|A Startling Realization
Author: Her Owlness PM
After Ethan left her for Theresa, Gwen left Harmony and swore off men. When she spends a lonely night in a hotel room with Noah Bennett, nothing in her life is as she thought it was. Companion to "A Lesson Learned."Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Gwen H. & Noah B. - Words: 7,282 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 10-13-02 - Status: Complete - id: 1010635
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
What was he doing here? A bar was the last place that he needed to be, especially at a time like this.
That morning he had done something he had known he would regret, but he had done it anyhow. Before he went off to work, he had went to the website for The Harmony Herald to catch up on news in Harmony. It was then that he learned that the love of his life, Beth Wallace, was engaged to the man of her dreams.
Now, it wasn't that he begrudged Beth or Luis any happiness. They both deserved to find their happily ever after, but he couldn't help but wish that Beth was his.
He had come here to find someone who could make him forget about Beth – at least for awhile. He should have known that that would have been an impossible feat.
Just as he was about to pay his tab and leave the bar, the jangling of the bells at the door disrupted his train of thought. His head swung towards the entrance, catching a glimpse of a chestnut-haired angel gliding through the door.
Damn, she was beautiful, he thought as he looked her up and down. Ordinarily, it would be a woman's curves that would first attract him but that wasn't the case with her. Her eyes appeared the match the amethyst earrings that adorned her ears. He had never seen someone with such vibrant hued orbs before, and he simply couldn't tear his gaze away from them, away from her. She might be just what he needed to chase Beth out of his head, albeit temporarily.
Without a second thought, he sauntered over to her table and took the seat opposite her. "Can I buy you a drink, sweetheart?" he asked, flashing her his typically irresistible grin.
She didn't respond quite as expected.
"Why?" she questioned, raising her eyebrows. "Will it make you go away?"
He raised his eyebrows in shock. Did he really want to waste his time and energy on a woman who had this much hostility built up inside of her?
Judging from the look of her, hell yeah.
She had a very efficient look about her – from her perfectly pressed lavender sundress to the stylish twist that kept her auburn-hued mane off of her gently tanned shoulders. Ordinarily, that would discourage him, but those eyes … there was something about them that he just couldn't walk away from.
"You wound me," he replied, clutching his heart.
"You think this is painful?" she asked, her eyes ablaze. "When you can tell me about the man you've loved your entire life leaving you for a gold-digging little bitch not just once but twice, we'll talk."
He had never seen a woman as irate as she was. She would certainly be a challenge, to say the least.
"And you're going to hold his absolutely deplorable actions against me? That's hardly fair."
"Fair? Do you think that –"
"Sweetheart, what happened to you certainly wasn't fair. Let me buy you a drink and show you that not all men are as bad as you may think."
She opened her mouth to reply – probably with some feisty retort – but then she closed it, almost as if she thought better of it. Slowly, she nodded.
"Sex on the Beach?"
He raised an eyebrow. This was certainly a one-eighty. Well, ok, so maybe she didn't really think of the implications of her words, but he couldn't let the opportunity pass him by.
"First, I'll get you your drink. Then, we'll see what we can do about fulfilling that request."
Was it her fault that Sex on the Beach was her favorite drink? She loved the taste of the cranberry and pineapple juice together – not that the vodka hurt, or anything.
She didn't come up with the name of the drink – and if she had, she certainly wouldn't have named it something so suggestive!
She could have ordered something else – almost anything else and avoided this whole awkward situation, but did she?
Of course not.
It appeared that she was just a glutton for punishment. After all, if she hadn't wanted to find a guy, what was she doing in a bar – especially a bar like this one – in the first place? It was rather obvious that the man buying her drink had come to find a woman and that he wasn't accustomed to being turned down.
Speaking of which, what had she been thinking when she had turned him down? Yes, she certainly wasn't looking to jump into another relationship – especially not after all of the hell that Ethan had put her through as of late. But from the looks of it, commitment certainly wasn't the foremost thing on this man's mind either.
And she had to admit that he could provide something of a distraction. Those brown eyes of his were deliciously sexy – and the view of his muscular chest that the few unbuttoned buttons of his shirt had provided wasn't half bad either.
A part of her was tempted to walk up to him right now and tell him that she didn't want the drink. After all, if it was him that she wanted, the drink wasn't necessary.
