A month later…
Steffy looked at the text again. She knew she should have just deleted it as soon as she saw what it said. It would have been painful to just ignore it, but in the end that would have been the best thing for both of them.
And yet…she hadn't done that.
Instead she had sat there in her office chair staring at her phone and ignoring the changes that needed to be made to her fashion line. Don't do this, she told herself. Don't answer this. Don't invite more heartache into your life. Let this go. Steffy set the phone down on her desk, but she still couldn't stop looking at it.
Finally she stood up, smoothed her green skirt and straightened the matching blouse, walked over to where a bottle of water was resting and twisted off the cap. After a couple of swallows she glanced back over at the phone.
'I need to see you.' That was all the text said, but it felt like a fresh dagger in Steffy's heart.
She hadn't seen Liam for several days, and had told her parents and friends that she didn't want to talk about him anymore. She wanted to cut him out of her life once and for all. After all, he was Hope's husband, and their perfect relationship had finally blossomed into the perfect marriage. Soon they would have the perfect family with perfect beautiful, beaming children.
Steffy set down the water bottle and sighed. Why would he need to see her? Why now? She shook her head. It didn't matter. She knew that they couldn't be together, that they shouldn't be. There was still that magnetism between them; she could feel and see it when they looked at each other. She didn't know what would happen if they were alone together now. She didn't know if she could keep herself from touching him, and if that started where would it lead?
"No," she said out loud, but there was no real conviction in her tone. Steffy put her hands over her face. She couldn't do this. She couldn't. She just couldn't.
And yet…she was going to. She walked back over to the phone and picked it up. She keyed: Where?
The reply was almost immediate: Your place?
Steffy hesitated. No, she thought. She keyed: Yes.
At home a short while later, Steffy changed into jeans and a t-shirt and opened a bottle of wine – to calm her nerves she told herself, as she gulped down a glass of the potent pinot noir in a very quick, unladylike manner. She was about to pour herself another glass when she heard the knock at the door. Don't answer it, she thought. This is a mistake; I shouldn't do this.
And yet…she did.
She stood in the doorway across from Liam, and for a moment neither of them said anything. He wore a somber dark gray shirt and jeans. There was a look of sadness in his eyes, a look that Steffy knew he never let Hope see. She hesitated a moment, and then she took a step toward him. They embraced silently, just holding on to one anther. Liam finally asked, "Can I come inside?"
Steffy smiled briefly. "Yeah," she said, stepping aside and then closing the door once he was inside. "Do you want something to drink?" she asked.
"If you have something open," Liam said. Steffy watched him for a moment as he walked aimlessly around her place. Then she went into the kitchen to pour them both a glass of wine. Liam followed her and accepted the glass she held out to him.
Neither of them spoke, and finally Steffy said, "What's going on?"
Liam set down his glass. "I miss you," he said. "I miss being with you."
"You're married to Hope now," Steffy said. "What we had is over."
"It doesn't feel that way," Liam said.
Steffy sighed. "You had the opportunity to choose me," she said. "You had several opportunities. But you chose not to."
"What was I supposed to do about Hope?" Liam said.
"If you wanted to be with me, you should have told her that," Steffy said.
"And break her heart?" Liam said.
Steffy just stared at him for a moment as her rage boiled up inside of her. "God forbid," she said fiercely. "God forbid you break the heart of the beautiful blonde Logan princess. But of course she's the Spencer princess now, right? She even finally got the Bill Spencer seal of approval." Furious, she moved to walk away from him; Liam grabbed her arm, but she pulled it out of his grasp as she put more distance between them.
"Hope isn't like you," Liam said. "She isn't as tough as you."
Steffy laughed humorlessly and turned to face him. "Right," she said. "So it's OK to rip my heart out…"
"I'm not saying it's OK…"
"Then what are you saying, Liam?" Steffy said, shouting now, although she didn't really want to. "Why are you here? Did you have a fight with Hope? Did she disappoint you? Are you looking for a little cha cha cha from your second choice?"
Liam looked away. "I've shown you how I feel about you," he said. "I've told you I love you."
"You let our divorce become final!" Steffy said. "You married Hope!"
"And you pushed me into both of those," Liam said.
"So this is all my fault," Steffy said. "You left me and married Hope because I forced you…"
"I didn't what?" Steffy said. She strode back over to where Liam was standing. "I didn't give you six months to decide to stay married to me? Six months, Liam. Six months! And what did you do? You did nothing like you always do nothing. You just drifted along until the last minute when I had to be the one to pull the plug because you couldn't make any decision at all. You couldn't choose me. You could look at me and say that I was the one you wanted, the same as you can't look at me right now!"
Liam turned, and Steffy saw how his eyes were glistening. She told herself don't do this; be strong. The potential for disaster here was huge. She knew better than to step back into this abyss when she had almost pulled herself out of it.
And yet…she did. Steffy drew Liam into her arms again and held him close against her. They embraced warmly, comfortably, and when they parted their eyes met and then they kissed, softly, tenderly, and lovingly. It was so perfectly natural – so simply perfect – that Steffy didn't want to stop it. And yet…she did. "Liam, what about Hope?" she asked.
Liam touched her face gently. "I don't want to talk about Hope," he said.
Steffy felt tears prick the backs of her eyes. "I'm not going to be your mistress," she said softly, trying to keep her voice from breaking.
"You can't have both of us, Liam," Steffy said. "You just can't. You have to make a real decision, and until you do that, I can't see you."
"Please go, Liam," Steffy said, forcing herself to look at him and the pained look in his eyes. "Go home to your wife." Her stomach and heart ached; she just wanted to take his hand and lead him to the bedroom.
And yet…she didn't.
Liam didn't say another word; he just left, closing the door behind him. Steffy fought the tears, and only one drop managed to slide out and down her cheek. She wiped it away as she walked back to the kitchen to finish her glass of wine and maybe his as well.