Chapter 7- Daisies and Rings

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Riya

I stripped and turned on the hot water in the shower, waiting for Jacob, thoughts of Ananya and her parents floating through my mind.

When I stepped in, I lingered, hoping Jacob would join me. The giant shower could bathe an entire cricket team. Playing with the nozzle, I found the setting that bursted out massaging blasts of water. My muscles thanked me as I let go of tension that I didn't know I was holding.

As successful as I'd become in the Indian community, I'd never had to run from paparazzi like Jacob and I had just run. How does he do that every day? How could he live his life like that? Is that what being famous in America meant? That you couldn't take a holiday vacation with your lover in a remote town? That you lost all semblance of privacy?

My favorite body wash, the one Jacob says reminds him of summer, sat in its place on the shower shelf. I grabbed a hotel washcloth, and lathered the soap over my shoulders, down my arms. Then I soaked my hair, lifting the heavy waves, letting the water blasts hit my neck.

When the bathroom door clicked open, I smiled. From my view through the steamy shower door, I watched Jacob strip. He joined me, filling the space with his long, hot body. Without a word, he kissed me, then took the washcloth.

Turning me around, he slid the washcloth down my back, over my spine. His touch wasn't light, but the pressure felt good. I moaned. "Thank you, bear."

When I turned back around to face him, the corners of his lips turned up, but he didn't smile. Not with his eyes like he usually did. I knew that look; he'd shown it to me in the clearing when he'd asked about our future. Even through the droplets of water and steam around us, I could see his eyes watering.

"I need you, Riya. Talk later?" he asked.

I wrapped my arms around him. His lips met mine and he reached behind me to shut the water. Then, he put his hands on my ass. "Wrap your legs around me."

I did as he requested.

"Do you know how much I love you?"

I nodded against him, not breaking the contact, not letting him say the things I didn't want to hear.

He carried me out of the shower and placed me on the vanity. With one quick move, he was inside of me, filling me.

He pushed my wet hair away from my face and whispered against my lips. "Say my name."

"Jacob." My heart exploded with the two syllables.

He thrusted into me, needy, desperate. Lifting my thigh, he moved in a rhythm.

Without him asking, I said his name again. "Jacob." Over and over I said it, because I didn't want to forget the feeling of him. Of us, together. Because as our bodies came together, I felt his heart moving away.

Could I do this? Should I fight for him? Do I tell him it's okay? That Ananya didn't need me as much as we needed each other? That I'd be safe with him on his tour? That I wasn't afraid of being chased around America with him?

Jacob held my arms, stopping me from touching him as he made love to me on the vanity. His eyes never left mine. I gave in and didn't fight, letting him take what he needed from me, giving me what I needed, until we came together, collapsing onto each other.

After a moment, he lifted me and carried me down the hallway to our bedroom. He laid me down gently and fell on top of me. Kissing his way down my body, he ended up between my legs. "Come again for me."

It wasn't difficult for me to oblige his request. After, exhausted, I held out my arms.

He fell into them, rolling us onto our sides so he wouldn't crush me. "I don't want to lose you," I whispered, as I traced circles on his arm.

He rested his hand on my hip and wiggled closer. "I know, sweetheart. But..."

I put my finger over his lips. "No buts. Talk later?"

He snuggled close to me and then we fell asleep.

***

Against my will, my eyes opened. Everything felt different. Cold. As I woke up, I knew it had all been a dream.

I stared at the wall, afraid to roll over. I wasn't ready to face it, but the fullness in my heart and the warmth of him were missing, and I knew I was alone.

A tear rolled from the corner of my eye, falling to the pillow. Then another.

I pressed my lips together and tried to trick myself. Maybe he was getting us breakfast. Maybe he was talking to Mr. Percy, or went for an early jog. But my heart knew the truth. I just couldn't face it yet.

I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. If I could fall back to sleep, I wouldn't have to feel the pain. Not yet. Maybe I could sleep forever.

But my body wouldn't let me relax and my heart didn't want to sleep forever. Feeling a million pounds heavier, I rolled over and confirmed what I already knew as true. I was alone.

The folded paper sat on Jacob's pillow. A fresh daisy laid across it. I picked up the flower and spun it in my fingers.

Daisies are your favorite?

What's wrong with daisies?

They seem simple and common. To me, you're neither.

You don't even know me, Jacob Pressler. We've been on this bus for five hours.

I do know you, Riya Suri. Don't laugh! Somehow I do. And at our next stop, I'll find you your daisies, if that's what you want.

I glanced back at the note. Something inside glimmered. Holding the bedsheet against my naked body, I sat up and leaned back against the headboard. I stared at the letter, not yet ready to touch it.

Instead, I reached in the opposite direction for the nightstand and my phone. A hundred messages, nothing from Jacob. I didn't think there would be.

With a deep breath, I closed my eyes and prayed for strength, as I turned back toward the note. Then I opened my eyes and reached for it.

A piece of metal fell from inside.

A ring.

A beautiful gold ring with a giant, solitary diamond.

With shaky hands, I plucked the ring from the mess of sheets, twirling it in my fingers, knowing that I would never wear it. Knowing that the note it fell out of is going to break my heart.

I put the ring back on the pillow next to the daisy. My vision blurred from my watering eyes but I unfolded the note anyway.

Dear Riya.

A tear fell onto the paper, making the ink smear. I used my hand to wipe it away.

When I came to Venus, I didn't think I had any life left. Seeing you, being with you, changed that. You're the air I breathe. But I have to share you with the world. We can't go back to the tour bus, as much as we may want to. We move forward, we move on. That's what you said at the end of that amazing summer.

You have a purpose bigger than me, a bigger purpose than us. I love you more than I can put into words. You taught me to trust fate. And although I hate it, I'm not sure now is our time, princess. But I'm not strong enough to say goodbye, either. Hold onto this ring until the universe is ready for us.

Love forever,

Jacob

I held the note to my chest, to my pounding, breaking heart. I knew that on some level, a level I couldn't quite accept at that moment, he was right. To force something that we weren't ready for would go against everything in me. From day one, I trusted fate would take care of us. It had to. Because more than anything in the world, someday, some way, I wanted Jacob Pressler to put that ring on my finger, so we'd never have to say goodbye again.

But the practicality of knowing that couldn't erase the pain. So I laid back down and cried. 

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