Text copyright © 2010 by K.A. Linde

All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect is appreciated.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Note: This is a rough draft preview of the beginning of Avoiding Responsibility. If you are interested in reading the rest of it, it will be available for purchase in ebook form at Smashwords. com, or in print at Amazon. com.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this story and encouraged me to see it through to publication. This is a big, scary step for me and I appreciate your support so much!

SEQUEL WARNING: STOP BEFORE CONTINUING READING THE CHAPTER! If you have not read the first book Avoiding Commitment, then this chapter will not only NOT make sense to you, but also will RUIN the plot for the first book. Please stop what you are doing, go to my profile, and select the first book in this series if you have not already done so...unless for some reason you like to have the plot ruined before you read a book...TURN BACK NOW :)


Avoiding Responsibility

By: K.A. Linde


Chapter 1: Present

A sing-song tune echoed from a distant location far removed from the king-sized bed where Lexi Walsh lay curled up amongst the sheets. The muffled chorus of a popular radio song hit her ears causing her to roll over and bury herself farther into the depths of the bed. She felt an arm wrap around her waist and the warmth of a body pressing itself against her skin. The man trailed his fingers gently against her stomach, down the curves of her side, and over her toned thighs. She giggled as the touches turned a bit more demanding and rocked her body back and forth.

"Mmm," she groaned. "It's too early."

"I know," he agreed moving his hands back to her flat tanned stomach. "Too early for your phone to be going off," he whispered into her ear.

Lexi sighed heavily and nuzzled into his chest. "Agreed," she mumbled lacing their fingers together

"Are you going to answer that?" he questioned, his breath hot against her earlobe.

Lexi lazily shook her head and shifted ever so slightly imploring his lips to touch the sensitive skin around her ear. "Mmm, no," she said breathily.

"You sure?" he asked further succumbing to her wish.

She angled her body allowing herself a look into his hazel eyes and smiled. "Do I look like I want to get out of bed?"

A confident smirk crossed his face. "Not in the slightest."

"There's your answer," she muttered nuzzling further into his chest and yanking the sheet up around her bare shoulders.

He responded by holding her tight against him as his other hand swooped up and ran through the long thick strands of chocolate brown hair. He splayed the curls out across the creamy white pillow and brushed her bangs off her forehead. Leaning forward in bed and being careful not to adjust her easy slumber, he planted a light kiss on her forehead.

"That feels nice," she murmured into him.

"I thought you'd fallen back asleep already."

Lexi kissed his chest and held onto him a little tighter. "Not quite."

"So who could be calling you so early in the morning?" he implored conversationally.

Instantly, Lexi's heart sped up to an outrageous speed. She knew the reaction was entirely irrational. The last time she had been awoken at an early hour on a Saturday morning Jack had called her. That fateful conversation nearly a year earlier had led to an outrageous week where she had not only traveled to Atlanta to see Jack and his new girlfriend, Bekah, but had been suckered into attempting to convince said girlfriend that Jack was ready for marriage. What a sham that had been!

She had been set-up by Bekah and, inevitably, after a few rather inappropriate experiences with Jack, had convinced him that he was, in fact, ready to marry Bekah. And he had proposed. After six years of trying to work things out between her and Jack, he had proposed to another woman with a duplicate of the ring he had promised only belonged to Lexi. She had walked away with the closure she had desired from Jack, but returned to New York with a whole new world of heartache she hadn't exactly been prepared for.

But Jack hadn't called her since she had left him standing alone at the airport in Atlanta, and she knew he wouldn't be calling her now.

That didn't lessen the thumping of her heart though.

"I…I dunno," she told him turning back to face the open loft so that he couldn't see the dejected look on her face.

She had a list of people who could be calling her this early in the morning, but, regardless, she did not want to be forced from her tranquil environment to face the realities of the real world. And if she was honest with herself, a part of her was afraid that one day Jack would come crashing back into her existence.

Jack. The man who had taken her from a brilliant, confident, controlled woman to a love sick, low self-esteem, uncontrollable girl at the first glance from his blue eyes. Together they had ruined relationships, friendships, and families with their heated desire and relentless passion. She never thought the day would come where she dreaded the sight of her former lover, but he had forced it upon her by sleeping with her only hours before proposing to his girlfriend, now fiancé.

