A/N: Okay whew! I just want to say how truly SORRY I am. My laptop broke, massive writer's block, schoolwork yadda yadda. All happened. I was about to give up on this story.
But, a review from reader Sma lit a fire under me, and I got to writing. Which proves: YOUR REVIEWS DO MATTER! They truly inspire me and give me the confidence to keep writing.
Keep in mind, this story is not over, so the things that are touched upon in this chapter will be brought up again.
Anyway, read and enjoy! And review!
Love you all!
Teach not thy lip such scorn, for it was made for kissing, lady, not for such contempt – Shakespeare's Richard III
I wish I was a pretty crier.
You know, one of those girls where my tears would fall in soft rivulets down my cheeks. Instead, I was a snot nosed mess with mascara tracks running down my face, effectively making me look like some deranged raccoon.
I flopped onto my bed, trying desperately to reclaim any sort of dignity that I could muster. Pierce! He was an awful person, but I could see how damaged he was when I mentioned that Carter was his parents' favorite. I mean, could you blame them? From what little I had seen, Pierce spent the majority of his time drinking and antagonizing everyone. The poor little rich boy angst got old after a while.
My phone vibrated for the umpteenth time since I had left Carter's house. It was him, no doubt wondering where the hell I had gone. I took a deep breath and answered.
"Princess? Where the hell did you go?"
I laughed shortly. "Just thought I would show myself out, since you were so preoccupied with Miranda. I didn't want to interrupt crucial slut-manwhore bonding time."
It sounded bitchy, but frankly I didn't care. I was still reeling from the emotional blow that Pierce so happily gave me.
I heard Carter take a deep breath on the other line. "Is this something to do with Pierce? I left him with you for two seconds and he went and fucked everything up." He was trying to keep his voice even, but I heard the slight frustration that crept into his tone.
I didn't want Carter to fight my battles for me and I especially, did not want to tell him the things Pierce had said about our "relationship".
"No, I told you. I just wanted to leave. No biggie."
"Right." He managed to inflect that word with as much sarcasm as humanly possible.
"Well, since it's 'no biggie', how would dinner with my family tonight sound?"
I choked on my tonsils a little. Attractive, I know.
"Uhhh….are you sure? I feel like I might have insulted all of them last time."
"Oh, you did." Well, that's just peachy. "But, you're the only thing that might make it bearable. Besides, my grandmother will be there and she specifically asked for you."
I cursed the old woman, silently.
"Okay, sounds great. I'll see you tonight!" I tried to sound enthusiastic but it was obvious to the two of us that it fell flat.
"Okayyyy." He stretched out the word, disbelievingly." I'll pick you up tonight then, I guess. Oh, and make sure you bring a jacket or something. It looks like it's going to rain."
He chuckled and hung up.
I hugged the thin shawl I had brought around me. There was a slight chill in the air that hinted at the impeding rain.
We arrived at La'mage and Carter threw the keys to the valet. We hadn't really spoken in the car, but I had enjoyed the silence.
His father waved us over and we found our seats. Carter slipped off my shawl and I could feel his breath caress my neck. Our eyes met and a wave of understanding passed between us. We were each other's only allies tonight and that made me happier than it should have.
"Cassiopeia! It is so nice to see you. I had rather thought that Carter would tire of you already." His grandmother had already started drinking, which was promising.
"One can only dream I suppose." I swore to myself that I would be on my best behavior, for Carter. I mean, for the fake relationship. Yeah, that was it.
I kept myself busy by surveying the rest of the table. Carter was talking quietly with his father, his whole body tense. His mother seemed to be lost in her own world and hummed quietly to herself. Mickey looked a bit sick, his face paling when his mother laid a hand on his forehead. He shook her off with surprising strength.
Carter's hand was next to mine and he kept clenching and unclenching it, something that I found was a habit of his. I laid my hand on top of his, squeezing it a little. He shot me a small grin and I couldn't help the one that was slowly spreading across mine.
I raised my head and locked eyes with Pierce who was drinking, judging by the number of discarded glasses, his fifth glass of wine. Ugh.
