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First To Fall by Farrah F. Polestico
Georgina Harrington knew right from the start that she and Matt Bishop were meant for each other. He was The One. Or so she thought, until she caught him making out with his co-worker—in their sofa! Now Georgie has to face the music and start packing her things and look for a new apartment, because she can’t bear to stay in the same roof with a cheating bastard.
And then, the newly hired software developer, Atkins Rosenfeld, came strolling into the firm where she works. He had everything a woman would want from a man—angular jaw, day-old stubble, long lashes. What’s not to like? She can’t deny her attraction to him but is she ready to jump into a new relationship after her last one ended so disastrously?
Meanwhile, Matt comes crawling back to her. Will she forgive him? Was five years of being together that easy to toss to the curb?
Georgie is terrified to entrust her heart to someone again after Matt cheated on her. But deep down she knows she loves Atkins. Just when everything is falling into place, Atkins screws up big time and breaks her heart all over again. Will Georgie and Atkins be able to fix it before she finally throws down the towel and turn her back on love?
My blood ran cold at the sound of that voice. I knew it all too well. I was suddenly consumed by the urge to run screaming for the hills.
“Matt?” My hand shook as I placed my hands on my lap. “I told you not to come near me again. Were you following me?”
I could feel Atkins’s questioning stare beside me but I had no time for him right now. I clenched my fists, fighting for composure.
“No, I wasn’t. I’m here with my officemates. I was just going to get a drink when I saw you here.”
“I see. Well, have a good evening, Matt.” I stood up from my seat and was about to walk away when his hand clamped my forearm to stop me.
I glared at him and said, “Let go of me, Matt.”
“Just please listen to me for a minute, okay?” His eyes were pleading but it didn’t have the same effect to me as back then.
“Let go, Matt,” I repeated. I shook my arm from his grip rather harshly.
“The lady doesn’t want to talk to you, man. So I strongly suggest you leave her alone.” There was an underlying threat in Atkins’s voice. The air was filled with a tangible tension all of sudden. They were glaring at each other like two alpha lions. They stood toe to toe[FARRAH, 4/19/2015 10:10:17 PM toe to toe? Neck to neck? Chest to chest?], staring down the other man.
“Is this your new boyfriend, Georgie?” Matt asked, his eyes not leaving Atkins. “Looks like a scum to me,” Matt spat.
Atkins reared back his head and his forehead slammed into Matt’s nose with a sickening crunch. Blood splattered down Matt’s chin. He cradled his broken nose for a moment and when the initial shock wore off he swung his fist back and hit Atkins square in the jaw. Atkins tackled Matt to the ground. The people gathered around us, most of them were gasping in surprise while a few others were egging them on.
Matt and Atkins were writhing and grunting on the floor. Atkins caught Matt in a headlock and Matt was desperately clawing at Atkins’s arms to break free. Atkins’s jaw was swollen and his nose bleeding. Matt’s blood was staining his immaculate suit, his face red from choking.
Four men broke through the crush of people around us. One of them had a shaved head and a huge bulk— the bouncer. The other three were Zang, Clyde and Lukas. The bouncer pried them apart. Zang and Lukas held back Atkins, while the bouncer and Clyde tightly held Matt.
“We’re not done here, you little piece of shit!” cried Matt as he tried to break free from the bouncer’s grip. “Let go of me!” he said to the bouncer.
Three men in equally expensive business suits hovered at the edge of the crow. They were Matt’s friends and they eyed him warily.
“Both of you, stop it now!” I screamed through the noise of the club and of the people milling around. “Matt, please just go away.”
Matt shook his head. “We’re not done yet, Georgie.” Without a word Matt turned his back and walked away, the bouncer and his friends following closely behind him.
Mariz came up to me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. “Hey, are you alright?”
I shook my head in response.
Atkins touched his tender jaw. I heard Zang ask him, “Dude, what the hell happened?” Atkins didn’t answer.
Girls find it hot when two guys brawl over them, but I don’t. It was such a tacky way to deal with things. And Atkins didn’t have to do it for me. I didn’t ask him.
He sat on the bar stool and grabbed a few pieces of paper napkin to dab at the blood running down his nose.
“What the hell was that for?” I lashed out at him.
He looked at me with smoldering brown eyes, his lips in a thin line. “I just got my ass kicked for you,” he said quietly.
“Thanks but no thanks. I didn’t ask you to.”
“I know. But he was practically harassing you in front of me. Did you expect me to just watch?”
“Yes! Because it wasn’t your goddamn business, Atkins!”
I was losing my patience fast.
“It fucking is”
“Because I care for you, goddamn it!” Atkins shouted. The napkins were balled in his fist, his jaw muscles tensed. “I’m sorry,” his voice was quieter now. “I shouldn’t have shouted at you.”
