What’s he doing here? I stare back at him, my heart beating wildly in my chest. Nothing could have prepared me for this overwhelming pain in my chest at seeing him again. He’s wearing faded jeans and a long-sleeved, muscle fit T-shirt. His sun-kissed hair looks ruffled and so sexy. The memory of its softness between my fingers rushes into my mind as my breath catches in my throat.
I can’t just stand here all day staring. I force my legs to move and walk toward him. His eyes never leave mine. Now that I’m closer, the pain in them is obvious, as are the faint dark circles underneath. If I didn’t know how hard these last three weeks have been on Jay from Stefan, then it’s glaring me in the face right now. Gone is the mischievous glint in his eyes that I love so much. In its place is a sadness greater than any I’ve ever seen in them before. What have I done?
I stop in front of him. “Jay?”
His eyebrows pull together and he lifts a hand toward my face, dropping it back down by his side before it makes contact. My eyes fall to his Adam’s apple as he swallows, seeming to need a moment to compose himself before he speaks.
I suck in a breath, unprepared for my heart breaking as he says my name. I have missed that voice so much. I have missed him so much.
“What are you doing here, Jay?” I whisper.
He clears his throat. His eyes are searching mine, drawing me in. My breath hitches, the same way it did when I first looked into his eyes all those months ago. Something inside me knew then. Jay Anderson is special. He will always be the only man I can ever love. The only man I want. The man I can never have.
“I had to see you, Holly. There are things I need you to know.”
“Jay.” My voice threatens to crack. “You shouldn’t be here.” I shift uncomfortably and look at all the people around us. I’m a dam that could burst any minute. I’d rather not do it in a packed part of Heathrow Airport.
Jay seems to sense my hesitance, and he glances around.
“Holly, I’m staying in a hotel nearby. Will you come back with me so we can talk?”
I shake my head and take a step back, away from him and his familiar scent. A scent that calls to me like no other, that makes me feel like I’m home.
“Why, Jay? Nothing’s changed.” I can’t be near him like this. I’m not strong enough to do what I know is right when he’s standing in front of me. When he’s close enough that I could reach out and touch him. I know he would pull me straight into his arms if I let him. I can’t do that to him. I have to be strong. I take another step back, shaking my head.
“Please, Holly.” He looks deep into my eyes, searching my soul. Flutters rise from my stomach all the way to my throat. Every nerve ending feels on high alert with him so close. I’m losing control. I can feel it slipping away, like sand through my fingers.
“Jay…” My eyes are filling with tears now.
“Holly.” He grabs my hand and I jump back as a jolt of electricity runs up my arm. “Just give me half an hour, please.” His eyes search mine. He looks like he’s holding back tears himself. Like he’s just holding on to a last shred of hope before he spirals. I can’t leave him here. Not like this. Not alone.
Even though I fear it will be even harder to say goodbye a second time, I whisper, “Okay.”
Jay’s shoulders relax as the faintest of smiles passes across his lips. This is a terrible idea. I’m playing with fire and my heart is already burned. My stomach is in knots as Jay takes my case from me and I walk beside him out of the terminal.
We head to the short-term parking lot and Jay unlocks a white Range Rover, lifting my bags into the trunk as though they weigh nothing. I tear my eyes away from his biceps and look at the car. Jay’s eyes follow mine.
“Something wrong, Holly?”
I avoid his gaze, keeping my eyes fixed on the shiny axels of the Range Rover. “I’m sorry about your Ferrari.”
“I never want to hear about that car again,” Jay snaps.
The power behind his voice draws my eyes back up to his face. He’s rubbing his forehead with one hand, his jaw tense.
“Sorry.” I manage to choke out, my throat burning.
“Holly.” Jay’s voice is pained. “I couldn’t care less about the damn car.”
I stand there in silence, not sure what else to say.
“Come on,” he says, steering me around to the passenger door with his hand on the small of my back. He opens the door for me and I slide into the seat. He shuts the door and goes around to the driver’s side, pausing outside before he opens the door and climbs in. We drive the short distance to the hotel in silence.
Jay parks in the hotel parking lot and opens my door for me before going back to the trunk and getting my bags out.
“Why are you bringing those?”
