I had no idea what to say or feel when I walked into Aria’s hospital room. Evan was holding her hand. Mom and Emily were sitting down, while Rob paced the floor. Patrick wasn’t there, and judging by their silence, no one knew the truth yet.
“What did the doctor say to you?” Em asked me.
Shit, what was I going to tell her? I had no clue how to break the news.
“Sorry about the wait everyone,” Patrick announced, appearing next to me like some miracle. “It was an emergency.”
My mother regarded him in a very conceited way, and then said, “Quite frankly, I’m not at all impressed with your hospital or your staff. Please tell me you’re not donating any money to this place, Noah” she rudely remarked.
“I assure you, Mrs. Hunter, this hospital is California’s best.”
“Mom, quit harassing
Doctor Peters, and let him speak,” I glared at her, and then looked at Aria. She seemed nervous, but not as nervous as I was.
Pat cleared his throat, and spoke with a clipboard in his hands. “First off, I’d like to inform you all about the good news.”
Emily looked like she was holding her breath.
“We have a match, two in fact.”
“Oh my goodness, that’s wonderful!” she exclaimed.
“But unfortunately, one of those kidneys is not in the best condition. That kidney that I speak of belongs to Mr. Mitchell.”
I resisted the urge to snicker under my breath, and shake my head at him. That’s what years’ worth of alcohol consumption will do to kidney function. In some ways I was relieved he wouldn’t be donating.
“Fortunately, Mrs. Mitchell, you are the next ideal match. You can donate your kidney to your daughter.”
“I’m so happy!” She stood up, and hugged Aria with tears in her eyes. “See sweetheart, you’re going to be just fine.”
“Could you please explain the success rate of this transplant?” mom asked.
“The success rate following transplantation depends on the closeness of the tissue match between donor and recipient. For example, a kidney from a brother or a sister with a complete
match has a 95 percent chance of working at the end of one year. A kidney from a parent, child, or half matched sibling has an 85 percent chance of functioning correctly. And lastly, a cadaver donor kidney has an 80 percent chance of proper kidney function within a year.”
“Noah’s her father, how come my son was not an ideal match?” she questioned him further.
Things were going to get uncomfortable, fast
. Patrick looked to me for help.
“Actually, that’s the reason why the good ol’ doc here wanted to speak with me.”
Here it was. The big reveal. Life as I knew it would change forever. Everybody’s life was about to change.
I felt anxious, and wasn’t sure how to get straight to the point, other than well…getting straight to the point.
“According to the blood tests…” all eyes were on me, and it was making me more uncomfortable “I’m not Aria’s biological father.”
There. I finally said it. The truth was out. They say the truth shall set you free. Then how come I felt like the walls were closing in on me? I needed someone to anchor me through the emotional traffic, so I just focused on her face. Aria’s eyes were the only eyes I needed to see. Everyone else could’ve gone to hell for all I cared.
“I knew it! I knew you were never the biological father! And you refused to listen to me! You should’ve had this harlot get a paternity test done with you years ago!” My mother stood up, and ran her mouth like it had been zipped up for years, and was finally opened by some magic words. This immediately angered me because she was being extremely inconsiderate to Aria’s feelings. I may not have been her dad, but Emily was still her mother. There was no need for her to hear that kind of hate and animosity.
“Mom, get out,” I demanded.
“No, I will not leave! It’s about time this sneaky little heretic hears what I have to say!”
Aria appeared to be in shock, and Emily stood, statuesque, with all the color draining from her face. Surprise, surprise…
god, I hated surprises.
“Calm down mother, or I’ll get security to physically move you out of this room right now,” my voice was stern, and my stare was even more serious.
“These paternity results were stumbled upon purely by accident,” Patrick cut in. “I felt it was wrong to turn the other cheek after making these findings. However, we also discovered who the biological father is.”
…” Em uttered, as she sat down, and stared into space. “He’s the only other man I have slept with besides Noah.”
“You mean to tell me that I’ve been her real father all this damn time!?”
The man seemed just as mind fucked as I was. Finally we had something in common.
“What more would you expect from a two timing tramp?”
“Alright, mother. You’ve said enough,” I was about to grab her arm and drag her out of the hospital room, when Evan intervened.
