Chosen by a Stranger (Craved Series #5) (4 page)

BOOK: Chosen by a Stranger (Craved Series #5)
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Chapter
7: Jack

 

I hated to leave her looking so upset, and I knew she felt that I
was behaving unfairly, but I couldn't stay and console her.

 

Not when I was feeling so rejected.

 

Or maybe foolish was more accurate.

 

Either way, it sucked, and as I rode the elevator to the lobby, I
felt my stomach sinking with every floor.

 

When I reached my bike in her parking garage, I slipped my helmet
on and checked my watch. Or rather, I would've liked to have checked my watch
but it wasn't there.

 

I must've left it at her place.

 

I sighed.

 

I couldn't exactly go upstairs and ask for it after all that,
could I? No, definitely not. Of course, I didn't know if I was ever going to
see her again.

Obviously, I wanted to. After all, I'd just told her as sincerely
and clearly as I could that I wanted to see her as much as possible every day
for the rest of my life.

 

But there was a chance I'd scared her off for good or that if I
did see her again, she would just stomp my heart into the ground where it already
lay.

 

I swallowed and pushed that thought to the back of my mind. I
didn't even want to entertain that possibility.

 

She had to be mine. My stubborn brain had already closed the door
on every other possibility.

 

I loved her and I wanted her. And if I was ever going to stop
getting what I wanted, I wasn't going to start now by giving up on the greatest
opportunity of my life, the opportunity to spoil Audrey rotten every day until
my last.

 

But it felt awful to think that there was nothing I could do to
help her make up her mind, nothing I could do to further demonstrate what a
catch I was.

 

Except give her what she wanted.

 

Time.

 

Which meant I had some time to kill.

 

I rode the bike out of the garage, pulled over along the curb
outside her building, and looked up at it, imagining the way she was probably
pacing the floor and drinking bad instant coffee.

 

Whatever she was doing, I hoped the time she needed had already
started because my heart wouldn’t stay open forever. Eventually, it would try
to protect me by closing up.

 

And I didn't want to talk myself out of her, especially when
everything in my body was telling me she was The One.

 

I flipped down my visor and rode back to my hotel, leaving my bike
with the concierge.

 

There was one thing I needed to do before I made my plans for the
next few days.

 

I marched into the flower shop on the hotel's ground floor. The
same young woman was behind the counter as the day before.

 

"Hello, again," she said, her face lighting up with
recognition.

 

"Good morning," I said.

 

"How can I help you today?"

 

"I was wondering if you do same day delivery."

 

"Of course," she said. "Anywhere in the city."

 

"Great. I'd like you to deliver a vase for me."

 

"A vase?"

 

"Yes, one that will fit the flowers I bought yesterday."

 

"I see," she said, looking down and flipping through a
binder with thin pages.

 

"It was that one," I said, pointing to the right where
the largest bouquets were displayed.

 

"Right." She looked at it. "And is the vase that
bouquet is in suitable or would you like to pick another?"

 

"That one is fine," I said, knowing I'd go cross eyed if
I started looking at minutely different cut crystal.

 

"And how soon would you like it deliver-"

 

"As soon as possible."

 

"It can be there before noon with an extra charge."

 

"The end of the day is fine." I didn't want it to arrive
too quickly when I was confident she was still thinking about me, about us. It
would be better if it came later, when her mind may have wandered.

 

"That will be-"

 

I handed my card across the counter.

 

"Seventy-five dollars."

 

I winced. Not because I couldn't afford it, but because I could
get a gorgeous vase in Thailand for a fiver. Fortunately, the woman didn't see
and carried on processing the order.

 

"What would you like it to say on the card?"

 

I was about to say a card wasn't necessary when I changed my mind.
"Could I write it?"

 

"Of course," she said, setting a pen and a small blank
card on the counter in front of me.

 

It only took me a second, but I hoped it would mean a bit more
that it was in my writing. When I was done, I handed the card back to the woman
and smiled, wondering if Audrey ever wore the kind of glossy red lipstick she
was wearing and what it would be like to see her kisses stamped down my body
and all over my-

 

"Will that be all for today?" the woman asked with a
smile.

 

"Yes, thank you."

 

I walked out of the shop, taking a last deep breath of the sweet
smelling room before meeting the crisp, manufactured air of the lobby.

 

Now that I'd taken care of Audrey's immediate needs, it was time
to check up on the other woman in my life.

 

I returned to my room, pulled my phone out of my back pocket, and walked
to the window to check out the view. It was nothing compared to the one from
the Space Needle I enjoyed with Audrey last night- and certainly no match for
the vistas inside her apartment.

 

My phone rang in my hand and I looked down at it, hoping against all
odds that it would be her.

 

But it was Jerry, the poor pit bull.

 

"Jerry- how are ya?" I said, thinking I ought to keep
him on his toes in case I needed his help securing a stateside job in the near
future.

 

"Jack- I can't believe I caught you. I was just getting ready
to leave a message."

 

"Miracles do happen, eh?"

