Fandom: Kiralik Ask
Spoilers: Season 2, diverges after episode 56 (starts the morning after Omer picks up Defne and Pamir from the police station).
Rated: R for language and sexual situations. Don’t click the link if you’re under 18!
No copyright infringement intended!
The entire morning at work Defne could feel everyone’s eyes upon her. At first she assumed it was just paranoia on her part, but more than once she caught the girls in the warehouse huddled together in a group, staring at her. Even though she questioned them about it, they simply apologized and returned to work – only to go back to hushed whispering shortly thereafter.
Later that afternoon Defne was busy making the schedules for the upcoming week when Aytekin rushed into her office.
“I thought we were friends, Defne.”
She looked up from the documents on the table to see an angry Aytekin pacing back and forth. “Did I ever say we were friends?” she asked, agitated.
“Well, I thought we were. Obviously that’s not true because you didn’t bother to tell me something so important.”
Sighing, Defne leaned back in her chair. “Okay. What’s going on? What top secret did I keep from you?”
He stormed over to her, pushing his cell phone at her face. Instantly, she felt faint. It was a picture from her wedding, probably taken by one of the Passionis staff while she and Omer had gone around to each table to thank them for attending. In the picture Omer looked angry, withdrawn, while she had a fake smile plastered on her face. After she’d confessed the truth, he’d managed to stay until the end of the reception. At that time she had taken that to mean there was still hope and they could work things through. From the furious expression on his face, however, it was obvious he’d already decided it was over between them.
“What’s this, huh?” Aytekin asked before swiping right. “And this?”
The second picture was of them from earlier that day, after she’d changed into the second wedding gown but before she’d revealed the truth. Surrounded by family and friends, she and Omer beamed with happiness. Her heart squeezed with pain at the image of them together. Before she could burst into tears, she grabbed the phone from Aytekin’s hand and smashed it on the table.
“What the hell?” he asked. “You don’t even bother to tell me you were married to Mr. Omer and now you destroy my phone? What’s wrong with you, girl?”
“Fuck you, Aytekin! It’s none of your goddamn business.”
He bristled, not used to hearing her swear. “All I’m saying is you should have told me you guys were once married. It’s only fair I know.”
It all finally clicked in her head, why all those girls were whispering around her the whole day. Pictures of her wedding were making the rounds, which meant people were also gossiping about why they were no longer together. Defne felt sick to her stomach, she wanted to throw up. “Get out, Aytekin. Get the hell out of here.”
“First tell me what happened between you guys. I have a right to know. After all I work with the both of you. If he’s going to be hostile towards you and our department because of the divorce, it affects me too!”
She forcefully shoved Aytekin out of her office, locking the glass door behind her. Her cheeks were red, her eyes teary. Everyone at the warehouse was staring at her, and she just wanted to disappear into thin air.
Every time she thought she was over that day it found a way to come back and haunt her. At Stil Vagon she’d finally found a sanctuary, a place where no one knew about her past and she could just work and be herself without people questioning her, but once again, thanks to Omer’s return and Passionis employees in the same building, she was back to being gossip fodder. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone? Why did she always have to be the butt of their ridicule? And why, after all this time, did those pictures still have the ability to hurt so much? She’d been so happy that day, ecstatic, a woman filled with hope and optimism at the thought of starting a new life with the love of her life only to have it all fall apart within hours. The dream of a wonderful future shattered into a million jagged pieces, permanently embedding into her soul, a constant reminder of what could have been.
Desperate to put some distance between her and the rest of the staff , she rushed out of the office.
Omer should have been revising the designs he drew last night. Instead, his mind was preoccupied with Defne. It had been a few days since she stormed out of his car, and since then there have been no contact between them. There used to be a time when he couldn’t go a few hours without seeing her. His chest would feel constricted, his mind depressed if he didn’t hold her in her arms, breathe in her scent. In Rome, he turned to alcohol and women to dull his senses so as not to feel her absence so keenly, but even then it was a temporary cure; Defne’s laugh, her smile, echoed in his mind throughout the entire time. These days, knowing she was only a few levels below, it took every ounce of strength he had to keep away from her. In the past they’d always found a way to connect but the more he crowded her now, the more distant and aloof she became. He had no idea how to cope with that, what to do. He felt utterly incapable of fixing things between them, helpless.
“Buddy, how’s it going?”
Hearing Sinan’s voice from the doorway, Omer looked up. “Fine. Don’t worry, designs are coming along.”
“Good, good.” Sinan entered the room and took a seat on the couch.
Immediately Omer sensed his best friend was troubled. “What’s wrong?”
“I have to tell you something but I don’t want you to bite my head off. Or anyone else’s.”
“Just say it.”
“Word’s gotten out about you and Defne being married. I was downstairs at StilVagon and I heard people talking about it.”
Omer slammed his fist into the table. “Fuck!”
“Okay, calm down. You knew this had to happen eventually. Stuff like that can’t be kept secret forever.”
His thoughts ran instantly to Defne. She’d always been concerned about being the subject of office gossip, so much so she even wanted to keep their engagement a secret. He still remembered how devastated she’d been when people had found out about him buying her house. And this being about their wedding, he knew it would crush her completely. “How the hell did this get around?”
“Someone here texted pictures of you guys from the wedding to the StilVagon staff. You know how these things go.”
Omer stood up. “Find out who did it. Talk to Derya. I want to know exactly who has this much time on their hands so I can fire them.”
“Okay, okay. Just calm down. I don’t want you to make any rash decisions when you’re angry.”
“I have to go check on Defne. Make sure she’s alright.”
Sinan nodded. “Yeah. She must have heard it by now too. This can’t be easy for her.”
Omer stormed towards the door, looking over his shoulder at Sinan. “Find out who’s responsible.” He marched towards the staircase, too furious to wait for the elevator. This was going to hurt Defne, no doubt about it. When he reached the warehouse, there were groups of people mingling together in separate corners. Some were working, but there were others gathered around laughing, chatting it up. “What? You guys have nothing better to do with your time?” Omer barked. “Or do I need to find some actual work for you guys to do?” Instantly the crowd dispersed. He quickly strode to Defne’s office, but it was empty. A quick glance revealed her bag was still there which meant she hadn’t left the premises. Grabbing his cell phone, he dialed her number. Music played in the room; she’d left her cell phone on the table.
“Are you looking for Defne?”
Omer turned around to find the perpetually nervous Aytekin standing a few feet away. “Where is she?”
“If this is work related, I can help you.”
“Where the hell is she?”
“She took off. She was really upset.”
Omer ran his fingers through his hair, wracking his brain to figure out where she could be.
“Sometimes she goes to the roof to be alone. She doesn’t know that I know but I know.”
Aytekin was still rambling about all the things he knew as Omer walked past him and headed for the stairs.
“Tears again, Albertine? Now this is becoming a bad habit.”
Defne turned around to find Pamir behind her. Embarrassed, she swiped the tears from her face. “Sorry. You probably think I spend all my time crying instead of working.”
“Well, I think we can make an exception for today. Can’t be easy knowing everyone’s texting those pictures.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat, refusing to fall apart in front of her boss. “So you saw them?”
Those pictures flashed through her mind again and again, taunting her. Today was the first time she’d seen the photos, thanks to her family who had gone out of their way to protect her. From the day she’d signed the annulment papers, Defne had taken refuge in her room, hiding from the world, and it had been her family who had dealt with the aftermath of the wedding. From returning the wedding presents to appeasing the photographer who kept asking who to send the wedding album to, Nihan, Serdar and her grandma had looked after it all so she wouldn’t have to face any of it. Iso and Esra kept watch over her for months, sacrificing their own time to make sure she’d be alright. Although they had never once complained, she knew it hadn’t been easy for any of them. Her grandmother had boasted to everyone about Defne getting married so when she returned home alone the next day, all of their extended family and friends from Manisa demanded to know why. Iso, Serder and Nihan had gotten into numerous fights with nosy neighbours who constantly asked intrusive questions about why Omer left. Rumors circulated throughout the neighbourhood about their family, and their lives became a living hell. All thanks to her.
“You alright?” Pamir asked.
She shook her head ‘no’. “I was so happy to find this job. No one knew me, no one knew anything about my past. I could leave behind prying eyes and just focus on work.”
“Except now everyone knows about you and Omer.”
She bit her lips, trying desperately not to unleash new round of tears. “They know, and they’re asking themselves why it ended. Or they’re wondering why he married me in the first place.”
“Oh, come on. You can’t be serious.”
She turned to look at Pamir. “What?”
“Why would anyone wonder why he married you? What kind of stupidity is that?”
“Because he’s the great Omer Iplikci. He can have anyone he wants. Why would he settle for someone like me? I’m… nothing compared to him.”
“Now you’re just fishing for compliments.”
“No, I’m not. Do you know how many people have asked me that? When I used to work for Passionis, I had so many people look down at me because I didn’t belong in Omer’s world. They accused me of being overly ambitious, of not knowing my place. Your aunt loved to remind me of that time and time again. Like that wasn’t bad enough, there were the newspapers and magazines who were all over Omer and Fikret, coupling them up. Everyone knew how wrong I was for him and deep down I always knew that too but I still let myself buy into that fantasy. Then it all came crashing down at the wedding.” The wound was fresh, still festering inside her. She didn’t think it would ever heal.
“Omer let his pride dictate his actions. He’s an idiot.”
“No, he’s not.”
Pamir gave her a wry smile. “Even now you defend him. And you wonder why he married you.” He regarded her with a solemn stare, watching in silence for several seconds. “This isn’t an act, is it? You honestly have no clue how unique you are, do you?”
“Stop, Pamir. You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
“I’m not saying this to flatter you, I’m being honest. You’re beautiful, and you’re smart, but there are a thousand women out there like that. That’s not what makes you stand out.”
Feeling uncomfortable, she crossed her arms. “Can we talk about something else?”
“What makes you special is your heart. You care about people like no one else. Aytekin annoys the crap out of you but every week you bring him a hamburger from the street vendor because it’s his favourite. And your staff, you’re always fighting for them because you know they can’t speak up for themselves.”
“They deserved that raise. They’re hard workers,” Defne mumbled, staring straight ahead.
“You have a goodness in you, Defne, and it shines through you like a bright, warm light. I wish you could see that.”
“Pamir, please stop. You’re embarrassing me.”
“Omer was the lucky one, Defne, and he let you slip through his fingers because of his stupid pride. You know, I’ve never felt sorry for him before but now I do. I pity him.”
“Sometimes I wish I’d never told him the truth.”
“Why did you? I mean, you could have hid it from him forever but you didn’t. Why?”
Her heart trembled with pain. “Because I honestly thought he loved me enough to forgive me. We’d just made a lifelong commitment, we’d promised to spend the rest of our lives together. I knew he’d be devastated, but he didn’t deserve to be lied to and I thought he would at least give me a chance to explain. That he would hear me out. After everything he and I went through to be together, I’d convinced myself he wouldn’t walk away again. But there was nothing, not even an iota of compassion from him. He kicked me out of his life without a second glance.” A harsh sob ripped from her lungs. “One night I was married to the man I loved, the next morning he wanted nothing to do with me.”
Pamir reached out to wrap his arm around her shoulder, comforting her. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” She rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “This isn’t your problem. I just need to stop being weak and move on.”
“Yeah, but you can’t. You’ve never had closure. When people break up, at least they talk or have a fight or some kind of blow-up to get all their emotions out. With you guys, it just ended.” He snapped his fingers. “Like that. No wonder you’re still messed up about this.”
“Well, it’s too late now.”
“Why? He’s downstairs. Go talk to him. Tell him how he made you feel, how angry you’re at him. Yell at him to get it out of your system.”
She shook her head ‘no’. “Omer would never accept that. In his mind he’s always right. Besides, I lied to him so it doesn’t matter how I feel. It’s inconsequential.”
“Yeah, you lied. But he made it impossible for you to tell him the truth. And then he took off as soon as you did. He’s just as much at fault as you were.”
Defne stared out at the view in front of her. There were millions of people going about their daily lives, lost in a maze, and that was all she wanted for herself. “I just want to move on.”
“How are you going to start a new relationship when this one still haunts you?”
She exhaled a bitter laugh. “There will be no new relationships for me. I’m done.”
“Come on. You’re young, you’re gorgeous. I’m sure you’ll meet someone new and get married again.”
She shook her head ‘no’. “I already married the person I fell in love with, and it ended horribly. I will never put myself through that again.”
“You know what the real problem is, don’t you?”
Her eyes focused on Pamir. “What?”
“You married for love. That can only end in pain.”
“Marriage shouldn’t be about romantic love.”
Pamir leaned forward on the terrace railing, like he couldn’t speak without taking a breath, and Defne realised this was a difficult topic for him. As much as he acted like a casual player, she sensed there was something more to him deep down.
“My mom was madly in love with my dad. He was her whole life. And then he passed away and I found out he had a mistress for years, one he was deeply in love with. Mom still doesn’t know; I don’t have the heart to tell her.”
“Shit. That’s horrible.”
Pamir turned back to look at her. “Isn’t it? Made me realise you should never be in love, let alone with the person you marry. I mean, think about it. If you were to marry me and I cheated on you, would you be hurt?”
“I don’t understand.”
“If you and I were married right now, and you found out I had a mistress, how would you react?”
“If I loved you, I’d feel betrayed. Angry.”
“Exactly. If you loved me. But if we were just friends who married for companionship, it wouldn’t bother you as much. Maybe you wouldn’t even care.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I guess.”
“Next time, Defne, marry someone you care about as a friend, not someone you love. That way if something goes wrong, you won’t be left heartbroken.”
She’d experienced that devastation firsthand, how it grew like a cancer that permeated her whole life including her sanity. After the annulment all she wanted was for the hurt to end, and she’d done a horrible thing to achieve it. It had been a selfish choice, and it had wrecked her family. But never again. Never was she going to put her family through that again, or herself. “There won’t be a next time for me, Pamir. I’m never going to love anyone else, and I’m definitely never getting married again.”
“Been there, done that, have the annulment papers to prove it?” he teased.
“That’s not funny.”
He gave her a charming smile. “Come on, it’s a little funny. Admit it.”
“Fine.” A reluctant smile formed across her lips. “A little. Not a lot. Just a little.”
“Got it.” He pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket, removing one before returning the case. Lighting the cigarette, he inhaled. “I think you should go back downstairs, hold your head high and yell out a few orders. You’re their director, after all. Don’t let them forget it. Keep them busy so they don’t have time to gossip about you.”
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Helps me keep my bad boy image.”
“You’re not as bad as you like to think you are.”
“Oh, really?” he prodded, blowing smoke in her face.
She fanned the air way with her hand. “There’s no reason for you to comfort me but here you are. And I really want to thank you for that. I have no one else to talk to about this stuff.”
“What about Iso?”
“He’s already upset with me for speaking to Omer. If he found out-”
“-that you still loved Omer, he would lose it?” Pamir interjected.
Defne paused. “No, he accepts that I’ll always love Omer. But he also knows it’s not good for me. Iso wants me to keep my distance and quit Stilvagon. He has this crazy idea that I should open my own logistics business.”
“It’s not crazy. I think it’s a great idea. Of course I’d hate to lose your brilliant mind if that were to happen.”
“Don’t worry. I can’t afford to quit anyway.”
“Good.” Pamir smirked.
“Anyway, I was saying thank you for listening. I appreciate it.”
“You can thank me by bringing in some more dolmas.”
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Look, you’re smart and you’re strong. You’ll get through this. I promise.”
Feeling grateful for his support, she embraced him and gave him a tight hug. No matter how much Pamir liked to pretend not to care, he had a heart and he was a good friend who didn’t judge her. These days, she needed that.
Omer watched his worst nightmare unfold in front of him, and there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it. Defne was clinging to Pamir, holding on to him, but what wrecked him wasn’t the physical contact, it was the fact that she had turned to his cousin for consolation. Somehow Pamir had managed to slip past her defences and carve out a friendship whereas Omer couldn’t even get her to look at him these days. It was the easy intimacy between Pamir and her that he envied yet he only had himself to blame.
Even though every fibre in his body was screaming at him to pummel Pamir’s face, he knew doing so would only create more problems. After all, it was his anger that had led them to their current situation. If only he’d fought his instincts and found a way to look past the rage at the wedding, maybe he and Defne would still be married now.
Unable to look at the laughing couple in front of him, Omer closed the terrace door and headed back down the stairs. Defne was his. She belonged with him, she loved him and she’d even admitted that without hesitation. He wasn’t going to lose her, no matter what, but nothing he was doing was working. His past actions were creating a greater divide between them which meant he had to change tactics. He wasn’t one to play games, it wasn’t in his nature, but he was willing to do whatever it took to regain Defne’s trust.
In love, there were no rules, no principles. None of that mattered. The only thing he cared about was Defne. He loved her, even more now than before, and he was going to prove to her they deserved to be together.
The next morning Defne was updating the calendar on the office wall when she heard a knock on the door. Turning around, she found herself facing Derya and Omer. Omer’s eyes pierced right through her and Defne quickly shifted her attention to his personal assistant who appeared to be in full-fledged panic mode. “What’s wrong?”
“Derya?” Omer prodded in a curt tone.
“It was me. I was the one who texted the picture. But I swear I wasn’t doing it to be mean or make trouble,” Derya babbled. “The girls and I were talking about weddings and one of them asked me what was the best wedding I went to and I mentioned yours and Mr. Omer’s. Zeynep was shocked! She didn’t know you guys were married before, she thought I was lying, so I sent her a pic from my phone and then she forwarded it to the StilVagon crew. I swear I wasn’t doing it to cause problems. It was an honest mistake!”
Defne deliberately kept her voice steady, refusing to reveal the pain she still felt at the thought of her doomed wedding. “Okay.”
“I’m really sorry, Mr. Omer,” Derya added.
“You should be apologizing to Defne,” Omer replied.
Derya sent her a pleading look. “I’m sorry, Defne.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s in the past anyway.”
“Alright, you can get back to work,” Omer ordered.
Defne hoped they would both leave but only Derya exited the office, leaving her alone with Omer. She worried he would close the distance between them but he remained by the door, studying her intently.
“I’m sorry, Defne.”
“It’s fine.” Needing something to distract from his steely gaze, she started watering the plant on her desk. “It was bound to come out eventually.”
“No, I mean I’m sorry for leaving you to deal with all of it. I was so angry after you told me the truth I didn’t think about what the annulment would mean for you. How hard it would be for you and your family to deal with the aftermath. I was selfish, I know. I wish there was some way I could take it all back.”
Her heart lurched. Those words were rare from Omer, but she reminded herself not to be swayed by them. How many times had he urged her to confess her secret, promising to stick by her only to abandon her when she finally told him the truth? No matter how sincere he sounded, when he was furious all bets were off. His pride was the most important thing to him, and he had used his righteousness as a weapon against her more than once. Frankly, she no longer had the strength to cope with someone who demanded such perfection. “Omer, please. Let’s not do this.”
“That night my entire world came crashing down, but what I did to you, how I acted… nothing justifies that. I promised to be by your side and then I took off without even giving you a chance to explain.”
It was like he was reading her mind, and she didn’t know how to react.
“You don’t trust me anymore, I get that, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to gain it back, Defne.”
Her eyes blurred with tears, her hands trembling so bad she was forced to put down the water bottle. “Some things are better left in the past.”
“I know it’s hard for you to believe me, but I will prove myself to you.”
She finally met his stare. “There’s no point, don’t you get that? We come from two different worlds. I can’t give you what you want, and you can’t love me the way I need, so why put ourselves through this again? Let’s just move on.”
“If we weren’t able to do that when we were apart, what makes you think we can do that now?” Hands tucked into his pocket, he approached her slowly. “You think I’m going to leave you again, the way I did before, the way your parents did, but I’m not going anywhere. I made a mistake, I messed up big, and I’m going to do everything within my power to earn your forgiveness.”
Her heart skipped in her chest, beating thunderously as he moved closer. No matter how much she wanted to break the connection between them, it proved to be impossible – like she was caught in his spell. He came to a stop in front of her, leaning in and reaching out to hold her face. With a tentative touch his thumb swiped the tears down her right cheek, and her breath faltered. If he tried to kiss her right now, she wouldn’t be able to handle it – even if a part of her trembled at the thought. “Omer, please don’t.”
“I’m not going to push you for more, Defne. I’ll try my best to give you space. I’ll be patient, because I know that’s what you need from me right now.”
“I don’t want you to cling to false hope. We’re over. There’s no going back.”
He caressed her cheek ever so slightly. “I’m not giving up on us.”
“You’re making a mistake then.”
“Maybe, maybe not. You once told me to believe in miracles and that’s what you are for me. You’re my miracle, Defne. And I’m choosing to believe in us even if you can’t right now.”
His lips grazed her forehead, his touch achingly gentle before he pulled back. Bewildered, she stared after him. Her fears were always there, constantly reminding her of all the reasons to stay away from him yet her heart, her heart yearned for him over and over again, and it refused to be ignored.
The following week was a busy one for Defne with the inventory needing to be done and multiple shipments to be processed for Passionis. With the success of Omer’s new designs, orders were coming in by the hour which kept her and her staff very busy. He’d always been an amazing designer but there was something more complex about Omer’s work now, his shoes revealing a hidden depth of beauty that was missing before. Unfortunately all of his hard work was brushed off with the plagiarism accusations that surfaced that morning.
Defne heard the rumours as soon as she came into work. There was no doubt in her mind they were untrue, no way would Omer ever steal anyone else’s work, but it seemed like the Passionis staff wasn’t entirely convinced as they were already talking about the brand crashing. It infuriated her that they seemed to have no faith in Omer. Didn’t they know him at all? Didn’t they realise he wasn’t capable of doing something so dishonest? After Aytekin had grudgingly informed her Omer had been looking or her, she’d marched up to his office but he hadn’t been there. She’d tried several more times after that but he had yet to return.
Over the next few hours her mind was preoccupied with Omer’s troubles. She spent an hour on the internet researching how to disprove plagiarism but it seemed to be a complicated issue, one filled with legal jargon she didn’t understand. There was nothing she could do to ease Omer’s worries, unlike Feryal. Stupid, stupid Feryal! Immediately guilt surged through Defne for her petty thoughts. She should have been grateful that the magazine editor was helping Omer and Sinan out of this jam, but a small part of her couldn’t help but feel resentful and jealous. Why did Derya even mention it? Defne wished she didn’t know Omer and Sinan were at Feryal’s office right now so she could stop obsessing over what they were doing. Ugh! Frustrated, Defne forced herself to concentrate on the inventory logs in front of her.
It was almost seven at night when she heard a knock on the door. Glancing up, she found Omer staring at her. Her body reacted to him like it always did, heart racing, nerves on edge at the sight of him. “Omer.” She stood up, feeling simultaneously concerned and awkward around him. “Are you okay?”
Running his fingers through his hair, he released a long, drawn out breath. “No, not really.” Right now it looks like I stole Vanni’s work.”
“That’s bullshit.” She circled around the desk to approach Omer. “There has to be some kind of explanation for this.”
“The lawyers are combing through everything to find out who came up with the designs first.”
Her heart ached at his troubled demeanor, the sense of resignation that emanated from him. “It’s you. I know it’s you,” she said with fierce determination, reaching for his hand to comfort him. “If they didn’t copy your work, then it’s just a coincidence. Apparently it happens all the time, people come up with similar inventions at the same time, same book ideas, music even though they’re worlds apart. I’ve been reading up on this stuff the entire afternoon, you won’t believe how many times stuff like that has happened.”
“But our designs aren’t just similar, they’re exactly the same.”
“Then they must have copied you.”
He remained silent, simply watching her, and it suddenly dawned on Defne that they were standing inches apart from each other, their hands intertwined. The realisation immediately made her tense, her stomach coiling into tight knots at the way his gaze darkened over her.
“You really believe in me, don’t you?” he asked.
There was a sense of wonderment in his voice which took her by surprise. “Of course I do. You’re the most talented person I know, and the most honest. There’s no way you would ever do this.”
“Defne…” Desperation laced his voice as his arms wrapped around her, embracing her tightly.
Immediately her brain started protesting but she couldn’t bring herself to break the physical contact, not when her body came alive against his. Aware of every inch of him pressed against her, she breathed in his scent, heady at his close proximity. God, she missed him. Missed this. Missed the way he held her, and touched her, and kissed her.
“Defne,” he murmured again.
Pulling away slightly, she looked up at him. His eyes locked with hers. The emotion in his eyes made her head spin and left her breathless. Her heart pounded so erratically she wondered if it would jump out of her chest. Yet she couldn’t break free from his stare. She didn’t even want to. “Omer,” she whispered, cradling his face. Standing on her toes, she closed her lips over his.
Madness swept over her, a frenzied, dark passion that had gone unfulfilled for far too long. Tongue and teeth clashed against each other as Defne kissed him possessively, clinging to him tightly, her nails digging into his neck. His mouth consumed her with equal fervor as he picked her up in his arms, carrying her to her desk.
Defne looked up at him; Omer’s gaze locked with hers. The emotion in his eyes made her head spin and left her breathless. Her heart pounded so erratically she wondered if it would jump out of her chest. Yet she couldn’t break free from his stare. She didn’t even want to. “Omer,” she whispered, cradling his face. Standing on her toes, she closed her lips over his.
Madness swept over her, a frenzied, dark passion that had gone unfulfilled for far too long. Tongue and teeth clashed against each other as she kissed him possessively, clinging to him, her nails digging into his neck. His mouth consumed her with equal fervor as he picked her up in his arms, carrying her to her desk.
“Defne!” he growled.
It was a deep, throaty sound that unleashed the passion only he could evoke. Wrapping her legs around his thighs, she pulled him closer, kissing him over and over again until her brain started screaming from oxygen and they were both out of breath.
His beard scraped along her jaw-line as his teeth nipped her skin, suckling that incredibly sensitive spot just below her ear that only seemed to exist when his mouth was on her. Electricity shot through her in waves, pleasure flowing in her blood as he pressed her down on the table.
“Defne…” he panted, perched above her. His heated gaze made her insides quiver, trapping her with their intensity so she couldn’t break eye contact even if she wanted to. “I love you.”
The spell was broken. His words brought her crashing back to their unfortunate reality where it was impossible to ignore everything that separated them. Her heart rebelled while she pushed him away, and she avoided his gaze as she sat up on. “I shouldn’t have done this. This was a mistake.”
The tension was palpable. Despite not looking at him, she could sense the angry current running throughout his body. Rage vibrated off of him and she mentally prepared for the verbal onslaught that was sure to follow, one she couldn’t even blame him for. Why had she kissed him? What the hell was she thinking? They were supposed to move on from each other and instead of sticking to her resolve, she’d just made the situation worse. Why was she so weak? Still unable to look at him, she focused her attention on the floor. “I shouldn’t have kissed you. I’m sorry.”
He started pacing in front of her, a tell-tale sign he was about to go off on her.
After a short bout of silence, he finally spoke. “Don’t be sorry. It was bound to happen eventually. You’ve never been good with controlling yourself around me.”
Stunned by the mischief in his tone, she met his stare.
There was wicked glint twinkling in his eyes, a flirtatious smile playing along his lips. He leaned forward, twirling her hair around his fingers. “We’re both human, and it’s been so long. I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
Speechless by the shift in his mood, she gawked at him.