“I got this. Don’t worry,” he stressed, and then looked at our mother. “Come on, mom. You don’t need to be in here anymore. Let Noah work this out. He’s a big boy.”
“See! My reasons were always justified! I hope you believe me now when I warned you all those years to stay away from this woman. She was never good for you then, and still isn’t,” mom turned to Emily, and hatefully voiced, “I hope you have learned a very valuable lesson. Justice will always prevail, the truth will always come out, and the guilty shall be punished! You should be ashamed of yourself, making my son suffer all these years for nothing!”
She sounded like some lunatic executioner. Queen of Hearts?
Off with her head? Yeah, something like that.
My ex said nothing, because she was lost in the world of catatonia.
“Get her out of here, now,”
I glared at Evan, and tried to hold it together. There was nothing short of me losing my temper, and giving my mother a rude reality check.
“Alright mom, calm down,” he finally got her out of the room, and everyone was quiet again.
Rob appeared to look very troubled by the news. Probably because he felt guilty as fuck. Good. I hoped it was eating him up inside. Aria suffered enough because of that asshole.
“What’s wrong Robby? Not happy with the news?”
Okay, I had to sneak in a taunt. The man just rubbed me the wrong way. Every time I saw him, all I’d see is red. It felt like instinct to charge and attack.
I carefully observed Aria’s face, wondering if I could reach that secret vault in her mind where she stored all her private thoughts regarding me. She wouldn’t look at me, and I wasn’t a mind reader.
“I apologize for the inconvenience of this news, given the circumstances that you are all under.”
“You did the right thing, Pat,” I placed a hand on his shoulder, feeling a little bad that he had to endure this god awful awkwardness.
“I’ll give you a moment to yourselves, before I return with the paperwork for the organ donation.” oOo
Now that we were alone, I figured I’d say something since no one else was talking.
“Well,” I pulled up a chair next to Aria, and looked at my ex. “Do you want to backtrack 16 years, and explain yourself?”
Emily blinked a few times, and met my gaze.
“Noah, I didn’t know. Robert and I had…we had been together only once.”
“We were dating
when you got pregnant, Emily. How the hell did that happen?” I wasn’t angry. I was just shocked. She started to cry, and grabbed a tissue.
“That night when we broke up on the phone—do you remember?”
“We broke up many times Em. You’re going to have to be a little more specific.”
“The night before you showed up at my house, and shoveled I love you
in the snow. Do you remember that?”
“Feels like ages ago, but yeah.”
“The previous evening, we fought on the phone, and broke up. That same night Candi and I went out to a bar, and that’s when I met Rob for the first time. One thing led to another and—” “How could you cheat on Noah!?”
Those were the first words that came out of Aria’s mouth, after what seemed like forever in silence. She was defending my pride like the true lioness that she was.
“Sweetheart, please don’t get yourself all worked up over this. It’s not good for your health.”
“I don’t care, mom! Answer the question!”
“Aria,” I reached for her hand, hoping to calm her down.
“Don’t touch my daughter!” Rob warned me. Wow, as if I actually felt threatened by that prick.
“If you think that for a second I’m going to start calling you dad
or look at you as some amazing father figure, you’ve got another thing coming. I hate you, Rob! And the fact that I’m even related to you sickens me! Thank god I won’t be receiving your kidney. It’s tainted, and toxic, just like you!”
“Maybe we should handle this elsewhere. She doesn’t need to hear all this crap,” I attempted to neutralize the situation.
“Stop trying to act like her father!” He challenged me.
That was it. I wasn’t going to put up with anymore of his bullshit. Keeping my expression as hostile and pissed off as possible, I stood up, and spoke in a calm, and modulated tone, “Listen you piece of shit. From the moment she was born, I believed I was her father. I carried that burden with me, and I attained custody in court fair and square. She’s been living under my
roof for the past nine months, and I’ve been more of a father to her than you could ever dream to be,” he stayed quiet. So I continued, “I realized something today, and it made me sad. Not for you, but for Aria. You’ve been living with this beautiful girl all her life. You watched her grow up, had all these opportunities to be there for her, and be the father she deserved. But it all went to shit. Why, all because you believed she wasn’t your real
daughter? Is that how you treat children? If they’re not related to you, they don’t deserve your genuine love and respect?” I scoffed in disgust, and then said, “You’d give Cinderella’s stepmother a run for her money. Maybe you should consider doing Broadway. I’m sure you’d be perfect for the role of the psycho stepmom. Those man boobs could always increase your chances,” I winked at him, adding insult to injury.
