Oh God. What have I done!?
I tiptoe out of Hunter's apartment, his light snores still ringing against the morning's silence. I'd come over just to tell him that maybe we could give this a try. Whatever the hell 'this' is. So how did I end up sleeping with him? I fish for my keys in my purse, a sick feeling bubbling up in my stomach.
Elliot knew I was coming here to have a talk with Hunter. I told him I'd be back in an hour. I slide into my car and pull out my cell phone. I let out a horrified breath when I see I have ten missed calls and five missed texts from my boyfriend.
Tears sting the corners of my eyes as I read through them.
Elliot: Hey babe. U said ud be home in an hour…u ok?
Elliot: What's goin on, Jess? Kinda worried about u here : /
Elliot: I miss u…
Elliot: Y won't u pick up my calls? :(
Elliot: I'm going to bed. Hopefully I hear from my beautiful girlfriend soon…I'm worried about her.
Oh God, how could I have let this happen?!
I throw my cell phone against the side of the car as tears of shame dribble down my cheeks. I hate myself for what I've done. I should have never gotten back with Elliot. I knew I had feelings for Hunter and yet I tried to be with the guy I knew was 'safe.' And here I am less than a month later - sitting in my car after sleeping with Elliot's brother.
Kevin was right. I'm a worthless cheater. My chest heaves in and out as I pull my car out of Hunter's apartment complex and merge back onto the highway. Slits of sunlight kiss the horizon as I speed down the road. I purposely miss the exit ramp that leads back to my condo and continue to head north. There's only one person that can help me with a situation like this….
Brad opens his apartment door, his tired eyes looking at me with annoyance. His expression quickly changes when he sees my puffy eyes and scoops me in for a big hug. He pulls me inside, instructing me to sit and 'explain myself' while he makes us a pot of coffee.
At first all I can manage to do is cry. But after a few reassuring nudges from Brad, the words just pour out. I tell him everything. I tell him how I lost my virginity to Hunter the day of Kelly's funeral. I tell him the conversation I had with Hunter in the car, his outburst when he said he was moving out, our 'incidence' in the hospital cafeteria, and then I finish it out by telling him the latest news: Hunter and I having sex again last night. Brad listens patiently until I'm finished, his face showing zero reactions to my sinful confessions.
I let out an appreciate sigh when he sets the steaming cup of coffee in front of me. He excuses himself from the room briefly, returning a moment later with a bag full of pastries. He pulls out a blueberry crumble muffin - my favorite. I raise my brow and he gives me a tight-lipped smile as he takes a seat across from me.
"Call me crazy love, but I had a feeling you'd be stopping by this morning," Brad says softly. "So what kind of best friend would I be without making sure your favorite breakfast food was available?"
I wipe the remaining tears away from my eyes and take a few shaky breaths. Brad sips his coffee, and for a few minutes the two of us sit in silence. I nibble at the top of my muffin, but my stomach is in knots and I eventually push it to the side in defeat.
"Well, if this is confession time, I have one of my own," Brad says hesitantly.
When I don't say anything he leans closer to me and takes a deep breath.
"Truth be told love, that redhead - Raelynn? I was the one that sent her over to Hunter's apartment."
My eyes widen and my jaw drops an inch. Brad holds up his hand, silencing me before I can even start.
"Now before you go running your mouth Jess, just hear me out."
I give a single, stiff nod. Brad sighs and then tells me about his experience at the bar the night before. He tells me about going there to talk to Hunter and how he witnessed Hunter turning down Raelynn for a date.
"But it's one thing to turn down a girl in a crowded bar," Brad says in explanation. "But if he can turn down a naked girl in private? That's when you know he's a keeper."
"So what - you told that woman to go to Hunter's apartment and seduce him!?"
Brad gives me a disgusted frown. "Sugar, I would never stoop so low. All I said to her was that if she wanted to try again, I was sure Hunter's co-worker wouldn't mind giving her a ride to his place after the bar closed."
"And that's all it took?"
Brad nods and lets out a humorless laugh. "That's all it took, love. That drunken skank was beggin' for a ride less than two minutes later. And I knew if you saw Hunter at the hospital, you were bound to show up at his apartment later."
"Because I know you, Jessie. And I knew it would go one of two ways. Either Hunter would end up being the ass-hole player everyone thinks he is and sleep with Raelynn…or he'd end up kicking her out and begging for you to stay instead."
Brad's lips quirk as I stare at him in bewilderment. I know he was doing it just to be a good friend but a touch of anger shoots through my veins. If it wasn't for Brad's intervening, I wouldn't be in the predicament I was in now. Would I?
"Why…why would you do that to me?" I ask and I can't hide the hurt in my voice.
His response is quick and confident. But the answer only confuses me more. Brad finishes his small baguette, wiping his hands on his blue cloth napkin.
"I know I don't normally interfere," Brad explains. "But I needed to this time. Because I knew if Kelly was here, she'd be doing it herself."
