Brianna O'Reilly slumped against the door to her apartment, thoroughly soaked from the spring shower she involuntarily just took and the lousy day she had. So much for the sunny weather that had been called for this evening, she thought. She took off her soaked jacket and lethal high heels before heading to the shower that beckoned to her. Seeing the flashing red light on her answering machine, she hit the button as she stopped to peel her blouse and pencil skirt from her body, tossing them on the hardwood floor before bracing herself against the hallway table so she could remove her pantyhose without hobbling around the apartment. Graceful was not her middle name.
Listening to the messages as she walked, her best friend Raelynn's voice floated through the apartment as she told Brianna about the hot coffee guy she was in love with. Next was Roxanne apologizing to her again and the next three messages were telemarketers.
Walking through her bedroom in only her white bra and panties, Brianna didn't notice the ivory envelope until she was halfway across the room. She recognized the flourished handwriting on it and knew it was from her sister, Emma. Wondering why the envelope wasn't in her mailbox in the lobby, she flipped it over and found her answer scrawled across the back:
Found this in my mailbox today, guess you haven't told Emma that you moved? Don't you think that you should at least tell her about your "issue "? I thought I would bring it over for ya since you've been slaving away!
P.S. I still have the spare key.
Brianna shook her head at her friend's bluntness and smiled. Raelynn was the only one who knew what was going on and had helped her weather the storm. Sure, she had thought about telling Emma her "issue" as Raelynn had so eloquently put it but she could never bring herself to do it. She didn't want to worry Emma over something that she couldn't control especially since she was already stressed out from planning her wedding to Hawk. Thinking about the wedding, Brianna remembered when Emma had called her at work one afternoon and told her what she wanted.
Brianna knew that when Emma told her that she wanted a simple and small wedding and that she would be the one and only bridesmaid, it meant that she would be seeing Rory Mackenzie for the first time in three years. She thought about the last time they had seen each other. It was three years ago at her parents cookout that they threw to mark the end of summer. After enjoying a beautiful and breezy day outside with the people she loved, she had managed to steer clear from her boyfriend.
She had escaped into her bedroom, trying to get away from the prying hands of her boyfriend after he had finally found her hiding behind the huge oak tree in the backyard. She slipped away while his brother distracted him, mouthing a quick thank you to him as she quietly ran towards the house. Her relief however didn't last long as the door flew open on its hinges, slamming into the wall as her boyfriend came stumbling in, sloshing his scotch over his dress pants and floor.
"There you are my love! You won't believe how long I've been looking for you", he said stumbling further into the room. Brianna looked for a way to escape, not wanting any part of what was to happen next if she was reading his body right. Which she was and she did not want to have sex right now….or ever for that matter. Her eyes darted to the adjoining bathroom but remembered that it no longer connected to her sister's bedroom. Damn. Think, think, think! she chanted in her head. Her only way out was the door, which was now being blocked by her boyfriends huge body. He seemed to have come to the same conclusion because he smirked.
Dread filled the pit of her stomach. In his eyes, she saw that one way or another, Quinn was going to get what he wanted. She mentally kicked herself in the ass for not accepting Rory's invitation to go walking with him. Instead of saying yes, she had seen Quinn looking for her again and had made some excuse before darting away. But not darting away fast enough because she had seen the hurt look flit across his face before being replaced by the stoic expression he was known for.
While she would have preferred to be with Rory, she needed to avoid Quinn at all costs. So much for that plan working she thought as she blew some wayward strands of curly brown hair out of her face. She would give anything to have Rory here with her. Well, she thought, I'm going to have to deal with this on my own. She crossed her arms in front of her and glared at Quinn. He took a step closer and placed his scotch on her dresser, spilling some more liquid on the lace runner. "Please leave Quinn." Despite her firm stance, her voice betrayed her fear when the words quivered out of her mouth.
"You have nothing to worry about Bree-anna." he slurred, sounding out her name. He started to unbutton his shirt when she repeated more forcibly, "Please leave Quinn." He stopped and came over to her, crushing her against the wall while the smell of alcohol filled her nostrils. He looked down at her, as if seeing her for the first time. She watched as confusion and anger crossed his face before understanding settled in.
"We've been dating for six months. Is there something or someone I should know about?"
When Brianna didn't answer him, he exclaimed, "I knew it! You're in love with him aren't you?" His words were laced with anger as he pointed his finger at her face. His lips curled in anger and his skin flushed red.
"Quinn, you're drunk, now leave." Brianna didn't want to think about the truthiness to his words. In fact, she was secretly in love with Rory, not that she would ever tell anyone let alone her boyfriend. She tried to push past him only for him to step forward, effectively blocking her once more between the wall and his body. He put his hands on either side of her head before leaning down to kiss her. "Quinn, I said no!" She struggled to push his head away, which made him more persistent. Deciding that a kiss could wait, he moved on, fully intent on getting what he had long waited for. As his hands moved from the wall and started to roam their way up her body, she caught a glimpse of a figure standing in the doorway.
