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Until I Met You
  • Текст добавлен: 4 октября 2016, 23:16

Текст книги "Until I Met You"

Автор книги: S. L. Scott

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Текущая страница: 3 (всего у книги 19 страниц)


“Yeah?” She yawned and looked at the time. Three seventeen. She yawned again.

“Are you on your cycle?”

“I don’t even own a bike.” She was taunting him. Three seventeen in the morning seemed like a good time to tease. Not!

“No.” He sounded uncomfortable, but he finally worked it out. “Your menstrual cycle?”

“Medical speak is not my idea of foreplay. Try another angle.”

“I want to know.”


“Just tell me, Jude.”

“No. I’m not.”

He paused as it dawned on him. “Are you a virgin?”

“No, Hazel.”

He was onto her tricks already. “Were you? When you came over after the party?”


He pulled her even tighter against his chest and kissed her ear. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me for having sex with you. That’s weird and feels like it’s going to be followed up with a payment.”

“I’m not paying you for sex, but I will kiss you again.”

“Down there?” she asked, perking up.

“Of course.”

Jude didn’t leave Taylor’s apartment that week, not even to get food or clothes. She wore his T-shirts. She ordered food. She smoked in the bedroom with a window cracked open since he didn’t like the smell.

He went to work. He came home with groceries. He brought her flowers and air fresheners. He never complained about the smoke. He liked Jude too much to let her one vice bother him.

For that, he was welcomed home with pancakes and waffles, eggs benedict, and oatmeal for dinner. They ate in the nude. They ate on the couch and in bed. They made love while the snow fell outside and with the blinds wide open.

Friday came and he went to work. A black cloud had been blocking their sunshine and it was about to downpour. All week he hadn’t really thought of Katherine or the coffee meeting. But here it was, and he didn’t want to go. He sat at his desk, staring out the window of the high-rise office building where he worked. Ten blocks home. Three blocks to Bean There.

The ticking of his watch echoed in his ears and he looked down. Four fifty-seven. He set down his pencil and shutdown his laptop. Peering out the window while he put his coat on, he studied the weather and tried to think of any excuse he could to go home to Jude instead.

“It’s gotten heavier,” his co-worker Ben said. “I think I’ll wait it out and get caught up on the Manger project.”

“Good idea. Unfortunately, I’ve got to go. I’m meeting someone at five.”

“You’ll be late.”

“Yeah, I’m okay being late to this meeting.”

“Mysterious. You seeing someone new?”

Taylor smiled. He couldn’t help it when he thought about Jude.

Then he said, “Or did you get back together with Katherine?”

But her name wiped the happy gleam from his face. Pushing his glasses up his nose, he said, “I should go. Have a good night.”

Ben got back to work, not bothering to get more from him. He knew he wouldn’t talk about it if he didn’t want to. And he had too much work to catch up on. “You too.”

Taylor wrapped his scarf around his neck as he waited for the elevator. He thought about calling Jude, but he didn’t have her number. It wouldn’t matter. She’ll be there when he got home. Content, she didn’t ask him about his day or talk about hers. When they were together, they lived in the moment, and he loved every second.

As he rode the elevator, he wondered how practical that really was. Quite frankly, it wasn’t practical at all. That was just it. They didn’t make sense, but neither questioned what was going on. They just lived…

Taylor walked into the quaint coffee shop fifteen minutes late. He saw Katherine rise from a back table and wave him over. He started walking while taking his gloves off, but detoured to order a coffee before joining her. He needed to have something to hold, something to steady his hand. He hated faltering in front of her and she didn’t deserve access to that side of his life anymore.

With his drink in hand, he sat down across from her, setting his gloves on the table. “Hello,” he said, noticing her hair was shorter, not by much, but enough to see her differently.

“Hi,” she said, keeping her voice intimate. She reached across the table and covered his hand that held the mug. “Thank you for coming. I wasn’t sure if you were going to.”

He pulled back, and eyed her. “I don’t have long.”

“Oh? I was hoping to catch up.” When he didn’t answer, she asked, “Are you seeing someone new?”

He looked away. He wanted to tell her that her photo had been discarded into the drawer. He really wanted to brag that he has someone waiting with bacon or some other breakfast food for him that she had cooked for dinner. And that the prettiest and messiest brunette he’d ever seen was there, waiting just for him, probably naked. This woman that made him laugh and think that a life, even one that could be cut short was still worth living, was at his place right now. But he didn’t.

