Baring Souls

 

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Introduction

DISCLAIMER: READ FIRST.

This story contains explicit material and is recommended for mature audiences, 18 +. It also contains details of sexual assault and violence. 

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Written by: N.Harvey.

No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means. Any resemblance to to places, events, names, people, products, and, and incidents are purely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baring Souls

'To bare your soul is to tell the truth,

once you haved bared your soul,

only then are you truly set free.'

 

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Chapter 1

‘At the centre of your being, you have the answer,

You know who you are,

And you know what you want.’

-Lao Tzu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring 2015

  

 “Ugh!”   

 Teddy thought as she pulled her drapes open and looked outside, the cold, wet and miserable weather was typically Melbourne. She was beginning to wonder whether she should move to a warmer climate or not when stepping in under the hot water in the shower. The heat warming her chilled skin and bones.

Theodora, or Teddy, preferably, kept pretty much the same routine every week, up early, go to work, come home, go for a run or a workout, have dinner, do more work or watch TV, then off to bed to start the next day again. Though today, she felt it was going to be different, - and for the better.

After showering and drying herself off, Teddy wandered through to her walk-in-closet; in search of something warm to wear with the miserable weather outside. Her job as a graduate architect at Bricks and Mortar Architecture didn't require formal wear, thanks to her boss, Spencer Hughes. He ran the business in a casual setting, making Teddy’s life a whole lot easier when it came to choosing an outfit each day.

Slipping on a matching set of Victoria's Secret bra, panties and thigh high stockings, she scanned the rack and chose a black, long sleeve fitted jersey dress off the hanger. She tugged it over her head before selecting a pair of black knee length boots to wear on her feet. The leather boots guaranteed to keep her feet dry from the rain and give the extra warmth needed on the ridiculously cold day. Teddy grabs a denim jacket, and a grey wool scarf, wrapping it around her long slender neck as she made her way back to the ensuite bathroom to do her hair and makeup.

 

Entering the stylish kitchen, with its marble benchtops and stainless steel appliances, Teddy quietly prepares her usual breakfast; a cup of earl grey tea and a bowl of oats drizzled with honey before her roommates make their appearance to do the same. In that moment, they do so, not long after, while she’s eating her breakfast at the table, and greets them, smiling brightly,

"Good morning, peeps."

"Tell me what is so cheerful about a cold rainy Monday morning?'' Scarlett groans making herself a cup of coffee. 

 

Teddy's younger sister, Scarlett, one of her three roommates, only moved in to escape their domineering parents. Scarlett was like any twenty-two-year-old, she wanted to party. But because she was still at university, their parents, Evan and Therese, were constantly fighting over the choices she made or didn’t; and in the end, Scarlett had enough, consequently moving out and in with her sister.

"It is going to be a fantastic day. I can feel it in my bones." Teddy proclaims.

Scarlett rolls her eyes mockingly, "always the optimist still sis?"

"Well someone has to be miss misery guts," Teddy says raising a brow sardonically. 

"Who's miserable now?" Dominique asks sauntering into the kitchen, "no, let me guess. It’s a certain little miss sunshine with red hair, blue eyes?" She said, her eyes averting in Scarlett's direction.

"Ha-ha, hilarious little miss wise arse," Scarlett scolds, glaring at her.

Teddy laughs as she bends placing her dishes into the dishwasher. "Any case ladies, I am off to work, and I shall see you all later." She says planting a quick kiss on her sister's head, "have a good day, Miss Grumpy."

 

Teddy wondered why she even bothered with her makeup that morning, as she ran to her car, a Holden Captiva, and jumped in barely avoiding the sudden downpour. Her face, now having the appearance of a panda, instead of the fresh face she had initially done. With the rain coming down in buckets, it was filling the gutters quickly, overflowing, making the simple task of getting to work hazardous for any driver.

Bricks & Mortar Architecture sat on the fifth floor of 101 Collins, a postmodern building situated centrally in the fashionable business district of Collins Street. Little cafés and stylish boutiques surrounded the building, making it perfect for unique lunchtime shopping or a simple catch up with friends.

The office space, takes up an entire floor and is light, airy and modern, making it a joy to work in. All work spaces were large cubicles, placed around the outside of a large common area, perfect for collaborating or just to relax.

Entering the office, Teddy was already exhausted and was on her way to repair her makeup when her boss, Spencer called her into his office. Sighing, she throws her bags onto her desk, and wanders over to his office, lightly tapping on the door frame, "you asked to see me, Mr Hughes?"

Standing well over six feet tall, with broad muscular shoulders, and warm chocolate brown eyes, Spencer Hughes was every woman's dream and every man’s worst nightmare. His presence alone was captivating. Looking up from the folder on his desk, Spencer brushes his chestnut brown hair off his forehead, and greets Teddy with a smile most women would fall over. It was broad, and dashing, as was the person wearing it. "Please come in and take a seat." He gestures toward the brown leather chair adjacent to him.

Teddy peers over and soon realises the folder in front of him was in fact her portfolio. Curious as to why he has it, and expecting the worst, she asks, “is everything alright?”

"Yes, everything’s more than alright, actually.” Spencer assures her grinning, “now, Theodora, I've been glancing over your latest work, and I must say, I'm impressed. You have talent, and initiative. You've got quite the instinct when it comes to the client's needs. By that, I mean, you listen, and follow the brief to a tea - even if you do disagree with them.” Spencer chuckles when Teddy grimaces at him, “you are also extremely persuasive, by showing them what does and doesn't work without compromising on their style. And furthermore, you are very thorough with your research. You ensure the whole development runs smoothly, and to me, as such, it shows you have passion. It’s a must in this business, and you certainly have it. You have become quite the asset to this firm." He tells her resting his elbows on the desk.

Teddy’s mouth gapes, surprised by Spencer's overly generous review, "I don't know what to say, Mr Hughes. I am truly flattered."

Spencer gives another beaming smile, "please, call me Spencer. You've been here long enough. We're casual here."

"I've only been here about two years." She corrects him, and feels the blush rising in her cheeks, "but it does feel distinctly longer. I enjoy working here and have learnt such a lot in a short time."

“And last, but not least, you passed the Architectural Practice examinations, with flying colours. I received confirmation on Friday evening.” Spencer grins continuing his review, "I feel it's safe to say you can become a fully registered architect." He said as he rose from his chair, and leaning across the desk, he shakes Teddy's small hand. His large hand enveloping hers. "Congratulations, Teddy."

"Thank you, Spencer, I wouldn't have made it this far without you as my mentor." Teddy beams, her grin mirroring Spencer’s as she’s shaking his hand excitedly.

