|When It Comes to Love
Author: Joker is Poker with a J PM
Vivian doesn't need anymore men in her life. With an unruly 6 yr old, an abusive, and dead, husband and a crazy debt collector, she thinks she's had all she can take. Until she meets her attractive neighbor. Second in the Benjamin Hotel Series.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Mush - Chapters: 13 - Words: 27,140 - Reviews: 67 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 16 - Updated: 09-14-12 - Published: 02-04-12 - id: 7804383
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time." – Anonymous
Her brain had shut down with the explosion of pleasure at his lips on hers. Never, in all of her life, had anything been as perfect and magical as this moment; it was a fairytale, a dream come true. It was every girl's vision of how a first kiss should be. The garden was alive around them, the music and light floating out to them from the ballroom and all with this amazing man who was sweet, caring, and protective. The complete trust she had in him, so soon in this relationship, startled and scared her, and yet she couldn't pull away. She wanted to curl up in the safety that was Mush Meyers and let him protect her in a way that she had never really let anyone else.
"Mush?" The abrupt voice broke through the perfect moment and they both pulled away to see who had interrupted their quiet utopia.
"Yeah, Blink?" Mush responded his eyes fixed on his friend just over her left shoulder. Slightly disoriented, she turned to see the blonde man several yards away. His face was hidden by the shadows as the light poured behind him and yet she got the feeling he had purposely sought them out in the hopes of disrupting them.
Blink came close enough for them to see him and she was surprised to see the red hand print that stood out on his left cheek. He didn't even seem aware of it as he told Mush, "They're giving a toast. You two should probably come in." His tone was slightly disapproving and she hid a smile as she realized they were being reprimanded by the ladies' man and it was obvious he was not a fan of her.
Following them in, Vivian tried to pay attention to their conversation, and the toasts, and everything else around her but she found that she was just too mentally exhausted. The night had been more eventful and less successful than she had originally planned.
"Hey, ya look tired. Ya ready ta go home?" Mush asked, inclining his head to catch her gaze. It stunned her how observant he was, how he always seemed to know what she was feeling, and never had she met a man she was so acutely aware of-or who was so acutely aware of her.
She nodded, feeling relieved as Mush told her they would just say goodbye to Race and Clara. She thanked them and they exchanged pleasantries before Mush was herding her out the door and down the walk to the awaiting carriage. Climbing inside, she settled in and sighed in contentment just as Mush sat beside her. Until Blink clambered in and sat across from them, causing Mush to quirk an eyebrow, "Ya going to the Benjamin?"
The blond man shrugged, "I need to get some work done."
Mush and she exchanged a glance and she found herself enjoying this moment with him; this bond that now existed between them. It baffled her and, yet, she found that she cherished it. It was something she hadn't experienced with Shawn, something she hadn't experienced with another person since perhaps Elena. As the carriage jolted forward, she let herself relax with the two men; trusting Mush and trusting in his obvious trust in Blink. Unbidden, she found herself flashing back to the horror-filled moment when she'd been caught in the Renwick library.
"If you're looking for the powder room, it was the second door on the right." The deep voice of Jack nearly stopped her heart as she sprung from the gold coin and whirled to face the stranger.
She licked her lips nervously, "I-uh, just got lost and, uh, stumbled in here…" She prayed for her voice to be steady, prayed that this man would believe her story and not tell anyone.
He didn't say anything right away, just leaned casually against the door frame and studied her through eyes more world-weary than should be for a man as young as him. The pale, silvery scar stood out against his tanned face, his hair falling casually into his eyes as slowly raised an eyebrow, "I know desperation when I see it."
Tensing, she felt her hackles rise in defense as she retorted, "I don't know what you mean."
Jack sighed and stepped into the room, softly closing the door behind him. It was quiet a moment, they heard footsteps pass by, and then silence until Jack replied, "Ya a desperate woman, Vivian. Looks ta me like ya scared, and, well, you know what they say. Desperate times call for desperate measures." His head inclined to the gold coin still in its case. "So, what is it? Money to eat? Or are ya protecting ya family?"
"It's none of your business."
"No? I'm sure Mush would like ta know that his date was about ta steal from his friend's fiancé." Jack crossed his arms and kept that damn eyebrow raised as she blew out an agitated breath.
"You have no proof. Maybe I was admiring it." Vivian crossed her own arms, hating being cornered by this stranger, this man who knew nothing of her or her story.
He sighed and dropped his arms, "How 'bout I cut ya a deal. You tell me ya problem and I won't say a word about you being in here."
The gentleness in his tone had her mimicking his actions as she let her arms fall and sighed. She had no choice, "It's a long story. But, the simple truth is that my husband died and left me his debt. I've been running from it but…they found me. It's this," She waved a hand at the gold coin, "or prostitution." Her stomach rolled as she said the word in a blasé tone, feeling anything but that.
He nodded, "I see. But, ya know you have some othah options, right?"
A laugh escaped that was anything but amused, "Like what?"
Jack shrugged, "Well, you've made some friends here tonight. Ya evah heard of asking? I doubt Mush would let you prostitute yaself."
Scoffing, she moved to leave, "I'm not borrowing money from him."
"Too proud?"He taunted as she reached for the door handle.
