Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters you may or may not recognize. Yep...that about covers it...
Rating: M Mostly for language and possible adult situations later on...
Author's Note: Yet another story idea that's been tickling the back of my brain and preventing me from working on the other fics I've got going. I figured I'd be more apt to get back to all of them if I just got it out of my system and all that good stuff. SO...this is my latest drivel...Hope ya like it. And thanks to Bunny and Micky for Betaing! Ya'll give me the confidenct to show what I do.
"Hey baby girl." I heard as I answered the phone. I did my damnedest to suppress the sigh that immediately tried to escape my throat. We'd promised to be civil through everything but he seemed to be having a much easier time of it than I was. Then again, he hadn't walked in on me with some eighteen-year-old blonde.
"What do you want Mark?" I managed. It was neutral at best.
"I guess I just wanted to talk." He said after a long silence. "I miss you."
I'll admit it, my windpipe threatened to close off at that last part. God I missed him so much it hurt physically but there was no way I could forget what I saw. Swallowing the burning lump, I eked out some terribly non-committal grunt and hunkered down into the nest of blankets and pillows I'd made on the couch. I couldn't make myself sleep in the bed. Even after washing all the bedding, it still smelled like him.
"I'm not gonna say I'm sorry again." He went on, his tone softer, the regret in it tangible. "You told me you didn't wanna hear it anymore."
I was shaking my head as he spoke. No, I did not want apologies. What I wanted was to be able to turn back the clock and stop the whole damn debacle from happening. I wanted to take a Brillo pad to my brain and scour the image of his massive form, a form I knew oh so well, hovering between tanned and toned thighs, out of my memory. Just the thought of it made my stomach heave.
"Is that all?" I asked simply and heard his frustrated sigh from the other end of the line.
"Is what all?" He growled.
"Did you just call to let me know you're done apologizing?" More neutrality…I knew it pissed him off but if I offered up any more he'd take it and run with it. There was no way I was giving him that inch. He was not forgiven. What sort of woman would I be if I forgave him?
There was a muffled curse and a thump from his end. "Adrian, baby girl please don't be like this."
"How do you expect me to be?" I spat. The anger welled up inside me so fast it nearly consumed me. "Mark…I caught you…"
"I know…I know…" He sighed hard and I thought I heard it shake. "I made a huge mistake and I don't deserve nothin' from you but…I'm askin. Don't throw away what we got over one fuck up."
"One colossal fuck up." I corrected him. "Do you remember what I told you the night we met?"
He actually chuckled. I'm pretty sure he thought I was giving in because I was talking. "You told me a lot of things that night."
"Yeah I did, and the most important thing I told you were my rules."
"Oh." He breathed, what little confidence he had gained draining out in that one syllable.
"What did I say about cheating Mark?" Part of me was embarrassed to admit it but keeping him off balance like I was gave me a fair amount of pleasure. He never let himself be swayed so easily.
My husband is the pinnacle of composure and self-control. Until that night I was sure he'd never allow anything remotely like that to happen because of the standards he held himself to. Apparently his "give respect to those who deserve it" policy didn't apply to me.
"Don't disappear darlin." He whispered. "Stay there. I'll stay on the road until you're ready to see me. Just please…" He trailed off. My heart screamed at me to tell him everything was all right, that I needed him with me. I didn't dare open my mouth for fear that I might let it all out. My jaw ached with the need to tell him how much I loved him but the look on his face when he saw it was me standing there in the open doorway and not the room service he'd left the door open for prevented it. I couldn't shake it and it made me feel so small…so stupid.
"It's your house."
"No…no little girl, it's our house. It has been since you moved in."
"Stop…calling me that!" I hissed. I couldn't let myself think that way anymore and hearing his endearments sent me too close to the point of no return.
I could not allow myself to become one of those road wives. I'd met too many who turned a blind eye to their husband's infidelities while they were away because they never saw it and if it didn't happen at home or effect what little time they did get, they could pretend. I could not pretend. I wanted to so desperately but nothing would ever be the same between us. It couldn't be.