I gave him a cool glance, expecting some sort of smirk or glare. But he gave me an unreadable expression as his eyes found me and Carter's hands intertwined. His ice blue orbs raked over my body slowly as they met my eyes again. They seemed to convey the unspoken sentiment: bitch.
Right back atcha, buddy. How the hell anybody put up with this tool was beyond me.
Carter and his father stopped talking abruptly and ordered the food. As a plate of steaming spaghetti was placed in front of me, I realized how hungry I had been. Luckily, my stomach growled loudly in approval and everyone laughed whole heartedly at my silly antics.
Just kidding. They stared at me like I was some alien with five nipples until the sound passed. (Graphic imagery, but you get the point).
"Well, it looks like someone's hungry." Said Pearl. But she didn't say it in that friendly, joking manner that normal grandmothers do. No, more like that "how dare you experience hunger" tone that those people on America's Next Top Model take.
"Yes, well. I'm a growing girl." I flashed my best smile at her.
"Growing from all angles I see."
Bitch you did not…
I was about to tell her where she could shove her angles when Corrine piped up unexpectedly.
"Oh, she can't bear healthy children if she's a stick."
I choked on a noodle.
After five minutes of wheezing, I replied.
I snuck a glance at Carter, who's face had gone deathly white.
Corrine clapped excitedly. "Oh yes! I would love a couple grandchildren running around! Wouldn't that be lovely, Nathaniel?"
"Now, Corrine" blustered Mr. Stevens, clearly as uncomfortable as everyone else. "It's a bit early to discuss that, don't you think? These kids have only been together for what, a week?"
"Two months." Carter and I said in unison.
"Yes, well. Carter has much to accomplish before he could even consider settling down."
I ignored the implication that I had nothing to accomplish.
Corrine tapped her chin thoughtfully.
"True. But you two are having sex aren't you?"
".god" I covered my face with a napkin.
"Jesus, mother!" I heard Carter exclaim.
"What is it, sweetie?"
"You can't just-, I mean—" Carter Stevens at a loss for words. If this wasn't a total nightmare, I would find it funny.
"As long as you're safe, I'm fine with it. I don't want grandkids right this moment, CJ." She winked at me conspiratorially, as if this was some amusing joke that we shared.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
"Mrs. Stevens, I don't plan on having kids for a long, long time. Very long. Like One Hundred Years War long. But longer."
"Oh." Her voice was tiny as she picked at her meal. "Perfectly alright."
We continued the rest of the evening in silence with an occasional "please pass the bread" and "please pass the wine", but the latter was almost exclusively shared between Pearl and Pierce. As the night wore on, and Pearl got more trashed, she started loudly criticizing everything; from Carter's posture to the waiter who was serving us. She made him cry (the waiter, not Carter).
It was unbearably suffocating. This dinner, with its silence and expectations. I partially understood why Carter is the way he is: because of his fucked up family.
"I need some air." I burst out, not able to take it anymore. Carter shot me a questioning look, but I smiled tightly, letting him know I was fine. I wasn't, but whatever.
I stepped onto the veranda which was softly lit with dozens of tiny candles. There was a breeze in the air and it ruffled through my hair, calming the knot that was rapidly developing in my stomach. What the hell was I doing here? This was bigger than Madam DuBois. This involved feelings and that scared me.
"Picturesque, isn't it?"
I closed my eyes as my stomach did a tiny flip flop. When I opened them, Pierce was leaning against the railing of the veranda, a wine flute clutched in his hand but his eyes surprisingly lucid.
"Now I worry about your taste, Sanders." He inched closer. "You didn't tell Carter about the kiss." He sounded normal. What was wrong with him? One moment he hates me; another, he tries to act like the second coming of James Bond. Sheesh.
"No, I didn't." Please don't bring it up.
"Why?" I looked at him. He suddenly was right next to me, the sleeve of his silk shirt, brushing against my bare arm.
"Why didn't you tell him?" He said, slowly. I flushed.
Why didn't I tell him? I really didn't know. But the thought of Carter's eyes, those blue eyes clouded with anger, which I knew would happen if I told him, made me feel weird.