 

"I guess so."

 

"What was your message going to say?" I asked, hoping I
could encourage him to be brief.

 

"I have a job for you. If you want it, that is."

 

I could hear in his voice that years of being blown off had
lowered his expectations when it came to my cooperation and enthusiasm.

 

"I'm
listening," I said.

 

"You're the first person I thought of."

 

"I appreciate that, Jer. Now spit it out."

 

"Basically it's a contract for a- now hear me out first
before you say no- for a TV show."

 

He knew I wasn't interested in living my life in the public eye,
but I decided to humor him for a second because his call was a distraction I
appreciated for once.

 

"It's a panel of doctors," he said. "All with
different specialties, age groups, and ethnicities who discuss health related
topics five days a week and answer common questions that the public has.
They're predicting around forty million viewers a day in the first month."

 

"Wow."

 

"I remembered how much you enjoyed helping all those people
with your book and thought you might be interested."

 

"Are any of these doctors practicing or are they just
celebrities?"

 

"Actually, that's the only problem. They're all practicing.
It's kind of one of the conditions of being on the show."

 

"No kidding."

 

"I don't kid, Jack. You know that," he said. "But if
you were ever thinking of practicing again, now would be a good time."

 

"Funny that you mention that," I said. "The thought
has actually crossed my mind recently."

 

"Is that right?" he said. "I'm so glad I
called."

 

"Me too, Jerry," I said. "Do you know where the
show would be filmed?"

 

"Here in Cali."

 

"So I'd have to move back?"

 

"I'd say so, but I can get in touch with the producers to be
sure if you-"

 

"Yeah," I said. "Why don't you do that?"

 

"Then maybe we can meet up in person to discuss the finer
points of the contract. The connection now is great- you sound so close- but it
would be nice to see you."

 

"Why don't you investigate the details of the offer and get
back to me?"

 

"Really?"

 

"Really," I said, checking my watch in vain again.

 

"I told you I'd find you something good, didn't I?"

 

"I never doubted you, but let's not pop the champagne until
we know more."

 

"Fair enough," he said. "I'll get right on
it."

 

"I'm sure you will," I said, knowing he was probably
desperate to get a new commission from me after all these years.

 

I hung up with Jerry and scrolled through my phone until I found
the number I was going to call.

 

Then I sent a text asking if she would be home later so I could catch
her.

 

And I couldn't wait to see the expression on her face when she
realized I'd meant not on the phone, but at the door.

Chapter
8: Audrey

 

I decided obsessing over Jack wasn’t going to give me the clarity
of thought I needed.

 

Sure, I tried that first, but then I remembered that I couldn't
put my life on hold just because I'd royally fucked up my morning. So I decided
to check my email and see if I had any job offers.

 

Mostly, I was just desperate to take my mind off him for two
seconds so I could remember what it was like to breathe normally. I wanted to
feel grounded again, like I did before he showed up at my door and gave me the
mind and body fuck of a lifetime.

 

On the plus side, I had two new freelancing gigs. One was for a
book cover design and the other was a request for two alternate versions of a
pamphlet comparing several popular brands of document scanners.

 

But it was no use. Every time I shifted in my chair, I could feel
him inside me again. Every time I cleared my throat, my vagina flinched. And
every time I blinked, I saw him on his knee looking up at me naked from the
waist up.

And if I kept
my eyes closed, suddenly
he was there with me,
squeezing my breasts, panting against my neck, licking me down there like his
life depended on it. And when that initial flush would pass, his words lingered
on…

 

"Marry me, Audrey, and I'll spend the rest of my days trying
to convince you that you're the lucky one."

 

It was as funny as it was sweet. After all, surely he knew what a
fucking good catch he was. I certainly did.

 

I also didn’t think he would hurt me, even if he couldn't love me
forever. I could tell by the way he looked at me and how safe I felt in his
arms. Not to mention the fact that I was a lot more than safe in bed with him.

And yet, something was nagging at me. And the more I tried to
ignore the voice, the louder it got.

 

"Don't do it, Audrey. You could never be as happy as all
that. It would only make you feel guilty accepting that kind of love and
generosity into your life. You can't handle it. You don't deserve it."

 

And that's only paraphrasing the doubts that were bubbling up in my
overactive imagination. And maybe they weren't true. Maybe they were completely
unfounded self-sabotage of the highest order.

 

But that didn't mean I couldn't hear them. And it didn't change
the fact that they were still nipping at the heels of my mind, trying to
confuse me.

 

And all the while my body ached for him.

 

When the phone rang, I was so deep in thought it was only after it
stopped ringing that I realized I'd heard it.

 

I pushed my chair away from my desk and looked around for it. When
I finally located it on one of my bedside tables, it wasn't alone. It was being
kept company by Jack's watch.

I picked the watch up in my hands. It was heavy. How someone could
have a wrist strong enough to comfortably wear it was beyond me… Not that I
really wanted to dwell on the strength of his wrists just then.

