Jared was rather proud of the way Essie seemed to be taking the sudden statement. Her smile softened as she nodded to Jared’s words. The girl really was worth the 100 k they had both paid her wasn’t she? Nothing seemed to phase her, nothing at all. He had to wonder just how much she would invest for the promise of the money, that thought alone was a little unnerving. She could probably get him to believe just about anything and he hated that idea, hated it like he hadn’t expected. Did he really want something so deep to be true? Did he actually need it to be?
"Have you told mom?" Shannon asked, his brows slightly knitted together as he looked down at Essie’s hand. There was a ring there, the only question was whether or not he knew that she was married for real, did he recognize the ring? Jared couldn’t read anything but confusion on his brothers face and for a moment he allowed himself to feel badly over all of this tricking them, putting up a front for them all to witness but what exactly was he supposed to do? They were the ones who had set this into motion, not him.
"Not yet, so don’t go telling her we want her to be surprised." Jared said with a shake of his head. "Seriously, don’t tell anyone alright?" He warned, looking down at Essie who smiled in agreement. "We’re thinking maybe Christmas? Some gift huh?" He managed a smile, slipping his arm around Essie’s waist and bringing her close. He could almost feel the dizzying effect of her being so close, the feeling of the burn of her lips to his from just a few seconds earlier, the caress of her breath against his skin. She was intoxicating and he hoped that Shannon left soon before he became overwhelmed.
Shannon nodded, looking between them. “Well I’m sure she’ll be more than surprised.” He stated, giving a light shrug before he leaned towards Jared to give him a hug. “Congratulations, Jared.” He softly said, hand gently clapping him on the back. His eyes closed briefly to block out the sudden glaze of worry and concern that filled them just then. He seemed tense, uneasy now but he didn’t let Jared go for a few minutes until finally Jared pulled away to break the embrace.
He gave his brother a smile, an assuring one and that feeling of feeling more than bad got to him again. He could see worry written in Shannon’s features but Jared really didn’t have the strength to go about dealing with the truth as it stood. He needed time to find out exactly what he wanted to say before he let this all out. And besides, that feeling of simmering away in confusion and being at a loss was exactly the state that they were going to leave him in by the end of all of this.
Shannon’s eyes lowered to Essie, a forced smile appearing on his lips as he took her hand and gently shook it. Now he seemed apprehensive. “Well since you’re the girl that my brother has chosen to marry mind if I talk to you for a couple of minutes?” He asked, voice strained and uncertain as he looked up at Jared then again to Essie. He was trying so hard and it was almost nerve wrecking to watch him like that. He wasn’t usually a nervous person and seeing him like that was a bit abnormal. But Jared was gonna let him stay like that awhile.
Essie nodded and led him on out towards the hallway. Jared looked on, tucking his hair behind his ear as he watched them. Shannon was trying to reason with her and Essie was just shaking her head. He took a hard swallow. They were talking about him. Everyone chose for some reason to always talk about him and a part of him felt somewhat betrayed. Why couldn’t they discuss all that in front of him? Why couldn’t they treat him differently instead of making him feel like he was an outsider that was as fragile as cracked glass?
Turning away from the scene he started to unpack his bags, setting his clothes into the drawers, putting things into the bathroom, all the usual things. But then he stopped, his eyes looking about the room and he couldn’t help but feel a sudden feeling of having done this before. Only it was the past, and he had been setting down that single crystal bottle of perfume he had bought her. That perfume that she always smelled like. Petals and vanilla, always so sweet. He could smell it now where he was standing. It felt like forever ago, that sweet feeling of being complete.It hadn’t been in this room though, just the one nearby.
His eyes closed and he let out a slow and easy breath. He couldn’t fall apart now, he couldn’t let the broken pieces glimmer and disappear away from him. He was going to be fine, he had been fine for such a long time. Burying himself in his work had helped but all this, Essie and New York had sent him spiraling into the past and the deepest memories he had tried to lock away. Looking back on your pain hurt so much more than when you actually experienced. Because you’re left with a gnawing pain that refused to let you go. You counted your mistakes, retook the footsteps you knew you got wrong and yet no matter what you did, no matter how much you hoped you could change it, you never could. No one could change the past, no matter how much it hurt, no matter how much guilt you were wracked with.
