Love...and Love Intensely Ch. 03byms_girl23©
It was to be another two days before Emma ventured forth from her room again. Ever since that episode on the balcony that night, Emma had gone reclusive, not leaving her room even for meals, which Jordan brought to her. As her room at Brandeworth Manor was connected to a bathroom ensuit, there was no need for her to leave even for that, and Jordan did not at all mind doing the small favour for his sister. On Emma’s part, she did not really seem to notice whether or not food was brought to her at all, and seemed quite content to simply hide away.
It had gotten to a point, however, where Jordan was no longer content to simply bring her meals and sit and talk to her. Emma hardly seemed inclined to talk at all anymore, and he sensed that, far from being simply depressed as he had initially thought her to be, the problem ran far deeper.
In truth, Jordan was quite at a loss as to what to do, and when, after two days, Emma had shown no inclination whatsoever of recovering her spirits, he brought in the cavalry.
And thus it was that that Sunday, at eight-thirty in the morning, Jordan and Luc banged on Emma’s bedroom door, demanding to be let in.
“Go away!” Emma said blearily from her bed, her voice muffled by the pillow she had pulled over her head. “Sleeping.”
“Emma!” Luc and Jordan’s voices hollered in unison.
“Go ‘way!” Emma answered.
“Emma, if you don’t open this door, I’m calling James,” Luc threatened. “He has a key, you know.”
Emma made an incoherent sound of disgust and sat up, treading to the door and flinging it open. “What?” she demanded crossly.
“Good morning!” Jordan said brightly and skipped into the room, plunking himself down on the bed, making himself at home. He eyed with distaste the various items of clothing strewn about, seemingly debating with himself whether he dared to risk Emma’s wrath by cleaning her room. No, he decided finally. Better not risk it.
Emma, meanwhile, was regarding them both with something akin to murder in her eyes. “This better be good,” she said darkly. “Or I’ll make you both pay.”
“I hear you’ve been a bit of a hermit these days, Em,” Luc said with studied nonchalance, leaning against the wall. “Have another spat with James, did you?”
“Here now,” Jordan said, eyeing her curiously. “What’s this about?”
“I did not have a spat with James,” Emma said frigidly.
“Ah,” said Luc wisely. “A lover’s quarrel, then?”
“No!” Emma exclaimed, exasperated.
“Emma!” Jordan exclaimed at the same time. “You and James? Why the devil didn’t you tell me?”
“Because there’s nothing to tell!” Emma said angrily. “We’re not lovers! He’s nothing to me!”
“Aha!” Luc exclaimed. “There, you see?”
“Oh for the sake of the lord, Luc, if you’re going to be an ass, go away.”
“Alright, alright,” Luc conceded. “I’ll stop. You’re sure that there’s nothing going on there, though? James seemed quite... proprietary...with you the other night.”
“Nothing,” Emma said coldly. “Nothing at all.”
“All right,” Luc said, though clearly still disbelieving.
Emma sighed. She could see it was going to take some convincing to persuade Luc that she and James were not...lovers. He couldn’t be her lover if he’d forced her, could he? No...They were nothing to each other...nothing... Somehow, the thought didn’t bring as much comfort as it should have.
“Luc,” Emma said suddenly. “Do you remember that little plan we had - the one we decided on a few days ago?”
Luc regarded her with perplexity. “You don’t mean to go through with that, do you Em? Especially in light of...you know.”
“I do,” Emma said firmly. “I think it’s a perfect idea. In fact, we should put it straight into action right now. Can we leave today?”
“Well,” said Luc doubtfully, “I don’t know...”
“Please Luc,” Emma begged. “I really need to get out of this place.”
“Well, I can’t say I mind being used as an excuse,” Luc said with a grin. “But are you sure this is the best way to go about it? If you and James have had a falling out, then isn’t it better to stay and resolve things?”
Emma gritted her teeth. “We have not had a falling out,” she ground out. “We never had a ‘falling in’. I just want to leave, that’s all.”
Jordan was watching the both of them in fascination. “You’re serious, then, Emma?”
“Yes,” Emma said firmly. “As of now, Luc, we are engaged. We’re leaving tonight, and we’ll break up in a month, due to personal differences. You can break it off if you like.”
“Er -” said Luc.
“Excellent,” said Emma, “Its settled then.” And beaming, she danced into the bathroom. The other two, one her brother and the other her friend, exchanged glances, shook their heads in unison, then resignedly, walked out.
