The Pucking Wrong Guy: Chapter 25

BLAKE

Days passed, and one morning, the silence between us became too much.

‘It’s been twenty-one fucking days, Blake,” Ari murmured from behind me as I stood in the kitchen staring listlessly into the pantry. I’d lost ten pounds from not eating. He’d been leaving me breakfast every morning. But nothing sounded remotely appetizing.

I turned, my heart already heavy with dread. “Okay,” I said, my voice trembling. I didn’t turn to look at him. It still hurt too much.

He took a deep breath, and I could feel the weight of his gaze, like a living, breathing thing. “You won’t talk to me. You won’t touch me. Hell…you won’t even look at me! Give me something. Tell me you’re trying to forgive me. Give me some fucking hope!”

I finally turned, taking in his beauty and immediately wanting to cry. There were dark circles under his eyes, his hair was all over the place, he also seemed like he’d lost weight.

“I should break up with you. Because nothing about what’s happened is normal…or okay. Nothing. How am I supposed to trust you?” I whispered, and he flinched like I’d shot him instead of spoken the truth.

What I didn’t say, at least not yet, was that I’d never be able to break it off. I needed time to get past this, but I already knew I’d never be able to say goodbye.

I loved him too fucking much.

That night, he didn’t come for me. I woke up in the middle of the night like I always did now, and it wasn’t in his arms, it wasn’t in our bed.

I cried out as pain sparked across my chest. My heartache was literally destroying me from the inside out. Oh my god! Why the fuck did it have to hurt so bad?

I sobbed into my hands.

I’d almost forgotten what it felt like not to be lonely.

But here it was.

Excruciating. Tortuous. Enough to make me bleed.

When I got up the next morning, the house was completely silent, and cold, and unwelcoming, and…awful.

I walked out to the kitchen, expecting to see Ari making a shake, or cooking eggs, or doing something…but he wasn’t there.

I wandered through the house, towards our room, unable to stop myself. And there he was.

Fully dressed.

A suitcase on the bed.

I froze, staring at the bag in shock. He slowly turned from where he’d been putting a shirt into it. And we just stared at each other. The silence miserable and laden with so much pain it was all I could do to stay standing up.

‘I’m going back to Dallas,” he whispered.

My hands began trembling.

“What?”

He fidgeted, picking at a string on his shirt. “My agent’s working on a trade with the Knights—a midseason trade in exchange for some draft picks.”

There was a loud buzzing sound in my ears, a tightening in my chest, like my heart was being squeezed in a fist. I rubbed at it, wondering if this was what it felt like to have a heart attack.

Ari’s gaze was filled with pain as he continued, ‘I can’t watch you be so miserable. I can’t be the reason that all your light fades. I love you enough to let you go, to stop forcing you to be with me.”

He lifted a trembling tattooed hand to his face and rubbed at his forehead.

“I’ve hired an attorney for you. You just need to call the office and set an appointment.” He closed his eyes briefly, as if trying to find the strength to continue. “She has the divorce papers ready for you to sign, Blake. All you have to do is put your signature on them.”

Ari wiped at his wet cheeks, a tremor passing through his body. “And then you’ll be free.’

Tears streamed down my face as I looked into his eyes, my heart breaking with every passing moment.

I couldn’t find words. It’s like they died somewhere inside of me. I wanted to scream. To tell him how dare he. Tell him that I deserved more.

That was fucking it? He’d tricked me, manipulated me…lied to me. He’d fucking married me while I was black-out drunk. And he was giving up. All those times he’d said we were forever. That we could get through everything. That he’d never let me go…this was what he’d meant? The way I loved him was desperate and dark…and it felt poisonous at the moment but…I hadn’t given up. I was trying to fix things in my fucked up head. I needed time. I needed the grace to be pissed and sad at him for everything. But he was giving up?

I watched in shock as he nodded and picked up the suitcase, walking way without a single glance back.