"Adrian…c'mon now." He said quietly.
"No Mark, I can't…" The tears had snuck by and I hated them. I hated myself for crying and hated him for making me feel as empty and alone as I did.
"Yes ya can…" Was he begging? Good Lord!
"No…I really can't. I've gotta go." I tried but the words shook so badly as I spoke I doubt he could understand them, and hung up.
The phone rang again immediately but I let it go to the machine. He didn't leave a message and that was fine with me. I already knew what he was going to say and the endless litanies of "I'm sorrys" and "don't leaves" was more than I could bear just then.
The truth of the matter was, I didn't know what to do. As soon as the whole thing went down I was sure I was leaving. I ran out of the hotel room, charged into the elevator, stormed through the lobby, and headed straight back to the airport intent on packing everything that was mine and disappearing forever. I wanted to kill him, scream at him, make him hurt as bad as I did but as soon as I burst through the front door and that familiarity washed over me, I knew I was stuck, at least for the moment.
How the hell did I end up like that? As soon as I found out what Mark did for a living red flags went up in my head. He was famous…and never home. It was a recipe for disaster for any relationship.
When we met however, I did not know any of that…
The night of my twenty-third birthday, my very best friend took it upon herself to go against my wishes to let the day pass along quietly into the sunset and virtually kidnapped me. Granted, once I found out where we were headed I was much happier. I couldn't walk into my favorite swarthy biker bar without smiling.
"Hey Adrian!" One of the bouncers called waving as we came through the door. I grinned and waved back as Casey dragged me to the bar. She was up to something, no question, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what.
"Hey ladies. The usual?" The bartender asked as we muscled through the sea of leather-clad drinkers around us.
I opened my mouth to agree but Casey slapped her hand over my mouth. "Hell no Marvin! It's her birthday, do something special could ya?" She all but yelled. Before I knew what hit me, everyone within a three-foot radius of us began clapping and cheering.
"I'll kill you for this later." I grumbled at her but Casey just kept on smiling her perfect beauty queen smile and handed me whatever it was Marvin had mixed. I eyed my drink and then her but finally shrugged and tipped back the reddish liquid in my glass. It burned like hell itself going down and kept on burning once it got to my stomach. "Jesus!" I managed to wheeze once the glass was empty. "What the hell is that?"
I never did hear the response. Before anyone could speak, I was lifted off my feet from behind and hoisted up onto the bar.
"God Damn it Brian!" I screamed down at Casey's boyfriend who also happened to be one of my close friends. He was grinning fit to split his skull in half as Marvin the bartender got everyone's attention and announced to the entire tri-county area that it was in fact my birthday and they were all obligated to buy me a beer.
I couldn't speak! I could feel the heat burning in my cheeks as the crowd applauded good-naturedly. I was in the place a lot. They knew me and they also knew someone was going to pay for making a spectacle like this happen. Oh, I was going to kill them.
"Wow, your face is as red as your hair." Brian laughed outright as he gave me a hand down off the bar. "That's a nifty trick." I couldn't even respond I was so flustered. Visions of gratuitous maiming were running circles around my head so I turned back to the bar and ordered a beer before I made good on my thought processes, and plowed through the crowd to find a table.
By the time my traitorous friends found me I was comfortably planted in the back by the pool tables.
"You two better have more beer." I growled but I couldn't keep the anger going as I looked at them. They looked so terribly pleased with themselves as they sat down, brandishing a large metal bucket brimming over with ice and beautiful brown glass bottles.
"Don't worry, we come in peace." Casey laughed brushing a strand of Barbie blonde hair out of her face. I raised an eyebrow at her but leaned back scanning the crowd.
"I think we need to get her laid." Brian said so randomly that I nearly spat my beer at him.
"Excuse me?" I blustered and looked to Casey for back up. The smirk playing across her lips said I was absolutely and completely on my own. "Oh no…No you do not need to get me laid."