James was the only one in the morning parlour when she skipped down half an hour later, fresh and cheerful from her shower. She took one look at his grim, unsmiling visage, which was currently frowning at an unfortunate plate of bacon and eggs, and skipped right back out again. By this time however, James had, of course, noticed her, and his withering glower made her stop in her tracks and reluctantly walk in, forcing a semblance of serenity onto her features. She could hardly walk right out after he had seen her, could she?
Well, maybe she could, but something in her, something that had been bred in her since she had first learned to walk, repelled against the thought. After all, manners bred, and indicated, respect. As her mother had always said, if one did not respect others, one could not reasonably expect that same respect back from them. Ruefully, Emma thought that her sense of decorum would someday be the death of her. She would probably be fighting for her life against some crazed killer someday, kick him in the nuts, and then instead of running away sensibly, she’d probably stop, apologise, and ask if she could call an ambulance for him.
“Good morning,” James said coolly, setting aside his newspaper, and picking up his glass of apple juice. Emma smiled to herself, recalling his fondness for apple juice. Kit had always had a glass every morning, too, she thought, after they’d spent the night making love...But no. It hadn’t been Kit, had it? It had been James - James and his routine glass of apple juice. Oh, what a fool she’d been! She should have known, every time he’d fled just before the household awoke, that something was wrong... Impatiently, she brushed the thought aside, plastering a smile onto her face.
“Morning,” Emma said lightly, avoiding his eyes and taking the seat furthest possible from him. “Where is everyone else?”
“Gone shopping,” James said succinctly. “In Westbridge. Its just us until about six tonight, I think.”
“Oh,” said Emma, rather inadequately. “Is that the little Village just off North Road?”
“Oh,” said Emma again. She helped herself to a glass of apple juice, feeling oddly stupid. “Well, I should say goodbye, because I’ll be leaving this evening, and I probably won’t see you again.” Ever, she said silently.
James merely raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh?” he said lazily. “Running away, are we?”
“No,” Emma said defensively. “Just leaving. I have some business at home that can’t wait.”
“Surely it can wait a day more? It’s waited almost a week already, has it not?”
“N - no. I’m afraid it’s rather urgent.”
To her surprise, James got up out of his seat, and came over towards her, a grim look on his face. Too startled to move, she remained frozen in her seat, merely staring at him rather like a deer in headlights. She watched, bemused, as he dropped to his knees in front of her, planting one arm on the back of her chair and the other on the table, hemming her in, crowding her space yet again. He had a rather annoying habit of doing that, Emma thought irritably. Someday someone was going to punch his lights out. She just hoped she’d be there to see it!
“You’ve been avoiding me,” he said abruptly. “Why?”
“I - I haven’t,” she denied shakily.
“You have. I’m not stupid, you know. I haven’t seen you for two days. Why have you been avoiding me?”
She glared at him, angry at his nerve for even asking the question. “Do you really have to ask?”
He was silent for a moment, his eyes downcast. Then, “Don’t leave, Emma,” he said gravely, startling her. “Please don’t leave.”
She had to smile. “Are you literally begging me on your knees?”
He smiled too. “If that’s what it takes.”
“In all the time I’ve known you, James, you’ve never sounded so sincere...” she paused, regarded him seriously, then smiled her sweetest smile. “How about...No.”
His eyes narrowed in irritation. “Why not?”
“Because I don’t want to.”
“It’s not that simple, Emma.”
Her eyes flashed. “Why not, James? It’s simple enough for you, when its something you want. You just take it. But when I want something? Oh, no, I’ve got to think of you, first. Are you really so selfish, James?”
She saw his knuckles go white as he clutched furiously at her chair and felt a stab of fear. Then suddenly, he relaxed. She saw him frown, as if wavering over something, and then his expression cleared, as if he had come to a decision. His lips curved on a smug, mocking smile, and he regarded her knowingly, his expression one of condescending indulgence. “Alright...if that’s what it’s going to take...If its marriage you want, I’ll marry you.”
The words were sudden, abrupt, unexpected. Emma’s jaw dropped, her eyes widening to saucer-like proportions. She said the first thing that came to her mind. “What?”
“That’s what you want is it? So be it. I’ll marry you.”
“Dear god, are you MAD?” She almost shrieked. “I can’t marry you!”