"No, no way. I assure you." Spencer disagrees modestly, "it was all you. You worked extremely hard and showed dedication; that's what got you here. I only guided you along the way. Now get back to work!" He jokes chuckling.

 

Teddy skipped back to her desk, to see her co-worker Emily Smith’s, dark eyes smiling up at her. "What? I'm just euphoric."

"You got the 'fully registered' speech I see." Emily grins and jumps out of her chair, hugging her tightly. "Congratulations."

"Thanks, Ems." 

Having only just been promoted herself, Emily began at Bricks and Mortar not long after Teddy did, and clicked right away. But that’s where Teddy drew the line between work and home. She had never invited Emily out, nor to her house for that matter. She was far too wary to let others in, and too private, and intended it to stay that way. She’d been hurt way too many times to count.

Teddy continued to be in high spirits for the remainder of her day, and not wanting the feeling to disappear, she decides on a night of celebration with the girls. She sets a plan in motion for a night out in the city, with dinner and dancing. The next question on her mind, was where? Melbourne was a city well known for never sleeping, even this early in the week. The options were endless.

Even though the sun had finally come out, as Teddy left work behind for the day, she found herself pulling the denim jacket tighter around her body, trying to keep warm from the cold chill still lingering in the air. As she reached her car, she stops, hearing the clang of a glass bottle being knocked over, and rolling over the concrete floor in the underground garage. The loud noise reverberating around the near empty car park. Teddy’s heart pounds, and her head swivels around the dimly lit garage, towards the darkened corners. “Hello, is anyone there?”

The bottle clangs again, from the same corner, scaring Teddy, “whoever you are, there are cameras in here.” She yells hoping to scare the loiterer away, “and I’m calling the police.” Teddy bluffs shakily while pulling her phone from her black tote. She quickly jumps into her car and locks the door behind her. Glancing in the rear-view mirror, Teddy gets a glimpse of a shadowy figure lurking, and watches as they move back behind the concrete pole, hiding again from her vision. It was enough to frighten her further, and she speeds out of the garage, ignoring the protests of oncoming vehicles. Their horns beeping loudly showing their displeasure as she cut in front of them.

 

Her nerves shattered, and her heart still pounding by the close encounter with the stranger, Teddy heads straight for the fridge, needing a glass of wine to hopefully calm her nerves. She glances at the clock over the glass as she sculls, the time telling her everyone should be home shortly, giving her the opportunity to ask them about dinner. Now feeling a little calmer than when she arrived home, Teddy dashes to her bedroom and has her shower before they do - and use all the hot water.

After a long, luxurious shower, Teddy smiles and giggles when she can hear loud, rambunctious laughter coming from the kitchen. A dead give-away her roommates are now home. Her sister Scarlett being the loudest of course. Picking up her long silk nightgown and slipping it on, Teddy wanders out and greets them all cheerfully, "hello there, my roomies. How was your day? But, before you answer, I have exciting news and I am bursting at the seams to share. And I was hoping we could go out to celebrate if you're all up for it?"

"Well, what's the news?" Scarlett huffs impatiently.

Laughing at her sister's impatience, Teddy's smile grows wider, "today, was the best day ever, just like I predicted this morning miss grumbles! Spencer Hughes, my boss, finally informed me that I am now a fully registered architect!"

“That's fantastic news, Teddy!” Poppy squeals embracing her best friend, immensely pleased for her, "what you have worked so hard for all these years, has finally paid off."

"Well done sissy." Scarlett grins proudly, throwing her arms around Teddy's neck.

"Thanks, Scars."

"So where are we going for dinner then, girls?" Poppy queries looking at each of them.

"What about the Rockpool Bar and Grill at Southbank? It has fabulous food there." Dominique suggests.

"The food is to die for, Teddy." Poppy agrees. "But you decide. It's about you tonight after all."

"Okay, Rockpool it is. Let's go and get all dolled up girls." Teddy replies grinning.

 

Arriving at Rockpool in high spirits, a young, good looking waiter immediately seats them close to the bar. “My name is Wade, and I will be your waiter for this evening,” he says smiling at Teddy as he hands them each a menu.

“Thank you,” Teddy blushes taking the menu from him. "We will have a carafe of Domaine de l'Arlot Clos des Forêts Saint Georges 1er Cru to start please." Teddy rattles off in perfect French.

“Very good choice, ma’am.”

“Don't panic girls; I'm paying." She muses to the stunned girls, their mouths gaping. "Close your mouths, you all look like codfish."

“Ma’am?” Poppy giggles as the young man walks away.

While waiting for the wine, Teddy looks around the five-star restaurant, owned by renowned chef Neil Perry, noting it was rather busy, even for a Monday night. Not that it surprised her, it was quite the place to be seen. The restaurant was tastefully decorated with a range of timbers, steel and stone. Bright red bench seats were scattered around the edges, all tucked around dark timber tables. Hanging laps hung down from the high ceiling, giving an intimate feel. The feature Teddy loved most about the room was the pressed tin used to adorn the wall above the bar. A look she hopes to one day feature in her own home.

 

"Oh god, I am so stuffed and feel very tipsy," Scarlett moans rubbing her belly. "I'm going to have to work out twice as hard tomorrow."

"Whatever, ‘Miss I can eat whatever I want and not put on weight.’ Most people are envious of your petite, and slender figure. Do you even know what exercise is?" Teddy chirps, teasing her sister about her narcissistic personality.

Scarlett McGovern didn't need telling she was beautiful. She already knew it. With her fair skin, and lightly freckled, she was a classic beauty. Her bright blue eyes, were the same as her father’s, and only enhanced the delicate features of her face.

"Hahaha! Very funny sis. But I know, you don't need to remind me how gorgeous I am." Scarlett retorts flicking her glossy red hair over her shoulder.

“Love yourself much Scars?” Teddy laughs lifting the glass to her lips.

“Hm, I do, a lot.”

 

The excitement of the day wearing her out, Teddy crawls into bed, exhausted and yawns softly as she cuddles into the pillow. The red wine acting like a sedative, her heavy eyes close quickly. Her sleep wasn't as restful as she’d hoped it would be after falling asleep so fast. Her restless sleep was filled with haunting dreams of a shadowy figure, lurking over her, and calling out her name. Taunting her.

Subsequently the night becomes filled with Teddy, tossing and turning. Her sweat drenched body becoming tangled up in the sheets. And in the end, she resigns to fact she wasn’t meant to have a good night’s sleep and switches off the alarm, an hour before its scheduled time.