"I dunno Adrian." Casey sighed as she glanced past me, lifting her chin slightly. "I see at least one who looks interested."
My eyebrows came down into a frustrated scowl as she laughed at me. I could not believe my ears! Sure, it'd been a while since I'd gotten that particular birthday present but I was mostly all right with that. I was not one to randomly hop into the sack with just anyone. I did however, follow Casey's line of sight.
Immediately, I knew whom she was talking about. There, leaning against the back wall of my favorite dark and dirty hole-in-the-wall was a man the likes of which I had never seen. He towered over everyone in the place even as he slumped; his powerfully built shoulders hunched forward slightly as he leaned on a pool cue and waited for his shot. His face was thoughtful even as he grinned at his opponent. The hard angles of his jaw and cheeks and his deep-set eyes were exactly what I would have looked for. Casey knew me well. What I did not see however, was how my friend got the impression he was interested.
As I watched him push himself off the wall, he shrugged out of the flannel jacket he'd been wearing before making his way toward the table for his shot. Not once did he glance in our direction.
"I think you must be on drugs." I muttered unable to quite pull my eyes away from the myriad tattoos covering his arms from shoulder to wrist. Yeah, Casey definitely knew what I liked and this big bastard was looking just about perfect for me.
"I'm telling you, he was looking at you before you turned around!" Casey persisted waving her hand toward the big man and his game of pool.
Mercifully, Brian caught her hand and stuck a beer in it.
"Well, whether or not he was looking over here, it's still a nice birthday present." I laughed as he leaned way over the table to line up with his ball. I couldn't help but smile wider as his thick ponytail slid over his shoulder and into the pool of light on the table. It was red, true Irish red.
"Why don't you go over and say hello?" Brian said pulling my attention back to our table and the bottle in his hand. I smiled and took it, tipping back half of it in one swallow.
"Not a chance in hell dear." I said wryly and tapped my beer on the table to emphasize my statement. After whatever Casey and the bartender had conspired to feed me, the coolness of the stout was working its way through me like a freight train. The warm fuzziness it produced in my gut was more than welcome. "Besides, he was probably staring the prom queen here." Casey kicked me under the table and I burst out laughing.
"Adrian, he is so not my type." My beautiful friend countered. I sighed and let my face fall into my hand. Casey had been built with all the grade A stock. She had the perfect blonde hair and the sparkling blue eyes and a body Pam Anderson only wished she could buy from her plastic surgeon. How the hell she and I had become friends still occasionally astounded me. I had never been anything like that.
Until our senior year of high school, I had happily trailed around in her shadow. I was quiet and mousy. My hair was stick straight but it was that 'nothing special' brown and my eyes matched it but the summer before our last year of school I'd gone to visit my aunt and she'd helped me finally overcome my fear of…. well, of me.
Casey's face had been priceless when she got a good look at my fire engine red hair and my big biker boots. The tattoos hadn't happened yet but the ball had gotten rolling and I wasn't beautiful Casey's sidekick anymore.
In her true sweet form, she'd shook her head and hugged me close and told me she was proud of me and as long as I was happy, she was too. I tell y'all what, that's a damn good friend.
Brian's joking voice shook me out of my thoughts again. "Hey may not be your type but who's to say you're not his?" Casey made a horrified face and threw an ice cube at him.
"Look around us," she began smiling triumphantly at him, "I don't wear enough black to get picked up in this joint!" I groaned and kicked at her chair. "Besides, if you look right now, the big guy is definitely not looking at me."
My stomach dropped at the inference in Casey's words and the satisfied smile she was flashing as I edged my way around to face the pool tables. Holy shit, big red did appear to be staring at me! I cursed the redness I knew was rising in my cheeks and ducked back under the guise of reaching for another beer, one I probably didn't need.
"You chicken shit!" Brian said and burst out laughing. I didn't dignify him with a response. Besides, it's really hard to argue with the truth.
"Go on over Adrian." Casey said prodding me with the bottom of her bottle. I shook my head furiously and let it fall into my crossed arms on the table.