The very blonde Katherine stared at him, every strand of her hair perfectly in place. And he said, “No.” He didn’t feel right speaking of Jude to her. He didn’t want to expose what they had to the outside world. He didn’t know if it could survive beyond the walls of his place, past January, or beyond winter. So he held tight to what he cared about most and shook his head. “I just have a lot of work to do.”

A wide smile showed, her white teeth brighter against the blood-red lipstick. “That’s good to hear. I mean,” she said, trying to sound casual, “about the work. You’re keeping busy. That’s good. Are you hungry? We can order something or go out to eat.”

“No.” He sipped his drink. “Why did you want to meet?”

“Like I said, to catch up. You’re looking good. You look healthy.”

“I’m healthier. Right now. But like you, it comes and goes.”

Embarrassed, she looked down, her eyes on her coffee that was now cold. When she looked up, she steadied herself, and a small smile came along for the ride. “I’m sorry. I am. So much, Taylor. I miss you. I can’t replace the past and the bad choices I made. I can only try to fix our future.”

“We don’t have a future to fix. You made sure of that when you fucked my friend while I was in the hospital.” He sat back, feeling annoyed. “I’m surprised you didn’t do it bedside while I slept.”

“You weren’t that close of friends from what I remember.” He started to stand, but she said, “I’m sorry. Please. But you have to understand. You weren’t the only one going through something, Taylor. I was going through it too—”

“Don’t.” He sat up, trying to keep his cool in a public place, but failing to keep his emotions in check. “Don’t act like your life was on the line! You were put out. That’s it. You were put out because your boyfriend was stuck in a hospital having every test out there performed on him and couldn’t escort you to a fucking ball. A ball by the way that was hosted by my parents to support Parkinson’s research.”

A tremor ran through him and he released the mug abruptly, causing the hot liquid to slosh over the top. “I’ve got to go. It was great catching up with you,” he said sarcastically as he stood up.

She stood and grabbed hold of his hand. Putting his between both of hers, she said, “I understand more now. I’m here.” Her hands rubbed back and forth, his shaking subsiding. “I want to be here for you, Taylor.”

Pulling his hand away, he tucked it quickly into his pocket, a habit he’d formed allowing him to hide tremors when necessary. “I need to go. I’m late.” He walked away from her, weaving his way through the crowded coffee shop and out onto the street. He didn’t bother tightening his scarf around his neck or even buttoning his coat. He just walked away from Katherine as fast as he could.

When he opened the door to his apartment, Jude stood up from his drafting table stool. Their eyes met, guilt tainting his heart. “Hi,” he spoke first.

She fidgeted with the boxer shorts she was wearing, a royal blue pair he bought a month ago, and an old heather-gray college T-shirt of his with Brown across the front. “Hi.” She hated feeling this way, feeling like when she was at home and was either in trouble or had caused trouble. “I made muffins. They’re vanilla and jellybean.”

“Jellybean muffins?” he asked hanging his coat on the hook behind the door.

“You didn’t have any berries.”

Walking slowly toward her, he said, “I didn’t know I had jellybeans.”

“You didn’t.” She shifted. “I did. In my pocket. I bought them last week.”

“All right.” When he reached her, he touched her waist gently. “I missed you today.” Then he kissed her. Her soft lips opened for him and she pulled at his shirt until it was no longer tucked. Her warm hands slipped underneath and they got even closer. When they pulled back, he said, “I like you in my clothes. I like you here.”

That eased her worries. “I like being here. Are you hungry?”


They kissed again, his hands sliding under her shirt and grabbing her breasts. A loud knock interrupted them, and he sighed into her mouth. She looked at him quizzically. “I can get it. You’re hungry. Get something to eat.”

“I’m hungry for you.” He stopped her as she walked past, and went ahead of her. “No,” he said, squeezing her perky breasts, her nipples hard under the soft cotton. “I’ll get it. Have you eaten?”

“I was waiting for you.”