She growls and throws back the covers, deciding an early morning run was the only way to rid herself of this building anxiety.

 

Pushing buds into her ears, Teddy leans against the fence stretching her long limbs. Her unwavering paranoia has her eyes scanning the darkened, and empty street. Not even the overhead street lamps were enough to allay her fears. Concentrating on the upbeat sound of The Frays, Teddy sprints off down the street, until she comes to Gardiner Reserve. A family friendly park a few blocks from her house.

Apart from the birds chirping in the trees, it was eerily quiet. There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the dried leaves on the grass. The sun was slowly beginning to peek through the bare branches of the oversize elms, indicating it was going to be a beautiful, and bright sunny day ahead of them. She stops for a breather, and stretches some more before making her way back home, needing to get ready for work.

 

Entering the house puffing, Teddy sniffs the air and is instantly aroused by the aromatic smells of toast and coffee. And waking her empty stomach. “Morning all.” She says retrieving the pineapple juice from the fridge. She turns back around to all three housemates staring at her, "what, do I have another head on my shoulders?" She frowns grabbing a glass from the overhead cupboard, and pouring the juice into it.

"Are you ill?" Scarlett asks perplexed. "Who on earth, goes running this early in the morning?"

"I do." Teddy frowns drinking her juice, enjoying the tangy freshness when it hits her mouth.

"You're either mad or stupid."

"Well maybe if you did a bit of exercise, you would feel even better about yourself. Oh, but hang on, you don't need to feel any better about yourself, your heads fat enough as it is!" Teddy laughs running from the kitchen, with a piece of Vegemite toast skimming past and landing on the polished floorboards behind her.

“Oh, will you at that,” Teddy tuts, “it landed face down too. You can’t eat it now, Scars.”

Dominique and Poppy snicker quietly behind her. Not impressed by their laughing either, she throws the other piece, and stalks off towards her bedroom, "You can all go fuck yourselves!"

"Oh, come on, Scars, take a joke. Teddy was only stirring you because she knows how much you loathe exercise." Dominique shouts, only to be flipped off by an angry Scarlett. “That’s so childish.” She murmurs before going back to her breakfast.

 

Having missed her breakfast due to Scarlett’s temper tantrum, Teddy stops by a café near Bricks and Mortar, and picks up a vanilla latte, and a fruit salad. Sitting down at one of the tables in the common area, she eats her breakfast completely engrossed in a set of house plans, and is unaware of Spencer’s presence as he enters the office.

"Good Morning, Teddy."

"Oh Jesus, Spencer!” Teddy shouts as the fruit salad flies from her hand, and lands over her plans, staining the paper.  “You scared the hell out of me!" She shouts, jumping from her chair.

"I'm sorry, Teddy. I didn't mean to frighten you." He stammers rubbing the back of his neck, "and here I thought I came in being quite noisy too." Spencer jokes before hastily retreating to his office after Teddy glares at him.

Mortified by the outburst she had just displayed, and to her boss of all people, Teddy runs to the bathroom to hide. Slamming the door against the wall as she pushes it open, and cracking the plaster on the wall behind it. Leaning against the sink, she stares at her reflection in the mirror, and grimaces, ashamed of herself. "What the hell is wrong with me?”

Giving herself some time to calm down, and to repair her smudged eyes, Teddy musters up the courage to go and apologise to Spencer. Her heart pounding hard against her ribs, she timidly knocks on his open door.

"Spencer, may I speak with you…please?"

"Come in, Theodora." Spencer says, his voice clipped and sharp. "Take a seat please, Theodora." He tells her as his fingers keep tapping away on the keyboard, and his gaze still fixated on the computer screen in front of him.

Her shoulder's tense, shocked by Spencer's use of her actual name, considering he's been calling her Teddy of late. "I... I have come in here to apologise for my outburst earlier, Mr Hughes." Teddy stammers as she slowly sinks down onto the chair. "I honestly don't know what came over me." She sniffles, and looks heavenward, trying to hide the unbidden tears.

"Look, Teddy, I'll let you off the hook for your outburst - it was entirely my fault for sneaking up on you anyway." He says, his expression softening when he can see how upset Teddy is with herself. "Are you okay? You were on top of the world yesterday."

Relieved Spencer’s no longer mad with her, Teddy sags against the back of the chair. "I didn't sleep overly well last night, so maybe I'm just tired, or it's because the girls and I went out to celebrate my promotion." She shrugs not knowing how to explain things. "Again, I apologise."

"It's okay we all have the occasional bad day," Spencer smiles warmly, his chocolate brown eyes reminding her of someone she knows, relaxing her even more. "It's all good - and I'll be sure to make more noise next time." He notes chuckling.

"Thank you. I won't hold you up anymore, Spencer, and I'll get back to work." She softly smiles, and walks back to her desk, her mind now at ease.

 

Teddy desperately tried focusing on her work, but found it was to no avail. Between the lack of sleep and her growing paranoia, she just couldn’t focus, and became frustrated. As soon as the clock hit five, she was running out the office and to her car, going to the one place she can truly vent her frustrations. The gym.

 

"Hey, I'm home," Poppy hollers from the hallway, and sauntering into the kitchen, she spots Teddy chopping vegetables for a salad at the island bench. "Hi, Poppy, how was your day?"

"You're home earlier than normal, Teddy, is everything okay?" She asks hanging her bag on the back of a chair. "You seem a little distracted." Poppy says recognising the signs of a time before.

"No, nothing's wrong." She denies, shaking her head, as she tips the sliced cucumber into the glass bowl beside her. Keeping her face lowered, Teddy hides her shedding tears and picks up the packet of cherry tomatoes, emptying the packet onto the board.

Poppy can’t help but notice the shaking hands while she attempts to slice the tiny tomatoes in half. "What's going on, Teddy, talk to me please?" Worried Teddy will cut herself, she walks around the bench and takes the knife, placing it on the chopping board.

"I don't know what's wrong, Poppy. Yesterday I felt like someone was watching me in the garage at work. Maybe I'm just being paranoid." She sniffs wiping her eyes with the tea towel.

"I know what happened was terrible," aware of the horrors of Teddy's past, she rubs her shoulder sympathetically, "but I thought you were doing alright?"

Poppy was the only person Teddy had ever told about her past. Through their friendship, she helped her come to terms with it all, and sealing the bond they shared. A bond much stronger than sisterhood, lasting right through their school years and into adulthood.

