Climbing the stairs up to the brownstone, I rang the doorbell and waited for someone to open the door. It took a moment before the door was opened by the housekeeper. She smiled when she saw me.

"Good morning, Miss Rhys. Come on in," Marina said. I returned her smile and stepped through the open doorway.

"Is Ruth here? I didn't call before dropping by this morning," I said. Marina closed the door behind us, enshrouding us in the shadows of the parlor. The curtains were all drawn with the barest of lights coming from around the corners.

"Dr. Andrews just woke up. She should be down in a minute. Would you like some coffee?"

"We'll have tea, Marina," a smoke-roughened voice said from the stairs. "Let's not make my goddaughter any more of a caffeine addict than she already is."

"I'm not an addict," I said, slightly affronted. Marina walked down the hallway to the kitchen and I walked further into the house. Ruthie came down the stairs, still in her cotton nightgown and robe, her short blonde hair a mess.

"You've inherited your father's addictive personality," Ruth said.

"Says the woman who's one cigarette away from dropping dead," I replied.

She waved her hand dismissively. "It's too late for me now."

She pulled me into a hug and I breathed in her cigarette smoke and lily-of-the-valley scent. It brought back memories of long summer days spent in her company while we waited for my father to sober up. Ruth has been a rock my whole life. Without her, I couldn't fathom what would have become of my father or me.

"Now, why don't you tell me what's bothering you?" She asked, pulling away from me.

"Why do you think something is bothering me? Can't I just drop by to see my godmother?"

"You can. You don't, usually," she said. I winced, even though her words were not meant to make me feel guilty. I'd tried doing random check-ins on her but she said I was making her feel old. She assured me that I would never come to her house to find her dead in her bathtub. I'd stopped the check-ins.

A kettle whistled in the kitchen and Ruth directed me towards the noise. We made our way to the kitchen where Marina was putting the kettle of boiling water on a potholder at the table. Two cups were already there and we sat down.

Ruth poured water into my cup and steam rose up from it, bringing with it the scent of citrus and chamomile. Marina put down plates in front of us and a serving tray of fresh, hot from the oven cinnabuns. The scent of cinnamon and sugar made me groan.

"Are you trying to make me fat again?"

"You weren't fat. You were slightly overweight and you've done a wonderful job of losing all that extra baggage."

I'd lost it and kept it off for a decade and I had no desire to go back. Emotional eating was always an issue. I was dealing with complicated feelings and I knew that giving in to my desire to feed that monster was a slippery slope. Not to mention I ate a stack of pancakes for dinner last night.

"I already had breakfast," I said.

"What did you eat?" Ruth inquired, like she didn't believe me.

"Egg white omelet with spinach and cheese and a berry protein smoothie."

"Ugh, so healthy."

"Someone has to be."

I blew on the tea and took a sip, the warmth outside and the cold air of the air conditioning inside causing goose-bumps to rise along my bare arms. I sighed and placed the cup back on the table.

"Now, tell me what's bothering you," Ruth demanded.

I didn't know what was bothering me and I hadn't said anything of that nature to her. That was the problem with personally knowing a therapist. They were always digging further and further into your psyche. At least, Ruthie always was. In her professional opinion I suffered from some form of PTSD and would really benefit from seeing a therapist regularly.

"Have you received any phone calls lately?" I asked.

Ruth thought about it. "Well, I did receive an odd call yesterday. The man was trying to sell me funeral plots. I'm not nearly old enough to be thinking about those things."

"Maybe the government's been tracking your cigarette buying habits," I said.

"Oh, don't you get me started on the government, young lady."

I took another sip of my tea, wondering how I should bring up my concern.

"But no other calls?" I asked, not looking up at her.

"She doesn't call me, ever," Ruth said in a hard voice. "I told her if she left you and your father, she'd be dead to me."

