tagRomanceAcross the Pond Ch. 03

Across the Pond Ch. 03

bySwig©

Sydney

I: Temporary Love.

"Eli, monster!"

"Rawr!"

"Eli, smile!"

"Cheeeeese!"

I shook his long, chubby body in my hands and he squealed in pure joy. Lying on my back in the Thomas' living room I had the toddler raised above my head, enjoying how absolutely adorable he was. If I wasn't 100% certain I'd turn him into a complete delinquent I'd kidnap him and raise him as my own; I like playing with diecast cars and it's not like I sleep much anyway.

I lowered him down onto my chest and he gave me a sloppy kiss on the cheek before rolling away, running off to play with his toys. Jumping up I headed to the kitchen where Tess was making dinner, chopping vegetables with controlled concentration. "Mini-Hellbeast has been tamed for now."

"Oh, thank you. I can barely remember what it's like to cook without tripping over him or trying to keep him away from the stove." You couldn't miss the tenderness in her features whenever she talked about her rambunctious child. As for me, turns out I didn't completely hate not working every day. It meant I got to hang out with my best friend when she got off from work, even if it was only for an hour or so. I snatched a baby carrot off the cutting board before she smacked my hand away. "Stop that, you're worse than Shane. Do you want to stay for dinner? I'm making chicken pot pie."

I chewed on the stolen vegetable and thought about it. Normally I would have said yes, because they happen to be three of my favorite people in the world and I do love a free meal. A quick glance over at the clock on the microwave displayed it was already 4:00 so I knew what my answer would be. "Nah, thanks though. I'm expecting a phone call in an hour."

Tess pointed the sharp tip of her chopping knife in my direction. "Okay, this is the third time you've passed on food for some phone call. Are you at least going to tell me who you've been talking to?"

"Well not right now, I gotta go." She gave me an exasperated look and went back to preparing her meal. I tapped on the corner of the island to get her attention. "Look, it's nothing to worry about, okay?"

"Uh huh. Are you still coming to the beach with us or are you going to bail on that too?"

"I mean I was, but if that means spending a week with that attitude of yours I don't know - "A piece of celery hit me in the nose and I flung some parsley at her. It's not like I was keeping my whatever-relationship with Holland from her for any sketchy reason other than I didn't feel like getting the third degree. "I'll see you guys on Wednesday, okay? I'll drive down after my shift so I'll probably be there sometime around sunrise."

"Okay. Please be careful, pull over and nap if you have to."

"Sure thing, Mom." I skipped out of the kitchen before she could hit me with anymore produce, kissing my handsome nephew on the head before heading to my car. I rushed home like an amped-up teenager waiting for a phone call from her crush and I just barely pulled Holland's Jaguar into the parking spot when my phone buzzed three staccato bursts in my purse. I groaned unhappily, because I knew what it meant.

It meant while being a responsible driver I missed Holland's call, again.

Because he called half an hour early it also meant he was right about to hop on a plane for work, again.

Which made this day six in a row I hadn't talked to him, which made this day six in a row of grumpiness on my part.

It was easier to groan and curse in the privacy of the vehicle than to give him shit because it's not like the man can just stop working to talk to me for five minutes. I made sure all the voicemails I left for him in return were as cheery and lighthearted as I could make them because I didn't want to lay on a guilt trip. He had enough going on. That being said, it didn't make me feel any less sad about not being able to have a normal conversation with my boyfr... person, whatever. I don't know why I was moping so hard, I never worried about things like phone calls or holding hands, or being able to fall asleep next to the body of a beautiful blonde boy.

Probably because you've never been in love before.

I looked around the empty car searching for the chick who just thought that because it sure as hell couldn't have been me. I ignored my stupid brain and dug my phone out of my bag, bypassing Holland's voicemail and opening my recent messages. I sent out a text to Colin: Are you alone and dressed?

It only took him fifteen seconds to respond. Give me an hour and a shower and I can be both. Vodka and venting?

Grigio and griping. See you then, happy humping. I dropped the phone back in my purse and, even though I wasn't dressed for a workout, decided to go ten rounds with the punching bag in the basement before he finished up and came over.

***

II: Boyz n Poizn.