"I'm sorry. Maybe I'm just silly, and that it was nothing." Teddy sniffles as she’s wiping her nose with the tissue Poppy offers, "but you are right - I have been doing well, and I'm determined to keep doing well. I have a wonderful life, a wonderful job I love, and I have the most amazing friends."

“That’s right, you do. Just keep focusing on those things, and you’ll be fine.”

"Thank you for always being there for me. I love you and, I would be incredibly lost without you." 

"I'm always here if you need me, but next time - don't hide things from me, okay?" Poppy chides sternly.

"Okay, but I won't say I promise too."

 

"Mm I'm starving, what are we having?" Dominique asks rubbing her hands together and hungrily eyes the food spread over the table. The delicious smells making her stomach growl loudly.

Teddy chuckled in amusement, "it's only spinach and ricotta tortellini in a mushroom sauce, with garlic bread and a simple salad. Nothing too spectacular. I picked it all up from the deli on the way home from the gym." She tells them sheepishly while placing a bottle of wine on the table and seating herself beside Poppy.

"Who cares where it came from, it's dinner, and it smells amazing. Let's eat." Poppy says shovelling a forkful of the pasta into her mouth.

"So, girls, are we all set for Saturday night, for mum’s fabulous party?" Dominique asks, through mouthfuls of food. "I am sooo excited. Mum throws the best parties. The food, the people, the booze, and the hot guys in amazing tuxes'!"

Scarlett picks up a serviette and wipes down Dominique's chin. "For the drool." She utters dryly, "you'll ruin your dinner with it."

Dominique swats the serviette away giggling. "You're an idiot."

"Have you got your dresses organised?" Poppy asks pulling apart her garlic bread, "because I have."

"I have too." Adds Teddy, pouring more wine into each glass, "what time are we expected at your mother's soiree, Dom?" She quizzes, her eyes twinkling.

"Seven - I think." She answers scrunching up her nose. "It doesn't matter if we get there a little late, my mother would never expect us on time anyway."

“Your mother knows us well,” Teddy chuckles and rolls her eyes thinking of Audrina; she was fun, but loving, and it was that simple.

"And you know… Ari will be there." Dominique tells her casually as she’s lifting the glass to her lips.

"So?" Teddy remarks flippantly and starts gathering up the dishes, taking them over to the kitchen, and rinsing them off in the sink trying to hide the delighted expression on her face.

"So?" Scarlett intones rolling her eyes, "is that all you've got to say about the man you've been lusting after your whole life? You two have it bad for one another." She enunciates. "The sexual tension is so bad, you should be walking around naked just in case!"

Teddy shoots her a deathly glare, "we do not!" She growls defensively, her voice becoming high pitched, "and we are just friends. We grew up together, so, of course, we are bound to have some feelings, you know like a brother and sister." She argues nonchalantly.

"That's crap, and you know it, Teddy. What you and Ari share is not like a brother and a sister. I totally agree with Scarlett. Ari looks like a lost puppy whenever he sees you." Dominique giggles, shoving a finger in her mouth, "it's so cute, it's sickening." 

Teddy starts stacking the dishwasher, ignoring the constants digs about Ari, even though deep down she knew they were right.

Scarlett bounces around the bench and grabs her waist, "come on sissy, you know ya wanna!" She said, her eyebrows jiggling up and down in excitement.

"Yes, alright, I do like him – a lot!" She finally admits hiding her flaming face behind her hands. "There I said it, are you happy now?" Teddy asks wagging a long finger at them.

"Of course, we are. Why wouldn't we be?" Dominique giggles siding up to Teddy, "why don't you try when you attend mums party? You may find my brother will be more than happy to reciprocate those same feelings." She hints cheekily.

"Okay, okay." Teddy concedes giggling, "I will take this weekend – but only after a few Dutch courage’s! Right who's finishing the cleaning up, because I most certainly am not?" She asks throwing down the dishcloth and picks up the bottle of wine along with a glass, taking them both over to the sofa.

"We will." Scarlett groans loudly picking up the tea towel.

 

Teddy's long slender fingers caress the stem of her glass, as she listens to a soulful male voice off her iPod singing about love. She smiles softly, envisioning Ari's handsome face through her thoughts. His dark eyes, his unruly, thick jet black hair, and his voice; his raspy British accent has her swooning every time he speaks. 

Poppy smirks over at Teddy's glazed expression, "you're thinking about a particularly hot, handsome young man, aren't you? And don't try to lie, I know that look!"

Teddy shrugs dismissively.

"You were, weren't you?" Poppy presses grinning at her.

"You're as bad as the other two. Is this gang up on Teddy night?" She groans rolling her head back against the sofa. "I just hope I don't lose my nerve on the evening…and I'm hoping my dress or what little there is of it, will be enough to encourage him too. We've known each other our whole lives, so I am also hoping it won't be awkward either."

"Maybe take him somewhere quiet where you won't be disturbed," Poppy suggests.

Teddy nods contemplating the idea. "Good thinking 99, I may just do that." She says emptying her glass and placing it down on the coffee table, "I will grab him by the tie and drag him upstairs into his old bedroom, and then I will ravage him with all this ‘sexual tension’ you girls think we have harboured."

"If I were you, I would even go butt naked underneath - just to save time," Poppy comments dryly.

"Poppy Fleming, I am shocked!" She gapes, slapping a hand over her mouth. "And here I thought you were little miss prude." She says in a fit of giggles.

"I'm a closet kink." She whispers holding a finger up to her lips, "but sh, don't tell anyone."

"Your secret is safe with me. Anyway, I am off to bed," Teddy's legs wobble when she tries to pry herself off the sofa.

“See, you’re already weak at the knees just thinking about him.”

“No, it was the extreme exercise at the gym that’s done it.”

“You keep telling yourself that, but we all know the truth.”

 “Goodnight lovely." Teddy growls waving a hand dismissively at Poppy.

"Goodnight Teddy bear. Don't dream too much of him, though. You will only frustrate yourself. Then you'll be pulling out that friend in the drawer I know you have," Poppy snickers watching Teddy's face turn bright red, "then all that tension will be evaporated - poof, gone!" 

Teddy picks up one of the overstuffed cushions and throws it at a hysterical Poppy.  "Goodnight popsicle."

 

 

 

 

 

Comment Log in or Join Tablo to comment on this chapter...
Grace Clarke

This is fantastic! I love how this chapter is written. The detailing, the quotes, and even the grammar. I am amazed! Excited to read further :D

Thumb 9e68d33e 6dbd 47f6 b5c6 6bdb3bfb8150
Thank you so much :)

Chapter 2

'Act without expectation.'