He didn’t know what to think simply because he was afraid to end up spiraling backwards into whatever the hell he had done to him before. What was there for him back there in the past other than the deep turmoil and the loss of self he had suffered through? He had to pres onward. But what was waiting for him there at the end of the road other than sorrow? He prayed that there would be something else. For someone like him, who was so deeply determined, there had to be right? He couldn’t let memories overrun him, that would end up being the absolute death of him and dying couldn’t be in his plans, not now, not ever he hoped.
The feel of arms going around his waist stopped him from what he was doing and he had to suck in a breath. Her body was so soft pressed against his back, her hands locking over his stomach was almost calming. Just that feeling of being enveloped by her made his raging insides settle. But it wasn’t real. None of it was. All that was real was the fact that Shannon had come here, looked into his eyes and lied to him. Where was the honesty between them? Had everything that had happened up until this point managed to ruin it all? That couldn’t be true, Jared couldn’t begin to let himself believe that and so he told himself that maybe they were all just doing this for his own good or for the same reason he himself was doing it- for his mom’s sake.
His eyes closed as he felt the gentle press of her lips against his back, her fingers slipped slowly beneath the hem of his shirt, touching like a whisper to his stomach. He wanted to sink back into her, wanted to feel her surround him again the way she had done so in New York. If he could do that, fake the illusion that they had held up before his eyes then this entire vacation could be one to relish in. He didn’t have to feel the pain of the past if he truly didn’t want to. It was up to him to accept this as something that had to happen instead of something that he had to make happen. She could be his for this week and he could belong to her. Was there anything wrong with that?
Jared couldn’t exactly contain the anger however that seemed to rise up from inside of him. That searing anger that he wished would disappear. He was supposed to be in control of things, he had never been one to relinquish the reins so easily and yet here he was lingering behind in the ashes of what people had planned out to happen to him. He couldn’t accept that, he had to get a grip on this situation, had to reset himself at the center of all of this and take hold of the things that were affecting him. He liked things his way and he would be damned if he was going to let anyone else dictate what would happen to him. That had happened far too many times before.
"Jared…" She whispered, her hands sliding up from his stomach up over his chest, her lips moving gently over his shoulder blades, the feel of her lips through the thing material of his shirt like a fire piercing through him. "…Jared this doesn’t have to be pretend. What happened in New York…"
His eyes opened and he took hold of her wrist, turning around to face her. Blindly his hand took her other wrist and urged her backwards with him as he stepped with her. She nearly gasped as he pressed her against the wall, his body colliding with hers. He stared into those eyes of hers, his fingers making their brands against her skin. She didn’t flinch at the tightness of his grip or the glare from his eyes, she only stared at him, a million different things blurring in her gaze.
"This is just a lie." He whispered, eyes studying the glisten in her eyes, the fullness of her lips. He could feel her arch more towards him and he had to take a breath to contain himself. He wanted her, that wasn’t a lie, he couldn’t look her in the eyes and tell her differently but he also couldn’t just give in either. He had some strength left, some pride remaining. He hadn’t lost it all during the long trail of his own falling apart.
He leaned closer to her, stealing the dryness of his lips with his tongue as he felt her breath wash heated against his skin. He had felt her closer than this before and the memory was nearly driving him insane. He used to have defenses against this but something about Essie managed to unnerve him, managed to break down every part of him that had once owned resistance. He knew that if he was going to walk away after this week he had to stop, one way or another he was going to have to stop this altogether, this falling for her.
She didn’t make a single move, allowing him to do all this on his own. He would have leaned towards her, would have pressed his lips almost roughly to hers. He would have allowed himself to take complete control of her, take her right then and there but her phone went off and her eyes went wide just at the sound of the specific ringer. He knew somehow from her expression. It had to be her husband.
Taking a hard swallow he let her go and turned his back on her, his hands on his hips as he watched the snow fall outside. He tried to level his breathing, reached his hand down to adjust his pants a bit more to get himself comfortable. He heard her answer and then he heard her string of lies. She was with a cousin, a job, apparently some rich person wanted a painting done and she was getting a very good sized paycheck. Of course she was, Jared scoffed in his mind. One hundred thousand dollars worth of a paycheck. His stomach twisted up as he heard her sweet talk the man on the other end, a sharp sting of jealousy rushed through him. He had no right but he couldn’t help it.
His eyes went to her and he held her eyes for a long moment. She was silently asking him to stay but he on