“I think that’s enough for tonight,” Lukas said. “We’re all upset after what happened. It would do us a lot of good if we took a step back and talk about this another time, when all of us aren’t upset anymore. Why don’t we all head home and cool our heads off, yeah?”
“You’re right,” I said to Lukas. It was all too much for me. I needed the fresh air. I needed to breathe and get away from it all. “I’m going home. See you on Monday,” I announced to no one in particular.
I walked out of the bar, grateful to be away from the mayhem. When I stepped out of the bar I noticed the snowflakes as they dance in the air. The winter wind blew, stinging my cheeks with the cold. I shrugged on my coat and looked up and down the street for a taxi.
Someone touched my arm. It was Atkins.
“I’ll take you home,” he said.
“I really appreciate your concern but we both know you’ve done enough for me tonight. I certainly don’t want to impose on you.” I let out all the sarcasm I had in that sentence. Why did he have to be so good to me? This would have been so easy if he was a jerk.
“It’s not safe for you to go home alone,” he reasoned.
“I’m going to take a cab,” I said stubbornly.
“C’mon,” he tugged gently at my hand towards where his car was parked.
I had a long day and I was tired. I didn’t have the energy to argue.
We climbed into his car and I did my best to pretend he wasn’t sitting beside me. My hands tightened on the seatbelt.
My mind wandered to Matt again. As hard as I tried not to think of him, I still did. He was the past I desperately wanted to forget but he kept popping out of nowhere. Just what the hell did he want? My forgiveness? I didn’t think I could give it to him that easily.
Once upon a time I thought he was the perfect boyfriend. The One. But I was wrong. Now all I felt for him was hurt and hatred.
“I’ll always love you,” Matt had said before. But now those words meant nothing anymore.
The worst part of it all was he never made me feel unloved when we were together. Every night before we went to sleep he would whisper in my ear how much he loved me. I would’ve handled our breakup better if I knew right from the start that he was a jerk. Because then I would see this coming and I wouldn’t feel so blind-sided. But no, he was nothing but a loving boyfriend.
Until he wasn’t.
We arrived at the front steps of my apartment. I unbuckled my seatbelt and mumbled my thanks. I was about to open the door when he said, “Georgie, wait.”
He cleared his throat first before speaking. “I’d like to apologize for what happened tonight.”
I shook my head and said, “It wasn’t your fault, Atkins. None of it were.”
It was true. No matter how pissed I was at him, it wasn’t his fault Matt showed up tonight. The person that I should be mad at was Matt. That heartless bastard.
My eyes caught the blooming bruise on his jawline and the small piece of paper napkin stuck to his nostril to keep it from bleeding. I felt bad. I did that to him, not directly but I knew I somehow caused it.
“We have to do something about your jaw and nose.”
He grimaced. “Don’t worry, I’ll live,” he grunted.
“Let’s get you an ice pack for that bruise.”
The fluorescent light flooded my bare apartment. Brown boxes were stacked to one side. My living room only consisted of the most basic furniture— a sofa, coffee table and two ottomans. I haven’t finished with moving my stuff and I didn’t see the need to hurry. I only took my personal belongings with me when I moved out of Matt’s place. All the furniture was his anyway.
“Why don’t you take a seat first? I’ll get the ice pack in the medicine cabinet.” I gestured for him to sit on the sofa. He did, roamed his eyes around the living room but didn’t say anything.
I went to get the ice pack and filled it with ice. I returned to the living room and gently pressed it on his jaw. He flinched at the contact of the cold compress. Some of his hair fell to his eyes and I couldn’t help myself brushing them. His jet black hair was so silky, it felt good between my fingers.
“Is your nose still bleeding?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Can I go to the bathroom first? I want to wash the blood off my face.”
“Yeah, sure.” I pointed to him the direction of the bathroom.
A few minutes later he returned, his face looked fresher, the little piece of paper napkin stuck to his nose was gone.
I patted the space beside me. He sat, his body turned to me, his arm casually rested on the backrest. I placed the ice bag on his bruised jaw.
“Ow,” he flinched.
“Hey, listen. I appreciate what you did back there but I don’t want something like that to happen again.”
I had to remind myself how to inhale deeply before exhaling because his stare and proximity was making it hard to breathe. His attention to me was so unnerving. The arm draped on the sofa moved to play with the strands of my hair. He was twirling and twirling it, making my scalp tingle from the pleasure.
Atkins shook his head. “I can’t promise that if that bastard comes near you again. Who’s he, anyway?”
It was my turn to shake my head. “I’d rather not talk about him.”
“He’s your ex, right?”
He stopped playing with my hair.
“Yes,” was my only response.
“Care to explain more?”
I shook my head once again. “I don’t want to talk about it. Why do you have to know, anyway?”
