The Pucking Wrong Guy: Chapter 22

ARI

I lay in the dark room, my gaze fixated on her still form. Her presence was both a comfort and a torment.

I’d let her go into the guest room, knowing I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from bringing her back to our room in the dead of night. Now that I’d had so many nights with her wrapped in my arms…I couldn’t sleep without her.

She was hurt, and it was my fault.

But I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

As I traced the contours of her face with my gaze, I could feel the restlessness within her. She wanted to run, to escape this thing between us…but I wouldn’t allow it.

She had come back last night, whether driven by her own conflicted desires or the cruel pull of fate, it didn’t matter. Her return had saved me from hours of hunting her down.

I shifted closer, my hand grazing the curve of her hip. I knew she felt it, that golden thread that bound us together, even in the face of everything. The intensity of my desire for her was all-consuming, a delirium that threatened to destroy us both.

She belonged to me, whether she fully comprehended it or not. The truth may have fractured the delicate illusion of our love, but it hadn’t extinguished the fire that burned between us.

I leaned closer, my lips brushing against the curve of her neck, claiming her as my own in that stolen moment. The darkness of our desires enveloped us, a heady cocktail of passion and pain, and I knew that there was no turning back. She was mine, and I would do whatever it took to make her understand that.

Including making things a bit more…permanent.

I grabbed my phone with my free hand and texted Linc.

Me: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

Lincoln: If that’s a line you use on girls, it needs some work.

Me: You shut your mouth. My lines are perfect, golden boy. 10/10.

Lincoln: Oh yeah…how’s it going with Blake?

Me: …

Lincoln: That’s what I thought…

Me: Well, I mean. It’s going great. She just doesn’t know it yet.

Lincoln: I somehow understand that perfectly.

Me: I’ll send you pics of the wedding…

Lincoln: What? You’re getting married?

Me: Yeah. But again…She doesn’t know it yet.

Lincoln: …

Me: …

With a plan in place, I pulled her closer to me…and quickly fell into a blissful sleep.


Blake

The day had crawled by like an eternity, and Ari had stayed practically glued to my side. He tried to talk to me several times about everything, but I couldn’t do it. Not yet.

Maybe not ever.

I kept opening my mouth to tell him we needed to take a break…or something. But every time I did, I couldn’t get the words out.

Because the thought of not being with him, even for a few days, my heart couldn’t handle it.

Now, we were in the back of a sleek limo that Renage had sent for us, driving to the release party, the silence between us thicker than ever. The tension in the air was palpable, and I could sense his frustration. He’d been his charming self today, if clingier, but I kept telling myself this wasn’t healthy. I couldn’t just let it go…

Right?

As the city lights blurred past us, I was dreading the night ahead. The party was meant to be a celebration of my first big break in the modeling world. And now, all I wanted was to drown my sorrows in alcohol, and forget about the mess that had become my life.

I glanced at him. He looked like a dark god tonight, dressed in an all black suit that could possibly impregnate you just by glancing at him.

But his features were etched with a mixture of longing and resignation. The anguish in his eyes mirrored my own, and for a moment, I wondered if we were both doomed to this unending cycle of pain.

The car pulled up to the grand entrance of the club where the party was being held, music and laughter spilling out into the night. It was a stark contrast to the turmoil within me, a reminder that life went on even when everything felt broken.

“Blake, don’t let what’s going on ruin your night. Please try and have fun,” he pleaded as his hand stroked my cheek. It was a habit that I leaned into it, taking comfort from his touch…just for a second.

I let him brush a kiss against my lips, and I felt the soft touch…all the way to my fucking soul.

The door opened and I was jarred back to reality, to remembering all that had happened. Ari had that way about him, the ability to make me forget myself.

I guess that’s why I missed all the signs about what he was doing.

I was caught in his spell.

The bad part was, I was wishing I was still in it.

We stepped out of the car and made our way inside, Ari’s hand burning into my lower back.