When she’d pushed him away Omer had been frustrated, disappointed and furious all at once. It wasn’t so much that she’d wanted to stop, but the fact she did it because he’d confessed to loving her. Time and time again she insisted on widening the emotional distance between them and the more he tried to connect with her, the harder she fought against him. He still remembered the pain of seeing Defne with his goddamn cousin, realising that their relationship had progressed to the point where she felt comfortable opening up to Pamir. But that hurt paled in comparison to hearing firsthand how much his own actions had devastated Defne. In his anger he’d destroyed the very person who meant the most to him, the most important part of his life. She didn’t trust him anymore. He’d given her every reason to feel that way so now he had to find another route to regain her trust. And yelling at her for pulling away wasn’t going to help accomplish that, no matter how agitated he was. After a few minutes of pacing back and forth, he’d finally calmed down.
She was sitting on the desk, cheeks flushed, lips swollen from their kiss, her skin bruised red from where his beard had rubbed against her. Red curls haloed her face, making her strikingly beautiful, and it took an immense amount of will power to not pull her against him and kiss her again. As a compromise – one way or another he had to touch her – he reached out to play with her curls.
“We’re both human, and it’s been so long. I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
She finally looked up at him, confusion flashing across her face. Amused, he smiled back. Obviously his Defne was expecting an argument. Instead, he’d managed to surprise her. Good.
“You never could control yourself around me,” he teased, encircling her waist with his arm.
Her lips parted open, and she swallowed audibly. He felt her body tense, the way it always did when she was around him and turned on.
“I want this too, Defne, but I don’t think we should rush into anything. Not when you still can’t trust me fully. I think that’s best, don’t you?” He dropped a tender kiss on the tip of her nose, his fingers tracing the curve of her right ear, and he smiled to himself at the quickening of her breath. “It’s not going to be easy, I know, but I have to insist. For my own sanity.” Moving his hand, he caressed the side of her thigh over the jeans she was wearing, sensing as she grew flustered, trying to stay in control under his machinations. “Earlier today I felt so hopeless, but now I’m here with you, and I know how much you still believe in me, and nothing, not these accusations, not anyone else, can take that away from me. I can’t believe how lucky I am, Defne, to have you in my corner.”
As his hand moved to the inside of her thighs, he kissed along her jaw-line. Her eyes grew hazy with pleasure, her head lolled back. He may have started the seduction but he, too, was feeling the effects. He grew hard, getting more and more excited with her body pressed up against his. “I miss touching you, Defne. Kissing you, smelling you, being inside you.” Her sweet, subtle scent was starting to drive him crazy. “I miss the way your eyes glaze over when you come, and how shy you get afterwards. I want to hold you every night, wake up next to you every morning.” His hand cupped her between her legs, fingers rubbing her pussy over her jeans. She was wet, and ready for him; he struggled not to take her right then and there. Suddenly she curved her arms around his shoulders, hugging him tightly, and as he continued to pleasure her with his hand, her body moved and grinded against his in response.
Her soft, throaty moans filled his ears, growing more passionate as she reached near climax. “Omer…”
“I know, love,” he murmured. “Let go. Enjoy it.” There was so much he wanted to do right now. Rip her clothes off, kiss and taste every inch of her, make love to her in ways she couldn’t even imagine. More than anything though, he just wanted to see her naked – but he forced himself to hold back. They weren’t ready for that yet.
The moment she reached her peak, her body went lax in his arms . He clung to her, playing with her hair, stroking her back. After a while, he cradled her face and pulled back to peer at her. Her face was flushed, eyes closed. “My sweet Defne,” he whispered, kissing her left cheek, then her right, dropping tender kisses on her closed eyelids. “Sweet, sweet Defne.”
She finally looked up at him, a range of emotions fleeting across her face. He expected shyness, but she surprised him when that look dissolved rather quickly. Instead, he was greeted with a decisive expression from her.
“Omer, I know you’re worried about the plagiarism accusations but it’ll be fine. It has to be.”
He smirked. “I wasn’t really thinking about that right now.”
“I…” Hesitation marked her face once again. “This doesn’t change anything between us.”
He nodded in agreement, mocking her. “Okay.”
“I’m serious, Omer!”
“I know. I believe you.”
“Then why are you smiling?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t I smile?”
“You were accused of plagiarism this morning. This should be one of the worst days of your life!”
“Today doesn’t even come close to that.” Tipping his head to the side, he gave her a lopsided smile. “I have you on my side. I can handle whatever comes my way.” His fingers reached out to smooth over the red marks on her neck. “I’ll trim the beard. I don’t want to scratch you again.”
“No, don’t. I like it!” she protested.
Immediately her face turned a bright pink, and he grinned. She may have been angry at him, and not trusted him, but that attraction between them was still potent, and it ran deep. Nothing was going to change that.
“I mean, don’t change anything because of me. This isn’t going to happen again,” she babbled nervously.
He watched as she rushed over to the opposite corner of the desk, trying to look busy. “Come on. It’s late. Let me give you a ride home.”
“No, Iso is coming for me in half an hour.”
“Okay.” He contemplated giving her a goodbye kiss but decided against it. If their last few interactions had shown him anything it was that forcing her to engage when she was determined to pull away was only going to lead to another argument, and he definitely didn’t want that. “Goodnight, my sweet Defne.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Okay, sweetheart.” He turned around to walk away.
He found her watching him anxiously.
“You’re acting like these accusations don’t bother you but I know you, Omer. You’re hurt and you’re worried. Just please try to get some sleep tonight. You need all your energy to fight this thing tomorrow.”
For so long he’d buried himself deep down, hidden behind walls so he wouldn’t have to open up, but she’d torn down every one of those barriers and shown him how amazing this world could be, why hiding from it was a tragedy. She knew him inside and out in a way that no one else ever would. And he knew how lucky he was to have her. “With you, I can handle anything.” Sending her a grateful smile, he walked away.
There was a time when keeping busy had been a blessing in disguise. After her stay in the hospital, Defne knew she could no longer lock herself in a room and drown in pain. There were too many bills to pay including the mortgage for the house and she needed to start working again to help out. Although the family worried about her health, their concerns – for the most part – were alleviated once Defne started the job at Stil Vagon. In fact, starting a new career had actually helped with the recovery because it gave her something else to focus on. And on the weekends, she helped out at the restaurant which left her too exhausted to dwell on Omer and their doomed relationship. Unfortunately, that tactic no longer seemed to work now that he was back and in her life again.
After their tryst on Friday night, Defne tried not to think about Omer over the weekend – but every time she closed her eyes his face flashed across her mind. His sexy smile, his beautiful hands touching her in erotic ways, his velvety voice as he whispered the most incredible things in her ear – it was all ingrained into her brain, torturing her. She lay awake pondering him at night, daydreaming about him during the morning, and was so distracted all of Sunday that Serder just sent her home for being too disruptive. It was all too much. Too, too much. Why couldn’t she stop fantasizing about him? The light in her soul had gone out completely after Omer abandoned her but now, with his return, the flame had surged back to life, fighting to awaken all the parts of her that had shut down. And it wasn’t like Omer was making things any easier either. On Saturday he had texted her passages from his favourite poems and stories, words that were beautifully touching and made her insides melt.
After everything they went through, even thinking about him was dangerous yet somehow they had already crossed over that line and into something physical. With every passing moment her mind seemed to flow more and more towards him and she didn’t know how long her resolve to stay strong would hold up.
On Monday morning she came into work determined not to spend a single moment thinking about Omer. There were tons of things to do, and custom documents to complete, and she wasn’t going to waste any – any – moment on romantic fantasies.
Her determination disappeared as soon as she entered her office and spotted the desk. The desk where Omer had touched, and caressed, and brought her to ecstasy. Shit. This was going to be more difficult than she’d anticipated. Taking some of the papers from the desk, she headed to the couch on the other side of the room to work.
An hour later she was still trying to concentrate when Pamir sauntered in, holding a cup of tea. “Why the couch?” he asked, coming over to where she was sitting.
Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “Just wanted a change in scenery.”
“How was your weekend?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Alright. Nothing great. Worked at the restaurant as usual.”
“You work too much.”
“I like to keep busy.”
“So you don’t have to spend time thinking about a certain cousin of mine.”
Defne shot him an irritated look. “Do you need something, Pamir?”
He smiled. “You and I have a business meeting tomorrow night.”
“With who? I don’t remember you mentioning it before.”
“Let’s say I managed to score the meeting through an unusual contact.”
His eyes twinkled. “I hooked up with someone this weekend who’s a personal assistant to one of the top designers of Dolce & Gabbana. They’re here in Istanbul to scout locations.” He stood up and walked over to the nearby display, sifting through some of the designer dresses that hung there. “If we can get D&G merchandise, it would be a huge coup for StilVagon.”
“They’re one of the top requested brands.”
“Exactly. Be ready to schmooze tomorrow night.” He finished the rest of his tea and placed the empty cup on the showcase table. Already she knew he wasn’t going to be taking it with him. “Oh, and make sure you’re wearing a D&G dress.”
“I don’t have one.”
“Then we’ll have to go shopping for one later today.”
“I can’t afford that.”
“Don’t worry about the cost. We’ll expense it.”
“That doesn’t seem right-” The rest of the words got stuck in her throat because Omer walked into her office, dressed in a grey suit that emphasized his muscular frame even more than usual. Her heart started racing, until Pamir suddenly came to take a seat beside her and then she just felt sick. Omer’s eyes flashed with anger, she braced herself for what was to come.
“Hello cousin,” Pamir greeted, smirking. “Defne and I are talking about our dinner plans tomorrow night.”
Defne almost started to explain it was a work dinner but then stopped herself. Really, why did she have to justify herself to Omer anyway? It wasn’t his business. Of course her mind started to waiver as soon as she spotted Omer clenching his jaw, a tell-tale sign he was going to lose it any second.
“Would you like to join us?” Pamir offered, surprising her.
“I have plans myself, cousin,” Omer finally responded, making ‘cousin’ sound more like an insult than anything else. A cold smile covered his face as his angry gaze shifted between her and Pamir.
“With whom?” Pamir inquired. “Anyone I know?”
“A magazine editor friend of mine.”
Defne saw red right away. How dare he? How dare he? He was having dinner with stupid Feryal and now he was coming to her office to gloat over it? She stood up and started gathering her papers together. “I’m extremely busy at the moment, gentlemen,” she declared through gritted teeth.
“Is that so?” Omer countered. “It looked like you and Pamir were just lounging on the sofa, making dinner plans.”
She gave him a haughty glance. “Actually we were discussing business strategies. Our dinner tomorrow night is with potential clients, not a romantic date like the one you have planned with Feryal.”
“Ah, Feryal. Is that who you’re dating these days, brother? She’s quite beautiful,” Pamir piped in, amused.
Defne cast a quick glance at Pamir before returning her attention back to Omer. “It’s good to see that you’re not letting something like plagiarism accusations get in the way of your social life. Feryal must be a very special woman.”
Omer smiled. “I’ll be sure to let her know that.”
“Please do. I hope you have a wonderful dinner with your sweetheart. And I certainly hope neither of you choke on anything.”
“Your concern is truly touching,” Omer played along, nodding his head.
“Defne, I think you should wear a strapless dress tomorrow night,” Pamir said, checking her out from head to toe. “You have beautiful shoulders, a gorgeous neckline. We should really show you off.”
“Thank you, Pamir,” she said in a flirtatious tone. “No one has ever complimented my neckline before. That’s so very thoughtful of you.”
“I’m a thoughtful guy.” Pamir dipped his head to the side, giving her a pensive look. “Do you have a strapless bra? If you don’t, we can go shopping for that too. I have quite a lot of experience with choosing the right kind of lingerie for beautiful women.”
“That’s. Enough. Pamir.” Omer’s voice was filled with violence. “In fact, why don’t you get the fuck out of here right now?”
The tension in the room had suddenly escalated. Any second now, Omer was going to implode except Pamir didn’t seem the least bit perturbed, instead standing up and granting Omer a smile.
“Now, now. Is that any way to talk to your favourite cousin?”
“Leave. Or I will put my fist through your face. Right now.”
Pamir moved towards Omer, still sneering. “You can dish it out but you can’t take it?”
Defne didn’t know what kind of game Pamir was playing but she had no doubt in her mind he would end up with broken bones if he continued to torment Omer. And she knew she was partially to blame for the inevitable fight. She quickly rushed over to them, grabbing Pamir’s elbow. “Pamir, don’t forget you have a meeting in five minutes. An important one. You can’t miss it.” She pulled on his elbow, gently nudging him towards the door.
“Get your hands off of him, Defne.”
Omer’s voice was quiet, still. The calm before the storm.
“Unfortunately I do have a meeting I need to attend, and just when things were getting interesting,” Pamir declared with a sigh, pulling apart her fingers from his arm. He looked over at Omer, giving him a sly wink. “Cousin. Have a wonderful day. And Defne? We’ll go shopping for that dress after work today.” He leaned over to give her a tender peck on the cheek.
The gesture took her completely by surprise, but the shock wore off the instant Omer charged from behind, ready to pounce as Pamir casually exited the room. Using every ounce of strength, she blocked Omer from going after his cousin. Omer was strong and fiercely angry, and she was no match for him – except he would never hurt her physically and so she threw herself at him to stop him from committing violence. “Stop, Omer!” she yelled. “Be reasonable!”
He picked her up in one swift gesture, pressing her against the wall, trapping her firmly in between his body and the surface behind. Rage danced in his eyes, his lips pursed tightly into a thin line. “If he ever touches you again, I will kill him.”
She swallowed an audible breath. “You have no right to do that.”
“I don’t give a fuck.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” she said, wishing her voice didn’t sound so meek. “I have a right to be with anyone I want.”
His hands tightly wrapped around her wrists, hips grinding against her as if to punish her. “Is that what you think?”
“It’s what I know,” she said defiantly. “You get to traipse around with Feryal and expect me to stay at home and pine for you? I don’t think so.”
“I own you, Defne.” His voice was a soft whisper, no longer filled with rage. “And you own me. Heart, body and soul. No one gets to come between us and ruin that. Not Feryal, and definitely not Pamir.”
“Yet you’re having dinner with Feryal tomorrow,” she bit out.
“I lied. I said that to make you jealous.”
Her eyebrow quirked up. “I thought the great Omer Iplicki never did that, I thought games were beneath you.”
“Maybe I’m not as noble as you like to think I am.” He laid a gentle kiss on her left cheek. “Or maybe I’ve changed.” Then the right cheek. “Or maybe I just get hard when you get possessive about me.”
She struggled against him but he held firm, clinging to her. “I hate you.”
“I know you wish that were true. It would be easier for you to move on if it was, but it isn’t.”
A wicked smile formed along his lips, and her heart started pounding. All she had to do was push him away, but she couldn’t. Not when he leaned in to graze his lips along her collarbone, and especially not as his fingers slowly reached under her skirt to stroke her thighs. With his head resting on her shoulder, he kissed her neck and she trembled against him. Oh god. She wanted him so much, so, so much.
“Defne,” he murmured, peering at her. “Your staff is on break and they’re coming back in ten minutes. That means we have ten minutes before anyone walks in on us. Are we really going to stand here and argue or would you rather I spend that time going down on you? You choose.”
Every nerve in her body was suddenly taut with anticipation. Omer’s beautiful dark eyes were piercing right into her soul, wreaking havoc with her thoughts, resolve. She really wanted his mouth on her, her body throbbed with the thought of it. Oh god.
“The clock is ticking, Defne.” He peppered wet kisses along her neck causing his beard to prickle her skin – and she loved the tantalising feel of it.
“You’re saying these things to confuse me,” she accused in a whimpering tone. Eyes closed, her head lolled back. White-hot desire coursed through her veins as his fingers cupped the most intimate part of her, stroking her over her lace panties. His tongue caressed over the spot just below her ear, and she clung to him for support. Why was he doing this to her? Why was he tormenting her like this?
“Am I?” he murmured, unbuttoning the top button on her blouse with his teeth and tongue.
“You’re not…” Her body jumped in response to his finger lightly brushing over her clitoris.
“I’m not what?” he prodded, biting the delicate skin between her breasts.
“Being… fair,” she finished with extreme difficulty. With expert strokes he worked her until she was slowly being driven insane, and then his finger penetrated her. She squeezed her eyes shut, enjoying the currents of pleasure as they raced through her body. He’d always been good at this but she’d forgotten just how good. Her breath came out in short spurts, the bones in her body feeling weightless. “You’re… saying… doing… love.. make…you…”
He smiled against her skin, nuzzling her breasts again. “You’re speaking nonsense, Defne.”
Frustrated that he was deliberately taking his time in taunting her, she curved her leg around the back of his knees. Her body craved release, demanded it in fact.
“I think we’ve run out of time. Too bad you couldn’t make up your mind.”
Her eyes flew open, she tightened her grip around his shoulders. “What?”
Eyes twinkling with wicked delight, his fingers curved inside her, hitting that special spot that made her knees completely crumble. An unexpected moan crossed her lips and he smiled, the kind of cocky smile that she both loathed and loved at the same time.
“Do you like that, love?”
Resting her head on his shoulder, she leaned into him but then his hand paused.
“Answer me,” he ordered.
“Yes!” she bit out, peering at him angrily.
He resumed the rhythmic thrust of his fingers. “I want to taste you so much, Defne. Do you have any idea how much I missed that? How much I want to be inside you right now?”
Hot blush crept across her cheeks. He was seducing her with the most erotic of promises, drawing out the sensuous experience – she didn’t know how long she could withstand it. “Omer, please…”
“Tell me you want me, Defne.”
The vulnerability in his voice tugged at her heart, and she tightened her grip around his arms. “You know I do.”
Trailing kisses down the length of her body, he knelt in front of her and peered up. His brown eyes gleamed with a strange combination of desire and desperation. “I need to hear you say it.”
Somewhere in the haze of lust her brain managed to decipher what he was really asking. If she told him she wanted him, it meant there was no turning back. She wasn’t someone who could have casual flings and he was fully aware of that. By resuming their sexual relationship, she was making a commitment to him again – and she wasn’t ready for that. Right away, her body stiffened. “Stop.”
Eyebrows furrowed with confusion, he studied her intently. “Is that what you really want?”
She crossed her arms, deliberately avoiding his gaze. “I know what you’re doing.”
He exhaled a long sigh. “And what is that?”
“You’re trying to control me.”
He stood up, stepped back to put some distance between them. “No. I wanted to hear you still want me.” He lowered his head. “Since you can’t admit you love me.”
She met his gaze, and her heart ached at the hurt brimming in his eyes. “I love you. I will always love you.” Happiness flitted across his face, and she realised her confession had inadvertently given him false hope. “I wish I didn’t, I wish I could cut you out of my heart.”
Omer moved so quickly she barely had time to catch her breath let alone move away. Desire shone in his eyes as he trapped her arms over her head, pinning her against the wall. “And you can’t change how you feel about me.”
“That doesn’t mean you can use my feelings against me.”
“Do you really think I would do that, Defne?”
She nodded her head. “Yes.”
“That hurts.” He dropped a tender kiss on the tip of her nose, smiling playfully at her. “But I forgive you, and I promise not to hold it against you.”
His flirtatious demeanor was wrecking her determination again. “I wish you’d leave me alone.”
Her lips formed a petulant pout. “I wish we never met.”
Her breath hitched in her throat when his tongue licked the outer shell of her ear, his teeth nipping the skin.
“Because then I’d never get to do this,” he murmured, closing his mouth over hers.
It was a slow, sensuous kiss that she experienced with every nerve, that made her spine tingle and her mind so heady that it felt like she was floating. His tongue played with hers, stroking the contours of her mouth. When he pulled away, she struggled to catch her breath. Her senses seemed to be on overdrive, her body powerless and out of control.
“Or this.” All along her skin he left lingering kisses, his beard tickling her as he made his way down her body until he was, once again, kneeling down in front of her.
Her heart pounded thunderously in her chest as his hands lowered her lace panties. Their gazes locked, he helped her step out of them.
“If we never met, sweetheart, I’d never get to touch you like this.”
She practically jumped up when his fingers reached between her thighs again, stroking her.
“Or know what you taste like,” he murmured, before dipping his head under her skirt.
The second his mouth embraced the intimate parts of her, she was lost. With his lips, his fingers, he guided her to the most potent of pleasures, bringing her closer and closer to the edge of the cliff the way only he could. When her knees almost buckled under the intensity of his machinations, she used him for support by balancing her leg over his shoulder. “Omer,” she groaned with ravaged breath as his tongue flicked over her clitoris, his fingers thrusting into her. “Please… don’t…. stop…”
He didn’t, taking his time and prolonging her ecstasy.
Later that evening Defne sat in the back of a cab, pondering her crazy day. Her cheeks grew hot when she remembered her interaction with Omer in the morning, the incredible way he pleasured her body. Embarrassed, she wished the thoughts away yet the images persisted, refusing to leave her alone. After he’d made her come over and over again, he’d asked her to meet him for dinner. Before today she would have turned him down, but there was no way she could do that after their morning together. Once again he embedded himself into her soul and a part of her felt powerless to say no – but she refused to become that old Defne again, one who lost herself completely when he left. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to be strong and not be swept away by passion or emotion. For so long Omer had been insisting on having an honest discussion but she didn’t feel ready for it until today. If they were really going to rekindle their relationship, things had to be different between them. Tonight they were going to talk, and have an actual conversation about what their future held.
Omer slammed the door behind him and stormed down the hallway. Pissed off as hell, he took off his jacket and threw it on the couch. He was desperately craving a coffee, but, of course, the goddamn machine was broken. Frustrated, he stormed over to the bar in the corner and poured himself a glass of scotch. After his incredible morning with Defne when she’d finally agreed to have dinner with him, he’d been on cloud nine the whole day. To top things off, he received a phone call from the lawyers informing him that someone from Vanni had hacked into the network and there was digital proof they’d plagiarized his designs. Excited, he’d been eagerly looking forward to celebrating with Defne – until she texted him that she would be late. He’d already been waiting at the restaurant like a total chump, but of course she was too busy shopping with fucking Pamir to be on time for him. Gulping down the scotch, Omer took a seat on the couch. What the hell was wrong with Defne? Why was she playing these games with him? How could she give herself to him the way she had in the morning and then push him aside like he was simply nothing? Did he really mean so little to her?
When he thought about the future, Defne was always in the picture. She was his wife, the mother of his children, the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. The image was clear, there was no doubt in his mind. His life meant nothing if she wasn’t a part of it. But did she feel the same about him? Agitated, he rubbed his beard. Maybe Defne didn’t love him anymore. Maybe their time apart had made her fall out of love with him. Was that really possible? The thought alone made him want to retch, or jump out of his skin. Maybe Pamir was filling her head with nonsense? Was his fucking cousin influencing her in ways that made her doubt her feelings for Omer? If so, how could she be so gullible?
Setting the empty glass on the coffee table, he stood up and headed upstairs to take a shower.
Defne rung the doorbell, hitting the button repeatedly. When there was no answer, she pounded on the door. The jeep was parked in the driveway which meant Omer was home, but he seemed to be taking his sweet time in answering the door and that only served to infuriate her more. After several minutes, he answered the door. For a brief second Defne forgot her anger, instead taken aback by the sight of him clad in only black pyjama bottoms. Bare-chested, hair wet, he looked absolutely beautiful.
“Oh, Ms. Defne. You finally remembered our plans. I hope they didn’t interrupt your precious time with Pamir.”
Right away her temper flared at his snide tone. Sliding past him, she stormed inside the house and marched to the kitchen. Despite wanting to slam the box on the floor, she placed the heavy package she’d been carrying gently on the counter. Turning around, she confronted Omer who’d followed behind her. “You ask me to have dinner with you and then you don’t even bother to stick around in the restaurant? I showed up there and they told me you left. How could you do that?”
“Oh, I’m supposed to sit there and wait like a loser while you’re out having the time of your life with Pamir?” he countered, drawing closer. “Did you guys have fun? Did he buy you sexy lingerie?” Omer’s dark eyes were brimming with animosity. “I guess I should be flattered you actually bothered to show up at my door tonight after your date with Pamir.”
“I told you I would be half an hour late. You couldn’t even bother to wait for me thirty minutes?”
He sniggered. “Wait for you while you’re out with someone else? Why the hell should I?”
She shoved his chest. “Want to know why I was late? Because I got a call from the store that your coffee machine was in. I had to go out of my way to pick it up.”
Regret washed over his face immediately as his eyes shifted from her face to the package sitting on the counter behind her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise. You didn’t give me a reason-”
“Thirty minutes. That’s all you had to wait, and you couldn’t even bear to do that. Yet you waltz back into my life after a year away and expect everything to be the same. You’re such a hypocrite!”
She started to leave but he gripped her hand, blocking her path.
“When I got your text I thought you were with Pamir and it drove me nuts. I shouldn’t have lost my temper.”
“I can’t believe I thought things had changed but they haven’t, not really. You’re still the same. Your pride is what matters the most to you. Nothing is more important than that, is it?”
“You’re not being fair, Defne. I doubt you’d be very calm and rational if you thought I was out with Feryal.”
“The difference is I wouldn’t have left, I would’ve stayed and demanded an explanation. But of course that’s beneath you.” She struggled to leave but his grip was tight on her arm. “Let me go, Omer.”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“I don’t want to talk to you. This was a mistake.”
“Defne, look. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care,” she snapped. “I want to go home.”
“I’m not letting you leave.”
“What you want is an assistant, not a partner. Everything always has to be your way. I can’t believe I actually thought we had a chance.” Hurt, she couldn’t stop the tears from building in her eyes. “Please let me go.”
She tried to outrun him but he was too quick, easily out manoeuvring her. Against her will he picked her up and carried her to the couch, dropping her on the cushions.
“You’re an asshole!” she squealed angrily, still fighting him.
“I know. I’m sorry,” he replied in a calm tone, sitting down next to her. His arm snaked around her waist, keeping her firmly planted next to him. “Get mad at me, scream at me, yell at me. Do whatever it is you need to do. But please don’t leave.”
She swiped the tears from her face. Refusing to look at him, she kept her eyes glued to the ground. “Why do you keep hurting me?”
“I wish…” He exhaled a loud sigh before placing a tender kiss on her shoulder. “When it comes to you, I lose my head. My calm goes out the window, especially when I think about you with another guy. I was sitting at the restaurant, waiting for you, thinking about you and Pamir together and I don’t know… it’s like I couldn’t breathe or even think straight.”
She shook her head. “When you’re angry, nothing can get through to you. You freeze me out, you leave me. You’ve done it so many times yet I keep thinking this time it’ll be different, except it never is. It’s always the same story.”
“It’s not that simple.”
She turned to confront him. “You dumped me after I sold my design to Tramba, after your grandfather came to our engagement.” Her lips pursed into a thin line. “And then there was the wedding.”
“Are you really telling me you were blameless throughout all that? Defne, you broke my heart. Over and over again.”
“I know I made mistakes, I lied to you. My hands were tied and I was in an impossible situation and…” A bitter laugh escaped her throat. “You know what, never mind. There’s no point in talking about this because everything is always my fault. You’re right. I’m wrong. Conversation over.” She tried to get up but he forced her to remain seated.
“Defne, please. Finish what you were going to say.”
“I don’t feel safe with you, Omer.”
There was a long pause before he answered. “Why?”
“Because I’m not perfect like you and you have no tolerance for flaws. When we were together I spent most of that time dreading what would happen when you found out the truth. Even then I still let myself believe you loved me enough to stay, but you didn’t.”
He took her hand, stroked her palm with his fingers. “I felt betrayed, my whole life came crashing down when I found out everyone had been lying to me. You’re right. I should have stayed, I should have listened to you, but I made a mistake. Defne, you keep saying I’m perfect but I’m not. I lost the most important person in my life, you, because I let my anger and pride get the better of me. That was the worst mistake of my life. I wish I could go back and fix things between us but I can’t. All I can do, we can do, is learn from the past and move on.”