She didn't have time to call out for help. In an instant, her boyfriend was ripped off of her and thrown into the wall beside her, landing in a crumpled heap. When Brianna was able to tear her eyes off of Quinn, she found herself looking straight at his brother. Rory's body shook and his hands were clenched at his sides. His breathing was ragged as the adrenaline ran through his veins. For a moment, neither said a word, just stared at each other. She saw his concern and anger…and something else. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Before she could say anything, Quinn groaned from the floor. Breaking eye contact first, Rory grabbed Brianna's hand and led her to Emma's room next door, turning once to lock Brianna's bedroom door behind them. Putting Brianna inside Emma's room, Rory ran down the stairs and got her sister. Once Brianna was in Emma's arms, she cried and told what had happened. Rory left them alone, quietly shutting the door. The entire night, he had slept outside Emma's room. Brianna knew this because when she opened the door to go down to the kitchen, she had to awkwardly catch a half asleep Rory. As soon as she touched him, he jolted awake.
"What's wrong?" he said fully alert, looking around him. She caught a glimpse of his tribal tattoo that ran the length of his arm before he unrolled the sleeve on his dress shirt down.
"Nothing, just need some coffee. Did you stay out here the whole night?" She couldn't believe that he had done that. And she was grateful that he had. During the night, she had heard Quinn moving around in her bedroom and didn't want to face him again. She thanked God a thousand times that her father hadn't listened to her and Emma's pleas when he had decided to remodel their bathroom.
"Yes, I did. I need some coffee too. Mind if I join you?" He turned and started for the stairs, stopping to look over his shoulder to make sure she was coming. Without answering, she followed him, not noticing that her bedroom door was slightly open.
She shook her head as the memory faded. God, Brianna thought as she put down the envelope deciding that it could wait, these next two weeks will be hell. Seeing Rory in the flesh would be pure torture, wanting a man she couldn't have sucked especially when every woman there would be vying for his attention.
She turned on the TV, not caring what was on just something that would make her feel less alone and flung her bra and panties into the hamper by her dresser. She entered the bathroom, flipping on the light as she went and headed straight into the shower, closing the curtain behind her. As hot water poured over her, Brianna lost herself in the wonderful scents of roses and almonds. She turned her back to the water and let it work out the knots caused by a stressful day.
Her boss wanted her to edit two manuscripts that were 250,000 words…each. That was on top of her current manuscript that was 300,000 words. Being a book editor was a job Brianna loved and looked forward to reading new material from established writers as well as those just beginning. Lately though, her boss had been piling on more work when Brianna had become Roxanne's first choice in replacing her as Senior Editor at Literary Ink. At 28 years old, Brianna was on the fast track to becoming the company's youngest Senior Editor and it was something she wanted more than life itself.
The next day, she was greeted by two massive manuscripts placed haphazardly on her desk. On top was a note from Roxanne:
Hope you don't mind editing these manuscripts for me. Have these completed by the end of the week, and the job is yours.
Brianna had slaved away, preparing the romance manuscripts for publication in four days. She finally finished this afternoon only to find out that the job had been giving to someone else. Roxanne had come to her desk, apologizing to her but the bitter taste of disappointment wouldn't leave Brianna's mouth. The other presiding senior editor had made the choice without letting her former boss know of his decision despite the fact that she didn't officially resign until midnight.
She knew that the reason why she had been denied the position was due to her repeatedly saying no to David's advances. Even when he hinted that Roxanne's job would be available a month ago, she had still refused him. When she got the job of Senior Editor, it would because of her hard work, not by her sleeping to get to the top.
Thank God tomorrow is Saturday, she thought. Turning off the shower, she grouped around the wall till she found her towel. Wrapping it around herself, she stepped out of the shower. "Ow!" she yelled in surprise while hopping on one foot. She looked down to see what had caused her pain. There glinting at her was a safety pin. She bent down and picked it up, placing it on the sink counter. She had forgotten to pick it up this morning when she removed the dry cleaning tag on her blouse.
Coming out of the bathroom wrapped in her soft purple towel, she went to the dresser and picked up the ominous envelope. Mine as well open it, she thought. Tearing the envelope down the side, Brianna shook out a folded piece of paper, letting it drop into her hand. Emma didn't believe in calling people unless she absolutely had to, so it didn't surprise her that her sister wrote about last minute wedding details. What did surprise her was the last sentence that she read over again. Reading it for the second time, she picked up the envelope again, not seeing what the letter promised to be inside.