The familiar lyrics began playing again, and this time Lexi could pinpoint the location of her purse amongst his impeccably clean décor. She sighed heavily wishing the noise would stop allowing her the peace she so desired.

"Perhaps you should attend to that," he muttered into her ear, "while I go fix you some breakfast."

Lexi groaned as he shifted next to her hauling his tight ass across the bed and over to the enormous closet stocked with expensive suits. He threw on a pair of black boxer-briefs and took the stairs two at a time down to the landing. He returned a second later with her designer purse and placed it gently on the bed. She smiled up in his angular face and was rewarded with a kiss on the lips full of promises.

"Answer that," he commanded pointing at the phone that was still lit up from the previous phone call. "Come down when you're finished."

She watched his backside retreat down the stairs and out of sight before picking up her purse and fishing out her new cell phone. Up until a couple months ago, she had had the same old, dinged-up, flip phone since college. The thing had lasted nearly seven years much longer than modern technology afforded. They had had their rough spots along the way when she had lost all the numbers after dropping it in the toilet once, but it had been good to her nonetheless. Chyna, her best friend, had finally convinced her to get something a bit flashier. The day Lexi had been on the way to the store, Chyna had surprised her with the phone claiming it was a graduation present since Lexi absolutely abhorred the thought of mooching off of her best friend's exorbitant wealth.

Her new touch screen came to life at the tips of her fingers and she grumbled at the early hour. Her night had been pretty insane, and the only way she compensated was by sleeping through much of the day. The last thing Lexi wanted to do was be awake at that moment. She groggily clicked on the message that claimed she had two missed calls.

Lexi cursed under her breath as the name filled the screen: Ramsey Bridges.

She could think of a million and a half reasons for him to be calling her. None of which she wanted to deal with at this moment in time. The only good thing about him calling was that it wasn't Jack.

Lexi threw her head back roughly against the incredibly soft down pillow and bit the inside of her lip to keep from cursing aloud. Just as she was about to swing her legs over the side of the bed and trek downstairs, the phone lit up one more time. This time it was a text message and a preprogrammed ding filled the empty bedroom.

Reluctantly, Lexi clicked on the message and read it to herself. "Sorry it's early and for everything else. Call me. Please. Miss you."

Lexi banged her head back and against the pillow case several more times in frustration. This could not be happening to her right now. She knew that she should wait to make the phone call. She had an incredibly attractive male making her breakfast downstairs and the last person, well second to last person if you counted Jack, she needed to talk to in that moment was Ramsey. But she couldn't just ignore him. Something was up or else he wouldn't be calling her. She couldn't just leave him hanging like that and despite her better judgment, she phoned him.

"Lexi," he breathed into the other line.

His voice sent chills up her spine and the intense way he said her name only made it worse…or better depending on how you looked at it. A wave of peppermint seemed to overtake her at the sound of her voice. She couldn't believe that the taste of him could be so alive in her mind when he was thousands of miles away in Atlanta. She shook her head from her imagination and answered him, "That's right."

"Hey," he muttered surprisingly at a loss of words.

"Hey," she said back.

"Uh, how have you been?" he asked obviously fishing for information.

"I've been great Ramsey. Did you need something?" she asked cutting the conversation as short as she could.

"Yeah, we have a lot to talk about."

Lexi shook her head. No. She could not do this right now. "I don't think we do."

"Come on. You know we do," he told her.

"Well now isn't a great time," she said glancing around the loft.

"Oh, yeah, it's early. Sorry about that," he said. She could almost feel him scratching him head at that statement.

"It's fine. Did you need something or were you just calling this early to chat?" she asked being as rude as she ever had been with Ramsey. Depending on the day he could bring that side out of her better than anyone else she had ever met.

"No I have something to ask you," he stated hesitantly.

"Ok," she said curiously. She knew that it would be better if she got off the line with him. She was at some other man's house, and it was too early in the morning for this kind of conversation. The last thing she wanted to do was be reminded of her past right now.

"Look I don't really know how to ask this of you so I guess I'll just spit it out. Will you go to my sister's wedding with me?" Ramsey asked in a rush.