Laughing, he reached for the door, and started opening it when he said, “We’ll eat the muffins and then I’m going to eat yo—”

“Taylor.” His head whipped around to the barely cracked-open door. Katherine stood before him. Guilt choked his words as he glanced behind him at Jude. When he turned back, Katherine said, “You left your gloves at the coffee shop.” She held them out, but his hands seemed to be glued to the door. Her eyes searched past him before he stepped forward and started to pull the door closed behind him.

But it was too late. Katherine said, “Hello.”

Taylor looked back into the apartment. It was as if Jude was shrinking into herself. She was fading like a Morning Glory in the hot sun.

Katherine added, “I recognize that shirt. It’s the softest of all of his. It was always my favorite.”

“That’s enough,” Taylor said, taking the gloves. “Thank you for returning these, but it wasn’t necessary.”

He started to close the door on her, but her hand landed on it with a thud as she took a step inside. “Oh, but it was. Very necessary I see. Who’s your friend, Taylor?”

Wanting to protect Jude from Katherine’s harsh glare, his tone turned adamant. “You’re not welcome here, Katherine.”

Katherine stood there, looking comfortable as she stared at Jude. “And you are?”

Jude gulped. The intensity of the beautiful woman in front of her wrecked her. She tugged at the shirt as if it could cover the lack of confidence under the cotton. Taylor. Gloves. Coffee shop. Katherine. It was too much. She excused herself, went into the bedroom, and closed the door.

Katherine turned, her hair flipping around and she smiled—big and broad. Tapping Taylor’s chest, she said, “You can do better.” She walked to the door and stopped just before exiting. “The place smells of smoke. I’m assuming with your health condition, you haven’t started smoking. It was great seeing you today. Hopefully we can do dinner soon.” She left and he closed the door, locking both bolts.

Dropping the gloves on the bar, he went to the bedroom and knocked lightly. “Jude? Can I come in?” He didn’t wait for a response. He just opened the door and went in. She sat by the chair near the window and looked out. “I’ve overstayed my welcome.” When she glanced back at him—a dark silhouette in the doorway—she said, “I tend to do that.”

There was just enough light emanating from the kitchen that he could see her eyes were glassy as he approached and knelt before her. “You’re welcome to stay here longer. We took things fast. That part has been hard to rationalize. But what others think of us doesn’t matter to me. You do. You matter. I like you here. I like being here with you. I like being with you. Stay.”

“It’s not real. None of this is real.” She closed her eyes and laid her head back. “It’s a dream, all in my head.”

“Then don’t wake up.” He rested his head on her lap. “Stay asleep with me forever.”

His voice was full of passion and his words made her think that maybe they were possible, even if his eyes seemed stuck in the impossibility of it all.

She whispered, “I’ll stay.”

When he lifted his head back up, he grinned, amused, “So you snack on jellybeans?”

Her eyes shifted to his in surprise. “You don’t?”

THE WEEKEND. LIKE so many others, they felt the anxious anticipation of possibility as it hung in front of them teasing them into Saturday. While Taylor dressed, he said, “You need clothes. It’s winter. I don’t want you out in this weather only in a dress.”

She zipped herself up. “I thought you liked this dress.”

“I love it.” He leaned against the door that led to the closet. “But I care about your health more.”

Jude paused, her heart beating firmly in her chest. “You care about my health?”

He laughed, and then realized she wasn’t joking. “Are you being serious right now?”

“Yes,” she said in a tone that didn’t feel much like herself when she was with him.

“Oh, Jude.” He came to her and brushed her hair away from her face. “What do you think we’re doing here?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, this week. It’s been fun. It’s been good.” He looked at her wanting her to agree as she looked at him so innocently. “Has it been good for you?”

Happiness shimmered in her eyes. “Yes, it’s been so good.”

His arms wrapped around her waist. “So why wouldn’t I care about you, care about your health?”

“I don’t know.” She glanced down, needing to get hold of herself before she spilled her real feelings for him and scared him away. “I smoke.”

“And I hate it.”

Confused, she asked, “Then why do you let me do it?”

“Because you like it so much. And sometimes, I think you need it.” Swaying her hips back and forth, he explained, “We all have baggage, but your load seems to be heavier. So if a cigarette lifts that burden for a bit, I’m okay with that.”

She gulped, not meaning to. It was loud and showed her discomfort. She hated talking about herself, her health, or her burdens. But when she looked into the depth of kindness in his eyes, she said, “Thank you.”

