A Love Like Ours

Updated: Jun 29



Love.


Four letters of foreverness, bastardized by Hollywood with sinking ships and lost letters and money, so much filthy, disgusting money, thrown around like it could buy four letters and make them represent a feeling, an all-consuming emotion that has the power to settle in your soul and tear it to shreds. Love is trust, love is permission, love is hope. Love is falling—yes, falling—so hard that you can shatter, so fast that you can break, and doing it anyways.


Because when you love, you don’t choose. You just fall.


And I fell. Hard.




Then, 2011




We met on a blind date.


It was at a coffee shop, a Starbucks downtown just a short distance from my work, close enough that I could risk wearing heels for the walk. There was also the added security of retreating and getting lost in the crowd of Manhattan’s streets.


I was cautious; I’d never done anything like this before.


My mother said I was wasting my prime years, like I was a diamond ring depreciating in value; beautiful to look at, impossible to resell. After the divorce, she wasn’t sure if anyone would even want me. Divorced girls carry baggage, and I had an entire storage unit’s worth.


The coffee shop was mostly empty. It was three in the afternoon, long after the lunch rush, and too early for the after-work 5 PM onslaught of tired, grouchy businesspeople looking for the caffeinated ambrosia that would make their train ride bearable.


There was a girl with bright bottle-orange hair, drumming her fingertips on the table, her face glowing from the screen of her MacBook. Definitely not my date.


A guy was standing in line, scruffy and homeless-looking, but it didn’t exactly mean that he was. That was just the style these days, $800 t-shirts and a full beard, wearing those stupid fingerless gloves. It really was hard to tell if he was homeless, but then again, what homeless guy pays $5 for a latte? Plus, I didn’t think he was my date—actually, I just hoped he wasn’t.


That only left one other prospect. A dark-haired man in the back, the sleeves of his white button-down shirt rolled up, looking mildly perturbed, drinking from a coffee cup with the lid off. I wondered what was bothering him. He had intense, stormy gray eyes. Those eyes met mine from across the room, but it was nothing more than a glance, almost as if he’d looked by accident. We both looked away. He wasn’t my date either.


I ordered myself a seasonal winter drink and stood around nervously, glancing at the door an embarrassing number of times. I kept waiting for someone to walk in—my date—but it was a dead afternoon, with people drifting left and right on the street, busy headed somewhere, anywhere but here.


By the time I got my coffee, my date was five minutes late. I sat somewhere in the middle, between the orange-haired girl and the guy with the gray eyes, who was starting to look grim. I sat with my back to him; one, because I needed to watch the door; and two, because I couldn’t stand to look at him. His dark mood was making me uncomfortable.


Damn you, Sebastian Burns. Where the hell are you?


My sister had told me to look out for a guy about 5’11” with blue eyes and blonde hair, but so far no one matched the description. She hadn’t told me anything else about this mysterious co-worker of hers, only that she was convinced that he was destined to become my second husband.


“It’s been six months,” Daphne had said with accusing eyes. “It’s time to get back out there.”


And that’s how I got bullied into agreeing to something as absurd as a blind date.


Half an hour passed. I checked my watch and then the door every so often, feeling stupider every time that I did. I was acutely aware that I looked like a girl who’d just been stood up. It was humiliating. I got up to leave, slinging my purse over my shoulder when I heard light footsteps behind me. I turned around, coming face-to-face with the man with the gray eyes. Well, face-to-chest. He was pretty tall.


“Wait,” he said, his voice deep, gravelly.


“You’re not Sebastian Burns, are you?” I asked pathetically.


“And you’re not Liliana Trejo.” It wasn’t a question. He knew I wasn’t—wait.


“Are you here on a blind date too?” I asked him, trying not to look too amused. What were the odds?


He cracked a smile, and it hit me right in the center of my chest; it was a smile so brilliant, so breathtaking, that I lost my bearings for a moment. He was pretty, although I guess guys didn’t like hearing that kind of stuff, but it was true. He had angular, aristocratic features with long lashes, full lips, and deep-set eyes. He was a mismatch of features, but it worked for him. He was extremely handsome.


“Is it that obvious?” he asked.


“It wasn’t until you mentioned it.”


“What else did you think I was doing here for this long?”


“Contemplating what to have for dinner.”


“Lunch was barely three hours ago,” he pointed out.


“That’s right,” I said. “Which means you’re three hours late planning your next meal.”


He chuckled. “I’m Sawyer.”


“Neve.”


“Neve,” he said, rolling my name around his tongue like candy. “That’s a pretty name.”


“It means ‘snow’,” I said. “I was born on the first snowfall of winter of ’89.”