I looked up, seeing the conviction in her eyes. Ruth has been more of a mother to me than my own. She was my mother's best friend and used to come around all the time when I was younger. Even after my mother left, she was coming around to check up on me and dad. I was surprised that nothing happened between the two of them. I would have loved to have Ruth as my mother, living in the same house as us. Being a therapist, she probably didn't want to tie herself to such a dysfunctional family so completely.

"She called me yesterday. I hung up. Dad doesn't know," I said.


"There's something else," I said. Now was the time to tell her about Daniel. She was the only one who knew about him because the woman saw right through me. When I'd left The Hamptons on that day ten years ago, I'd come running to her. She'd wrapped me in her arms, handed me a cup of tea and peppermint schnapps and made me spill my secrets. After that day, she'd never brought him up and neither had I. There was no choice now.

"Do you remember Daniel?" I asked.

Ruth sighed and put her hand on top of mine where it rested on the table.

"How could I forget? It's the only time I've ever seen you cry."

I cleared my throat and took another sip of tea before I replied. I didn't want to revisit that time. I'd been stupid and naive at eighteen, despite the giant teaching experience that was my father's life. We're apparently not worth sticking around for.

"He's back," I said.

"What? In New York? Or in your life?" Ruth asked in shock.

"Both, except he's not back in my personal life. He's now in my professional life, where I will have to see him every day and pretend that I don't want to knock him out," I exclaimed.

"Take some boxing classes, it'll work out all that aggression," Ruth said, patting my hand. I laughed and pushed my empty teacup away from me. No amount of boxing classes would be enough to get rid of the anger bubbling inside me. I wasn't always this angry and I didn't want to be now either. I knew, though, that there was no way I could ever go back to being the innocent girl I once was.

"What do you mean he's in your professional life?"

"Dad hired him to be the editor of Stirred. Of course, he has no idea about what happened between us and he's suspicious because he can sense the tension," I scoffed. "Of course he can sense the tension. It's the size of fucking Alaska."

"So, what does he want?" Ruth asked, pouring herself another cup of tea. My phone chose that moment to buzz in my purse but I ignored it. I was late for work and I was never late. My morning was free, so it was probably Lisa, James or Dad wondering where I was. I'll call back whichever one of them was calling me now.

"I don't know."

"You haven't asked?"

"Hello? Have you met me? I'm the queen of avoidance! And whatever he's going to say is going to be a lie anyway."

"You don't know that."

I shrugged. "Maybe, but I do know that I would have a hard time believing him."

"And that's understandable, but darling, it's not good to have so many things left unsaid. It eats away at your soul."

"You don't believe in the soul," I said, lying my head on the table.

"Alright, not the soul. The psyche, if you will. You need closure."

She was right, as always. This thing was already eating at me. Daniel had been occupying space in my mind for a decade and it's time he gave that up or I kicked him out. I just wasn't ready to confront him yet. Every time I looked at him, all those feelings and thoughts came flooding back. I could remember the feel of his skin, hot from the sun. The brush of his lips against my neck. Our naked bodies tangled together on long summer nights. Ah, fuck.

"If I get closure, I won't be the Queen of Avoidance anymore and I don't want to give up my crown. It suits me."

Ruth tossed her head back and laughed loudly. "Oh, you'll still have your crown. There are plenty of other things you've been avoiding."

I rolled my eyes but smiled nonetheless. She was right again. I wasn't going to stop avoiding my mother and I was never going to talk to my father about his addiction or his ex-wives. Hell, if I'd talked to him, maybe he wouldn't have married all those women. Then again, I got my avoidance issues from him so it wasn't likely that he would have talked back if I'd made the attempt.

"Thanks for the talk, Ruthie. I needed it," I said, straightening in the chair and smoothing down my top.

"Anytime, kiddo. If you want another piece of advice, I suggest taking a vacation."

I narrowed my eyes at her. "Have you been talking to Dad?"

She shrugged. "He calls every now and then to catch up."

"And you two talk about me?"