His eyes are dark as he shoots me a look that makes me regret asking. Instead, I fall into step beside him and we head inside and into the elevator, which already has two young women in it, glued to their cell phones. They don’t even look up as they move to one side so I can get in, followed by Jay. He hits a button and the elevator climbs. He’s staring straight ahead, his expression unreadable. One of the girls prods the other with her elbow. She looks up at her friend, who gestures toward Jay. The girl’s eyes widen as she looks him up and down, turning back to her friend with a smile. I know what they’re thinking. He’s a sex god. He looks so sultry right now, with no hint of a smile on his face. The girls realize I’ve seen them checking him out and avert their eyes back to their phones. Jay’s still staring straight ahead with his jaw set, unaware he’s being eye-fucked.
The elevator stops and I follow Jay as he steps out and walks down the hallway. We pass two other doors before reaching a set of double doors, with a sign saying Langdon Suite. Jay scans a key card and pushes the door open, holding it for me to go in first.
I walk into a modern, open-plan living space. There’s a granite kitchen area with a breakfast bar to one side. It’s all decorated in cream, black, and white. Some large cream sofas are positioned so you can either face the wall-mounted TV or sit with a great view of the aircraft landing and taking off from Heathrow in the distance. There’s a door to the side, which I assume must lead to the bedroom and en suite. Large potted plants and vases of fresh flowers are spread about the surfaces.
I reach up to stroke a giant orchid’s petal with my fingers and am surprised it’s real and not silk.
“Maggie would be jealous,” I mutter, wanting to break the silence.
Jay gives me a small smile. “Yeah, I think you’re right.”
He heads over to the kitchen and opens the fridge, passing me a bottle of fresh juice across the top of the breakfast bar.
“Thank you,” I say, my fingers brushing his as I take it. The same buzz of electricity as in the airport terminal is there. My cheeks flush. I open the bottle and take a sip, more as a distraction to stop me from looking at him.
“You know it’s funny you mentioned Maggie.” Jay frowns.
“Why?” I look at him.
His eyes narrow as he studies my face, and then he fires his words straight at me.
“She said you had an envelope delivered the day of the crash. She forgot about it until recently.”
I stiffen. Cold sweat is forming on my skin, underneath my uniform, and on my palms. I wipe them against my skirt.
“Oh, Yeah, that was…” I trail off as Jay’s eyes blaze into mine. Shit.
He’s glaring at me and all I can do is stand like a rabbit in headlights. Frozen in fear. “So, then it got me thinking. Were the contents of that envelope the reason you took off? Because you running away sure as hell made no sense to me, Holly,” he says, his voice thick with hurt.
I grip the kitchen counter to steady myself as my legs go weak.
“There was no envelope at the house, so I asked Cooper and Eric to check the car while they were working on it.” Jay goes over to a folder on a nearby table and comes back with a piece of paper in his hand. Bile rises in my throat. I already know what it is. He puts the paper down on the counter and slides it toward me.
I’m shaking my head, my eyes stinging as I look into Jay’s eyes. I don’t want to see it again. That picture is burned into my memory forever. Her face, green eyes, golden-blond hair, and his blue eyes bursting with love. I put my hand over my mouth as my tears fall.
“Holly.” Jay’s voice is soft as he comes around the kitchen counter and he wraps me inside his strong arms. The past three weeks come crashing down and all I can do is sob, great big heaving sobs. I’m transported back to the moment I first saw the photograph in LA. Back to when my heart first shattered as I realized that the man I loved could never be with me.
I lean into Jay’s solid chest and my heart pounds against him. He doesn’t say anything, just holds me in his arms until my sobs slow. I take a deep breath and allow myself a moment to inhale his scent, his earthy, citrus scent. My favorite smell in the world. If only I could burn this into my memory too. But no, why torture myself? After I leave this room, it’s best if there are no reminders of him. It’s my only hope of surviving this racking pain and hopelessness that’s threatening to consume me.
“Holly.” Jay’s voice breaks as he holds me tighter. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, baby.”
“It’s okay, Jay.” My voice shakes. “I understand. I left because I understand. It’s what I needed to do. You don’t need to be sorry.” I squeeze my eyes shut as I say the words.
“Holly.” Jay draws back, his hands moving up to my shoulders so he can hold on to me as he looks at me. “There’s so much I need to explain.”
“You don’t have to, Jay. It’s okay,” I whisper.