"Hell no I will not. That's more rejection than I can deal with tonight."
"Adrian…" Casey sighed rolling her eyes.
"Casey…" I shot back in the same disparaging tone. "Look, there is no way I'm going over there so he can ask me about the gorgeous blonde at my table."
"Look, I'm telling you he was looking at YOU!" She went on but I shook my head.
"He was looking pretty hard while you were standing on the bar." Brian added.
"EVERYBODY was looking when I was on the bar!" I countered but neither of them looked ruffled. Were they as drunk as I was? That could explain their lack of reaction.
"Nah, he was looking at you." Casey smiled and swigged on her beer. God, she seemed so sure she was getting my hopes up. It wasn't the first time though. There were lots of times in high school when she'd pressured me into talking to a guy or asking someone to a dance. It had never gone well so why did this time feel different? Was it because we were older or was she that serious about what she saw? I shook my head. I couldn't think straight with the two of them staring at me.
"Stop it." I blurted and covered my face with my hands. I could feel their eyes burrowing into me.
"Go talk to him." Casey poked. I uncovered one eye and glared before covering it again. "Go on. I'm not letting this one go."
Something inside me popped. I dropped my hands away from my face and stared quizzically at my friends. "Is my make up all screwy?" I asked. Cassie seemed a bit taken aback.
"Er…no." She muttered. I nodded, took a deep breath, and downed the last of my beer before turning back to the pool tables.
"Son of a bitch…" I blurted and craned my neck for a better view. "Where'd he go?" Casey and Brian both shrugged. "Damn it!"
"See what happens when you wait too long?" Brian offered. I frowned at him furiously and lapsed into a sulking fit.
"Come on Adrian…He's got to be here somewhere." Casey said wrapping a drunken arm around my shoulder. I snorted and crossed my arms petulantly. "Do you want me to go find him for you?"
I had to shake my head for her question to register. "Absolutely not! He'd take one look at you and whisk you off into the sunset." I laughed. Brian made some derisive grunt but I waved him off standing up. "I…am going to the ladies room."
Cassie was kind enough to steady me as I wobbled away from the table. I think I might have thanked her later but at the time, I was focusing all my attention on looking as normal as possible as I walked toward the bathroom. The crowd seemed to have doubled since we arrived but apparently the tip of the day had been passed along. I got stopped at least half a dozen times by birthday well-wishers before I made it to the relative quiet of the hallway that hid the bathrooms.
Once away from the general hustle of the bar proper I leaned my head back against the wall and took a deep breath. Luckily, the walls were where they were supposed to be so I knew I was going to be okay as I mustered up my strength and aimed for the door marked with the stick figure wearing a dress.
"Hey Red." A voice behind me stopped me dead with my hand on the knob. Slowly I turned to see who could possibly be talking to me and found myself looking up…way up to find a face. My heart immediately began to pound out of my chest.
"Hi." I managed but that was it. One syllable…what a great first impression.
"I uh…saw what your friends did to you out there." He went on, leaning a hip against the doorframe beside me and crossing his massive arms over his equally massive chest.
"Yeah…they suck a little bit tonight." I could've punched myself in the face. Damn my inability to put together an interesting thought! What the hell was I saying? No doubt the man in front of me, the object of my attention for the majority of the evening, was looking for a discreet way to cut and run.
"I'd have killed em myself." He chuckled and the deep rumble of it shot through my stomach like that god-awful drink earlier. It was a physical reaction that left me nearly panting with the want of the sound of his voice.
"They're not safe yet." I smirked and he smiled with me leaning down so that beautiful red ponytail fell down over his shoulder.
"My name's Mark." Mark…I wouldn't have placed him as a Mark…maybe Adonis or Hercules or better yet Thor…but Mark seemed to be too small a name for the presence the man possessed.
"Adrian." I said and held a hand out to him. He shifted his weight so he was standing fully upright again and shook it, his huge hand swallowing mine as he did so.
"Well Adrian, how bout you let me buy you a drink?"