-Lao Tzu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the end of the working week finally arriving, the girls head out for a night of clubbing at Club Retro, a fashionable nightclub in the centre of Lonsdale Street. The club’s three levels and it’s two bars, were already crowded and brimming with other young clubbers, all wanting the same, to forget the pressures of their daily lives. The reverberating music was so loud, Teddy and the girls had to shout to hear each other speak. But they weren’t there to talk; they were there to dance.

They moved from the bar to the main dance floor, and struggled to find a space amongst the jam-packed bodies. Other revellers were dancing back to back, the thumping music their muse, under the flickering strobe lights, blinding them as they lit up the darkened club.

Teddy let loose, and needing to forget everything, she drank copious amounts of alcohol. The lethal cocktails adding fuel to the already burning fire.

The lurking stranger observed Teddy from the floor above, and licks his lips, his darkened gaze hungrily staring, and watching her dance. Her provocative moves making him want her more.

 

Nursing severe hangovers after their wild night, Poppy, Dominique and Scarlett stumble into the kitchen searching for a much-needed cure, while Teddy finds hers in Panadol and fresh orange juice. "How about we do brunch? I could go for a salmon bagel and some strong coffee from the Pocket Café around the corner."

"Sounds like a plan." Poppy squints, nursing her pounding head in between her hands. "The fresh air might be nice too."

“Sunglasses will be a must.” Scarlett adds, wincing as she peers out the window. The bright sun blinding her. “Why do we put ourselves through this?”

“And we’re doing it all over again tonight at my mothers.” Dominique groans following Teddy and popping two Panadol into her mouth, and downs a large glass of orange juice.

“Come on girls, let’s go eat, so we are refuelled and ready to kill our livers again later.” Teddy sighs pushing away from the bench and meandering back to her bedroom, really wishing she could just go back to bed instead of going out.

 

After their hangover brunch, the house becomes a hive of activity as they all begin to beautify themselves for Audrina’s party. The top of the dining table becoming hidden under all the makeup and hair accessories, while Dominique expertly style’s their hair.

"Thanks for doing this, Dom. It's a godsend having our hairdresser living with us." Teddy gratefully tells her as she sits patiently in the chair.

"Yeah, it is…for you." She snorts. "But I am the best, so I expect you would only go with me."

"Tell me, why exactly is your mum throwing this cocktail party?" She asks smiling, "not that your mother ever needs any excuse."

"Apparently, it's for dad's law firm. Dad and Uncle Garrett have a new junior they want to introduce. Mum even showed me a photo of him, and he's rather cute." She giggles nervously.

"What's the new guy's name?" Scarlett asks. "Dom?"

"What?" Dominique blinks and stares blankly at her.

"A…name… please." She repeats slowly, "and we need other details too. You know, what he looks like, age, star sign, etc."

"Oh. Yeah, right. His name is Damien Rivers, and his eyes are the same colour as one too." She says describing this new infatuation while curling Teddy's hair around her fingers.

"What a yucky brown like the Yarra?" Teddy teased laughing.

"Nooo, they are a stunning blue, like the ocean on a bright day. His hair is light brown, and he's tallish, but not tall like dad. His body, from what I could tell going by the cut of his suit didn't seem too shabby either. His smile,” She gushes, “made him look - dashing."

"Dom's in love." Scarlett teases battering her eyelids.

"No, not love, its lust, just pure unadulterated lust. Teddy might not be the only one who could get lucky tonight!" She giggles.

"Isn't the party a bit much and over the top just for one guy? Won't he feel - overwhelmed?" Teddy frowns.

"Hopefully not. I think mum felt this party would be the perfect way to introduce Damien to everyone all at once. Me personally, I would have just thrown a dinner party. But we all know how Audrina Jaeger would never settle for a small dinner party. My mother is way too much of a party animal." Dominique says picking up another mirror, and showing Teddy the back of her hair. Double checking the carefully styled curls, and making sure they were securely pinned in place, "there all done, Miss Teddy, what do you think?"

"Wow, it's stylish, with a hint of sexiness." She praises admiring her handy work in the mirror. Dominique had pulled all her long hair back off her face, and to one side, showing off her delicate features perfectly. A mass of curls was pinned at her nape, leaving her slender neck exposed. “Ready for Ari’s sweet kisses,” she mused silently.

"Thank you. Ari will hopefully love it just as much." Dominique grins, as if she could read Teddy’s mind, and taps the top of the chair with the hairbrush, "now who's next?"

"You should wear your eye makeup heavier tonight, Teddy," Scarlett says occupying the seat Teddy had just vacated, "they should look - seductive."

"I don't want to seem like a high-class hooker either." Teddy snorts as she starts applying foundation to her face and rubbing it over her skin.

"You don't want to look like a nun either. Otherwise, you will get none!" She laughs slapping her knee.

"You crack yourself up, don't you?" Teddy growls impatiently, "you are an idiot." 

"I think I have a beautiful bright red lipstick here you can borrow." Scarlett offers, "I heard Ari has a real fetish for clowns." She giggles. "Ow, what was that for?" She says when Dominique jerks her head backwards.

"That's for being nasty to your sister. She's nervous enough as it is." She scolds. "Keep it up, and I will make you look like a circus freak, good luck getting a man then!" Dominique threatens, waving the comb at her.

Scarlett slinks down in her seat defeated, "Okay I'll stop. I'm sorry, Teddy."

"You're forgiven for now. But please stop nagging. I will only put a bit more on than normal, but just a little bit more." She says appeasing them, and continues applying a darker grey around her eyes, making her hazel eyes stand out even more. 

"Well, what do you all think?" She hesitantly asks.

"You look stunning, Teddy," remarks Poppy.

"You look beautiful, and if that doesn't blow Ari away, I don't know what will." Dominique compliments.

"I hope so," standing and placing a hand on her stomach; Teddy blows out her cheeks. "I'm terrified that tonight's proposition will go wrong. What if Ari laughs at me?"

"You'll be okay. I'm sure Ari is just as nervous. In fact, I know he is, just secretly." Dominique whispers reassuringly.

"Oh, that makes me feel better…I think." Teddy grimaced, "Regardless of what happens, I am now going to go and finish getting myself ready, so I look hot enough for Ari not to turn me down." She tells them before making her way to her bedroom and jumping in for a quick shower. Wanting to freshen up and did so, being careful not to wet her carefully made up hair or face. 

 

After her shower, she pats her body dry, and applies moisturiser all over, inhaling the luxurious floral scent. She spray’s her favourite perfume, Marc Jacobs, Daisy, around the pulse points on her throat, and wrists. The alluring scent enough for Ari not to refuse her.