Just a few steps in, he stopped. And Ari didn’t seem to have the same problem that I was having, because his next words made me want to die.

“I’m sorry I broke my promise to make you happy, sunshine. I’ll never be over you. You’ll always be the love of my life.”

His words were like a slice across my wrist. And watching him walk away…

My legs gave way, and I sank to my knees, unable to hold myself up any longer. The room seemed to spin around me as I clutched at my chest, feeling like my heart had been ripped out.

Tears continued to flow freely down my cheeks, and I sobbed uncontrollably, the pain in my chest unbearable. It felt as if my entire world had crumbled into pieces, leaving nothing but devastation in its wake.

Every dream we had shared, every promise we had made to each other, now lay shattered at my feet.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like the walls of the room were closing in on me. My life was slipping through my fingers like grains of sand. The thought of a life without Ari was too much to bear.

All I felt was emptiness.

I got up when I heard the garage door, rushing towards the sound.

“Goodbye, sunshine,’ he said when he saw me in the doorway, not pausing at all while he got into his car.

I watched as he backed out, and drove away…leaving me there, my heart in tatters.


I didn’t know why I’d showed up to this shoot. Losing the love of your life was probably as good of an excuse as it got to skip work.

But here I was.

Going through the motions like I gave a fuck about this job, or this product, or anyone around me actually.

There were three of us on set today. And I was the only one sucking. We’d taken some shots with all of us, and now I was waiting on the sideline while the other two took a few pictures.

It was obvious that they were dating. There was an energy between them, a connection. Their bodies just fit together, like it was meant to be. I’d been in the middle of them, a square peg in a round hole with absolutely no chemistry.

And I didn’t even want to try. Because Ari wasn’t here.

People thought modeling was just staring into a lens…looking pretty. But it required emotion. It required a mood, a fierceness.

It required you to care.

And I just didn’t.

The only emotion I was feeling at the moment…was numbness.

I aimlessly pulled up Instagram, scrolling through my feed. And like the universe was determined to fuck me up today…there were Ari and me in a Renage ad.

The two models in front of me had nothing compared to the two of us. The connection between us had been dazzling, tangible…they hadn’t been able to take their eyes off us.

We were special.

Until we weren’t.

A text came through and all I felt was dread.

Because it was Clark.

Not Ari.

Clark had still been trying, texting me constantly..but now under the guise of friends. Most of the time I didn’t answer. Because why would I?

Clark: Thinking of you. Has Mr. Hockey Stick done anything psycho lately? I’m always here for you. I want to help.

I grimaced, a flash of anger skittering through me. Ari wasn’t a psycho. He was questionable…there was a difference. And the offer to “help” me was a joke. He wanted to help me alright…help me right back to New York. With the Shepfields. In high society. Stuck in a life I didn’t want.

It made me think of all the times Ari had offered to help me–the times he actually had. And yeah, he’d wanted me to be his and obviously done everything to make that happen…but he’d also always wanted me to be, well…me.

We had an argument once. Actually, had the argument. Ari had been perfectly calm and wonderful. I’d been stuck in my head, in a self hatred spiral before a shoot, feeling completely inadequate and insecure because of the number on the scale…

“What if I don’t want to model?” I screamed. “What if I want to be a barista? Or keep waiting tables. What will you think of me then?”

“I think I’ll just set up shop wherever you’re working and get nice and fat ordering food and coffee all day so I can be with you,” Ari said calmly. He gripped my chin. “Sunshine, the only thing want for you is happiness. In whatever form that takes. You don’t have to be anything for me to love you. You just have to be you.”

“You just have to be you.”

The words echoed through two more outfit changes.

Not for the first time, I wondered who I even really was.

The shoot finished, and I stepped outside of the warehouse, staring around the concrete jungle that was L.A. Most people thought of L.A. as Hollywood and palm trees and the ocean when they thought of this place.

But most of it was just…gray.

