Craving Him (Page 41)

Craving Him (Love by Design #2)(41)
Author: Kendall Ryan

I couldn’t wait to take Emmy out this weekend to celebrate, and I hoped when I pulled out the ring, she’d be surprised—in a good way. I’d only hinted at my openness to marriage, wanting to keep things a surprise.

“Wait. . . .” The salesclerk grinned up at me. “You’re the guy from the video. Fuck me . . . London Burke . . . you’re a lucky man. This ring for her?” He smiled at me, waiting for my answer.

It wasn’t uncommon to be recognized, but I had no clue what he was talking about. And London? I hadn’t dated London in years. “What video?”

He laughed and winked at me. “The video everyone’s talking about. I saw it online this morning. That shit was hot.”

Oh shit.

Braydon and I exchanged a look of horror.

Realization flooded me and I suddenly felt sick. The blurry sex tape we’d recorded while drunk two years ago. No way. It couldn’t be. I’d destroyed my copy and London had sworn she deleted hers, too.

I swallowed the bitter taste in my mouth. Awareness burned in the back of my brain . . . something told me Fiona was behind the leak of the tape. I racked my brain, fighting to remember back to two years ago. I’d confided in her once I sobered up and realized that I’d f**king recorded a sex tape. I knew that if it got out, I’d need her help. At the time, in the stark light of morning, I’d regretted what London and I had done. Fiona had assured me that it’d never be discovered. We’d been in Singapore when we deleted the copy on my laptop. Only now I wondered if she could have saved a copy for herself somewhere. I would have never suspected her at the time. But now knowing how she truly felt about me, and knowing that we always had adjoining rooms back then, she had the opportunity and means and potentially the motivation, too. The thought sickened me.

I dashed from the store, pulling my phone from my pocket. I dialed Emmy’s number.

No answer.

I tried her again.

Nothing.

And again.

Fuck.

I paced the sidewalk, traffic zooming past as I silently prayed she’d pick up, give me the chance to explain. I needed to do some major damage control before she found out about the video.

On the eighth ring, Ellie answered. “Yes?”

I stopped suddenly. “Is she there?”

“She is.”

“Can I speak to her?” My heart was thumping like a goddamn racehorse.

“Ben, she knows. She saw the video.”

Fuck. “I’m so sorry. Let me explain. Let me apologize.”

“She can’t talk right now.”

“Please. Just put her on the phone.”

“You’ve gone too far this time. Pushed her too much. She’s cracked.”

“Cracked?”

“Yeah. She’s in bed crying herself to sleep. It’s done. Just leave her be.”

“I can’t,” I admitted. “She’s my everything. She owns me. That video is from years ago, and London and I made it as a stupid joke. We swore we’d deleted it. I think Fiona released it as a last act of revenge. Please . . . we can’t let her win.” My voice cracked.

“You’ve f**ked up too many times. She can’t forgive this. Would you really expect her to if the tables were turned?” Ellie hung up and I pressed a hand against the brick wall to steady myself. In the course of three minutes flat, my world had just crumbled.

Fuck that. I hailed the nearest cab, leaving Braydon shouting something from the jewelry shop behind me.

“Drive like the f**king wind and I’ll tip you handsomely,” I told the driver, then gave him Emmy’s address in Queens.

When I reached her building I took the stairs two and a time, jogging up to her unit while my heart pounded erratically. Dread filled me. I just needed her to see me, to look into my eyes and let me explain.

Forcing a deep breath of air into my lungs, I knocked at the door and waited, stuffing my hands into my pockets.

Nothing happened for several long seconds, and I knew either Emmy or Ellie was peering through the peephole, deciding on whether or not to open the door.

Moments ticked past and I thought I heard whispering coming from inside.

I knocked again, more urgently this time. “Emmy, please. I know you’re in there. Let me explain.” My voice sounded steady but my stomach curled into a tight knot.

Silence.

I pounded against the door, desperation overtaking me. “Baby.”

I beat my fists against the door for what seemed like forever until my knuckles were red and raw.

“Go away, Ben. It’s over,” Ellie called tersely through the door.

Tears filled my vision. It couldn’t end like this. I slunk to the floor and sat there for hours, praying that the door would open, if not to see me, at least because one of them needed to go out for something. I was certain once Emmy saw me, met my eyes, I could make her understand.

But that chance never came.

• • •

In the days that followed, my phone rang and rang, but it was never Emmy.

At Fiona’s sixth call for the day, I finally picked up. “Yeah?”

“Love . . .” Her endearment for me hung in the air, feeling empty. “I saw the news and I’ve been trying to reach you. Are you okay?”

“I’m f**king fabulous,” I bit out. Was she seriously asking me that? My sex tape had been leaked, likely by her, and my girlfriend had left me. London and I had spoken once when the news story broke and she’d apologized profusely. She’d said she had no clue how the video got out. I believed her. She wouldn’t have intentionally leaked it—she was just as mortified as I was. Her publicist had released the obligatory statement requesting the public to respect her privacy during this difficult time.

“You need me to fix this for you. Emmy can’t handle this level of PR, love. Let me handle this.”

Her motivation for releasing the video became clear. It was her last-ditch effort to bring me back to her. If she thought I’d need her to fix this, she was wrong. She also assumed Emmy was still working for me. Emmy wasn’t even speaking to me, but I was still paying her. I refused to stop that. Emmy would never suffer because of my f**k-ups. I called her nonstop, left voicemails until her mailbox was full, and yet still nothing. Utter silence on her end.

“Fiona . . .” I warned. I didn’t need her help.

“Let me take care of it. I’ll make it go away.”

I didn’t care about it going away. I just wanted Emmy back. The sex tape didn’t bother me, The world knowing that I liked to f**k didn’t matter. Losing my girl, my reason for breathing, did. Big f**king time. “I don’t need your help. And in fact, give me one reason why I should believe you didn’t leak this tape yourself.”