Summary: Sage Alvi’s whole world turned upside-down when she lost her mother to cancer. Now forced to live with a father she never knew, she’s trying to navigate her way through a new home, city and school. To make things worse, her half-siblings hate her and she’s being bullied by the cool crowd. They say high school is hard, but this is just ridiculous.
For years he’d waited for this moment and now that it was finally here, Aidan had no idea what to do. A part of him didn’t even believe it was real. Maybe this was just another dream and any minute now he would wake up and realise Sage was simply a figment of his imagination. Unable to bear the thought of that he kept his gaze fixated on her, inhaling her in, committing the image to his brain. With every minute that passed, however, came the realisation that this wasn’t a dream – because she wasn’t smiling, teasing him, taunting him, laughing with him. Hell, she wasn’t even angry at him. In fact, the woman standing in front of him was the complete opposite of the passionate, volatile girl he remembered.
Wrapped in an oversized robe, her hair drenched, Sage stared back at him with a blank expression on her face. For a quick second he thought he saw a flicker of emotion in her big, brown eyes but it must have been an illusion, nothing more, because she was right back to inspecting him like he was a stranger, or at best an old acquaintance. Suddenly his temper flared and the anger he’d desperately tried to control unleashed itself and flooded over him. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
“Why would I do that?”
Her face may not have betrayed any emotions but her voice certainly did. It was filled with contempt, all of it directed at him. So she wasn’t that indifferent after all. “It would be the polite thing to do.” He swaggered forward, noting the way she stiffened as the distance narrowed between them. He expected her to retreat, back away; she didn’t – not even when he propped his arm up against the door frame she was leaning on. “Then again manners were never your thing, were they?”
“Guess they’re not yours either or you wouldn’t have just shown up here unannounced.”
A cold, vicious sneer, specifically meant to provoke a reaction, curved his lips. “I wanted to surprise you.”
“Was I a welcome surprise?”
“Ouch,” he mocked, pouting his lips. “So we’re really going to do this in your hallway?”
“I don’t like strangers in my apartment.”
“Is that what I am now, a stranger?” His languid gaze trailed down to her lips, remembering the soft feel of them against his mouth. “Come on, Sage, we both know that’s not true,” he whispered seductively. “Would you like me to jog your memory?”
“What would be the point? Obviously you aren’t all that memorable in the first place.”
He couldn’t help but smirk at the acerbic remark. Her biting wit, her ability to go toe-to-toe with him were some of the things he missed the most about her.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“Where the heart leads, I follow,” he deadpanned.
“Then you must be a busy man, with your fickle heart and all.”
“Are you trying to piss me off, Sage?”
Her eyes gleamed with fury. Oh yeah, she definitely wasn’t hiding her feelings now. “No. I just want you to leave.”
“And I wanted a future with you. Looks like neither of us are getting what we want.”
“Stop wasting my fucking time, Aidan. What the hell do you want?”
He angled closer. “What I want is to destroy you and any shred of happiness you have now.” He pushed the door wide, following her inside when she stumbled back. “I want you devastated and hopeless, the way I felt when you left me.” He advanced towards her, she retreated, until eventually cornering her between himself and the wall behind. His eyes bore into her, studying her intently, hoping to see a flicker of something – anything – that would make sense of all the suffering she put him through. “You owe me an apology, an explanation. Hell, you owe me a lot more than that but I’ll settle for the first two for now.”
“I don’t owe you anything.” She stood in front of him, proud and defiant, her chin jutted out in a show of stubborn strength. “We both know you never gave a shit about me. You used me, and when you were done you threw me aside. So this charade that you’re playing at, this whole heartbreak routine, you can drop it. You’re not getting an apology or an explanation, and you’re certainly not getting anything else.”
He braced the wall, trapping her between his arms. “I loved you.”
“It was a high school fling, not some epic romance. Get over it.”
What they’d shared all those years ago had marked and changed him profoundly, and to realise he hadn’t affected her in the same way was excruciating. Yet as much as her callous words hurt, he couldn’t give up. Memories of what they shared were ingrained into his brain and he refused to believed they hadn’t impacted her as deeply. He peered into her eyes. “You loved me too. Admit it.”
“Why, will it make you feel better? Don’t you think that’s kind of pathetic?”
“I’ve been called a lot worse when it comes to you, babe.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Her eyes flashed with vitriol. “You probably couldn’t live it down, could you, dating someone like me? I remember how much you and your buddies hated my kind. My god, the humiliation you must have suffered.”