I walked down the sidewalk to head to my car, and I tripped, falling to the ground and scraping my knees and palms like an idiot.

“Fuck!” I winced, because my knee was definitely bleeding.

“Are you alright?” a voice asked, and I glanced over at a concerned looking man with bright green eyes.

They kind of reminded me of Ari’s.

“I’m fine,” I murmured, striding away quickly, not wanting to look at him anymore.

It was going to be like that forever, wasn’t it? Always looking for Ari in every face that I passed. When someone had your soul, pieces of you would always search for them.

Forever.

I got in my car and stared down at my palms. They were red and irritated, and the skin was scuffed. They would heal soon, my body had always recovered easily from injuries.

It was the inside of me that I’d never been able to get better.

But why was that? Why hadn’t I ever been able to figure my shit out?

I’d been a sad story since I was ten years old. And for the most part, I’d just been content with that. Or maybe not content…maybe just unwilling to do anything about it because I never felt like I could.

I drove down the street, thinking about all the things I hated about myself…that I wanted to change.

A light turned red in front of me, and I pulled to a stop, pulling down the visor and staring at myself in the mirror. Taking in my reflection. Trying to find something that I liked.

I shook my head and sighed, slamming the visor up as the light turned green.

Thirty minutes later, I pulled into Ari’s garage. I guess, since it was a rental, it was going to be no one’s garage since he was leaving.

A hitched sob burst out of my mouth and I leaned forward, trying to push down the pain. Because I couldn’t handle it.

I froze then, realization sliding through me. That’s what I was always doing. I was always “pushing down the pain.” I’d always just told myself I couldn’t handle it.

But I was here, wasn’t I?

I mean, my father had killed my mother…and then himself, and I was still here. I’d lived in a group home and then been adopted by abusive, cold assholes. And I was still here. I’d cut and I’d purged and I’d wanted to die…and yet I was still…here.

I’d saved myself from a miserable life in New York. I’d done that. I’d come here and started a career. I’d been supporting myself. I’d let love in even when I was scared…

Cheater. Fat. Ugly. Stupid. Pathetic.

The words sprang from inside of me…but this time, instead of just pushing them back down where they would fester and rise up another day, I really looked at them.

I looked at each word as I got out of the car and walked into the empty, sad house. I looked until I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at…myself.

Cheater. Fat. Ugly. Stupid. Pathetic.

With trembling hands, I grabbed the lipstick tube I’d hastily used before running to the shoot. It was a hot, vibrant red, a coat of armor for the day, or so I’d thought.

Cheater. Fat. Ugly.

I etched each word into the mirror, every letter written out in fiery red.

Stupid. Pathetic.

I screamed.

Over and over, letting it all out, clawing at the ideas each of the words represented. I smeared the lipstick with my hands, my arms, until the words were nothing. Until they meant nothing.

No more. I wasn’t going to do this. Not ever again.

“Let’s get something perfectly fucking clear, sunshine. You didn’t cheat on Clark. You were never supposed to be with him. He was a fucking imposter, holding you back from your destiny. Clark wasn’t your soulmate. You weren’t supposed to be with him. You were always supposed to be with me.”

“I’m obsessed with you, crazy over you, in fact. I can’t stand to be apart from you for any length of time. So when you tell me you hate this perfect fucking body that I worship with every part of my fucking soul…well, we can’t have that, sunshine.”

“You’re perfect.”

Ari’s voice in my head clawed at the other words, drowning them out until all I could hear were his good ones.

I was gasping for breath as I stared at the aftermath of my fit, red smeared everywhere.

And then I laughed, the sound of it bubbling in the air around me, because I felt a little bit lighter. A little bit better…

I allowed myself to revel in the feeling for a few minutes…

And then I cleaned it all up, first the mirror, wiping away every red smear until it was sparkling and clean, not a mark of the words remaining.