A reward in the form of a gentle smile was given and he kissed her forehead. “Can I buy you some warm clothes today?”

Nodding, she said, “You know I have more clothes. Even some of the winter variety. I can go home and put them on.”

Walking into the bathroom, he called, “Does this going home include me or is this something you would do on your own?”

“On my own.” She didn’t want to go into the many reasons she didn’t want Hazel to come home with her. “I can meet you back here later tonight.” She was sure she could. She just wasn’t sure how yet.

“No, I don’t want you to leave.” Me. “We’ll go shopping.”

Underneath the sexy exterior of Hazel Barrett was a genuinely sweet man. And he made her wonder if he had a mean bone in his body. “You griped at me for double dipping.”

“I didn’t gripe. I simply pointed out the fact you were double dipping.”

“Pointing out that I was double dipping makes it sound like I wasn’t aware of the fact I had already dipped the celery into it once before.”

“Were you? Were you aware, Jude?” he asked with a chuckle.


“I stand corrected then.”

I stand corrected then. His words implied an open heart. He didn’t know the truth. He stood in front of her, not knowing he could be hurt by a woman he barely knew, a woman whose family had determined she was responsible for hurting them all within her twenty-two years of life. Was this genuine sincerity a defect of his? Could he be that good? That good, to just accept her into his life so openly without questions or walls to protect himself?

She recognized parts of herself in him. He suffered from the aftermath of being hurt too. He was damaged just like she was. One day she would find out who did the damage and hoped she could protect him from it ever happening again. But for now, they would go shopping for winter clothes.

Taylor asked, “You ready?”

She nodded and walked to the front door. Before she put on her coat, she turned back to him and said, “What season would you be if you could be any season?”

Pondering the question, he smiled, and replied, “Baseball.” He grabbed his coat and put it on. “I love everything about it from the hot dogs to the smell of peanuts to playing and watching it.” He led her out the door enjoying the huge smile on her face.

His answer was so unexpected that she fell a little bit deeper in like with him. But was she possibly falling in love with him too?

Yes. Hard.

This new emotion momentarily paralyzed her more practical side, but they walked through the slush of snow as if it didn’t affect them at all. Maybe it didn’t. They were sunshine when together, both unaware of the gathering storm clouds ahead.

In a store off Fifth, Jude came out of the dressing room to a bored Hazel, who sat straight up when he saw her. She twirled in the lavender dress, the skirt ballooning out. With one raised eyebrow, he started to ask her about pants, sweaters, socks—warm clothes. But as he watched her, saw the smile on her face, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. She didn’t have any makeup on. Her hair had been brushed that morning, but was a mess from the windy day, and she was utterly breathtaking.

She searched his face for approval and then asked when he hadn’t spoken, “Do you like it?”

“I love it.”

She smiled even bigger and jumped. “Yay!”

After she disappeared into the dressing room again, his phone vibrated in his coat pocket. When he pulled it out, he saw a text from Katherine.

It was so good to see you. When can we meet up again?

He stared down at the words until another message came through.

It was better than old times. You look good, honey.

Cringing by the nickname she had for him, he sat there trying to figure out how to respond, failing to notice the brunette in front of him. She swallowed down the hurt, and barely above a whisper asked, “Do you like this one?”

Taylor had been caught. Somehow he had betrayed Jude even when he was the one receiving the messages. “It’s not what you think.”

The line of her mouth tightened. “What do I think?”

“You’re thinking the worst.” He held up his phone. “I didn’t reply to her. I was reading them. That’s all.”

“But you were going to reply.”

Feeling defensive, he raised his voice, “No, I wasn’t.”

The other patrons in the small store glanced their way before returning to their own lives.

Jude stood in front of him in an off white floral sundress that had lace straps and ended above her knees. She was sexy and demure. Her eyes though… her eyes said all she didn’t, and guilt replaced his patience. He stood up, grabbed a brown sweater from a nearby table and threw it at her. Her hair blew from her face as the sweater hit her in the chest. “Damn it, Jude! What do you not understand about winter?”

The millisecond he released that sweater he felt like shit. The second it traveled across time and space, regret filled him. He reached out to stop the damage he was about to do, but it was too late. The sweater hit her. The shock on her face that morphed into pain would haunt him.