Teddy steps into a pair of black lacy Victoria Secret panties, shimming them up her legs, followed by the matching strapless bra. The see-through lace giving the slightest hint to what treasures lie beneath. Taking the one-shoulder dress off the hanger, she steps into it and slides it up her body, the soft silk lining gliding against her freshly moisturised skin. Zipping the dress up, and spinning around, Teddy stares, her eyes wide at her reflection in the full-length mirror.

The red silk artfully draped, hugging her svelte figure, and the mid-thigh length, showed off her toned and shapely legs to perfection. A diamanté embellishment sat at her left shoulder, adding an elegant touch.

Teddy perches at her dresser and slips a pair of black strappy diamanté heels over her feet, hoping the four-inch heels don't hurt by the end of the night.

Opening the lid of her jewellery box, she selects a pair of square cut 18ct gold diamond earrings, a gift from her grandfather, Barrett McGovern on her twenty-first birthday. She pushes the diamonds into her ears and takes one last look in the mirror, before exiting her room to join the other girls in the kitchen for a glass of champagne.

"Looking spectacular ladies.” She smiles handing them each a glass, “now a toast," she says raising her glass, "to a successful evening - and to hopefully getting laid."

 

Dominique squeals loudly as they climb inside the town car, the discovery of the bottle of Moet Chandon champagne chilling exciting her, “Mummzy is sooo thoughtful,” she slurs picking up the bottle and popping the cork, the bubbling champagne spilling over the lip and onto the floor of the car. 

 

As the car pulls up outside the Jaeger family home, a late Victorian mansion in the leafy upper-class suburb of Toorak, it comes to a stop beside a large water fountain in the centre of their driveway. The driver opens the door, and Dominique steps out, stumbling in the process, “oh whoops, I better be careful I don’t fall in that.” She laughs making her way to the front door.

"Oh god, I think I'm totally buzzed, Teddy." Poppy slurs, as she stumbles out onto the driveway, and stands straightening out her short cocktail dress.

"I know what you mean." A drunken Teddy giggles, falling out behind her, also trying not fall over.

Teetering in their high heels, they amble up the footpath to the front door where Dominique’s parent’s, Jaxson and Audrina are greeting each guest as they arrive. Directing them through the house and to the open marquee in the expansive backyard.

"Oh, my goodness girls, are you all sloshed already?" She asks smiling mischievously and embraces each of them, looking as stunning as always in a midnight blue cocktail dress. The slim fit accentuating her curvaceous body, and her fair skin, standing out against the jet-black hair draping around her bare shoulders. 

"That would suggest we drank copious amounts of champagne." Asserts a giggling Teddy, returning her embrace, "which I might add – you also supplied."

"In my defence, I only provided the one bottle. But by the looks of you four already, you had a bottle before you left home." She chuckles, her dark brown eyes narrowing suspiciously.

"A whole bottle doesn't go far between four, does it, daddy?" Dominique insists giving her father a hug.

"No, it doesn't. But then your mother wouldn't know because she doesn't like sharing – even with me." Jaxson agrees, earning a deathly glare from her. "You all look positively stunning." He smiles, his blue eyes twinkling as he bends down kissing their cheeks. "You will be spending the night trying to run away from all those handsome suitors we have here. How in those shoes I don't know, but I can give you a cricket bat each to swat them away?"

"No bats will be needed, dad. Now promise the girls and me here, you won't go chasing them off?" She requests grabbing both lapels on his jacket.

"Now, Dom, why would I need to do that? They all know I own several guns." Jaxson expresses dryly, his mouth twitching in amusement. Dressed in his black dinner suit, and with only a few specks of grey in his black hair, Jaxson's Irish heritage had aged him gracefully. His handsome and rugged good looks just added to his charm, turning many heads his way, even at sixty.

"Alrighty then. It's time to go and join the party. If my parents are planning on embarrassing me, I need more to drink." Dominique grumbles turning to Scarlett, "are you coming?"

“Yes! I need to find me a man!” She declares loudly and links her arm through Dominique’s, making their way through the house.

Dominique stands in the doorway of the open French doors and scans the yard looking for Damien, "ooh, there he is,” She excitedly says as she points him out amongst the throng of people.

Scarlett nods impressed, "Wow, you were right, he is very cute."

"Who's cute? I hope you are talking about me?" They all spin around to see Dominique's mischievous older brother, Bryson, beaming at them, his dashing smile plastered across his handsome face.

"Bryson, it's so good to see you." She squeals throwing her arms around his neck and nearly knocking him over.

"Yeah happy to see you too sis.... I think." He snorts pulling away, "and ladies, how are you all tonight? You're all looking as lovely as always." He says as he motions to the petite blonde standing next to him, her large blue eyes scanning each of them, "you all remember my long-time girlfriend, Olivia Gilbert?"

"We do," Teddy ushers forward holding out a hand, "it's good to see you again."

Olivia takes her hand and softly shakes it. "Same, enjoy the party."

Dominique squeezes her brothers arm affectionately, "Lovely to see you, bro, but we are on a mission tonight. But first we are going to the bar to grab more alcohol and then, we shall party hard."

"You all look like had an early start as it is. Let me guess; mother threw a bottle of champagne in the town car for you?" He asks, the same vivid blue eyes as his father's twinkling down at them.

"Perhaps…" Dominique giggles walking off towards the bar at the edge of the dance floor, and grabs a glass of champagne before veering away in search of Damien.

Teddy peers around the yard and notices how Scarlett has latched herself onto Caleb, Dominique’s cousin, and was fawning all over him. Not that she blamed her, he was as handsome as the rest of the Jaeger men. Rolling her eyes, Teddy grabs her drink and steps back, the heel of her shoe digging into somebody’s foot.

“Owww!”

"Oh - I am so sorry," She apologises as she feels a pair of hands grabbing her around the waist. Lifting her foot and spinning around, she stares at Ari, his amused expression staring back at her.  "Oh, Ari...um how...hi, oh god." Teddy stammers, blushing. The proximity of his closeness, and the muskiness of his cologne making her weak at the knees. The light touch of his grazing fingers against her skin, has her stomach fluttering, and leaves her speechless.

"No, I'm not God, but if you see me that way then… I say thank you." He murmurs, cocking his head, his dark eyes raking over her body, and taking in the sight standing before him. "How are you, Teddy? You look beautiful, as always."

"Ari…. there’s something I need to tell you." She breathes, their cheeks nearly touching.