“I told you, I care about you. And I want you.” The last words were barely spoken, like a promise to the wind. I wouldn’t have heard it if I weren’t sitting so close to him.
I regarded him with wide, surprised eyes, not expecting to hear those words from him. And if I was being honest to myself, I wanted him too.
His hands were back at playing with my hair, taking fistfuls of it, tugging them gently. “So soft,” he murmured.
I leaned into his touch, reveling in his warmth and presence.
“Tell me about Matt,” he urged.
And just like that the spell was broken.
I angled away from him, my hand no longer pressing the ice bag to his bruise.
“Don’t push me away again, Georgie.”
I’ve never told anyone the whole story, not even Mariz or Lukas. All they knew was that Matt and I broke up but I never told them the whole truth. Part of me was embarrassed. It was humiliating to have your boyfriend cheat on you. It bruised my ego. I’d rather he dump me than cheat on me. I could understand falling out of love with someone but betraying their trust was just pure torture.
I refused to talk about Matt because it would open up all sorts of wounds. But I was also hurting myself for spending all my waking hours thinking about them. It was like picking on the scab of a healing wound and letting it bleed all over again.
Maybe if I was to open up to someone, I could start the healing process. I was tired of running away from Matt’s shadow. It was time to face it.
I stared at my hands on my lap, deciding how much to tell him. I knew he wouldn’t stop asking until I gave him answers. I took a deep breath, arriving at a decision. I would tell him everything.
“Alright. You want the truth? I’m going to give you the truth.”
I told Atkins everything. I told him about the night I caught Matt making out with Carmella fucking Coen, to how I reacted to what I saw. I also told him that I crashed at Mariz’s apartment for a week before I managed to find a new place with the help of Lukas’s real estate agent friend. After settling the arrangement for the new apartment, I came back to Matt’s place one day and pack all the things I’d left, knowing that he wouldn’t be there.
From then on I ignored every one of his pleas through texts and calls. I mentioned to Atkins how Matt found out about my new address by following me to this apartment.
“So he’s stalking you now?” His face was impassive but I could see the anger in his eyes.
“I don’t think he meant any harm. He just wanted to talk to me. But I don’t. There was nothing to talk about, really. Actions speak louder than words and it’s especially true to my situation.”
“What about breaking up with him?”
I shrugged, continued my explanation. “As you know, we never talked about what happened or rather, I didn’t talk to him. But in my mind there was no doubt we’re through. There was no way I would get back with him.”
Atkins nodded, quiet for a long time.
It felt good to confide in someone, to say the things that had been plaguing my mind for months now. It was like a heavy brick was lifted off my chest.
“I should’ve broken his neck instead of just his nose,” Atkins spoke, his voice laced with anger and hatred. “You didn’t deserve what he did to you.”
Atkins scooted closer until our knees were touching. “You didn’t deserve any of it.”
He was right, I didn’t deserve it. But the thing with life is it isn’t fair and sometimes we get the things we don’t deserve. Knowing that he cared about me, that he listened to me, was enough. Because even if things looked dire, he was there for me.
Was this how giving a piece of yourself to someone was like? I’d never felt this way before, not with Matt. I never allowed myself to be vulnerable around Matt. I was too afraid to let him see the deepest part of me. I did trust Matt but I was afraid to bare myself to him.
I never knew confiding in someone, letting them see your weakness felt this good. I always thought it was a scary thing to do. But with Atkins it didn’t feel scary at all. Deep inside me I knew that he understood me, that he wouldn’t judge me for the things that I did. I knew I had his back.
It was crazy to think, given that we’ve only known each other for such a short time but now that I knew him, my life seemed to be only divided by two things: before and after I met him.
I couldn’t help comparing him to Matt. Matt, I knew everything about him, knew his habits, his likes, the color of his favorite tie, the smell of him. I knew him very well, could even predict what he was going to say before he said it. It was crazy how familiar he was to me. I knew he loved me, well, that was before Carmella happened.
And then there’s Atkins, a guy I barely knew. How long did we know each other? A little over a month? But he felt closer to me at this moment than Matt ever did in the five years we’d been together. Atkins was unmapped territory but I felt I belonged with him.
The thing with kisses is that you don’t really know who makes the first move, the only thing you know is one second you’re looking each other in the eyes and then your lips meet and your mind goes blank but completely alert at the same time.
I could feel Atkins’s hands as it rested on the small of my back, scorching the strip of skin exposed to his touch. My hands traveled to the planes of his chest beneath the soft cotton of his shirt. He pulled me closer, craving the close proximity of my body. His other hand cupped my face then moved to thread his fingers through my hair.
I was perfectly aware that my hands were exploring his body, touching him everywhere. I was aware how soft his lips and how rough his kisses were— just the way I liked it.
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