“Fuck you! You know that’s not what I meant.”
“No, I think that’s it. How dare I not appreciate the sacrifices you made after you deigned to go out with a jihadi like me?”
“I’ve never once thought of you like that and you damn well know it!”
“You risked your pristine reputation and got nothing for it in return. Damn, no wonder you’re so pissed.”
He pressed up against her. “I know what you’re doing, Sage. Provoking me, hurting me, you think I’m going to lose control and run off like a little bitch. That’s your routine, babe, not mine. I’m not going anywhere. The sooner you accept that, the easier it’ll be.”
Silent, she swallowed an audible breath.
There was a time when he knew her better than anyone. He could tell when she was lying, how she was feeling, just by looking at her. After she disappeared, he questioned all of that. Did their bond really exist or had he imagined it to be something greater than it really was? Being in such close proximity to her now he still didn’t have the answers, but at least he knew, without a doubt, she was still physically affected by him. Passion flared in her eyes, and her body tensed against his. The force that pulled them towards each other all those years ago was still active, and just as intense.
“Let me go,” she whispered, her voice husky. “Go back to your life and leave me the fuck alone.”
He gave her a self-deprecating smile before resting his forehead against hers. “Don’t you think I’ve tried to have a life of my own? But I can’t. Not without you. You’re in my blood, Sage. You’re a part of me and I can’t cut you out.”
“You really expect me to believe you’ve been pining for me all these years? I’ve seen the pictures, I’ve read the gossip sites. You fuck anything with a pulse, Aidan, so stop pretending like you cared.”
He smirked. “You’ve been checking up on me.”
“Go to hell!”
“I’m here to stay, Sage. Like it or not.”
“There’s nothing here for you.”
He drew back and looked into her eyes, scanning her reaction carefully. “Stop lying. I know the truth.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Really?” he shot back, his temper rising again. “You’re going to stand there and tell me you have no clue what I’m talking about?”
“Because I don’t.”
“I know about the kid, Sage. I know I have a daughter.”
Her eyes widened. “Is that what you think?”
It was his turn to fall silent.
“She’s not yours, Aidan.”
“She has to be,” he insisted. “She’s the right age-”
“Oh, come on. You dumped me and started fucking my sister the next day. Do you really think I was just moping around in my room after that? The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. That’s always been your motto and I made it mine.”
He stepped back, shaking his head ‘no’. “I don’t believe you. You’re lying.”
“Don’t you remember all the rumors about me in high school? I got around, Aidan, and I ended up fucking every one of your buddies.”
His lips pursed into a thin line. “Stop. Talking.”
“If you really want to play daddy, I suggest you go find someone else to knock up. Because my daughter doesn’t need you.”
“I’ll do a paternity test,” he warned, surprised he could even speak when his brain was still struggling to register her horrific words. She had to be lying. She had to.
“Fine. Waste your time. It’ll show you Ziyah isn’t yours.”
“Is everything okay here?” asked someone from behind.
Aidan turned around to find a guy who looked vaguely familiar standing next to the little girl he’d thought was his daughter. It took a few seconds for him to recognise David, Sage’s friend from high school, but he was more concerned with the kid. She had big, brown eyes – like Sage – and they were staring up at him with uncertainty while one of her tiny hands was tucked into David’s, gripping him tightly. She looked nervous, almost afraid; Aidan couldn’t bring himself to tear his gaze away from her.
“Everything’s fine, David,” Sage replied, sounding calm once again. “Can you take Ziyah to her room? I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
David picked up Ziyah in his arms, casting Aidan a hostile glance. “I’ll be right back.”
“We’ll be waiting,” Aidan retorted, regretting his snarky tone as soon as he realised he had scared the little girl more. She was clutching onto David but watching Aidan intently until the pair turned the corner and disappeared from view.
“Get out, Aidan.”
He turned back to face Sage.
“Whatever you came looking for, you’re not going to find it here,” she continued.
His mind was spinning; he needed to find a way out of this chaos so he could think again. She’d dropped a bombshell on him and he had no idea how to cope with the news. “I’m leaving right now because I don’t want to get into a screaming fit with a kid around, but this isn’t over. You and I are not done.” Acting on impulse, he leaned in and gave her a quick peck on the forehead before walking out of the apartment.
To be continued…
A/N – Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my writing, my debut novel Follow You Down is available for sale on Amazon.