“What are you doing here?” she demanded when she opened the door.
He walked past her, his expression dour. “You know bloody well why I’m here,” he retorted.
“Well, make it snappy,” she replied, slamming the door shut and preceding him into the living-room. “As you can see, I’m dressed to go out.”
“Exactly when did you and my brother go from being just friends to more than friends?”
“What do you care?”
“We started seeing more of each other in February.”
“Right after you and I broke up?”
“No. It wasn’t right after you and I broke up, Bryson,” she replied, defensively. Why did he have to be here now? And why was she still madly in love with him?
“Do you love him?”
What could she say? Should she lie and say that she loved Jaxson or be honest? Those sexy eyes would see through her lie. Sighing heavily, she shook her head. “No.”
“Then, why the devil are you marrying him?” he exploded. “Are you doing it to spite me?”
“This isn’t about you,” she quickly denied. “People marry for other reasons than love.”
“Break it off, Tessa.”
She raised her chin, her eyes defiant as they met his stormy ones. “Why should I?”
“Damn you,” he muttered thickly and then, he was standing right in front of her. He caught her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him. His mouth sought hers and plundered it furiously as if he wanted to punish and excite her at the same time.
Unable to deny or help herself, she responded eagerly, wildly, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. They exchanged kisses for a long time and then, she came up for air. “You-you have to go now. I’m expecting company.” She struggled until he released her.
His expression darkened. “Jaxson?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
“Break off your engagement, Tessa. I won’t stand by and watch you marry my brother, especially when it’s obvious that there’s still something between us.”
“Why do you care what I do with my life? You broke up with me, remember?” She never got over the hurt. It was Jaxson who had helped her through the pain. How she wished she had fallen in love with him instead of Bryson.”
“I explained to you why I ended our relationship.”
“Yes, you didn’t want to commit to anyone right then.”
“And you do now?”
“Why? Is it because of Jaxson?”
“You don’t belong with him, Tessa.”
“Tell me something, Bryson, if Jaxson weren’t in the picture, would you even be here now, acting like this?”
“Yes, I would be.”
“I don’t believe you,” she retorted, her eyes flashing at her. “Now, I want you to leave before Jaxson gets here.”
Bryson gazed down at her, his expression tense. “You can’t marry him, Tessa.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do,” she cried. “Now, kindly leave.”
He studied her for several minutes and then, he turned and walked out of the living-room. Minutes later she heard the front door close. Trembling, she went over to the sofa and sank down onto it, tears spilled down her cheeks. Damn him. Damn him for coming here and upsetting her like this.
The telephone rang, making her jump. She wiped her eyes and got up to answer it. It was Jaxson. “Tessa, I’m afraid I won’t be able to take you to dinner this evening. Something came up.”
“It’s all right. We can go out for dinner some other time.” She wouldn’t have been good company for him anyway.
“How about Saturday evening?”
“You pulled it off.”
“Our little experiment with the fake engagement ring. You know the one I asked you to wear?
She glanced at the ring on her finger. “Oh, yes.”
“Everyone thought it was real and that you and I were engaged. Did you see Bryson’s face?”
“He was just here.”
“Oh? That’s why you sound a bit off. What happened?”
“I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
“Okay. We can talk about it on Saturday. Don’t let him get to you. He had his chance and he blew it.”
“I’ll see you on Saturday, Jaxson.”
“Okay, Tessa. Take care.”
“Thanks.” She hung up the phone and went back over to the sofa and collapsed on it. She glanced at the ring and then, pulled it off.
She could still remember the expression on Bryson’s face. She wished she hadn’t worn the darn thing but Jaxson had asked her to as a great favor to him. He had told her that he was helping a friend who was a jeweler who had the idea of making fake engagement rings for engaged women who are afraid of losing their rings or for women who traveled on their own or in a group and were often subjected to cat calls, unwanted advances and even assault. “Wearing a fake engagement ring will help women travelers feel safer in their surroundings,” Jaxson said.
So, wanting to be supportive of Jaxson, she had agreed to wear the ring. And now Bryson thought that they were engaged. Bryson. She closed her eyes in despair.
Source: What to Pack