"Kelly was planning on doing this in her own way. She called me the day ya'll moved into your new condo and do you know what she told me?"
I shake my head.
"She told me that the first time she saw you and Hunter together, she got this feeling in the pit of her stomach. She said it was the same feeling she got the first time she met Rex. It was a feeling of soul-deep love. And you know how Kelly was about her 'weird feelings' and premonitions."
I can't help but giggle, the fond memory of Kelly now surfacing to the forefront of my brain.
"Anyway," Brad continues with a wave of his hand. "I thought she was nuts until I saw you two at Claws together. And then I believed it too."
Brad pauses and takes a slow sip of his coffee. "You and Hunter belong together."
My cheeks smolder with heat and hesitant butterflies swarm around my stomach. Hunter's gorgeous face becomes stuck in my mind and I can't stop the smile creeping onto my lips.
"But I had to be sure Hunter wouldn't hurt you," Brad says softly, taking my hand in comfort. "So I did what I knew Kelly would have done if she was here and sent Raelynn to his apartment for a final test."
A new batch of tears becomes lodged in my throat and I get up from my seat to go and sit on Brad's lap. His thin arms move around me and he kisses the top of my head gently. A tingling sensation moves through my body and for some strange reason, I know that it's Kelly's spirit. I can feel her presence, her approving smile shining down on us. Brad's hold on me tightens and in the comfortable silence, I know he feels it too.
"What do I do now?" I whisper against his chest.
"Ya'll need to talk with Elliot. I know it'll be hard but that boy deserves to know the truth."
I nod and sniffle, hating myself all over again.
"I'm a terrible person," I whisper with shame.
Brad pulls me back, forcing me to look at him. When I do, I see the seriousness weaved into his expression.
"Jessie, I don't want to hear those words come out of your mouth ever again. You are one of the kindest, most beautiful women I have ever met in my life. And I swear to God girl, if I was straight I'd be fighting like Hell to make you mine. Everyone makes mistakes, Jess. Everyone. What sets us apart from others is how we learn from those mistakes."
I bite my lip and nod. I know what I have to do. And I know I'm going to hate every minute of it.
"How should I do it?"
Brad sighs and pulls me in for another hug. "I don't know, sugar. But if I were you? I'd talk to Hunter first. Remember - yes, Elliot is your boyfriend. But more importantly, he's Hunter's brother. And out of respect, Hunter might be the one who wants to tell him."
The warmth of Brad's arms makes me sleepy and a sliver of peace settles in my mind. I know hurting Elliot will be horrible. And the possibility of causing a fight between two brothers makes me want to cry even more. But I need to start fixing all of my mistakes. There's no turning back now.
Brad tugs me off his lap, holding my hand as he leads me to his bathroom.
"Now take a shower and I'll get you something clean to wear. We'll get you ready, and then I'm sending you back the way you came. You need to get everything straightened out. But I promise, when it's alllll said and done, I'll take you out for dinner and drinks. Sound good sugar?"
I place a kiss on Brad's cheek and step into the bathroom.
"You're amazing Brad. I'm lucky to have you."
Brad gives me a wink. "Oh girl, you don't gotta tell me what I already know!"
The drive back to Hunter's, despite it being an hour drive, feels like it takes only minutes. I pull into his apartment parking lot, and before getting out I feel around for my cell phone. It ends up being wedged under the seat and when I finally pull it out, I notice there's a crack on the front screen.
Great. Nice goin' Jess.
I unlock it and see I have another missed call from Elliot and two new text messages. To my surprise, neither of them is from Elliot.
Hunter: U left without saying good-bye…?
Hunter: Please come back. We need 2 talk.
I sigh and close my eyes, attempting to steady myself with a deep breath. I quickly text Elliot back before getting out of my car and slowly making my way to Hunter's apartment.
Me: Elliot, I'm sorry I didn't text u back last night. I'll explain everything when I get home.
I bite my lip when I reach Hunter's door. I knock a few times and brace myself. He opens the door a minute later, his chest bare and his sport shorts hanging loosely on his hips. I groan inwardly and force myself to focus.
Hunter smiles at me, his face relaxing when I ask if I can come inside.
"I was afraid you wouldn't come back," Hunter whispers as I close the door.
His hands are immediately around my waist, his soft lips tracing kisses along my neck and up to my cheek. The feel of his touch is intoxicating and I allow myself a few moments of bliss before pushing him away completely.
"Hunter, stop," I say with a shaky voice. "We need to sit and talk."
Hunter's smoldering gaze pins me in place. He nods his head a single time before ushering me forward into his living room.
Ok….here goes nothing.
A/N: Alright cuties - What do you think? The next chapter is when everything will be coming to a head! Chapters will be winding down quickly so I hope you all continue to read until the end! Also, big thanks to MsCarlene for helping me pick out someone perfect for Brad! XD Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me since page one! It means the WORLD to me! XOXO