“Maybe the lesson we need to learn is you and I shouldn’t be together.”
He shook his head vehemently. “I refuse to believe that. My life means nothing if you’re not a part of it.”
Defne’s heart stirred as he held her face.
“You changed everything, Defne. Without you, I might as well be dead. My life is empty, my world hollow. But you, you’re my miracle. You make me believe in happiness, in dreams. Your heart is so big, and kind, and I want so desperately to be a part of your goodness.” He bent forward to kiss her palm.
Pulling away from him, she folded her hands in her lap. “Dreams don’t come true for people like me. It took me a while to realise that but now I know the truth. The Defne you want, you love, doesn’t exist anymore. I’m not the same person I was when you left.”
“Defne, you’re afraid to trust me. I know what that’s like, how difficult and scary it is, but I also know it’s possible to get past it. I chose to take a risk and be with you even though you’d lied to me so many times before. I made the decision to trust you again. Why can’t you do the same with me?”
“Like you said, it’s not that simple.” She met his gaze squarely. “I did something really stupid when you were gone, something selfish. I didn’t think about my family, or Iso, all I cared about was myself and ending my pain.”
There was hesitancy in his voice. “What did you do?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Few days after the anniversary of your mom’s death, I… I swallowed a bunch of pills. I realised you weren’t coming back, you were never going to call me again and I just… I just wanted not to feel anything ever again.”
Omer stared at her, frozen.
“I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty. I just want you to know the truth, all of it.” Her stomach felt queasy, she wanted to throw up. “If Iso didn’t take me to the hospital when he did, I wouldn’t be here right now. I… I didn’t care about the consequences, what my actions would mean to my family. I only cared about me, and stopping my pain. It took me a while to realise how selfish I was being, and I only did that after I saw how much my actions affected the only people who have ever loved me unconditionally.” She started picking at her nail polish. “I can’t let that darkness back in. You don’t want to believe me when I say I’ve changed, but I have. You want the girl who loved you with all her heart, who would do anything for you, but I will never let myself be her again. So it’s you who needs to decide. Are you willing to love me for who I am now?”
He may have been quiet but his silence spoke volumes to Defne.
The person she was now, the emotionally scarred, broken girl was not who he wanted. Gathering her courage, she stood up. “I’m going to leave now. Goodnight.”
This time he didn’t try and stop her.
It was almost a week since Defne last saw Omer. As much as she told herself his reaction wasn’t surprising, that he behaved exactly as she’d expected, his avoidance of her still hurt. It was one thing to suspect he couldn’t offer her unconditional love, but to know that he really did feel that way was something else entirely. When she allowed herself to dwell on it, it made her so furious she wanted to scream with rage. No, not anymore. She refused to think about Omer when he, clearly, didn’t seem to care about her. Besides, there was an important meeting scheduled later today with important new Passionis’ clients and that’s what she needed to focus on. Giving herself a mental shake, she returned to concentrating on her work.
At 2 pm that day, she was heading up to the large meeting room when she heard someone calling her name from behind. It was Sinan, rushing towards her. “Good afternoon,” she greeted.
“Defne, have you seen Omer?” Sinan asked in a worried voice.
“No, not yet. He’s probably already waiting in the conference room. We have that meeting, remember?”
“No, Omer hasn’t been to work in three days! I’ve tried calling him, going over, but there’s no answer.”
She had assumed he had kept his distance from her but he hadn’t come to the office at all these past few days. A wave of panic set in; it wasn’t like Omer to miss work, not even when he was ill. He was always conscientious about his responsibilities. “Have you called Mr. Sukru? He must know where Omer is.”
“Omer told him to come straight here until further notice.” Sinan rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes cloudy with concern. “Has he contacted you?”
“No. Not in a few days.” Defne bit her lip, wringing her hands together. “I can go to the house now, see if he’s at home.”
“After the meeting,” Sinan advised. “The clients are already pissed because they wanted to meet Omer. I need you there, in case they have any logistics questions.”
The last thing she wanted was to sit through a meeting but knew her presence was important. Omer needed the rest of them to hold down the fort. “Okay, fine.”
Defne struggled to pay attention during the conference but it was an impossible task; her mind was completely centered on Omer the entire time. Was he alright? Where was he? Despite his attempts to play off the plagiarism charges, she knew he had been worried about them. Was that the reason for his disappearance? Why he didn’t come to work? Maybe he didn’t know that the accusations had been invalidated. After all, she’d only found out yesterday and from what Sinan said, no one had been able to get a hold of Omer for a few days. She glanced at the clock, waiting for the last ten minutes to pass. However, time seemed to drag, to the point she was almost ready to scream. As soon as it ended, she bolted out of the room.
After collecting her things from the office, she headed outside to look for Mr. Sukru. He was sitting on the stairs, eating his lunch. “Mr. Sukru, I’m sorry to bother you.”
“It’s ok, Defne. Do you want half my sandwich?”
She shook her head ‘no’. “Do you know where Omer is?”
“He phoned me few days earlier to tell me not to come to the house. Said he was going away, but I’m not sure where.”
She sat down next to the older gentleman, her brain fraught with worry. “How did he sound?”
“Honestly, Defne, really strange. When I commented on it, he… well, you know Mr. Omer. He snapped at me and told me to just come to the office directly until he informed me otherwise.”
“I’m worried about him.”
“Do you mind lending me the key to his house? Sinan is worried too, and I just… maybe there’s some kind of clue about his whereabouts.”
“Of course. I wanted to do that already but Mr. Omer was adamant about me staying away and I didn’t want to defy his orders.” Sukru reached into the insides of his pocket to pull out the key. “Please let me know if you find anything.”
“Why don’t I drop you off right now?”
“Please, yes. Thank you.”
By the time they reached the house, half an hour had passed. With every minute she grew more frantic, something Sukru seemed to recognize as he tried to distract her with talk about his family. As soon they pulled into the driveway, she jumped out of the vehicle and rushed to the door.
“Defne, I’ll be waiting out here. Let me know if you need anything.”
She nodded her head, unlocking the door. When she stepped inside a faint foul order struck her senses. With quick strides she entered the living area only to find it empty, save for broken pieces of glass scattered all over the floor and on the coffee table. Her heart started pounding. Carefully minding the glass shards, she scanned through the papers on the coffee table to see if there was any clue about Omer’s whereabouts. Nothing jumped out. She was about to head to the kitchen when a loud thud from upstairs captured her attention. Immediately she raced up the stairs, to Omer’s bedroom, adrenaline and fear pumping through her system. Her heart sank to her stomach the instant she spotted him lying on the floor. “Omer!” she screamed, running to him, checking his pulse (he was breathing ), yelling at him to wake up.
Finally he budged, groaning.
“Omer, are you okay? Say something, please say something,” she urged.
At last he came to, his eyes opening for a brief second. Then he turned to his side, and threw up on the floor.
With Mr. Sukru’s help Defne was able to get Omer into the shower, then into bed. She almost called the doctor but Mr. Sukuru seemed to think Omer was suffering from a bad hangover and not necessarily an illness. She still wasn’t convinced, but had decided to wait until Omer was awake to contact the doctor. After calling her grandmother to let her know she’d be staying at Seda’s – a necessary lie – Defne started fixing up the living room . Not only did the work distract her from going crazy, it also helped keep her occupied while Omer slept. It wasn’t like him to get this intoxicated, and she wondered what could have happened to make him react so drastically. Was it the plagiarism charges? Or had he received additional bad news? At least there was some relief in sight. She couldn’t wait to tell him the charges were no longer an issue.
After a while when everything was in its place, she started feeling antsy again and went upstairs to check on Omer. The room smelled fresh and clean, no longer reeking of vomit thanks to the intense clean-up from a few hours earlier, and he was sound asleep. Taking a seat by Omer, Defne observed him for several minutes. Her heart ached at how innocent he looked, his vulnerability on full display. In deep slumber he often resembled a lost little boy, and that was especially true today. With a gentle touch she stroked his cheek, caressing his face. He stirred for a moment, causing her to worry he would wake up, but he remained asleep. Sighing, she decided to take a shower and headed to his closet to pick out a t-shirt, breathing in the clean scent of the fabric. Despite their tumultuous relationship, there was an innate part of her that felt cherished and safe surrounded by his things.
A while later, dressed in his t-shirt, she slid into bed beside him. Every once in a while he shifted in his sleep, moaning incoherently, but he didn’t wake, eventually quieting down. Despite her exhaustion, Defne watched over him throughout the night.
Defne left the bed a little after dawn, suffering from restless sleep. Omer was still passed out – twelve hours and counting – and he’d probably be ravenous when he awoke. At first she was a little annoyed that he had yet to plug the coffee machine in, but she reminded herself he was troubled about something and coffee was the farthest thing from his mind. Plugging it in, she started preparing coffee and cooking breakfast, grateful to have something to occupy her time. She was almost done with the omelettes when Omer’s gravelly voice interrupted her from behind.
She turned around. He looked tired, as if he’d aged a hundred years. “Are you okay?”
“What are you doing here?”
“You haven’t shown up to work in the last few days, and everyone was worried.”
“But why are you here?”
“I told you, I was worried.”
“I don’t think you should stay. I don’t want you here.”
She saw red immediately.
Defne left the bed a little after dawn, suffering from restless sleep. Omer was still passed out – twelve hours and counting – and he’d probably be ravenous when he awoke. At first she was a little annoyed that he had yet to plug the coffee machine in, but she reminded herself he was troubled about something and coffee was the farthest thing from his mind. Plugging it in, she started preparing coffee and cooking breakfast, grateful to have something to occupy her time. She was almost done with the omelettes when Omer’s deep, gravelly voice interrupted her from behind.
She turned around. He looked tired, as if he’d aged a hundred years. “Are you okay?”
“What are you doing here?”
“You haven’t shown up to work in the last few days, and everyone was worried.”
“But why are you here?”
“I told you, I was worried.”
“I don’t think you should stay. I don’t want you here.”
She saw red immediately. Temper raging, she stormed up to him. “What? What did you say to me?”
“Defne, just get the hell out. I don’t want to deal with you.”
When he tried to turn away, she gripped his elbow and forced him to meet her stare. “Do you have any idea how worried I was? How freaked out we all were? Or does none of that matter to you? The only one you care about is yourself, right? The rest of us are dispensable to you?”
“Look, I have a goddamn headache. I don’t need this right now.”
“Too bad!” She shoved him, forcing him to back up. “That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it? Life doesn’t go your way so you cut your losses and run? Leave everyone behind when we don’t act the way you want? When we don’t live up to your impossible standards?”
“No! How dare you?” she yelled. “A week ago I couldn’t get you to leave me alone but now you’re kicking me out of your house? Because I’m not perfect? Because I refuse to let you become my whole life again? Because you only want me on your own terms?” Her voice trembled with emotion, her insides felt raw and exposed as she swiped the angry tears from her face. “How could I have let myself believe you genuinely loved me?” Any second now she would fall apart and she didn’t want to do that in front of him. Whirling around, she started rushing out of the kitchen when, suddenly, his arms encircled her from behind.
“Defne…” His voice cracked.
She struggled against him but Omer’s grip was too tight.
“I almost lost you… you hurt yourself because of me…”
Shocked, she stilled in his arms.
“What if…” He shook his head violently. “I could have cost you your life. Because I was angry and selfish and I fucked up… Defne, how can you ever forgive me?”
His tears wet the back of her neck.
“I don’t want to hurt you again, Defne. I don’t ever want to do that.”
Her brain spun with the realisation that he went crazy and drank himself into a stupor because of her. That all of this actions from this week – withdrawing from his responsibilities, his friends, his life – it was in reaction to her confession. It shook her to the core.
“I’ll leave you alone, Defne. I promise. I’ll leave Istanbul so you never have to see me again.”
The lump in her throat was painful. “Why?”
“Because you deserve to be happy.”
“You think that’s possible without you?”
“I need to let you go. I should, shouldn’t I?”
He squeezed her so tightly she couldn’t move. The way he clung to her was as if terrified she would disappear into thin air. He seemed to inhale her in, consume her with every breath. “Omer, please let me turn around. I want to hold you.”
At last his grip eased, giving her the space she needed to face him. His gaze was lowered, refusing to meet her stare, so she cradled his face, angling him to look at her. His beautiful, brown eyes brimmed with guilt and shame; it broke her heart to see him so shattered. “What I did, it wasn’t your fault.”
“Of course it was,” he insisted. “If I’d stayed, if I’d listened, then you-”
“What I did was stupid and selfish, but I’m the one responsible. I made that choice. You hurt me, yes, but you didn’t force me to take those pills.”
“I put you in that position.”
“Not just you. It was a combination of everything. The pain of losing you, the guilt from all the bad decisions I made, the pressure I faced from your aunt… it all became too big a burden. It’s like I couldn’t breathe anymore.”
“I don’t ever want you to feel that way again.”
“I don’t want that either.” She peered at him closely. “I’m no longer that person, Omer. Things are different now. I’ve changed. Do you…” Bridled with fear and insecurity, her heart beat rapidly in her chest. “Do you still want me?”
His response was quick, direct and assertive. “Always.” There was no doubt in his voice.
All of the love that she’d buried deep down, the passion for him she’d tried to control rushed to the surface, no longer restrained. That magnetic pull between them was as strong as ever. Tired of fighting it, she finally gave in, closing her lips over his.
Crazy, maddening desire rushed through her and she kissed him frantically, clutching his back one second, pulling off his sweatshirt the next. His fingers laced through the wild curls of her hair, fisting the strands while she advanced forward, pushing him to back up against the wall.
“Defne,” he groaned with labored breath when she ground her hips against his.
Her teeth nipped his skin, hands caressing his beard, his neck. She trailed wet kisses down the length of his chest, rubbing his nipples between her fingers, lips following along the contours of his abs. Pulling his pyjamas and boxers down, she knelt down in front of him. He was hard, his erection beautiful, and she wanted to taste him, pleasure him, to make him experience that sheer ecstasy he always did her. His cock was slick while her fingers eased around him, slowly moving along the length of his shaft, taunting him, until she finally took him into her mouth.
Sounds of husky growls filled the room as she worked him with her tongue, her hands.
“Defne…. Defne… Defene…”
She looked up at him to find his eyes half-closed, mouth open, head lolled back against the wall. “Omer?”
He met her stare, eyes glazed over with pure lust.
The words remained unspoken between them but it didn’t seem to matter. He knew exactly what she was asking.
Omer guided her against the wall with quick, agile movements, undressing her in seconds. In the past he’d always been gentle and tender, but there was a desperation in him that seemed to want to devour her, to claim her as swiftly as possible. And she didn’t mind, not at all.
It had been so long since she’d felt him inside her, too long since they’d made love. She returned his frantic kiss with equal haste, digging her nails into back. One leg curved around the back of his thighs to better position herself while he lifted her up to penetrate her.
Thrust after thrust she took him in deeper, groaning into his mouth. His teeth tugged at her tongue, her lips, sucking on her neck and she purred in response. Fast, rhythmic strokes filled her with pleasure, edging her closer to that incredible wave. Until a sharp pain in her back brought her crashing back to reality. The rough texture of the wall was bruising the skin on her back, to the point where she could no longer focus on pleasure but only on the pain. “Omer, stop.”
He paused immediately. “What’s wrong, love?”
“The wall. My skin keeps rubbing against it.”
Leading her to the dining table, he circled around to her back and she closed her eyes, smiling, giggling as his beard tickled her skin and mouth traced down her spine.
“Where does it hurt? Here?”
Tongue swept along one of her bruises, and her knees felt like they would give way any second now.
He kissed another spot, and she groaned with pleasure.
As if sensing how precarious her balance was, he gently nudged her forward onto the table until her chest was pressed onto the surface. Her fingers curled around the edge, holding on, while he massaged her bruises. “How does this feel?” he asked.
She bit down on her lip, frustrated that they were no longer connected intimately. “Omer, please. I need you.”
He lowered onto her back, his weight deliciously heavy on top. “I love you, Defne,” he whispered, tongue teasing her ear.
All of a sudden his fingers were sliding and teasing her between her thighs, but she stiffened immediately when they curved around her back, probing her. They’d never made love like this before, with him easing into her from behind, and the sensation was uncomfortable.
“Is this okay?” he asked, navigating her hair to the other side so he could kiss her cheek.
Realising how hard it was for him to hold still as he waited for her permission to continue, she looked at him over her shoulder. She trusted him with her body; he’d never hurt her physically. “Don’t stop.”
As if relieved he started the slow, methodical movements again, whispering tender words in her ear, smoothing his hands along her back in a gentle motion. Soon the awkwardness transitioned into ecstasy, the pleasure so vastly different than anything she was used to. And she never wanted it to stop.
Omer listened to the calm drumming of Defne’s heart, cleaving to her. They were lying together on the couch, his body nestled next to hers while she slept soundly in his arms. His chest felt constricted with emotions, ready to swell and burst with the knowledge she was safe, that she truly wanted to be with him, that she still loved him. The mad panic that had overtaken him after finding out what happened to her had finally lessened, and it was like he could breathe again.
His hand brushed through her hair with a hesitant touch. How could she be so beautiful, he wondered, aligning his fingertips along her facial features. Her heart was big, and so kind, and she made him experience the kind of emotions he never thought himself capable of. Without her, he didn’t want to exist. And to think he’d come so close to losing her. Pain surged through him again and he nudged forward to drop soft kisses on her eyelids.
Feeling guilty, he gave her a sheepish smile. “I didn’t mean to wake you.” Every moment with her was a gift, something to cherish, and he couldn’t stop staring at her, marvelling at the miracle that she was.
“It’s okay. I don’t mind.” Her smile was as bright as the sun, blissful and content “How are you feeling?”
After everything she’d gone through, she was worried about him. “I’m with you. I’m the happiest man alive.”
A soft chuckle escaped her lips and she sidled up to him.
Silence filled the air as they hugged each other for several minutes.
“You know you have to apologize, right?” Defne asked.
Bringing her hand to his lips, Omer peppered her with wet kisses. “I’m sorry for making you worry, for everything.”
“Thank you, but I didn’t mean me. You really freaked out Sinan and Mr. Sukuru. They were really concerned about you.”
He peered at her intently. “Okay, I will.” His heart lurched when he noticed the cloud of uncertainty in her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“I…” Her face was troubled. “I wasn’t lying before, Omer. I can’t let you take over my life again, I can’t become consumed by you. We need to take things slowly.”
The implication of her words bothered him. They’d already wasted so much time, and all he wanted was to rush forward with their life together. About to express the sentiment, the words immediately froze in his throat when he remembered their previous fights. Right now she needed him to be patient, and he owed her that. “Okay.”
“And I love my job, Omer. I don’t want you to interfere in that.”
He rubbed his beard, struggling to make peace with her request. “Don’t you want to return to designing?”
“Not really. I feel more accomplished in logistics, and it’s more challenging.”
A part of him worried she’d only left design as a way to sever the connection between them but it appeared that she was truly content with her new choice in career. “Alright then. If this is what makes you happy, I won’t get in your way.”
She gifted him with a relieved smile. “We’re really doing this, aren’t we?”
“Yes.” He played with her hair. “I love you, Defne. I don’t ever want to lose you again. Whatever it takes, we’ll make it work.”
“Come here.” Embracing her, he reminded himself that nothing – nothing – was going to come between them again. Defne meant everything to him and he would do whatever it took to ensure her happiness.
The following week was a busy one with Defne logging in extra hours most nights, and yet it was the happiest she’d been in months. Her heart was ready to explode; she felt rejuvenated and full of hope again, thrilled at all the possibilities the world had to offer. Not even Aytekin could irritate her even though he came pretty close one evening when he decided to interrogate her about the shift in her mood. In the past her instinctive response would have been to snap at him but this time she replied with a huge grin which only seemed to confuse him more. Of course she kept the reason for her recent bout of happiness a secret. The last thing she wanted was the staff to discover that she and Omer had reconciled. Omer. Just the thought of him set her heart racing.
“Oh, boy. You’re smiling like a lunatic again.”
Defne looked up from her laptop to find Pamir standing by the office entrance. He walked in with a casual swagger and sat down on the empty chair on the other side of the desk. “Good morning, Pamir,” she greeted.
“So what’s going on? You’re on cloud nine these days.”
“Nothing,” she replied, trying to restrain her smile. “Everything’s normal.”
“You’re a terrible liar, you know that?”
She bit her bottom lip, shrugged her shoulders.
“Come to think of it, Omer has been looking a lot less angry these days too. I wonder if that’s just a coincidence. What do you think, Defne?”
“I don’t know. You’d have to ask him.”
“Maybe things between him and Feryal are going really well. You know what, that must be it.”
Hearing Omer’s name associated with the magazine editor’s simply infuriated Defne; she couldn’t stand the idea that people thought of them as a couple. “It’s not Feryal. Omer and I are back together!” she huffed. It was the first time she said those words out loud to anyone – not even Nihan knew – and it felt wonderful. She grinned.
Pamir cocked an eyebrow. “Really? Jumping back in again, huh? Pretty brave of you.” Suddenly his blue eyes twinkled with mischief, and he gave her an incorrigible smile. “Oh, Albertine.”
“I know you probably think it’s a mistake. Maybe it is, I don’t know, but I love him. And we’re going to take things slow this time around and he-”
“Hey, you don’t need to explain yourself to me.”Leaning back, he propped his legs up on the desk. “You’re human. You should do what makes you happy. Although how my uptight, boring cousin can make anyone happy I don’t understand.”
She threw her pen at him playfully. “Hey, he’s not uptight or boring. Don’t insult him in front of me.”
Pamir lolled his head back. “Is this how it’s going to be from now on? You’ll get all pissy if I say something about him?”
She nodded her head. “Yes.”
“Fine. Guess he’s not all that bad. I mean, he and I did have a lot of fun before.”
“What kind of fun?” she demanded, already picturing a thousand scenarios that made her blood boil.
“That’s none of your business, but you don’t need to worry. He’s not the cheating type. Can’t handle more than one woman at once anyway.”
“Good,” she declared proudly.
“Although that doesn’t mean you can just let yourself go, Defne. What is with your hair?”
Frowning, Defne ran her fingers through her curls. “I didn’t have time to straighten it this morning.”
“Looks like a rat’s nest.”
“It’s not that bad,” she said, pouting.
“You look better with straight hair.”
“Okay, I got it. Are you going to let me get back to work now? I am trying to make you money here.”
He exhaled an exaggerated sigh. “It’s too bad about you and Omer. I was actually contemplating marrying you.”
Shocked by his words, she froze. “Pardon me?”
“We’d be great together, don’t you think?”
Her brain spun with confusion. They were friends, good friends, who got along well and made each other laugh but she’d never sensed any kind of romantic interest from him. While he did flirt with her shamelessly, that was how he behaved with every other women as well so it’s not like she was special. “Pamir, I know you don’t love me so where is this coming from?”
Pamir rolled his eyes. “I was talking about marriage, not love.”
Their conversation from a few weeks ago echoed in her mind. “You don’t want to marry someone you’re in love with.”
“Exactly. All that does is cause problems. I’d rather marry someone I trust, a friend. A partner who I can have a good time with and won’t get bored of.”
Someone who wouldn’t break his heart. Underneath the devil-may-care attitude was a man who had loved and believed in his father only to be betrayed by the man’s actions; now, Pamir was determined to protect himself at all costs, to never be put in the same position as his mom. Her heart ached for him and she stood up, circled around the table to approach him. “You’re an amazing person, Pamir. One day you’re going to meet the perfect woman and fall madly in love.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t believe in fairytales, Albertine.”
“True love is possible.”
A scowl shaped his face. “I think I like you better when you’re cynical.”
“I want you to be happy, Pamir. You deserve that.”
A sad smile flitted across his face. “If someone hurts me, I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I’m not built like you, Defne.”
“What does that even mean?”
“You’re one of the strongest people I know.”
There was a vulnerability in his voice which she wasn’t used to hearing from him. In a strange way, at that moment he reminded her of Omer when they first worked together. While Pamir wasn’t withdrawn from the world the way Omer had been, the cousins still projected an air of melancholy that made her heart hurt. Saddened for him, she reached out to Pamir to give him a hug.
After a brief embrace, he pulled away. “Uh oh.” He cleared his throat. “If my cousin finds out you’ve been making a move on me, I’ll end up dead for sure.”
She saw right through his nonchalant attitude, recognising that he felt uneasy exposing his emotions. “Pretend all you want, Pamir, but you can’t hide the goodness in you.”
“Only ten percent of me is goodness. The rest is bastardly.” He chuckled, standing up, and started to fix his outfit. “I have a date right after work. How do I look?”
“You’re going to wear that?” she asked, scrutinizing him from head to toe.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“I don’t know. Too stiff. I think you look better in casual clothes.”
“She’s a model. I doubt she shares your fashion sense.”
“Ok. Fine. Whatever. I don’t even know why you ask me then.” Defne walked back to her chair and took a seat. “Alright. Stop distracting me now. I have to get back to work.”
“No wonder you and Omer get along so well. All you guys do is work, work, work.”
She shot him a scowling glance. “Get out. Please.”
Pamir laughed, leaving the room.
Defne focused her attention back on the spreadsheet in front of her but couldn’t concentrate for more than a few minutes. Her thoughts, unsurprisingly, circled back to Omer. The last time she saw him was this morning when he’d come down to greet her. He’d brought her tea and a small breakfast, a new routine for the both of them, and they had spent their time laughing and chatting. For the first time in their relationship there wasn’t a cloud hanging over them. She could finally be herself around him without feeling guilty, and having that freedom was a heady feeling.
Since last week they had gone out on a few dates, from the traditional dinner and a movie to a picnic on top of one of the tallest buildings downtown, the perfect spot to marvel at all the beautiful sights of Istanbul. During their moments together, her emotions ran from breathless excitement to peaceful contentment. And physically, well, she always craved him, but they hadn’t made love since the morning of their reconciliation. Every time she thought they were headed in that direction, Omer pulled away which was starting to worry her. Maybe it was time they talked about it, even if the thought of discussing it made her cheeks flush with embarrassment. Oh god. How was she going to broach the topic with him? What would he think? She started fanning herself, imagining the conversation. She hoped he wouldn’t laugh. And then a more disturbing thought entered her brain. What if he didn’t want her? What if he didn’t enjoy their lovemaking anymore? Was that possible? They had tried something different that last time. Did it have something to do with that? Frantic all of a sudden, she shut off her laptop.
If only there was someone she could talk to about this, but there was no one. Nihan didn’t know about the reconciliation but as soon as she found out so would Serdar and that meant a whole other set of problems to deal with. Besides, Nihan would spend more time drilling her then actually answering any questions. Ugh. Times like this Defne wished she had more friends, someone she could actually talk to about intimate topics like this. What did other women do? A sad thought washed over her. Maybe this was one of those things women discussed with their moms. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for her. Oh well. She’d survived this long without her mother, she’d find a way to handle this too. Feeling determined to tackle the matter at once, she headed upstairs to find Omer.
What started off as a fantastic morning changed into the absolute worst the moment Omer spotted Defne in Pamir’s arms. What the fuck? Why the fuck was that asshole touching his Defne? He’d come down to the warehouse to take her out for lunch but then he saw Pamir embracing his Defne in her office and the wind had been completely knocked out of him. Instantly his mind spiralled out of control; he started rushing towards them when, suddenly, Defne’s words during their last few arguments crossed his mind.
