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Exodus(6)
Author: Kate Stewart

The holidays came and went, and I went home. I spent winter break with my mother and Christy, all the while nursing my shattered heart, a heart filled to the brim with love without a soul to shower it on. And not once in that time did I regret a minute with either of them.

I was thankful.

I was grateful.

I knew myself better because of that experience with them. It wasn’t just a summer but a season of discovery. I assume most people go through life never exploring themselves as in-depth as I did. Those days of lust-filled trysts and nights I spent with my lovers beneath a canopy of green trees and twinkling stars reshaped me.

As the minutes, hours, days, and months passed, I didn’t spring back to life. I simply went through the motions.

I kept my memories close, until one day, I forced myself to start living again. School was easy, and my job was made easier the closer I got with Melinda and a few others in the night crew. None of the brotherhood spoke to me—none of them. Whether in town at a gas pump, or a chance meeting anywhere else, I was invisible to those who had the marking. I hadn’t just lost my boys, I’d lost my friends too, including Layla, and everyone else associated with the brotherhood.

The bastard kept his promise. I’ve been completely on my own.

The more time that passes, the more I decide I’m better off. Any communication or association with anyone related to Sean and Dominic would only give me hope of a future that isn’t coming.

At the end of spring, I’ve successfully completed my first two semesters of college with a near-perfect GPA and am now on the last leg of my year working for my father. I’m three-quarters of the way to honoring our deal with only a few months to go.

One summer left in Triple Falls, and I will be free of Roman Horner and my obligations to him, and my mother will be financially set.

Freedom is close.

Roman hasn’t returned from Charlotte since our last exchange, and I don’t expect him to. He hasn’t so much as made an effort past a weekly email. As I suspected, he never lived here. If anything, this house seems to have been blueprinted as a shrine to his success.

By this summer’s end, I’ll no longer have to deal with the lingering anxiety about a possible face to face. Not only that, but I’ll also have a large portion of his fortune signed over to me, and our ties will be severed.

Oddly enough, I’m in no hurry to flee Triple Falls.

The town and its people have grown on me. I no longer mind the monotony of my workdays. But now that the semester is over, my days off are my own again, and filling them is becoming a hard task.

I’ve been spending them wisely.

I hike and often. Never on the trails that Sean took me to, I’m no longer a masochist in that sense. But I’ve grown stronger, my muscles no longer screaming after long treks in the woods and up mountain cliffs. I’ve brushed up on my French with my app, determined to eventually spend my summers abroad with the aid of a flush bank account. And now that the temperature has stopped lingering on brisk, I’ve resumed sunning, swimming, and reading out in Roman’s courtyard.

I’ve allowed myself to dream up a new normal, having last call beers with my co-workers and attending a few of Melinda’s family functions just to pass the time. I’m trying hard to be a present friend to her, the way she has for me.

But tonight presents a new hurdle. After eight months of painful silence from both my lost loves, I agreed to a date.

After a scalding shower, I line my lips shimmering-red while recalling Sean tracing them stretched around his cock, stifling the memory of the sounds he made, his pleasured grunts, his long exhale when he came.

“You have a date. A date, Cecelia.” I close my eyes, hindered with memories of my last one.

Dominic’s barely-there smile crosses my mind as I vividly recall tracing his muscled skin with my bare toes in the front seat of his Camaro.

Cursing, I grab some tissue and wipe away the smudge in my lip liner.

“Date, Cecelia. Concentrate on your date. His name is Wesley. And he’s polite, educated, and hot.”

Not Sean hot. Not Dominic hot. And despite my immense hatred for him, no man on Earth is The Frenchman hot.

And fuck him for it.

Every time I think about that arrogant bastard, my blood boils. I may never get his audience again, but I refuse to let him have the power he once did over me. He took my happiness away without a second thought, passed his judgment and inhumane sentence before he strode away. Months ago, I would have gone along with any of his plans just to be near them. But time has been on my side. It’s healed me. It’s strengthened me and enraged me.

I dare him to cross my path because of the way he single-handedly ripped us apart.

But Sean and Dominic allowed it—and to me—that is unforgivable.

These grudges I hold close, they keep me objective, in hindsight. They also keep me angry and resentful—all tools I need for forward progress. One day, when I don’t need the anger, I’ll forgive them for the way they hurt me, for myself. But it’s not happening any time soon.

Shaking my head, I concentrate on my eyes, going heavy on my mascara. My headspace is all wrong for this, and I know it. But I need this last step. I need to get back out there.

I’ve stopped waiting for ‘one day’ in exchange for a ‘someday’ and ‘some other.’

And maybe that ‘some other’ is Wesley.

My phone rattles with an incoming message on the vanity, and I buzz Wesley in, opting not to give him the gate code. Lesson learned on that front.

Filled with anticipation, I take the stairs in a new curve-hugging halter dress my favorite shop owner helped me pick out. Primed for possibility, I run my fingers through my hair as I reach the door.

I just want to laugh again without the sad pause of recollection at the end of it. Without erasing from my present by lingering in the past. I just want to feel some sort of closeness again, one that has nothing to do with the men who refuse to exit my dreams, the way they have my life. More than that, I want to see if I’m capable of feeling a flutter, an inkling, any sign of life other than acknowledging the beating my heart has taken.

Just knowing there is a chance will be enough.

“Please,” I whisper to anyone listening. “Just a jolt, a whisper, something,” I plea just as Wesley pulls up and steps out of his truck. It’s when his brown eyes rake over me and flare before he flashes me a set of perfect teeth, that I know, for me, the date is already over.

 


Nothing.

That’s what I felt. Absolutely nothing. Not during dinner, and not now when Wesley takes my hand in his while walking me back to his truck. Not a flutter, nor a single ounce of anticipation when he opens the passenger door and gently pushes my hair away from my face before leaning in.

That gesture triggers me, and I turn my head at the last second, unable to bear it. It isn’t Sean’s caress, and they aren’t Dominic’s lips. Wesley dips his chin and looks over to me.

“You’ve been hurt?”

“I’m sorry. I thought I was ready.”

“It’s okay. Just…I felt like you weren’t really with me when I was talking at dinner, and I couldn’t shut the fuck up.”

“It’s not you…” I cringe and know shooting him would have been more merciful by the change in his expression.

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