“I should go,” he said, looking away.


“Why’s that?”


“You’re too young for me.”


I gave him a look. “Were you trying to come onto me?”


“I was considering it. Now I’m not.”


“How old are you?”


“Eleven years older than you.”


“That’s not too bad.”


“I’m a dinosaur compared to you.”


“Ah yes, the invasive Sawyer-o-Saurus Rex.”


His eyes crinkled around the corners as he laughed. I thought it was cute, considering that what I had said hadn’t even really been funny. I almost smiled, almost laughed too, but I couldn’t.


“You’re fucking retarded,” Dom says, pushing me roughly against the wall. I cover my face in defense, knowing already that he’ll slap me. He always slaps me when I make a joke that he doesn’t like.


“What’s wrong?” Sawyer asked.


“Nothing,” I lied, checking my watch. “I think I should go.”


“Was it something I said?”


Those gray eyes seemed to burn, like a tornado was brewing in them, swirling and plunging me into the eye of the storm. I found a calm there.


I shook my head and offered up a small smile.


“I just feel pretty suffocated here.”


“Wanna get outta here?”


I stilled. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. Either he was proposing we go on a proper date, or he was insinuating that we go back to his place so he could fuck my brains out. I wasn’t against either of those ideas.


“Sure.”





“I’m divorced,” I admitted as we walked the streets, our hands occasionally brushing. Neither of us put our hands in our pockets, maybe because we expected to hold hands at some point. Or maybe that was just me.


“So am I.”


We glanced at each other, surprise in both of our eyes.


“How long were you married?” I asked him.


“Five years. You?”


“Two years. I married at eighteen.”


Sawyer glanced at me, his peculiar gray eyes doing things to my body, things that my body had no business feeling. I was hot all over, like he’d seared me with a look alone.


“You’re barely old enough to drink.”


“Well, almost. My twenty-first birthday is later this month.”


“Don’t make this worse.”


I laughed and found the lunatic courage to reach out and take his hand. It was warm and big, a little calloused and rough, but not unpleasant to the touch. He squeezed my hand, the action reassuring, kind and knowing.


“Have dinner with me,” he said.


I couldn’t help but smile. It was so out of the blue.


“Lunch was only three hours ago.”


“Well, we can at least plan it,” he said with a smirk, effortlessly changing the subject, saving me from the downward spiral of emotions from my ex-husband popping up in my mind. He was always there in the background, like a disease, like a sickness; that was how it always felt, remembering him and the way he used to belittle me, threaten me, hurt me.


But now Sawyer was here, his hand in mine, tugging me like I was a kite in the sky, reeling me back from the darkness.


“I like crepes,” I said.


“For dinner?”


“They’re suitable for every meal.”


He chuckled and pulled me in against his side as the light changed at the crosswalk. A crowd of people brushed past us, all busy with their own lives, almost separating Sawyer and me for a moment, but then he was putting an arm around my waist, pulling me flush against his body, until I could feel his warmth seep through his clothes.


We were headed for Central Park, seeking out the air there, cleaner, crisper, and my lungs craved it. That was why I’d suggested it, but now that I’d been walking a few blocks in my heeled boots, I was starting to regret it.


“Can we take a break?” I asked, tugging him into an alleyway. I let go of his hand and pressed my back against a brick wall, taking off one shoe and flexing my toes. Ouch.


Sawyer looked appropriately concerned.


“Don’t get me wrong, you look great in them, but why do women wear heels? It’s barbaric.”


I shrugged. “We do it to appeal to guys like you.”


Sawyer knelt on one knee in front of me and took my foot in his big hands. He began to massage my foot, his thumbs pressing into the soft, knotted muscles, easing all the soreness. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I moaned, my head leaning back against the wall, placing my hands on his shoulders for support. I liked how wide they were, as if he was all shoulders, all hard planes and flexing curves of muscle.


“Other foot,” he said, gently sliding my black boot back on my foot. I felt like Cinderella, like my prince had finally come for me. I don’t know how I knew it, but I realized right then that I was going to marry this man.


When he looked up at me, his eyes gaze tender and soft, I had a feeling that he was thinking the exact same thing.





We went to this place called Creperie, and yes, we had crepes for dinner that night. We’d sat across from each other, playing footsie under the table, and exchanged our full names.


“Neve Noelle Cuthbert.”


“Sawyer Anderson.”


“We have weird names.”


“The weirdest,” he agreed, smiling. I liked the way his face changed when he smiled, softening all the hard edges, lifting the dark look in his eyes, dissolving away the profound sadness I found there. I knew that sadness well. I suffered from it too.