Lexi sat there in silence unable to believe what she had just heard. She couldn't honestly believe that Ramsey would be asking her to go to the wedding. She had been doing everything she could not to have any knowledge of the wedding at all. She didn't know any of the specifics regarding the happenings, and it hadn't exactly been easy to keep her head down and out of the news. She hadn't received an invitation, which hadn't surprised her all that much. On one level, she had been surprised Bekah's vindictive side hadn't surfaced and invited her out of her spite. Another part of her was even more surprised that Jack hadn't been begging her to come back again. After all, another year had rolled around, and it was about time for him to try to ruin her life.

She hated having to think about Jack that way. Even though she had let him go back in the Atlanta airport, she couldn't help but reminisce back to the good times of their so-called relationship. Apparently, he hadn't been thinking about that or else her comments when leaving him behind had struck home.

Either way, she hadn't received the invitation to which she had been silently praying against. Thus, she had no idea of the date, time, or place of the wedding. She told herself this was more for her sanity's sake, but she wasn't sure if that was the only reason. She didn't trust herself enough to not to go, and she knew that she would only make a fool of herself if she made the mistake of attending.

That brought her back to reality. Ramsey had just asked her to attend the wedding she had been pointedly avoiding at all costs for the past year. He wanted her to go with him to see Jack and Bekah say their vows and become legally tied to each other. He wanted her to go to a wedding that he didn't even want to attend.

There was only one explanation. Ramsey had lost his mind. There was no other way to describe it. He must think she was completely crazy or possibly even a different person to suggest this course of action to her. He had to know, if anyone knew, that there was no way she was going to be in attendance.

"Lexi, are you still there?" Ramsey questioned anxiously into the phone.

She snapped out of her trance. "Yes."

"Yeah?" he asked excitement evident in his voice.

"Yes, I'm still here," she mumbled.

"Oh," he said sullenly, "I thought you meant yes you would go with me."

"Oh, no," she replied shaking her head side to side even though he couldn't see her.

"Lexi, please."

"Ramsey, are you out of your mind?" she asked running her fingers through her long brown hair as she tried to keep her voice level and under control. The feat was proving rather difficult to accomplish. How dare he ask her such a ridiculous request!

"Probably a little bit," he admitted his voice wavering.

"You'd have to be crazy to think that I would go with you," she said pinching herself to keep from yelling at him over the phone.

"Is this about me or Jack?"

Lexi huffed out an angry breath. "Do you really have to ask that?" she grumbled.

"You're right. You're right," he quickly amended. "Sorry for asking."

"Whatever. Ramsey, I'm not going to that wedding with you or with anyone," she told him firmly.

"Lexi what happened a couple weeks ago…"

"Please don't," she whispered into the phone laying her forehead into her hand and wishing she had gone with her first instinct and ignored the call.

"I am sorry about…everything," he murmured his voice filled with emotion.

"I know. You said that."

"I just…I don't want to go with anyone else," he told her.

Lexi could feel the tears beginning to well in her eyes at the admission. She really did not need this right now. She quickly swiped at her eyes hoping the effect of his words wouldn't show through on her face.

Stepping off of the bed and wandering towards the closet, Lexi stood before the full-length mirror and took a good long look at herself. Her eyes were rimmed pink, but as long as she held it together, the coloring would go away fast enough. Her cheeks were flushed, but it was a nice look with her tanned skin. Her tangled mess of hair fell down just past her shoulders a whopping ten inches shorter than she typically wore it because she had donated the hair to Locks of Love at a charity fundraiser Chyna had dragged her to. She was getting better at controlling her emotions. She hadn't let one tear trickle down her face.

"You can't ask that of me Ramsey. You know it isn't fair."

"Can I just give you the date and you let me know if you're available?" he pleaded.

"What?" she shrieked. "No, don't give me the date." Pulling the phone promptly from her ear, Lexi glanced around the room and over the balcony to see if she had caused a disturbance. She hadn't intended on losing control, but the thought that after all her hard work Ramsey was going to spoil everything just made her act impulsively. After reassuring herself that her explosion hadn't drawn any unnecessary attention, Lexi placed the phone back on her ear.

"Lexi? Hello, are you there?" Ramsey asked concerned his voice coming out faster than normal out of panic.

"Yes, I'm here. Sorry, I didn't mean to yell," she said tucking a lock of hair behind her ear out of habit.

"It's fine. Look I won't tell you the date, if you don't want to know, but will you just think on it? I really don't want to be there without you."

