Welcome to the third and final part of Darren and Bryony's story. No, for real, I promise. Last part. Forever.
Drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain, kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain. 'Cause I see sparks fly, whenever you smile. ~ Taylor Swift
I opened my eyes slowly the next morning, savoring the feeling of waking up in Darren's bed. I was snuggled deep within the satiny sheets, his arm still around my waist, his leg insinuated between mine. I was also well aware of the dull ache between my legs, and when I remembered why I felt that way, I blushed and my whole body began to tingle.
From the open slats in the blinds, the bright sunshine filtered in, and I glanced at the digital clock on his nightstand. It was just past seven in the morning, but I'd never felt more awake.
I felt the scruff on Darren's jaw as he trailed his mouth along the exposed column of my neck. I froze, unaware that he was awake. And then just as suddenly, he flipped me over and rolled on top of me, a smothering and welcome weight. I shrieked when he began tickling my ribs, writhing under him.
He chuckled along with me before releasing pressure on his fingers, stroking up and down my sides until I shivered. "Good morning, Miss Bennett," he said, kissing the tip of my nose.
My heart melted a little, and I felt myself slip a little bit deeper in love with him. It was a complication I pushed to the back of my mind. His eyes were still glazed with sleep, and his hair stuck up in random patterns. I groaned inwardly. My hair must look ten times worse. "Good morning, Mr. McFadden," I replied.
"And how are you feeling?" His tone was still light, but his eyes held a sort of endearing seriousness.
I brushed the back of my hand over his jaw, delighting in the rough texture. "Fabulous," I said, and couldn't stop of the grin from taking control of my mouth.
Darren smiled back at me like it was infectious. "Me too," he murmured, and his hand slid up my body to cup my breast. Strangely, the move wasn't overly sexual. It was endearing, really, and adorably possessive.
I basked in my happiness, stroking a hand through his short hair until I was sure if he was a cat he'd be purring. We stayed like that for long moments that stretched on indefinitely, as if we were the only two people on earth, holding at bay the slew of complications that followed our passionate night.
As if just thinking the words inside my head set off the chain of events, he rolled off of me, scrubbed his hands over his face, and breathed deeply. "Bryony," he groaned, and my name trailed off his lips with the remnants of his sigh.
A weight settled in my stomach, and I kept my eyes trained on the ceiling. "Is this the part where you tell me what a big mistake you made?" I whispered, my words coming out shaky.
He sat up quickly, as if electrocuted. His eyes were wide, and his words were firm. "No. No. Don't ever say that. I could never think that. This wasn't a mistake. It's just…you have the best years of your life ahead of you, Bry. College at Princeton. You'll meet a ton of new guys, make a ton of new friends and choose your path in life. I've already done all of that. I don't want to slow you down."
No. No way was he pulling this shit on me. I sat up just as fast as he had. "Darren, that's the lamest excuse ever and you know it. What's the real reason? Is it me? Because if you don't—if you don't have feelings for me, I—" I broke off, unable to say the horrible thought out loud.
"That's not it," he said quickly. He reached out a hand, cupping the side of my face. "Jesus, Bryony, I…damn. I did this all wrong. This is so messed up," he muttered, more to himself than me.
Hot, embarrassed tears sprung to my eyes, and I flung his hand away from my face. His features morphed until he looked shocked, shocked and hurt. Well, that made two of us.
Without looking at him, I slipped out of the bed and stumbled around until I found my shorts, and yanked them back on. Heedless of my audience, I stripped out of his shirt with a disgusted sob and quickly assembled my bra and shirt. Once I was done with that, I tied my gravity-defying hair back into a ponytail. I turned to face him, and when I saw him sitting there still as stone, strongly resembling a Greek god in his half-nakedness, the tears finally spilled over, coming with such a force that they dropped onto the front of my shirt.
"You're not even gonna try and stop me?" I whispered pathetically.
"We can't do this," he said impassively. "It's better this way."
I took a deep, shaky breath. I promised myself I'd never let him hurt me again, but as he said the words, my heart fractured. However, my tears stopped, and I was able to stare at him down my nose in disdain. "Darren McFadden, I want you to know that I think you're the sorriest excuse for a man I've ever met."
With that, I marched into the living room and swiped my keys, wallet, and cell from the counter and slammed the door to the apartment, slammed the door on last night, slammed the door on the love of my life.