But, thanks to Ethan, her head won out over her raging hormones.
He had hurt her so much with his actions over the past few days. After Theresa had 'died,' he had given her hope that they could pick up where they had left off, but they were not meant to be.
She could come to terms with that – after all, few relationships lasted forever – but the pain of knowing that Theresa's lies and manipulations were able to steal the heart of the man of her dreams hurt more than she had wanted to admit. But now, she had no other choice.
God, she hurt so bad. Ethan had broken her heart in two last night, and she had fled Harmony with her tail between her legs.
She didn't want to hurt anymore. She wanted to forget all about Ethan Winthrop and that manipulative b*tch Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald.
And hopefully this mysterious man would be able to help her accomplish that.
Slowly, she pushed back her chair and squared her shoulders. This was the beginning of the rest of her life, and if she didn't have the balls to approach a man who had already hit on her, her future looked rather bleak. Determined, she approached him at the bar and leaned in to whisper in his ear.
"Actually," she murmured sensually, "could you cancel the drink order?"
He turned to face her, his surprise apparent on his face. "Of – of course, I could, but – "
"You see," she began, cutting him off, "the drink is nowhere near as satisfying as the real thing – and I'd rather have the original."
As she watched his jaw hit the floor, she impulsively captured his lips with hers, devouring his mouth with her own.
While it did take him a moment to realize what was going on, he quickly reacted to her movements and matched her tongue stroke for stroke. She had to admit that he was a good kisser – much better than Ethan, that was certain.
Reluctantly, she pulled away, wanting to keep him off guard for the moment. "Let's go," she suggested, heading towards the door with an alluring grin on her face.
She may not know what lie ahead of her in the future, but she did know this much – that night would be a night to remember.
He woke up early the next morning, hoping to leave before Gwen awoke.
Gwen. A beautiful name for an even more beautiful woman.
He glanced towards the other side of the bed, hoping to catch another glimpse of the woman who had pleasured him so much the night before.
She was gone.
A helpless feeling filled his body, and he had to admit that he hated it. This was why he always made a point of it to be the first to leave, so that he was in control of the situation.
He wasn't in control of this situation. No, Gwen, elegant and sexy Gwen with the purple-hued eyes was in control, and he didn't like it one bit.
Were there no qualified architects in all of Boston?
That was the conclusion that Gwen was coming to arrive at, judging from the prospects that she had interviewed so far that day.
Her father was expanding Hotchkiss Enterprises to include a branch in Boston – in part to give her a plausible excuse as to why she no longer lived in Harmony – and she was head of the new branch. At the moment, there was no official building, and her father had placed her in charge of choosing and coordinating the construction crew and the architect.
Choosing the crew to build it had been difficult simply because there had been so many who had been qualified.
From the looks of things, it would be difficult to choose an architect as well, but for a completely different reason. There was simply no one who had any experience in this area. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be such an obstacle, but the applicants that she had seen so far that day hadn't had much experience at all.
There was only one person left to interview.
"Ms. Hotchkiss?" her secretary asked over the intercom.
"Yes, Clara?" Gwen asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Mr. Benet has arrived. Shall I send him in?"
Gwen sighed. Hopefully, he would be the man that she had been waiting for with experience and innovative ideas to boot.
She wasn't counting on it though.
"Send him in, Clara. Thank you."
"Come in, Mr. Benet," Gwen called out, turning to an empty page in her legal pad.
"It's Bennett, actually," a hauntingly familiar voice corrected her. "Noah Bennett."
With a gasp, Gwen looked up, hoping that her mind was deceiving her.
"Hello, Gwen," he addressed her, sending a rakish grin in her direction.
Gwen quickly stood up to close the door that led out to the rest of the offices since Noah hadn't bothered. Even if he didn't mind making their one night of passion public knowledge, she certainly did.
"If you have any illusions of attaining this position, Mr. Bennett, I would suggest that you do not address me so informally. I would, after all, be your employer."
"Very true, Ms. Hotchkiss," Noah replied, accentuating his use of the formal version of her name, which she had requested. "But I believe that sex has a tendency to negate all formalities within a relationship."
Gwen gasped, shocked that he would speak of their night together in a business situation. "What happened between us, Mr. Bennett, was over months ago. It is in the past and that is where it will remain. Do you understand me?"
"You're awfully tense, Gwennie," Noah said out of nowhere, beginning to knead her shoulders. "You worry too much about the little things."