“Noah, stop it!” Emily interjected.
But I wasn’t done with him yet. Not even close.
“You’d be the worst foster parent, and in reality, that’s how you treated Aria all her life. Like an abused, neglected foster child. And now that you found out she’s related to you, that changes everything? Who the fuck are you? You don’t deserve the privilege of being her dad. Aria was doing just fine without you. She didn’t need you then, and she doesn’t need you now, because she has me. She will always
have me,” I made sure to emphasize that part.
“Shut your goddamn mouth! You don’t even know me!”
“Oh, believe me, I do. Aria’s told me enough to get you in jail for child abuse, neglect, including spousal abuse, you dumb fuck!”
Not so calm composure anymore. Shoot me.
“Sixteen years Robert, you might as well have never even been there. The difference between you and me, among the long list of the obvious, is that I genuinely care about her, and you don’t. Even if I was her step dad, I would have treated her with just as much love as my biological children if I had any. As far as I’m concerned, you’re nothing to her. Do you hear me? Nothing!”
“Stop it! Stop fighting!” Emily cried out.
Aria sniffled, and looked at Rob. “I want to get legally emancipated from the two of you.”
“How could you say that? We’re your parents. We love you,” Em tried to reason with her.
“I’ll be eighteen next year. There is no way in hell I want you or Rob ruling my life anymore.”
“Sweetheart, you don’t mean that. I know you’re hurt about the paternity results, but I swear I never even considered the possibility that Rob could’ve been your real dad. Noah and I had broken up so quick, and got back together the next day. I didn’t start dating your father until after you were born.”
“Stop calling him that! He’s not my real father! I don’t care what the blood tests say!”
I didn’t like how they were making her upset, given her current health conditions.
“So that’s all I was to you all those years ago, a one night stand?
“I stepped up to the plate after Aria was born, because that son of a gun didn’t!”
I was taking considerable amount of pleasure in watching that asshole realize that he was never her epic love.
“I was sixteen, Robert! What more do you expect from a teenager that just broke up with her boyfriend, and was trying to get over him!”
“I was in love with you, Emily, even though you never called me back for almost a year! I guess it was just convenient for you to settle, since golden boy over here didn’t want you.”
“That’s not how it went down, and you know that!” she countered back. “You were there for me when my life was a mess. We started out as friends before even dating. You knew I had a daughter, and that didn’t prevent you from walking away. No one forced you to be with me! Take some accountability for your own decisions for once!”
God, this was turning into a really bad episode of Family Court with Judge Penny.
“I’m so upset, Em! I can’t even think!” he rubbed his temples, and wandered around the window.
“Why don’t you stop being a selfish asshole for a couple minutes, and be happy that she’s your biological daughter, instead of dwelling on ancient history,” I advised.
“You’re no longer part of this family. Leave us!” he erupted in anger.
“Don’t you dare speak to Noah that way! I decide who stays or goes. It’s my goddamn hospital room, and I want you
She sure told him, but I could tell that he wasn’t backing down.
“Robert, honey, let’s just head down to the cafeteria for a bit, calm down, and then come back.”
Finally Emily said something sensible.
“Or better yet, leave and never come back!” Aria yelled, as they walked out of the hospital room. Em looked back at her daughter one last time, and then glanced at me with regretful eyes. I’d have to have a conversation with her one on one sooner or later. But right now I just wanted to have a moment alone with angel eyes. oOo
I was in shock. I was feeling a hundred different emotions at once, and the whole situation felt bitter sweet. I think that’s the best way to explain it. It’s like I woke up from my coma, only to realize that the reality I knew was nothing but a dream, and now I was on a completely different plane of normal, if you would even call it that? It was seriously making me borderline cray-cray.
I was almost expecting Morpheus to show up with his long black trench coat, and killer shades, holding out his palms with this serious look on his face, saying, “the red pill, or the blue pill?”
Okay, yeah, I was obsessed with The Matrix
for a while. Anyway, I didn’t need to take a red pill to stay in wonderland. I wasn’t Alice, and this wasn’t The Matrix
, but I would’ve followed Noah down any rabbit hole, no matter how deep, or scary it was. It could’ve been a bottomless pit for all I cared, as long as I was falling with him…that’s all that mattered.