"Did you ever think that maybe I don't want to be there at all?" she whispered into the phone ducking into the bathroom.

"I know you don't want to be there, but I have to be. It's my sister's wedding and I have to be there. But since I have to, I'd like to be as happy as possible when I am there. The only way that could be possible is with you," he told her using his easy charm to let the words fall husky and persuasive off of his tongue.

She sighed quietly and closed her eyes as her mind traveled to a year ago. She had told herself she would contact Ramsey when she could hold her head up high. So much had changed and evolved, not only with herself but between them, that it was harder now to resist him. He had always had a slight influence over her, drawing out emotions in her that she hadn't realized she could even feel. Even in the beginning, his all-encompassing personality made her rude and took her out of her element. Those emotions had only intensified with time.

But she couldn't let another man have control over her decisions. She was not, under any circumstances, going to see her sorta-non-ex-boyfriend get married to anyone. It didn't matter that she also hated the bride or that the bride was Ramsey's sister. She couldn't do it and nothing he said was going to make a difference.

"Ramsey, I can't," she mumbled. "You have to understand. I just can't."

"Please think about it," he begged.

"I have to go. I'll…I'll talk to you later," she said hanging up the phone without even giving him a chance to respond.

She clicked off the line and hung her head miserably in front of the sink. How did these things keep happening to her? Here she was just attempting to enjoy herself and he managed to ruin everything. Now all she was thinking about was the wedding that she assumed was coming up pretty soon. She had so many questions milling around inside of her head that she wasn't even certain she wanted answers.

She knew that she shouldn't attend. Everything was stacked against her in this scenario. Yet, Ramsey still wanted her to go with him. Even after what they had endured together this year, he still wanted her around. It made little sense to her. She was all about cutting the loose ends and moving on with her life, or she tried to keep telling herself that.

Lexi knew all she needed was a fresh start. She thought she had been getting that with Ramsey, but with the way things had ended up, she knew that had been a mistake. Everything she had done was a mistake. Dating someone who was in close contact with your source of misconduct for the past six years really put a damper on a relationship. She had never been sure if she could trust him, and here she was contemplating the question all over again.

Anyone related to that heinous bitch should be exterminated from the planet. The only thing they understand is money. Lexi should have seen it coming from the beginning, because there was no way things could have worked out between them.

It didn't matter how he made her feel. She should have known better than to let her emotions get in the way of her judgment. She was never capable of making a logical judgment call when she allowed her feelings to get in the way. Now she just needed to get over it and let it go. She wasn't going to that wedding. There was nothing in this world that could compel her to be in attendance to witness that occasion. She had learned her lesson.

Lexi grabbed a long-sleeve white button-up from a hanger on the back of the door and slung it over her head. The sleeves were far too long and she scrunched them up to her elbows and watched as they instantly fell back to her wrists. The material fell to the top of her thighs just covering her butt from view. After approving her appearance, Lexi trotted down the stairs and into the chic kitchen. She ran her fingertips across the black marbled countertop as she approached the stove. She circled around the island in the center of the room and moved to wrap her arms around the man in front of her.

He jumped slightly, then bent down and kissed her on the forehead. "You surprised me."

Lexi grabbed his left arm and pulled it around her body as he flipped a pancake over with the other hand. "That smells amazing," she murmured reaching up on her tiptoes and kissing his cheek.

"Thank you. This is my mom's recipe. Have a seat." He gestured for her to sit on a low-backed bar stool tucked into the counter. When she did, he placed a pile of pancakes covered in strawberries and syrup with bacon and orange juice in front of her. He turned off the stove, filled his own plate and moved to eat beside her.

"Oh my God," Lexi groaned. "This is incredible." She shoveled the pancakes into her mouth not even caring that she probably looked ridiculous.

He chuckled softly to himself. "I like a woman with a healthy appetite."

Lexi choked on the food she had just put in her mouth, chewed a few more times, then swallowed. "Well when you put it that way," she said putting her fork down and turning to face him. She had pulled one leg up to tuck underneath herself.

"It was a compliment," he reassured her setting his own fork down to stare back at her. He reached up drawing her face towards him and kissing her lips affectionately.