“You don’t understand, Holly. This is all my fault. If I had told you earlier, none of this would have happened. You wouldn’t have left; you wouldn’t have had the accident. God, you could have been killed!” Jay’s voice breaks as he looks at me. His eyes are wide, his face pale.
“I’m fine, Jay. I wasn’t hurt.”
He drops his arms and squeezes his eyes shut as his lips tremble.
I reach my hand up to his cheek and he leans into it, breathing in deeply. “You don’t need to explain, Jay. You don’t choose who you love.”
He opens his eyes. “I love you, Holly,” he says, his voice strong and steady.
“No, Holly!” He stops me, grabbing my hand in his. “You need to hear this. I should have told you about Robyn. All about her. I just find it so…” He looks to the ceiling as his eyes fill with tears. He lets go of my hand, sinking down onto a bar stool. I pull the one out next to him and sit down, waiting for him to continue. Jay takes a deep breath, running his hand through his hair.
“We were twenty-one when she died in the accident. There was oil on the road and she lost control.”
I swallow as Jay tells me what Stefan had let slip in Hong Kong. I nod at him, encouraging him to go on.
“It’s my fault she’s dead. I was supposed to be driving that night. She swapped with me. A stupid bet that I wouldn’t let her drive my car. That one decision changed everything. It should have been me that died, Holly. Not her. She was never supposed to be in the driver’s seat.” His voice cracks as grief flows to the surface.
“Stop, Jay.” I reach over to take his hand. He grabs on to it and holds it tight. How many times have his hands touched mine? “You can’t think like that. You couldn’t have known what would happen.”
“It should have been me, Holly,” he whispers. “Why should I get to live when she doesn’t?”
“Jay, it was never your fault. It was just an awful, awful tragedy.”
I will him to believe me and let go of his guilt. My heart aches, wishing I could take away the pain it’s causing him. He squeezes my hand and looks down at the counter.
“She was so full of life, Holly, so much fun. She insisted on being called Rob and would punch me and give me a dead arm if I called her Robyn.” Jay smiles. “You would have loved her.”
Sickness churns in my stomach, making me dizzy.
“You still do, don’t you?” I say, looking at Jay. “You still love her.”
His eyes meet mine. “I’ll never stop.”
My heart feels like it has a knife twisted into it hearing him admit it. I tear my eyes away from his as I my pulse races and my hands shake. I knew I shouldn’t have come here with him. What good is it doing? It’s just making this harder on both of us.
“It’s not like you think though, Holly. I wish I had told you sooner. I tried; I really did. I tried at Mom and Dad’s, but we bumped into Beth, and then another time Anya and Doug arrived.” Jay runs his thumb over the back of my hand. “I should have tried harder. I’ve caused you so much pain. I’ve caused both of us so much pain. I’m so sorry.” He screws his face up.
“Jay, I don’t understand. What didn’t you tell me?” I bring my eyes back up to search his face.
“I loved Robyn, Holly. She meant so much to me. I know now from seeing that photograph what you must have thought, but she wasn’t my girlfriend.”
Jay sees my frown and shakes his head.
“I loved her like a sister.” He sighs. “When I realized I was in love with you, it was too late. I knew I’d been calling her Rob all the time and you would think she was a guy. I was worried you’d think I had kept it a secret on purpose, but I swear I didn’t. And you look so similar. I thought you’d think it was weird and I would lose you.” Jay swallows as he looks up at me, his eyes shining with tears.
“So, what? You’re saying us looking alike is just a coincidence?”
“Yes,” Jay says straightaway.
He sees the look of disbelief on my face and pauses before continuing.
“Okay. Honestly, when we first met, it’s what made me notice you, made me want to speak to you. But as soon as I did, you just made me smile, Holly. You were you, and that’s who I wanted to get to know.”
Jay’s face is tense, waiting for my reaction. His eyes dart between mine as his words sink in. A glimmer of hope ignites deep in my stomach. What if I got it wrong? Could I have got it so wrong?
“Jay, I don’t know what to think.” My mind is racing. I desperately want to believe him.
“Holly, please.” His eyes blaze into mine. “You have to believe me. I know why you left. The photo, what Stefan overheard Simon say about you being a stand-in? You thought you had to leave so I could move on, didn’t you?”
I stare at him as realization hits. My secret is out. I needed him to never find out, because I knew he would come here and try to talk me around. Only I wasn’t expecting him to deny Robyn being his girlfriend. Could he be lying about that?
