“You should talk to her, Heath.”
“So should you.”
I nodded and made the mistake of looking at Sophia, who was taking every opportunity to touch Blake. Small touches, tracing the angles of his suit over his shoulder. Leaning into him as she spoke, her perky little tits brushing against him. I gritted my teeth.
“She’s really worried about you.”
I looked back to Heath, unable to relax. “I’ll call her soon. I’ve been really busy with work, you know. Haven’t had much time for anything else.”
“She’s not the only one who’s worried.”
My gaze darted back to Blake, who was leaning back in his chair, looking bored as he scanned the room. Sophia was murmuring in his ear and laughing quietly, as if they were sharing some private joke. When her hand disappeared under the table, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I pushed away from the table and made a beeline to the ladies’ room. I regretted eating anything when a wave of nausea hit me. Pushing Blake away had been less devastating when he still wanted me. I could entertain the fantasy that he’d wait for me until I figured things out with Daniel. But that moment had passed. Sophia had moved right in, picked up where I’d left off, and was very likely giving him everything he’d been craving during the time we’d been together.
If my heart hadn’t already been broken, seeing him with her had mashed it into an unrecognizable pulp.
I found the ladies’ room mercifully abandoned. I looked at myself in the mirror. Despite being an epic emotional wreck, I looked okay. Makeup hid the dark circles under my eyes, at least. I was no runway model, but I’d been good enough for Blake. Once upon a time, I had been the one he wanted. I scolded myself for caring. I could get through this, somehow. I’d been through worse, right?
Before I could answer myself, the door swung open and I caught Sophia’s reflection walking toward me. Her lithe runway-ready body sauntered up to the vanity counter where I was trying to pull myself together.
“Everything okay? You seem upset, Erica.”
Her voice was the usual sultry laced with bitch that I’d remembered from our first meeting in New York.
I turned to face her. “What do you want?”
She leaned back against the wall casually, crossing her arms in front of her. “I thought we could catch up. I was sorry to hear things didn’t work out with you and Blake.”
My lips pulled into a tight line. I wouldn’t take her bait. “I bet.”
“Wasn’t a good fit, I guess.”
“How would you know?”
“I’m a friend, Erica. He talks to me. I’m sure it was all pretty overwhelming for you, being with him.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The sex, of course. Let’s not pretend we don’t know that he likes it rough.” She gave me a full smile and leaned her hip on the counter, cocking her head as if she were sizing me up. “You never struck me as the kind of girl who could get whipped.”
I struggled for a breath, unable to hide my reaction. “You don’t know a fucking thing about me, Sophia.”
She laughed. The sound stung, as if she’d slapped me in the face.
“Oh, I think I know plenty.”
I fisted my hands by my sides. What I wouldn’t do to smack that look off her face. And Blake. A sickness spread through me. He’d told her personal things about us. Jealousy and betrayal was a lethal cocktail of emotions, and I’d had about all I could take.
“Laugh all you want, Sophia, but I’m not the one pining after a man who wrote me off years ago. Then again, maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll take you back. Either way, I couldn’t care less.”
I pushed through the doors and returned to the table to grab my shawl. Feigning illness wasn’t too difficult, because I literally felt sick. I said some quick goodbyes to Risa and Heath, ignoring Blake, even though I could feel the heat of his gaze on me. I couldn’t face him now. That our memories meant so little to him that he’d share them with Sophia cut me far deeper than I’d ever thought possible.
The city lights flew by as the cab headed back to Marie’s. The sparsely lit towers disappeared behind me, along with any hope I’d held for being with Blake again. Something felt devastatingly final about all this. The urge to cry and the gut-wrenching despair was replaced by a cold, emotionless finality. Blake was gone. I’d finally lost him.
I’d lost people before. I knew how to say goodbye, forever. But I couldn’t remember anything hurting like this before. My reason for living, for waking up in the morning, anything that had kept me hoping before had been stripped from me. But I knew I’d survived this kind of devastation before.
Somewhere in the depths of my soul, I stopped bleeding. The relentless pulsing pain slowed, and the memory of who we’d been together became another scar.
I knew how to live with scars.
I wiped away the last tear, swallowing down the urge to cry until I went numb, my body’s natural reaction when faced with unrelenting emotional pain. My love for Blake had changed, becoming a dark and bittersweet memory forever imprinted on my past. My greatest love had become my greatest loss.
“You staying late again?”
James took a seat across from my desk. It was the end of the day and we were the only ones left. More and more days were ending this way. I couldn’t stop myself.
“Thinking about it,” I said.
“I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need to be pushing yourself this hard.”
“I don’t mind long hours. Keeps me out of trouble.” I was only half-joking. I wasn’t exactly resigned to the new life Daniel wanted for me yet. Not that he’d given me a choice, but I had agreed to meet with his team in a few days. I’d been dissecting their marketing plan in the meantime and trying to game plan strategies that would allow me to contribute in a capacity that would satisfy Daniel without writing off my own business.
“You’re going to burn out. Do you realize that?” James leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and bringing his hands to his chin.
“Why do you care, James? Honestly. I’m not putting it off on you guys.”
“I wouldn’t mind it if you did. Sometimes you just don’t seem very happy.”
I sighed. “Does it really matter? Happy or not, I’m here and we’re getting things done.” Who cares if I wanted to work myself into the ground? That was my prerogative.