“As do I,” Ari whispers, gliding a hand over her bare arm. Teddy’s body shivering under his light touch.

Swallowing hard, she gazes at him, her mouth becoming dry, “Um, I…I can’t do this.” Teddy pushes away from Ari and stares at him regretfully, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. Excuse me please, Ari.” She mutters as she brushes past him and storms off into the house.

Running up the stairs and seeking refuge in Dominique's old room, Teddy leans against the door castigating herself. "What an idiot." She groans slapping a hand to her forehead. Bouncing off the door she casually strolls across the plush, pink carpet and laughs. For some unknown reason, Dominique’s room has always made her laugh. She wondered if it was the crazy, mishmash of colours splashed around, or the eclectic style? Nothing matched, but somehow it worked. Her favourite feature was the giant wall of photos, filled with the many memories they built over the years.

Teddy touches the large collage displaying their trip to the Gold Coast, and chuckles, recalling the wild trip. Going to all the fun parks, they squeezed as much as they could into the short week they stayed, including the many bars and nightclubs along the strip. She was sure they drank each bar dry with the amount they each consumed.

"I bet none of you will ever forget that week - well what you probably remember of it."

Teddy smiles and scrunches up her nose, “my liver and kidneys certainly didn’t thank me for the abuse I dished out, that’s for sure.” She tells Ari, her face flaming. Pivoting on her heels to face him, she eyes him speculatively, and uses her hand to prevent her jaw from gaping open. The sight of Ari’s muscular frame leaning against the door, and his arms crossed over his broad chest has her drooling. The black suit without the tie adding to the dashing sight. All Teddy wanted to do was go and run her fingers through his black wayward hair and kiss him senseless. If only it wasn’t for her reticence, she could’ve quite easily left her inhibitions behind, and scattered all over the floor.

"Are you in here to make more fun of me, Ari?" She asks, peeking coyly out from under her lashes.

"No, I'm not,” he scoffs striding towards her, his scorching gaze leaving her lace panties soaking, “and I wasn't making fun of you earlier - I was only trying to make a joke, a bad one at that obviously.”

“Clearly,” Teddy utters and steps backwards, banging into the wall behind her. Ari’s darkened eyes are staring intently, as he moves closer, his warm breath blowing softly on her face.  

"You know how much I like you, Teddy? I always have." He murmurs, his soft lips tenderly brushing hers.

“Yes, as do I.” Teddy's tongue darts out licking his bottom lip, tantalising him.

Ari reaches up and lightly glides his fingers down her neck, and over her bare shoulder, the stirring sensation going right down her spine and into her groin. A small smile dances on his lips as his hand moves over her curves in the figure hugging dress, “so beautiful.”

Teddy gasps when Ari’s fingers brush against her bare thigh and move under the hem of her dress, slowly making their way into her soaked lace panties. Her mouth falls open as the erotic sensation ripples through her body, and a small moan escapes her lips when the tip of his finger applies pressure to her swollen clitoris. “Ari…”

"I'd say you feel the same way." He whispers hoarsely as he rubs along her silken folds, the moisture soaking his probing fingers.

A noise in the doorway interrupts their sexually charged embrace, and Ari growls unimpressed as he abruptly yanks his hand out from Teddy’s panties.

The sudden touch making her convulse on the spot, and leaving her panting against Ari’s shoulder.

"Oh, here you BOTH are!” Dominique exclaims as she stumbles through the doorway. “Well fuck me sideways, you can feel the sexual tension in here, and it's hot!" She intones fanning her face. "Will you two just go ahead and do it already? You know you want too. Put yourselves - and us out of our misery for goodness sake!"

His annoyance flaring, Ari steps away leaving a mortified Teddy hiding behind him. "Are you quite finished my darling sister? You're not only embarrassing Teddy, but yourself. Now go have some food - and some water while you're at it." He scolds. "I think you've had enough alcohol for one night."

"Are you coming, Teddy?" He asks holding out a hand, and Teddy gladly accepts it, needing to be alone with Ari elsewhere, and away from prying eyes.

Dominique begins to giggle uncontrollably in the doorway, "I'm sure she wants too."

Fed up with his sister's drunken rant, he drops his hand and shoves her towards the stairs, "GO, NOW!" He shouts sending her scampering back downstairs and out the doors to the backyard.

"Right, now my annoying little sister has left both of us feeling totally embarrassed, shall we go back to the party?" He asks taking hold of Teddy's hand again and becomes confused when she snatches it away, holding it close to her body. "Have I done something wrong, Teddy?"

Turning her head away from Ari’s confused gaze, she blinks away the pooling tears, and swallows the lump forming in her throat, "it's ... I also like you and was hoping..." she sighs loudly, "hoping tonight was going to go differently."

Ari tugs at her chin, forcing Teddy to look at him, "look at me – please?" He whispers cupping her face. Wiping her falling tears away with his thumbs, he moves in closer, their bodies touching, "Believe it or not, I also had the same notion.” Not wanting to wait another moment he launches at Teddy, his mouth claiming hers, their breaths mingling. A heady mixture of bourbon and champagne. Ari's hand slides down to the small of her back and pushes her closer to his body, his straining bulge pressing against her stomach, indicating to Teddy exactly how he felt.

Teddy's long fingers twist through his thick hair and pulls him closer, getting lost in the electrifying kiss, and the touch of his hands roaming over her body. Then she suddenly remembers why she shouldn’t be doing this and pulls away, "no, I can't do this."

Ari's brows knit together in confusion, "why not?" He breathes heavily and tries to reach out, only to be rejected by her.

"It's…I just can't. Excuse me, Ari." She mutters running from the bedroom and leaving him behind, perplexed -again.

 

After the little tryst in Dominique’s bedroom, it's left Ari with an erection he desperately needed to be rid of, and wonders if ice cubes down his pants would do the trick? Adjusting the bulge in his trousers, he walks out of the room and makes his way back downstairs to the party not knowing what to think. And as much as it will kill him, he makes the gut-wrenching decision to maintain some distance from Teddy for the rest of the evening. Preferring to visit with her the next day instead.

"Bourbon. Straight and no ice!" Ari requests from the barman and throws it down quickly, the warmth of the liquor spreading throughout his body. He slams the glass down on the bar indicating to the barman for another and throws it down just as fast as he received it. Averting his gaze across the yard, he glances over at Teddy again, smiling beatifically as she animatedly chats with his mother's sister, Eve.