The scorching water cascading down my back felt amazing on my skin, the massaging head beating on my overworked muscles as I lathered myself up. Starting at my neck and working my way down my body I got lost thinking about the voicemail I finally listened to once my workout was over:

Sydney. I know we had a...I received a last-minute call from Paris and need to board in a few minutes. I won't bore you with the details...Christ, it feels as if this is the tenth time I've said that since I left. I know you're at the very least annoyed with me, as pleasant as your messages have been you're a bit of a terrible actress. I'm sorry. It doesn't make it better, but I am. I want to be there, I hope you know I want that and so much more. I'll try to ring you tomorrow.

I couldn't lie, I was kind of irritated: not at him, not really, more so at myself. I grew up with corporate lawyers for parents, I saw how much pressure and dedication it took to be successful. I'd had lovers before with actual, grown-up careers. I'd had plans canceled on me more times than I could count. So why did I feel so left behind this time?

A cautionary knock at my shower door interrupted my contemplating. It swung open and a pale hand popped in holding a Sam Adams. "I was out of wine, it's gonna have to be a 'beer and bitch' night."

"Ooh, yay." I took the bottle and had a good swig of it before setting it down away from the water so I could rinse off. "How's your penis?"

"Sir Topem Hat is doing just fine, thank you." I giggled at his ridiculous nickname for his dick and turned around to wash the suds off my back. "So what's going on, Syd? We haven't had a girl's night out in a while."

I didn't even know where to start. I went the random question loop. "Have you ever been in love before?"

Colin snorted in response. "Is this a legit question or am I supposed to throw out the stereotypical line, "Oh honey, I fall in love every weekend,"?"

"Honest-to-God question."

"Oh. Well, you remember that guy Ricky from a couple years ago? That's probably as close to love that I'm gonna get."

I thought back to the guy Colin was referring to. They had dated for almost six months, which was about three times longer than Colin usually stuck to one guy. "How'd you know? What did it feel like?"

He exhaled thoughtfully. "I don't know. I guess the regular feelings: I couldn't stop thinking about him, and when I was with him my brain turned into mush. It was kind of a mild high, it was cool. At least until I caught him fucking that queen from Bristol."

"God, we suck at picking men." I turned the water off and opened the door to grab my towel. Colin's seen me naked a thousand times, doesn't even bat an eye...even the bloodshot, baggy ones he was sporting. "Eww, why do you look so tired?"

"Fuck you too. Why are you asking? This have anything to do with Holland?" I stopped right as I was drying under my boobs and stared at him slack jawed. He gestured toward the door. "I saw the flowers in the kitchen and read the note, 'cause I'm nosy. Mr. Darcy picks out a good bouquet. So what's going on?"

Damnit. I forgot to tuck the note with the others, in the farthest corner of my nightstand drawer that I pulled out to read every night. He'd sent me a different arrangement every other day he'd been gone. I grabbed the body butter and got to slathering it on my skin. "Nothing. I mean, we kissed, but nothing other than that. It's not a big deal."

It was Colin's turn to drop his jaw. "Are you kidding? This is the definition of a big deal. When did it happen, how many times and exactly where did he kiss you?"

"It started a couple of weeks ago. Only a few times, one was a pretty heavy make-out session in his bed, and above the neck, you pervert. Please don't tell anyone, I'm not sure I was even supposed to tell you."

"Wow. Go Mr. Darcy." My friend smiled wide and there wasn't even the tiniest bit of mockery in his expression. "I don't know if I can see you guys together, he's ultra-serious and sexy and you're...well, you."

Flipping him the bird I headed to my room to change and he followed, steering immediately into my closet while I found a thong and bra set to slip on. "I think that's why I like him, though. When I'm with him it feels almost normal, like I don't have to clean up my language or act prim and proper. I can kind of tell he's into me for me, you know? Which means he should probably get his head checked."

"Hey, stop that," Colin scolded when he emerged from my closet with the fitted olive-green romper with a lace back that he bought for me during our last shopping trip, that still had the tag on since I tend to lean towards black clothing. "Don't go being all self-deprecating, I know I joke but you're a catch, babe. Holland would be lucky to breathe the same air molecules as you."