He cocked a brow at her, perplexed. “But why not?” His expression grew earnest. “I’ve told you, Emma. I love you.”
She brushed that aside. “Because - because I’m going to marry Luc, that’s why,” she said in a rush. “Yes - I’m marrying Luc, and I’m going away with him tonight, and that’s all there is to it, James. I can’t marry you. I don’t even like you!”
His eyes narrowed. “You’re lying.”
Emma bristled. “What makes you say that?”
“There’s nothing the least loverlike towards the way Luc acts towards you. I’ve seen him, remember? I’m not blind. And the other night...out on the balcony...he said himself that you were only using him as an excuse. I’m not stupid, Emma. There’s nothing between you and Luc but friendship. In fact,” he continued, his eyes narrowing further as he looked at her, “I would say that there’s never been anything between you and anyone but friendship.”
Emma’s gaped at him, amazed at his sheer nerve. “Why, James?” she said finally, recovering her composure. Her tone was mocking. “Do you imagine that just because you - that is to say, Kit, because you do realise that that was who I thought it was - were the one who took my virginity, it means that there has been no one else? I am only human, James. I have needs. You are most certainly not the only man I’ve ever slept with...in fact, far from it. What makes you say it’s so unlikely that Luc and I are engaged?”
“Its impossible,” he said derisively. “I refuse to believe that you got engaged to him after that night - it’s been what, two days? He asked you to marry him even after knowing you were using him as an excuse?”
“No,” Emma said blithely, and satisfaction flashed in his eyes. “I asked him to marry me.” Well, it was sort of the truth, Emma thought wryly.
“What?” His incredulity was obvious.
“Is it really so hard to believe, James? Do you remember those two days you said that I’d been avoiding you? Well would you like to know where I spent them? In my room. In bed. Do you want to know with whom?”
“No,” James gritted, his face pale. “You’re lying.”
“Why should I?” Her voice was airy. “I’ve hardly anything to gain, now, have I? The fact of the matter is, I don’t need to make up some elaborate story just to reject your marriage proposal. Most people don’t - it’s simply a case of, no. But this is the truth, James. I just thought you deserved as much.” She had to say it, Emma justified to herself. She had to leave him with no illusions, whatsoever. But even as her justifications seemed logical and rational, a stab of completely irrational pain sliced through her heart at the wounded, betrayed expression on his face. He looked as if he were in physical pain, and she ached to take him into her arms, kiss him, and tell him it was all a lie. For a moment, she forgot the reason as to why she couldn’t.
But ah, there it was. This vulnerability of his, it was all but a lie. He seemed weak and hurt and wounded now, but the moment that she gave in, the moment that power returned to his hands, he would only use it to wound, to control her. And she could not allow that.
So she lied, and continued to lie. The words came easily now, flowing smoothly past her lips, so plausible that even she began to half believe them. “You’re not a fool, James. Surely even you must see that those...times...we were together...they meant nothing to me? A drop in the ocean, so to speak. And I can’t even say that I really enjoyed them - I don’t enjoy being forced.” A half truth...she had enjoyed it, involuntarily, but she wasn’t going to let him know that.
There was a long, grim silence, then, “You could be pregnant,” James said suddenly, a triumphant look in his eye.
“I could,” Emma agreed. “But then again, I might not be. And even if I was, there’s no guarantee the baby is yours, James.” She watched his face, saw his eyes darken with pain, and rage, and felt the fist around her heart clench tighter. It was for the best, she told herself fiercely. She had to be strong. “Besides which, we do live in age where we can now get rid of such...inconveniences...” Not that she ever would, of course. But he didn’t have to know that.
“You wouldn’t.” He ground out the words.
She shrugged. “Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t. In any case, it’s a moot point, James. I’ll deal with it if and when it happens.”
“If you hurt our baby...” Emma opened her mouth to deny the existence of any such, but he cut her off. “Very well,” he bit off, rising to his feet. “If that is the way you wish it to be.” He inclined his head briefly to her, then, stiffly, walked out.
And Emma closed her eyes against the irrational tears that seemed to seep out, no matter what she did.
Home, at last, finally. It had been more than two weeks since her departure from the Brandeworth Estate, and it seemed that those few days spent were destined to come back and bite her on the posterior, no matter how long it had been since she’d left. First there had been the small matter of her brother - she’d abandoned him there and taken their car, and so had had to come back and pick him up. Then it turned out Luc - her supposed fiance - had actually gone off to France to be married, when he had been supposed to be spending time with her and proving to the world just how unaffected she was by James. Hell, she should have had a month, at least, of respite from the world, supposedly as Luc’s impromptu fiance. Who knew, maybe James would be knocking on her door at any minute. And now, with this last little development she’d only recently discovered...well, she’d deal with it. She always did.