“I hope those are happy tears,” Noah’s voice was gentle, which was a huge contrast from the way he spoke earlier.
“They’re what the fuck
tears,” I laughed uneasily, and sniffled.
“Don’t cry,” he reached for my hand.
“I just can’t believe that man is my biological father. I’m nothing like him.”
“I know you’re not.”
“I don’t even look like him.”
“Thank God for that.”
He made me smile and laugh, amidst my pathetic moment of self-pity. The fact that I was genetically related to Rob made me want to vomit.
“I know this sounds totally wrong, but I’d rather be biologically related to you, than have his DNA.”
“I know how much you hate him.”
“Hate doesn’t even come close to describe the ways I despise him. I can’t believe my mother hid this from you—from me.”
“Aria, she said she didn’t know, and she was young. She made a mistake.”
I felt so angry knowing that she cheated on him. I didn’t care if they had broken up for a day or not, when you love somebody, you don’t screw someone else on the day of your break up!
“It doesn’t matter anymore, beautiful,” he gently squeezed my hand, and softened his eyes.
“How do you feel about all this? Do you feel weird?” I asked him, almost fearful of his answer.
“Was I that bad of a daughter to you?”
“Oh, yes. You certainly were, young lady,” Noah teased in a playful tone of voice. “You made me feel like the world’s most perverted father for almost a year. I questioned my own sanity everyday thanks to you. I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. Maybe I am
just that selfish.”
I kept crying, and laughing, taking comfort in his presence and subtle affection. In so many ways, this really was a huge relief, but it also made me sad. What if our bond would never be the same? What if he would leave me? There would be no way to stay connected to him anymore, now that our blood ties were severed. I so wanted to get inside his head and dissect it, without actually having to ask him to reveal all his thoughts and feelings.
“You know that if I could kiss you right now, I would.”
As usual, Noah Hunter being his typical sexy self.
“What’s holding you back?” I asked.
“A number of things…”
“Like the fact that I haven’t kissed you in what feels like forever. Do you really think I’d be able to pull back so easily? We both know what happens when we...you know. Someone might walk in, and then we’re busted.”
Yes, I knew exactly what happened when our lips collided. Just the idea of kissing this man made my heart palpitate. The feeling was always so intense, and he always left me wanting more and more. I had officially contracted the Noah Hunter Kiss Curse.
Any woman that was lucky enough to kiss this man was never the same again. All they would feel is disappointment when engaging in a lip locked make out session with another contender. Kissing Noah was like breathing his soul. It was beyond euphoric, and changed you completely inside.
Everything seemed to be in perfect alignment for once where he and I were concerned, but I wasn’t happy at all about Rob being my real father.
“This changes things for us, doesn’t it, Noah?”
He slowly nodded, with a subtle smile.
“All of this feels so unreal. I can’t explain it.”
“I know the feeling,” he kissed my hand, and looked so deeply in my eyes, it made me shy.
“Now I know why you don’t talk about your mother…”
“I’m sorry you had to hear all that.”
A part of me felt worried. What if our relationship got super serious, and Noah asked me to marry him? I would have a monster in law for a mother. This intimidated me. Maybe I was just jumping ahead of myself. It was quite possible that he would never propose to me.
“Do you still love me?” I tried not to sound so insecure, but the question itself revealed nothing but insecurity.
He stared at me for a few seconds, and then leaned in closer, guiding my fingers to the side of his neck, right underneath his jaw.
“Do you feel that?”
His pulse was throbbing in a slow rhythm against my fingertips. It made my heart beat faster.
“Do you know what that vein is?”
“The jugular veins bring deoxygenated blood from the head to the heart. That’s how deeply you are embedded inside of me.”
“I’m a vein in your neck?” I giggled.
“No, you’re a pain
in my neck. But,” he guided my hand to his chest, and pressed it against his heart. “You possess this part of me.”
Oh my god. I was melting and blushing, which was a bad combination. Because the more I’d blush, the faster it added to the melting process.
“I want to possess all of you.”
“What makes you think you don’t already?”
“Well, we haven’t exactly…umm...”
Noah’s lips curved up into a devilish smile, making my cheeks flare in heat.