Then I got undressed, stepping into the warm water of the shower. I cleaned myself, gently rubbing at the stains until they couldn’t be seen, allowing my hands to trail all over my body, taking in my skin, and my bones, and my curves.

Taking in me.

After I was completely clean, I stepped out of the shower, and stared into the mirror again at my now bare face. Water dropped in rivulets from my sopping wet hair, sliding down my body before they were caught in the towel I’d wrapped around myself.

“I’m perfect,” I whispered, trying the words out on my tongue. I’d said them with Ari before, but never by myself. Never like this. “I’m perfect. I’m perfect. I’m perfect. I’m perfect!” I screamed. And I heard his voice in my head, cheering me on, because the only thing he’d ever wanted from me…was to be happy.

I sank to the ground, hugging myself, rocking back and forth as I chanted the words in my head.

I’d spent my whole life saying there was a reason I was like this. I cut to get rid of the pain. I purged to get rid of the self-loathing. I took pills to numb myself.

And even if I’d called myself the villain, I’d used all those things as excuses for why I was. They’d been the cause.

But really…I was the villian. I was the one choosing all of this. Choosing to stare into the mirror and hate myself. Over and over again.

I’d said I was tired of it. But what had I ever done to fix it?

Nothing. I hadn’t done anything.

And that stopped today. I pulled myself off the floor and grabbed my makeup bag, sliding out the razors I kept in a small side pocket. Staring at them for a second, I threw them into the toilet.

And then I flushed.

My scale was on the floor. I grabbed it and strode outside, and I threw it onto the hard concrete so it shattered into a million pieces. I grabbed a broom and cleaned it all up, the remnants going in the trash.

The model agency actually had a mental health program. You could get free sessions of counseling. I didn’t know if the therapists were good, but contacting them was a start. I filled out the form online and set up an appointment for two days from now.

I sat back on the couch, feeling a thrill of satisfaction. Because for the first time, I’d taken actual steps.

After getting dressed in some sweats, I ate. I cooked eggs and bacon and pancakes, and I ate every last bite. Until I was full.

Something I never did.

And it felt incredible.

I trailed my fork through the maple syrup Ari had gotten Miss Carlie to pick up since it was my favorite. And I thought about him.

Ari.

Everything he’d done. Everything that happened. Everything.

I knew what he’d done wasn’t normal. It didn’t fit into society’s idea of right and wrong.

But…had it really been that bad?

It had been over the top, crazy possessive.

But had it been bad?

Would I have given Ari a chance–with Clark in my ear every second, hammering me with I love you’s, and guilt, and the familiar?

I wasn’t sure. Thinking about the scared ghost of a girl I’d been that day when Ari had walked into the restaurant, rearranging my entire life like a shooting star in the cosmos…I don’t know that I would have ever been brave enough to be with him.

The only reason we’d ended up together was because he’d been the brave one. Because he’d taken the steps that I couldn’t. Nothing he’d done had ever hurt me. It had just softened me, allowed me to accept what he was offering.

What was that saying, all’s well that ends well to end up with you.

I shook my head, because what I was thinking sounded crazy…and yet.

A knock sounded on the door and I sighed, dragging myself off the barstool to open it. Solicitors couldn’t get past the gates so guests were always at the door for an approved reason.

Through the glass I saw a professional-looking woman dressed in a sharp gray suit. I didn’t recognize her at all.

I opened the door.

“Hi,” she said warmly. “I’m Ashley Tenney, your divorce attorney. You hadn’t called, so I thought I would stop by. Mr. Lancaster had indicated time was of the essence when we’d talked.”

My mouth opened and closed, like a dying fish. Because I’d forgotten for a second just how far gone Ari and I had become, and now there was a divorce attorney standing at my door.

She cleared her throat, and I realized I’d been standing there, staring at her…

‘Ms. Tenney,’ I said, my voice all of a sudden shaky from the tears. ‘Please, come in.’