I guess that’s what drew us to each other. We were in the same boat; we might as well get acquainted. And now that I was beginning to know Sawyer, now that I was beginning to learn his quirks and mannerisms, the wicked-beautiful sound of his laugh—well, now I was prepared to go down with this ship.


“How do we know we’re right this time?” I asked him on our second date the next day. “How do you know we won’t hurt each other?”


“We don’t. Don’t overthink it.”


“Why not?”


“Because there isn’t any going back anymore. At this point, there isn’t anything we can do but see it through.”


He was right. It was both too late and too early to end things. We were already addicted to each others’ presence. We had our second date only hours after the first, meeting for breakfast before I started work in Downtown Manhattan. Sawyer said he had some work to get done too, but I didn’t pry. We hadn’t learned a damned thing from our first marriages; we didn’t know how to take things slow, how to be cautious with our hearts.


“When can I see you again?” he’d asked after that breakfast.


“Lunch.”


“Start planning our meal.”


“Will do.”


We were standing outside of the deli, holding hands and stalling, neither of us knowing exactly how to let go, how to go more hours without this, without these feelings that arose from deep inside of us.


“You’ll be late for the work you were going to be doing,” I said. It was seven-forty and he’d said he’d need to start by eight. My job began at eight-thirty.

“Fuck the work,” he said, those intense eyes peering into mine, causing my heart to beat erratically, trying its best to cope with this, to cope with him.


“Don’t,” I practically whispered. I didn’t even know what I meant by it, or what I expected him to do about it. All I knew was that being around him was intoxicating, and in this scenario I was straight-edge, a girl who’d never experienced any such thing because up until this point, she’d been nothing but vanilla.


“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” he said softly. “I won’t hurt you.”


My ex-husband had said words like that. He’d made promises of forever, loving me forever, protecting me forever, hurting me never, ever. He broke every single one of those promises. He broke me.


“I don’t know that, and neither do you,” I said. “Neither of us knows how time and life will change us.”


“If you want this, you’ll have to trust me, Neve.”


Despite it all, despite the fear of getting hurt, the fear of never seeing Sawyer again gripped me fast and hard. I realized that two dates in, I was already a goner, already wrapped up in all these euphoric feelings, making me crave his presence. He was like a bar of chocolate, delicious and dark, releasing endorphins into my bloodstream.


“I want this,” I said. “I want you.”


“And I want you. Very much,” Sawyer said, releasing my hands to wrap his arms around me, pulling me close until my head rested on his wide chest. I could hear his heartbeat, and it was pounding. He felt how I felt; the proof was right there, his body betraying all of his secrets.


“Will you kiss me before you go?” I asked.


He didn’t answer, just tipped my head back, the storm raging in those beautiful eyes, silver in the sunlight, giving me a glimpse into the pure side of him, the side that his divorce hadn’t been able to destroy. I felt that it had been reserved for me, like there was a part of him that had always been meant to be mine.


When his lips finally touched mine, I almost lost all of my equilibrium. I gripped his forearms for balance, feeling the muscles flex and ripple as he deepened the kiss, coaxing out the scared girl inside of me who wanted to be devoured by these feelings. Almost like it was some sort of morbid, masochistic curiosity, the last vulnerable pieces of me surfaced, desperate for a taste of the coffee on his tongue. He kissed me like I was fragile, like he knew that I was in danger of breaking, like he knew exactly how much this kiss meant to me.


It meant freedom.


Somebody on the street whistled and I pulled away, my face going red. Sawyer looked down at me with an amused expression, smiling at my embarrassment. I’d expected him to be smug—guys are always smug after getting their way with a woman—but he wasn’t smug.


He looked like I did. Like he’d been given his freedom, too.


And that was how we ended our second date, with our first kiss, standing outside of a deli like a couple of high schoolers, lips locking right there on the sidewalk.


We never did make it to work that morning.




Now




The Chanel tag was still on my dress, dangling like an insect caught in a web, held on only by a thin line, struggling for its life. Eight years ago, I would’ve just torn it right off without feeling any embarrassment whatsoever, but now I was red in the face, excusing myself to go to the kitchen so I could cut it off properly without ruining the dress.


“Is the food okay?” the caterer asked as I stepped into my kitchen. She looked off, almost like she’d been expecting me. It made me suspicious, but I didn’t say anything about it. Right now, all I wanted was this stupid tag off my dress.


“Food’s fine,” I said, opening a drawer to locate a pair of craft scissors that I remembered my nephew leaving there. My husband said everything had its own place in a home. He wouldn’t have approved of the scissors being anywhere but the craft box on the shelf in the hallway closet.


“Do you want something to drink?” the caterer asked, looking unconvinced.