 

A fashion model when she was younger, Eve Whittemore was as much a beauty as her younger sister, Audrina. Her dark hair, was the same jet black as her sisters, and billowed down her back. Her dark brown eyes, could seduce any man, or woman, purely by looking at them. Eve oozed sexual dominance. She's that confident. Everyone in the family wonders how her husband, Nicholas snagged her; he's quite the marshmallow compared to his wife.

 

Teddy’s attempts not to look Ari's way, fail miserably, and as she peeks at him from under her lashes, he too, was doing the same. The electrifying pull between them was too impossible to ignore. A knowing smile dances on both their lips, and Teddy could feel her cheeks flaming as they made the eye contact across the lawn.

And it had nothing to do with being caught.

Raising his now empty glass to her, Ari chuckles, knowing she is just as affected by his presence, as he is hers. Unable to take the torture anymore, Ari turns back to the bar, needing another drink. "More bourbon please, and no ice!"

"I'll have one of those too please." Turning his head, and grinning, his Aunt Eve slides up beside him, mirroring his expression. Leaning back, he gawks, shaking his head as his cousin Gabriel moves in on Teddy, drooling over her.

"I thought you and Teddy would've sorted yourselves out by now, Ari. You both have it bad."

He raises a brow at Eve and lifts his drink to his lips taking a swig.

"Yeah I have been watching you two all night. If it were any hotter, we would all be on fire by now." She smirks popping a handful of cashews into her mouth.

"Well, it hasn't exactly gone to plan tonight for either of us, Eve. Believe you me; we have both tried but....," Ari trails off observing Teddy again, his eyes narrowing his at Gabriel’s fawning. "Your son seems quite enamoured with her. I might have to go and get a bucket for his chin."

Eve chuckled at his words, "she's a beautiful woman, what's not to love. Besides, Gabriel doesn't like Teddy the way you do. Plus, I think he is seeing someone right now – and it's not a woman, trust me I asked."

Everyone in the family, and their social circle knew it was no secret about Gabriel’s sexuality, and his preference for either sex. Ari often wonders how many people amongst all the guests, he has had in his bed. He looked like he belonged on a surfboard out in the middle of the ocean with the rest of the surfies. Tall and well-built, Gabriel’s dirty blonde hair, closely resembled dreadlocks. It was messy, and appeared unkempt. His grey eyes were kind, and drew you in, along with his charisma.

Eve observed Ari as he continued watching Teddy from afar, her gaze then drops to the bulge in his black dress pants, "just go and grab her, take her to your bedroom and get rid of that pole you've had in your pants all evening."

Ari throws his head back laughing, "as much as I would love too, I'm more of a gentleman than you are." He says winking.

"That's true." Eve laughs heartily at him.

"No," he says shaking his head despairingly, "I will go and see Teddy tomorrow when we're both sober."

"Be sure to let me know if you are successful, or you fall flat on your face!" Eve shouts over her shoulder as she walks off. 

"I've deleted your number!" He retorts chuckling. Having met his father's new pet project, he resolves he's had enough, and finishes his drink in one single gulp. Ari takes one last longing look at the one woman he so desperately wants, and runs a hand through his hair sighing, "tomorrow." He whispers and makes his way towards his parents to say goodnight.

"I'm leaving now, mother. Lovely party, but I have a busy day tomorrow."

"A new acquisition, is it?" Audrina teases lovingly.

"Something like that." Ari smiles affectionately and bends down kissing her on the proffered cheek.

"Goodnight son, I trust you had an enjoyable evening?"

"Of course, I always do at mother's soirees." He tells his father, firmly shaking his hand.

"Be sure to join us for dinner one night this week darling - and hopefully with a date," Audrina suggests with a glimmer of hope.

"Yes, mother. Keep your fingers crossed on that one."

 

Ari saunters over to the Imperial Blue BMW M6 Gran Coupe parked in the driveway, and nods to the valet, thanking him, before sliding into the driver's seat. The eight cylinders come roaring to life as he turns the key in the ignition, and the engine purrs, idling while he waits for the car in front of him to leave. “How appropriate,” Ari murmurs, when he turns the radio on, and Ed Sheeran's soft voice sings over the speakers. The words expressing his feelings about Teddy, and the explosive kiss they shared.   

Ari's fingers automatically trace over his lips, and recalls how soft her lips felt against his. His body stirs, and his throbbing erection becomes painful imagining how Teddy’s naked body would feel under his aching touch. Tonight, was just a teaser, giving him a sample of what was to come, as his hands roamed, and explored. The exquisite memories had Ari heading straight for a cold shower the moment he pulled into his garage of his Beaumaris home.

 

Ari steps into the shower and leans on the wall, the warm water cascading over his muscular frame. He peers down at the erection he’s sported for the last hour, and strokes gently. The vision of Teddy laying naked underneath him, and moaning as he rammed into her, gave Ari the assistance he needed, and quickly sends him over the edge. His hand stroking faster as he grunts, and his hot seed spurts, onto the tiles and over his hand.

Washing his body down, Ari frowns, and was still confused as to why Teddy pulled away from him, just as they were getting hot and heavy too.

Ari has known Teddy from the moment his family moved to Australia not long after he turned four, and she was barely a few months old. Their parents, and grandparents met at a party, and have travelled in the same social circles ever since. As a small child, Ari was fascinated by the tiny infant girl who always smiled and gurgled at him. And as they grew, they would play together in the sandpit Evan had built in the backyard, or the on the swings, where Ari would gently push her.  

Things changed as they both reached their teenage years and Ari really began to sit up and take notice. He saw Teddy blossom from an awkward teenager into a ravishing beauty, and was instantly smitten. Ari wasn’t sure if she felt the same or if she did, Teddy wasn't as obvious about it as he was. His family certainly did, and teased him mercilessly about it, constantly.

Her twenty-first birthday was a turning point for Ari, and he stared at her wistfully the entire night. His eyes scanning the stunning young woman as she greeted and thanked everybody for coming to her lavish party. He couldn’t help but notice how beautiful Teddy had become. Her pale, pink skin was flawless, and her hazel eyes shone brightly under thick auburn lashes. Ari wanted to kiss her full pink lips, just to taste her, and wrap his hands through the billowing, and thick, wavy, dark auburn hair doing it. The short shimmering dress she wore only accentuated her long, slender body. But his gaze remained fixated on the glittery heels on her feet and travelled, up her long, and lean legs, wondering where they ended.

Turning the water off and stepping out onto the bathmat, Ari roughly dries himself off and throws the towel into the cane hamper as he flicks the lights off. He falls into bed, hoping and praying tomorrow will lead to a promising future with the one woman who’s been haunting his dreams since he was five.

 

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