Her uncertainty about getting back together with him stemmed partially from his anger problems. Apparently he fluctuated between cold fury and seething rage and Defne had told him repeatedly his temper scared her. If he gave into his instincts and beat the fucking shit out of Pamir, she would have even more reasons to be wary of him and that’s the last thing he wanted. Not after it had taken him so long to convince her to give him another chance. Fuck. Incensed, Omer realised he had to get out of here. Turning around, he stormed out of the building to find Sukuru.
An hour later Defne was eating her sandwich on the steps outside when Mr. Sukuru came to sit beside her. “Oh, Mr. Sukuru. How are you?” she asked, offering him half her sandwich.
“I’m alright. How are you, Defne?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“You’ve been working long hours this week.”
“I have. Thanks for dropping me home last night.”
“Oh, no need to thank me. Whatever Mr. Omer says I’m happy to do.”
She caught the teasing glint in Mr. Sukuru’s eyes but ignored it. “How’s your family these days?”
“They’re great. My wife mentioned she’d like to have you and Mr. Omer over for dinner one night.”
Flustered, Defne wrung her fingers together. “Why would she want to do that?”
“She’s very happy that you guys are back together. As am I.”
“Mr. Sukuru, please don’t tell anyone. We’re taking things slow for now. After the last time, well, you know…” Her voice drifted off, feeling that all-too-familiar wave of uncertainty strike her, but then she forced herself to snap out of it. Standing up, she started brushing the crumbs from her pants. “Anyway, do you know when Omer’s coming back to the office? I looked for him before but Daria said he was out, and his phone is off.”
“He’s at the gym right now. He seemed very agitated when he came to get the car keys from me.”
Concerned, Defne started asking more questions. “Why? What happened?”
“Come on, Defne. You know I’d never interrogate Mr. Omer like that. He was already snapping at me as it was.”
She glanced down at her watch, “Would you mind driving me to his gym?”
“Okay, let me just go grab my bag.” Defne rushed back to her office to gather her things together.
Defne scanned the surroundings of the gym, surprised to find that she was in a boxing club rather than a traditional fitness center. There were a few people scattered around, working out. Her gaze immediately landed on Omer who was in the boxing ring located in the center of the warehouse. Dressed in a wife-beater, shorts and boxing gloves, he was sparring with a partner using quick agile movements to block punches and deliver a few blows of his own. Their fight was so precisely controlled it almost seemed choreographed, and hypnotic to watch, until his opponent struck Omer across the jaw. Defne inhaled a sharp breath, worried that he was hurt. “Omer!” she called out, approaching the ring.
Glancing at her, he exchanged few words with his partner before pulling off his gloves. Sweat trickled down his face and he used his shirt to wipe it off as he stepped down from the ring. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you about something but you weren’t at work. Mr. Sukuru dropped me off here.” She reached out to touch the spot where he was hit, caressing the spot gently when he winced. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he replied in a curt tone.
She peered at him closely, taking in the angry glint in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
He clenched his jaw, averting his gaze from her. “Defne, I don’t want to fight.”
“A little too late for that realisation,” she pointed out, gesturing towards the boxing ring. “So why are you upset?”
Omer’s words spilled out of him in a swift rush. “Why was Pamir hugging you?”
“Oh.” Defne exhaled a long, drawn-out breath. “You’re upset about Pamir?”
“Are you kidding me, Defne? I came down to your office to take you out for lunch and there he was, his arms around you. The only reason I haven’t broken his legs yet is because I know that would upset you.”
Defne tried her best to contain the amusement but she couldn’t help herself; she burst out laughing.
“This isn’t funny,” Omer snapped, still angry. “He’s always around you and I’m sick of it.”
Before he grew more upset she encircled him in her arms, hugging him tightly. “I love you, Omer. You. You have nothing to worry about when it comes to Pamir.”
“I want you to stay away from him.”
The commanding note in his voice bothered her but she reminded herself to stay calm. Moving back, she peered up at him closely. “He’s my boss, Omer. I can’t do that.”
“Then quit Stil Vagon. Come work for me again. We’re moving to a different building soon anyway.”
Irritated, she took a step back. “I thought we talked about you not interfering with my career.”
“So I’m just supposed to stand by and do nothing while Pamir puts his hands all over you? Really, Defne?”
“He didn’t initiate the hug. I did.”
Confusion usurped the rage on his face. “Excuse me?”
“Look, Pamir is a good friend. He confessed something that was hard for him and I thought he needed to be comforted. That’s all it was.”
Omer stilled, his body so rigid the tension was almost palpable. “You do realize he’s playing you, right?”
“Meaning he wants you, and this friend act he has going on is all to get into your pants.”
“Don’t be vulgar.”
“Then don’t be an idiot.” He bit his bottom lip in frustration. “That day I found out you guys were going to the party-”
“You mean the day you completely lost your cool on the road?” she interjected.
His glare darkened. “Yeah. He and I had a conversation after. I told him to back off from you but he refused.”
“What exactly did he say?”
“What did he say, Omer?”
“That you should be the one to make that decision.”
“Am I supposed to disagree with that? Because I don’t. He was right. It wasn’t your place to say that to him. I’m glad he respected me enough to realize that.”
“Goddamnit, this isn’t about respect. This is about doing the right thing!” He inched forward, closing the distance between them. “I don’t want you talking to him.”
“I’m not going to do that, Omer. He’s my boss. More importantly, he’s my friend. And maybe you’re okay with keeping everything to yourself, but I’m not. I need to talk to someone about my problems.”
“You have Iso! And Nihan.”
“Who have no idea that you and I are back together. I can’t talk to them about us. Iso would completely lose it if he found you were back in my life.”
“So that’s why you want Pamir around? To vent about me?” Hurt flashed in his eyes. “Fine. I get it. Do whatever you want.”
He turned around to leave but she gripped his elbow, blocking his attempts.
“I love you. Only you. Don’t you get that?” They were in the middle of the gym but she didn’t care who was watching them. Cradling his face, she brushed her lips against his. “I’m not capable of loving anyone else. We were apart for more than a year and I still couldn’t move on to someone new. How can you doubt me now?”
The intensity in his eyes softened; her attempts to coddle him were finally starting to work.
“It’s not you I’m worried about. It’s him,” he confessed grudgingly. “What if he turns you against me?”
“No one has ever been able to do that. I’m always on your side, no matter what. Besides, he doesn’t badmouth you.”
“I don’t like that he flirts with you.”
“He only does it when you’re there. He likes to provoke you, but I’ll tell him to stop.”
“I don’t trust him.”
She studied Omer keenly. “This isn’t about him. It’s about me. You’ve always had a problem trusting me, and I know I didn’t make it easy for you before but now things are different. There are no more secrets between us. I want us to move on from the past. Do you want that too?”
He dropped the gloves on the floor before reaching out to hold her hands. “Of course I do. I want to build a future with you.”
“Then I need you to trust me.”
He paused, and it was a long time before he answered. “I trust you. With my heart, my life. Everything.”
“Good. Because I feel the same. So let’s not worry about Pamir and just focus on us.”
At long last a smile lit up his face, he looked physically relieved. “How about we don’t go back to work and spend the rest of the day together?”
“Maybe you can make me pasta. I’ve missed your cooking.”
“Alright. Let me take a shower, get cleaned up and we can go home.”
He placed a soft kiss on her cheek before heading towards the change room, leaving Defne watching after him. She smiled to herself, looking forward to their time together. Maybe her whole reason for coming here – to discuss why they hadn’t resumed their physical relationship- would no longer be an issue after tonight, for which she was infinitely grateful. After all, she was absolutely dreading having that conversation with Omer.
After a quick stop at home so Defne could pick up a change of clothes for the next day, she and Omer headed back to his place. It didn’t escape her notice that he’d become tense when she asked him to park around the corner, but she didn’t broach the subject. While Omer wanted to set things right with her family, now was definitely not the time. After everything she put her family through last year, especially her grandma, they didn’t deserve any additional stress.
Once reaching Omer’s place they tended to the gardens before lounging by the pool to relax for a bit. “What’s this?” she asked when Omer handed her a glass.
“Sangria.” He pulled the pool lounger right next to hers before taking a seat. “Try it. I think you’ll like it.”
She took a small sip, then another. “This is delicious.”
“Enjoy it.” He pulled her in for a hug, dropping a kiss on her cheek.
“Yes, my love?”
“I don’t like your door.”
“I liked the red door better in the old house. It fit your personality.”
“Really? I always thought blue suited me more.”
“Blue looks amazing on you but-”
“Amazing, huh?” Mischief twinkled in his eyes.
She grinned. “Yes, amazing. But red suits you better. It’s passionate and bold, like you, even if you try and hide it under a facade of calm and respectability.”
“I don’t know about that.” His fingers curled around the strands of her hair. “But I do know I’m definitely attracted to red.” He nuzzled her hair. “I love it when you leave your hair curly.”
“I don’t know why. I look like a witch when it’s frizzy like this.”
“And I love it.” He blew a soft breath in her ear, making her tremble. “My very own red-haired witch. No wonder you enchanted me.”
“Oh, so I had to use witchery to make you love me?”
“Yes.” His eyes were deep pools of melted chocolate as they lingered on her face. “You cast a spell over me from the moment we met. That must be why I kissed you that day.”
Putting aside her empty glass, she cupped his face. “I still don’t understand that. I mean, kissing a stranger isn’t like you.”
A warm smile formed across his lips. “Well, I was trying to get away from that woman. But that was probably just an excuse. When I saw you, I don’t know… I think it was your hair. You intoxicated me at first sight.”
Her fingers caressed the curve of his cheeks. “Did I slap you really hard that day?”
“You did,” he murmured, laying a tender kiss on her palm. “It stung for hours after, and you never apologized.”
“That’s horrible of me, isn’t it?” Her tongue traced along his lips, tantalising him, and she felt his physical reaction almost right away. “I should make it up to you. I have to, don’t I?” Reaching down, she stroked him over the fabric of his jeans. The movements of her hand were deliberately slow, designed to drive him crazy.
He shifted in his chair and she took advantage of the moment to straddle him and gain control.
His eyes flew open, gazing up at her. “Defne…”
“Yes, my love?” Threading her fingers through his hair, she moved the other hand to unzip his jeans and free his erection. Lips closed over his, drawing him in for a sensuous kiss, and her insides melted as he returned her passionate embrace.
Taking charge he flipped her over so that she was lying on her back, mostly, with her head hanging off the chair. Her body started to thrum under his hands, and lips, and she found herself lost in a haze of pleasure.
And then, suddenly, he pulled away.
Standing, he started zipping up his jeans. “I’m going to get dinner started,” he declared, collecting the empty glasses. “Stay here. Relax.”
She stared after him as he headed back inside, flabbergasted. Her mind reeled with confusion. Over the past week every time she’d initiated physical contact he’d stopped them from moving forward – which wasn’t like him. Not even three weeks ago he was seducing her in the office, and today he’d jumped away like he couldn’t bear to touch her. What was going on with him? Frustrated, she stormed inside. “Omer!”
He was in the living room, putting on a hoodie. “There’s nothing in the fridge. I’ll go pick up some groceries.”
“Wait. We need to talk.”
“I’ll come with you-”
“No, that’s okay.” He approached her in a hurry to give her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Go upstairs. Take a bath if you want, or maybe a nap. You’ve been working too hard lately.”
“Omer, please. We need to…”
He walked away before she could even finish her sentence. Agitated, she started pacing back and forth across the living room. Whatever was going on with him, he wasn’t willing to share and, frankly, it made him a hypocrite. How many times had he lectured her in the past about shutting him out? Yet he was doing the same thing to her now. Well, she wasn’t willing to accept that kind of behaviour from him. Not when things between them were finally on the level. Feeling determined, she headed upstairs to act on a plan.
Omer stirred the sauce one last time before turning off the stove. Dinner was finally ready. The water had stopped running upstairs a while back so he knew Defne was out of the shower already, but she had yet to come down. Had she fallen asleep? “Defne?” he called. There was no answer. He washed his hands and patted them dry with a towel, deciding to check up on her.
Smiling, he turned around to face her only to have the breath knocked out of his lungs.
Defne was standing there in his robe – open robe – wearing the most incredible lingerie. Pink nipples peaked through the delicate black and red lace of her bra, and she was wearing panties that barely covered anything. Creamy, porcelain skin contrasted starkly against the dark fabric, illuminating her from within. God. She was so goddamn beautiful. His cock stirred and his mouth dried at the thought of teasing her nipples, of tasting her, making her come. Remembering how good it felt to be inside her, he grew more aroused.
“I missed you, Omer,” she said, her voice thick with desire. “I want to make love to you. Don’t you want that too?”
His heart started racing as she approached him slowly, her hips swaying ever so subtly. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I do.”
“Good.” She came to a stop in front of him. Her eyes were filled with complete fervency, there wasn’t a hint of shyness in them. He wasn’t used to that from her. “Because I’m getting really tired of you pushing me away.”
As much as he tried to concentrate on her words, all he could think about were her lips. Her beautiful, sensuous lips that had kissed every inch of him. When she took his hand and placed it over her heart, his fingers lingered on her breast.
“You’re mine, Omer.”
He gazed into her eyes, nodding his head. “I’m yours.”
She brought his hand to her lips, and he exhaled a sharp sigh as she took his index finger into her mouth, sucking on the digit. Fuck. He was a man, not a goddamn saint, and the woman he loved was hell-bent on seducing him. And he could no longer keep fighting her.
Clutching the robe, he ripped it off her before pulling her towards him. His mouth closed over hers roughly, kissing her with reckless ferocity. While he tore off her bra, she undressed him quickly, shoving him, grinding her body against his to the point where he could no longer stand not being inside her.
Defne deserved to be loved and cherished, to have her body worshiped languidly and with absolute devotion, but the desire in him was too potent, the madness too intense to slow down. He picked her up, intending to take her upstairs to the bedroom but they only made it to the bottom of the stairs before she started begging him to take her.
“Now, Omer,” she urged, pleading with her naked body.
He couldn’t refuse her, he didn’t want to.
On the floor their naked body writhed against each other as he penetrated her in a haze of madness, thrusting while her legs curved around his thighs to take him in deeper. “Defne,” he groaned in her ear, biting her neck. He drove inside her with fast, rhythmic strokes but soon she was tugging at his arms, nudging him to move.
“Omer, get off me.”
His first thought was panic, that she was urging him to let her go because he had hurt her, but the look in her eyes reflected nothing but frantic passion when their gazes met.
“I want to make love to you,” she whispered.
It took him a few seconds to realise what she meant. When his brain finally caught up, he obliged right away and shifted underneath so that she was now on top, straddling him. Defne was the most beautiful she’d ever looked, her eyes shimmering in the light, her hair a halo around her spectacular face as she rode him hard. Bite marks – courtesy of him from earlier – marred her breasts but somehow it made her even more sexy as she moved with ferocious determination, claiming him with each thrust.
Defne’s soft cries of pleasure echoed in his ears, and it drove him crazy. Everything about her made him insane, from that earthy feminine scent of hers to the way she bit her bottom lip as her body neared climax.
“Defne,” he warned, frustrated. “I’m close.” He overcame her to be on top again, this time on his knees. Sliding his hand down her body, his fingers stroked over her clit in fast circles while he pumped into her with a slow rhythm. Seconds later her body convulsed into orgasm, and he followed suit, falling on top of her.
They were in the bedroom, with Defne resting on her chest while Omer drew lazy circles on her back. The tips of his fingers were feather-light on her bare skin, occasionally tickling her and causing her to tremble. Her eyes were closed for a while, simply enjoying the comfortable silence, but eventually she opened them to find him studying her.
“I was wondering when you’d stop pretending to be asleep,” he remarked affectionately, playing with her hair.
“I was just enjoying the massage.”
“You don’t need to feign sleep for me to give you one.”
She gave him a warm smile.
“I’m sorry I ripped your bra. Was it new?”
A rosy blush crept across her cheeks. “Yes. I bought it a few days ago.”
“To wear for me?”
“Omer…” she murmured shyly, embarrassed.
He slid closer, rubbing his beard on the back of her shoulder. “When I saw you like that, I lost my mind.”
“Why did you keep pushing me away all week?” she asked, remembering her frustrations from earlier. Pulling the sheets to cover her chest, she turned on her side to face him. “Did I do something wrong?”
He exhaled a drawn-out breath, staring up at the ceiling.
“If something’s wrong, you can tell me. Do you not want me anymore?”
He shot her an incredulous glance. “Really, Defne? You can’t be serious.”
“Then what is it?”
“I just… great sex clouds the mind, especially for women.”
She perched up, irritated. “Excuse me?”
“People sometimes confuse great sex with love and I don’t want you to make that mistake. After what happened to you last year…” His voice faltered, as if afraid. “Be with me because you love me, because you’re absolutely sure, not because I forced you into resuming a physical relationship with me and you think you should. Not because the sex is great so you mistake it for love.”
“What are you saying? You don’t love me?”
His brows furrowed together with concern. “No, I’m not explaining this right.”
“Just tell me what you mean because you’re scaring me right now.”
His palm cradled her cheek, his eyes bright. “I have no doubts about us. You’re the woman I love, the only one I want. And I want you to feel that certainty about me too. Not for my sake, but for yourself. I know you’re taking a chance on me but I promise you, Defne, I will never hurt you again.”
Her heart swelled with so much love she thought it would explode right in her chest. “You didn’t force me to do anything. I swear I’m going into this with my eyes open.” She placed a tender kiss on his forehead. “We’re not the same people we were before. We both made mistakes, we did stupid things, but maybe everything happened the way it did so we can be here again, at this moment. I don’t know. I just… I love you, Omer. Great sex or not, I’ll always feel this way. I have no doubts about that.”
Arms wrapped around her in a tight embrace, pulling her to sit up on his lap. Facing each other, she smiled up at him until he started sliding the bedsheet down her chest. “Hey,” she griped.
“I think it’s adorable that you still get shy around me.” He grinned. “Even though…”
“I’ve touched and tasted every part of you.”
She blushed, feeling hot all over again. “Omer…”
His thumb circled around her left nipple, and she fought that rush of excitement that surged through her. “And I bit this very spot only half an hour ago. Remember? You begged me not to stop.”
Her mouth closed over his, to shut him up a little but mostly to satisfy her body’s intense yearning for him.
The next morning Omer stepped out of the elevator on the Passionis floor, whistling to himself. He was happy. No, not just happy. Ecstatic. He woke up next to Defne, and everything about it felt perfect. Her clothes from yesterday were stored in the closet in his bedroom, her shoes next to his, and during the morning she circulated throughout the rooms talking to herself like she always did, reminding him of everything he loved about her. Being with her, eating breakfast and riding into work together – it was exactly how it should be.
He caught the surprised glances from Derya, heard some of the office staff whispering about why he seemed so different today as he walked past them, but he ignored all of it. Unfortunately his good mood disintegrated as soon as he spotted Pamir waiting in his office. The goddamn asshole was sitting in his chair, like he owned the office or something. “Get the fuck out,” Omer ordered, marching towards him.
“Good morning to you too, Omer,” Pamir said with an easy smile, standing up to saunter over to the window. “I have to say, I thought it would be fun to sit in your chair but nope. No fun at all. It’s very uncomfortable.”
Omer sat down, casting a condescending glance at Pamir. “Don’t you have some work to do?”
“You know me, I like to take it easy.”
“In other words Seda does all the hard work and you just cash the cheques.”
Pamir shrugged his shoulders. “That’s how I like it.”
“Get out, Pamir. I don’t have time for this.” Omer hated the smirk on his cousin’s face, the fact that nothing seemed to bother Pamir. Mostly, he couldn’t fucking stand that Pamir was so close to Defne.
“Don’t worry, Omer. I’m not here to manipulate your time. I just came by to give you a warning.”
Omer shifted his attention from the laptop to Pamir. “Excuse me?”
“Not many people get second chances but you did. Despite all the shit you put her through, Defne’s given you another shot. Don’t fuck it up.”
Omer’s jaw clenched. “You’ll be there to pick up the pieces if I do?”
Pamir shook his head, a serious expression covering his face. “No. I’m not good enough for her but she seems to think you are. Whether that’s true or not, it doesn’t matter, ’cause she believes it. So don’t be the judgemental prick that you always are. Don’t punish her for not being perfect, Omer.”
“You have two seconds to get out of here. After that, I’m not responsible for what happens to your face.”
Grinning, Pamir slid out of the room like the proverbial cockroach that he was. It took every bit of resolve Omer possessed not to follow his cousin and beat the fucking shit out of him. Instead he sat there, seething. As much as he tried to pretend Pamir truly didn’t care about Defne, Omer now realised that wasn’t true. His cousin cared. Hell, he sounded half in love with Defne already and it infuriated Omer. But more than that it was Pamir’s warning that truly bothered him. They seemed to echo his own insecurities and the sinking realisation that maybe he didn’t deserve to be with Defne after all.
If she ever found out about-
Omer shook his head, refusing to expound on that thought. Fuck that, and fuck Pamir. The only thing that mattered was Defne and their relationship. As long as they loved each other, nothing else was important.
Defne watched with amusement as Omer devoured the sushi rolls in front of him. They were at a Japanese restaurant that had recently opened in Istanbul, and she had brought him here to surprise him. He seemed so excited for her to try the sushi but as soon as she took the first bite, she realised it wasn’t for her.
“You don’t like it?” he asked, his brows linking together with concern.
“No. Not really my thing.”
He took her hand and left a tender kiss on the palm. “Let’s go then.”
“No. You’re enjoying the meal. We’re not leaving.”
“Try something else then. Maybe the teriyaki?”
“Later.” She finished the rest of her sake. “I want one more of this. It’s delicious.”
Omer beckoned the waiter and ordered another drink for her. “Maybe you’ll have one too many and fall asleep in my arms tonight.”
Hesitation marked her face. “I told you I can’t stay. Grandma’s worried about me. My excuse about working late every time I’m with you has her convinced I’m going to drop dead from exhaustion.”
Irritation flit across his features, but there was also pain – which disappeared so quickly she almost thought she’d imagined it. “Defne, we need to be honest with your family. You can’t keep lying to them.”
“I know, but now is not the right time.”
“Sweetheart, you’re delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later, they will find out.”
She pursed her lips together. “They’re still in a fragile place right now. Knowing you’re back in the picture… it’s going to upset everyone, especially Grandma. I don’t want that.”
“So we’re going to keep hiding? For how long?”
Frustrated, Defne retreated her hand from his grasp. “We discussed taking things slow, Omer.”
He leaned back in his chair, staring at her intently. “If things hadn’t imploded between us we’d be married right now. Maybe…” He sighed. “Maybe we’d even have a child.”
Silence ensued. It was several minutes before she answered him. “Except it did implode.”
“I want us to live together, get married, build a future together. I don’t want to keep putting it off.”
“Look.” He pulled out the familiar black jewellery box from the inside pocket of his jeans, opening the case to reveal his mother’s beautiful ring.
Immediately her heart lurched, panic surged through her.
“I bring this with me every time we go out, hoping it’ll be the right time to ask you to wear it again.”
She swallowed an audible breath, her gaze wavering between his eyes and the ring. “We can’t keep trying to catch up with the past. We’re different people now, facing a new reality. I know you want to speed things along but I’m not ready for that step yet.”
“I know. That’s why I haven’t asked you. I just…” Doubt cast a heavy shadow across his face. “I worry that you don’t trust me, that maybe you’re not ready because you’re scared I’ll let you down.”
“I don’t want to lie to you, Omer. That thought does cross my mind. Not just that you’ll let me down but that I’ll disappoint you too. These days though, being with you, having you by my side, it’s gotten so much easier to ignore those fears.”
She sent him a puzzled look. “Because you’re a source of strength for me. You always have been. Don’t you know that?”
Suddenly he pulled her close for a kiss, and for a moment they both forgot that they were in a restaurant surrounded by people. It was only when the waiter cleared his throat that they both pulled away. After what felt like an eternity the waiter finally left them alone.
“They’re going to kick us out of here,” she warned as he reached for her hand once again.
“I don’t care,” he murmured, angling forward to kiss her hand.
A warm glow spread over her body; she felt loved, cherished by him. “Everything you want for our future, I want that too. But before I commit to something permanent I have to make sure I’ve healed, you know?”
“I’m here. Anything you need, Defne, I’m here for you.”
“I know, and I appreciate that, but a lot of it comes down to me. I have to do this for myself. Otherwise it’s not fair to you, or to our kids.”
At last a shy smile curved his lips. “Our kids? We’ll have more than one?”
“Yes, of course. We’ll have three.”
“Oh, really?” The trepidation in his eyes changed to mischief, and he grinned. “Tell me more.”
“We’ll have two girls and a boy.”
“Hmm, I wonder why,” he teased.
“Except the oldest can’t be a boy. Big brothers are just too bossy.”
“If our daughters are anything like you they won’t take anybody’s bossiness lying down.”
The wonderment in his voice made her heart soar. “I hope they look like you.”
“Absolutely not. They’ll take after you completely, both in looks and in personality.”
“Oh god, then we’ll never have any peace. My mom always used to complain about what a rascal I was.” Her words faltered in her throat, and she felt that constant pain prick her chest. No matter how much she wanted to be over it, the reality of being abandoned by her parents had left a permanent mark on her soul. As if sensing her thoughts, Omer leaned in to place a soft kiss on her cheek.
“Are you alright?”
She nodded her head. “Sometimes I wonder…” The words died in her throat, a part of her afraid to actually verbalize the thought.
“What?” he prodded.
“What if I turn out to be like my mom? She abandoned us when we got to be too much. What if I inherited the same horrible gene from her?”
He nudged her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You don’t even give up on stray cats that turn up at your door. I seriously doubt you’re going to do that with our children.”
“Are you sure?”
He leaned in to sprinkle soft, tender kisses on her closed eyelids. “You’re the kindest, most compassionate person I know, Defne. You’ll be an amazing mom.”
His belief in her was the salve she needed to heal her wounds, and she rewarded him with a relieved smile. “You really mean that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he replied with absolute confidence.
She gave him a passionate kiss, not caring who was watching or judging them. At that moment, she was just blissfully happy.
A few days later, Omer woke up with a dreadful feeling that something was wrong. Every minute that passed, it only grew worse. After gulping down the vegetable shake that served as his breakfast, he reached for his cell to check if Defne had returned his text from earlier. Nothing. He called her but there was no answer. Frustrated, he hung up the phone and prepared to leave for work.
An hour later he was sitting in his office, still anxious and impatiently waiting to hear back from her. She had yet to call him or even come into work.
“What’s wrong?” Sinan asked, looking up from the file he’d been studying.
“Defne didn’t message me this morning.”
“So? Maybe she slept in late or something.”
“No, Wednesdays are busy days for her. That’s when the Stil Vagon shipments come in.”
“Oh, look at that. You know her delivery schedule and everything.”
Omer shot his best friend an irritated look.
Sinan grinned.”Come on. She’s probably running late. It happens to everyone.”
“I just have this bad feeling-”
“Wow, so now you’re superstitious. Love really does change people.”
“Says the casanova who went off to become a monk.”
“Alright, alright. No need to remind me of my stupidity,” Sinan declared, holding his hands up in surrender. “So how are things with the two of you these days?”
An image of Defne from two nights ago flashed through Omer’s mind. She was on his bed, her beautiful red hair spread beneath her on the pillows, lips swollen. And she was completely naked. A smile formed on his lips. “Great.”
“I can tell. You seem like a completely different guy these days. Happy. Calm. Not a pain in my ass.”