“A glass of champagne, if there’s any left,” I said, cutting the tag. My sister, Daphne, would’ve been scandalized. She was used to buying designer wares and returning them after one or two uses. I couldn’t say I blamed her. Eight thousand dollars for a party dress was no joke.


“We don’t return things,” my husband had said after we’d gotten married. “Everything is final sale to people like us.”


People like us. Stupid-wealthy, dripping in jewels, five hundred dollar haircuts, fast cars, and fast lives. That’s what my husband was like, that’s what our friends were like, that’s what my children would be like—but it wasn’t what I was like.


I was an imposter.


The caterer passed me a glass of champagne and I downed it, smacking my lips and holding my hand out for another. I went through two and a half glasses before he finally found me.


“Give us a moment,” he said to the caterer. She exited with her staff, leaving me alone in the kitchen with the tall man that stood before me.


“What do you want, Sawyer?”


“I want my wife to be present.”


“She’s busy right now,” I said, looking absently down at my nails.


“Busy getting drunk?” He pointed to the empty flutes that rested on the counter beside me. There was no use denying it. He knew me well. He was, after all, my husband.


“I’m having a bad night.”


Sawyer sighed and ran a hand through his hair, making my heart swell. He was older now, a few more wrinkles than he’d had before, but he looked good. Too good.


“Do you want me to send everyone home?” he asked.


“No.”


“Do you want to talk about what’s wrong?”


“No.”


“Goddamnit Neve, what do you want?”


My eyes flashed to my husband, holding the gaze of those stormy gray eyes, like they were made of smoke, wafting up from the depths of his soul. I’d charred him, burnt his soul up—all because of what happened. All because of that day.


“I want my daughter back,” I said acidly.


Sawyer’s face contorted in pain. It matched my own, those ugly feelings, the despair, the anger. I felt so much.


“The party is over,” he said, loosening his tie. “I’ll send everyone home.”


“What about schmoozing up to your publisher?”


“Don’t antagonize me, Neve.”


He turned around and left. I let him go. I could barely stand to look at him these days.




Then, 2011




Sawyer lived in one of those older buildings, the kind that had been renovated and turned into a thing of luxury. Judging by the way he dressed, the way he talked, it was obvious (to me) that this was a trust fund baby, living comfortably off some family money, probably working some hotshot job downtown. I’d learn later that I was wrong, that Sawyer was self-made. He was a writer.


“Living here makes me feel a little embarrassed sometimes,” he said after he’d let us in. I looked around the apartment, taking in the floor to ceiling windows, a brilliant view of the Manhattan Bridge on the other side, the water sparkling and rippling in the distance. This was prime real estate. It had to cost a fortune to live here.


“The view is the only reason I bought this place.”


“It’s amazing.”


“Can I get you something to drink?”


I shook my head and smiled, biting down my nerves. We stood there awkwardly for a moment, unsure of what to do. Sawyer mused in silence, like he was trying to figure out what to do with me. A moment later he seemed to make up his mind.


“Are you sure the age difference doesn’t bother you?” he asked.


“It’s not a problem.” It wasn’t. I would’ve taken Sawyer even if he were twenty years older, I realized. After all, he was taking me as I was, young and inexperienced in the matters of the heart, vulnerable and capable of being broken all over again.


“When was your divorce finalized?”


I blinked in surprise. I hadn’t been expecting that.


“Six months ago. Yours?”


“Two years,” he answered. He ran a hand through his hair and walked over to the nearest window, looking out over the East River, his face serious again.


“Is this all moving too fast?” I asked him. Less than a day and I was already in his apartment, my bare feet sinking into his plush carpeting. And we weren’t even having sex. It was intimate, just the act of being there.


He looked over his shoulder, his gaze meeting mine.


“That’s the thing,” he said. “It doesn’t feel fast at all. It feels right. Too right.”


“And that’s scary.”


“Yeah,” he admitted. “It is.”


We were lonely, Sawyer and I. That was the main thing we had in common, the emptiness in the barren place that had once been our hearts, leaving us incomplete, leaving us lost. Divorce wasn’t just breaking up, wasn’t just dividing the assets. It was dividing the heart, tearing out the parts that had become occupied by the one that you’d once promised forever to. When a person gets divorced, they leave their spouse—but they also leave a piece of themselves, a piece that would never, ever be recovered.


And it left a void. Right there, in the center of my chest; that’s where it was, like a black hole, sucking everything inside, making it painful to breathe, painful to exist. But now, for the first time in a long time, something was filling that void, that emptiness:


Sawyer.


It made no sense. I barely knew him.