Gwen bit her lip to keep from reprimanding her on the use of such a familiar nickname. He was doing it to annoy her, and she knew it. So she chose to ignore the way in which he had addressed her.
Gwen quickly wrenched herself out of his grasp and sat in her chair. "Please have a seat, Mr. Bennett. You are here to interview, not to attempt to weasel your way back into my bed."
"I'm highly qualified, Gwennie," Noah informed her, reluctantly sliding into the seat opposite her. "I've designed a number of buildings in this city, as well as a number of others. That's all in my application, which you should have. I can do this job, and I can do it well. That's why you're going to hire me."
That conceited little … Gwen fumed. She'd show him.
"Actually, Mr. Bennett, I've seen a number of qualified applicants today. If I don't believe that you are capable of maintaining a businesslike relationship, that would be reason enough to hire someone else over you," Gwen cleverly bluffed.
"Don't try to lie to me, Gwennie. I know for a fact that the only qualified people that you've interviewed today have been the construction foremen. "
"And how the hell do you know that?" Gwen asked, infuriated. "Have you slept with my entire office staff?" No one knew that little tidbit, other than Clara, but she wouldn't have told – would she?
"Hardly," Noah scoffed. "No, Gwennie, you're the only one who's had the pleasure."
"The *only* one?" Gwen questioned skeptically. "I find that hard to believe."
Noah sighed and ran a hand through his unruly chestnut mane. "The only one who works for Hotchkiss Enterprises," he amended.
"That's wonderful to hear, Mr. Bennett. I would appreciate it if we could keep it that way. Now, unless you have something constructive to add, I believe that this interview is over."
Gwen stood up and walked around the desk to shake Noah's hand. He extended his own hand, before pulling her to him and placing his lips firmly upon her own.
As Gwen had her mouth ravished by Noah's skillful tongue, she remembered the night they had spent together, and why it could never happen again.
Quickly, she shoved Noah's body away from her, earning a groan of protest. "Mr. Bennett from this point forward, there will be nothing more than a business relationship between us, if anything. Now, I would appreciate it if you would leave my office of your own accord before I have to call security to escort you from the building. Good day."
She returned to her seat at her desk and busied herself with her paperwork. She heard Noah give a sigh of defeat before he turned and walked out of the door.
Once she was certain that she was alone, she collapsed in tears on her desk. What on earth was she going to do?
Frustrated in more ways than one, Noah hit the button for the elevator to take him down to the ground floor. What the hell had Gwen had up her ass? They had had a wonderful night together months ago. At least, he had thought it was wonderful, and he certainly hadn't heard her complaining!
But now … now she didn't want anything to do with him. She had claimed that she hadn't wanted to interfere with their potential business relationship, but he knew that that hadn't been the truth.
He had a talent for reading people and knowing when they were lying, or when they weren't telling the whole truth. And Gwen, well, she hadn't been telling the whole truth.
It wasn't that she wasn't attracted to him, he knew that much. After all, when he had kissed her, she had responded eagerly – at least for a moment.
He hadn't planned on kissing her, but it had happened. He just hadn't been able to resist as she had been so damn sexy in her snugly fitting navy business suit. The jacket had hugged her curves in all of the right places, and her skirt had shown off those long and slender legs of hers. But the first thing that he had noticed hadn't been a single one of those things. Rather, it was that her ensemble had caused her eyes to appear to be a soft shade of blue. That was only at first though. After he had infuriated her, they had turned a dark and determined shade of azure.
Then it hit him – was it possible that she was involved in a relationship? Was that why she had rejected his advances?
If that was the case, he certainly hoped that she wouldn't hire him for the job – although if she had any sense, she would. He honestly didn't know how he would be able to deal with her on a daily basis, knowing that she could never be his again.
How on earth was she supposed to make this kind of decision? It was so complicated, so difficult.
She, essentially, had two choices. She could choose an inexperienced architect to plan the project and hope for the best, or she could award the job to the very experienced Noah Bennett, the man who always managed to find a way to get under her skin.
Wasn't much of a choice, now was it?
If only Noah hadn't been so damn cocky or so damn frustrating that morning.
If only he hadn't been so damn sexy.
When she had first seen him that morning, memories of the night that they had spent together had instantly flooded her mind. He had, again, left his shirt partially unbuttoned, forcing her to remember his godlike body.
