Chapter Ten

"Kicked Under a Rug"

I tucked my hands into my coat staring at him. He was almost motionless, like he'd been swapped out for a figure with his likeness from Madame Tussauds. The wind swirled passed him carrying pieces of light snow. The wind not surprisingly was completely unfazed by my question and it only stressed how long Blake had been standing their saying nothing because my cheeks were freezing.

I wasn't expecting myself to overtly challenge him but I still felt blindsided by his silence. These last few months I'd been so content to just pussyfoot around the subject and pretend that what had happened in our past, and how I had felt before weren't relevant anymore. I was so proud of myself for being 'over' him and through with that stupid crush.

It was almost funny that I could have thought that.

What had possessed me to ask him what he wanted from me? Before I'd said it I felt so brazen and strong. But the moment my question was out I felt small again, like that little kid darting around wildly trying to catch the crumbs of affection or the slightest indication that he might 'care'. I furled my scarf up higher around my neck and shivered.

I was such an idiot. There was no 'right' answer. Anything he could possibly say would just bring pain. If he said he wanted something, I wasn't in a place to give him anything and if he said the opposite. Well, that one caused my jaw to clench. Some latent and obviously vain part of me still wanted him to want me. The thought gripped me and caused me to wince.

I hated this.

Half of me just wished he would have shrugged off a cop out 'I don't know'- his silence was unnerving.

"I should go," I offered, taking my hand out of my pockets once more.

"No! You don't get to drop the bomb and leave Lia," he said quickly sounding slightly exasperated. He had no right to be exasperated at me, that much I knew for sure.

"It speaks!" I snapped out with more venom than he deserved, I was angry at myself and he was definitely getting some fall out.

"It's not that simple Lia," he told me quickly as if reading my mind. "You know it's not! I don't just get to say what I want. It just doesn't work that way, it never has."

I started to interject, to argue—to say that he could say whatever he wanted to say.

He cut me off.

"There are rules, there always have been," he stated.

"So this is about Andrew?" I acknowledged. It wasn't going to be the elephant in the room that nobody acknowledged. I was in a relationship—that much was one hundred percent clear. It still didn't affect the question of what Blake wanted from me, it only affected what I was able to give him.

"Lia, there have been rules long before Andrew," he offered in a slightly frustrated 'come on, get with it' tone.

"Okay," I offered not really understanding the 'there have always been rules' train of thought. What rules? When? Part of me wasn't ready to ask.

"I should go," I repeated my words from earlier, my finger were frozen around my car keys. He made no move to stop me. I couldn't even tell if he was disappointed with my cowardliness or relieved that the conversation was over.

I turned and took quick steps toward where I had parked but before I had unlocked my car door he was next to me again.

"I decided that I'm actually really tried of not saying anything. I'm not looking to mess anything up for you. And although you've deemed this conversation over with your mad dash away from the topic, I know I'll be kicking myself if I leave this unfinished. I'm going to be really selfish for once and I'm going to be honest with you," he told me.

"I realized just now that I'm not in a place where I care anymore about what Julian thinks," he started in shaking his head. "Julian and I, we used to be the best of friends. And it's crazy thinking about it now— about how much his opinion mattered to me back then. I guess that's part of growing up— what other people think start to matter a whole lot less! I'm actually sorry that it's taken me so long to get to this place but we all 'arrive' at different times. If I could have done it all over again I'd have disregarded the ultimate Bro Rule of not dating the sister. That's so petty it's not even funny, and the irony of it all was the whole time I thought I was doing the right thing—the honorable thing" he laughed slightly, almost in mocking jest at his former self.

I was my turn to be a great impression of a wax figure. My brain was turning it all over, stumbling over it all really, not really able to believe what he was saying or investigate it further.

"I'm not looking to jeopardize anything. I've learn my lesson though, when you lay back and wait, when you get wrapped up on what other people think and let pride get in the way, well, life passes you by. It's that simple. And honestly if or when things work out for you and Andrew, if you end up happily-ever-after with Andrew, well that not only proves it but I swear I'll be happy for you because out of anybody I've ever known you deserve everything—pools borrowed or otherwise, everything," he trailed off before grinning at me, "So when you ask me what I want from you, I guess I just want you to be happy—whatever that looks like," he told me, he smiled—like he actually meant it and then he walked away.