"You flatter yourself, Pierce. It wasn't that memorable, in fact I barely remember. Are you sure it even happened?"
He stared at me carefully, almost clinically. Our proximity did not help except make me more nervous.
He brought his mouth to the shell of my ear.
"I'm sure it happened, CJ. Because I remember the look on your face, afterwards. Eyes closed, lips bruised. God it was…beautiful. It made me wonder though."
I couldn't help it. "What?" I hated the way my voice sounded, raspy almost as if I was on the edge of something, I just couldn't figure out what.
His lips brushed over my cheekbone.
"If that's what you looked like after a mere kiss, what would happen if I were to fuck you?"
My eyes widened.
"I'm his girlfriend." I said softly, reveling in the words, they brought me back to the real world.
Pierce laughed quietly. Only, it wasn't because he found me humorous. It was a pitying laugh, a laugh because he knew he was right.
"And I'm his brother." He replied simply.
"I don't know what kind of sick game you're playing with him, but I'm not a pawn." I said firmly, regaining my senses.
"But that's the thing, Sanders. You're not just a pawn, you're the goddamn queen. Now, what's your move?" He raised his glass, as if to toast me, finishing the liquid in one swig.
I felt sick. Sick and shameful and just…horrible. Pierce felt no remorse about betraying his brother and me! I had almost; well I don't know what I would have done but something that would've hurt Carter, that's for sure.
"You're pathetic." My voice shook as I left him on the veranda. "Carter is a better man and a better brother than you could ever hope to be."
I walked slowly back to the table, but the sight that greeted me there was not a pretty one.
"No. .No! No son of mine! Absolutely not! I forbid it!"
Mr. Stevens was beet red, breathing heavily. Mickey was shaking; his body was almost curled up into a fetal-like position. It didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened. I felt Pierce sidle up beside me, surveying the situation.
"Dad, calm down." Carter placed a hand on his father's arm, but Mr. Stevens' shook it off.
"My son is not a fag. I paid that Crane woman an ungodly amount of money to help you! And this is what she does? Get in the car, Michael; we are finishing this discussion at home."
Mickey grabbed his coat, his head hung. Mr. Stevens paid the check and left the table in a huff, Pearl followed them with a bottle of wine clutched in her hand.
Corrine smiled excitedly. "Well, I think this is so progressive!"
My fingers twitched as I fought the urge to slap this woman across the face.
She looped her arm around Pierce's and guided him out. Carter and I were the only ones remaining. He ran a hand over his face and I realized how tired his eyes were. His voice pulled me out of my thoughts.
"No, you go home and deal with this. I'll…call a cab."
He shook his head, but there was no real force behind it.
"CJ, it's no big—"
"Carter, it's fine." I meant it as reassuring, but the second part of the sentence slipped out before I could stop it. "Just text me later okay? I want to make sure that you, I mean, everything is alright."
He nodded slowly, while I suddenly found the floor fascinating.
"Good night CJ Sanders."
"Good night, King Carter."
He smiled wryly and left, leaving me alone.
I was pacing.
It had been two hours since the disastrous dinner and Carter still hadn't texted me back.
"If you're so worried, maybe you should just stop by his house." Lethe offered from her spot on my bed.
"No! That's so-, no just no." I stammered quickly. She narrowed her eyes at me.
"Why are you so concerned about him? I mean, I've never seen you worked up about a guy like this, CJ." She had a little smirk on her face that I desperately wanted to wipe off.
"I don't know, Lethe." I wanted to tell her about Madam DuBois and this stupid bet and stupid Carter who was so stupidly attractive. But, she wouldn't get it. No one would.
"I'm going out." I muttered, grabbing my shawl. I hadn't changed since the dinner so I just wrapped it around myself.
"Okay, have fun with your boyfriend. And be careful! It looks like it's going to rain soon." She called after me, laughter in her voice.
I stuck my tongue out at her childishly.
It was nearing midnight when I pulled into Carter's driveway. Killing the ignition, I took a deep breath and walked toward the side of the house that his room was on.
I could see light streaming out from the window, which meant that he was still awake. Before I knew it, I was lobbing rocks at the window.
