“I can’t believe this,” Teona cried. “You’re breaking up with me?”
“I’m sorry, Teona but, it’s just not working out between us.”
“What do you mean by that? We’ve been together for three years and we’ve even talked about getting married.”
“You talked about getting married.”
“I thought getting married was something we both wanted.”
“No. It’s what you wanted. You started talking about it when two of your friends and a cousin recently got married.”
“What’s wrong with wanting to get married?”
“I didn’t say that there was anything wrong with it. I just don’t want to be pressured into something I’m just not ready for.”
“Okay, so if you’re not ready, we can wait until you are.”
“It’s no use, Teona. I just don’t think we’re right for each other.”
“But why?” she asked, looking devastated. “We love each other each, don’t we?”
The realization that he didn’t hit her. “That’s it, isn’t it? You don’t love me anymore.”
He didn’t answer. How could he tell her that he never did?
“Have you fallen in love with someone else?”
“Teona, let’s not do this.”
“Who is she?” she demanded tearfully, her eyes filled with jealousy. “Is she someone I know?”
He stiffened. She couldn’t possibly suspect who it was. They had been very careful to hide their feelings when around other people, especially Teona. No, he was sure that she didn’t know who the woman was but that would soon change…
“Aunt Phoebe was right about you,” she said in a trembling voice. Tears were running down her face and she brushed them angrily away. “She said that you were a heart-breaker.”
“I’m sorry, Teona. That last thing I wanted to do was to hurt you–“
“I don’t want to hear how sorry you are or how you didn’t mean to hurt me. Those are just words.”
“Maybe it’s best if I leave now.”
“Yes, go!” She marched to the door and yanked it open. “Get out!”
He paused to look at her, his expression one of deep regret and then he walked past her and stepped into the hallway. She slammed the door shut behind him. When he was gone, she leaned against the door and broke down.
She was standing by the window, looking out and waiting for Darian when the doorbell rang. After checking her reflection in the mirror in the foyer, she went and answered the door. “Come in,” she said and stepped aside for him to go in. He looked gorgeous in the black tee shirt and faded jeans. She reached up and kissed him on the lips. He smelled really good too. “How did it go?” she asked when she drew back from him.
“As badly as I expected,” he sighed. He told her what happened.
“I’m so, so sorry. The last thing I wanted was for her to be hurt.”
“She said that you were right about me. You told her that I was a heart-breaker.”
“Yes, it broke my heart whenever I saw you with her.”
“And I couldn’t stop thinking about you whenever I was with her. It was hell pretending that there wasn’t anything between us.”
“She never suspected anything. As far as she was concerned I didn’t approve of her boyfriend.”
“She’s going to find out about us soon.”
“Yes, she will and I’m not looking forward to that at all.”
“We didn’t plan for this to happen, Phoebe, but it did.”
“Yes, but that wouldn’t matter to her. She will still feel betrayed.”
“When you and I met, I tried so hard not to be attracted to you but it was impossible. After the party was over and she and I left, I couldn’t stop thinking about you or wanting to see you again.”
“You left quite an impression on me too. When you called me two days later and asked me to have lunch with you, I couldn’t say no even though I felt guilty because of Teona. I was her favorite aunt.”
“Right now she probably hates me and I can’t say that I blame her.”
“She really loved you. It was hard hearing her talk about you and your plans for the future.”
“I was never in love with her, Phoebe.”
Phoebe looked surprised. “Never?” she exclaimed.
He shook his head. “No. I cared for her and I thought that in time, my feelings would develop into love but they never did.”
“That’s hard. Loving a man who doesn’t love you in return.”
“She doesn’t know that I never loved her. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that. It would have been too much.”
“Yes, it would have been. It’s better and less painful if she thinks that you’ve fallen out of love with her.”
“What will you do if she comes to see you and tell you about the break-up?”
“I will tell her the truth. I will tell her about us and she will hate me, probably for the rest of her life.”
He took her in his arms. “I’m sorry I’ve put you in this awful position.”
“It isn’t your fault,” she replied, slipping her arms around his waist. “We’re both adults. We both knew what we were doing.”
“We fell in love,” he murmured huskily.
“Yes, we did.”
He lowered his head and kissed her. For several minutes, they exchanged passionate kisses and then, he scooped her up and carried her to the bedroom where they spent the rest of the night. The following morning, after they showered together and had breakfast, he left. In the afternoon, Teona showed up at her flat, in tears.
After listening to her wail about her break-up with Darian and that he had fallen in love with another woman, her aunt told her the truth. After recovering from her shock, Teona tore into her and after telling her that she hated her and that she never wanted to see her again, she left. After she was gone, Phoebe collapsed in tears on the sofa.
Phoebe and Darian’s relationship became open and a year later, they tied the knot. Only friends, co-workers and his side of the family attended.