“I’m still the guy you can’t beat in basketball.”
The sound of his phone ringing drew his attention. He reached for it, hoping it was Defne but the number was one he didn’t recognize. “Hello?”
“Omer, hey. It’s me.”
Relief swept over him at hearing Defne’s voice. “Where are you?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. I left my phone at home. I’m using Nihan’s cell. Anyway, I’m in the hospital.”
Panicked, he stood up. “What? What’s wrong? Are you okay? What’s going on?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry. Nihan and I got in a fight with our jackass neighbour. I ended up with a sprained wrist.”
Omer tried not to overreact but the thought of Defne wounded made that completely impossible. “What hospital are you at? I’ll leave the office right away.”
“No, no, it’s okay. I just called so that you wouldn’t worry.”
“Defne, give me the name of the goddamn hospital!” he barked, regretting the harshness of his voice almost immediately.
“Omer, calm down.”
Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to maintain his composure. “Defne, please. Tell me where you are.”
“The hospital near my house. I’ll text you the address.”
“Defne?” His voice quivered. “Are you really alright? You’re not just pretending for my sake?”
There was a short pause before she answered. “Love, I’m alright. I promise.”
“I’ll be there within half an hour.”
Omer hung up, and then sent a text to Sukuru to bring the car around.
“What’s wrong with Defne?” Sinan asked.
“I don’t know. Something about a neighbour breaking her wrist.”
Omer swiftly wore his jacket. “I’ll call you later.”
“Want me to come with you?”
“No, we have that meeting with the clients in the afternoon. Doesn’t look good if we cancel it last minute.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll handle it. Just let me know how she’s doing.”
Omer didn’t answer, rushing towards the door.
Half an hour later Defne was pacing back and forth, her stomach twisted into knots. The source of her problem wasn’t the sprained hand the doctor had just treated, but the fact Omer was going to possibly run into her brother somewhere in the hospital.
“Defne, calm down. Serdar left, remember?”
“But they could bump into each other in the parking lot!”
“Girl, breathe.” Pulling her down to sit, Nihan started stroking Defne’s hair. “Look, the taxi stand is in a different corner than the parking lot. They won’t cross paths, I promise.”
Realising Nihan was right, Defne nodded her head. “Okay.”
“I can’t believe you waited this long to tell me you and Omer were back together.”
Defne gave her best friend an exasperated look. “Are you really going to grill me about this now? After I beat up that stupid Cevdet in the morning?”
Nihan scowled. “I can’t believe that bastard. What he was doing to Aysegul was horrible!”
“You know what the scary part is? He’s probably been hurting her for years. What if we didn’t hear her screams today? If we’d never caught him beating her, do you think she would have ever told us?”
“I don’t know. I just feel so bad for her. If I see him in the neighbourhood again, I swear I’m going to murder that bastard!”
“You punched him pretty good,” Defne remarked proudly.
“So did you. Too bad that coward twisted your wrist. Does it still hurt?”
Before Defne could respond, Omer charged into the room like a hurricane. His face was set in frantic lines, brown eyes filled with anxiety. “Defne?”
“Omer.” She stood up to greet him. “It’s okay. I’m fine.” With a gentle touch he examined her hand, so careful that he seemed afraid to break her. “The doctor said it should heal quickly. It’s nothing to worry about. I just have to keep it bandaged for the next few days.”
He cradled her face, peering at her closely. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
She hoped her bright smile would reassure him. “I am. I promise.”
“This morning Nihan and I were in the kitchen and we heard screaming. The neighbour across from us, Cevdet, he was beating his wife. Of course we didn’t know that until we rushed into their house. It was horrible, Omer. She was laying there, screaming, while he was punching and kicking her. It was just…” The memory of a bruised Aysegul made her nauseous. “I can’t believe someone could be so inhumane.”
“Where is he now?”
Defne stiffened, recognising the potent anger seething within Omer. For the first time that day, she was grateful Cevdet had run away from them during the altercation. Otherwise, Omer would kill him for sure. “He took off as soon as Nihan and I started fighting him.”
“Defne, this guy is dangerous. He could have really hurt you.”
“But he didn’t. And I’m fine.” Normally she wouldn’t engage in public displays of affection in front of Nihan, but Omer still seemed overwrought and in desperate need of comfort. Standing on her tiptoes, she caressed his face, closing her mouth over his for a gentle kiss. “Seeing you agitated like this makes me feel worse. So stop.” Her lips turned up into a smile.”Nihan isn’t used to seeing the great Omer Iplikci lose control, you know. You’ll ruin the image she has of you.”
Omer finally turned to greet Nihan who was sitting a few feet away and watching them with great interest. “I’m sorry, Nihan. How are you?”
“I’m fine. You look well.”
“I hope you weren’t hurt during the fight.”
“No, no. I’m good. I’m not as fragile as your girlfriend over there.”
“She just has more experience beating up men,” Defne piped in.
Omer turned his attention back to Defne. “Are you hungry? What about meds? Do we need to get your prescription filled?”
“No, he didn’t prescribe anything. Just regular painkillers. My injury isn’t that serious.”
“Anyway, we should get going. Serdar’s probably pulling his hair out by now trying to feed Iso,” Nihan said. “And he’s worried about us too.”
At the mention of her brother, reality came crashing back into the room. Once again, Defne breathed a sigh of relief that Serdar had left early to take care of her nephew who had been cranky the whole morning. And as luck would have it, Iso was driving her grandma to Manisa so she could visit relatives. “Yeah, we should leave.”
“I’ll drive you,” Omer replied.
Worried about Omer and Serdar meeting, Defne made an alternate suggestion. “You and I need to go to work anyway. I’m sure Nihan can take a cab home.”
“Why a cab? I can even take the bus home,” Nihan grumbled.
Defne glared at her best friend.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Defne. You can’t work with a sprained wrist. We can drop Nihan off at the house and you’ll come home with me.”
“I’m not taking no for an answer.”
There really was no point in arguing with him when he was stuck in stubborn mode. Besides, he was still distressed and she didn’t want to make him feel worse. “Okay. I’ll stay over at your place, but I’m supposed to meet someone for dinner tonight.”
Right away his face tensed. “Oh, dinner? With who? Pamir?”
She chuckled at his not-so-subtle jealous tone. “No, not Pamir. Fikret. She’s in town this week and I need to meet with her to give her a cheque.”
He stilled. “Cheque for what?”
Defne shrugged her shoulders. “Remember, I told you she lent me some money so I could pay your aunt back? I’ve been paying Fikret back in instalments since then.”
“How much do you still owe her?”
Knowing he would offer to cover the debt, she shook her head ‘no’ vehemently. “After tonight, nothing. I’m giving her the last of it today.” Tension still marked his face. Her attempts to pacify him hadn’t worked, making her wonder if there was something else going on with him. “Omer, is everything okay with you?”
“Of course not. You’re hurt,” he said matter-of-factly. Glancing at the door, he nudged them forward. “Let’s get going. You need to rest and I’m sure Nihan wants to see her son.”
As they exited the room, Defne stole glances at Omer. He seemed preoccupied, stressed even. Reaching for his hand, she linked her fingers through his. The physical contact seemed to jolt him back to the present and he turned towards her, surprising her with a gentle embrace. “If anything happened to you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“You’ll probably go nuts and destroy everything in sight,” she teased.
At long last he smiled, nodding his head in agreement. “Definitely. Losing you would make me insane.”
“Not that this isn’t very romantic, but can we hurry up? I’m aching to see my husband and son,” Nihan said from behind them.
Chuckling, she and Omer sped up the pace.
As Omer approached her neighbourhood, Defne prayed silently that Serdar wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity. The last thing she needed was for the two men to run into each other. Of course that didn’t seem to bother Nihan who was busy chatting away in the backseat. In a way, she was glad for her best friend’s good mood because, otherwise, there would only be silence – Omer appeared too preoccupied to talk. He hadn’t spoken a word since they started driving, and she was beginning to wonder if something was up with him. “You’re really quiet,” Defne remarked, covering his hand with her own. “What’s wrong?”
He turned to look at her. “Besides you getting hurt?”
She squeezed his hand. “I’m okay, love. Really. But it seems like there’s something else bothering you.”
Pressing their intertwined hands to his lips, he kissed her. “I’m fine.”
She suddenly remembered that he had an important meeting scheduled with the team at Fresh, a new high-end department store that was opening next year. “Omer, you can’t be here! You have that meeting today.”
“It’s okay. Sinan will take care of it.”
“It doesn’t look good if all the partners don’t show up. You know that.”
“It’s not like I can be useful anyway. I’d be too busy thinking about you.”
“Don’t argue with me,” she ordered. “You’re going to drop us off at home and go to that meeting. And you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll go home and rest.”
“I’ll make sure she does,” Nihan reassured from behind.
Coming to a stop around the corner from the house, Omer turned towards her. “Are you sure?”
Defne smiled. “Yes.”
His fingers brushed her cheek. “And you’ll call me if you need anything?”
Suddenly Nihan leapt from the backseat, pointing outside. “Look at that! I can’t believe that jerk is still hanging around here. You’d think he would have hid his face after the beating we gave him.”
Few feet away from them was Cevdet, sporting a black eye as he limped down the street. Right away she cursed Nihan under her breath as Omer started unbuckling his belt.
“That guy right there? That’s who hurt you?” he demanded in an angry voice.
Defne gripped his elbow, trying her best to pacify him. “Just let him be. Don’t worry about it.”
Omer was already outside and marching towards Cevdet before Defne even finished her sentence.
“Nihan, couldn’t you keep your mouth shut?” Defne yelled, undoing her seat-belt in a hurry.
“Sorry, Defne. I didn’t think.”
By the time Defne reached Omer he’d already grabbed Cevdet by the throat, holding him up against the wall.
“You feel like a fucking man beating up on women?”
“Omer, let him go!” Defne screamed.
Omer didn’t listen, instead throwing a punch across Cevdet’s jaw.
“Get up, you fucking coward! Let’s see how good you’re at beating up someone who fights back.”
Despite using all their physical strength, she and Nihan couldn’t pull Omer away. So Defne did the only thing she could think of at that moment and started howling in pain. “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Oh my god! This hurts so badly!” Using exaggerated moves, she jumped around.
The scheme worked. Omer’s concentration shifted from Cevdet to her, and he turned around immediately. “Defne?” Cevdet seized the opportunity to take off, something Omer didn’t even notice as he was too busy examining her. “Love, what’s wrong? Where is it hurting? Tell me what I can do.”
“I’m fine!” she yelped, simultaneously angry and relieved now that Cevdet was no longer there. “What the hell were you thinking attacking him?”
“Defne, come on. He deserved that beating,” Nihan argued.
“You could have killed that bastard. And then who’d be in trouble? You!” Defne pointed out.
Omer forcibly held her in his arms, embracing her. “I don’t care what happens to me. He hurt you.”
Heart still pounding in her chest, Defne struggled against the panic that overcame her at the thought of anyone hurting Omer. “You get so irrational when you’re pissed. You don’t listen to any reason, you don’t care-”
“I’m sorry I upset you, but there’s no way I was going to let him get away with what he did,” he murmured, stroking the back of her head before abruptly leaning back to look at her. “He could come back and attack you guys again. I want you to call the cops and have him arrested.”
“Forget him. He’s a weasel.”
“Defne, I’m serious. I’m not letting you stay here if you don’t call the cops.” Omer turned to look at Nihan, as if looking for reassurance. “Will you please do as I say?”
“Why do we need to get the police involved? He won’t do anything to us,” Defne protested. “You’re being paranoid.”
“If you’re not going to do it for your own sake, then do it for his wife. Didn’t you say he was beating her up? What if he comes back to hurt her again?” Omer barked, frustrated.
“Aysegul’s staying with us,” Nihan replied. “But you’re right. We’ll notify the police.”
“Nihan, can you give us a few minutes?” Defne asked.
“Sure, sure. I need to check in on little Isso anyway. I miss my little lamb,” Nihan mumbled, walking away.
After Nihan left them alone, Defne turned toward Omer. Before she could say anything, his face was already set in a stubborn mask.
“I’m not going to argue about this. Either you go to the police about him or you come live with me. I’ll drag you away in front of your family if I have to.”
The thought of Omer doing that brought a smile to her lips. “Like a real caveman, huh?” She coddled him with a gentle tone, linking her arms together behind his neck.
He nuzzled her forehead, holding her tightly. “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you safe.”
“How about you start with going to that meeting so we can keep our jobs?” she teased, fingers tracing the features on his face. “Make sure you erase that irritated expression though, or you’ll scare the customers away.”
“Make sure you rest that wrist.”
As much as she wanted to remain in his arms, the thought of Serdar catching them made her take a step back. “I will. Promise. Now go.”
“You’ll stay with me tonight, right?”
“I don’t know,” she mused, faking a pensive glance. “I’ll have to think about it. Maybe I’m not in the mood to put up with you tonight.”
“Defne, I need you with me. I want to make sure you’re okay.” He kissed her bandaged wrist. “The only way I can get any peace of mind is if you’re in bed next to me.”
“I was joking!” She laughed, teasing him. “You’ll stay up all night texting me if I don’t spend it with you. You may come across as a loner to others but I know all about your needy, emotional side.”
“Only when it comes to you.”
He leaned forward to kiss her but she shook her head ‘no’. “You really have to go. I don’t want you to be late.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll come pick you up in the evening.”
“I’ll call you after my dinner with Fikret.”
She watched after him, waving goodbye as he returned to the car to drive off.
As soon as he was out of the neighborhood Omer pulled over to the side, and retrieved his phone. His brain was caught in a panic, his insides churning with so much dread he wanted to throw up. He dialed the phone number, waiting anxiously for it to be answered. After the fifth ring, she finally picked up. “Fikret?”
There was a short pause on the other end. “Yes, Omer. It’s me.”
“We need to talk. Where are you right now?”
“I’m not sure I want to speak to you.”
“I’m not in the mood to play games, Fikret! Where the fuck are you?” he lashed out.
“Same place I always stay when I’m in Istanbul.”
“Fine. I’m coming over.”
He hung up, started driving again. Hands clammy with sweat, stomach twisted into knots, he whizzed through traffic to get to the woman who, very possibly, could destroy the most important thing in his life.
While he approached the house, Omer reminded himself to stay calm. Losing his composure in front of Fikret wasn’t going to accomplish anything. He needed to keep a cool head to get through to her. Reaching the door, he was getting ready to knock when she swung it open, appearing as anxious as he felt on the inside. There was a time when he held gratitude and warm affection for the woman standing in front of him, after all it was her wise words that had pushed him to reconcile with his mother before she passed, but their last encounter had ended on a sour note and he would have been happy never to see Fikret again.
“Why are you here, Omer?”
He walked past her to go inside, turning around as she closed the door behind them. “You’re meeting Defne for dinner tonight.”
Her eyebrow quirked up in surprise. “Yes. How did you know about that?”
“Defne and I are back together.”
Anger flashed in her eyes. “So all that talk about how betrayed you felt was just for show? She snapped her fingers and you went running back to her?”
“I’m not going to justify my relationship to you.”
“You owe me an explanation, Omer!”
“I don’t owe you anything. You knew exactly what you were getting into.”
“I loved you!”
Irritation gushed over him but he reminded himself not to lose his temper. “You came to me when I was completely heartbroken, Fikret. I was messed up and doing whatever I could to distract myself from the pain.”
“So that’s all I was to you? A distraction?”
The harsh sting of her words sparked his sympathy, reminding him of how horrible it was to experience the agony of a broken heart. Taking a deep breath, he tried a gentler approach. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I never meant to do that.”
“I don’t understand how you can love her but not me. She betrayed you, she bargained her love for money-”
“Stop.” Whatever compassion he felt for Fikret was already starting to dissipate. “You don’t get to judge her, or act like you’re better than Defne.”
“She’s a liar.”
“And you’re not?” he fired back. “In Rome you pretended to be shocked when I told you about the deal Defne made. Except you knew, apparently you’d known for months since you lent Defne the money to pay my aunt back. So why the act, Fikret? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it wasn’t my secret to tell. It was Defne’s.”
“No, I’m not talking about what happened before. Defne wasn’t in Rome, it was just the two of us, there was nothing stopping you from revealing your part in what went down – but you didn’t. Why?”
“You’re twisting everything around to make her look good. I’m not the one who took money to seduce you, she did! I actually helped her when she needed it!”
“Maybe at first. Then you held it over her head, just like everyone else. So don’t get sanctimonious about yourself when you’re just as guilty as her.”
She glared at him, pursing her lips.
“Look, I didn’t come here to fight or make accusations. I just want to make sure you’re not going to tell Defne about what happened between us.”
She sneered. “Weren’t you just preaching about telling the truth? I guess that makes you a hypocrite too.”
His jaw clenched. “I will tell her everything, when it’s the right time.”
“Why should I do anything for you? You used me as a fuck toy and threw me aside when you were done. Maybe Defne deserves to know the truth about what a bastard you are.”
“Don’t play the fucking victim!” The hold on his patience snapped. “I never lied to you, I never made you any promises. It was just sex, that’s all.”
“You knew how I felt about you!”
“So did you! You knew I was in love with someone else, I never claimed otherwise. Just because you couldn’t change my mind doesn’t mean I deceived you.”
“Get out!” she raged, her face flushed red. “Just get the hell out!”
He stormed past her, carefully keeping his distance, before pausing at the door to glance at her one last time. “You should know me well enough to realise I don’t make idle threats.”
“Don’t say anything about us to Defne, or you will regret it.”
“Your mother would be ashamed of who you are now,” she spat out.
“Yes, probably, but she’d also tell me to keep fighting for the woman I love. That’s exactly what I’m doing now.” He didn’t wait for Fikret’s response and exited the house, slamming the door behind him.
Every part of him ached with frustration and rage. Despite his earlier claim, he had no intention of telling Defne the truth about Fikret or the other women. His soul recoiled at the thought of keeping secrets. It went against everything he believed in but he didn’t want to risk losing Defne. Besides, none of those women mattered. They’d been a distraction to keep himself from drowning in pain, and even then it only served as a temporary cure. In the end the one-night stands only reminded him of how much he missed Defne. Her loss had impacted his entire life, leaving him broken and distraught. Now that they were back together, he would make sure nothing would rip them apart again – even if it made a hypocrite out of him.
Later that evening he was at home, trying his best to draw a few sketches. Unfortunately, his mind was fixated on Defne and her dinner plans with Fikret. What if Fikret said something to her? What if, at this very moment, Fikret was exposing every sordid detail of their hookup? Panicked, Omer stood up and reached for the phone. Pacing back and forth, he called Defne. There was no answer. He tried again, to no avail.
Half an hour later he was ready to jump out of his skin when a knock on the door grabbed his attention. Rushing to the door, he swung it open to find Defne waiting for him on the other side. She was supposed to have called him to pick her up an hour from now except she was already here, much earlier than expected. Why? His heart rocked in his chest, tension surged through him.
“Fikret cancelled dinner, so I thought I’d come over,” Defne replied, smiling at him.
A harsh breath rushed out of his lungs. Clutching her shoulders he pulled her close, held her tight, inhaling her in and burying her inside every part of him. Finally, he could breathe again.
Hearing her grandmother’s voice calling her from downstairs, Defne quickly stuffed the rest of her things in the overnight bag. A lecture was awaiting her, and delaying the inevitable conversation wasn’t going to make things any easier. Bag slung over her shoulder, she headed down the stairs. Grandma was sitting on the couch, sipping coffee. Her favourite TV show ended minutes ago, which meant Defne was in for a long talk.
“Grandma, you want more of those cookies Esra baked?” she asked, noting the empty plate on the coffee table.
Grandma Turkan nodded her head ‘no’, patting the seat next to her. “My love, come sit beside me. I haven’t talked to you in so long. You’ve been working too hard again.”
Defne did as ordered, resting her head on the other woman’s shoulder. “I’m okay. I swear. It’s just been really busy, but things will die down in a few weeks.”
“You know Leyla? That lady that lives a few houses down from us? She moved here last year?”
“What about her?”
“Her son is an engineer, he’s moving to London soon to work there.”
Defne realised where this conversation was going. “Grandma-”
“Emir’s a really good guy. Polite, handsome, and he’s very interested in you.”
“Grandma, please stop. You know I’m not ready for that yet.”
“Honey, you can’t spend the rest of your life alone. I know that horrible man hurt you. What he did was devastating, leaving you the way he did, but it’s time to put all that behind and move on with your life.”
“You know why he did it, because I lied to him.”
“Yes, I know. You were trying to protect your brother, and you agreed to something you never should have. I don’t approve of what you did but I understand the reason, and if he had a compassionate bone in his body he would’ve too.” She wrapped her arm around Defne’s shoulders. “Honey, loving someone means accepting the good with the bad, to be patient and understanding. You, my crazy girl, run on emotions. I used to think that man was a good match for you because of how calm he was, his sensibility was a good balance for your craziness, but I was wrong.”
Defne closed her eyes, feeling sick. “Maybe he regrets what he did.”
“I doubt it. He left you after the engagement ceremony, and then again after the wedding. His solution to problems was to leave every time. What kind of a marriage would that have been where you couldn’t even trust the other person to stick by you through the hard times? I don’t think he ever wanted a real marriage. Or maybe he did, I don’t know, but obviously he was never the right man for you.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because, my love, you need a kind man, a patient man, someone who is gentle and understanding and loves you for who you are. Someone who doesn’t judge you, someone who is willing to sacrifice their pride if it means ensuring your happiness. Proud people like Omer, the ones who think they’re perfect and flawless can never admit when they’re wrong and that’s not a good foundation for any relationship.”
Tears stung the back of her eyes. How could she explain to her grandma that Omer had changed, that their relationship was different now?
“In my long life I’ve realised everything happens for a reason. Maybe that’s why things ended the way it did, because Allah knew you two weren’t a good match. That man would always hoard his pride and perfection over you.”
“Please. Let’s not talk about this anymore.”
“Okay, my sweet girl. I’ll drop it for now. But please don’t shut yourself off. You deserve all the happiness in the world. I don’t want you to miss out on that because of how much he hurt you. Will you at least consider meeting Emir?”
“I’m not ready to get married, Grandma. I’m still trying to…” The words died in her throat. Last thing Defne wanted was to remind her grandma of her selfish act from the previous year. “Anyway, I couldn’t marry someone I don’t love.”
“Maybe you’ll fall in love with Emir after you meet him.”
Defne kissed her grandma’s cheek before standing up. “I have to go to Seda’s tonight. We’re working on something that’s due shortly.”
Her grandmother shook her head with disapproval. “Work, work, work. That’s all you do. Life is passing you by while you’re at work.”
“Good night, Grandma. I’ll call you later.”
Her grandma followed her to the door, waving goodbye. “Make sure you text me when you get there.”
“I will,” Defne yelled back, walking down the street and around the corner where Omer was waiting for her in the car.
“Finally,” he remarked, smiling, when she slid into the passenger side. “I missed you.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek.
“Sorry. Grandma was in the mood to lecture me tonight.”
She stilled, the conversation with her grandma weighing heavily on her mind. At long last Omer and she were in a good place with no secrets or lies between them, but there didn’t seem to be any possibility of her family getting past Omer’s actions. The thought saddened her. How were they ever going to resolve their issues? Was that even possible?
Omer’s voice brought her back to reality. Giving him a small smile, she reached out to squeeze his hand. “Let’s go home. We’ll talk about it later.”
Defne leaned her head back on the edge of the bathtub, closing her eyes. Although the warm water and therapeutic scent of the bubble bath was helping soothe her frayed nerves, it still wasn’t enough to drown out the stress caused by her grandmother’s words.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”
Hearing Omer’s voice, she opened her eyes. Even now the sight of him set her blood singing, leaving her mind rejuvenated and body breathless. Would that ever change? Would her heart not skip a beat when he gazed at her with such intensity as he was watching her now?
Omer sauntered towards her. “You were quiet through dinner. So I know everything’s not fine.”
She smiled. “So whenever I’m quiet something’s wrong?”
His eyes sparkled with mischief. A knowing smile flirted across his lips as he knelt down beside the tub, dipping his hand in the water. “Hearing you ramble on is my favourite part of the day. I miss it when you don’t.”
“I thought waking up next to me was your favourite part of the day. And you said the same thing about kissing me.”
He leaned in close, his dark eyes gleaming with passion. She trembled when his lips languidly traced the contours of her face, his cool breath feeling incredible against her glistening wet skin. “As long as I’m around you, I’m happy.”
Defne’s fingers curled into his hair, and her body grew aroused while his hand expertly stroked her naked body. A soft groan escaped her lips, mind melded into a haze of heightened sensation but then she gasped when he picked her up suddenly from the tub. He carried her to the counter, rubbing his beard against her cheek and she squealed with laughter. “Stop, Omer.”
He set her down on her feet, standing behind her as they faced the mirror in front of them. Confronted with her stark nakedness, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, growing more pink as his fingers idly brushed down the side of her body. Goosebumps appeared on her skin. Legs about to give way, she found herself struggling for balance and leaned back on him for support.
She closed her eyes but he nudged her to keep them open. “Look at yourself, Defne,” he murmured, drawing her attention to their reflection. “I want you to see what I see every time I look at you, how beautiful you look when I make love to you.”
“Stop, Omer,” she urged, feeling flustered under his intoxicating stare.
His hand cupped her right breast, fondling her, rubbing her nipple between his fingers. With deliberate movements his hand soon trailed down her flat stomach, moving further and further down until his fingers covered the red curls between her legs. She groaned out loud, arching against him, but he clung to her with the other hand while working her with his fingers.
Caught in a whirl of ecstasy, she moved as he angled her forward. Her knees felt weak like jelly but now she had the bathroom counter under her for support, and she braced her hand against the mirror as Omer licked down the length of her spine.
Then, all of a sudden, her body seemed to come alive in a way it never had before. They had never done anything like this before. She hadn’t even thought this would feel so good when his hands probed her cheeks apart and his mouth pleasured her from behind. “Oh god,” she cried out, her moans growing louder. “Omer… oh god.. don’t… stop… don’t…”
He didn’t, seducing her into the throes of ecstasy.
Later that night Defne was curled up against Omer, drifting in and out of sleep while he read passages from a poetry book. She loved when he was enthralled with something new, whether it be literature or art or music, and wanted to share his discovery with her. He opened her mind in ways that she’d never imagined, teaching her things she’d never thought to explore before. Inadvertently her mind returned to their current predicament. If only her family could get past what happened like she had, and realise that Omer truly loved her. They had witnessed her breakdown which made it difficult to forget what Omer did, but if she’d managed to forgive him… she exhaled a deep breath, her sigh heavy with resignation.
He set the book aside on the bedside table before sliding down to lie beside her, balanced on his elbow. “Okay, sweetheart. I think you need to tell me what’s going on. You’ve avoided the subject long enough.”
Her gaze lingered on his beautiful lips, and she reached out to caress his beard. “I’m scared my family’s never going to accept us again.”
He kissed her palm. “They will.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do. You and I are together, we’re going to build a future, and they will be a part of it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
“I don’t think you understand-”
“No, Defne,” he interjected. “They’re your family, which means they’re also mine. And like every other family out there we’re going through a rough patch, only it’s temporary. We’ll work it all out, I promise, and we’ll come out of this stronger.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I love you.” There was no hesitancy in his tone, just complete certainty. “There is no other path for us than to be together. Your family will accept that. They have to.”
