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When I woke up in the morning, the first streaks of sunlight were just appearing. I can hear the sound of the ocean. I knew I was in paradise. It was peaceful here. No boundaries. No limits. I was aware that I was completely naked in bed and Ryder’s arms were around me. His naked body is touching mine. I smiled to myself. I felt good. This feels right.
I wound my hand over his and intertwined our fingers. I felt him shift behind me and I felt a kiss on my back. He nuzzled my shoulders. I giggled. I can feel the shadow of his beard tickling my shoulder blades.
He pulled me so I can lie on my back and face him. He looked down at me, stared at me deeply. And then he leaned down and gave me a thorough kiss on the lips. There was no need for words after that.
When I woke up again, it was already ten in the morning. I was enclosed in Ryder’s tight embrace. I looked up at his handsome face. I looked at his chiseled features, his long lashes, his strong jaw, the cleft on this chin, his perfect nose. I bit my lip. He really is handsome. Very handsome, I still couldn’t believe I was lying in bed naked with him.
He slowly opened his eyes. The minute he saw me, he smiled. He pulled me by the neck and gave me a kiss.
“Good morning.” He said.
“Good morning.” I replied.
He smiled. “Now, that’s a better response than last time.”
I remembered the last time we slept together, I was so confused about what happened between us. He was so pissed with me. He didn’t speak much.
“The last time you weren’t so great either.” I grunted.
He raised a brow. “That’s because you made it look like sleeping with me was the biggest mistake you’ve done in your life.”
“Just in case you’ve forgotten, it was my… first time. And you were a stranger. A stranger I paid to pretend to be in love with me. I wouldn’t know whether you slept with me because you wanted me or because it… came with the job. And I felt… ashamed.” I said ruefully.
He stared at me for a moment and then he pulled me towards him. “It was never a job, you know. None of the things that I did for you that night was because it came with the job. I did all that because I wanted to. I wanted you. I pretended to be a bartender because I wanted to help you out. And I enjoyed every minute of it.”
“But you did make an effort to resist my efforts to flirt with you that night.”
“And you knew that every effort was futile.” He sighed. “I resisted not because I didn’t want you. But because I felt I would be taking advantage of your… grief, your frustration. That night was supposed to be your wedding night. And I knew that you were not completely over Bryan then. It was wrong to take you when I know you wanted to be with someone else.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t want to be with Bryan that time. I knew I was better off. But… I went into an episode of self-pity. That somehow, nobody wanted me. I had to pay somebody to sleep with me.”
“You didn’t pay me.” He said softly.
I nodded. “I knew that after. But then I found out who you really were. And then I felt like you paid me.”
He sighed. “You read me all wrong.” He said. “And sometimes, I think you’re still reading me all wrong.”
I didn’t answer. We stared at each other for a while. No one said a word. And then Ryder sighed again.
“Now, do you believe that I wanted you?” He asked.
“It doesn’t matter.” I replied. “This weekend… is a dream I will soon wake up from.”
“Because I don’t belong in your world?”
I shook my head. “Because I don’t belong in yours.”
“If… if I was just Ryder, the bartender… would you want to be part of my world?”
“I’m not ready to be part of anybody’s world. I was burned too much to start over.”
I’m not ready for hopes of ‘ever after’ just yet. The healing has to be complete for me. I don’t hurt at the thought of Bryan and Geena anymore. I may hate them forever, but I’m not affected with what they do with their lives. I don’t even think about them anymore.
I still cringe at the thought of entering into a serious relationship or going steady with another guy. I know that that will be the difficult part. To trust that one man will only have eyes for me… for all eternity. I’m not yet ready to risk that. I can’t go through the hell of a heartbreak again. I’m not yet ready to be with a guy without thinking it will end up exactly how it ended with me and Bryan… or maybe even worse. No. I can’t do relationships just yet.
“How long do you think that would take?” He asked.
I reached out and touched his cheek. “I don’t know. I’m not in a hurry.”
He smiled but that smile did not touch his eyes. “Like I said, I want you to have your ‘ever after’. You deserve it more than anybody else.”
