Craving Him Page 48

The niggling feeling in my gut was back in full force. This relationship wasn’t going to work. As much as I’d try to force it, to prove to myself that Ben fit into my life, this was the universe’s way of showing me it wouldn’t ever work. I needed to cut my losses now. But first, I wanted to lose myself in grief. Slamming my eyes closed to force away the images of him with another woman, I curled into a ball and quietly sobbed. I sobbed for what I’d seen, and I sobbed for my poor smashed-up heart. It’d never recover. I knew I’d always live with Ben in there and the realization terrified me.

17

Ben

“What do you think of this one?” I asked Bray, holding up an elaborately cut five-carat-diamond ring.

He shifted his weight, looking completely out of place at Tiffany in his worn jeans and scuffed-up Chucks. But I needed him here. I needed his opinion. “Ah . . . honestly? That’s too much. Emmy’s a simple girl, right?”

“Yeah.” He was right. This was too much. I wanted the best for her. But she’d want something a little more understated. I wanted something significant on her finger. Something that said, She’s f**king taken, but I needed to respect who she was. I continued scanning the rows of rings.

“What about this?” I held up a much simpler two-carat solitaire for him to inspect.

“Yeah. Actually, that’s perfect.”

Exactly what I was thinking. This would suit Emmy to a T. It was simple, classic, timeless. It’d look beautiful on her finger. “I’ll take it,” I told the salesclerk.

I dropped the ring into his waiting palm, feeling proud, excited, and optimistic. The thought of kneeling on one knee and sliding this ring onto Emmy’s finger while gazing into her pretty blue eyes made me feel like a damn emotional fool. This is what people wrote love songs about. Entire novels. Shit. I needed to pull it together. I was getting f**king misty-eyed inside of Tiffany. What a f**king tool.

I couldn’t wait to take Emmy out this weekend to celebrate, and I hoped when I pulled out the ring, she’d be surprised—in a good way. I’d only hinted at my openness to marriage, wanting to keep things a surprise.

“Wait. . . .” The salesclerk grinned up at me. “You’re the guy from the video. Fuck me . . . London Burke . . . you’re a lucky man. This ring for her?” He smiled at me, waiting for my answer.

It wasn’t uncommon to be recognized, but I had no clue what he was talking about. And London? I hadn’t dated London in years. “What video?”

He laughed and winked at me. “The video everyone’s talking about. I saw it online this morning. That shit was hot.”

Oh shit.

Braydon and I exchanged a look of horror.

Realization flooded me and I suddenly felt sick. The blurry sex tape we’d recorded while drunk two years ago. No way. It couldn’t be. I’d destroyed my copy and London had sworn she deleted hers, too.

I swallowed the bitter taste in my mouth. Awareness burned in the back of my brain . . . something told me Fiona was behind the leak of the tape. I racked my brain, fighting to remember back to two years ago. I’d confided in her once I sobered up and realized that I’d f**king recorded a sex tape. I knew that if it got out, I’d need her help. At the time, in the stark light of morning, I’d regretted what London and I had done. Fiona had assured me that it’d never be discovered. We’d been in Singapore when we deleted the copy on my laptop. Only now I wondered if she could have saved a copy for herself somewhere. I would have never suspected her at the time. But now knowing how she truly felt about me, and knowing that we always had adjoining rooms back then, she had the opportunity and means and potentially the motivation, too. The thought sickened me.

I dashed from the store, pulling my phone from my pocket. I dialed Emmy’s number.

No answer.

I tried her again.

Nothing.

And again.

Fuck.

I paced the sidewalk, traffic zooming past as I silently prayed she’d pick up, give me the chance to explain. I needed to do some major damage control before she found out about the video.

On the eighth ring, Ellie answered. “Yes?”

I stopped suddenly. “Is she there?”

“She is.”

“Can I speak to her?” My heart was thumping like a goddamn racehorse.

“Ben, she knows. She saw the video.”

Fuck. “I’m so sorry. Let me explain. Let me apologize.”

“She can’t talk right now.”

“Please. Just put her on the phone.”

“You’ve gone too far this time. Pushed her too much. She’s cracked.”

“Cracked?”

“Yeah. She’s in bed crying herself to sleep. It’s done. Just leave her be.”

“I can’t,” I admitted. “She’s my everything. She owns me. That video is from years ago, and London and I made it as a stupid joke. We swore we’d deleted it. I think Fiona released it as a last act of revenge. Please . . . we can’t let her win.” My voice cracked.

“You’ve f**ked up too many times. She can’t forgive this. Would you really expect her to if the tables were turned?” Ellie hung up and I pressed a hand against the brick wall to steady myself. In the course of three minutes flat, my world had just crumbled.

Fuck that. I hailed the nearest cab, leaving Braydon shouting something from the jewelry shop behind me.

“Drive like the f**king wind and I’ll tip you handsomely,” I told the driver, then gave him Emmy’s address in Queens.

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