Lexi's mind was still on the conversation she had just had and knew that she wasn't putting as much emotion into the kiss as she had the previous night. He smiled at her when he pulled away and went back to his breakfast. She was grateful at least that if he had noticed, he didn't say anything on the subject. She dug back into her food hoping to clear any lingering tension from her body with the amazing meal he had prepared for them.

"So, was your conversation important?" he asked off-hand just trying to make conversation.

Lexi nearly dropped her fork onto the plate at the question. She shouldn't have been surprised that he would ask something about that since it had woken them both up much too early. However, she wasn't prepared with a response. How could you tell someone that a guy you dated wanted you to go a wedding with him for a guy that you had been sleeping with on and off for the past six years? Yeah, that wouldn't exactly go over well.

"Uh, yeah, I suppose it was," she mumbled incoherently.

"Ahhh," he said raising his eyebrows slightly, "you don't want to talk about it."

"It's really not worth discussing," she told him taking a big swig of the orange juice in front of her.

"Alright," he said doing the same. "What are your plans for the day?"

A smile crept up onto Lexi's face at the question. He wanted to see her again. She should have guessed that from the extravagant breakfast, but it was always nice to hear. "I'm meeting Chyna to go shopping."

"Maybe we can meet up when you're free," he suggested a confident air taking over his cool demeanor.

"That sounds nice," she said following him upstairs to the bedroom. She stripped out of his shirt, pulled the tight black dress from the previous night back over her head, and slid into her heels. Snatching her purse up off the bed, Lexi kissed him one more time and then exited the apartment.

Lexi ran her fingers through her tangled hair and twisted it up into a tight ponytail at the back of her head. The longest strands hit the top of her shoulder blades. She still wasn't used to the shorter look. A few loose locks fell out of the holder and swept down across her forehead. She swatted in vain at the bangs willing them to stay in place as she hailed a passing cab. The yellow car slowed to a stop and she fell into the backseat.

As she was whisked across town, Lexi tried not to think about her conversation with Ramsey. She had an entire list of things she needed to accomplish most of which included relaxation, pampering, and more relaxation.

She had sent out her resume to over a dozen law firms in the past two weeks, and was waiting patiently for offers pending passage of the Bar examination. She wasn't too worried about either scenario though. The bar had been grueling, time consuming, and painfully nerve-racking, but it was over. All in all, she figured she had passed and that was all that mattered. The job offers would present themselves in good time. She had been fortunate enough to have intern positions for the past two summers, and due to that good fortune, Lexi was even less concerned with finding a job.

Thus, relaxation was in order. Now Ramsey was calling her trying to ruin her last few weeks bliss before finally entering the real world. She needed some serious downtime to forget about this miserable morning. Luckily, she was supposed to be going out with Chyna all day for just such treatment.

"Mr. B," Lexi said nodding her head to Bernard, the doorman, as she stepped out of the taxi and approached the entrance to Chyna's Upper East Side apartment.

"Miss Lexi, it is always a pleasure," he said with a giant smile across his face. He pulled the door open wide for her.

"Always a pleasure to see you as well," Lexi complimented him stepping up to the threshold. He tipped his hat in thanks letting her pass through the frame. The elevator stopped on the top floor where Chyna's penthouse was located and Lexi breezed down the hallway to her destination. Fishing through her tiny clutch, she realized with despair that she had left her keys behind somewhere. She cursed under her breath and stomped her foot wondering how she could be so stupid. She knew that she had a spare keychain made for these such circumstances, but it didn't make it any better knowing her keys were out there for someone to take.

After another brief dig through her purse, though there wasn't much space to begin with in the tiny thing, she banged on Chyna's door hoping she was both alone and awake. She had forgotten, in her clouded thoughts, to ask Bernard if Chyna had arrived home alone last night. Just as Lexi was about to dial Chyna's number, she heard the sound of the bolt sliding out of place. The door creaked open about an inch and one of Chyna's emerald green eyes was visible.

"Yes?" Chyna asked eyeing her up and down.

Lexi smiled at her best friend. "Hey C. Let me in."

Chyna slammed the door closed, fiddled with the lock, and then reopened the door. "Are you in walk of shame attire?" Chyna asked trying for condescending. She flipped her hair over to one shoulder and pulled the door all the way to the wall.

"Good to see you too," Lexi mumbled sarcastically rolling her eyes dramatically. She stepped through the entranceway in her four inch, peep toe heels from the previous night and across the white marbled foyer.

