Every part of my body screamed for him. Every crooked movement I made from the bed to the bathroom reminded me of the beauty I had experienced with him. As I stood there gazing into the mirror while I brushed my teeth, only one word kept racing through my mind.
I closed my eyes and remembered how I’d begged for him. I spit my toothpaste into the sink and drew in a deep breath. I was getting too wrapped up in this, in the fantasy of it all. I had to keep my head in the game and remember I had a job to do. Phillip was nothing but a client, and that was all he would ever be. At the end of the week, he would go back to his penthouse and his business or wherever the hell it was he spent his time with, and I would go back to running. Faking. Standing by the bodies of men who paid me well to smile and look pretty for their dinner dates.
And it seemed as if I wasn’t the only one regretting our tryst.
Phillip avoided me all day. Every time I turned a corner, if he was there, he moved. I even caught him in the library once, and he got up and moved to another spot where he was shrouded in darkness. Away from me. Like I was some sort of pariah or some disgusting entity he couldn’t dare come face-to-face with.
It made me sick to my stomach.
When he was so cold to me, it made me feel dirty. And I didn’t like that feeling. Sure, what I did wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t “becoming of a lady” or whatever the hell else people wanted to tell me. But I did everything I did to the best of my ability. My mother taught me that. No matter what I was doing, it had to be done well or it wasn’t worth being done at all.
I hated feeling dirty. But every time Phillip excused himself from my presence, it reinforced that notion—that I was nothing but a damaged fucktoy.
I ventured out back and made my way for the stables. The horses would cheer me up; they always did. At least, when I was a girl they always did. I wound my way through the stables and petted all the horses sticking their heads out at me until I got to Sassy, the beautiful horse that had taken such good care of me on the trail ride a couple of days back.
“Hey there, sweet girl,” I said as she nuzzled me.
I closed my eyes and placed my forehead against her face and sighed. I wanted to forget about everything going on, but the horses only served to remind me of what I had lost. My mother, with her hair flowing behind her as she galloped through the fields. My father, with his proud smile every time I learned a new trick or galloped a few more feet on a bareback horse.
Tears welled behind my eyes as my mind was assaulted with painful memories.
I’d lost everything when my father went to prison. I lost him, my mother’s guidance, her sanity, her smile. We lost our riches, which meant I lost my home. My horse. Everything I had attributed to my world and my lifestyle and the things that made me happy, all gone in the blink of an eye. I had no one. Nothing. No home. No parents. No siblings. No trust fund. No pet.
I was alone. And I was so tired of being alone.
I spent the day at the stables helping the barn keepers muck out stalls. They kept giving me odd looks, but I didn’t care. Working up a sweat and being around such beautiful, graceful animals made me feel a little more whole again. And it kept me away from Phillip, who was apparently hell-bent on staying away from me.
But we couldn’t ignore each other at dinner.
“So, how was dinner last night for the two of you?” Cristoff asked.
“It was lovely, thank you,” I said.
“It was too much, but still very beautiful,” Phillip said.
“Did the lovely couple get on well afterward?” Cristoff asked, grinning.
“We got off just fine,” I said, winking.
I felt Phillip tense beside me as Cristoff threw his head back with boisterous laughter. Just because Phillip was ready to throw everything out the window didn’t mean I was. We’d worked hard to get that man to this point, and I wasn’t going to toss it out the window because he couldn’t look me in the face.
At least when we were sitting side by side, he didn’t have to.
“Well, I’m glad the two of you enjoyed things, because we are headed back to Vienna in the morning,” Cristoff said.
“And what awaits us there that isn’t here?” I asked.