The Pucking Wrong Guy: Chapter 7

ARI

I watched my phone, tracking her across town as her Uber took her home. That kiss was a revelation, a seismic shift in my existence. I’d obviously kissed and been kissed before, but nothing compared to the fire that had ignited between us in that stolen moment. It was as if the universe had meant for our lips to meet.

And she’d kissed me back. I know she had.

She’d run away, and I’d let her go.

Just for tonight.

I’d had months to wrap around the idea of her. I could give her some time to adjust to me too.

Obsession didn’t even begin to cover what I felt. It was more than that; it was an insatiable craving, a need that clawed at me from the inside. I thought I’d known what it meant to desire someone, to desire her…but tasting her, feeling the soft press of her lips, the sweet taste of her mouth against mine…it was like a drug, an addiction I couldn’t shake.

The promise of what could be between us was better than anything else I’d ever had…anything else I’d ever dreamed. She had no idea of the relentless yearning that had taken root. I was a man possessed, and she was the forbidden fruit I couldn’t resist.

I’d been looking for Blake Shepfield forever. I’d fucking yearned for her all this time, no one else was good enough because they weren’t her, no one else could ever be enough.

And then I saw her on that billboard

I finally had her back, and I’d stop at nothing to make her mine. She might not see it coming, but destiny had already set its course, and I was powerless to fight it.

My phone buzzed, jolting me out of my reverie. It was a text from the P.I. I’d hired to help me find Blake…he was also looking into Blake’s boyfriend. Actually, I was going to start calling him Blake’s “Other.” Because I couldn’t take the thought of anyone other than me having the title of her boyfriend.

I opened the message, hoping for something, anything, that would help me out.

The text read, ‘Boyfriend is squeaky clean. Word on the street is he’s not giving up on Blake. He’s told everyone she’s the love of his life. He just landed in LA this evening, return flight tomorrow for an important meeting.’

Fuck. I was hoping he was disinterested enough that it wouldn’t bother him not to hear from her, but I’d obviously misjudged the guy. Anger and unease coiled in my chest as unbidden images of him wrapped around her tonight, of him touching that perfect body that I’d only begun to explore.

Not happening. I muttered a curse under my breath, wishing he were the stereotypical rich guy with a closet full of skeletons. It would make things so much easier.

But it was okay, I could work with hard. I’d been doing it since my mom dropped me off at the group home as a toddler and called it good.

I returned to the bar, where Lincoln was wrapped around Monroe, his tongue down her throat.

Awww, young love.

Couldn’t wait for my tongue to return to Blake’s throat. Or whatever the romantic version of that was.

I felt much better seeing my buddies here. I still couldn’t believe that they’d come. Lincoln hated L.A. and he had to be at his first game of the season by noon tomorrow. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

For a second I’d had my three favorite people around me. Couldn’t wait for that to be my new life.

I cleared my throat because as much as I was all about celebrating these two love muffins…I needed some guidance at the moment. I launched into the story as soon as Lincoln unstuck his lips from Monroe’s face.

‘What car did he rent?’ Lincoln asked casually after I was done.

I chuckled. ‘A rich guy like him probably has a driver like you.” I pulled up the information from the P.I. though, just in case he’d said. ‘He rented an Audi R8,” I said, my eyebrows raising. Figures he would have terrible taste in cars.

Lincoln got a mischievous glint in his eyes. ‘Well, why don’t you figure out something that could happen to the car?’ he suggested innocently. ‘Even us rich guys don’t like a little legal trouble.’

I gaped at Lincoln, and then glanced at Monroe, who was blushing and biting down on her bottom lip.

NOT LOOKING SHOCKED AT ALL.

‘He’s more devious than I’ve given him credit for,’ I mused.

Monroe’s eyes sparkled. ‘You have no idea,’ she replied.

There was a story there, one I was very interested in. But it would have to wait. I had plans to wreck.

And a girl to get.


Blake

I trudged toward my apartment door, my thoughts a chaotic mess, each step heavier than the last because they took me away from him.

That kiss still pulsed through me. I could still feel him there, an exquisite phantom pain that I missed.

That I was worried I would always miss.

I couldn’t help but compare it to the feel of Clark.

Ari’s kiss was an all-consuming blaze that threatened to destroy me.

Clark’s kiss had never set me on fire. Not even that first time.

And maybe I could have lived with that. Because I didn’t know what it could be like.

What was I supposed to do now that I’d been enlightened?

How was I expected to go back to the way it was before?

What if I couldn’t?

As I reached for my apartment key, my hand trembled slightly. The events of the past few days had been a lot. They’d unraveled my sense of self, however fragile it had been before.

The memory of Ari’s glittering green gaze staring at me in the darkened hallway was haunting me, taunting me with his seductive promises.

I wanted to go back to him.

I wanted more.

Right as I inserted the key into the lock, a voice emerged from the shadowy entryway of my building. ‘Blake.’

I jumped, my heart leaping into my throat.

‘Clark? What are you doing here?’ My voice wavered, caught somewhere between astonishment and confusion as I slowly turned to look at him. After days of either silence or one word answers, his appearance now was a little shocking.

My boyfriend stepped out of the shadows, his dark hair disheveled and his green eyes reflecting hints of exhaustion. His usually immaculate suit was wrinkled, his tie askew.

More guilt flooded me as I studied him, my constant companion the last few days it seemed. While Clark was undeniably handsome, he seemed like a cheap replica as he stood there. Like Ari was the original and everyone else that existed could never compare.