"You're the most important thing we have in common. Now, get going, I have a client coming in an hour."

I stood up and kissed her goodbye, once again inhaling that smoky scent. I let out a sigh and reached for my purse, swinging it over my arm so the strap rested on the crook of my elbow.

"See ya later," I said, blowing her another kiss.

I waved goodbye to Marina on my way out and pulled on my sunglasses when I stepped out of the house. The sunlight was nearly blinding after having been in Ruth's darkened house. The woman lived like a vampire with none of the benefits of eternal life.

Instead of hailing a cab, I opted to walk to work. I did my best thinking when I was running and that wasn't an option in six inch heels. Walking was the closest thing.

As I walked, I mulled over Ruth's words. It would be so good to have closure, to entirely slam the door on the Daniel chapter of my life. God, I would love nothing more, but the man refused to disappear. I thought he was gone for good when he left, that I would never see him again.

When he'd disappeared on me, I had been bursting with questions and teenage angst. I wanted to find him and shake him until he gave me the answers I demanded. Why wasn't I good enough? Why couldn't he just tell me he didn't want me? What he did was the absolute worst. He allowed me to trust him and then he ripped that trust away. Now he wanted it back. Giving him that trust back could be the worst mistake of my life...or the best.

"I need to speak with you."

I scanned my card on the card reader and stepped through the turnstiles. Leslie Bishop did the same and followed after me.

"I didn't see your name on my appointments," I said over my shoulder. I reached the elevator and pressed the button to call it down to the first floor.

"I don't have an appointment."

"Then you have as long as it takes me to get to my office," I said. The elevator opened and we stepped inside. I pressed the button for my floor and stepped back, giving Leslie the floor.

"You have to fire Adam," she said, point-blank. I sighed. Dear god, why did I have to be surrounded by lovesick idiots who refused to admit their feelings to each other? First Lisa and James and now Leslie and Adam.

They were the host of our most popular radio show, Mornings with Adam and Leslie. The public of New York enjoyed their back and forth banter and the underlying hints of sexual tension. Their beautiful faces graced the sides of buses and bus stops, even the giant LCD monitors in our lobby which worked through photos of all our radio and TV hosts.

"No," I said. Leslie shoved her long red hair over her shoulder and crossed her arms across her chest.

"You haven't even heard my argument," she said.

"I don't need to. I've heard it all the first ten thousand times you asked me to fire Adam," I said. The elevator slowed on the sixteenth floor and came to a stop. The doors opened and just my luck, Daniel stood on the other side. He was standing casually, with his hands in the pockets of his slacks, like he was modeling the bespoke suit he was wearing. Today, he was also wearing his black framed tortoiseshell glasses and behind the glasses, his eyes seemed extra bright. They landed on me as soon as the doors opened, doing a slow perusal of my body, his gaze like a magnet pulling me towards him.

I stepped back, smoothing my hands down my lime green skirt, which ended just below my knees. I'd paired it with a black sleeveless, V-necked lace top, black stilettos and red lipstick.

"I need to speak with you," he said, his eyes meeting mine again.

"Get in line," Leslie said. His eyes shifted to look at her just as the doors started to close. Holding them open, he stepped into the elevator.

"Hi, I'm Leslie Bishop. The better half of Mornings with Adam and Leslie."

"Daniel Moore, I just took over editorship at Stirred," Daniel said, shaking Leslie's proffered hand.

"This is perfect. You two can talk and solve each other's problems. I have more important things to deal with," I said.

"I don't think Daniel can fire Adam for me," Leslie said.

I sighed. "I can't just fire someone just because you don't like them. Trust me."

I gave a very pointed glance in Daniel's direction, at which he smirked.

"Seriously?" Leslie asked, following my gaze.

"You've no idea."

The elevator finally opened on my floor and the three of us stepped out of it. I turned around to face Leslie.