“I’m not sure if you’re quite ready for that yet,” he looked amused.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve been ready for the past nine months.”
“Answer me a question, Aria. Will you?”
I nodded, waiting.
“Why do you love me?”
“Do you really want to know? It’s a very long list.”
He chuckled lightly. “Don’t start with, because you’re hot.”
“That’s only number two on the list,” I grinned.
“What’s number one?”
“Smart ass—” he laughed.
I changed the subject to something that was really weighing down on me.
“It makes me sad that I’m no longer a Hunter.
I’m a Mitchell. I’m Aria Mitchell,” I groaned.
“Well, you could always legally change your last name,” Evan overheard our conversation, as he walked into the room. “I wasn’t always a Hunter.” Or Noah can just marry me, make me the happiest woman on earth, and give me his last name…maybe some babies too,
I thought to myself. The possibilities were endless now.
“Where’s our mother?” Noah asked.
“She went back to the hotel.”
“She wants to speak with you in the evening.”
“No thanks,” he protested.
“I don’t think you can get rid of her that easily,” Evan jested, sitting down in a chair next to me.
“Our mother always forces her company on people. I think the only way I can get rid of her is if I move to the Antarctic.”
I had to hold my laughter.
“Probably working out some drama with the new proud daddy.
Wow, for once these two were being civil, maybe because they had somebody else to rip apart instead of each other.
“Your birthday’s coming up soon,” Evan said to me.
“Yeah, and I’m not looking forward to it, because it’s going to be spent inside this prison.”
“Well, my birthday’s just a day after yours. We could always post pone and celebrate it once you’re better,” Noah gently brushed his fingers over mine, but his smile disappeared as soon as Evan took my other hand and held it.
“I agree with Noah.”
“Let go of her hand. Technically you’re not her uncle anymore.”
“And technically you’re not her father
Oh god, not again. Noah clenched his jaw, and glared at his brother with threatening eyes. I wasn’t sure why there was so much rivalry between them. It seriously frustrated me. In a perfect world, they would just get along, and maybe even have some sort of bromance
? In a perfect world,
I sighed in my head…but it wasn’t a perfect world.
My hospital door suddenly opened, and in walked Rob and mom. She looked like she had been crying.
“Hey, could we have a moment alone with our daughter?” her voice cracked, as she cleared her throat, and looked at Noah.
He seemed reluctant to leave, but eventually let go of my hand, and stood up.
“I’ll be back.”
Evan left the room with him, leaving me alone with my mom and the phony father.
“How are you feeling?” she asked me.
“How do you think I feel?”
“Aria, I want to make things right,” Rob sat down next to me, and reached for my hand. But I pulled it away. “Please, just give me a chance. We’re taking you back home with us once you’re well enough to leave the hospital.”
“No body’s taking me anywhere. I’m staying with Noah.”
“He’s not your father, sweetheart. He’s not even your step father,” mom said.
“So? He’s been more of a dad to me than Rob has ever been throughout my life. I’m not moving back in with you guys, and you can’t make me.”
Yes, that was harsh, but I didn’t care. He deserved it.
“Where will you live then?”
“You can’t live with him. He’s not your family,” Rob argued.
“He is to me!”
I had been living with him for this long. If they took me away from Noah, I wasn’t sure how I’d survive.
“Sweetheart, isn’t there a way we can compromise? Please consider coming back to New York. You could start your school year at Columbia, and if you don’t want to live with us, you could live in a dorm, experience the whole new world of college life, and make your parents happy knowing that you’re much closer to us. We want to be more involved in your life.”
“I don’t want you involved in my life! I can look after myself.”
My mother looked like I had severely wounded her, but I couldn’t hold back my resentment any longer. It was years’ worth of pain and suffering, overflowing out of me.
“You never protected me, mom. You never defended me. You should’ve left him the first time he laid his hands on me!” I quickly fixed my scornful gaze on Rob. “Do you think I’ve forgotten? Or that I could ever forget? Remember the night’s when you used to lock me up in the closet in the dark? Or the time you beat me black and blue because I accidentally spilled milk on the floor? Do I really need to mention the rest!?”
My mother started to cry, holding her hand to her mouth. “Aria, stop…”she whimpered, in tears.
“Why, mom? Is it too painful to hear the truth? How do you think I felt having to endure this on a daily basis?”