The next seven days felt like the next seven months. Life became this unbearable thing that no longer seemed worth living. My world became reduced to the four walls of my bedroom and re-runs of Grey's Anatomy and Days of Our Lives. However, I found myself throwing things at the screen whenever two characters declared their love for each other or even looked remotely happy.
In short, I'd become a sloppy, dramatic mess and considered taking at least a shower once a day a herculean effort. Molly and Hope tried to literally drag me out of my slump by forcibly escorting me to the mall and the movies to boy shop, but had recently been inviting me out less and less when I didn't respond to their efforts.
On my eighth Darren-less day, Matt finally picked up on the fact that I wasn't acting my usual self. I suspected that he actually didn't pick up on anything at all, but at Sami's repeated insistence he finally went to talk to me.
It was twelve o' clock noon, and the blinds in my room were shut tight to prevent any evil sunlight from filtering through. On this rare occasion, the TV was off, and I was still in bed with the covers thrown over my head. My iPod headphones were plugged into my ears, Taylor Swift twanging away about teardrops on her guitar.
"Go away!" I shouted, nearly flinching at the tell-tale creak of my door opening.
And the next thing I knew, bright light was streaming into my room and I was flipped off the bed. I landed with an indignant screech on the carpet, my mattress pressing down on me.
"I'm staging an intervention," Matt announced, lifting the mattress off of me and setting it back in the frame. "I think it's extremely rude that I and your soon-to-be sister-in-law are leaving in next weekend and you haven't come out of your goddamn room in over a week."
I sat on the window seat and looked away from him, cranking up the music on my iPod. That's why I didn't hear when he came up and yanked the buds out of my ears.
I growled in frustration. "Look, you don't have to do the whole big brother thing!" I snapped. "I know you don't like to. I just haven't been in a good mood lately. I'm just—"
Matt had the audacity to hold his index finger up in my face, leveled with my nose. "You can't blame this on freaky time of the month girl shit. I'm not a dumb sixteen-year-old boy anymore, and I know periods don't last that long! But you know what I'm finding funny?"
I stared at him warily. "What?"
"Darren's pretty much been acting the same way are, for as long as you have. You know what else I find hilarious?" he asked, in a tone that suggested he didn't find it hilarious at all.
I swallowed. "I don't—"
He continued over me, pacing around my room. "Apparently the night of our parents' barbeque, Celia and Darren had a fight. Celia told Sami, who told me, that you and Darren apparently have some history." He spat out the last word as if it had a sour taste.
I was pretty sure that I had lost what little color I already had. But you know what? I was an adult now, and the past was the past. "We did," I said. "But you know what—?"
He lost it.
"No, Bryony, you know what? That is all kinds of fucked up right there, between the both of you! I can't—I can't even reiterate to you how absolutely disgusted I am with my little sister and my best friend. This has been going on for two years, huh? You were a fucking child when you were spreading your legs for him?"
The words hit me like bullets, and I saw red. "No, Matthew, that's where you need to shut the fuck up. First of all, it's none of your damn business."
"The hell it—"
"Second of all, it was never like that. Never. At least, not for me."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I love him!"
As soon as I said the words, no, screamed them, both of our mouths fell open, shock and horror mirroring each other. I turned away from him and made a fist, pressing it against my mouth to prevent the sob working its way up my throat from being heard.
"Bry," Matt said gently, his voice losing all drive. "Are—are you serious?"
I laughed humorlessly. "Yes." What was the point in denying anything now?
"Does anyone else know?" he asked.
I turned to look at him. "Hope and Molly," I said in a small voice. "But you can't be surprised. I told them about the time when you wet the bed on your first morning at University of Illinois."
Matt's expression was one of outrage. "Oh, my god, you did not—stop trying to change the subject!" He was back to pacing, and abruptly, he pivoted and left my room.
I furrowed my brow and followed him down the stairs and into the kitchen, where Sami was calmly eating an egg-salad sandwich at the table, though I was one-hundred percent sure she'd heard every word of my and Matt's shouting match. My feeling of panic grew when my brother swiped his car keys off the counter and headed toward the front room.
"Matt. Matt!" I called, following him. "Where are you going?"
His mouth twisted into a sardonic smile. "I'm going to visit my best friend," he replied, and slammed the door behind him.