If only she felt the same assurance he did. A part of her worried that Omer was setting himself up for a huge disappointment. He wasn’t used to being disapproved of. After all, his family, friends, his entire social circle looked up to him – but her grandmother didn’t care anything about that. Aunt Turkan may have cherished him once but that was before the annulment. Then Defne did the unthinkable and tried to take her own life, and her family’s hostility towards Omer had intensified exponentially. Fair or not, they held him responsible for her breakdown and suffering. Despite his confidence, she didn’t think they would ever accept Omer again.
Omer cupped her face, placing a tender kiss on her forehead. “Why are you still worried about this?”
“It’s not going to be so simple.”
“Okay, then what do you suggest?”
“Maybe we can start with Iso, get him to support us. If anyone could change my grandma’s stubborn mind, it’s him.”
“Fine. Let’s go.”
Omer started to slide out of the bed but she grabbed his arm, holding him in place. “It’s almost 11 at night! We’re not going to talk to him now.”
“Then promise me you’ll stop worrying about it tonight and get some rest. We will solve this, love. I promise.” His fingers smoothed over her eyebrows, a warm, beautiful smile lighting up his face. “Your family loves you. When they see how happy we are, they’ll come around. There’s no other option.”
For now she chose to believe him, and ignore the small voice in her head that protested otherwise. Clinging to him, she rested her head on his bare chest, above the spot where his heart resided below. She closed her eyes, inhaling him in.
“You’re still not sleeping, Defne.”
Head buried in his chest, she smiled. “I’m just so happy right now, being here with you. I don’t want to sleep through our time together.”
“It’s okay. Go to sleep. We’ll have moments like these for the rest of our lives.”
His fingers traced along the length of her spine, drummed lightly on the small of her back. “We’ll never be apart again.”
The subtle tremor in his voice captured her attention and she perched up to look at him. The flash of despair on his face may have lasted only seconds, but it was long enough for her to notice. “What’s wrong?”
“My life means nothing without you.”
Those words should have evoked love except she couldn’t get over the desperation behind them, so reminiscent of how she used to feel once. During the course of their relationship she always lived with the fear of being discovered, and how much that wore her down little by little. “Why would you say something like that? Is everything okay?”
His gaze darkened. “Last year made me realise I don’t want to be without you ever again.”
“You know what happened to me, what I went through, but you never really talk about Rome. I mean, you pushed everyone away, not just me. You were all alone-”
“It was hell,” Omer said, meeting her stare. “Before you came into my life, I was fine being alone. I’d lived that way for so long after my parents died that I was just used to it, I didn’t care. But last year, I… I realised I couldn’t do it anymore. Life didn’t mean anything unless you were beside me.”
She ran her fingers through his hair. “You were so mad when you left.”
“I was, for a long time. Angry at you, Sinan, my family, the whole world actually. And then, slowly, it dissolved, became something else. I’d see a girl with red hair on the street and be reminded of your eyes, your lips, your voice, your laughter. I’d walk through the streets of Rome and think about how we made plans to see all those sights together. If someone wore similar perfume to yours I’d be struck by memories of you, your sweetness, your compassion, how kind you were to everyone. I had friends there, good friends who I went to university with, whom I was close to and hung out with every night, but I always felt alone, lonely, without you.” He peered at her closely, brown eyes pooled into liquid wells of desperation. “You light up my life, Defne, and not being with you, around you, I can’t bear that. I’m madly in love with you.”
His candid vulnerability made her realise how much he truly valued her and she embraced him tightly. For the rest of the night they simply held each other, eventually falling asleep.
Defne tapped her fingers against the passenger window. She checked her reflection a few times in the mirror, chattering away nonstop, but none of it seemed to alleviate the nervousness she felt at what was coming next. Omer was driving them to her neighbourhood so they could speak to Iso and just the thought of the upcoming confrontation made her want to throw up.
“Defne, sweetheart. It’ll be fine.” He reached for her hand, squeezing it gently.
“Promise me you’ll stay calm.”
He smiled. “You make it sound like I’m an active volcano ready to erupt at any time.”
“You said it, not me.”
His laughter filled the car, and she felt less anxious by his carefree demeanor. Omer really didn’t seem worried, so maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. Of course those reassuring feelings fell to the wayside when they reached the neighbourhood. As Omer parked the car on the street, she said a silent prayer to herself. After leaving the car they walked over to the shoe store, Defne’s heart pounding louder and louder in her chest. Unfortunately Iso was working alone in the store, which meant Sadri Usta couldn’t play the peacemaker if needed. “Iso?” she called out.
The second Iso spotted Omer standing behind her, the smile on his face dissolved. Omer had been wrong. This wasn’t going to be easy at all.
“What is he doing here?” Iso asked, standing up. “What’s going on?”
“Can we talk?” she urged, approaching him.
“Apparently we need to,” Iso snapped.
“Defne, I think you should leave us alone,” Omer said. “Iso and I need to discuss this alone.”
“I’m not going to do that,” Defne argued.
“We’re not children, we don’t need to be supervised,” Omer insisted.
Iso’s lips were set in a grim line. “Defne, wait outside.”
Reluctantly she turned around and walked to the door, sending Omer a pleading look as she passed by him. “Please stay calm,” she whispered. Omer didn’t acknowledge her words.
As much as she wanted to stay rooted by the door her heart couldn’t handle the tension, so she went around the corner, pacing up and down for several minutes. Once again she prayed silently, hoping against hope everything would be okay, but realised her prayers were unanswered when she heard the loud yelling. Running back, she spotted Omer on the street.
“Stay the fuck away from us!” Omer yelled.
“Omer! Don’t talk to him like that!” Defne shouted, simultaneously angry and heartbroken. Her gaze shifted to Iso who was still inside the store, his face covered in rage. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this furious. Her heart sank.
As soon as Defne left them alone in the store, Omer’s gaze locked with Iso’s. Once a close friend, now the other man was staring at him with open hostility. Omer reminded himself that Defne’s best friend had every right to be mad, but that didn’t mean Iso could keep Defne away from him. What happened was in the past; he and Defne had managed to work through their issues, they were in a great place now, and it was high time he had reconciled with her family. “How are you, Iso?” Omer asked, offering a small smile.
“So you’ve managed to sink your hooks into Defne again.”
Irritation shot through Omer, but he held his temper in check. “Defne isn’t a child. She’s a grown woman capable of making her own decisions.”
“Is that how you live with yourself?”
“I don’t need to justify anything to you,” Omer snapped although regretting his harsh tone right away. “Look, I know how important you are to Defne. I’m here because I want to work things out with you, maybe we can be friends again.”
Iso’s lips curled into a snarl. “You think I’d ever be friends with someone who almost cost my sister her life? You left her over and over again, knowing full well how traumatized she was by what her parents did! But none of that mattered to you, right? And now you’re back to hurt her again-”
“Do you know what it’s like to find out that everything she and I built together was based on a lie? That everyone I loved, my friends, my family were in on it?”
“So instead of dealing with it like a grown man you ran like a fucking coward? On your wedding night? And you just had to get your lawyer to throw the annulment papers in her face the next morning, didn’t you? You didn’t even have the decency to end things yourself. She was devastated! We watched the life drain out of her day after day! And now you think you can come back here and put her through hell again? Who the fuck do you think you are?
“Yes, I’ve hurt her and she’s hurt me! We did terrible things to each other but now we’ve moved past that. We’ve worked through all of that and we’re stronger now.”
“Until when? How long are you going to stick around this time, Omer? Because we all know Defne can’t possibly live up to your perfect standards which means you’re going to dump her again soon. Should I tell her family to get ready for hospital visits?”
Omer shoved Iso. “Fuck you!” Turning around, he stormed out of the store. Rage blinded him, but it was the horrible image of Defne lying in a hospital bed that made his blood run cold.
“You ‘re going to ruin her life all over again,” Iso shouted.
“Stay the fuck away from us!”
All of a sudden someone whirled him around and he found himself staring at Defne, her eyes brimming with fury. “Don’t talk to him like that!” she screamed.
He stole a quick glance at Iso but the other man had already gone inside the store, leaving them alone on the street.
“How could you swear at him?” she demanded. “You know how important he is to me!”
Angry, Omer clenched his jaw. “Do you know how he behaved with me?”
“I don’t care what he did! We came here for you to make amends and instead of being patient, being calm, you completely lost it on him. What the hell were you thinking?”
“I don’t want to have this conversation on the street. Let’s go home and talk about it.” He started to walk towards the car but stopped when he realised she hadn’t moved.
“I have to try and fix things with Iso,” she muttered.
“Okay, fine. Then I’ll wait in the car while you talk to him.”
“I’d rather you left.”
He couldn’t wrap his head around her thought process. Why did she want him to go? The only way to resolve this was to talk through it, come up with a plan so they could fix the situation as soon as possible. Why couldn’t she understand the more she delayed this the harder it would be? “Defne, I’m not leaving without you.”
“Please, Omer. Go. I just need some space right now.”
Panic swept over him. “From me?”
The quiver in her voice, her desperate tone, the deliberate way she was avoiding his gaze – as if she couldn’t bear to look at him – it all made him want to grab her, hold her tightly in his arms and never let go. She was closing herself off from him and he hated it. Yet as terrified as he was to lose her, he couldn’t refuse her plea. “Will you come and see me when you get to work?”
She turned towards the store. “Okay.”
He reached for her arm, fingers curving around her elbow in a last ditch effort to make a connection, and she finally locked eyed with him. There was anger in her gaze, coupled with sadness and disappointment and he felt ashamed to have put her in such a difficult position. “I’ll fix this, I promise.”
“I’m not sure you can,” she replied, turning her back to him.
He watched after her, his insides in turmoil at the growing distance between them.
Later that afternoon Defne was in her office, trying to concentrate on work but failing miserably. The altercation between Omer and Iso played in her head over and over again, leaving her feeling wrecked and miserable. Despite her efforts to talk to Iso, he refused to listen, and she had no choice but to respect his wishes and leave him alone. In all their years of friendship he’d never acted in such a heartless manner before, and it tore her up on the inside to know she’d elicited such a reaction in him.
The phone rang just then, and she picked it up. “Hello?”
“Defne, can you come to my office right now? It’s important,” Pamir said on the other end.
“Sure. Should I bring anything?”
“A bottle of whiskey.”
He laughed. “I’m kidding. Just come up.”
Upon reaching his office several minutes later, she found Seda and Pamir waiting for her. “Good afternoon,” Defne greeted. “Is something wrong?”
“No, no,” Seda assured. “We just wanted to ask you something. You know how Pamir and I are supposed to attend that conference from Wednesday to Friday?”
Defne nodded her head, sneaking a glance at Pamir who quirked his eyebrow at her. “The designer apparel one? Yeah, what about it?”
“How do you feel about taking my place? Lara came down with a fever last night and I really don’t feel comfortable leaving her while she’s sick.”
“Oh, I hope it’s not too serious?” Defne inquired.
“It’s just a fever, don’t worry.” Seda smiled. “But anyway, what do you think? You’d be meeting prospective clients, suppliers, finding out how things run on the front end.”
Defne mulled over the idea, strangely excited. “I’d love to.”
“Great. Okay, I’ll ask Aytekin to make the arrangements.” Seda stood up, exchanged a quick smile with Pamir. “I’ll see you guys later. I have a conference call in a few minutes.”
“Ms. Defne Topal is moving up in the world,” Pamir teased, propping his legs up on the table. “Next thing you know, you’ll be replacing me as the CEO of Stil Vagon.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not that ambitious.”
“One of these days you’ll be running your own logistics company.”
She laughed. “Maybe you’ll work for me then.”
“I don’t mind. I have no problem taking orders from women.”
As her phone vibrated, she pulled it out of her pocket. It was Omer calling. Frowning, she rejected his call.
“Uh oh. I recognize that look. What did my cousin do this time?” Pamir asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s nothing.”
“Now I know something’s up. What’s going on?”
A long sigh escaped her lips. She stood up and sauntered over to the window, staring outside for a long time. “Do you think it’s possible to be completely happy in life?”
She turned around to look at Pamir. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Seeing you go through the ups and downs of a relationship just makes me glad I’ve never been in love.”
Her lips pursed into a thin line. “I feel like my insides are being pulled apart. I’m stuck in the middle, between my family and Omer, and I don’t know what to do.”
“Your family’s still upset with Omer?”
“Yes. Very much so.”
“Well, Omer’s very persuasive. Just have them all sit down and talk.”
“I wish it were that easy. When he gets angry, he-”
“-loses it?” Pamir interjected. “Yeah. When it comes to you, his calm nature goes out the window.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “It’s so strange.”
“When we were young, all of us would constantly be compared to Omer. Our parents would tell us to be more like him, be as calm as him, as smart as him. He never made any mistakes. He was always perfect in the adults’ eyes.”
“Everyone always looks up to him.”
“Exactly. Now you’re telling me your family hates him. Life is very, very strange indeed.”
“I wish I could tell him to just beg for my family’s forgiveness but… he’d never do that. He’s too proud.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, at least you’ll get a little break from all that drama during the conference.”
She offered him a grateful smile. “Thanks for the opportunity.”
“You deserve it. It’s about time I start delegating more of my work to you.”
“Oh, please. Do you actually work?” she teased.
He smirked. “I’m a schmoozer. My job is to get the clients.”
“And hit on the women.”
Laughing, she headed for the door. “If I don’t see you later, have a good evening.”
Shortly after she was entering her office and found Omer sitting at her desk, typing away on his laptop. At the sight of him her heart twisted with excitement, then with frustration and incredible sadness that they were caught in such an impossible dilemma. He glanced up to hold her gaze.
“You said you’d call,” Omer remarked, his voice tense.
At least he was attempting to restrain his annoyance at her deliberately avoiding him, so that was something. “I texted you.”
“What happened with Iso?”
“Nothing. He refused to speak to me.” Simply saying the words hurt, and she was reminded of their painful encounter all over again.
“Let’s talk to your family tonight.”
She stared at him in disbelief. “Are you kidding me?”
“Defne, the longer we put this off the more difficult it will be for you.”
She was incredulous at his ignorance. “Omer, you completely disrespected my best friend this morning. There’s no way I’m letting you talk to my family now.”
“You’re not being fair, Defne. Iso was being unreasonable.”
“Of course he was! And my family’s going to be just as unreasonable if not more. They’re worried about me, they’re scared and terrified you’ll hurt me again. Do you honestly think you’ll be able to have a sensible discussion with them? When they start getting angry at you, what are you going to do? Yell at them? Swear at them like you did with Iso this morning? I’m not going to put them through that.”
Pain flitted across his features. “You think I would mistreat your family?”
The lump in her throat grew bigger as she struggled not to tear up. “You’re assuming it’s going to be simple to get my family to accept you but it’s not. For months they were witness to my breakdown, they saw me completely fall apart, and whether it’s fair or not, they hold you responsible. They’ll do whatever it takes to protect me from you. No matter how polite you’re being, they will be completely unfair and difficult, and you’re not going to know how to handle it. You’ve never had to struggle with people judging you, looking down on you. You don’t have the patience to deal with emotional people.”
“Is that what you think? That I’ve just sailed through life without any problems?”
“Of course not, but you have had it easy when it comes to certain things. Everyone looks up to you, everyone wants your approval. They jump through hoops to get you to like them. My family isn’t going to do any of that, Omer. I don’t think you understand how much they…” Her voice trembled. She sat down on the other side of the desk, across from him, and focused her eyes on the floor. “They hate you, Omer.” She covered her face with her hands, trying to shut the world out. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but things were actually easier when I was lying to you before. Back then I only had to worry about keeping a secret, now everything’s a mess and I just don’t see a way out.”
Omer’s hands cupped her face, and she opened her teary eyes to find him kneeling on the floor in front of her. “Don’t give up on us. We will get through this, my love. I promise you.”
“I don’t see how,” she replied, distraught.
“I know it feels hopeless right now, but things will get better. Think about everything we’ve been through, all those horrible, painful times and we’re still here.” He placed a tender kiss on her palm. “I never thought I’d be able to smile again after my parents died. I thought my life was over, that I’d always be alone in this world but then I met you. I fell in love with you. And you made me come alive again, you showed me how wonderful this world can be. Defne, life will always be full of ups and downs. Right now we’re going through a bad phase, yes, but it’ll change soon. As long as we’re together we can get through anything.”
She caressed his beard, her heart filled with love. “Do you really believe that?”
His eyes were a deep brown hue, awash with certainty. “Yes. It’ll be okay. Have faith in me, in us.”
“I want to, Omer, but-”
“But nothing. I’ll make everything right.” Long, lean fingers twirled around her hair, gently tugging at the strands. “I won’t let you down. Even if your grandma screams at me, yells at me, or Serdar tries to beat me up, I’ll be still and take it.”
She laughed at the image of her brother fighting Omer. “I doubt that’ll happen.”
“And I’ll make things right with Iso. I’ll go talk to him again, once he’s calmed down.”
“Don’t lose your temper again,” she pleaded.
He kissed her cheek. “I won’t. I’ll invite him to the gym, maybe we’ll get in the boxing ring together. He’ll feel a lot better once he’s thrown a few punches at me.”
“I don’t want you guys hurting each other.”
He chuckled. “I’m kidding.” His hands roamed around her waist, linking together behind the small of her back. “What should we do tonight?”
“Nothing. Seda can’t attend the designer conference so she asked me to go in her place on Wednesday. I need to beef up on all the companies that’ll be there.”
“Sounds like you’ll be busy studying tonight. Who else is going?”
She paused briefly, realising what was coming next. “Pamir.”
His face hardened as he regarded her with a keen gaze.
“Don’t be like that, Omer. It’s just work.”
He stood up, leaning back against her desk. “So you’ll be alone with Pamir for a few days. That’s great. Maybe you guys can have a romantic dinner together.”
“Are you serious?”
She watched after him as he stormed out of the room, shaking her head in exasperation.
Two weeks later
Pamir was preparing breakfast in the kitchen when he heard Defne walking in from behind. Pouring coffee into a cup, he turned around to hand it to her and was saddened to find her looking absolutely miserable, here face still marked with dried tears. Every morning he woke up hoping she would feel better except she never did. With every passing day she seemed to be more hurt and angry, and he had no idea how to fix things. “Good morning. Coffee?”
She ignored his question. ” A while back you mentioned you were thinking of marrying me. Did you mean it?”
He coughed, spitting out the water he’d been drinking .”What?”
“I hope you did.” Her chin jutted out with fierce determination. “Because I think we should. Let’s get married, Pamir.”
Omer stormed into Sinan’s office, slamming the door behind. He paced back and forth, his mind reeling. at the thought of Pamir being alone with Defne, and it took every bit of willpower he had not to head down to Pamir’s office and beat the shit out of his cousin.
“Omer? What’s wrong?” Sinan asked, concerned.
“The designer conference this Wednesday, I want to attend.”
“Bro, come on. I asked you weeks ago and you refused the invite. You even bit my head off and told me you were too busy to a be a guest speaker.”
“Yeah well, I changed my mind.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
Omer cast his friend an irritated glance. “Pamir managed to wrangle Defne to go with him.”
“Ah.” Sinan smirked, leaning back in his chair. “What happened to my level-headed brother who hated playing games?”
“Pamir’s a sneaky asshole. You know he’ll find some way to spend time alone with Defne.”
“So you want to be there to make sure it doesn’t happen. It’s a little manipulative, don’t you think?”
“Yeah well, I don’t give a fuck.” Omer rubbed his beard, shaking his head. “You know Defne. She thinks the best of everyone and refuses to see Pamir for the jackass that he is. I have to protect her.”
Sinan shot him an amused expression. “Pamir isn’t some moustache-twirling villain. He just has fun goading you.”
“I wish he found some other goddamn place to have fun. I’m sick of him hanging around Defne,” Omer griped.
“I don’t know why you’re so worried. That girl is madly in love with you and you know it.”
A small smile crept across Omer’s lips as he thought about Defne. His Defne. His beautiful, sweet, wonderful Defne who filled him happiness that he never thought possible.
“Great. Now you’re grinning like an idiot. Go, get out of here!” Sinan whined. “Since I don’t have a Defne to daydream about, I might as well spend my time working.”
“Or you could go down to Seda’s office and find an excuse to fight again.”
“Didn’t you come here to ask me something? Maybe I don’t feel like doing you any favours after that wisecrack.”
Omer put his hands up in surrender. “Fine, fine. I’ll keep my mouth shut about your girlfriend Seda. Just get me in the conference.” He was almost at the door when Sinan’s toy plane struck his back. Chuckling, he picked up the toy and threw it on the couch before leaving.
Struck by sudden inspiration, Omer was drawing at his desk later that day when he heard someone enter the office. He looked up to find Defne closing the door, then the window shutters, a somber expression masking her face. He took a deep breath, silently reminding himself to be patient. After all, she had a right to be mad at him over his jealous fit earlier. “I’m sorry for storming out.”
He grew curious, studying her intently as she approached him with determination, and then pleasantly surprised as she straddled him, sitting on his lap. The fierce glint in her eyes made his blood rush with excitement. Throat dry, body growing aroused, he peered at her closely, inhaling her scent in.
Her fingers laced through his hair. “I hate it when you get angry.”
Regret washed over him. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“But I hate it more when you’re jealous.” She purposely shifted on his lap, eliciting a groan from him. “Because that means you don’t really trust me, and that hurts me.”
“No, that’s not true,” he argued, finding it difficult to speak as she slowly ground her sex against his thighs. “I… trust… you…”
“Good. Because I love you.” Their gazes still locked, she reached beneath to unzip his trouser and free his erection from the boxers. “Only you. And no one else.”
Eyes half-closed, his breath came out in short spurts. “Defne…”
“I would only do this with you,” she murmured in his ear, biting his earlobe. “Only you make me feel this wild and uninhibited.” Her fingers wrapped around his erection, working him with a rhythm that was slowly driving him mad. Then she slid onto his cock, her pussy warm and heavenly, and he went insane with lust.
Guttural sounds rushed out of him, his hands enclosing her waist tightly while she moved atop. Her body was made to be loved, being inside her akin to a religious experience, and he worshipped at the altar of the goddess that she was.
When she started grinding faster, he clung to her and his teeth nipped at her skin.
He was close – so goddamn close – but didn’t want to leave her behind. Slipping his hand down, his thumb circled around her clit, his touch tentative, feather-light, but with enough pressure to spiral her towards climax.
He came first, inside her, his body shuddering and she soon followed, her soft scream filling the air.
A flirtatious smile played along his lips while he reached over – with Defne still seated on his lap – to grab a tissue. “What was that for?” he asked, cleaning them both up.
“Something to remember me by when I’m gone this week.”
He tipped his head, playing with her hair. “Like I could ever forget you.” She started to get up but he protested, holding on tight. “No, not yet,” he grumbled, hugging her. She chuckled in his ear, he loved the sound of her satisfied voice. “I’m going to the conference too.”
She pulled back. “That didn’t take long. What did you do? Call the organisers up as soon as you left my office?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe.”
“So is that how it’s going to be from now on? Everywhere I go, you’ll follow?”
“Would that be so bad?”
“Depends. Would you be coming to support me or keep an eye on me?”
He stilled. “Support you, of course. But I’m not going to lie, Defne. I don’t like the idea of you and Pamir hanging out together.”
She exhaled a resigned sigh. “He’s not interested in me. I wish you could see that.”
“And I wish you could see how manipulative he is.”
“Pamir isn’t like that.”
His jaw clenched with frustration.
“Look, I know you think I’m gullible or stupid or whatever-”
“You’re not stupid,” he interjected. “You’re sweet.” He kissed her cheek. “And you’re kind.” Then the other. “I love that about you, but sometimes that quality makes you blind to people’s true nature.”
She removed herself from his lap, straightening her clothes. He followed suit, watching her closely. “I don’t want to argue with you. I’m too tired.”
“Okay, good. We can ride to the conference together. Maybe we can share a hotel suite.”
She leaned in to give him a quick kiss. “Fine.”
“I’ll talk to Iso after work.”
She shook her head ‘no’. “No, let’s deal with that after the conference. I need to focus on work.”
Omer nodded his head in agreement. “Call me later?”
She exited the room.
The conference was different than she’d anticipated. A part of her had been initially nervous, wondering if people would realise she wasn’t as experienced as a lot of the other attendees but it was a relief to find out no one cared. While the guest speakers were knowledgeable about their respective fields, there were many others who seemed to know the bare minimum. Still, it was a great learning experience and, much to her surprise, a lot of it was because of Pamir. While he liked to present an aloof, carefree, all fun-no work image to everyone, she realised a lot of it was just an act. He had obviously done his homework, researching their potential clients, finding the little touches of information that would make them stand out from others. He made it a point to ask about their partners, or their children, or even their hobbies/interests, creating a bond that could give Stil Vagon an edge when it came to forging business relationships. The whole thing made her smile because that had always been her tactic and it was validating to see someone else use it successfully.
After their last meeting of the day, Defne ordered a glass of red wine. Considering what a cheap drunk she was she’d held off on any kind of drinking, but now the one-on-one meetings were over, she could finally reward herself.
“That looks good. What is it?” Pamir asked, joining her again at the table.
She pointed to the selection in the menu. “It’s amazing.”
“Let’s order a bottle. We deserve it.”
“No, no. I’m having one glass and that’s it. Any more and I’ll be making a complete ass out of myself.”
Pamir chuckled. “That’ll be fun to watch.”
“Nice try, but it’s not happening.”
He ordered a glass of wine from the waitress before continuing their conversation. “So I took a look at some of the programmes. Looks like Omer’s panel was completely full today.”
Defne beamed with pride. “Of course it was. People love to hear him speak.”
Pamir rolled his eyes. “I guess I should consider myself lucky that you didn’t ditch our meetings to go hear him speak.”
“Yeah, you should,” she retorted.
He finished the glass of wine in one quick gulp. “There’s this super hot designer that’s giving a talk in a few minutes. I’m going to ask her if she wants to get a drink after. See you at the party tonight.”
Defne watched in amusement as Pamir sauntered away. Predator going after his latest prey. She shook her head, enjoying the wine. Suddenly she felt someone graze her back, and a warm smile covered her face. Omer sat down next to her, pulling his chair up close.
“Hi,” he greeted, his beautiful brown eyes roaming over her face like he was ready to consume her.
Her heart raced, like it always did when he was near. “I heard your panel was full today.”
“It guess. I was a last minute addition so I didn’t think people would turn up.”
Defne reached for his hand under the table. “There’s no way they’ll miss hearing Omer Iplikci speak.” She squeezed his hand, immensely proud of him.
“How’s your day been so far?”
“Long, exhausting, but fun. I’m learning a lot.”
Omer quirked his eyebrow. “Did Pamir make you do all the work?”
“Of course not. I know you don’t want to believe this, but he’s really good with people.”
“He’s good at schmoozing. When it comes to actual work though-”
“Just because he has a different working style than you doesn’t mean he’s a slacker.”
“Can we not talk about him?” He dropped a tender kiss on her shoulder. “Not when there’s so many other things we can do. Let’s have dinner at that beach-side restaurant tonight.”
“We can’t ditch the party. You know that’s where most of the deals are made.”
“Oh, did Pamir tell you that?” Omer pouted.
He looked like a little boy who was just denied his favourite treat, and she laughed at the thought.
“Fine. We’ll go to the party and then do dinner after?” he offered.
“Yes, that sounds good.”
A mischievous smile lit up his face. “And then you’ll come back to my room so we can spend the night together.”
“If I must,” she teased.
He quirked his eyebrow, his gaze wandering down the length of her body. “I wish I could rip that dress off you right now.”
Heat spread across her cheeks, she couldn’t stop blushing.