He had had that look in his eyes that told her that he wanted her, which, she had to admit, was rather flattering. She wanted him too, but she couldn't allow anything to happen between them. She wouldn't allow anything to happen between them.
After she had left their hotel room after that night two months ago, she had realized that she wasn't cut out for this type of casual relationship. She had awoken thinking of the blissful and sensual actions that they had engaged in mere hours ago.
She wanted those same things to happen again. She honestly did, but she couldn't let anything like that happen. As it was, she was on the verge of falling in love with Noah, and she feared that if she fell in to his bed again, she would fall over the edge.
There was simply too much pain, too much heartache involved in loving someone who didn't love her back. If there was anything that she had learned from her hellish experience with Ethan and Theresa, it was that.
Noah could never love her. He wasn't the type to fall in love – that much had been obvious. And she had known that when she had slept with him, but she had deluded herself into believing that she didn't want or need love.
But she did. Oh, how she did.
She craved love. She wanted someone in her life who would cherish her and tell her how beautiful she was.
Noah could never be that person.
So she would have to talk to him and inform him that if he wanted to keep his job he would maintain a professional distance. She wanted the building to look fantastic, and she believed that he would be the only one who could make it look so.
But she had to keep him at a distance, otherwise, she didn't know how she would be able to keep herself from falling in love with him.
"So, you're offering me the position with certain strings attached?" Noah asked in disbelief.
"Yes, I am, Mr. Bennett. If you'd like, you can turn down the job now – no one's forcing you to take it. But if you do work for Hotchkiss Enterprises, I want to be certain that you understand that you must maintain a respectful professional distance if you wish to keep your position."
Noah sighed in frustration. He knew that this job would look good on his resume. But in order to get and keep the job, he would have to stay away from the only woman he'd been able to think about for two months. Talk about a hell of a choice.
"You have a deal, Gw – " he began, before he cut himself off. "Excuse me, Ms. Hotchkiss," he corrected with an apologetic grin. "If you could tell me what you'd like to have included in the building, I could get to work on the plans immediately."
So what if seeing Gwen every day would drive him mad? Perhaps, with time, he could break down the wall that she had around herself and convince her to relent.
After all, stranger things had happened.
It was official. Noah was trying to drive her over the brink of insanity.
He came into her office at least once a day to get her opinion on the look of various parts of the blueprints. He would call her to ask her very detailed questions about dimension or placement that she didn't have answers to.
Every time he came in, he looked deliciously sexy wearing a shirt that always managed to find some way to show of his sculpted body. He always looked professional and acted professional, so she couldn't complain – at least not to him – but how was she supposed to deal with him when she wanted to throw all of her sensibility out the window whenever she saw him?
Whenever he called, there was always that edge to his voice that seemed to add a hidden innuendo to everything that he said. He would comment on the size of the table in the conference room, and she would instantly picture the two of them locked in a passionate embrace atop that same table. It was enough to drive any red-blooded woman to the point of insanity!
"Ms. Hotchkiss, you have a call on line two," Clara informed her via the intercom. "It's a Mr. Lopez-Fitzgerald. Should I transfer him through?"
Great. Now Theresa's older brother wanted to talk to her. She really did not need this that day – or any day for that matter – but agreed all the same. After all, she had to maintain the premise that she was a successful businesswoman who was happy in Boston without Ethan.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Lopez-Fitzgerald," Gwen greeted the caller. "How may I help you?"
"Gwen," the voice breathed, sounding nothing like that of Luis. In fact, the voice was rather feminine and sounded awfully familiar. It couldn't possibly be …
"Sheridan?" Gwen gasped. "But you – you died, over a year ago. How – what – ?"
"It's me, Gwen. I'm alive. A fisherman pulled me from the sea and took care of me for the past year. I had amnesia, but as soon as I remembered Luis, he contacted him for me. We're actually in Boston right now."
Gwen smiled happily. This was the best news that she had heard in a long time. Her best friend wasn't dead – she was alive! Even better, she was in the very city that Gwen now called home.
"We were hoping to meet you for lunch at Marcuccio in fifteen minutes. Is there any way you'd be able to meet us there?"
"Yes, yes! I can, I will! Oh, Sheridan, I still can't believe that you're actually alive and talking to me!" Gwen enthused.