I smiled back at him. Tears threatened to peek from my eyes. I knew Ryder was sincere. I knew that he meant every word that he said.
“Thank you.” I whispered.
I snuggled closer to him and he gave me a tight hug. And as I lie there in his arms, feeling all safe, comforted and wanted, I realized just how sad it is that Ryder and I came from different worlds. It’s a pity because he would be everything I could ever ask for if ever I will believe in ‘ever after’ again.
It has been a wonderful dream. For the whole day, there were no pretensions between Ryder and me. I wanted him. He wanted me. I was his girlfriend and he was my boyfriend. I’m free to express the way I feel, without thinking of complications of a relationship… and certainly not the complications of having a relationship with a tycoon like him.
It was physical. It was bliss. It was a dream and soon enough, it was over. We were both quiet when he was driving me back to my place. Both of us were lost in our own thoughts.
I looked back at the magical two days when I existed in Ryder’s world. He was mine. He gave me his full, undivided attention, like I was the only woman that matters in the world. I lived the dream of blissfully being with someone. Someone who can’t get enough of me.
When we boarded the plane, I had to resist the temptation of reaching out for his hand or leaning my head against his shoulder. I had to stop myself from tiptoeing and giving him a kiss on the lips. The show is over. Our agreement is only for the weekend. I helped him win his bet with his friends. In the process, we gave in to whatever magnet that pulls us together. But that was it. And it is over.
He opened the car door for me in front of my house. He walked me to my front door. My heart felt so heavy. It was as if, I miss him already. But I had to remind myself that I can’t fall for him. I can’t fall for anyone yet. I have to protect my heart. And Ryder is capable of hurting me ten times than Bryan ever did.
I looked up at him. He was staring at me and somehow I couldn’t read his expression. He smiled and then he took a deep breath. He reached out to push a lock of stray hair away from my face.
“Astrid… I know you don’t want anything to do with me.” He said. “But… I sincerely hope we can be friends.”
I stared at him. I could tell that he was serious. And that made my heart feel lighter. And I know that I couldn’t deny him that. Ryder is one of the most wonderful people I’ve met. I may not believe he and I can genuinely be involved with each other, but yeah, friendship works. I nodded.
“I mean it.” He continued. “I hope we can be friends. Friends that get in touch with each other regularly… call each other when they’re in each other’s cities. Maybe even grab some dinner or lunch some time. Not the I-knew-you-from-somewhere-sometime kind of friends.”
I giggled. Then I nodded again. “Okay. Sounds easy enough.”
He stared at me for a while. And then he smiled slowly. “Thank you… It has been… a… surreal weekend.”
“Surreal? Even for you?” I teased.
He stared at me seriously. “Even for me, Astrid.”
My heart pounded inside my ribcage. But then I had to remind myself that even if Ryder and I were attracted to each other, I’m not ready yet. Even if I am, he’s a complicated man. A relationship would be too demanding for him. He’ll be too busy for me, and I’ll crave too much of his time.
I wanted my next relationship to be nothing like my relationship with Bryan, where both of us were caught up with our own stuff. I was too busy with my job to notice the looks and the secret smiles that he shared with Geena.
Now, if I would have a relationship again—if I would allow myself to believe in ‘ever after’ again, I’d want to give my boyfriend my time of the day. And I’d want the same from him. I would show him how much I crave him, both emotionally and physically. I would want him to show me the same. I wanted it to be perfect… like what Ryder and I shared this weekend. I wanted it to last for more than a weekend. I would want my boyfriend to be truly mine… and mine alone.
“Now my debt is repaid.” I told him.
He nodded slightly. Then he took my hand in his and he slowly brought it to his lips.
“Until we meet again.” He said.
I smiled and then I turned away and closed the door behind me. My heart felt heavy. I don’t know why. But somehow, a part of me felt so lonely.
Who knows when I will see Ryder again? We shared a wonderful weekend. We shared wild passion in bed, but that’s just as far as it can go. I allowed myself to give in to all the temptations that that handsome devil brings, but only for the weekend. Because although I allowed my body to give in to the passion, I cannot allow my heart to feel any more heartbreaks in the future. One major heartache is enough, thank you very much!
To be continued....
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