I immediately asked for a drink the second we got to the bar, and he nodded approvingly. He’d told me to enjoy myself after all.

And maybe I was going to.

Why shouldn’t I drink tonight? I never allowed myself to truly let go. With the Shepfields, it was never allowed.

On my own, I’d never felt safe enough to do so.

But tonight….tonight I wanted to.

I took shot after shot with the crew, feeling like a fun person for once.

A free person.

And…it was freedom. To let my inhibitions flow out of me with the alcohol and atmosphere. To stop worrying about how I looked, or what I’d done wrong. Just for one night, I could forget all the bullshit and shut up my own inner demons.

I loved it.

It was like my problems didn’t exist.

I danced next to Ari, hands combing through my hair, hips swaying, basking in the fact that the alcohol shoved away all my turmoil over what Ari had done…how our relationship had started.

Right now, I didn’t care about any of that, and I didn’t want to care.

I just wanted us.

My head tipped back against his shoulder and fanned my heated face, and he looked down at me as his hands held my waist. ‘You okay, sunshine?’

‘I’m great,’ I said, slurring slightly. ‘Never better.’

‘Do you want to slow down?’

I shook my head. ‘Nope.’

I didn’t. I wanted to keep everything flowing. The alcohol, the freedom, the fun.

He stared at me, a strange expression on his face, like he was debating something. But he didn’t try to stop me.

A trio of models who had been in some past famous Renege campaigns came over, surrounding me. They were big names, people I’d have had trouble talking to if I was sober because I was so intimidated. But not now. Not tonight. Tonight they were my new best friends.

‘Time for another round!’ Rachel Crenshaw said as she passed me a shot. ‘Your shoot was fucking amazing,’ she said, clinking her glass with mine. ‘Cheers.’

I glanced at the pictures decorating the walls. They were fucking amazing. Ari and I looked like pure sex in all of them, like we were seconds away from ripping each other’s clothes off. The tension and chemistry were physically tangible…even through the lens of a camera.

Longing raced through my heart. The way he was looking at me in those photos–he looked at me like that every fucking day.

And I was so scared to lose it.

“Blake, drink!” Rachel sing-songed, bringing me back to the present. Deciding I definitely needed more if I was going to drown out my thoughts, I tipped the shot back, laughing as heat slid through my veins, warming me up all over. It felt so fucking good.

I turned and wrapped my arms around Ari’s heated body, pressing my cheek against his chest.

Because he felt better.

‘What was that, sunshine?’

Whoops. I must’ve said that out loud. I glanced up at him, and he was slightly doubled, the lights behind him making his dark suit light up, casting shadows against his face. ‘I don’t want us to break,’ I confessed, my tongue loosened from every drink, my feet unsteady. His hold on my ass was the only thing keeping me upright. Keeping me from falling.

‘I won’t let us break.’ There was no doubt in his voice. Only perfect confidence. And the drunk me was desperate to believe him.

‘But…y-you…’ God, it was hard to talk. Because of the drinks. Because of…everything. ‘You tricked me. Blocked him.’

‘I think we’ve discussed this before, baby. You didn’t belong with him. He was the one stepping where he wasn’t supposed to. He was the intruder.”

His grip tightened on my ass and I started to feel very needy…

“It was always going to be us.’

I hummed my agreement, because I’d thought that when I met him too. That he was my everything.

“You know I thought I was going to marry you when we met,” I slurred. Something was nagging in the back of my head that I shouldn’t be saying this, but I pushed it away.

Because Ari was my safe place. Even when I was mad, hurt, upset…he was still somehow my safe place.

He was where I most felt free.

Hmm. That was weird. Maybe something for sober Blake to think of. Later.

Much later.

“You were saying, sunshine?” he murmured, his fingers tangling in my hair as he forced me to look at him.

I wanted to lick him..

“Thanks,” he chuckled. “You’re welcome to. Just as long as I get to lick you back.”