"Look, Les, unless this is a serious matter, I can't fire Adam. You both signed a contract and without him, your show will be over. So, did he actually do something or do you just not like him?"

Leslie let out a dejected breath and groaned, which gave me my answer. I patted her on the shoulder sympathetically and then reluctantly turned to face Daniel.

"Do you need someone fired too?"

Leslie was stepping back into the elevator, furiously texting someone. Just before the doors closed, I watched her look up and rake her eyes appreciatively over Daniel's back. Jealousy clawed its way up from the pit of my belly and made me see red.

"Should we go to your office?" Daniel asked. I looked up at him.

"You can talk here."

Once again, Daniel smirked. "Are you afraid to be in a room with me, Rhys?"

Of course, I was. The control I had carefully cultivated over the years was non-existent where he was concerned. When he looked at me or touched me, I just wanted to give up and lose myself in him. My body craved his. I was scared as hell to want him, but there I was, wanting him anyway. My heart wanted to protect itself and at the same time, it wanted to leap into Daniel's arms.

I spun on my heels and walked away towards my office. Rachel stood up when she saw me coming but the look on my face must have warned her off because she sat back down on her chair and busied herself with work.

Pushing open the door of my office, I stepped inside with Daniel right behind me. I closed the door and crossed my arms.

"Okay, what is it?"

"Is there ever a time when you're not angry?"

"I'm not angry," I snapped. I was furious, mostly at myself.

"You were angry when we first met and you're angry now. That can't be good for your blood pressure."

"My blood pressure is fine, thank you. Why are you here?"

"I followed you."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

"No, I mean what do you want to talk about? The reason you're here."

"I think you know the answer to that already," Daniel whispered.

"Not this again. I have work to do. As do you, so I suggest you get back to your office."

I started to step around him and instead of letting me, he stepped onto my path, blocking me from my desk. Wrapping an arm around my waist, he pulled me flush against him. Startled and stumbling on my heels, I dropped my purse and caught myself on Daniel's chest before I tripped. His other hand went to the side of my face, his thumb softly running along my bottom lip.

"Everything about you is so fucking tempting."

"Maybe you just need to control yourself so you're not tempted," I whispered. My eyes had somehow landed on his lips. He was just so close, his lips but a breath away.

"Do you want me to kiss you, Rhys?"

I licked my lips and swallowed. "No."

Ruth's words repeated themselves in my head. I was only supposed to give him a chance so he could explain himself. I wasn't supposed to get so close to him or want to kiss him. My hands fisted in his suit jacket, my breath coming out in quick, sharp bursts.

Daniel tilted his head down just a little.

"You're a terrible liar."

I looked up from his lips and into his eyes. I shouldn't have done that. The emotions were those I was used to seeing from him once upon a time. Need, desire, a desperation to consume and be consumed. He rubbed his nose along mine.

"What are you doing to me?" I asked.

"I could ask the same thing."

Fear, visceral and gnawing, choked me. It would be so easy, so easy, to just close my eyes and let him kiss me senseless. So easy to forget everything that happened in the past and move on today. After all, the past was the past. But how could I forget that I trusted him, with my secrets and vulnerabilities? How could I forget that I gave him everything I was capable of and he didn't even care about any of it? I'd meant nothing to him; less than nothing because he didn't even bother to say goodbye. I wasn't even worth that much.

I pushed away from him, taking stumbling steps back.

"Rhys," Daniel said, reaching out for me.

I shook my head. "No, no. I can't do this with you, not again. I need you to leave."

I wrapped my arms tightly around my body and turned away from him. I could feel him standing there for a long moment before I finally felt him moving towards the door and then the sound of it opening and closing behind him. I took in deep breaths, each lungful filled with his scent.

I would never be able to put Daniel Moore out of my mind.

AN: Enjoy! I hope you guys like it and if you do (or don't) don't forget to let me know. XOXO

PS: I just put up another story, Desire, so pop on over and check it out. More chapters will be coming soon for all stories.