"I am, Gwen, but I do have one more favor to ask," Sheridan began reluctantly.
"Anything. What do you need?"
"Luis and I want to be married before I return to Harmony. Is there any way you could bring someone else along who could act as a witness? I'd love for you to be my maid of honor, but we don't know anyone else in Boston."
"Consider it done," Gwen replied, grinning widely. "I can't wait to see you again, Sheridan."
"There's someone at the door, Sheridan. I'm sorry to cut this short, but – "
"Duty calls," she replied with a soft giggle. "That's fine, Gwen. I'll see you in a few minutes."
"Until then," Gwen agreed, before softly returning the phone to it's place on her desk. "Come in," she called.
"Hello, Ms. Hotchkiss," Noah greeted her formally, opening the door.
"Noah, would you be willing to go get some lunch with me?" Gwen asked without thinking about the potential repercussions.
Gwen saw the surprise on his face for a moment, before he nodded and offered her a grin. "Yes, Ms. Hotchkiss, I would like that."
This lunch wasn't going at all how he had planned. He had thought that Gwen wanted to resume their very short-lived relationship – if you could even call it that.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Rather, Gwen had taken him out to lunch with Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald and Sheridan Crane. Apparently, they were planning to get married and he was to be Luis's best man.
It was a rather odd situation, he had to admit. He was going to be an attendant in the wedding of the man he had been jealous of for so many years.
Gwen had instructed him during the ride to the restaurant that he wasn't to call her Ms. Hotchkiss during lunch, which had only heightened his hopes. She had to have done that on purpose.
It was obvious that she wanted Luis and Sheridan to believe that she was a successful business woman with a loving boyfriend.
'Loving boyfriend.' Those were two words that had never been associated with him, but it didn't mean that he couldn't have some fun with the part he was supposed to play.
"So, Gwennie, what are we doing tonight?" he asked, offering her a mischievous smile as he took a bit of his salad.
Gwen turned to him and sent a thin smile his way, making it appear as if she liked what he had just said, but her eyes said differently. No, her eyes were a stormy blue-gray that made it clear to him that she did not like how he was attempting to take advantage of this situation.
"Noah, honey, you know that I was planning to spend most of tonight talking with my father about how things are going for this branch," she informed him, with a slight edge to her voice. She knew what he was going to do and was trying to stop him, but he was damned if he'd let her. He had a wonderful opportunity to pay her back for all that she'd put him through and he certainly wasn't going to let it slip by.
Ever since he'd met Gwen, his social life had been, essentially, nonexistent. He still attended business functions and was propositioned by various women, but none of them could hold his interest.
After all, none of them were Gwen.
What the hell was it about her that made her so damn attractive? She was just another woman, like the many he had slept with over the years.
Perhaps it was those damn color-changing eyes of hers. They were so beautiful and so mysterious, all at the same time. But every girl he'd known had had eyes, and nowadays, contacts could change their eye color easy enough.
Perhaps it was the fact that he couldn't have her. After all, he had loved Beth for years – or so he had believed – simply because he couldn't have her. He now realized that he had 'loved' her only to avoid being hurt. But he had had Gwen once, and once should have been enough.
Perhaps it was the fact that she had rejected him. He had been slightly hurt when she had left him behind after their only night together. Granted, he was planning to do the same thing, and she just beat him to it. And then, when they met up again, she spurned his affections yet again. She presented a challenge – and a gorgeously sexy challenge at that.
Yes, that had to be it. As soon as he could make her his again, he his insatiable hunger for her would be satisfied, and he could resume the life he had once lived.
The only problem with that idea was the fact that she had made it clear that she did not want any romantic (or sexual, for that matter) involvement between them. How could he overcome that?
It would require some a bit of cunning, as well as patience. Luckily, he possessed both of those qualities.
Soon enough, Gwen would be his again. Then, everything could return to normal.
"Come on, Gwennie," Noah wheedled. "It won't take you all night to talk to your father, will it? I was hoping we could go out for a romantic dinner or something. I miss you, sweetheart."
That manipulative little weasel! He was trying to use the situation that she had put them into to get her to recant her vow to stay away from him. She supposed it was partially her fault for bringing him along in the first place, but she wouldn't have bothered if she had known he would act like this!
"We'll see, Noah," she replied, shooting him a fierce glare. "Why don't I come over to your place later if I have a chance?"
