I felt a twist and a slight jerk before the glass beads spilled all over the floor. I’m such an idiot! This isn’t even my necklace!
Gregory should’ve left by now—he’d already said goodbye to his friends. I watched as he hovered in the doorway, obviously debating what to do. I decided I’d make it easier for him. I knelt on the floor and turned my back, completely ignoring him as I started to pick up the mess. There. Now you can go. I don’t need you.
I sighed at the thought of being such a klutz in front of him. Suddenly, I saw long, lean fingers close to my shorter ones, picking up beads. I glanced at the top of Gregory’s blond head as he avoided looking at me. It had been years since I’d seen that head and those hands so close to my own.
What I expected least was the joy of having him so near. I’d anticipated misery and pain and awkwardness, but never joy. Since his return, I’d fully expected him to break my heart—a punishment I deserved.
Stunned into silence by my thoughts, I began to collect the beads again. This time I looked over and noticed that not only had Gregory placed the beads he’d collected into a pile, he’d also begun to organize them into groups of color and size.
Is he stalling? My heart began to race. Is he waiting for me to say something? He can’t be hoping to be next to me longer, since he hates me. Hasn’t he looked straight through me—as if I didn’t exist—during the entire party? We haven’t spoken one word to each other all night. Even when we were introduced, he just nodded and walked back to that girl. The beautiful brunette was, even now, waiting for him in the hall.
One blue glass bead. One green glass bead. One silver spacer bead. One . . .
“Thank you, Greg—Gregory.”
He looked up then, but he still didn’t meet my eyes.
I tried again. “You didn’t have to, but thank you anyway. It was very nice of you.” And more than I deserve.
He raised his head quickly as if my words shocked him, and his eyes finally met mine. My heart stopped. His deep, chocolate brown eyes set against blond hair and perfect features were as striking as I remembered. And extremely good-looking. Dang, he’s hot! I thought despite myself.
His eyes held mine far longer than my foolish heart could handle, yet I didn’t want to look away. I couldn’t. I’d waited too long to see his incredible eyes again. Selfishly, I absorbed every moment he gave. There was so much I wanted to say—so much I’m sure he wouldn’t want to hear—but I let it be. I remained silent and allowed the moment of our first real meeting in three years to overwhelm me. I lived in the moment, something I was chided for doing back then. Something I vowed I would never make the mistake of not doing again. No matter what, I would never let someone persuade me to disobey my heart.
Gregory didn’t smile. He didn’t frown. He just searched my eyes and said, “You’re welcome.”
His deep baritone voice jarred me—he sounded older. If I wasn’t frozen before, I was now. He spoke to me. He actually spoke to me!
I could tell he was very surprised, too. He must’ve broken some vow to himself in that moment—probably a vow to never speak to me again.
Within seconds, he was standing. He was going to leave, and there was nothing I could do to keep him next to me, nothing I could say. But I’d given that chance up long ago. He wasn’t, nor would he ever be, mine.
His tall form towered over me, and I watched as he adjusted his jacket. And then he was gone, his eyes never once wavering from the hallway, where the beautiful girl waited for him.
In silence, I collected the last pieces of the borrowed necklace I’d been so eager to wear, the necklace that had always looked so pretty on my stepsister. Then I fled the party. I had to get away before anyone saw me freak out.
In the privacy of my car, I allowed the full force of the pain and bitterness of the last three years to wash over me. How can I be foolish enough to love someone who has hated me for so long? And why did he come back? Why did he choose now—of all times—to disrupt my life? And why does he have to be so good-looking, too? I would’ve gladly taken him back, no matter what he looked like, but for him to be so gorgeous is torture.
No one recognized or remembered him but me. Why would they? He was more muscular than he’d been at fifteen. His hair was now cut shorter and swept off his face, and his dark, rectangle-framed glasses were gone. I missed his glasses. He also introduced himself as Gregory instead of Greg.
The new, improved Gregory was cheerfully welcomed into my so-called friends’ circle. Their eagerness to stake a claim at so fine a specimen reminded me of vultures circling their prey. The same girls that had gossiped about the awkward Greg and secretly mocked him, now gladly turned to Gregory with open arms.
It was rumored that his father had become very successful after leaving Farmington, New Mexico, and that Gregory’s family was now worth millions. They were millionaires, while my family, who used to spend our winters in Hawaii and our summers in Alaska, now had to learn to economize. Thanks to the economy and the recession, our investments and businesses were deteriorating, and our finances were nearly depleted.
My dad didn’t think I knew, but I had overheard him and my stepmom countless times, discussing the great burden of debt that seemed to swallow us whole. Just last week, they’d announced we were going to move. My stepmom made up some pretense of having a difficult time keeping up such a large house, but I knew we didn’t have a choice. At least my parents were being smart about it. We’d all be better off with a smaller home that fit within our new budget.But why did Gregory’s family have to buy our house, of all houses? That was the final blow. The home hadn’t even been on the market when the realtor called to arrange a showing while I was at school on Thursday. Thank goodness I was at school! My dad had mentioned that a tall, nice-looking guy had come to the showing with his parents. I probably would have fainted had I seen Gregory, and I’m sure I would’ve thought I was hallucinating or something. How many times in the last three years had I wished I could see him? But to have my wish granted this way—to see him in my house because his parents were buying it—I couldn’t bear it. To have him sleeping in one of the bedrooms, or hanging out in the living room, or putting his feet up with a good book in the study . . . it was just too much.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Persuaded by Jenni James
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Published July 17th 2012 by Inkberry Press
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