‘You’ve been ignoring me,’ he snapped, his voice sharp and frustrated. ‘Of course I was going to come check what’s wrong.’

I frowned, not understanding what he was saying, even as I winced at the rawness in his voice. We stared at each other for a long minute, the awkwardness there feeling like a cavernous gulf I didn’t know how to cross over. Finally, he reached out toward me, his expression softening. ‘Come here, sweetheart. I need to hold you.’

Instinctively, I stepped into his embrace, just like I’d been doing since I was sixteen, allowing him to envelop me in his arms. But even as I leaned into his familiar warmth, everything felt wrong. There was a void there now, one that Clark’s presence couldn’t fill. The contrast between his touch and Ari’s was stark, and the wrong sensation gnawed at the edges of my consciousness.

‘Can I come in?’ he finally murmured, his voice harried and exhausted. ‘I’ve been waiting here since seven for you to get home. I just kind of panicked today when you didn’t answer again. And…I hopped on a plane. I’ve got to be back in New York for a meeting tomorrow at eleven.’

I was so confused. He was the one who hadn’t been answering me! I was struck though, by what a big deal it was for him to be here. Clark was a creature of habit. Everything in his life was organized and in its place. We’d always been opposites like that, and my disorganization had always driven him crazy.

“Yeah, of course. Let’s go inside and we can talk more,” I quickly said, feeling like I needed to appease him.

Please him.

Like I always felt when it came to my life in New York.

I opened the door and flicked on the light. It spilled out onto the shadowed entry where we were standing.

He took a step forward and then stopped, a frown on his lips as he cast a curious gaze over me, evidently noticing the hockey jersey I wore for the first time. ‘You were at the game tonight? I didn’t know you liked hockey.’

I grappled with what should have been an easy response.

‘I…uh,’ I finally stammered. ‘Charlotte had some tickets, and she insisted I come along. I figured, why not?’ My attempt at casual indifference felt hollow, even to my own ears.

Clark’s gaze bore into me, his green eyes searching mine, as if he sensed there was more to the story. I must have been better at hiding things than I thought, though, because he stepped inside without asking any more questions.

‘Welcome to my humble abode,’ I said with a flourish, a feeble attempt at lightness, as we walked into the small apartment. It was a far cry from the cluttered, colorful space I had in New York City, but I wasn’t living alone anymore, so I couldn’t decorate how I wanted. Everything about the place was mundane…fine. But it definitely didn’t feel like home.

But then again, nothing had felt like home since my parents died.

I went down the hallway to let Waldo out of my bedroom, giving myself a minute to love on him before I went back out there. When I returned to the living room, Waldo pattering next to me, Clark was staring at the furniture like it had personally offended him. It was similar to how he’d always looked at my New York place. Both were a stark departure from the luxurious lifestyle he was accustomed to—that I’d once been accustomed to—but there wasn’t a price on the freedom living without it meant for me.

“It’s alright to sit down, ya know. The furniture won’t bite,” I said dryly, trying not to let any shame creep in.

Clark’s face went blank, and he reached out to pull me into him, the other hand gently cupping my cheek, his thumb brushing against my skin. ‘You deserve so much more, Blake. You could have so much more.” I stiffened at the clear reference to his marriage proposal.

I was farther away from that now than I’d been before.

But he didn’t know that.

“I’ll talk about something else,” he murmured finally. “Or maybe…we shouldn’t talk at all.” He leaned forward, his lips hovering just inches from mine.

I flinched…my heart racing. It was as if a thousand voices inside me were screaming, urging me to resist, to pull away from what was no longer right.

“You said I’ve been ignoring you, but why haven’t you been answering me?” I pressed, hoping he would miss my hesitance.

A furrow etched across his forehead at my question, a subtle crease marring his otherwise chiseled features. He opened his mouth to answer and—

Pound. Pound. Pound.

The banging on the front door reverberated through the room, and Clark’s hands slipped away. He stalked toward the door, swinging it open as Waldo barked and yipped like crazy. Three stern-faced police officers stood on the doorstep.

For a second, I had a flashback of a different set of cops, standing at a different doorway, on another dark night.

Pull yourself together, Blake.

‘Which one of you owns the R8?’ one of the officers snapped, his tone laced with authority.

Clark’s jaw tensed as he replied through gritted teeth, ‘I’m renting it.’

‘Well, you’re under arrest. We got a tip and checked your car. Turns out you’ve been a naughty boy.’ With that, he held up a small bag filled with a suspicious white powder.

I stared at it, confused…waiting for the punchline, before staring at Clark with uncertainty.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he snapped at me before turning his attention to the police. ‘That’s not mine.’ His features were calm, but his voice was sharp with anger and disbelief.

The officer laughed and shook his head mockingly. ‘That’s what they all say, fancy pants. You’re coming with us. And we’d suggest you not make this difficult.’

“This is ridiculous. Do you know who I am?” Clark snarled, his voice rising in a crescendo of protests as they handcuffed him and led him toward the door.

“Think we haven’t heard that before here in LaLa Land?” another officer snorted.

‘Call Ed and stay here,’ Clark threw at me as they pushed him out the door. Ed was general counsel for his company. An absolute shark. He’d know what to do.

I stood there, trembling with a mix of fear, confusion, and anger, as the door slammed shut.

Trying not to think about the fact that the overarching feeling coursing through my veins…was relief.

Because he hadn’t kissed me.

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