"Oh yes. It's always good to see you chica," Chyna said slamming the door behind them and following her through to the living room which was currently in shambles. Lexi scooted away from a disturbing looking plaster and over to the covered black leather sofas. She took a seat and sighed heavily resting her head back against the plastic covering.

"Anyway, it's only a walk of shame the first go round."

"So you think this will continue?" Chyna questioned lying back against a cream psychiatrist's chair that Lexi had never seen before.

Lexi attempted to change the subject. This wasn't what she was here to talk about with Chyna, and she didn't particularly want to discuss her love life. "Has Frederick approved these changes?" Lexi asked glancing at the half-upturned carpet, strings of bamboo blinds, and other, more exaggerated, environmental pieces.

Chyna upturned her nose at the comment swinging her legs back off the chair and onto the floor. "Frederick," she said as if the name alone caused her physical discomfort. "Frederick does not matter."

Lexi laughed out loud at her best friend. She always did have a flare for the dramatic and a not so secret crush on her rather gay designer. "Frederick would murder you if he saw this room."

"Precisely," Chyna said her eyes glimmering with thoughts of indiscretion. "But enough about me. Tell me about your walk of shame."

"Chyna, I told you, it's not a walk of shame."

"I know. I know," she said cutting Lexi off and stepping around her living room as deftly as possible to take a seat next to her friend. "So, is it serious?" she questioned arching an eyebrow.

"We'll see," Lexi said shrugging her thin shoulders. "I think he wants it."

Chyna puckered lips together and blew herself a kiss in the adjacent mirror resting against the wall waiting to be hung. When she glanced back at Lexi, she had a devious look in her eyes. "Of course he does darling."

"And even if he doesn't, I don't care," Lexi told her pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "It doesn't matter."

"Because you spoke to Ramsey this morning?" Chyna asked batting her eyelashes and tearing her gaze from her reflection to flick a glance in Lexi's direction.

"Wha…?" Lexi asked returning the gaze her mouth popping open in surprise. "How did you know that?"

"You have that look on your face," she said as a matter of fact.

"And what look is that?" Lexi asked mystified by her friend's observation skills.

"Like this," Chyna said looking doe-eyed, her mouth turning up into a half-smile as if she were keeping a secret from the rest of the world, her head tilting slightly upwards, and a small sigh escaped her lips.

"I do not look like that," Lexi cried pushing Chyna away.

"You had that exact look when you walked through my door. I'd know it anywhere. You have looks when you're thinking about someone. I know you too well not to notice."

"Oh yeah? Who else do I have one for then?"

Chyna's eyes slanted seductively sideways, licked her pouted lips, let a smirk cross her face, and breathed out heavily a few times. Lexi stared at her in awe wondering what this was all about. After a second, Chyna returned to her typical look and said, "That was when you think about Jack."

Lexi colored slightly at the reenactment. "Whatever," she said huskily wishing she could cover her embarrassment. They didn't typically talk about Jack, because it tended to bring up rather unpleasant memories…memories Lexi didn't like to dwell on.

"Anyway," Chyna said clearing her throat, "what did Ramsey call to talk to you about?" Lexi sighed and pushed her fingers through her hair as she yanked the ponytail holder out of place. She stood up from the plastic covered furniture and made a slow circle around the part of the room that wasn't a disaster. "This can't be good," Chyna ventured.

"No, it's fine. I'm just letting it get to me," Lexi told her vaguely.

"Well don't, whatever it is, don't let it get to you. You know you need to work on not letting these boys control your emotions chica."

"I know Chy. Don't remind me. That's all I've been thinking about since he called. I need to control myself. I need to control myself. But it's not that simple," she cried throwing her arms down and staring helplessly at her friend.

"Girl I know better than anyone. I've been here through it all for you," she said reassuringly. Chyna stood and moved next to her. "So what's up with him? Something different?"

"He…" Lexi sighed hating that she had to say this out loud, "he invited me to the wedding."

"What?" Chyna asked taking a step back. "As in Jack's wedding?" Chyna's eyes had expanded to record proportions, eyebrows raised, and mouth a little o-shape in disbelief.

"Yeah as in Jack's wedding," Lexi confirmed.

"Is he out of his fucking mind?" Chyna cried.