“Mr. Iplikci!” Someone called from behind and they both turned around to find one of the organizers gesturing Omer to come over.
Defne grinned. “Your fans are waiting for you.”
“I’ll see you tonight.” He leaned closer to give a quick peck on the cheek before leaving her side.
Later that evening, Defne and Pamir were mingling with others at the party. As great an opportunity it was to network and gain more prospective clients, she was tired and looking forward to some alone time with Omer. Her gaze sought him out, surveying the room, and found him surrounded by a crowd of people all the way on the other side of the ballroom. She smiled. Poor guy. She was fully aware of how much he hated this kind of thing. Taking out her phone from her clutch, she sent him a text.
Just one more hour. You can do it.
His phone buzzed, and she watched as he removed it from his pocket and read her text.
Their eyes locked, and he gifted her with a beautiful, glorious smile.
He was wearing one of her favourite outfits, a dark-grey, perfectly-tailored suit that looked amazing on him.
“Can you please stop staring at your boyfriend?” Pamir grumbled. “It doesn’t look good when the woman next to me is eyefucking someone else.”
Defne lightly smacked Pamir across the arm. “Just because you’re angry about the hot designer babe rejecting you doesn’t mean you get to take it out on me.”
“I didn’t say she rejected me. She’s just playing hard to get.” Pamir flashed a smile, subtly gesturing to the woman he was speaking of. “She’s been watching me ever since I got here.”
Defne rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why you guys play such dumb games.”
“Because they’re fun, Defne.” He winked at her, walking away. “See you in a bit. I’m gonna go say hi to her.”
Finding herself alone, Defne went to the bar to grab a drink when an older gentleman approached her. Pamir had pointed him out earlier as Mr. Asani, CEO of Adore, a chain of high-end department stores that had recently opened across the country.
“Hello,” he said with a warm smile, extending his hand to her for a handshake. “Burak Asani.” His grip was gentle but firm, and not too strong.
“You’re with Stil Vagon?”
“Yes,” she replied, surprised that he even knew of them. “Are you familiar with our company?”
“Well, internet stores are slowly becoming one of our biggest competitors so I make it a point to know who to watch out for.”
“My bosses will consider that a compliment.”
Mr. Asani laughed.
Thanks to Pamir, she knew the older gentleman was a newlywed and had an avid interest in golf. They spent the next few minutes making small talk.
“Do you know Omer Iplikci?” Mr. Asani asked, his gaze fixed on Omer who was chatting with a new group of people nearby.
She smiled. “Our offices are in the same building, and I used to work at Passionis a while back.”
“He’s a wonderful artist, isn’t he? I bought one of his paintings last year when I was in Italy. As soon as my wife saw it in the gallery, she loved it. I gifted it to her as an engagement present.”
He scanned the room, seemingly looking for someone. “I wonder if Fikret is here.”
“Fikret Gallo,” Mr. Asani answered. “Omer’s girlfriend. My wife and I had dinner with them couple of times in Venice. They were such a wonderful couple, and so madly in love. It’s probably narcissistic to say but they really reminded me of Ava and I when we first met.”
Defne couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Her hands trembled and the wine glass she was holding fell to the floor, smashing into pieces.
Omer felt the hair on the back of his neck rise the moment he spotted Mr. Asani speaking to Defne. Immediately he started making his way towards them, but he already knew it was too late. Blood had drained from Defne’s face as the glass she’d been holding fell to the floor. Their gazes locked as he ran towards her. “Defne-”
“You were with Fikret?” she asked, her voice trembling.
He gripped her elbow. “Let’s go somewhere and talk.”
“Is everything alright?” Mr. Asani asked, watching them with concern. “My dear, you’re bleeding,” He said, pointing to her feet. Glass shards had nicked her skin in her open-toed sandals and although there wasn’t a lot of blood, it was noticeable enough to concern him.
“Defne, let’s go somewhere so we can clean you up.”
“Were you with Fikret?” she asked again, her eyes brimming with tears.
Realising they were drawing people’s attention, he tried again. “Defne, please-”
“Were you with Fikret in Rome?”she shrieked.
Suddenly she pushed him away and made a run for it. It happened so quickly that it took a few seconds for his brain to process what was going on. Before he could chase her, however, Asani blocked his path.
“I’m so sorry, Omer. I didn’t think what I said would disturb her so much. Is everything alright?”
Omer ignored the man, running out of the ballroom in the same direction Defne had left. She was at the doorway leading down to the staircase when he caught up to her. “Defne! Wait! “Listen to me!” he yelled, forcibly turning her around.
Her face was streaked with tears, eyes red. “You were with her! How long? How did it happen?”
Desperate to console her, he tried to hold Defne but she pushed him away. Like she couldn’t bear his touch. “It was just a fling. For a couple of weeks, that’s all. It didn’t mean anything. I was hurt and angry and she was there-”
“When did it start?”
“When?” she screamed.
“What difference does it make? She doesn’t matter! I don’t love her. I love you-”
He hesitated, his stomach churning. “When I first got to Rome.”
The truth dawned on her face, her soul shattered right in front of him. “You went to Rome three weeks after our wedding,” she whispered. Her gaze dropped to the floor, like she was recounting those painful months in her head. “Three weeks. That’s all it took for you?”
“Defne, whatever it is you’re thinking-”
She shoved him away. “Everything was a lie. All those things you told me… about missing me… it was all just lies. She was the one you really wanted, wasn’t she? Did you leave me for her? Is that why you annulled the marriage without even talking to me? On our wedding night? Because you knew you finally had a chance to be with her and you had to grab it?”
“Defne, you know that’s ridiculous.”
“No…” She shook her head ‘no’. “What’s ridiculous is I actually let myself believe you loved me. You never really did, did you? If it only took you hours to end our marriage so you can go be with her. So of course I was-” A pained breath rushed out of her lungs, she was struggling to breathe. “Why did you force yourself back into my life again? Why? For your amusement? Because things didn’t work out with the woman you really loved so you thought you’d give me a shot again? Why not, right?” She swiped her tears using the back of her hand. “Here I was, stupid, pathetic, desperate Defne still madly in love with you. You moved on but I never could so why not just amuse yourself while you were here, right?”
“How can you say that? I love you. I always have,” he pled, his voice cracking with emotion. “Please, let’s go somewhere to talk about this.”
“Defne?” Pamir’s voice called out from behind and Omer turned around to glare at him.
Pamir was watching them with concern, and it infuriated Omer that his cousin had the gall to intrude on their private moment. “Get the fuck out of here!”
“Defne, are you alright?” Pamir asked, not even looking at him.
“This has nothing to do with you. Leave us the fuck alone!” Omer roared.
“I’m talking to her, not you!” Pamir argued. “Defne, are you okay? Do you want me to take you to your room?”
“Yes,” she cried, nodding her head like a child. “Yes. I want to go. I can’t be around him.”
“Defne, come on,” Omer begged, blocking her path when she attempted to move towards Pamir. “We can fix this. We just need to talk.” He cradled her face, fingers fluttering as he implored with her. “Please…”
She slapped his hands away, her eyes seething with sheer contempt. “Don’t ever touch me again.”
He watched helplessly as she strode closer to Pamir, who then lead her to the elevator. “Defne!” he called, charging towards her again only to be stopped by Pamir who came between them. “Get the hell out of my face.”
“Omer, can’t you see how upset she is? Talk to her tomorrow, please, when she’s had time to cool off,” Pamir urged. “And she’s hurt her foot. She needs to get cleaned up.”
Defne looked fragile as she stepped inside the elevator, like she couldn’t even stand without Pamir’s support. Seeing her so broken agonized him to the core, even more so when she refused to look at him. “Defne…”
“Don’t.” Still not meeting his gaze, she shook her head ‘no’. “I don’t want to hear anything you have to say.”
While the elevator doors shut, he headed for the staircase and rushed up to her floor. The absolute devastation on her face kept flashing through her mind. He knew pushing her to talk now was a bad idea, and he wouldn’t do that, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to just let her slip away. When she was ready to talk, he would be right there. He and Defne had worked too hard to overcome their issues to let something so meaningless come between them now.
With fast strides he reached the seventeenth floor and headed towards her hotel room. It wasn’t a surprise when she didn’t answer the door, but he wasn’t going to give up so easily. Pacing back and forth, he waited for her.
Pamir sat down on the couch, then stood up for several minutes, before sitting down again. He felt anxious, worried, but most of all he was just pissed, pissed that his fucking dick of a cousin had broken the heart of someone so good and kind, pissed that Defne had put herself in a position where she could be hurt so badly. He’d never seen her this devastated before, and he had no idea how to fix it, what to do. She’d refused to go to her own room worried that Omer would turn up there so they’d come back to his, and throughout the entire time he’d bandaged her feet she’d wept, without a word. He still had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out Omer must have cheated on her. How the fuck could he do that? To Defne? After all the shit Omer put her through already he’d gone and fucked someone else? What the fuck was wrong with that asshole?
It took every bit of will power Pamir had not to go kick the shit out of his cousin. Agitated, he went to the mini-bar and poured himself a drink to take the edge off.
It was around his second drink that Pamir realised there were no more sounds of sobs coming from the bathroom. In fact, it was eerily quiet. Frantic, he knocked on the bathroom door. “Defne?” he called, concerned.
There was no response.
“Defne, say something.”
He quickly opened the door to find her sitting in the shower stall, fully clothed. She was staring at the ground, unmoving. She didn’t even look up to acknowledge him.
“Defne?” he prodded, approaching her hesitantly.
She remained frozen. Her face was flushed red from crying.
“I’m going to sit down next to you, okay?”
For a long time they simply sat there, the room silent, Pamir watching her out of the corner of his eye.
When she finally spoke, her voice was hoarse. “Why is it so easy for them to leave me behind?”
“What do you mean?”
“My father. My mother. Omer. They were able to move on with their lives, without even a second glance, but I can’t seem to do that. Why is that?”
“Defne, what happened? Did Omer cheat on you?”
A bitter sob escaped her throat. “I love him so much. I can’t imagine feeling that way about anybody else. He’s embedded into every part of my life, but it’s not the same for him. Not even close. And I finally realised that today.”
“What’s going on?”
“It took him only three weeks to get involved with someone else. That’s all. Three weeks.”
Pamir was finally putting the pieces together in his head. “He fucked around in Rome? Is that what this is about?” Trying to lighten her mood, he nudged her playfully. “Come on. You guys were broken up. And besides, I’m sure it didn’t mean anything. It was just sex. I know some women get really sentimental about that shit but sometimes sex is just sex.”
She flinched. “She wasn’t just a fling. She was the woman he always wanted.” Her lips pursed into a thin line, her face twisting with pain. “I was in bed for months after he left me. I couldn’t move, couldn’t eat. I even tried to…” Her words trailed off, and she exhaled a bitter laugh. “And he was living it up, happy, in love with her. I don’t know why I’m so surprised. He told me he’d be with her if I wasn’t in his life.”
“Defne, he came back. That has to mean something.”
“He didn’t come back for me. He came back to save Passionis. I just happened to be here. An afterthought.”
“Look, I know it hurts. But, maybe, I don’t know… if you guys talk, and he explains-”
“There’s nothing to explain. I know the truth now, I see my relationship for what it really was.”
“Defne, I know it feels like the end of the world right now but you’ve gone through a hell of a lot worse with him. I mean, you probably felt the same way after the annulment but you guys got through that. You’ll get past this too.”
“I’ve always been so desperate for someone to love me, to care enough to stick by my side but that’s not something meant for me. It’s time I accept that.”
In the short time he knew her he’d realised Defne was someone filled with optimism and goodness. She was a hopeful person, but right now her words chilled him. There was a bitterness to them he hadn’t heard before and it saddened him.
“Is it okay if I stay here tonight?” she asked. “I’ll take the couch.”
“Don’t be dumb. You can have the bed. I like the couch better anyway.”
She turned to him, giving him a fake smile that did nothing to cover up the pain she was in. “You probably had plans tonight and I ruined all of that. I’m sorry.”
“You should feel special. I don’t give up my hot dates for just anybody,” he teased.
She laid her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes.
It wasn’t long before she started crying again.
Omer waited by her hotel room door for hours, only to realize Defne wasn’t planning to return anytime soon. Anger surged through him. Where the hell was she? After everything they’d gone through, she wasn’t even going to give him a chance to explain? She had run to Pamir, clinging to his goddamn cousin like he was some kind of hero, and the image of them together was now burned into Omer’s brain, exacerbating his temper. Then again, he’d rather have that image to dwell upon than the one of Defne’s eyes filled with anguish. There’d been so much pain etched onto her face it ripped him apart to know that he was the one responsible for it. The guilt was unbearable, but that was his burden to bear and he’d deal with it later. For now, he needed to find Defne and explain to her that whatever assumptions she’d made about his feelings for Fikret were wrong.
Even now, he wanted to kick himself for his stupidity. When Fikret had reached out to him in Rome, he was in a bad state of mind. After finding out all of his friends, family and the woman he was so madly in love with had lied to him, his whole world felt out of control. Nothing mattered, nothing made sense. And then Fikret appeared, the only connection to his mother not tempered with duplicity, and he’d clung to her for comfort. It wasn’t fair to her, and if he was honest with himself, what he did was incredibly shitty. By trying to convince himself that he could get over Defne, he’d unintentionally given Fikret hope. Although he had continuously warned her he wasn’t ready for a relationship, he’d still slept with her and played the part of a caring lover. Ironically, it was during a dinner party with Asani that made him realise how alone and empty his life was without Defne. Seeing Asani and his wife so madly in love, hearing them talk about their ups and downs and importance of compassion and kindness towards each other, it finally dawned on him how unfair he’d been to Defne. Of course she couldn’t come to him and confess the truth, he’d made it impossible for her. That very night he’d ended things with Fikret.
Shaking his head internally, he reminded himself to stay focused. Right now the only thing that mattered was Defne.
He searched all the bars in the hotel, then the conference rooms, but she was nowhere to be found. Her absence from all those common areas gave more credence to the thought she was in Pamir’s room and it infuriated him. His cousin was a bastard who wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of Defne in her vulnerable state, and she was too nice to see that. Grabbing his phone, he dialed Defne’s number. It was probably the hundredth time he’d called her in the last few hours but, once again, it went straight to voicemail. “Defne, call me back. You know we need to talk. I want to explain what happened. Please.”
An hour later, there was no response and she still hadn’t returned to her room. Fuck. Agitated, he called Sinan. His best friend answered the phone in a drowsy voice. “Hello?”
“Sinan, I need you to find out what room Pamir is in at the hotel.”
There was a short pause. “You know what time it is, brother? Why are-”
“Find out what room Pamir is in,” Omer barked into the phone. “Now.”
“What’s going on?”
“Defne is in his room, she’s upset at me and she’s staying in his room and I need to where the hell they are. Sinan.” His voice quivered with desperation. “Please. I have to find her.”
“Why don’t you go to the registration desk and ask them?”
“Don’t you think I’ve tried? They won’t give me room information on other guests.”
“Alright. Let me contact Aytekin. It’s six in the morning so I don’t know if he’ll answer but I’ll try.”
By the time Sinan called him back, two hours had passed and Omer was even more on edge. Now that he knew Pamir’s room number, he stormed up to his cousin’s floor and pounded on the hotel room door. “Open up!” Omer ordered loudly. “I’m not leaving until I talk to Defne!” After five minutes of yelling at his cousin through the door, there was still no answer except for the two security officers that approached him.
“You’re disturbing the other guests, sir.”
“Yeah well, I don’t give a damn.” Omer cast them an annoyed glance. “I want you to open this door.”
“Sir, we can’t do that.”
“Well, I’m not leaving until I get in there.”
“Why don’t you come with us to the front desk? They can call the guests and connect you over the phone.”
Omer realised maybe that was the better option. Obviously Pamir wasn’t going to answer his calls but if it was the hotel staff contacting, there was a chance he would. “Fine.”
He followed the security staff into the elevator and back to the front lobby, only to be told both Pamir and Defne had checked out an hour earlier. Relieved, he headed back to his room and started packing his own things. At least now he knew where to find them – they were on their way home, and Defne couldn’t hide from him anymore.
Defne closed her eyes, trying to sleep, but every time she did images of Fikret and Omer, holding hands, whispering to each other, talking, laughing, making love flashed through her mind. No matter how much she willed those thoughts away, she couldn’t. A part of her wondered whether Omer and Fikret ever talked about her. Did they discuss what a horrible liar she was? Or were they too wrapped up in each other to even think about her? Frankly, Defne didn’t know which was worse. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she leaned her head against the passenger side window. How could she have been so stupid? How did it never occur to her that Omer would’ve moved on during his time in Rome? She was still shocked that he’d jumped into a relationship with Fikret within weeks of dumping her. It took him merely weeks to forget her whereas she’d been bedridden for months trying to get over him. She still didn’t understand what made her such a victim, why she was destined to be abandoned over and over again. Obviously she was to blame in some way or other, otherwise it wouldn’t keep happening to her.
“You’re supposed to get some sleep.”
Pamir’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts. She opened her eyes, discreetly swiping the tears away. They were driving to his family’s summer house which was a couple of hours away, for which she was immensely grateful. The crying mess that she was, there was no way she could stay at the conference or even return home. If her family saw her in her present condition, they would worry themselves sick and the last thing she wanted was to put them through hell again. “I need to apologize to Seda. She sent me to this conference and all I did was embarrass her and Stil Vagon.”
“When I talked to her on the phone, she was more worried about you. Besides, she mentioned you’ve never taken time off before. You deserve a few days off after what you’ve been through.”
She glanced at Pamir. “Are you sure it’s okay for me to stay at your cottage? I know I should go home, but I just don’t want them to see me like this.”
“Defne, I said it was fine. It’s a big house, you’ll have plenty of privacy.”
“Eventually I’ll have to go home again.”
“True, but you’ll be in a better state of mind then. Hopefully.”
She didn’t know if that was possible. The thought of Omer alone filled her with anger and made her want to scream. How was she going to handle seeing him every day, working with him? And of course people were bound to find out about the humiliating scene at the conference. Once again she’d be the butt of their jokes and gossip. And it wasn’t like she could hide out at home. In front of her family she’d have to put on a facade and pretend everything was fine. How was she going to be able to do all that when her insides felt like they were being shredded apart?
“If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?”
She stayed silent, staring out the window.
“Defne, if you’re not going to sleep then I expect you to talk. Otherwise this is going to be a very long road trip.”
“I want to go somewhere where nobody knows me. Where I can start over again, and pretend to be someone new,” she answered.
“That implies there’s something wrong with who you are now. There isn’t.”
“There is, Pamir. There is something wrong with me. Because I keep making the same mistakes over and over again and I don’t know why.”
“Then stop. Stop falling into old patterns. Do something new. Take this pain you’re feeling right now and turn it into something useful.”
“I don’t know. That’s not for me to say, that’s up to you to decide.”
Pamir was trying to distract her, keep her from dwelling further on her humiliation, but it was a lost cause. Because all of her thoughts, hopes and dreams, about the present, the future were tied to Omer, and it struck her how wrong that was. No wonder she’d never been able to get over him whereas he didn’t have any problem doing just that. Why was that? What made her so weak? Was it because she followed her heart no matter what? That she led love dictate her thoughts and actions instead of logic and self-preservation?
“Sooner or later you’ll have to talk to Omer. You know that, right?”
She didn’t respond.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t called you yet.”
“I blocked his number.”
Pamir shot her a concerned look. “Defne, you need to give him a chance to explain.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I just want to sleep. I’m so tired.”
“Fine. I’ll wake you up when we’re there. Another hour to go.”
She closed her eyes, and instantly images of Defne and Fikret returned to torment her. This was her new reality now, and she just had to get used to it.
As panicked and out of control as he felt, Omer reminded himself to stay calm. Losing his cool in front of Defne’s family wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Taking a deep breath, he slid out of his car and headed towards the house. He knocked on the door, anxious. Defne must have reached home already and he wasn’t going to let her run away this time. After a few seconds someone finally answered the door, but it was a woman he didn’t recognize. She had long black hair, and was holding baby Iso in her arms.
“Hello,” she greeted.
“Hi, is Defne home?”
She shook her head ‘no’. “Defne’s away at a conference. She won’t be back for two weeks.”
“Excuse me?” The conference was supposed to be for three days, not weeks. What the hell was going on?
“Sorry, who are you?” she asked.
“I’m…” He paused, realising maybe he shouldn’t use his real name. “I’m Aytekin. I used to go to school with Defne.”
“Did you want to come in? Aunt Turkan and the rest of the family are at the restaurant, I’m watching Iso for a few hours. If you want, I can call them.”
“No, no. That’s fine. When did Defne say she was going to come back?”
“Well, she was originally supposed to come back tomorrow but then she called early in the morning to let us know she’d be staying there for two extra weeks.”
Omer’s blood boiled with anger as the truth set in. She’d taken off with Pamir. “I’ll come by another time then. Thanks.” He turned around and charged to his car, seething on the inside. As soon as he was seated, he grabbed his phone and called her. Unsurprisingly, it went straight to her voicemail. “Really, Defne? Instead of talking to me you went off god knows where with Pamir? Really? Bravo!” he yelled into the phone, before slamming it against the steering wheel. Furious, he started the car and drove away.
An hour later he was sitting in Sinan’s living room, staring heatedly at his cell phone. He must have left her a hundred fucking messages but she hadn’t returned his calls, not even once. Had she even listened to her voicemail?
Sinan handed him a glass of scotch before taking the seat next to him. “Here, drink. You need it.”
“She took off with Pamir. Can you fucking believe it?”
“Omer, come on. Defne was always insecure about Fikret and she found out in the worst possible way about the two of you. Cut her some slack.”
“Fine! Yell at me. Scream at me. Throw things at me. I’m willing to take all of that but she fucking disappeared with Pamir? Pamir!”
“She’s hurting right now. Give her some time to cool down.”
“What kind of childish behaviour is this that she just takes off without even talking to me?”
Sinan gave him a pointed look. “You did the same thing to her at the wedding. She’s just following your lead.”
Omer stood up, started pacing back and forth. “So we’re just going to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again? I hurt her, she hurts me back? I left her so now she leaves me? How long are we going to keep running in circles? I thought we’d outgrown all this bullshit.”
“The girl just found out you were involved with another woman. She has a right to be upset.”
“Don’t you think I fucking know that?” Omer lashed out, whipping his glass. The startling sound of glass crashing against the wall momentarily dissipated the haze of rage he’d been in, and he was confronted by the image of a heartbroken Defne. She’d never looked at him with such hatred before, and could he really blame her? He’d caused her so much pain when all he wanted was her happiness. How could he convince her of how much he loved her if she wouldn’t even speak to him?
A harsh sob ripped from his chest, and he fell back on the sofa. Distraught, he stared down at the floor.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Sinan consoled, patting his back. “We’ll fix this. We’ll find her and make her understand.”
“I can’t live without her.”
“And she can’t live without you. This is Defne we’re talking about. She’s madly in love with you.”
“You didn’t see the way she looked at me. I’d never seen her like that.”
“It’ll be fine, I promise you. You left her on her wedding night and she still forgave you, remember? And this Fikret thing? It happened while you guys were broken up. It doesn’t even matter. Defne has a big heart, and she’s not one to hold grudges. When it comes to you, it’s just a matter of time before she gets past her anger. I’ve never seen another woman so crazy in love.”
Omer nodded his head, desperate to believe. Right now Defne was pissed off, but once he spoke to her and convinced her of the truth she would realise Fikret didn’t matter. The other woman was a non-entity, a mistake that happened when he’d thought Defne was gone from his life forever.
All he had to do was be patient, and wait – even if the thought of her off somewhere with Pamir infuriated the fuck out of him.
Defne and Pamir had just entered his summer home when an older woman greeted them from the kitchen. Tall, slim and beautiful, she had striking blue eyes that resembled Pamir’s, both in appearance and mischievousness. “Sweetheart, what are you doing here?” she asked, rushing to embrace Pamir and give him a tender kiss.
“I wanted to surprise you, Mom. How are you?”
As Pamir and his mother conversed in front of her, Defne regarded the pair with a heavy heart. It was obvious they were close, and the small, lonely part of her that still indulged in childish behaviour felt envious of their parental bond. Being abandoned had left its mark on her soul permanently, causing her to wonder if she would be a different person now if her mother had never left. Maybe she wouldn’t be cursed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe she’d never have fallen in love with Omer in the first place.
“Who’s this beautiful girl?” Pamir’s mother asked.
Defne forced a small smile on her face. “I’m so sorry to intrude.”
“Mom, this is Defne. We work together. She needed a few days away from the city and I offered to let her stay here.”
“I hope that’s okay,” Defne added quickly, seeking reassurance. “If it’s a bother, I can leave-”
“Don’t be silly. Of course you’re welcome here.”
Although she bore a resemblance to Neriman, the woman exuded warmth and kindness unlike her sister Neriman. A curious glint flashed through Pamir’s mother’s eyes and, suddenly, Defne felt embarrassed. What would this woman think about her coming here with Pamir? But there was no judgement in her blue eyes as Pamir’s mom reached out to give her a hug.
“Please call me Azra, honey. You guys must be hungry. Pamir, why don’t you show Defne to the guest room while I make you guys a quick snack?”
“Please don’t go to any trouble on my account. I’m not hungry,” Defne said.
“Don’t even bother.” Pamir grinned, shaking his head. “She’s going to feed you no matter what. Just accept it.”
Few minutes after putting away her things in the guest room, Pamir started giving her a tour of the house. The rooms were beautifully decorated, filled with classical pieces that seemed to be chosen for their comfort value as much as their elegance, but what drew Defne’s attention was the yard behind the house. Although not very big, it backed into a pond in which the water reflected back the clear, bright stars in the sky. Instinctively her thoughts ran to Omer and how wonderful it would be to sit out there at night and gaze up at the sky with him but then she immediately chastised herself for the thought. As difficult as it was, she had to break her pattern and stop envisioning Omer in her future. The universe had proven repeatedly they weren’t meant to be together, and she finally had to accept that.
Pamir snapped his fingers in front of her face, bringing her back to reality. “We should join Mom in the kitchen.”
Defne nodded her head in agreement.
Over the next few days Defne kept herself busy by cleaning every inch of Pamir’s cottage, cooking and gardening with Azra, the work providing her with much needed refuge from her thoughts. She also found solace in the older woman’s company, which surprised her. Despite being related to Neriman, Azra wasn’t remotely gossipy, and not once did she pry Defne for details as to why she was hiding out there. Instead, Azra seemed to recognize that Defne wanted distraction and was happy to provide that. Pamir left them alone during daytime, but at night they would all have dinner together with Pamir and Azra carrying most of the conversation.
It was a relief to not have to pretend to be okay, to force herself to be social. At home there was no way Defne could be this withdrawn without arousing a million questions, so she was grateful for her time in the cottage. Especially at nights which she spent by the pond, staring up at the stars. That was exactly what she was doing that night when Pamir came to lie down next to her on the lounge chair.
“Oh god, we’re doing this again?” he grumbled. “I don’t understand how this whole star watching thing doesn’t bore you to death.”
She gave him a furtive smile. “I used to stare at stars to remind myself that everyone was equal, that no one was more important or deserving of happiness than others.”
She turned to look at Pamir. “But what?”
“It sounds like you don’t really believe that anymore.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Not everyone is lucky enough to find happiness.”
“Are you going to start bawling again? Should I get a box of tissues?”
He was teasing her, trying to lighten her mood which she appreciated.
“Defne, no offense, but you look absolutely horrible when you start crying. Your eyes get all puffy, your face turns red, you look like a real ogre. It’s not attractive.”