The irony was painful. I was throwing rocks at my fake boyfriend's window like some love struck teenager in those awful rom-coms.
I nearly screamed when I felt someone grasp my shoulder. I whirled around and breathed a sigh of relief. It was only Carter.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"You didn't text me." I was fully aware of how lame and stalkerish that sounded but I was also fully aware of how his t-shirt was clinging to his biceps in a delicious (but totally non-attractive way).
"Yeah well, it's kind of a war zone in the house so I took a walk to clear my head." He guided me to the gardens in his backyard and we took a seat on the bench near the fountains.
"Your dad, he was so mad. What happened?" I played with the edge of my skirt.
"Mickey came out to our parents, that's what. Mom was useless and Dad was…Dad. I had to practically beg him not to throw Mickey out."
"Throw him out? Are you kidding me?" I let out a bunch of colorful expletives.
"Deep breaths, princess."
"I'm sorry. It's just so…ugh." I threw my hands up, hoping that could convey the sentiment that I could not.
"Nathaniel Stevens does not tolerate imperfection." The mechanical way he said it scared me a little, as if the phrase had been drilled into his mind many times.
He shook his head. "Princess-, can we not talk about this now? When I walk through those doors, I'm going to have to face a shitstorm. I just want to enjoy this before I go back in there."
I nodded, suddenly realizing how close we were. I could feel the body heat radiating off him. We talked about everything and nothing, moving from trivial things to more serious topics. Most of the time, I was laughing at him. He was one of the few people that made me laugh.
"Can you believe your mom? Babies, seriously?" I said, jokingly.
He smirked. "I'm more interested in the 'making' aspect of it."
I shoved him, my face on fire. "Perv."
He brought his face close to mine. "You have no idea."
It was like one of those moments where every one of my nerves felt electric. I licked my lips, which were dry all of a sudden, and his eyes zeroed in on them. I've never wanted to kiss anyone but Asher. I thought that he could make me feel something, happy even. But now I realized that the only person standing between me and happy was…me.
"Carter?" My breath ghosted over his lips.
"If you were to kiss me now, I wouldn't totally oppose it."
He chuckled and it sounded pleasant.
And he did. At first it was gentle; gentleness that I didn't know Carter "Panty Dropper" Stevens was capable of. Our lips moving in tandem, his tongue caressing my bottom lip, requesting permission, which I granted. There was something that felt like a slow fire in the pit of my stomach. It wanted more.
My fingers climbed up his neck and into his hair. His hands latched onto my upper thigh, where my skirt had rode up.
He peppered kisses onto my cheeks, my nose and moved onto my neck.
"Carter" I whispered throatily and that seemed to something inside of him on.
He made an almost guttural noise and flung the shawl that was draped on me, aside. His kisses grew more frantic, his fingers making circles on my back. It felt good. Amazing,even.
"Princess, are you crying?"
I snapped out of my daze.
There was something moist running down my cheek.
Fat droplets of rain started falling. It was a spring shower.
I smiled at him. My first genuine smile in a long, long time.
I started laughing.
"What's wrong, princess? Was I really that bad?" He was joking, but I could hear a faint hint of insecurity in his voice.
"No! You were…no, it was good. Great. But seriously? Could this moment get anymore cliché?" I gestured to the falling rain.
He smiled mischievously.
"What?" Now, it was my turn to be insecure.
"My lady, will you do me the honor of being my girlfriend for real?"
I stared blankly at him. But, before I could stop, a huge smile was forming on my face.
I got up from the bench and sauntered over to where he was standing.
"Whatever do you mean, King Carter?"
"No more deals or Madame DuBois bull. Just you and me."
I pretended to think for a minute, tapping my chin.
"Just me, just you? I don't know…"
He groaned. "C'mon, CJ. You drive me crazy."
I threw my arms around him, sending us tumbling into the soft grass below. Maneuvering myself on top, I traced the outline of his face before leaning down to whisper in his ear.
"Why don't you convince me some more?"
There was a gleam in his eye.
And he did.
A/N: This story will not have a happy ending…
Review, my loves!