That would show him. She had no idea where the hell he lived – and if he was smart, he wouldn't give her directions while they were sitting at lunch with Luis and Sheridan.
"Otherwise, if it's easier, I could always come over to your place and cook a romantic dinner – just for the two of us. No tomato soup cakes though, I promise."
Luis chuckled heartily. "Gwen, you certainly are flourishing here in Boston. I half-expected to find you all alone out here, missing Harmony like crazy. Obviously, I was wrong. You and Noah really seem to be in love."
Gwen shot another withering glare at Noah. Now Luis and Sheridan would be calling her and writing her to ask about her relationship with Noah. She couldn't lie and tell them that the whole thing had been a farce, could she?
Why was he torturing her like this anyhow? Aside from the obvious fact that he wanted to sleep with her again, why would he go through so much trouble?
With a sigh, she smiled at Luis and nodded, playing her part of the happy couple. She didn't know how quite yet, but Noah would pay for this later.
"I can't believe that they're actually married," Gwen said to Noah on their way back to the limo, while she wiped tears from her eyes. "I'm just so happy for them."
"From what I've heard, the road that they've taken to get to this point has hardly been easy. It's good that they can finally be together again," Noah commented, slinging his arm around Gwen's back. Surprisingly, she didn't shrug it off. Actually, it was comforting. Just one friend supporting another.
But she and Noah weren't 'just friends.' Not even close.
They hardly knew each other – unless you counted the biblical sense. At this point in time, they were coworkers, nothing more.
It would be so easy to let their relationship become something more, something greater, but that was something that Gwen could never let herself do. After all, it would end the same way that her relationship with Ethan had ended.
With her running away with a broken heart.
"It was a beautiful ceremony. Small and simple, but beautiful nonetheless," Gwen opined as they approached the limo. "I can't help but wonder if I'll ever marry."
Noah opened the door and helped Gwen into the car. "What do you mean?" he asked, sitting down beside her. "Of course you'll marry."
"But what if I don't, Noah? I don't exactly have the best track record, after all. Why is it that I always seem to fall in love with men who will never love me in return?"
"What do you mean, Gwen?" Noah asked carefully.
"Take Ethan, for example. I loved him my entire life, and he loved me back – or so I thought. Then, the night before my wedding, he left me for my maid of honor. He ripped my heart out, Noah, and he tore it to shreds. Do you have any idea how long it took me to recover?" She paused to look into his soft chocolate-hued eyes.
"And now I'm doing it all over again," she softly whispered to herself.
"Wh – what?" Noah asked, a panicked look quickly covering his features. "What did you say?"
"We've returned to the parking lot, Noah," Gwen replied. "Thank you very much for coming with me today."
"You're welcome, Gwen, but what did you say? What did you mean?" he asked as he slowly began to exit the limousine.
"Goodbye, Noah," Gwen murmured softly, as she closed the door. The limo began to pull away, and Gwen instinctively knew that those would be the last words that she would ever say to Noah Bennett.
He was a wonderful man, but she her unconscious realization and cryptic confession would be enough to drive Noah from her life. He had to have known that she was talking about him, about the fact that she had fallen in love with him. She had tried to avoid falling in love with him, but it had been of no avail.
Heartbroken, she collapsed into tears on the leather seats. He was gone – really gone, and she would never see him again.
A week had passed, and Noah still couldn't believe it. Gwen was in love with him.
He had planned to go talk to her the following day, to attempt to smooth things over between them, but it hadn't happened. He had arrived at the Hotchkiss Enterprises offices and had been informed that his services would no longer be needed since she had decided that his most recent blueprints were satisfactory. When he had asked about the possibility of seeing Gwen, her secretary had informed him that she was out sick.
God, Gwen Hotchkiss was in love with him. It was a rather unbelievable fact. After all, he was nothing like her ex-fiancé – even though they were half-brothers. For one thing, he would never leave Gwen to go after a sexy woman who was practically half his age. He wanted to make Ethan hurt the way Gwen had hurt after his betrayal.
But he had hurt her just as much.
God, how he missed her. He missed the way she laughed. He missed that grin of hers. He missed those ever-changing eyes that never ceased to amaze him.
Most of all, he missed her.
But how could that be? If he barely knew her, how could he miss her so much?
Could it be?