I slipped it over my own hand and fastened the clasp. It was so
big the face was wider than my wrist and the strap dangled around my arm like a
loose bangle. If I'd tilted my hand down, it would've fallen to the floor.

 

It was one of those hyper masculine watches with an excessive amount
of dials crowding the face. One of the dials looked like it measured pressure or
something, and I wondered if it was the watch he used when he was scuba diving.

And then it hit me.

 

He left it behind.

 

At my place.

 

Like a real, careless boyfriend.

 

I felt my heart swell in my chest as I slipped it off my wrist and
laid it face up on the table.

 

Then I picked up the phone.

 

One missed call. From Megan.

 

I hit the callback button and waited. I wasn't sure how I was
going to tell her about the last twenty-four hours, but if I didn't get a
second opinion on the situation soon I was liable to have some kind of nervous
breakdown.

 

"Well, well, well," she said. "If it isn't Mrs.
Jack Quinn."

 

My whole face scrunched. "What? How did you- Have you spoken
to Jack? Did he tell you what happene-"

 

"Whoa- slow down. Christ. I was just joking around."

 

"Well it's not funny," I said, climbing onto the bed and
trying to ignore how vast it felt without him in it.

 

"Sorry. Is everything okay?"

 

I shook my head. "I honestly don't know."

 

"You sound like a crazy person."

"I think I might be one."

"What happened?" she asked. "Did you not have a
good date or something?"

"Quite the opposite. It was a great date. Best day of my life
probably-"

"Besides the day you met me?"

 

"The day I met you I blacked out and woke up with a drinking
ticket-"

 

"That you very much deserved by the way."

 

"Can you be serious for a second?" I asked. "I
really need to talk to you."

 

"Yeah, sorry. I'm just a little giddy cause I've been dying
to hear about your date."

 

"Just wait till you hear what happened."

 

"Shoot."

 

"So everything was going well all day, and the evening
continued very much the same way."

 

"With lots of sex?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"I'm jealous."

 

"You should be," I said. "It was fucking
brilliant."

 

"Where'd you go to dinner?"

 

"The Space Needle."

 

"Fancy."

 

"We got there on the bike he rented, too."

 

"No surprise there."

 

"He even bought me my very own motorcycle helmet."

 

"That was nice. Except for the fact that it's probably too
big to fit in your apartment."

 

"Very funny."

 

"Maybe you could buy a parking space for it."

"Megan! Focus!"

"Sorry. Is that what you're upset about? I mean, your voice
is all shaky. I was just trying to lighten the mood cause you sound-"

 

"He proposed," I said, unable to handle her waffling
anymore.

 

"What?"

 

"He proposed."

 

"I heard you," she said. "I meant what did he
propose?"

 

"No." I groaned. "He proposed proposed."

 

She laughed. "Not marriage?"

 

I didn't say anything.

 

"What the fuck?"

 

"I know."

 

"Shit. I just got the death stare for swearing. Hold on. I'm
going to find a free conference room."

 

I sighed and waited, listening as Megan smiled and helloed all the
way to a quiet place where she could talk. Then I heard a door close.

 

"Audrey?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"What do you mean he proposed?"

 

"I mean he asked me to marry him."

 

She blew so much air out of her mouth I was sure she would've spit
all over me if we'd been face to face.

 

"Twice," I added.

"Twice?!"

 

"Yeah."

 

"How does that even happen?"

"Well, he asked once last night," I said. "And then
again this morning."

 

"Whoa."

 

"I know."

"What did you say?"

"Which time?"

"Start with the first."

 

"The first time I said I'd sleep on it."

"That's normal," she said sarcastically. "And the
second?"

 

"I said I needed time."

"Time?"

"Yeah."

 

"Time for what?"

 

"To figure out my answer."

 

"Yeah, I get it, but is that what you told him?"

 

"Yeah."

"Huh."

 

"What do you mean, huh?" I asked.

 

"Well, what is he supposed to infer from that?"

"That I need time."

 

"Is that like a maybe?"

 

"It's like a yes with conditions… I think."

 

"Not a no then?"

 

"No."

"Shit. So is he going to ask again later or is he waiting for
you to get back to him?"

 

"I have no idea."

 

"How much time do you need?"

"I don't know."

"He didn't ask?"

"No."

"Jesus."

"Jesus what?"

 

"I just felt like I had to say something."

 

I rolled my eyes. "I was hoping you could say something
constructive."

 

"I guess I didn't realize you guys were that serious."

 

"Me neither, but he is definitely not playing around."

 

"Obviously."

"What do you think I should do?"

 

"I can't tell you what to do-"

"I know that," I said. "I’m just asking for a second
opinion cause I've been in my own head all day, and I'm not even making sense
to myself anymore."

"Right," she said.

 

“The sooner the better.”

 

"I guess it’s not that complicated when you think about
it."

 

"Enlighten me."

"All you have to do is decide if you love him."

 

"And then what?"

 

"Figure out how much."

BOOK: Chosen by a Stranger (Craved Series #5)
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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