It was a chilly night. She tightened her sweater around her to keep warm in the cold breeze. For the past few days she’d been contemplating her new situation and one thing was absolutely clear to her – she couldn’t have any contact with Omer. None at all. Which meant she had to quit working at Stil Vagon. The decision both saddened her and made her furious because she loved her job, she had discovered a new part of herself there, but, once again, because of her own stupid choices, she was forced to cut her losses and move on. Anyway, it wasn’t just for her sake but also to preserve Stil Vagon’s reputation considering her embarrassing display of unprofessionalism at the conference. After everything Seda had done for her, she didn’t want to further jeopardize Stil Vagon’s reputation more than she already had. “Once we go back, I’m going to resign.”
Pamir turned to her, unfazed. “To start your own logistics business? It’s about time.”
“What? No. It’s because of my behaviour at the conference. I don’t want people to think badly of Stil Vagon.”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, please. Stuff like that happens all the time in conferences. Affairs, fights, scandals. Trust me. Everyone’s already forgotten about it.”
She stared out at the water. “I can’t work with Omer. Dealing with him day in and day out, I can’t do that. It’s not good for me.”
“Defne, you can’t keep running away from him.”
“I’m trying to protect myself. When I’m around Omer, it’s like I’m… spellbound or something. He’ll say and do all the right things, tell me how I’m the only one for him and how we’re meant to be together and I’ll forget everything and start believing in that fantasy again. Except it always ends, and I’m absolutely devastated when I can’t measure up. How many times can I recover from a broken heart? There has to be a limit, right? I can’t keep doing that to myself.”
“Well, if you are going to quit then at least do it to start your own business.”
“I don’t know the first thing about that.”
“So? Learn. There are accelerated programs in London that you can take that help you with that start of thing. They’ll even help you put together business plans when you apply for loans.”
“And I’m sure programs like that take money, which I don’t have.”
“I’ll lend you the money.”
Her eyebrow quirked up. “No, thanks. I’ve gotten in enough trouble when it comes to borrowing cash from others.”
“Then I refuse to accept your resignation, and I’m sure Seda will feel the same way.”
“That’s blackmail,” she huffed.
He grinned. “Hey, I know a good investment opportunity when I see one and that’s exactly what you are. So I’m going to do whatever it takes to get in on that.”
“Do you really think I could run my own successful business?”
“I wouldn’t invest in you if I didn’t. Simple as that.”
As exciting as the idea was, it was also frightening to be involved in something that she would solely be responsible for. Besides, her track record with making good decisions wasn’t exactly great. Who was she to think she could run a business? She was still that foolish, idiotic girl that led with her heart instead of her head and ended up in a mess because of it. There was no way she could take such a huge financial risk, even if the thought of doing so was the only thing that seemed to distract her thoughts from Omer. And there it was again, the dark cloud hanging over her life.
“He’s been calling me, you know.”
Defne sent him a quizzical expression. “Who?”
Anger swirled through her. “When?”
“The day before, yesterday, today. I picked up the first couple of times but he’s just so pissed and I’m really not in the mood to be yelled at. He keeps demanding to know where you are.”
“I’m sorry for getting you involved in this.”
“Don’t be. He may be my cousin but you’re my friend, and I think you need some time to sort things out away from him. But all of his phone calls did make me realise one thing.”
“He’s madly in love with you, Defne. There’s no denying that.”
Her heart soared hearing those words, but just as quickly she scolded herself for her reaction. Omer may have loved her but that only held true when she did things his way, or when she lived up to his expectations. Besides, his love for her hadn’t stopped him from leaving her to be with Fikret. He had no problem distancing himself from her, from moving on, yet that was something she’d never been able to achieve.
“Are you going to pretend you didn’t hear me?”
She fixed her attention on Pamir. “I heard you. I just don’t believe you.”
“You don’t think he loves you?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Not the way I love him. For me he was everything, the center of my universe. To him I’m simply a convenience, just another part of his life. Doesn’t really matter if I’m in the picture or not, things will work out for him and he’ll just find someone else to take my place.”
“You don’t really believe that.”
A bitter laugh choked out of her throat. “It’s the truth. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about him anymore. Why should we spend our time discussing him? I’m sure he’s not wasting his time thinking about us.”
“Then why has he been calling me?”
“Because he can’t stand the idea that I’m off somewhere with you. This isn’t about his feelings for me, it’s about his pride.”
“He doesn’t think very highly of me, does he?”
Pamir may have tried to come across as nonchalant, maybe even reckless, but there were times his irresponsible reputation bothered him, possibly a lot, and Defne could see through the cracks of his mask.
“I mean, we weren’t the best of friends but we used to party together when we were younger. We had fun but Omer never took me seriously. I can’t blame him for that. No one ever does so why should he?”
“I don’t think that’s fair. You’ve proven yourself in the last few months, helping Seda. Stil Vagon has grown under your leadership.”
“That’s just a co-incidence.”
“Bullshit. I’ve seen how hard you work. You’re great with customers, and Stil Vagon has more high-end designer contracts because of you.”
“That’s not really work though. That’s just me schmoozing people.”
“Which a lot of people can’t do.”
“Omer considers that useless.”
“Who cares what he thinks?” she snapped. “What you do matters. It matters to those employees who work at Stil Vagon and depend on you and Seda’s contributions to take care of their families. So what if it doesn’t align with what Omer thinks is good work? Who died and made him God?”
“Woah, calm down.”
“No, I’m not going to calm down. Omer can act as righteous and judgemental as he wants but he’s not perfect. He has no tolerance for human flaws, he looks down on people who don’t live up to his perfect standards. But the rest of us don’t have that luxury. Maybe what you do, the things you’re good at isn’t important in his eyes but who cares? It’s valuable to me, and it should be valuable to you too.”
“Alright, alright. I’m not worthless,” he said, putting his hands up in a surrendering motion. “Neither are you. And the fact that Omer never really knew your true value just shows how much of an idiot he really is.”
Her first instinct was to defend Omer, because that’s what she’d always done, but she forced herself to remain quiet and analyse Pamir’s words. In her mind Omer had always been perfect, even when he’d left her time and time again she’d always believed deep down she deserved to be treated that way. But she also knew no matter how perfect Fikret may be have been, that woman could never love Omer the way she did. No one could.
“Can we go back inside?” Pamir grumbled. “There’s only so much I can stay out here and pretend to be fascinated by these goddamn stars.”
“You go back in. I’ll just stay out here a bit longer.”
She watched after him while Pamir crossed the lawn and entered the house a few feet away. Lying back on the lounge chair, she felt an unusual calm wash over her. Maybe it was the strange realisation that if someone as smart, educated and accomplished as Pamir could feel worthless because of Omer, then no wonder she never felt good enough for him.
Omer angrily paced across the room while Sinan sent an urgent text to Defne. It had been a week since Defne disappeared and with every passing day he was losing more of his mind. She hadn’t returned any of his calls, and it had only recently dawned on him she’d probably blocked his number. Blocked him from her phone, and her life, like their relationship had meant nothing. Like he was nothing. Okay, so he’d fucked up. But what about the last few months when they’d worked through their issues and all the progress they’d made in their relationship. Didn’t that count for something? Didn’t he at least deserve a chance to explain about Fikret? “What did you say in the text?” Omer asked.
“Just what we’d talked about. That there was an emergency with the delivery and Aytekin wasn’t sure how to handle it.”
“Good. Maybe that’ll get a reaction from her,” Omer muttered.
“If she calls back, Omer, promise me you’ll be calm.”
“What do you think I’m going to do? Yell at her?”
“Yes,” Sinan said pointedly. “When it comes to Defne, your emotions are all out of control. You need to stay calm and not lose it on her.”
Omer remained quiet, staring out the window in his office. He used to think nothing could be worse than those long, painful months in Rome after their disastrous wedding but these last few days had proven him wrong. Knowing Defne was out there somewhere, angry and heartbroken because of him and his stupid mistakes had been infinitely worse. Suddenly the phone rang, and he turned to Sinan who was sitting nearby.
“It’s Defne,” Sinan declared nervously.
Omer quickly rushed towards his best friend, taking a seat beside him. “Answer it.”
Sinan put the call on speaker phone. “Defne?”
“Yes, Sinan. I don’t understand what’s wrong. Aytekin knows exactly how to handle these kinds of urgent last-minute changes. Didn’t he tell you that?”
Omer grabbed the phone, pressing the button to make the call private again. “Defne, where are you? Just please, listen to me. We need to talk. Tell me where you are and I’ll come there-”
She hung up before he could even finish the sentence.
Enraged, he flung the phone against the wall and it broke into pieces.
“That was a very expensive phone,” Sinan muttered, shaking his head.
“How long is she going to keep punishing me?”
Sinan exhaled a resigned sigh. “Look, she’s going to come back here eventually. It’s not like she went away forever. When she’s back, just take her somewhere quiet and force her to listen to you. That’s all you can do.”
Leaning forward, Omer rubbed his temples. “I don’t know how long I can keep doing this. I’m crawling out of my skin not being able to talk to her.”
“I know, brother. Just hang in there. Things will work out, I promise.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do. Because this is Defne and she can’t resist you. Sooner or later, she’ll forgive you. You just need to be patient.”
Omer desperately hoped his best friend was right.
It had been over a week since Defne had been staying at the cottage with Pamir and Azra. While nothing could have alleviated the pain and betrayal she’d felt after finding out about Fikret, these last few days at the cottage had managed to bring her much needed peace and serenity. Despite all that, she was beginning to miss home and her family, especially baby Iso. He was changing so much day by day and she worried he’d forget all about her if he didn’t see her constantly.
After another long and tiring day of gardening, Defne and Azra were sitting by the pond, enjoying a bottle of wine. Pamir, as usual, was off somewhere else doing god knows what. In a way, Defne didn’t mind. She liked spending time with Azra, the older woman had an aura of calmness about her that helped soothe her frayed nerves.
“So what did you decide?” Azra asked after a long bout of silence.
This was the first time Pamir’s mom had brought up something personal, and Defne wasn’t sure how to answer. “I guess you want to know why I’m here.”
Azra gave her a small smile. “You’ve cleaned every nook and cranny of this house multiple times in the past few days. It’s the same thing I used to do every time my husband would go off to be with his mistress.”
Defne froze. Pamir had told her that his mom had no idea about his dad’s affair yet here she was, confessing otherwise.
“My son thinks I’m very gullible when it comes to his father. I guess he prefers it that way, probably to protect me.”
“So you knew about your husband’s mistress?”
Azra picked up the bottle of wine sitting between them and poured herself some more. “Not at first, but I realised soon after.”
“Did you ever confront him?”
“No, I never had the courage. Maybe, because, I always worried he’d leave me permanently to go be with her.”
Defne took a sip of her wine. “I’m sorry.”
“Do you mind if I ask what’s going on in your relationship?”
Defne tapped her fingers along the rim of the wineglass. “When we weren’t together, he… became involved with someone else. Not just anybody, but someone he’d once told me he’d be with if I wasn’t in his life. Someone who was special to him.”
“Someone he loved?”
Her heart squeezed with pain, the words stuck in a lump in her throat. “Yes.”
“There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re simply not enough for the man you love. That no matter what you do, how much you love him, it’ll never be enough for him. I lived with that knowledge for so long, and it killed me a little every time he came home after being with her. It was like being stabbed very slowly, the pain never went away, it just grew worse.”
Defne’s eyes watered, and she brushed the tears away. Azra’s pain was palpable, and it was something she could relate to.
“Don’t tell Pamir. I’d rather he think that I live in a happy bubble than find out the truth.”
“Defne, I don’t know what’s going on with you but you’re a good girl. You have a good heart. Think long and carefully about the choices you make about your life. Love is great, but in the end it’s just an illusion. It’s not enough to sustain a relationship. What matters is friendship, loyalty and trust.”
Silence ensued, and Defne spent the next hour pondering Azra’s words. These past few weeks when she’d been deliriously happy in her relationship with Omer, had he been comparing her to Fikret in his mind? There were so many moments he seemed to be lost in thought and she’d chalked it up to work pressure but what if it wasn’t that at all? What if Omer had been reminiscing about Fikret? The pain was brutal and swift, cutting through her soul to unleash waves of anguish. Defne didn’t want to feel that kind of betrayal ever again. She never wanted to be compared to Fikret or another woman, or found to be lacking, or to live with the knowledge her love wasn’t enough. Azra was right, it really did feel like a slow, torturous death and she wanted absolutely no part of it.
She loved Omer more than her own life but that didn’t matter to him and for the first time she realised Omer deserved to be pitied for that. People in his life bent over backwards to prove their love to him but he dismissed all of them – and her – because he only valued perfection and the morally virtuous. There was no point in holding on to that kind of love, clinging to a person who didn’t deem her good enough and consequently found it easy to cast aside. If Iso ever fell for someone like that, Defne would have been furious. Then why was she yearning for Omer’s unattainable love? What could she possibly hope to gain from it? Happiness? Maybe for a short while but then he’d find a reason to criticize her and end things. He always did. So maybe it was time to put a stop to that pattern, to stop feeling so desperate and heartbroken. It wouldn’t be easy, but she at least had to try. She owed herself that.
Sleep escaped her, and Defne found herself tossing and turning the entire night. There were also the tears she shed, for the dreams she had in her life, for the future she’d envisioned with Omer that was never really possible. Mostly, she cried out of rage and frustration. When the sun rose and light streamed into her room, she sat up in her bed and wondered if she was really ready to take the next step. Was it fair what she was doing? To herself? To Pamir? Finally, she decided enough was enough. After a quick stop in the bathroom, she headed to the kitchen. Azra liked to sleep late so she knew Pamir would be alone in the kitchen, which is what she wanted.
He was busy making coffee when she approached him. “Pamir?”
“Hey. Want coffee?”
“A while back you mentioned you were thinking of marrying me. Did you mean it?”
He stared at her, stunned. “What?”
“I hope you did. Because I think we should. Let’s get married, Pamir.”
He remained eerily quiet. Her heart started beating in her chest, and she shuffled her feet nervously. “I know I’m not the best catch. You can have anyone you want, but you and I are friends. Good friends. And what you said about friendship being the basis of a solid marriage, I’ve realised in the past few days how true that is. You and I would never hurt each other. If anything, we would always look out for the other, protect one another.”
“Are you serious, Defne?”
“Yes, I’ve been thinking about it all night.” She bit her bottom lip, running her fingers through her hair. “I can talk to you, about anything. And I think you feel the same way about me. We also accept other each other for who we are, flaws and all. That’s really important, don’t you think?”
“I guess. Yeah.”
“I think we’d be happy together, or at least content. We wouldn’t break each other’s heart, we wouldn’t hurt one another.”
“I’m not sure I want a platonic relationship, Defne. I meant what I said about marrying a friend, but I also want a real relationship, not a sexless marriage.”
Her cheeks blazed with heat, and her voice faltered as she struggled to respond. “I don’t want that either.”
“Oh.” Pamir stared at her intently, as if trying to decipher her brain with the power of his sight. “Defne, I don’t want children. At least not anytime soon. I want to travel with my wife, I want to see everything this world has to offer before I settle down. Even then, I’m not sure kids would be part of that deal.”
Her heart sank at first, but then she reminded herself maybe this was how it was supposed to be. Considering how terrible her own parents had been, a part of her had always been afraid she’d be a horrible mother too. “It’s okay if we don’t have children.”
He shot her a look of disbelief. “You can’t be serious.”
“Pamir, I’m completely serious. I’m not perfect, but I think you and I are good together. We’re compatible, and we understand each other. My brother married one of his best friends and I see how happy he is with Nihan, what a great bond they have-”
“Defne, if we get engaged that means the absolute end of your relationship with Omer. He’s a proud man, he’ll never take you back for even considering marriage with me. Do you understand that? Are you really willing to walk away from any chance of reconciliation with him?”
That was the question that had kept her awake for most of the night, one she had considered from every angle. Omer would always have a place in her heart, she had a weakness for him that no amount of logic could overcome. If she wanted to protect herself from making the same mistakes again and again then she had to do something radical, something the old, madly in love Defne would never do. She had to marry someone else. “Yes. I’ve thought about it, and this is what I want. So will you marry me, Pamir?”
The entire duration of the trip back home Defne’s stomach was tied in knots. The thought of going back to work and facing Omer was making her want to hurl but she had no other options. He was always in charge, he got what he wanted when he wanted it, which meant if he desired a confrontation he’d force her into it one way or another. But she reminded herself that she only had to put up with him for a short time – at most only a few days – and then she’d never have to see him again. Of course that meant the loss of her job.
Her mood worsened as she thought about leaving Stil Vagon. She loved her work , it had helped her heal when she’d been at her absolute worst. Through sheer hard work and dedication her career had surged forward and she was proud to accomplish that without anyone’s help. No one could say she became a director through her connections with Omer or because she’d used him in some way, she’d achieved her position based on her own merits. But now she had to walk away from it and prove herself all over again in a different company. Then again, every cloud had a silver lining. At a new company she wouldn’t have to worry about her past haunting her. Already Derya had texted her wanting to know if it was true that she and Omer had gotten into a huge fight at the conference. Just the thought of people gossiping about what happened made her want to cry but she only had to cope with it a few more days. Just a few more days. She would get things in order, train Aytekin, and then she would leave it all behind.
At last they were back in the city, and soon Pamir was whizzing through traffic to reach her neighbourhood. When they arrived at her house, he parked the car out front. Defne felt comforted at seeing her home, hearing the neighbourhood noises. No matter how chaotic and nosy her family was, she loved them and missed them terribly in the last two weeks.
“Here we are,” Pamir said. “Do you need help with your bags?”
“No, I’m good.” She turned to him. “Thanks for letting me stay at the cottage. I really needed that. And tell your mom how grateful I was.”
“You already told her a million times. I don’t think she needs to hear it from me too.” He offered her a lazy smile. “Changed your mind about marrying me?”
She regarded him intently. “No, did you?”
“If that’s what you want, I’m still in.”
She unbuckled her seat belt. “I just need a few days to let my family know.”
“How do you think they’re going to handle it?”
She paused, staring at the house. “They’ll accept it, but we should still keep it between us for a few days. Please don’t tell anybody.”
“I won’t. Don’t worry. Are you coming to work tomorrow?”
She nodded her head. “I need to hand in my resignation, sort everything out.”
“You’re still serious about that?”
“Yes. I just…” Her heart churned. “It’s what I need, for my own peace of mind.”
“Do me a favour. Think about the business program I told you about.”
“I can’t afford that.”
“Defne, we’re going to married. Doesn’t that mean we should discuss these kinds of decisions together? If all you’re going to do is shut me down, then maybe I won’t-”
“Okay, fine,” she interjected. “We can talk about it after we’re married.”
“I think it’d be fun to live in London while you finish the program there.”
Surprised, she gave him a quizzical look. “You’d be okay with that?”
“I told you, I fully intend to live off of you. You can bust your ass and rake in the money while I relax by the pool all day long.” He gave her a lopsided smile. “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with your career plans. We need to enjoy a long and extended honeymoon first.”
Tension surged through her at the thought of being intimate with him, Pamir seemed to notice if the lift of his eyebrow was any indication.
“Don’t worry, Defne. I have no intention of pressuring you.”
“I just need some time to, you know…”
“I get it.”
As strange as it felt, Defne had to become accustomed to the idea of being married to Pamir. Or, at the very least, someone not Omer. For so long Omer had been entrenched in every part of her life and future plans but that was no longer the case. She had to move on, using small steps. Strengthening her resolve, she gave Pamir a small smile and moved towards him. She gave him a short, chaste kiss on the lips, catching him by surprise. Before he could react she exited the car, then proceeded to remove her luggage from his trunk. Within seconds of entering her home she was greeted by her family with big hugs and sloppy kisses, and for a moment she was able to forget all her troubles and enjoy the wonderful warmth they provided.
The next morning she woke up in a haze, unencumbered by hurt and depression like she’d been ever since finding out about Omer and Fikret. A part of her wondered why she seemed to be so numb, but it suddenly occurred to her that maybe it was a sign she was maturing. When she came into work and walked past some of the employees, she heard them whispering behind her back. Before she would have cringed with embarrassment; now she felt nothing. Surprisingly, the same thing happened when she handed in her resignation. Seda had reacted with anger and disappointment, going so far as to offer her a twenty-five percent raise to stay, but Defne had simply sat there, calm, detached but steadfast in her decision to leave Stil Vagon after two days.
An hour later she was in the midst of a meeting with her staff on the warehouse floor when Omer finally made an appearance. She’d been dreading this moment, to the point where she hadn’t even been able to sleep last night terrified at the thought of seeing him. Every time she thought about him all she did was picture him with Fikret, laughing together, sleeping together. She wondered who had made the first move. Had Omer called Fikret the moment he landed in Rome? Or had Fikret made the initial gesture? Did he hold Fikret’s hand, kiss her cheeks, play with her hair the same way he did her? She and Omer were supposed to go on their honeymoon to Rome, where he’d promised to show her all the beautiful sights. Had he done that with Fikret? All of last night she’d worried about falling apart, getting hysterical at the sight of him. But then she’d panicked at another thought. What if all he had to do was look at her and she let herself believe in him again? Most people, like Omer, had the benefit of being proud that helped with self-preservation but she’d never been good at holding back her emotions. She had no pride, no dignity when it came to him. What if all he had to do was smile and she succumbed to him completely? And yet, as he stood a few feet away, watching her with darkened eyes and a serious expression, she felt detached. Like she wasn’t a part of the scene, just someone who was watching a scene unfold in front of her like at the movies. It was easy to ignore him, and she did just that while making the announcement to her staff she’d be leaving Stil Vagon in a few days.
Her staff rushed up to her and she spent a good chunk of time talking to them, answering their questions and concerns. Once in a while her gaze would fall on Omer who seemed to grow more impatient by the minute at not having her full attention. But she didn’t care and continued to speak to her staff individually. Finally they returned to work and she made her way to her office, aware of Omer following behind her.
As she sat at her desk, he finally spoke. “I was worried about you.”
He sounded more angry than concerned.
She logged onto her laptop, her focus directed on the excel sheet in front of her. “As you can see, I’m fine.”
He stared at her intently. “I know you were pissed off but you could have called me, texted me. I left you a thousand messages.”
Silent, she continued to work.
“Defne, stop this bullshit and look at me!”
She met his stare, calm and composed.
“How do I fix this? Please tell me what to do.”
Before his pleading tone, the crack in his voice would have broken her, but thanks to her detachment from anything emotional she only felt apathy. “There’s nothing to fix.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth. By the way, you heard me when I mentioned I submitted my resignation? I’m here for a few more days and after that Aytekin will take over. You’ll be dealing with him about your logistics concerns. I’ve forwarded all the meeting notifications to him-”
“I don’t give a fuck about that!” Omer yelled. Within seconds he was kneeling down next to her chair, cradling her face in his hands, begging her silently to look at him. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was just so hurt and angry, but she meant nothing. It was a mistake. I wish I could take it back-”
“That’s not possible,” Defne interjected, removing his hands from her body. “Look, it is what it is.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means it’s time for both of us to move on.”
“I don’t want to move on. Neither do you! We love each other, nothing can erase that. You’re upset right now, and you’re not thinking straight-”
“My head is more clear than it’s ever been.” She levelled him with a solemn stare. “It’s time we stop hurting each other.”
“What are you doing, Defne? What the hell is this?” he demanded, glaring at her. “This isn’t you. You’re not cold, you’re not callous. Stop acting like you don’t give a fuck!”
“Do you want to see me cry? Act devastated? Would that make you feel better?”
“Stop this nonsense.”
“I’m not sure what you want from me.”
“I want you. I want us to get married, have children, build a future together.”
“That’s not possible, Omer. And holding on to that fantasy isn’t doing either of us any favours.”
“It’s not a fucking fantasy!” He kissed her forehead. “Don’t let a stupid mistake get in between us. It happened when we weren’t even together. Why can’t we just move past this?”
She leaned back in her chair to look at him. “All I’ve ever done is disappoint you and you’ve hurt me more than anyone else in my life, including my parents.” He flinched, but she continued. “Why put ourselves through more pain? I’m tired of riding an emotional roller coaster. I’m sure you are too.”
“You’re angry right now. That’s why you’re saying these things.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not angry, Omer. I just don’t want to be with you anymore, and deep down you feel the same way too.”
“How the fuck can you say that to me?”
“I think what’s upsetting you the most is that I’m the one ending things this time. I’m sorry for hurting your pride but I just don’t want to keep playing the same charade over and over again.”
“You think this is about my pride?” Rage was etched onto his face as he furiously swiped the things from her desk. Startled, she tried to get up but he leaned in, trapping her in place with his hands gripping the arms of the chair. “I love you. You love me. We went through hell and we came out of it stronger. So I’m not going to let you end things just because you’re scared and want to be a fucking coward about following your feelings.”
Before she could argue he stood up straight and marched out of her office. Sighing, she started picking up the things he’d shoved to the floor. Once again, he stormed out of her life and left her to clean up the mess. At least this would be the last time because she had no intention of being left by him anymore.
She’d just about straightened everything out when Sinan entered her office a short while later. He looked at her with a half-hesitant, half-embarrassed expression on his face. “Sinan, how are you?”
“I should be the one asking you that question.”
“I’m fine.” She put the last of her things back on the desk. “You’ve probably heard already, but I’m leaving Stil Vagon.”
She sat back in her chair. “I’ve drawn out a schedule for Aytekin to follow for the next three weeks. He’s good at what he does, and he just needs to be trained on a few more things but I think he’ll be fine managing Passionis’ logistic needs. I would suggest you give him a raise because it’s a lot of work but, of course, that’s up to you.”
Sinan shook his head. “Why are you quitting?”
“Because I’ve enrolled in a business program in London. I can’t handle working and studying at the same time,” she lied without missing a beat. She’d never been a good liar before but that didn’t seem to be a problem today.
“So this has nothing to do with Omer?”
“Omer and I are done.”
“Defne, come on. I know he made a stupid mistake but he loves you. He’s madly in love with you. Just give him another chance to fix things.”
“Sinan, I’m sorry, but this is really none of your business. I know you’re his best friend and you want to see him happy but there’s no point in continuing a doomed relationship. Besides, Omer will be fine. It took him three weeks to get over the wedding, so this time it may even be less.”
“Defne, he was an empty shell in Rome! Dead, lifeless. I saw how devastated he was, he never got over you.”
“What makes you think it was about me? He got involved with Fikret only weeks after he left me. She’s the one he always wanted, she was his soul mate. I don’t know why things didn’t work out for them but the depressed state you saw him in was probably because of their breakup. It didn’t have anything to do with me.”
Sinan stared back at her, astonished. “You can’t be serious, Defne.”
“I’m completely serious. Right now his pride is hurting, and I am sorry about that, but once I’m gone he’ll be back to his normal self. He always does.” She turned on her laptop again. “Now if you don’t have anything else to discuss, I’d like to finish this training manual for Aytekin.”
Sinan didn’t leave right away. He regarded her for several minutes before, eventually, exiting her office. Defne returned to work, unfazed, grateful for the newfound numbness that protected her.
A/N – Thanks for reading. If you have the time to share your thoughts, I would love to hear from you.
I have a few new readers of this story so I just wanted to extend a warm welcome 🙂
If you enjoy my writing, I hope you give my original novels a shot:
Follow You Down – will be released in its entirety later this year.
Alive – if all goes well, will be released next year.
You can read the first half of both novels on this site for free (just click the links above).