"Eh. If you say so." I got dressed and looked at myself in the full-length mirror while he zipped me up. The color didn't look as bad I thought it would, and when I turned to view my profile my big booty looked phenomenal in it. He gathered my hair behind me and helped French braid it away from my face. "I think I'm waiting for him to wise up and figure out he could do so much better than me."

"That's just impossible." When he was done Colin hugged me from behind and I stiffened...but I didn't pull away in panic like I usually did. It was unpleasant, but bearable. When his green eyes bugged out and met mine in the reflection he spoked the same sentiment I thought. "Holy shit. I'm touching you. You're actually letting me touch you."

"Guh, yes, okay. Get off me now." He let go and I shuddered off the feel of his skin on mine. While Holland's hands were usually cold and comfortable, Colin ran warm like I did and the heat from him made me feel like I was going to spontaneously combust right then and there in my bedroom. His goofy ass just kept grinning even as I dragged him out of my room to hit the town for the night.

***

III: Nobody Else but You.

Our arms and legs were tangled in a familiar way, our bodies slick with sweat mixed with lingering pulses of pleasure and there was no other place I'd rather be. I didn't remember the sex by details but by the way my body felt; worn and warm and happily fatigued. "I like this," I whispered against his chin before placing a kiss on the stubble that lay there.

"Mmm," the gentle rumble from his chest passed into my own. "I'm sorry I made you feel badly, little one. I truly didn't mean to upset you."

"You certainly made up for it." He chuckled, sweetly kissing my forehead while his fingers traced delicate patterns over my back. I mustered up the courage to ask "Is this real? It feels real even though I know it's not, but I wish you were here. I want to keep this feeling."

With a careful push on my hip I found myself flat on my back with his hard body covering mine. He blanketed me underneath his firm muscles and surging heartbeat, his cheek grazing mine until I offered my lips to his in what he called a gift. "It's real to us and that's all that matters," he whispered against mine, "It's easier this way. You can be yourself here, give yourself freely without being lost in your own head. I can love you the way you need here."

I ran my hands through his sweat-soaked hair, damp from the vigorous lovemaking we'd engaged in for what felt like hours. "I want this all the time. I don't want to go back to my life before. I need love and whispers and you."

"You have me." His eyes lifted to mine, pain teetering with pleasure and a thousand emotions I couldn't name if I had until the end of time. "Every moment of every day, even if I'm not able to be here. I swear to you. You have all of me."

A piercing ring snatched me out of dreamland and into the waking world, at least enough for me to slide one eye open with a dramatic pout. Pulling my phone from underneath my pillow I saw the person interrupting my sleep at three in the morning and I hesitated in answering it. I forced myself to turn over and sit up, right as the last ring was to send the caller to voicemail I swiped the green button across the screen and held the phone up to my ear. "Hey Boss."

"Sydney." The sound of my name was followed by a relieved hum. "My apologies, I know it's late. You have no idea how good it feels to hear your voice."

I wasn't sure how to respond to that. "How's Paris?"

"Paris is...I'm sitting on the balcony of the penthouse suite of a hotel I own, drinking ridiculously overpriced espresso with a scenic view of the Eiffel Tower and I can't enjoy any of it because I'm positively miserable without you."

I pinched the bridge of my nose and shut my eyes tightly. The words were there, they sounded good and all, but they didn't do anything to alleviate the ache I felt in my stomach. "It's fine, Max. Work comes first, I get it."

An unexpected pause followed. "Don't. Don't do that."

"Do what? I'm trying to be understanding - "

"No, what you're trying to do is placate me so you don't have to tell me how you're actually feeling. You will be honest with me, Sydney. Don't sit there and tell me everything is fine when I can practically hear the ire in your voice. Do. Not."

I gripped my phone so hard in my hand I swear I could have crushed it if I really tried. "What do you want me to say? I hate that you had to leave? Even though you're divorcing I'm jealous that you left to deal with her? Or that I haven't talked to you in almost a week because you've been living on a damn plane and I'm fucking wrecked without you and the worst part is I'm falling for you and I don't even know if you're ever coming back! Because that's what it feels like!"

"Christ," he whispered gently. "Is that truly how you feel? That I'm never to return to you?"