He turned around, his eyes meeting mine, looking right into me, right into the void, and not judging me for it. Because he was like me, broken and alone. I knew that without having to pry. It had been plain on his face since the moment I’d first laid eyes on him. There was something tragic about him, something sad about those tempestuous eyes.


I put my bag on the kitchen counter as I passed it, my hands trailing over the sleek white quartz. I came to stop behind Sawyer, my body trembling for some reason, like there was too much energy inside of me, too many charged nerves, ready to snap and sizzle the moment I touched him. I was scared to do it.


“I can go,” I said, knowing he was going to object. He turned around, and I held my breath, sucking it in sharply when he took my face in his hands, looking down at me like I was all his eyes had ever thirsted to see. His gaze was almost worshipful, his eyes hungrily taking in all the features of my face, concentrating despite the fact that my body was right there, something much more interesting to look at.


He didn’t seem to think so.


“I feel—“


“I know,” I said breathlessly. “Me too.”


“Can I kiss you?”


“Why do you even bother asking? You already know the answer.”


And then he was leaning down, his eyes closing, those long lashes fluttering. I closed my eyes too, bracing myself, wondering how he’d do it, if he’d be gentle or rough.


But I already knew the answer.


When his lips met mine, he was impossibly gentle, kissing me like I was a fragile thing, like I could shatter at any moment. I opened my mouth and tasted him, the rich, bold taste of coffee, my tongue sliding along his, silently spilling all of my secrets. I was telling him how right this felt, conveying my interest through my lips, my mouth moving with his.


His hands slipped into my hair, cradling the back of my neck, drawing me closer as he deepened the kiss, stealing my breath away. My hands found the crisp fabric of his white shirt, gripping and pulling him closer, whimpering against his lips when he walked me backward until my back hit the glass window. It scared me for a moment to be pushed up against it, but then Sawyer’s hands trailed down to my hips, holding me steady.


And I don’t know how I knew it, but I was certain that even if the world crumbled away beneath our feet, he wouldn’t let me fall.




Now




I sat at the kitchen table with a leftover bottle of Dom Pérignon, the family photo albums strewn across the surface, nursing a glass while I flipped through the pages. At first it was just me and Sawyer, blissfully happy, just the two of us making sense of the world together, leaving our footprints in the sand, N+S 4ever, two lost people who’d found themselves in each other. There were pictures of the day he’d gotten down on one knee, exactly a year after our meeting at the coffee shop, and to this day, I still remember my heart burning for him, expanding, almost ready to explode from happiness, taking in the sight of his face, so bright, brighter than the sun, those raincloud eyes brimming with tears, declaring a promise of forever. The wedding that came after, the cake that we’d smeared in each other’s faces, laughing during our first dance together as husband and wife, licking frosting off each other’s noses.


There was a snapshot of Sawyer hugging me from behind, his hands making a heart over my swelling belly. I’d been pregnant with our daughter, my face glowing, smiling not at the camera, but at my husband and his handsome face. Those months had flown by, pregnancy cravings and little kicks, following the app, watching our little bean grow into an orange and a grapefruit and a melon. The nursery that Sawyer had painted himself, and the golden letter he’d nailed to the wall, “S” for Savannah.


“Neve.”


I looked up, my eyes misted with all the memories. Sawyer was standing by the doorway, his brows furrowed, eyes pained and dark.


“Are they all gone?”


He nodded. “Just saw the caterers and the last of the guests off.”


I let out a deep, relieved sigh. I felt less suffocated now.


“How long will we have to live like this?” he asked, gesturing to the bottle and all the pictures. “How long will you draw this out, Neve?”


“Until I get her back.”


Sawyer walked over, knelt down on one knee beside me, and took my hands in his.


“You have to accept that there’s a very real possibility that she won’t—“


“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.”


“It’s been over a year,” he said. “She’s… she’s gone, Neve.”


“No,” I moaned, tears streaming down my face. There was no greater pain than this. It was anguish, a shattering of the heart, of the soul, taking everything I was made of and breaking it. Sawyer let go of my hands and stood up.


“Pull yourself together,” he said, his face tired, so unbelievably tired. “This is starting to get old.”


There was a time when my husband had acted like one, had held me, had cried with me, had dried my tears, kissing them all away, and then taking me to bed, filling all my emptiness with his body, making love to me in the darkness. But I’d pushed him away. At some point, he’d stopped trying, and now here we were, barely a foot apart, and yet the distance was as vast as an ocean, the tumultuous storm in his eyes raging, looking at me like I’d ruined us even though it had been him.


“You’re cruel,” I told him.


You are,” he retorted. “You’re not trying to live anymore, Neve. I feel as if my wife has died. It’s like I don’t exist to you. Savannah, Savannah, Savannah. You let yourself be consumed by her—but she’s not here! I am, Neve. I’m right fucking here in front of you.”