"I asked him if he was," Lexi said chuckling quietly.

"You can't go!"

"You think I don't know that?" Lexi asked pulling away from Chyna and looking out across the living room. "He just wanted to go with me. He wanted me to be there with him."

"I know how hard it must be, but you can't let him do this to you," Chyna told her trying to be the voice of reason. "It doesn't change what happened. I know it doesn't make things better. But at least you know now."

"I know," Lexi said nodding. "He's just, you know…Ramsey."

"I know," Chyna agreed sympathetically, "but you can't go to that wedding. Did he tell you the date?"

Pop music sounded in the living room causing both girls to jump. Lexi walked around the side of the couch and scooped up her purse. "No. Thank God," Lexi told Chyna reaching into her bag. "I almost had a heart attack right there when he tried to tell me the date."

"I'm not surprised."

"Hold on," Lexi said clicking the green button and answering the call. "Hello?"

"Lexi," Ramsey's voice filled her ears.

"Uh…" Lexi stammered glancing anxiously at Chyna and mouthing who the caller was. Chyna shook her head vehemently and held her hand out for the phone as if she were ready to dismiss the call at any moment. "Hey," Lexi said waving Chyna away.

"Hey. I know I called earlier, but you said you would talk to me later and I thought now is…well…later. You know? I just really didn't get to talk to you this morning. And I need to talk you," he said babbling nervously.

This made Lexi smile despite herself. He was always so cute when he babbled on about things. Chyna glowered at Lexi's reaction and poked her in the side to remind her to stay on track. "Yeah, well this morning really wasn't a great time, but the answer is still no Ramsey." Lexi wandered down the hallway and into an empty guestroom to continue her conversation in peace.

"I know. I mean, I knew all along you were going to say no," he said dejected.

"Then why even bother to ask me?" she could help asking.

"I was hoping you might change your mind," he said hopefully, "if you knew everything."

"I'm pretty sure I know everything," she grumbled.

"Parker is going to be there."

Lexi cringed to keep from saying anything stupid. She really did not want to be having this conversation. When she had left things with Jack, she had promised that she would never again let anything like that happen…not even close. She needed control. She needed to be in control. Ramsey swayed her emotions in a completely different way than Jack, and she was alright with that. It was just when the lack of control started creeping in she couldn't handle it.

The way Ramsey just brought Parker up like this hoping to influence her decision made things even worse. Her stomach had dropped when Ramsey had mentioned Parker and she couldn't explain why. She and Ramsey weren't together. It shouldn't matter to her whether Parker was going to be there or not.

But it did.

Of course it mattered to her which is exactly the reason he had brought it up. And it was exactly why she couldn't let it get to her or else he would have her hook, line, and sinker.

"Great," Lexi stated as fake cheerful as she could get.

"Look I want you to be there if Parker is going," he told her willing her to finally agree to come with him to this wedding.

"You want me to be there because Parker is going to be there?" Lexi asked incredulously. "That doesn't make any sense."

"I'd just feel more comfortable knowing you're around," he told her pleading with every word.

She really hated hearing him beg her. If things had been different and they hadn't just gone through so much together, then maybe she would have changed her mind, but probably not. She had to keep reminding herself what he was asking her to do. She could not go to Jack's wedding under any circumstances.

"So you can control what's going on?" she asked dryly a sting of venom in the comment.

He sighed heavily once more. "No, that's not it at all. Parker is just…you know and I'd feel better knowing that you were there too."

"Ramsey, as much as I'd love to be around you and Parker at the same time," Lexi told him sarcastically. "I cannot…no, I will not go to that wedding. Can you not understand? This is Jack we're talking about marrying your sister. I just cannot fathom a reason good enough to go."

"To visit me?" he asked hopefully.

"If I wanted to visit you Ramsey, I would just fly to Atlanta. I wouldn't have to go to that miserable wedding to see you," she muttered angrily. "So please, do not ask me again."

Lexi could hear the defeat in the next breath he took. He was weighing his options of whether or not to push her on the subject. It wouldn't be smart on his part. She wasn't wavering on this one like she had when Jack had called her. A lot had happened in a year and she wasn't the same person she had been back then. She had tried to say no to Jack, rather unsuccessfully, but she couldn't keep repeating history. She was too good at that to begin with.