She dropped her keys on the table in the hallway and trudged to the small, cramped kitchen, dumping her groceries on the old watermarked bench. Feeling too fatigued to do much more than that, she went to her bedroom, ignored the hole in the floor, kicked off her shoes and flopped onto the bed, closing her eyes for a quick catnap.
Almost immediately, however, her eyes sprang open again. Creak, creak, creak. No, so she wasn’t imagining it. Kylie the Sex Kitten from upstairs was hard at work already. It wasn’t hard to imagine doing what, either.
Emma groaned. It was bad enough at night, but even now? Didn’t the girl ever rest? Eat? Sleep? She glanced at the clock. Seven thirty. She ought to probably eat - after all, she couldn’t afford not to.
It was nine by the time she’d finished the dishes and tidied everything up. She went to take out the trash - then stopped halfway through the doors as the elevator doors opened, and a familiar, tall, large, man stepped out. His eyes met hers from across the short distance between her apartment and the elevator, and Emma froze. Good lord - what was he doing here? The hysterical thought ran through her mind that he must have known, must have found out somehow, then disappeared just as quickly as she realised the need to flee, to get out of that timelock he seemed to have frozen her into somehow.
As if in slow motion, Emma’s limbs came back into action, but too late, too late - even as she was stepping back, closing the door he had sprung forward, wedging an immaculately Gucci clad foot into her doorway. “Hello, Emma,” came the familiar, throaty voice. “Happy to see me?”
Her reply to this was to push harder at the door, hoping in vain that maybe he’d relent and step out of her apartment, out of her life. No such luck. With humiliating ease, he gave a little push and she found herself falling backwards, looking up to see him walk into her apartment with casual familiarity. The door shut behind him with a final sounding click.
“Get out of my house.” Her voice came out, not firm and confident as she’d hoped, but weak and trembling. God, how she hated the way he made her feel.
“What, no hug, no kiss? What reception is this, for an old friend?” He tisked. “I did expect better of your manners, Emma.” He looked around at the shabby furnishings, the peeling wallpaper, the old, dirty carpet. “Is this how you’re living these days? Shame on Luc...a poor way to treat his wife, I’d say...you are his wife, I assume, now?”
“N-no,” Emma stammered. “But I will be. Soon. Just as soon as Luc gets back from France.”
“Funny,” James looked at her slyly. “I never would have thought of Luc as the polygamous type.”
Emma felt cold. So he’d heard already, had he? Damn. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Poor Emma,” James mocked with insincere pity. “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard the happy news. Luc’s on his honeymoon right now.”
Emma steeled herself. “I wish him happy, then,” she said calmly.
James eyed her with interest. “Not jealous, then?”
“No,” she said firmly. “I’m glad for him.” She was confused, unsure how to react. Should she act sad? No, better not to show any weakness to him. He was a predator - weakness was never wise. How ridiculous her charade had turned out to be! She settled for a small, grim smile. “I never did expect him to be serious - I never was.”
“Good,” said James, and grabbed her. His mouth came down on hers with hard, crushing brutality and she gasped, only realising her mistake when his tongue slid inside her mouth to plunder and ravage. His hands skimmed over her body, coming to a rest over the curve of her bottom. He kneaded for a moment, stroking and caressing her, then cupped and lifted, and suddenly Emma found herself with her legs wrapped around him, three feet off the ground. “I’m not going to make love to you standing against the wall again,” James muttered against her red, swollen mouth, ”Where’s your bedroom?”
“Wh-What?” Emma stuttered, dazed.
He cursed, and began walking, stopping every few moments to pause and open a door, then slam it shut again. It seemed he had opened every door in her tiny apartment before coming to her bedroom. “What are you doing?” she asked, as he stepped inside, kicked the door shut behind him, then dumped her on the bed. Stupid girl - as if it wasn’t obvious!
He merely grunted in reply, stripping off his shirt and trousers. She stared in fascination at the scanty briefs that couldn’t seem to contain the throbbing erection between his legs. Then just as quickly, they were gone, and for the first time, it seemed, she got a good look at him. Oh my.