Whoops, I’d said that out loud too.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, remembering what I’d been saying. “I totally thought I was going to marry you. I was ten years old and I was fucking done. Mrs. Lancaster. That was me.” I giggled. “I had it all planned. A white dress. Pretty flowers. And you were going to love me forever and ever.” I buried my face in his chest and rubbed against his silky shirt. “Things are so much easier when you’re a kid,” I sighed. “You can believe in forever and ever.”

His hands rubbed down my back, soothing my feverish skin.

A waiter passed by with more drinks, and I lurched towards him…because they were neon green.

I loved green.

Like Ari’s eyes.

“These remind me of your eyes. Green, green, green. My favorite,” I told him as his lips danced down my neck. That felt good. Really good.

Ari always made me feel good.

Except when he hurt me.

I frowned.

“Please don’t hurt me,” I told him, a small part of me knowing I sounded pathetic.

“I’m going to take care of everything, baby. Make us both feel better,” he assured me. “You trust me, right?”

I nodded. “I can’t stop.”

“Good girl. Now come with me…”

I took his hand, because Drunk Blake, she would follow him anywhere.

The party was winding down though, but I didn’t want it to end. Because I didn’t want us to end.

Ari could sense it. So when we stepped outside into the cool night air, he held me close. ‘What do you want to do, sunshine?’

‘I want to keep having fun. With you. Forever.’

And I did want forever.

The alternative was goodbyes and grief.

He smiled. Triumphant. ‘I want that too.’

I had champagne in a limo. Ari just watched me, still not partaking, though his eyes kept drinking me in. I was blissfully drunk. While he was just drunk on me.

Then, the fun and freedom went to an all-time high. Really, really high. As in airplanes and clouds.

‘It’s so pretty.’ I sighed as I looked out the window at the glittering lights below.

‘You’re prettier.’

I turned and smiled dreamily at him. This seat was comfortable. His hand on my thigh was bliss.

We stumbled through neon-lit streets, my heels clicking on a sidewalk that felt alive, alive with the pulsating beat of the bright light city. Ari’s arm was wrapped around me, not letting me fall. Because he was always protecting me.

The rush of adrenaline and alcohol in my veins as we stumbled into a building that seemed to appear out of thin air. There were couples everywhere. A lot of white. So much white. Which was weird, ‘cause I was in white too.

A small chapel adorned with glittering lights, and Elvis was there serenading us with a voice that could melt steel.

Ari said “I do,” and he was so happy.

A ring slipped on my finger, and he was even happier.

“Forever, sunshine.”

We kissed, lips meeting in a collision of passion and pure happiness. The cheers and applause of strangers mingled with our laughter, as if the universe itself had joined in our celebration.

My memories were nothing but fragmented flashes, like a puzzle missing most of its pieces. But I was with Ari.

So I was safe.

So safe.

Forever safe.


It was a cruel and merciless awakening. My head throbbed like a relentless jackhammer, and my stomach churned with a queasiness that threatened to consume me. It was the kind of hangover that felt like the universe’s twisted way of punishing me for every questionable decision I’d ever made.

As I gingerly peeled open one eye, the harsh light streaming in through the curtains assaulted my senses like a thousand fiery daggers. My surroundings blurred and spun as I tried to piece together the events of the previous night. I was pretty sure I was in Ari’s house…in his bed. How exactly had we ended up here? And why did my body feel like it had been put through a blender?

With a groan that came from the depths of my tortured soul, I slowly sat up, panic creeping in as I realized I was completely naked. Please tell me I hadn’t slept with him…that was the opposite message I needed to send.

I remembered wanting to forget, and drinking and having fun. We’d been dancing and…I’d been convinced I could drink away having to break up with him.

But I couldn’t remember anything after that…not how we’d gotten home, not what we’d done, nothing.