Whirling around, she met his brown gaze, so unlike Mushs', and glared, "No. But, what would it accomplish? I'd still be in debt. Just to someone else."
He rolled his eyes, "Yeah, but to someone who wouldn't bully you to pay him back."
Furious, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself, "I'm done here." She moved to leave again before turning back, "I relied on one man for far too long and he abused his power and left me in the hole. I can't-won't-rely on Mush and risk it all again."
She pulled away from the heated moment, turning to glance at Mush as the carriage jaunted down the cobblestone streets. Her heart was racing from the memory of the run in with Jack, her fear the rest of the night that he'd say something, at the dinner table and later dancing. All of that stress, however, had melted as they had gone out to the garden. She hadn't lied when she told him about the effect of the dinner party, the memories of Elena's world coming back to haunt her. But, it had only been half the truth.
She was still stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Although…the words Jack had said had a ring of truth, she knew. Even so, she was reluctant to follow his advice-she already owed a bigger debt than money to Mush. And as much as she wanted to believe Nancy-believe her own heart-that Mush was a good man, she couldn't. She'd already misjudged one man. It was hard to trust yourself after such a big mistake.
The carriage stopped and once again she found Mush helping her out, smiling at her as if she were the most wonderful thing that had ever happen to him. Oh, how that smile pulled at the strings of her heart. He tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and escorted her to the elevator as Blink went the opposite way, bidding them goodnight but narrowing his eyes as he briefly met hers.
Unsettled by the sudden animosity, she sidled closer to Mush as they stepped onto the elevator and he punched in their floor number. "Did you have a good time?" He asked, breaking the silence.
His earnestness caused a smile to pull at her lips and she met his gaze to show him how sincerely it meant to her that he had brought her tonight, despite the events that had transpired between Jack and her, "Yes. Thank you, it was so very wonderful."
Positively beaming at her response, he mused, "I wonder who Blink angered? He was in a terrible mood and that red handprint? I really can't say I'm surprised."
A laugh escaped, and she felt a flood of affection for Mush, "I'm sure it was some maid he was terrorizing." She joked.
Mush looked thoughtful, "Well, he has been kind of obsessed with Clara's maid…I wonder if she put him in his place." He grinned as they got out of the elevator and moved down the hallway.
Suddenly, she realized their night was about to be over and she was overcome with regret. Given that she hadn't managed to solve her money problem, she would have thought she'd be glad it was over. But, in all honesty, she found that being with Mush made her genuinely happy. Even with the bad parts of the night, even though she had vehemently swore to Jack that she wanted nothing from Mush; she found that she actually did. She wanted his attention, his smiles and laughter and yes, his kisses.
Seeming on the same page as her, Mush stopped her outside their doors and shifted nervously, "Well, I guess this is good night…unless…"
"Unless?" A part of her was saying no, and another part didn't want the night to end.
His brown eyes searched her face, "Unless you want to tawk some more." He gestured to his door and she found herself nodding her agreement as if her brain had shut down and her heart had taken over.
As if in a dream, he took her hand in one of his and used the other to unlock his door and without another word they entered the suite together.
A/N: Ehhhh, tell me what you guys think of this chapter in a review?! Let me know how Vivian's character is coming along. I feel like she's so conflicting and I'm not sure if she's coming off as that or she's just not how I wrote her in the prologue…Reassure me, people!
Oh, and I realized I promised you all a little snip of the Prologue to Desperate Measures. So, without further ado:
"If I could say what you'd like to hear, I'd whisper in your ear it's only temporary…
But I've been taking you for granted."
-By Now, Marianas Trench
She was gone.
The coldness that had been present before she'd entered his life was slowly creeping back through the small apartment. He was distinctly aware of the emptiness around him, encasing his form and sliding into his veins as the reality of his current situation hit him. She was gone.
It was as though the time they were together had been no more than a dream he was awaking from, surprised by how real it had been and mourning the fragmented memories that were, already, beginning to fade away. The utter despair he suddenly felt, the confused horror of his questioning why, why would she leave me resounded through his soul as he desperately searched through the apartment for any sign. Anything she might have left behind to give him hope that maybe she'd be back.
As he searched a third time and then a fourth, he found himself slowly facing the reality that not a hair of her was left.
She wasn't planning on coming back.
Shutting his eyes, he pushed away the sudden feeling of abandonment and tried to accept the fact that, now at least, he was good and truly alone; as he was surely always meant to be. Carlos Fuentes had finally met his mate and, just like everything else, he'd completely wrecked it. Instead of getting paid to find people, he should be paid to destroy everything. That was all you could count on him for.
And the worse thing was that he knew exactly what he'd done; even as he tried to deny it. Carlos could kick and whine and ask, "What have I done? Why would she do this?" But, deep in his frigid soul, he knew exactly what he'd done to make her leave. Their last argument was still embedded in his mind, the image of her face when he told her things he'd been keeping from her surfaced in his mind's eye and he felt sick with self-hatred. He had finally told her the truth-about everything-and it hadn't even been because he felt guilty. It was because he was a sick, twisted individual who wanted to hurt her, to push her, and see how far he could until she was gone.
Well, he'd gotten his answer.
Joker is Poker with a J~
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