There were tears in my dad’s eyes, but I didn’t care.
“Funny, I recall him being more than happy to dump me off
with Noah nine months ago. And now that he’s my biological father, he’s suddenly so willing to repair our relationship and bring me back home, so that he can call me princess and buy me dolls? Sorry dad,
too little too late.” I criticized.
I wanted them to leave. I wanted to be with Noah, and just escape everything.
There was a soft knock at the door, and then Doctor Peters stepped in.
“Apologies, I hope I’m not intruding at a bad time.”
“No, not at all,” mom wiped her face, and tried to regain some composure.
“I just wanted to bring you the papers you need to sign, and then I can schedule you in for the surgery. Have you spoken to our psychiatrist regarding the transplant surgery?”
“Yes, doctor, I have. I’m going through with it, and I understand everything that will happen post op.”
“Great,” he handed her some forms and began to clarify some things, while I avoided Rob’s eyes.
I had no idea what I wanted to do after this surgery. I just prayed to God that it would be a success. All of this felt like a second chance. If I had never gotten in that accident, then the true paternity results would never have been discovered. I felt like the universe was telling me that Noah and I were meant to be. Fate couldn’t be so cruel to have me learn this knowledge, and then die on the operating table…or die months later. I wanted to live. I wanted to experience life with the man of my dreams.
Doctor Peters had a long discussion with my parents, and then left. They tried to talk to me more, and convince me to come back home, but the only person I needed was Noah.
“I’m tired of all this talking! Please, if you love me, then just bring Noah back in here, and let me talk to him!” I bawled my eyes out like a baby.
My mother gave me a worried look, and then grabbed Rob’s arm. “Let’s give her some space,” she murmured, and he seemed unwilling to go, but thankfully left the room. oOo
I was alone again. Minutes later, Noah entered my room, and closed the door, but it didn’t shut all the way. I felt like this wilting rose whenever he was far from me.
“What did that bastard say to you?” he placed his coffee cup down on my side table, and sat in a chair next to me.
I was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. Everything was hitting me at once.
“Noah, I’m so scared,” my tears overflowed uncontrollably. “I’m scared I’m not going to survive this.”
The fear of losing him through unlucky circumstances was scaring me more than anything.
“Aria, don’t think that way,” he leaned forward, and hugged me, as I wrapped my arms around his neck, and cried my heart out.
“I don’t want to die.”
“You won’t,” he rubbed my back in a slow circular motion, and soothed me with some much needed optimism. “We didn’t go through everything we’ve gone through to lose each other now. Do you understand?” he caressed my hair, and held the side of my face when I withdrew a bit. “I know you’re scared now more than ever,” Noah wiped my tears away with his thumb, “But everything’s going to go smoothly.”
“You can’t guarantee that,” I sobbed.
“I can guarantee that I love you. I can swear on your life that I’m hopelessly in love with you. And once this is all over, and you’re better, I promise I’m taking you on that trip to Italy.”
He was only making me cry more, with his touching confessions.
“I want you to be strong, Aria. Be strong for me, because I rely on your strength just as much as you rely on mine. We feed off each other.”
“What if the transplant fails?”
“Then you’re getting another kidney. I’m not going to let you die on me. Do you hear me?” he cupped my face, and there it was, that tidal wave rising while I just stood in front of the ocean current, surrendering to its power, as it washed over me, and submerged me in the deep waters. This is what it felt like to love this man, knowing that he could completely destroy me, and break my heart, but trusting that he wouldn’t.
“I love you, Noah.”
His clear ocean eyes pierced right through me, as he brought his face closer to mine, and pressed his soft lips against the corner of my mouth. I felt my body tingle all over, while I held my breath, and listened to his deep, sexy voice.
“I love you more than anything in this world, my life included. I want you to imagine walking on cobblestone streets, and arched bridges by my side. Think about our trip to Venice, the floating city of romantic Italy. I’m going to take you out on the gondolas, shopping sprees at all the famous designer shops. You’d like that, right?”
“Noah, you don’t have to spend extravagant amounts of money on me to make me happy. Just being with you is enough.”
“We’ll have breakfast out on the patio, and walk by the palazzos. Do you know what that is?”
I shook my head.
“It’s a type of architectural style in the 19 th and 20 th centuries based upon the palaces that were built by the wealthiest families during the Italian Renaissance. I’ll show you some pictures next time.”