The queasiness in my stomach escalated, and I knew I had mere seconds before I’d be introducing the contents of my stomach to the toilet. I stumbled out of bed and raced to the bathroom, collapsing in front of the toilet just in time.

As I heaved and gagged, a glimmer of something caught my bloodshot eye. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and blinked at the sight that greeted me: a ring, perched snugly on my finger, with a diamond so enormous it could have lit up the Eiffel Tower.

I screamed.

The ring sparkled mockingly in response, as if it were the crown jewel in some cosmic joke. I stared at it in sheer disbelief, my mind racing to make sense of this bizarre twist in an already confusing morning. The diamond glinted with an almost malevolent glee, as if it were silently taunting me with its opulence.

I couldn’t recall ANYTHING.

I just hoped this ring had somehow materialized out of thin air, because any other option was not okay.

I panic-brushed my teeth, and dragged myself out of the bathroom, throwing on some clothes so I could figure out what the hell had happened last night. Once I had on a pair of sweats, I made my way to the kitchen. The tantalizing aroma of food and the sound of Taylor Swift’s ‘Paper Rings’ filled the air, creating a bizarre contrast to the pounding headache that had decided to take up residence in my skull.

The song seemed oddly prophetic, but no, I wasn’t going there.

Ari was dancing around as he cooked something on the stove, wearing an apron that read ‘I Love Beaver’ in bold letters. My bleary eyes widened in disbelief at the scene. He sure didn’t look hungover.

He heard me approaching, and his face lit up with a suspiciously mischievous grin.

“There you are, sunshine. I was about to come wake you up for breakfast.”

He must have seen my face turning green at the mention of food, because he grabbed a glass on the counter next to him, filled to the brim with a brown sludge looking concoction, and slid it my way with an air of triumph.

My eyes darted to the drink, uncertain whether it was my salvation or the final nail in my hungover coffin.

‘Here you go,’ he chimed in a voice that was far too cheerful for the world’s current state of existence. ‘A tried and true Lincoln and Ari hangover cure.’

I didn’t have anything to lose, so I lifted the glass to my lips…

‘Drink up, wifey.’

I froze in place, the cup at my lips. What had he just said? That was just him being Ari…right?

Ari had a huge grin on his face as he stared at me.

“Wifey, haha,” I muttered as I threw back the disgusting drink. It tasted like gasoline as I guzzled it—or what I imagined gasoline tasted like.

“What’s so funny? Do you not like the ring?” he asked innocently. “You’re right, I should have gone bigger.”

This time I choked on the drink, the glass slipping out of my hand and crashing to the floor. Glass and brown liquid went everywhere as I stared at Ari in wide-eyed disbelief.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Ari?” I shrieked, the sound hurting my own ears.

He covered the plate of waffles in front of him with his hands. “Language, Blake. You’ll hurt the waffles’ feelings!”

“Ari, tell me what you’re talking about, right now!”

He held up his hands. “Alright, sunshine. Let me clean up the floor and then we can talk. Please don’t move or you’ll cut yourself.”

A wave of guilt hit me that I was snapping at him so much, but my brain was fuzzy and my heart was pounding, and I was afraid he wasn’t joking…

“There. All done,” he said as he finished. “You want your waffles now?” He slid a plate of blueberry ones towards me.

Obviously, he was being obtuse now. And trying to butter me up because blueberry waffles were my favorite.

“No, Ari. I want to know why I have a ring on my finger and you’re calling me “wifey!” I snarled.

“Because we got married last night in Vegas, obviously,” he responded calmly, holding up his own ring clad finger.

“What did you just say?” I asked in disbelief.

“I’ve got the certificate locked in our safe, and oh! I have a video. You’re going to love it.”

He eagerly pushed me toward the couch, setting me down and snuggling in beside me. I was too in shock to move.

