21. Call Your Girlfriend

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We weren't busy, so I left work early. I needed to see Luca as soon as possible. I let myself in the front door and am immediately greeted by Buster, jumping up and resting his paws on my shoulders.

"Buster? Who is it?" I hear Luca's voice before I see him entering the kitchen. He is shirtless with a small towel around his shoulders, and he is sweating profusely. My first thought—probably from past experiences—is that I'm interrupting him with another girl, but that quickly diminishes when I see the tread mill pulled out in the living room behind him.

"What's up? I thought you weren't getting off a another hour." He looks at me, confused.

"I got off early." I start slowly walking towards him while taking off my coat and tossing it on the back of a chair. "But I need to talk to you."

Confusion turns to worry. "Um...why?" He almost looks guilty for a second, but I dismiss the thought. I'm just being paranoid.

When I reach him, I place my hands on his chest. His skin is glowing and glistening from sweat, and he's still breathing heavy. I immediately forget what I came over here to tell him. I can't stop myself from pulling him into a passionate kiss. He pulls me in tight and matches my intensity. I feel him beginning to back up—presumably to the bedroom—and stop him, knowing I need to tell him.

"Luca, stop for a second." I say against his lips. He pulls away and looks down at me, hands remaining around my waist. Now that the moment is here, I don't know what to say exactly. What if he doesn't feel the same? I know he had let it slip out after sex the other night, but that may have just been an after-sex high.

I take a deep breath. "I know we only reconnected five days ago, but I feel something towards you that I don't think I've ever felt before, ever. It's like I'm being pulled in your direction all the time, even when we're not together. I love you, Luca."

It may just be the lighting, but it looks like there are tears in his eyes when I finally get the courage to look up from the floor. He's smiling though, that must be a good sign. His hands cup my face as he says, "I love you too, Shelley." Now my eyes are watering.

We both lean in for a kiss. It doesn't last long, but it sends chills down my spine. This is a moment I know I will remember for the rest of my life. Luca and I are in love. There is nothing that will take that away from me. All is right in my little world.

After we break apart, Luca says, "You know, I feel kind of weird standing here having this conversation shirtless and smelly, I'm sure."

"Actually, it's kind of hot," I say, raising my eyebrows and trying to resume kissing.

His face backs away, smiling. "Would you mind if I take a quick shower? I feel disgusting, and I want to enjoy this." He gives me a quick peck, and I roll my eyes.

"Alright, if you insist. But hurry, or I might change my mind," I tease.

I laugh as he starts sprinting to the bathroom. I quickly hear the shower start running. He know I was just joking, right?

I start to look around the kitchen for something to eat. I completely forgot to eat lunch today. Between Jason's visit and discovering my feelings for Luca, it slipped my mind.

I hear my phone vibrate on the kitchen table and quickly walk to over to check my messages. As soon as I pick it up, I realize it's not my phone. I never noticed that Luca and I have the same one. The text message on the lock screen catches my attention because their are several heart emojis at the end. That's odd.

Kirsten: You are so sweet! But remember I am still mad at you. Not talking to me for two whole days? That's no way to treat your girlfriend. I guess you'll just need to make it up to me. 💗💗💗💗

I drop the phone on the table unceremoniously. My entire body feels numb. I pull out a chair and plop down because I'm afraid I might faint otherwise. There is probably a good explanation for this. Luca wouldn't do this to me. Right? When I think about it though, I have only been back in his life for a few days. How well could I really have gotten to know him?

I hear the shower shut off, and Luca returns to the kitchen, seconds later, with new clothes and wet hair. His smile is blinding. "Now where were we?" he asks playfully.

"Who is Kirsten?" He stops walking and loses the smile.

"What are you--" He pauses when he sees his cell phone sitting in front of me. He snatches it up and reads the message still pulled up. I think I can actually see the blood draining from his face.

I don't want to ask because I am terrified of the answer, but I know I have to. "Is she your girlfriend?"

His silence is deafening.

I didn't notice that I was crying until I felt the tears running down my cheeks.

Luca finally speaks, but he's not looking at me. He can't. "There are some things that I didn't tell you, Shell, about why I actually took time off to come here." He swallows, and swallows again. I just stare at him. "I was dating someone back in Chicago, we've been together for few years, and I discovered a month ago that she cheated on me. She convinced me to try to make it work. But I knew I needed a break. My mom was going to leave, so I called her to see if she wanted me to housesit, to get some time away."

He pulls out a chair and reaches for my hands, but I pull them back. "I'll admit that the first night I brought you back here, I was in a very bad place emotionally. I shouldn't have done it. But since then, Shell, my feelings have only grown. I do love you, completely. Shell, please, just look at me." His voice is shaking now.

I hadn't realized I had turned away from him, but I as I slowly bring my gaze back to his I ask, "You didn't answer me, Luca, is Kirsten still your girlfriend?"

Now he looks down at the floor. "Yes."

I stand up quickly, pushing my chair back so fast that it topples backward. I feel physically sick. I'm outside and to my car before I realize that I forgot my coat. There is no way I'm going back in now. I bend over next to my drivers door and vomit.

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