My voice shakes. “I couldn’t stay knowing that you would hurt more each time you looked at me. Like seeing a ghost of Robyn. Knowing that I was holding you back from healing.”
“Holly, I’ve screwed this up so much. Robyn really was just my friend. We weren’t in love.”
“I want to believe that, Jay, I do, it’s just—”
“Holly. I swear to you, it’s the truth. I swear to you on my life. Robyn was into girls. We were never anything other than friends.” His eyes are frantic, darting between mine.
Robyn was gay?
I study his face. His tears have stopped, and he looks exhausted. I stare at him for a long time, tears running down my cheeks. He’s telling the truth. I can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. I’m pretty sure if I kissed him right now, I would taste it in his tears too. My entire body senses it. He’s telling the truth. My tears fall thicker and faster. I’ve spent three weeks heartbroken, thinking I made the right decision for Jay. I was wrong all along. I move my other hand to join the tight ball where our other hands grip together.
“You know Beth called me after we saw her,” Jay says, his voice full of emotion.
“Yeah, she said she was pleased to see me happy again, that it was time I forgave myself. She thinks Rob sent you for me and she wants me to live my life.” His chest heaves as he screws his eyes shut.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” I say as I slide off my stool and wrap my arms around his broad shoulders. I lean my cheek against his hair and hold him as his arms snake around my waist and grip on to me.
“I should have said something earlier, Holly. I could have stopped all of this from happening.”
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault.” I stroke his back. “I should have asked you when I saw the photo. I shouldn’t have just run away. I’m so sorry.” I squeeze him as a fresh round of tears escape my eyes. “I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I had to leave so you could heal.” I take a shaky breath in and Jay tightens his arms around me.
“You were willing to give up your happiness for me,” Jay says as he loosens his arms and rises to his feet, reaching up to hold my face between his hands. They’re warm against my tear-stained cheeks.
“And you were willing to give up yours by letting me go, even though you knew my reasons for leaving didn’t make sense,” I say as I look up into his eyes.
Jay stares back at me and all the love in his eyes pours down, washing over me. All the love he has for me. If only we had talked to each other more, we wouldn’t have had to suffer so much. We almost lost each other forever.
“We are the biggest pair of idiots” I blurt out.
Jay’s eyes crinkle at the corners and he laughs. The sound makes my heart fill. I’ve missed it so much. I swear my heart is piecing back together inside my chest.
“You can always make me smile, Berry.”
My heart leaps into my throat. “Call me that again.”
Jay raises an eyebrow before speaking slowly, purposefully. “I love you, my juicy little Berry.” His blue eyes sparkle at me.
“I love you too, Jay,” I sob, my tears turning to happy ones. “I love you so much.”
Jay’s hands are still holding my cheeks as he leans in and brings his lips to meet mine. I gasp at the delicious familiarity as I welcome them. He kisses me tenderly, brushing my tears away with his thumbs.
“Jay,” I whisper against his lips. He opens his eyes and gazes into mine. His lips pause millimeters from mine. “I’ve missed you so much,” I confess.
“I’ve missed you too, Berry.”
Then he’s on me again. Only this time his kisses are deeper, more forceful, full of passion and longing. His tongue slides inside my mouth to taste me. My heart races in my chest as my hands reach up to run through the stubble on the sides of his jaw. I press in closer and kiss him back with all I have, my tongue seeking out his. This is where we belong, in each other’s arms like this. There’s no denying the love between us when we are close to one other like this.
Jay turns so my back is pressed into the kitchen counter and his erection presses against my body through his jeans. I have to be close to him. I need to be close to him. I take my hands off his face and drop them to his jeans, unfastening them quickly so there’s room to slide my hand inside.
“Holly,” Jay groans, his hands still on either side of my face as I wrap my fingers around him and stroke his smooth shaft up and down. I run my other hand back up his body to the back of his head and pause. Jay’s kisses stop and his eyes burn into mine as he senses what I’m about to do next.
I grab a fistful of his hair between my fingers, my breath coming out in shallow pants as I hover my lips over his. Jay moans and bites his lip, his eyes lighting up. I want to show him I’m never letting him go again.
“I love you, Jay Anderson, so, so much.” I reach up to kiss him again.