She nodded, entering my home with a briefcase in hand. Her gaze swept across the room, and I wondered if she could sense the shattered dreams hanging in the air.

I gestured toward the living room, where we both took a seat. The silence was palpable, broken only by the distant sounds of the city outside.

‘Thank you for coming,’ I finally managed to say, my voice still trembling. Even though I wasn’t thankful at all.

I wasn’t ready for this.

Not even close.

The lawyer regarded me with a sympathetic expression. ‘I know this is an incredibly difficult time for you. Divorce is never easy.”

I stared at her, my eyes welling up with fresh tears. Difficult was the understatement of the century, especially when…I didn’t want it.

But I should want it, right?

She gave a gentle, understanding nod when I didn’t say anything. “It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this. I’m here to guide you through the process and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.’

She pulled out a folder and began to arrange documents neatly on the coffee table in front of us.

‘Mr. Lancaster has offered to give you whatever you want,’ Ashley began, her tone measured. ‘At the very least, he wants to provide you with ten million dollars as a settlement.’

I felt like the air had been sucked out of the room, and I could hardly process what I was hearing. My voice came out in a shocked squeak. ‘Ten million dollars?’

Ashley nodded, her gaze steady on me. ‘That’s correct.’

My head was spinning. The idea of accepting any money felt disgusting. Money couldn’t mend the broken pieces of my heart.

‘I…I don’t want any of it,’ I finally managed to say, my voice barely above a whisper.

Ashley nodded again, her professionalism unwavering. ‘Very well. We can proceed with the divorce without any financial settlement. Now, let me explain the legal process and the ins and outs of divorce.’

As she delved into the complexities of what lay ahead, I tried to focus on her words, but my mind kept drifting back to Ari.

“Here are these documents to go through,” she said, pointing out certain sections I was supposed to pay attention to.

I stared at the documents in shock, my eyes scanning the unfamiliar name on the divorce papers. ‘This isn’t the right name,’ I managed to choke out, my voice trembling. ‘My maiden name is Blake Shepfield.’

She furrowed her brow, flipping through the paperwork before producing another set of documents. She showed me a legal declaration that the Shepfields’ adoption had been declared null and void. ‘Mr. Lancaster said he took care of this?’ she inquired, her tone laced with confusion.

I could hardly process what I was hearing. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Ari had somehow managed to undo my adoption by the Shepfields. It was an incredible legal feat, and my mind reeled at the implications of it all.

As the lawyer continued to speak, her words became a distant murmur in my ears. I couldn’t help but tune her out, my thoughts consumed with memories of Ari and our relationship.

“Give me your pain.”

“Tell me where it hurts.”

“I love you.”

“I see you, sunshine. I’ll ace every test.”

‘I’ll make you happy,’ he said. ‘It might take a while, but someday I’ll make you happy for the rest of your life.’

The pen clattered to the table.

What the fuck was I doing?

I’d always let life happen to me. I’d gone through the motions, accepting all the crap it threw at me.

And then it decided to gift me Ari Lancaster…my fucking soulmate. And I was going to fuck it all up.

Yeah, he was a stalker. And questionable. And he’d done terrible things to ensure he and I were together…

But he also possessed the most beautiful soul of anyone I’d ever met.

And he was offering me all of it.

What the fuck was I doing?

I needed to find him somehow, convince him he was my forever.

I wasn’t going to let this divorce happen.

I was all in.

He could stalk me whenever. Just as long as I got him.

“I’m sorry. I won’t be signing this today,” I said, springing from my chair. I grabbed my phone and dialed Ari’s number frantically, each ring feeling like an eternity.

It went straight to voicemail.

“Ari, we need to talk. Please call me as soon as you get this. I don’t want to be over. I never want to be over.”

I ran to my drawer to get my ring, needing the weight on my finger to reassure me everything could still be saved. But it wasn’t there.

He must have taken it with him.

Panicking, I called three more times with the same result.