I got up and shoved him. Hard.


“Neve—“


I shoved him again, right into the wall.


“Jesus Christ,” he muttered, straightening up. “This has to stop. You have to stop taking this out on me.”


“You were supposed to watch her, Sawyer,” I said acidly.


For a year we’ve waited for that phone call, the one from the people who had taken Savannah, asking for a ransom that we would’ve paid, any amount. Hell, Sawyer had said that he was willing to give up our estate, the cars, the rights to all of his bestselling novels—everything just to get her back. Sawyer’s books were made into movies; they were immensely popular, and the franchise was currently worth a couple billion. He was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. We would have given every single cent.


But the call never came.


Sawyer’s eyes flashed in anger and he strode over to the kitchen table. In one fluid movement, he swept his arm across the table, causing everything to come crashing to the floor. The champagne bottle shattered, the liquid seeping into the photographs.


“What the fuck, Sawyer?” I hissed, getting down on my knees, cutting my fingers on glass as I picked up the family albums, placing them back on the table. I took my shirt off and blotted the pages with it. Savannah’s smiling face looked up at me, her features now distorted forever, the photograph collapsing in on itself.


Sawyer came to stand beside me, taking my bloodied hands and looking so goddamn heartbroken that I almost told him that it was okay, that everything would go back to normal, that I’d try to be his wife again—but it’d be a lie; nothing would ever be the same.


I leaned over and kissed him anyway. When I opened my eyes, I saw my broken husband, trying desperately to keep it together. His eyes were bloodshot, and his face was hardened, jaw locked, breathing through his nostrils.


My heart ached for him, but I did not kiss him again. I left the room.




Then, 2011




I don’t know who began undressing first, only that one moment we were standing there by the floor-to-ceiling window, fully clothed, kissing slowly and sweetly, and the next we were peeling the shirts off our backs, our mouths meeting hungrily, kissing with hot, desperate lips.


I wrapped my arms around his neck, biting his lower lip when he picked me up, looking at me with those intense eyes as he walked us to his bedroom, his expression determined and serious as ever. I placed a hand on his cheek, and his features softened, but his eyes were still hard. They stayed that way when he gently lowered me onto his bed; they stayed that way when he unsnapped my bra and stripped me bare of my panties; they stayed that way when he parted my thighs and licked his lips, looking down between my legs, eyes still dark, gripping me right from the center of my chest, right where my dark soul resided.


“Sawyer,” I gasped when his mouth descended down between my legs, kissing along my thighs. He glanced at me, concern in his eyes that dissolved when he saw that I’d cried out from pleasure. I weaved my fingers in his hair, feeling the sleek texture of his dark locks.


“Please,” I whimpered.


The wait was over after that. His mouth found my pussy, licking along my delicate folds, already slick for him, dripping onto his sheets. I moaned, gripping his hair, my eyes pricking with tears from the mind-numbing pleasure, biting my bottom lip as he ate me out, his tongue darting inside of me, sliding up and down, in and out, and then—


Oh god!”


He’d finally moved to my clit, his tongue punishing me, circling around it over and over again, the bundle of nerves ready to burst. I threw my head back on the bed, my thighs closing in around his shoulders, gasping and crying out as he slipped two fingers inside of me, curving up, exploring until I stiffened. He’d found that spot.


“Sawyer, Sawyer, Sawyer,” I chanted, my toes curling as he began his brutal descent on my soul, stripping it bare of my body, his fingers roughly hitting my g-spot over and over again, and then suddenly I was coming.


It shattered my mind, shattered my heart, shattered and changed everything.


“That was about the hottest thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Sawyer said, crawling up to me, kissing up my body, his lips wet and hot.


A terrible part of me wondered if he’d ever said those exact words to his ex-wife, if she’d ever left him in awe like this. I buried the thought immediately, cursing my brain for trying to ruin this moment for me. I closed my eyes, forgetting all about it as Sawyer kissed along my jaw, nipping at my neck, making me whimper. I was quickly learning that he liked drawing sounds out of me.


“Lay on your back,” I told him breathily. “I want you in my mouth.”


“Later,” he murmured. “I need to be inside of you.”


He kissed me before I could object, declaring war over my heart, making it race so fast that I almost couldn’t breathe. It was as if he’d plucked me from the darkness, drawing me into those strange eyes, kissing me like I was something precious he’d lost and found again. I told myself that it was all in my head, that I must be the only one feeling these emotions this strongly, but the way he looked at me, the way he touched me, the way he wanted me...