We’re a tangled ball of limbs, kissing and pulling each other’s clothes off as we make our way into the bedroom and fall onto the bed.
“Show me how much this beautiful cock of yours has missed me,” I purr as I stroke him again.
“God, Holly,” Jay hisses, “I’ve missed that dirty mouth of yours.”
His hands leave my face and I gasp as he slides two fingers deep inside me. My body sucks them in, and I throw my head back to moan.
“Holly, I’ve missed you so much. I’ve missed this,” he says, his eyes dropping to watch our bodies in wonder.
“I need you, Jay,” I pant, pulling his eyes back to mine and gazing into them. He looks back at me with such intensity, it steals my breath.
“I’ve only ever needed you, Holly.”
He slides his fingers out and lifts my legs, wrapping them around his waist as he lowers his hot body down over mine. His eyes never leave mine as he pushes deep inside me. My mouth drops open. Wet arousal rushes to meet him as my heart hammers against my ribs.
“Holly,” Jay moans, gritting his teeth. He looks at me and I nod before he draws back and sinks in again, our bodies bucking against each other, finding their own rhythm.
“Don’t you ever leave me again.” Jay’s eyes blaze as he looks at me. “Tell me.”
“I won’t, Jay,” I pant, cupping his face between my hands and pulling his forehead against mine. “I promise I won’t.” God, this man, how could I ever think about leaving him again?
“I love you too much, Holly.” Jay’s voice is tender, our faces wet against each other as I realize we are both crying. “I can’t live without you, Holly. You are everything to me.” He wipes my tears away, before kissing me like I’m the only person in the world. Any doubts I have vanish. I see it in Jay’s eyes as he looks at me, feel it in every kiss, every touch. I have never felt so loved.
“I love you too,” I whisper, pulling Jay even closer as he slides inside me again. “I’m here for you. I will always be here for you.”
Jay’s face is only inches from mine as he makes love to me, moving in and out of my body, each stroke more intense than the last, our love for one another deepening with each connection.
I cry out as my legs quiver and the pressure grows inside. I know I’m about to lose control.
“Jay…” I whimper. The pressure is so intense my eyes roll back in my head.
“Oh God, Holly. Come for me,” Jay whispers as he lets go of my face and slides his thumb down onto my swollen clitoris. It’s all too much, more than I can bear. I tingle all over and explode around him.
“Jay! Oh!” I cry as I come in intense, heavy waves, my vision blurring, stars exploding beneath my eyelids. The strength of it so consuming that all I can do is grip on to Jay to stop myself from collapsing. His eyes never leave my face as I moan over and over again, completely at his mercy.
“Holly…” Jay says in awe. His voice is deep and smooth, full of pure love. He thrusts deeper and his cock swells deep inside me, his heat emptying into me as his lips murmur my name repeatedly.
I’m not ready to let him go. I don’t want this beautiful moment of finding each other again to be over. Not yet. Please. Not just yet. I tense around him, holding his body inside mine with everything I have as my hands find his hair. Jay sucks his breath in, and his stomach goes rock hard against me as he spasms inside me, a whole new wave of heat rushing between us as he comes again.
“Fuck!” Jay groans, the unexpectedness of it catching us both by surprise. He looks at me, a grin spreading over his face as he catches his breath. I smile back at him, wrapping my arms around the back of his neck. I’m blessed with the love of such a beautiful man. Being here, with him, just shows me how strong our love is. It’s taken him years to open up to someone and let them in. He chose me. There’s no greater honor than knowing he chose me to share his heart with. The way he treats me, the way I feel when I’m with him. I feel worthy of love again because I’m enough for him. He loves me; he loves all of me.
Jay’s eyes are on mine, our bodies still connected, our hearts beating in time with each other. We couldn’t be any closer. As if reading my thoughts, he lifts my chin, tilting it up toward him.
“I love you, Holly Havers,” he murmurs, dusting his thumb over my bottom lip before leaning forward to kiss it.
I kiss him back, allowing my heart rate to slow as I hold him tight.
“I love you too, Mr. Anderson.” I smile.
I look into his eyes, clear and bright, and I know beyond a doubt that here, with him is where I belong. Together is where we’ve always belonged. Being here, with Jay, loving each other, I finally understand. I’m exactly where I should be.
Here in his arms, I know… I’m home.