No, of course not. He wasn't the type to fall in love. He liked his commitment-free and carefree life. So he couldn't possibly be in love with Gwen, could he?
No, of course he wasn't in love with Gwen. That was a pure absurdity. That just couldn't happen – could it?
"I'm out of Chunky Monkey?" Gwen complained, as she stared into her quickly emptying freezer. "How am I supposed to have a pity party without my comfort food?"
Quickly, she grabbed a coat out of her closet to keep warm during her trek to the store on the chilly fall day. She stepped out the door, only to find the one person that she had never expected to see again.
"What are you doing here?" she snarled. He had already broken her heart once. She wasn't planning on letting him back into her life so he could do it again.
"I come in peace," he said in mock surrender, holding out a half-gallon of Chunky Monkey. But how he had know that – ?
"Clara told me it was your favorite. I figured it was the least I could do."
"Look, Noah, I'm a very busy woman, so if you'd get right to the point, we could both move on with our lives a bit quicker," she informed him coldly.
"I'd rather not discuss it in public, if you don't mind," Noah confessed.
Oh, no he didn't. She already had numerous memories of him at her workplace, and she wasn't about to add half a dozen more inside her own apartment.
"You will not enter my home, Noah," she replied icily.
"Ok, then," Noah replied with a shrug. "You give me no choice."
No choice? What the hell was he talking about?
"GWENDOLYN ELIZABETH HOTCHKISS," Noah yelled before taking a quick breath, at which time, Gwen pulled him inside her apartment.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she hissed as she shut the door behind her. "Besides, Elizabeth is not my middle name."
He shrugged. "Like anyone out there knows what your middle name is?"
Gwen rolled her eyes in disgust. This was certainly not what she needed.
"Gwen, look at me," Noah pleaded. "I need to tell you something important."
With a sigh, she lifted her face to meet his eyes. The sooner she could get him back out her door, the better.
"Gwen, I'm in love with you," he said softly. "I don't know when it happened, or how, but – "
Her hand came out, slapping him hard across the jaw. "Don't lie to me, Noah. I can deal with you not loving me, but don't you dare lie to me. It's hard enough getting over you as it is. I don't need you making things more difficult for me," she cried, fighting back tears.
"Gwen, I'm not lying to you. Honest, I'm not. I was thinking this morning about how much I missed you. I missed your smile, your laugh. I missed being able to stare into your sexy eyes and being able to know exactly what you were thinking." He paused to tentatively, cup her chin with his hand. "Most of all, Gwennie, I missed you."
He loved her? But that couldn't possibly be the truth, could it?
"I – I need time to think about this," Gwen said after a moment's silence, heading for her cushy couch.
"Take as much time as you need, Gwen," Noah said with a gentle grin, heading towards the door. "I'll leave my cell number on your front table. Call me anytime, ok? I mean it. Goodbye, Gwen."
Noah was leaving? She couldn't let him leave again, not if she could stop him. Instinctively, she had known that he wouldn't lie to her, but her pride had kept her from responding as she had wanted to.
"Noah, wait!" she cried as the front door clicked shut behind him.
"Noah!" she called, running out her front door, not even bothering with a jacket this time as she was determined to stop him from leaving. "Noah, wait for me!"
He turned his head at the sound of his name, almost unable to believe that it was really happening. She could see the realization wash over his features and the pure joy that shone in his soft brown eyes.
He ran to her and pulled her close before pulling away for a moment. "You're sure about this? This is really what you want?"
Gwen nodded, tears of joy welling up in her eyes. "I love you, Noah."
He kissed her thoroughly, sparking memories of the night that had started off this whole roller coaster of emotions.
Eventually, he pulled away and looked her up and down. "God, you're beautiful," he sighed, kissing her softly on the forehead.
"In this?" Gwen asked, looking down at her pajama pants and t-shirt that read 'Can't buy my love, but it sure costs a lot for upkeep.'
"You're beautiful no matter what you wear – or don't wear, for that matter," Noah said, quirking an eyebrow. Gwen blushed, causing him to chuckle heartily. "I love you so much."
Gwen nodded, snaking her hands behind his head to pull him in for another kiss. He leaned down to meet her mouth before pulling her into his arms and carrying her through the open door.
Noah was sure to make life interesting, that was for sure, Gwen thought to herself. Finally she had found what she had been looking for.
Finally, she had found love.