I was stunned. I had nothing to say, I opened my mouth twice to call after him but literally closed my mouth each time, speechless.

The words I didn't have for him all came flooding to my mind in the night. Things I could have said, questions I should have asked. I should have been cynical. I should have asked him how long he'd allegedly felt something before. I actually felt angry at him for telling me now. Like why bother? What good was it, what was the motivation—was it guilty confessions from your childhood day? I was ticked and I restlessly shifted beneath my sheets that suddenly felt so stiff and confining.

I couldn't sleep. I pulled my laptop out and looked into zoning like I told him I would. Might as well boar into work and get his impending house purchase off my desk and him off my mind along with it.

Then the morning of the next day I was aware of the fact that he must have lied to me straight-faced, that weekend in Niantic—he had to have. I kissed him and he told me he didn't feel the same. I was livid. I swore I'd make him pay.

I wished I could have just been angry at him and then moved on with life normally. I apparently couldn't.

He bought the house right after the zoning issues were cleared. I sent papers between him and lawyers and then back to the seller's agency. It was done really fast and that ended our business arrangement.

I didn't have to even see him now if I didn't want to. He was back in New York; he would be for sure until March. I had plenty of time to fume and be annoyed between now and the next time we crossed paths but it seemed to be less attractive when he wasn't even around to see it.

I felt like it would be a stupid thing to waste all by pent up anger by simply being petulant behind the scenes. What good was being mad if Blake didn't see the evidence of how angry I was?

The worst part was I didn't even really know what to do with myself. I felt this emotion but I didn't have an outlet and I was left feeling wound-up like a spin-top that wasn't being allowed to spin-free.

It had been over two weeks since the situation I had aptly titled 'the day of doom' and I was mostly successful in not thinking about it. This was changed by a call from a lady who worked closely with Blake. What she forced me into was the cherry on top of the frigid Sunday of anger I was concocting—the saying revenge being best served cold always made me think of desserts for some reason. Which obviously equated to Sunday imagery in my head.

Her name was Stella Rodgers and she was a liaison that organized interviews for RK Media. Apparently Blake was offering me an interview in the first RK release for their re-launch.

"He wants to capture Hartford business, show the softer side of the business sector," she explained.

I considered how to explain my lack of desire to participate.

"We've actually done all our advertising for this quarter," I explained, it wasn't untrue but mainly I was just looking for an out.

"Oh, don't worry about that! It's completely free, Mr. Kenwright explained you are an old family friend, it will be excellent publicity for your agency— at least think about it." She offered and I bit my lip. "We have some amazing ladies lined up; we are willing to work with your ideas too! Honestly, if you wanted to be on the cover with Leona and Hallie Stanton it would probably be doable," she offered with a light laugh.

Yes, because I wanted to be on the cover with the twin daughters of one of the richest families in Hartford. Their great-grandfather had been a steel magnate and they had been filthy rich ever since. As if that wouldn't be the oddest front covers ever.

"I appreciate your interest. I really do, but honestly I think there are better candidates for this interview, really I'm just a mid-level real estate agent." I told her, hoping that she'd see my point and sympathetically say 'okay, you are so right! let's not do this thing at all, ever.'

"I think you'd be great! It could be a spread on real estate and we could center it on you finding our editor and chief his new home. People enjoy those sorts of pieces—It'll humanize Mr. Kenwright and I can't stress enough how great the publicity will be for your agency," she reiterated.

"Fine, I'll do it" I bit out, wishing I'd curbed the animosity a little after the words left my mouth. She wasn't the problem. Blake was my problem and lashing out at one of his employees wasn't going to get me anywhere.

"Excellent!" I could hear her smile through the phone. "Would it work better for your schedule if—"

The conversation ended with flushing out the details for our meeting.