I parted my legs for him, inviting him into my embrace, gasping as he entered me, his thickness stretching me and stretching me to the point where it almost hurt, but god, it was a good hurt—so fucking good. Heaven and hell, that’s what it felt like, like I was being taken by a fallen angel, a demon, so beautiful that I couldn’t help but surrender my soul to him. I clutched his shoulders, my nails piercing into his skin, whimpering out as he pounded into me.


“Let me hear you,” he said, kissing along my jaw. He hitched one of my legs up, and after that, I had no choice but to let him hear me. He found my g-spot, punishing me and punishing me, fucking me and destroying me.


I’m gonna come,” I gasped, my fingers finding their way into his dark hair, weaving and pulling, making him hiss, the sound so fucking sexy that it sent me over the edge. It was pure ecstasy, the emotions poured through me like molten lava. My pussy contracted around the length of his cock, squeezing and squeezing, drawing out his own orgasm.


“Oh, fuck,” he groaned, his cock thickening and pulsing inside of me, filling me with his seed, streaming slick down my thighs. We were breathing heavily, surprise on both our faces, like we couldn’t believe we’d done something so outrageous. It hadn’t even been 24 hours since we’d met. We were two strangely broken, lonely people, and yet somehow, we’d let our guard down. It seemed so crazy to me.


“Sawyer,” I said, reaching up and brushing his hair back from his forehead. His eyes were dark with lust, but as they watched me, they lightened. It was as if he was taking in the sight of me, figuring me out, cracking me like I was a code, peeling back the skin on my bones to see if I would really bleed, if I was real.


I knew then that it wouldn’t be very long at all before I loved this man.




Now



Sawyer and I didn’t speak for two days.


I loved him, honestly, I did. With every last cell of my body, by all the ropes of my brain and the thuds of my heart, I loved that man. He was my Sawyer, my savior, the guy who’d taken a young, broken girl and helped her become a strong, independent woman. He’d never abused me like Dom had. He’d taught me that love wasn’t about that, wasn’t about ownership and power, but rather about compassion, understanding, and respect. To be loved by a guy like Sawyer could really spoil a person.


And I was spoiled.


“I’m sorry,” he finally said, approaching me where I laid on my side in the fetal position on the couch, hugging my knees. He lifted my head and sat down, putting my head on his lap. He brushed my hair back from my face with his fingers, his touch still electrifying, sending heat coursing through my veins almost immediately. I reached up, took a fistful of the collar of his shirt and tugged him down, my mouth meeting his. He kissed me back enthusiastically, pulling me up. I straddled his lap, weaving my fingers in his hair, kissing him like the world was ending.


I felt the hard length of his erection between us. That was when he pulled back, breaking the kiss, breaking the connection.


“We need to talk about this,” he said. “Sex won’t solve this. It’ll just bury what happened.”


“Why can’t we do both?”


“Because we’ve tried before, Neve. It didn’t work.”


He was right. The make-up sex was always earth-shattering, numbing all of our pain, filling us with a fake, temporary happiness from the endorphins. Somehow we forgot what we’d fought about, the words left unspoken, silently agreeing not to talk about it, and bottling it all up like a dying fire that could not be contained. Eventually, it burst from within us, leading to moments of getting drunk over old photographs and knocking bottles of expensive champagne to the floor. That was what we were now. Fleeting moments of emotions: lust, happiness, anger and pain, so much pain.


We could have had the talk. We could have talked it all out. But I wasn’t ready to forgive Sawyer.


So I slid off his lap and left the room, putting up those walls between us again.





A few days later, Sawyer sat beside me at the kitchen bar, putting down a glass of orange juice for each of us. I slid my plate over, and he took a piece of toast. We’d been doing this for years, sharing off each other’s plates, preparing drinks for one another. It was all routine. I could almost pretend for a moment that nothing had changed.


“I have dinner with Alyssa tonight. Will you come?”


Alyssa was Sawyer’s editor. I’d met her before. She was the serious type, so serious in fact that she always sent back manuscripts with so many corrections that it seemed the entire book would have to be rewritten. She was also fiercely loyal to Sawyer, however. She advocated for him whenever deemed necessary. I wasn’t threatened by her. One, because Sawyer would never cheat on me; and two, because she was allegedly happily married.


“You go,” I said, taking a sip. “I’ll just be bored and left out like always.”


“Try telling that to Alyssa’s husband. He’ll be there tonight.”


“So, what—you want me to babysit her husband?” I wasn’t exactly sure why I was complaining; I’d never actually met Alyssa’s husband before. I didn’t even know his name.


“You’d find him interesting,” Sawyer said. “He’s a schoolteacher, too.”


“Alyssa married a teacher?”