With a theatrical flourish, he pressed a button on the remote, and the room was instantly filled with the lively strains of ‘Viva Las Vegas.’ The screen flickered to life, and my jaw dropped…

The first scene captured us in front of a kitschy wedding chapel. There I stood, in a short, tight white dress I’d never seen before…clutching a bouquet of roses with a smile that teetered somewhere between tipsy bliss and unabashed joy. Beside me was Elvis—or at least a convincing impersonator—decked out in the King’s iconic jumpsuit and shades, officiating our unexpected union.

It was obvious I was blitzed out of my mind. My eyeliner was smudged all over my eyes, my hair was wild and out of control…and I was swaying in place like I was going to pass out at any minute. How had anyone there thought a wedding was a good idea! Ari, on the other hand…he looked perfect–his eyes clear, his hair artfully tousled, no sway in his walk…Like he was completely sober.

Staring at me like I was his world. No, I wasn’t going to think about that.

When Elvis had asked, ‘Do you take this man to be your husband?’ I’d literally slurred “hell yeah” and pumped my fist.

Wonderful.

The montage then transitioned to Ari and I in a gleaming white limo, cruising down the dazzling Las Vegas Strip, the night sky alive with brilliant, flashing lights. We’d thrown open the sunroof, the wind whipping through our hair as we stood on the seats, holding onto the car’s roof for dear life.

With the skyline of Sin City as our backdrop, we shouted, ‘Just married!’ at the top of our lungs, our faces flushed with excitement. Ari proudly extended my hand, showing off the sparkling ring that now adorned my finger.

“There’s also a video of our helicopter ride,” Ari said eagerly, playing with the remote. I grabbed his hand.

“This isn’t a joke? You really took me to Vegas while I was black out drunk and married me?”

He nodded his head, his grin fading as his lips settled into a determined line. “Yep. And you said “yes,” sunshine, so you’re stuck with me.”

Anger and shock were warring with each other inside of me as I just stared at him. The rest of what he’d done had been enough that any sane relationship would have ended…but this. THIS! What was I supposed to do? My voice trembled as I demanded, ‘Why would you do this?’ My words were laced with accusation.’I never get drunk. Never let go. But I felt safe enough with you to do that, and then you…you…did this? Took me to Vegas and married me?’

His face scrunched up with frustration. “You told me last night, you didn’t want us to break up. You told me you didn’t want it to end! So I made sure it didn’t.”

His voice was completely resolute.

‘Ari, people don’t do this! How did you expect me to react? This is fucking insane! First what happened with Clark…and now this? How could you?’

Ari’s eyes bored into mine, his conviction unwavering. ‘Because we’re soulmates, Blake. You and I are meant to be together. And now you can’t leave me.’

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My disbelief poured out in a scornful laugh. ‘People get divorced all the time, Ari. You can’t just…trap me in a marriage because you think we’re soulmates.’

He stepped closer, his voice a fervent whisper, each word heavy with conviction. ‘Not us. I’m never letting you go.’

I turned away from him, unable to bear the weight of his declaration. Conflicting emotions roiled within me, and I knew I needed space to sort through them. Without another word, I fled to the guest room, my heart pounding in my chest. The door slammed shut behind me, echoing my tumultuous feelings.

Inside the dimly lit room, I leaned against the door, my breathing erratic. Tears stung my eyes as I grappled with the reality of the situation. Ari’s actions had left me feeling trapped and overwhelmed. I couldn’t deny that a part of me wanted to be claimed by him; before all this had happened, I’d been dreaming of marriage…been dreaming of forever.

But not like this.

I paced the room, my thoughts racing like a runaway train. How had everything spiraled into this mess? How could he have ever thought this was a good idea?

Clark’s use of the word “psycho,” flashed through my head.

As I wrestled with my emotions, the most overwhelming one…was despair. I’d believed Ari was my hero. A person I was safe with. A person I could trust.

The weight of Ari’s words and the depth of my emotions threatened to drown me. I knew I needed to confront him, to figure all this out.

But for now, I needed a moment.

Because my heart had just been broken.

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