As she placed the letter on the dresser, and turned to leave, something caught her eye. There on the floor tucked under dresser with only a corner sticking out, looked to be a plane ticket. "What is this?" Brianna wondered out loud. Picking it up, she seen that it was a plane ticket to Montebello, Virginia and that the plane left in two hours!
"What?! Emma!" she surged forward and rammed her shoulder on the inside of her bedroom door before falling into the living room. She raced to the hallway table, picking up the phone and punched in Emma's number.
On the second ring, Emma picked up. "Hello, this Emma speaking."
"Emma!" Brianna couldn't get any more out, she was out of breath. I need to work more, she told herself as she rubbed her bruised shoulder. She wanted to know why Emma had moved up the date that she was supposed to leave but also happy to be talking to her sister after the day she had.
"Hey Bri, I trust that you finally read the letter? Before you start interrogating me, I left you a message and I emailed you three days ago telling you about the changes."
"I know you did, I meant to read it but I've just been swamped at work and your message must have played when I was in the shower. So, what happened? Did the wedding date get moved up? You're not pregnant, are you?!"
"No, Brianna I'm not pregnant!" Emma replied laughing, Brianna sounded so hopeful. Sometimes Emma thought that her sister wanted her to get pregnant more than her soon to be husband did. "I moved the departure dates up so everyone would be able to come for the full two weeks before the wedding."
"Oh. I see. Who wouldn't have made it?" She couldn't help it but she was secretly hoping to be an aunt soon. She took the phone into the living room and flopped down on the couch. Emma caught the disappointment in Brianna's voice and before she could stop herself, she sighed softly and answered her sister's question. "Rory wouldn't have been able to make it if I hadn't moved the dates around. His leave time changed again but he assured me that everything's settled now."
"When does he get there?" Just the sound of his name made her heart jump. Suddenly, the room felt too hot, so she opened up some windows letting in the cool summer rain. Walking to her bedroom, she started throwing clothes into a suitcase she kept by her closet.
"He's already here. He arrived a few minutes ago. But I need tell you something." Emma said hesitantly.
The tone of her voice made Brianna stop packing and had her heart racing again, this time of anxiety. Did Rory bring someone with him? That shouldn't bother her but it did. Or was it worse? "What?"
"Quinn's here also. Rory didn't know that Quinn had seen the invitation and had booked a flight here. Don't worry though, he's not staying here. I told him that we didn't have any room, so he's staying in a hotel in the next town over."
She had been right, it was worse. Much worse. Just knowing that Quinn would be near made her uneasy. She wrapped her arms around herself and curled up into a ball on the bed.
"Brianna? You there?"
She tried to tell her yes but she couldn't. Her last encounter with Quinn had been less than favorable. After his drunken attempt to sleep with her, she had broken up with him only to have to deal with him stalking her for six months. No one in her family knew about it.
"Brianna!" Emma sounded worried and Brianna heard a male voice in the background asking who was on the phone.
"Em, calm down, I'm here. I spaced out, sorry." She buried her face into the soft pillow and willed the awful memories away.
"She's fine, Rory she's fine! Go unpack, dinner will be ready soon." Brianna could hear Rory asking her sister questions but didn't pay attention until she heard something about him flying down to Savannah to get her.
Great, Brianna thought, Rory was worried about her now. Lifting her head from the bed, she brushed back her unruly mass of dark chestnut curls before reassuring Emma. "I really am fine, just tired that's all." Looking at her alarm clock, Brianna seen that she had to be at the airport in 30 minutes. "Hey, I gotta go. I need to be at the airport in half an hour." She jumped off the bed and ran into the bathroom gathering her toiletries. Throwing the bag into her suitcase, she tossed in some clothes and another pair of heels before zipping the bag.
"Oh! Well, I'll see you when you get here! Bye Bri!" With the dial tone ringing in her ears, Brianna tossed the phone on her bed and hurriedly got dressed. Thank God she did laundry last night or she would be SOL. Grabbing the rolling suitcase, she switched off the lights in her apartment, stuffed the plane ticket into her purse while jingling it to make sure her keys were in there and locked the door pulling it shut behind her.
It was after she was halfway down the hallway that she remembered her windows were open and her feet were bare. Shaking her head, she ran back and jammed the keys into the lock. Running to the wall of windows, she hastily shut them and located her flats under the coffee table. Satisfied that she had everything packed and wasn't forgetting anything, she shut and locked the door after she had turned on the alarm.
Making her way to the elevator, she thought about Montebello and her family. It had been way too long since she had been to her family's yearly summer cookout. As the doors shut, memories of Montebello flitted through her mind causing her to smile and relax against the cool metal. She was definitely looking forward to going home again.