"No. Or, I don't know." I drew my legs up into my chest and rested my forehead on my knees. "It feels like my insides are burning to the ground. I miss you, Max, but I can't say that without sounding whiny and desperate. I really do understand that business comes first. I understand it, but it doesn't make it any easier."

I heard a series of dings in the background and Holland swore in response. "I'm sorry, I have a conference call I have to - "

"Got it, Boss. Talk to you later." I hung up before he could, shoving the phone back under my pillow before squeezing my legs tightly in my arms. I felt the first droplet slide down my face and another before I could stop, with a strained sob I gave in and cried out all my frustration and pain. Alone, as I always seem to be.

IV: Consideration.

Pulling up to work in the world's shittiest mood was not how I wanted to spend my last shift before heading to the beach. I was sleep-deprived and pissy and the last thing I wanted to do was sling drinks to a bunch of assholes for six hours. When I made my way to the front door every employee was out on the sidewalk, talking animatedly in the afternoon sun. I approached the weekday dishwasher Armando and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, what's everyone doing outside? Gas leak? Dead body?"

"Worse, mami. Somebody took money out of the safe last night. Tony's pissed man, goin' through everyone's locker, says he's gonna shut down 'til someone fesses up."

I looked around at my fellow coworkers. Everyone was all atwitter at the mention of a scandal at Antonio's...except for Colin, who wasn't even scheduled to work that night.

Colin, the world's biggest drama queen, was standing against the wall alone, sunglasses over his eyes and his foot tapping nervously against the brick.

I stomped over to him and snatched the bottom of his shirt, dragging him back over to my car and pushing him against the door. "How much did you take?" I hissed quietly.

"What the fuck, Syd?" He spat out, but his voice trembled. In fact, he was shaking all over. I hadn't seen him shake so much in a couple of years, not since the last time. For the second time that day my heart broke. "It's...I..."

"Just tell me, Colin. How much did you take?"

"...1,900."

In my head I did a quick take on my finances. I just paid all my bills, so my bank account was laughing at me. I had a couple hundred stashed in my condo but that wasn't nearly enough. I could ask my parents for a loan, but I didn't want to deal with the questions that came with it. The only thing I could come up with was... "I'll be back in five minutes."

"Syd - "

"Fucking don't, dude. Just move." He stepped away from the driver's door I snatched open, slammed shut and angrily drove off in the opposite direction. Three streets down I parked in front of the only respectable pawnshop in New Haven. The ding from the metal bell above the door made me feel sick to my stomach, for it was not my first time walking into this shop. A stocky man with short hair and a lumberjack beard made his way from the closed curtains in the back to the shop, shaking his head at me. "Who'd Colin piss off this time?"

"Not now Terry, I'm in a hurry." I walked up to the counter while the massive man gave me a look of pity. Unfortunately, Terry knows all about Colin's little problem; I'd hoped the last time was the last time, but here I was again. I wrapped my hand over the only thing I had worth the money I needed; I didn't want to go through with it, but it was all I had. I unclasped the 18k rose gold and diamond-encrusted watch Dad gave me as a present when I left the hospital and reluctantly handed it over. "It was bought for 19 grand at Tiffany two years ago. I just need two."

Terry went through the necessary steps to verify its authenticity before opening the register and counting through bills. "Look, 'cause I love ya, I'll give you three. Something like this goes fast, Syd, are you sure you want to? I can't promise it'll be here when you come back for it."

"I know. Thanks Ter." I separated the money before tucking the bills in my purse and left before I started to cry. I got in my car and made my way back to Antonio's where everyone was still congregated on the sidewalk. Pushing past them I walked past the oddly silent bar, taking the stairs two at a time until I reached the office. I was hoping Tony was downstairs somewhere so I could just leave it on his desk and bolt but there he was, angrily digging through the drawers in the desk. "Not now, Sydney," he snarled at me.

I pulled the money out of my bag and tossed it on the desk with a smack. "Two thousand."

Tony straightened and just looked at me. "I know you didn't take it - "

"And yet, it's there. I'm leaving, Colin's gonna take my shift."

"I can't - "

"Just take it!" I yelled, then took a deep breath. Don't take it out on him, he's not the one you're mad at. "Tony, please. I fixed it. I know I ask a lot, but I'm begging you. Just take it."

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