing it open. I take a cautious step inside.

I’m taken aback by what I see.

This room isn’t an office. At least not in the stereotypical way. It’s a studio.

An art studio.

“Oh my god,” I whisper in awe, taking steps deeper into the room. My eyes don’t know what to land on first. I marvel at the scene in front of me, wondering how long it’s been the dream studio for an artist. And why Beck has a state-of-the-art studio when he’s not artistic in the slightest.

The lighting in here is enough to take one’s breath away. The open windows that take up half the far wall are a dream. A drafter’s table sits right in front of it, the perfect location to get daylight and the sun on your face while also getting to stay inside.

“What is all this?” I mutter, looking around to take in the beauty of the space. I had no idea this was in here, and I don’t know how long it’s been this way. Has Beck always had an art studio hidden away? Why did he never mention it?

There’s a shelf that’s taller than me filled with art supplies. Some of my favorite brands sit on the shelf, even equipped with brands I’ve never used because they were too expensive, but ones I’d dreamed of creating art with one day.

It’s a dream. And I have no idea why he has it here, or why he’s never mentioned it to me.

I’m about to break and call him when something catches my eye.

On one of the walls, I spot a neatly framed picture. It’s the only thing hanging on the wall, looking almost out of place with how small it is compared to the empty space around it.

I hurry to take a closer look, gasping when I come face to face with what is hung on the wall.

It’s a picture of Beck. The picture of Beck. The one I’d drawn on the beach two summers ago.

I’d been distraught when I couldn’t find it the morning we left The Hamptons, but I couldn’t really tell Carter. I didn’t know how I’d explain to him that I couldn’t find a portrait I’d drawn of his brother, so I’d had to forget about it.

But I never really forgot.

All this time, Beck had it. Not only had he stolen it, he’d hung it up in his house.

As I look from the picture to the room, pieces start falling together. I realize that Beck may have lied to me from the very beginning, but deep down, I know I believe every word he told me the night of our engagement party.

He wouldn’t have done all of this if he was trying to get back at Carter.

I know deep in my soul that Beck loves me. It’s a realization that settles through my entire body, my heart, my entire being. I regret ever doubting him or doubting us. Our love is too beautiful to have ever been what Carter accused it of being. I should’ve trusted Beck. He’d lied to me, and I can be angry at him for that, but he still never faltered in showing the lengths he’d take for love. For me.

I stare at the picture I’d drawn of him, at my own drawing come to life staring back at me. I look at it with fresh eyes. Beck stares back at me. My mind catapults back to that night, as I replay his recounts of how he felt that night.

It all makes sense.

I’m brought back to his heated gaze. His lingering touch. He’d given me signals that night, I just hadn’t looked into them deeply.

Beck found a very unconventional way of bringing us together, but every lie and scheme he made led to us falling in love. My eyes move from the picture hanging on the wall back to the desk in the corner. Taking a step closer, I run my fingers over a familiar coffee cup that holds some sketching utensils.

I smile, tracing over the looping font of the words Greetings From the Hamptons. Tucked into a drawer at my apartment, I still have the sketch of this very mug. I can’t believe Beck has kept these things all this time.

I can’t believe he’s loved me all this time.

He’s loved me far longer than I’ve loved him, but it doesn’t change the fact that now, my heart is forever his. I can’t imagine it ever belonging to anyone else. I don’t want it to. For the rest of my life, I want him and only him. I don’t care how we started, all I care about is how we end. Or how we never end.

Now I just have to wait until he’s back to tell him.

And I know exactly how I want to do it.

He’s gone to great, elaborate lengths to have me. Now, it’s my turn.


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