I couldn’t wait.
“We’ll walk the city streets together, breathing in that aroma of fresh Italian food, and I’ll take you wine tasting at some countryside vineyards. Can you see it in your mind, Aria?”
“And then we’ll take a stroll through St. Mark’s Square, Piazza San Marco,”
God, his Italian was perfect, and so freaking sexy.
“Listen to street musicians perform and fill the streets with accordions, and classical guitars. Would you like that?”
“I’d love that,” I smiled, as a contented sigh escaped my lips.
“I’ll take you to Rome, the Eternal City. It received its nickname in Ancient Rome, because the Romans believed that no matter what happened to the world, no how many empires would fall, Rome would always go on forever.”
“You know so much about the country.”
“I just know my history.”
I hadn’t even gone there, and I was already falling in love with Italy.
“There’s so much to see, and so much I want you to experience with me.”
“Have you been there before?” I asked. Somehow I was worried he had traveled there on some romantic getaway with another woman.
“Yes, I visited Milan on a work trip—just for a day.”
That was a relief. This was going to be so special, and I could hardly wait. He had me so excited, that I practically forgot about all my fears.
“When can we go?”
“We can go during your winter break, or spring break.”
“I wish we could leave tomorrow.”
“I know, beauty. I wish that too. But you’re going to need the rest of the summer to recover from the surgery, and then you also have school in the fall.”
“I want to be with you. I don’t want to live with mom and Rob.”
“You won’t have to. I promise.”
He said that with such sincerity, it honestly moved me to tears.
“There is something I wanted to discuss with you though.”
Oh god, I hoped it wasn’t bad news. Then again, nothing could be worse than being Rob Mitchell’s daughter.
“I got a call back from a law firm in New York, earlier today. They’ve offered me a position. A friend of mine is the co-founder and managing partner of Keller & Trent.
I’ve accepted the position today.”
“What? How come you never told me you were job hunting?”
“Because I wasn’t sure if I’d land the job, but I guess my credentials are better than I expected.”
“Why are you leaving your firm in LA?”
“Because the senior partners didn’t fire that dipshit. So I’m blind siding them, handing in my letter of resignation, and leaving the firm. I’m not going to offer my services and expertise to a team of people I don’t believe in anymore. Quite frankly, I’m their best asset. They need me, but I could care less.”
“You’ll be living in New York?”
“Yes, it’s a fresh new start. I think it’ll be good for me…” he seemed hesitant, but continued. “Columbia’s a great school, Aria.”
“But I don’t want to be anywhere near Rob!”
“You won’t have to be around him. I’d want you to move in with me, but we have to stay under the radar for a while. I can get you an apartment and—”
“Oh my god, no!”
He seemed taken back by my reaction.
“I can’t let you do that,” I stated very adamantly.
“Why not? I love you. I want to help.”
“Don’t take my independence away from me, Noah.”
“How am I taking your independence away?”
“By trying to do everything for me, and being the hero all the time. This is something I can work out on my own.”
“Are you too proud to accept my financial help now? I still feel protective of you. I still feel responsible. You can’t expect me to just shut that off like a switch overnight. I’m older than you. I’m established, and I have the means to help.”
God, this was so frustrating.
“I can do school, and work part time. Jade, Alison and I can get our own place, like we always planned on doing. We can all split the rent and expenses.”
“You want roommates?”
“They’re my best friends. It wouldn’t be like they’re strangers living with me.”
“I guess I should be relieved you don’t have any guy friends shacking up with you.”
Nope. Evan was the only guy that was more like my best friend, and Noah already had enough problems with him.
“When will you be moving?”
“I start on the job the first week of September. I’ve put the house on the market, and I’m pretty sure it’ll sell quickly.”
Everything was changing so fast. My head was almost spinning.
“So…I guess I’m going to Columbia then.”
“Or you could stay here in California and go to Berkley.”
“I don’t want to be states away from you. I’d rather endure being in the same area code as Rob, if it means I get to see you every day.”
It was true. I just couldn’t imagine my life without Noah in it. He made it worth living. “Please don’t abandon me.”
“That would be the same as abandoning my life. You
are my life, Aria,” he kissed my hand again, and held it in both of his, gently massaging my palm. It felt so relaxing.