My mouth fell open and I turned, nearly bulldozing into Sami, who had walked in without me hearing. "Sami!" I yelled in her face, shaking her shoulders. "You're his fiancée! Do something!"
She arched an ash-colored brow. "What do you propose I do?"
"You have to stop Matt from killing Darren! It isn't worth jail time!"
She took my hand off of her shoulder and patted it. "Bry, honey, I'll tell you something about men right now. It will save you a lot of trouble in the future. They're stupid. They don't have the sense us women do. They'll never sit down over coffee and talk anything out; they have to use their fists. Matt will not kill Darren. Darren is a big boy. You had to know Matt would find out about you and Darren someday, and you must let life run its course."
She remained expressionless the whole time, and I resisted the urge to deck her in the face. "But what do I do?"
"There's nothing you can do at the moment. In other news, I just bought that adorable movie with Gerard Butler in it. Care to join me?"
I groaned, but followed her anyway. Because any girl would be a fool to pass up a movie that starred Gerard Butler.
It had been a hellish week, complete with a five hundred pound fifteen year old girl who had thrown up on his scrubs when she had tasted her first ever serving of Brussels sprouts. Every night he went to bed, Darren could swear he had smelled Bryony's scent lingering in the pillow next to him, and it never failed to make him rock hard. Of course, he had tried to solve that problem on his own, but it didn't even begin the measure up.
He'd been given the weekend off, including Monday, and he hadn't shaved in over three days. He popped the cap off of a second bottle of Miller Lite and settled down at his kitchen counter, alone and bored. He was still in his pajamas, and it was almost two o' clock. The weather had grown progressively worse in two short hours, and the sky outside was heavy and gray, matching his mood.
Fifteen minutes of nursing his beer later, there was a knock on his door. Furrowing his brow, Darren set his bottle down and made his way over to the door, checking out the peephole. Once he saw who it was, he immediately swung it open.
"Bro, I don't think I can really go out tonight—fuck!"
Stars burst in front of his eyes, and his head snapped back, his nose taking the full blow of his best friend's fist. He stumbled back a couple of steps and Matt took that as an invitation to come in. He clutched his nose, trying futile attempts to stem the blood, which splattered onto the front of his white t-shirt.
"What the fuck is your problem, Bennett?" he bellowed, taking in Matt's enraged expression.
Instead of answering, Matt proceeded to shove him against the bookcase, hard. Volumes tumbled down around them, and the case wobbled precariously. Pain radiated from his shoulder blades and all down his back, and he let out a growl. Thoroughly pissed now, Darren geared up and sent a hard punch to Matt's abdomen, centering the blow on his solar plexus.
Just as he suspected Matt would, his friend keeled over and gasped for breath, emitting garbled swear words here and there.
Once Darren was what he deemed a safe distance away as Matt staggered to a standing position, he asked, "Now are you going to tell me what the hell that was about?"
"Yeah, man. I'll fuckin' tell you. As soon as you let me know when you were gonna tell me that you literally screwed over my baby sister?"
He could honest-to-God feel the blood drain from his face, what little hadn't already drained from his nose. "How—what—?"
"You gonna deny it?" Matt asked, taking a threatening step towards him.
Darren hastily took a step backwards, but his voice remained firm and clear. "I would never deny it. Matt, you gotta believe me. I never meant to hurt Bry, I swear to God."
"Well you did, asshole," he spat. "She barely comes out of her room. And when she does, it's when my mom forces her, and her eyes are so red from crying that it looks like she's smoking twenty fuckin' joints a day. So yeah, you proud of yourself? You got to tap forbidden goods, huh?"
This time when he swung, Darren ducked. Matt's moment of confusion was all he needed, and he took the time to shout out his confession.
"This is why I didn't fucking want anyone to know, because I knew how it would turn out! I knew Bry would take a huge hit of your temper, and it was never her fault, ever. I never meant to fall in love with your sister, but it's done. You don't have to worry though. I'm pretty sure she hates me and never wants to see me again. If I could, I would make everything better and she would be mine. Trust me, Matt, I say this as your best friend. No guy will ever care about Bry as much as I do. I want to marry her."
Matt glared. "She's young. She still has college and a whole life ahead of her."
"I told her that."
"Are you stupid?"