“I married one, so why not her?”


I supposed that was fair.


“Are we driving into the city then?”


Sawyer nodded. He had the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to the elbows, and his hair was still a little wet from his shower, combed back from his handsome face. His eyes were dark and brooding, but I’d long since accepted that there were going to be things that my husband wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with me. I knew something was hurting him, and likely, that something was me.


We finished our meal in silence, finding our escape from conversation by distracting ourselves with our phones. This is what had become of us.





I started to get ready around four. My hands shook as I applied my Crème de la Mer moisturizer, the cream cool in my palms as I rubbed it warm before working it into my face. At almost twenty-nine, it was appropriate for me to be religious with my skincare routine. I looked for wrinkles every day, but I still hadn’t found one. My skin was smooth and pale. I supposed that at one time I had been beautiful, but now I was a tired version of my old self, with heavy bags under the eyes and face always pinched from thinking too much about what had happened to my daughter.


Sawyer walked into the room straightening his tie and then adjusted his cufflinks. His eyes met mine in the mirror I was sitting in front of.


“Almost ready?” he asked, walking over. He kissed me on the cheek, something he hadn’t done in a long time. I stiffened, but involuntarily. The pain that shot in his eyes was unbearable to look at.


“Almost,” I said, getting up and stepping around him. Sawyer caught me by the wrist and stopped me.


“Do I repulse you?” he asked.


“Of course not.”


“Then what is the problem, Neve? I can’t even touch my own wife.”


“That’s not true.”


Sawyer took a step toward me, peering down at me accusingly with those peculiar smoky eyes. Watching him made me feel as if a fire had scorched me and only the ashes remained. I wrapped my arms around him and let myself burst into flames all over again. He was still intoxicating, still the same on the outside, still stoic and serious, but something had changed. He wasn’t the same. I had the strangest feeling that he loved me less.


It was absurd. This was Sawyer. Sawyer loved me…


“I’m just not in a good place these days,” I said shakily.


“Tell me how to make it better.”


“There’s nothing you can do right now. This is just the way things are going to be for a while. I need to heal. Just—Just don’t give up on me, okay?”


“I would never give up on you. I love you, Neve,” he said, letting go of my wrist to gather me into his arms. His body was hard, warm, and familiar, so familiar. Sawyer had become my home many years ago—but now I was a wanderer without a home to call my own. There was a distance between us, separating us by powers I still couldn’t quite understand. We loved each other, and yet there was a disconnect.


Sawyer tipped my head back and kissed me, slow and sweet like molasses, like fresh spring water after a blistering hot day, like the eye of a storm, calm in all the destruction. I opened my mouth and so did he, and we tasted each other, our tongues hot and wet, moving together the way that our lips did. Sawyer deepened the kiss and slowly began to walk me backward until my knees met the bed.


We didn’t even get undressed. Sawyer unbuckled and unzipped, and I lifted up my dress. We fell into bed together, and impatient and turned on, I took him in my mouth, sliding my tongue up the length of his stiff cock. He tasted good, all man, virile and hot, so unbelievably hot as he threw his head back, groaning as I took him deeper down my throat. I swallowed, the contraction squeezing his cock; he loved it when I did this.


“Neve,” he said, his hands gripping my hair. He thrust his hips, fucking my mouth, making me gag. I swallowed again, bobbing my head up and down in rhythm with the movement of his hips. There was a thick coating of saliva by now, making it easier for me to take him deeper, sucking him in all the way. Sawyer let out a sigh, stroking my hair.


“That’s enough,” he said. “Come up here.”


I crawled up on all fours, my breasts swaying, and straddled his lap. I rocked my hips, rubbing my pussy against the thick, hard cock between us.


Neve,” he warned. He lifted me by the hips and slowly entered me, stuffing me with his entire length. I gasped, steadying myself by putting my hands on his shoulders. I rode him slowly at first, building up the tempo, listening to sharp intakes of breath every time I began to grind on him. He grew even harder, his cock thickening. That’s when I quickened the pace.


“Sawyer,” I moaned, pleasure spiking through my veins. “Sawyer, fuck me, baby.”


He didn’t say anything, just tightened his grip of my hips, and held me in place. I saw his eyes become darker with lust, and suddenly he was snapping his hips up, pounding into me at an angle, finding my g-spot in one go. I came instantly, bucking and shaking, crying out his name. He quickly pulled out and came all over my stomach.


We hadn’t uttered a word about children. We’d just made a silent agreement not to make another.


I got up and made my way to the bathroom. This was the release I had needed, but now that it was over, the old feelings came rushing back. Without looking at my husband, I closed the door, covered my face with my hands and cried.




To be continued...





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