Jude held the sweater where it had landed, staring at Hazel. Her eyes did not leave his. “Winter. Got it.”

“Jude? Wait.” He reached for her, but she hurried back into the dressing rooms.

That didn’t stop him. He went after her until a petite older woman sidestepped into his path. With her arms out, she said, “Stop. There are other women changing in here.”

“I don’t want her to change.” Not referring to the clothes at all. I like her just the way she is—inside and out.

“Sir, please. Step outside before I call security.”

He stood his ground for seconds before reason returned. “My apologies.” He walked out, distressed, and ran his hands through his hair, impatiently waiting for Jude.

When she did, she was dressed in the clothes she’d come in, her coat buttoned to the top, and her boots laced properly. Taylor had only known her a week but already knew this wasn’t good. She saw him and signaled to the store’s entrance. When she pushed it open, he said, “What about the dresses?”

The door closed behind them and he stood in front of her. She wasn’t looking at him. She was looking at everything and anything other than him and he hated it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. You looked beautiful in the dresses. You should get them.”

Her arm went up and a cab was there in an instant. “I’m going home.”

“No, don’t.” He grabbed her hand and held it tight. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Don’t go.”

She had tried to hide her inexperience from him when it came to matters of the heart, but she didn’t know what to do. Feeling vulnerable, she fell back on what she did know and hid her hurt feelings in the form of a smile. But Jude couldn’t hide the truth when she looked at him. She liked him a lot and her eyes warmed to his. “I’ll be back.”

Taylor didn’t believe her. Her soul was lying to his. He could feel it in his gut. “Don’t go, Jude. I want you to stay with me.” It was a whispered confession that conveyed every honest moment of his life.

She was pulling away from him, her body already free from his desperate touch. She got into the car and shut the door. The window was cracked open and she said, “I’ll see you soon, Taylor.”

The taxi drove off and as the impact of his real name hit him, he knew she was lying. “No!” he shouted not knowing what else to say to stop her from leaving. He yelled again and then saw the cab stop ahead at a red light. This was it. This was his chance. He ran. He ran over the slosh and skidded along the icy patches. He took his chances and ran into the street where the heat of the cars had melted the snow and ice.

He could see her big eyes, staring back at him. Then she closed them and turned around and the cab drove through a green light leaving him in the wet and messy remains of what was bliss just an hour before.

Punching the sky, he yelled, “Fuck!” and kicked the freezing air.

A cabbie yelled at him as he drove by, “Get out of the street, you crazy bastard!”

Taylor flipped him off and moved back to the sidewalk.

His phone vibrated again and he pulled it from his coat pocket. When he looked down, there were another two messages from Katherine.

The Castors are hosting a benefit on the 16th. Maybe we can go together?

I bought a new dress you’ll love. It’s your favorite color. This will be fun. Call me back.

Katherine’s manipulation didn’t work on him anymore. He saw her for what she was and he wasn’t interested. Her lack of acknowledgment of his illness still bothered him. She seemed to live in a world where he would recover and they could go on their merry way. Her ignorance astounded him, but pissed him off more.

Besides that, Taylor had no idea what color she thought his favorite to be, but he knew her dress wouldn’t be chartreuse. Dresses. He marched straight into the shop and bought the two dresses Jude had loved and left the brown sweater behind. He walked home leaving the texts unanswered. There was no point. They weren’t from the one person he wanted to hear from.

It was past lunchtime and he was hungry but didn’t have the energy to eat alone in a restaurant. Holding out one last hope, he didn’t have any motivation other than to get home to see if Jude was waiting for him.

When he walked in, the stale air hit him. That’s when he knew she hadn’t returned. She made air come alive just by breathing it. She made him come alive just by existing. Aimlessly, he shut the door and walked inside. He left his coat draped over a barstool as he walked to the couch and sat down. After setting his phone down on the coffee table in front of him, he stared at it, willing it to ring.

It didn’t.

He had never given her his number. She had never given him hers. He had never seen her with a phone, and didn’t think to ask about it.

Evening came and he lay down sideways, watching his phone, feeling she could overcome any obstacle; obstacles like not knowing his number, and still be able to call him.

The day passed and darkness shrouded his apartment as it infiltrated his heart. The light had left and gone home with her.

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