"Alright Lexi. I won't ask again. Sorry for bothering you. Will I see you again?" he asked sounding even more disheartened than when she had first told him that she wasn't going to be in attendance.

She didn't know how to answer him either. She strode across the bedroom to stand in front of the large mirror standing on top of a hard oak desk. Her mind was telling her that she should tell him no, but she couldn't help that her heart was telling her otherwise.

She hadn't seen him in nearly three weeks since she had left him all alone in Atlanta. A wave of déjà vu passed over her in the aftermath of her reminiscence. Now she had left two men behind in Atlanta. Both who she cared deeply for but in very different ways.

Jack, it was difficult to even think about him, was a necessary loss. They were self-destructive when in each other's company. Their emotions were too strong, too heated. Their senses dulled and imaginations set free. They left a path of pain for whoever ventured near, and Jack and Lexi weren't immune to the catastrophes they created. There was a reason the sin of lust was whirled around for eternity in Dante's Inferno. No matter where they went, they couldn't help but ceaselessly be in a whirlwind always crossing that fine line between love and lust.

But did Ramsey have to be a necessary loss as well?

Admittedly, she met Ramsey around the same time she had met Jack. She simply had no direct connection to that meeting, as she had with Jack. With the passing of time, their paths had crossed again at the club in New York. It had to be more than coincidence that they had met up again in Atlanta.

Lexi wasn't a mystical person and she didn't typically adhere to fortune telling or fate. But with Ramsey, she wasn't sure if there was any other way to describe it. They had too many chances meetings. And though things hadn't worked out for them when she had been in Atlanta, she didn't necessarily want that to be the end. Even though she shouldn't, she missed him.

It was too bad he had used up his second…and third chance. They were far from perfect, but she couldn't keep letting herself fall into another path with the potential to be nearly as destructive.

"I…I don't know Ramsey," she mumbled finally giving him the best answer she could muster.

"Well, that's better than no," he said always the optimist.

She chuckled to herself. "Yeah I guess so."

"Please let me see you. I promise I won't bring up the wedding again. I just…I miss you. I'm so sorry about everything. I'd understand if you were mad at me and didn't want to see me, but I really, really miss you. I've never met anyone like you Lexi, and I don't want to waste anymore time letting you slip through my fingers," he announced.

"I can't make that kind of commitment," she told him sullenly reverting back into her standard argument. She wasn't good with commitment. She had cheated on everyone she had ever cared about. Somehow, she had even managed to become a pretty good liar, a fact she wasn't exactly proud of.

"I wish I was there to kiss you," he whispered huskily into the phone.

"Ramsey," she said warningly, but her voice had lowered impishly with the comment.

"Tell me you'll see me again," he commanded, but the words were gentle.

"I…" she trailed off. "Are you planning on being in New York?" She assumed he didn't have plans to be up here, not that money was an issue. But if he didn't already have plans, then she could stall just a little bit longer. It hadn't even been a month since they had been apart, and though she missed him, it wasn't long enough for her to try to forget him either. If he crashed back into her life so soon, she wasn't sure she'd have the will to walk out again.

"Actually, I am," he told her cheerfully knowing, somehow, that he had her in a corner.

"Oh," she blurted out in surprise. She hadn't exactly been expecting that. Maybe he was bluffing. "What are you doing up here?"

"I have...business to attend to," he muttered vaguely.

Lexi's eyes darkened. She did not want to have anything to do with his business matters. Who knew what he had planned if he was up here for business? He could be doing literally anything, and she didn't want to be involved. "Well count me out," she told him fiercely.

"Something for good ole daddy, Lexi," he mumbled obviously perturbed about the whole situation.

"Oh," she said again. That changed things. His father, the owner of Bridges Enterprise, a multi-million dollar conglomerate, frequently had Ramsey attend to business matters when he was traveling. Ramsey, who hated working for his father for so many reasons Lexi had stopped counting, usually did them more for Bekah than anyone else. They had a strange bond as brother and sister. A bond Lexi didn't much like since Bekah was the scum of the universe.

"So what do you say?" he asked hopefully.

"Uh, alright then," she agreed listening to the devil on her shoulder, "you can visit, but Ramsey…"

"Yes?" he asked practically giddy with excitement.

"Don't you dare bring up that wedding," she warned him.


K.A. Linde