“We find out that we’re not actually father and daughter, and still
we have to keep our relationship on the down low,” I sighed.
He seemed troubled by what I said.
“Noah, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t want you to commit to me, not when you’re so young and have so much to experience. As much as I want to love you selfishly, I can’t. It would be so unfair to you.”
I frowned at him, and slipped my hand away. “How could you even think that way? I love you. You’re the only man I want to be with.”
“That could change once you start college. I don’t want to get in the way of your freedom to meet other people, guys that are your own age.”
This was seriously making me cry. Didn’t he understand just how crazy I was about him?
“First of all, I’m completely blind to your age. You could easily pass for 25, and you know it. Secondly, I don’t want to date other guys. If I wanted to date someone my own age, I would’ve dated Ryan.”
“There’s no point in trying to get you to change your mind is there?”
“I’m insulted that you would even try.”
“I’ve never loved anyone like I love you. This is all new territory for me.”
I wanted to kiss him so badly, just to make him believe that I wanted him, heart, body, and soul.
“If we have to keep us a secret, I’m fine with that. I don’t care if we have to hide from the world, and stay in the shadows…just don’t leave me.”
“I won’t. I can’t, even if I wanted to,” Noah assured me.
“And please don’t make decisions for me. Let me make my own.”
“I’ll try not to be pushy,” he sighed. “Sometimes you really don’t know what’s best for you, but I do.”
I ran my fingers through my hair, and took a deep breath. “So, we’re going to New York?”
He flashed a crooked smile, and said, “We’re going to New York.”
“I’m going to survive this?”
“You’re going to walk into my new condo, let me wine and dine you, throw you over my shoulder, take you to bed, and worship your body all night. You’re going to survive this.
Oh. My. God. Ovaries exploded. *****
Emily felt so depressed. She was sitting down in the hospital cafeteria, while Rob ordered some food. A part of her felt so sad inside because she believed that Aria was the only link that kept her connected to Noah. He was her first love, and the love of her life. All these years had passed, and she could never get over him. Seeing him in LA the past five weeks had really stirred up some feelings to resurface.
Discovering her daughter’s true paternity results troubled her. In some ways, she always believed that a piece of Noah was with her whenever she looked at Aria. She really did not look like Robert at all, especially with her eye color. The truth had completely shocked her system, and she had to console her husband into believing that she was happy about the news, when in reality…she wasn’t.
Noah was right when he called the man out on all his short comings. He hadn’t been a good father to Aria, and there were many instances where he wasn’t a great husband to her either. Emily often wished she could turn back the clock, and marry Noah, instead of settling down with a man she believed was the safer choice; Rob.
He did not make her happy. With every year that passed in that passionless marriage, she felt like she was losing pieces of herself, and losing her identity. She used to be such a happy young woman, with dreams, and would always take care of her appearance, and fashion sense. But living with Rob had completely changed who she was. She became extremely low maintenance, and had to settle for living from pay check to pay check, taking care of a man who wasn’t romantic enough, and never put any real effort into making her feel appreciated, and cared for.
It had been a long time since she felt this way. After starting a family with him, Emily felt locked into the marriage, and was afraid to be out on her own as a single mother. Her parents were also strongly against divorce.
She kept replaying that conversation she had with Noah the other day, when he offered her money to help out with her debts. That charismatic smile, those hypnotic eyes, the way he reached out and held her hand to reassure her that everything was going to be okay. It made Emily tear up. Noah Hunter was still the love of her life, and her heart ached to know that she was no longer his.
Robert had done so many awful things to their daughter. It seemed impossible for him to redeem himself. ‘You never protected me, mom. You never defended me. You should’ve left him the first time he laid his hands on me!’
Aria’s voice echoed in her head, like a phantom that was haunting her, as she wiped her tears away. Finally, she had come face to face with a door she had always avoided in the labyrinth of her mind. A door she should have walked through years ago, but never had the courage to do.
Robert came by the table, and placed his tray down, before sitting across from Emily.
She then looked up at him, with no readable expression on her face, and said, “I want a divorce.”*****
(Author’s note: Please do not read this chapter, if you have not read chapter 13. It is located on my blog)
This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than Lushstories.com
with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/i-shouldnt-love-this-way-chapter-14.aspx">I Shouldn't Love This Way- Chapter 14</a>