Okay, what should I do? I didn’t know what time his flight was. He had left this morning. I pulled up the airline schedule for the day. There were flights leaving every thirty minutes. That wasn’t helpful.

“Mr. Lancaster mentioned a flight at 8:45 tonight when I last spoke to him,” the lawyer mentioned. She was standing at the front door, her briefcase packed up and in her hand.

I glanced at my phone. It was seven. I didn’t know if I could make it in time.

But I had to try. Even if I missed the flight, I had to try.

I could get a flight to Dallas if I missed it.

I just couldn’t let him go.

Ashley smiled at me. “I’ll see myself out,” she murmured, before opening the door and leaving.

I ran to the garage, jumping into the Maserati he’d bought me, turning the ignition.

It stuttered and whined…and wouldn’t turn on.

What?

Please, please, please, I chanted to whatever god was in the heavens as I tried it over and over again. I didn’t have the key for his truck..and I didn’t know how to ride his motorcycle.

Fuck! I slammed my hand on the steering wheel, wincing at the bite of pain from my scraped palms.

Okay. Uber. Yes. That’s what I’d do.

My hands were shaking as I pulled up the app and scheduled a ride.

Fifteen minutes?

This was L.A. There were Ubers everywhere. Why was it fifteen fucking minutes?

I took a deep breath and tried to call him again.

But he still didn’t answer.

Had he taken an earlier flight? Was he already gone? Had he moved on for good?

I jumped out of the car and jogged out to the driveaway, checking the app every five seconds to see if the pickup time had improved.

Fuck, the driver had canceled. Fuck, fuck, fuck!

I scheduled another ride, whimpering when I saw it would be another fifteen minutes.

Frantic tears were sliding down my face, and I was contemplating fucking hitchhiking if something didn’t go my way in the next minute.

I shouldn’t have let him leave this morning. I should have figured my shit out sooner. Should’ve talked to him sooner.

I fucked up, but I wasn’t going to give up.

I wasn’t going to let him give up either.

I pulled out my phone.

Me: We’re not breaking. You said you wouldn’t let us, and I’m saying it now. You’re mine, Ari Lancaster. You’d better not get on that fucking plane.

And then…

There was a shift in the air, and I knew…without even seeing him.

My breath hitched and I lifted my gaze from my phone to the end of the driveaway. And there stood Ari, a windswept constellation I was desperate to see.

I wiped at my tears knowing I looked a mess as he walked towards me. No makeup, baggy sweats, wet hair in a bun…

“You’re perfect,” he murmured, as if he could read my mind.

“You’re here,” I sniffed, and his steps quickened.

Before he could take another step though, I was running, and he was scooping me up in his arms.

I was breathing him in. My tears all over him, peppering his face with kisses because I was so fucking relieved. My legs were wrapped around him, his hands on my ass, and my arms around his neck.

I was touching him. He was here. He hadn’t gotten on that plane.

“Hi,” he finally breathed, and I giggled, staring into his green eyes that I realized I never would have seen in anyone else–because no one else’s compared.

‘You didn’t leave,” I whispered.

‘Nope.’

“You blocked my ex.”

“I did,” he said, with absolutely no remorse in his voice.

“You planted drugs in his car to get rid of him.”

“Yep.”

“You got him on the no-fly list.”

“Mmmhmm. And I’d do it again.”

“You’re crazy about me, aren’t you, Ari Lancaster?”

He grinned, and the butterflies inside me, the one that looked like his tattoo…they went wild.

“Fucking insane for you, sunshine.”

I was smiling crazily, but I didn’t care. Because I hadn’t known the human soul could feel this much relief and happiness at once.

And I was going to revel in it.

“Good. Because I figured out I’m crazy for you too.”

“It’s about time, baby,” he murmured, stalking towards the house. “But I would have waited forever.”

I continued to smile dreamily at him as he opened the front door and stepped inside.

“But thank fuck I didn’t have to.”

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