"I know. That's why I'm going to say this in simple words. She does still have college and a whole life ahead of her, but she wants to spend it with you, get it? She's head over heels in love with you, and you broke her heart. That's why I had to break your face."
Darren barely registered the last part of Matt's speech, because his heart soared high into his throat with joy, momentarily stunting his pain. She loved him. "Can I see her?"
"Oh, now he's asking for permission," Matt said threw up his hands, his eyes rolled up to the ceiling.
He flushed. "I'll make it up to her, I swear. I'll fix everything."
"Yeah, you fuckin' better, bro. But maybe you should shower and shave first. I'm pretty sure my sister's not into the bloody caveman look."
"Yeah, sure. You want an ice pack for your stomach?"
"Nah, it didn't hurt that bad," Matt wheezed with an airy wave of his hand.
Darren arched a brow.
Matt sighed. "Sure. But only if you still have those ones shaped like turtles."
Like I had supersonic hearing or something, the sound of tires crunching over gravel tore my gaze away from a shirtless Gerard Butler. Out the window, I saw Matt's car pull up into the driveway, and Sami and I flew off the couch and ran for the front door, momentarily grappling for the handle.
Drops of rain splattered from the sky here and there as Matt and—my heart dropped to my feet—Darren stepped out of the car. We both gasped as we took them in. Matt walked with a visible limp, grunting each time he took a breath, as if it hurt him. Dressed in jeans and a gray t-shirt, Darren looked handsome as ever—the only thing that put me off a bit was the bandage across his nose and the purplish-black bruises across his cheekbones and under his eyes.
"You are ridiculous," Sami hissed as she and Matt walked into the house, leaving me and Darren out on the porch.
In a particularly bitchy move, I walked until I stood on the front step, and Darren stopped in front of me, leaving me under the awning and him out in the rain. Random drops soaked into his t-shirt, leaving darker gray splotches. "Don't worry about the rain," I said. "You won't be staying long. What happened to your face?"
"Matt punched me," he said.
Being a step up left me level with him so that I could stare into his beautiful eyes without craning my neck. "Did it hurt?" I asked, trying to let my feelings of automatic shock and need to comfort him take over.
"No, I was just going to ask him to do it again."
I glared at him, and he raised his hands in surrender.
"Sorry, not a joke time, I get it."
I rolled my eyes. "Why are you here? What do you want from me? I honestly don't think I have anything more to give you."
The look of desolation in his eyes was so intense that I almost took a step back. "I just want you to listen, Bry. That's it."
I bit my lower lip, and we both ignored the rain, which was coming down harder. His t-shirt was almost thoroughly soaked now, and his hair was matted to his forehead.
"You have two minutes," I replied tersely, and folded my arms across my chest.
He took a deep breath. "Ever since that night two years ago, I can't get you out of my head. You're the last thing I think about before I fall asleep, and the first thing I think about when I wake up. I shouldn't have these—these feelings for you. Fuck's sake, you're my best friend's little sister. But the thing is, you're not so little anymore, and you're beautiful, and you're smart, and you're so honest with your emotions and you've got this drive I don't think anyone else I know has."
I thought it was pretty nice of him to use the b-word when I was standing out here with him in an oversized Princeton sweatshirt, flip flops, my hair in a sloppy ponytail and no make-up. He took my speechless silence as a sign to continue.
"You let out this amazing smile when you relax and when you're with your friends or family, and it almost brings me to my fucking knees every time I see it. I love the way you taste, and I love the way you smell, and I love the feel of your body under mine. Bryony, I can't even put in to words how much you mean to me, how much I love you. If—if you feel the same way, tell me now. If not, I'll go, and you'll never have to see me again. I promise."
By the end, the tears in my eyes had welled over and I was crying buckets, my face a wet, snotty mess. "No. No, don't go. Don't ever leave me again," I said, stepping out into the rain and wrapping my arms around his waist, laying my head against his chest.
His arms came around me, and I didn't mind the wet so much anymore, because he was warm and smelled like aftershave and cinnamon and something that was just my wonderful, thoughtful, amazingly gorgeous Darren.
"Darren?" I asked in a small voice.
"Bryony," he said, pulling back and desperately searching my face.
"Can you just kiss me now?"
And he did.
Ahhhh! Finally I'm done! 20 pages on Word and over 17,000 words. This is what happens when I try to write a fluffy, uncomplicated story. -_-
So what are you thinking? Review! (;