Chapter no 21 – Auburn


I’m sitting on the bed with him, trying to absorb everything he’s saying, but it’s hard. “I just . . .” I shake my head. “Why didn’t you just tell me all of this from the beginning? Why didn’t you tell me that Trey knew they weren’t your drugs?”

Owen sighs and squeezes my hands. “I wanted to, Auburn. But I barely knew you. Telling anyone the truth could have jeopardized my father’s career. Not to mention the fact that Trey was threatening to cause trouble and the last thing I wanted was for you to have issues as a result of my relationship with my father.”

If I thought I was through with Trey earlier tonight, I’m de nitely through with him now. I can’t believe he put Owen in this situation because he felt threatened by him. is whole time, I’ve been trying to see the good in Trey, but I’m starting to question if he even has any good in him.

“I feel like an idiot.”

Owen shakes his head adamantly. “You can’t be so hard on yourself. I should have told you sooner. I was going to, but after nding out you had a son, I realized just how much you had at stake. It made things complicated, because it was too late for me to go back and say the pills weren’t mine, and there was no way Lydia and Trey would have allowed you to be with someone like me. We were stuck.”

I fall against the bed and clasp my hands together over my stomach. I stare up at the ceiling, more confused about what to do than when we walked in here.

“I don’t trust him. Not after this. I don’t want him around AJ anymore, but if I tried to take them to court, Lydia would be furious. She would use

my visits with AJ against me and I may never get to see him.”

e reality of my situation begins to hit, and I bring my hands up and press my palms against my eyes. I don’t want to cry. I want to remain calm and gure out a way around this.

Owen lowers himself beside me on the bed. He slips a hand to my cheek and urges me to look at him.

“Auburn, listen to me,” he says, looking down on me with complete sincerity. “If I have to come clean about my father and take Trey to court, I’ll do it. You deserve to be in AJ’s life, and if we continue to allow Trey’s threats to aect our decisions, he’ll never stop. He’ll never allow us to be together and he’ll do whatever he can to keep you from AJ unless you’re with him. It’s all about the power with people like him, but we need to stop allowing him to have it.”

He brushes away one of my tears with his thumb. “Whatever needs to be done, we’ll do it together. I’m not going anywhere. And you aren’t speaking to Trey again without me there, okay?”

His words are lling me with a mixture of relief and dread. It feels so good to know that he’s on my side, but the thought of confronting Trey terri es me. But it’s the only choice we have at this point. We either have to work it out like adults, or I’ll ght him in court.

And I won’t stop until I win.

Owen pulls me against him and holds me quietly for so long, I fall asleep. e sound of the shower wakes me up, and I immediately look around the hotel room in an attempt to regain my bearings. When the haze clears and the events of the entire last day play out in my mind, I surprisingly feel a sense of calm fall over me. It’s amazing how you don’t realize just how alone and scared you were until you have someone by your side to support you. Owen has sacri ced so much for his father, and now he’s doing the same for me. He’s exactly the type of man AJ needs as a role model in his life.

I check my phone and nd several missed calls from Trey. I don’t want him suspicious or showing back up at my apartment tonight, so I shoot him a text.

I need some time alone, Trey. We can talk tomorrow, I promise.

I don’t want him to think I’m as angry with him as I am. I just want to appease him for now until Owen and I can confront him together.


I breathe a sigh of relief with his response and set my phone down. I stand up and walk toward the bathroom, but I pause when I catch sight of Owen in the hallway mirror. e bathroom door is open slightly, as is the shower curtain. I see glimpses of him as he washes his hair, but it’s enough for me to know I’d much rather be in there with him than out here alone.

I’m suddenly nervous and I don’t know why I’m nervous. We’ve done this before.

I take off my shirt and lay it on the dresser, followed by my jeans. I take a look in the mirror and am embarrassed to see mascara streaked beneath my eyes. I wipe it away and then take a step back. ere are faint bruises in various places on my body from the struggle with Trey and it almost makes me want to change my mind about what I’m about to do.

I don’t, though. Trey has kept Owen and me apart enough, so I push the thought of him out of my head completely. I don’t want to think about him again until we’re sitting in front of him tomorrow.

I walk toward the bathroom and pause just outside the door. I slip off my bra and then my underwear. I debate whether or not to turn the light out.

e one time I was with Owen, it was dark, so my insecurities were almost nonexistent. However, he’s never seen me like this before. I’ve never seen him.

at last thought actually gives me the courage it takes to enter the


“Auburn?” he says from the shower. He’s questioning whether or not it’s me walking in here right now, so I guess it proves we’re both still a little on edge tonight.

“Just me,” I say as I shut the door.

His head appears from behind the shower curtain, and the smile that’s usually axed to his face when he sees me vanishes when he sees all of me. My cheeks instantly ush and I reach next to me and ip off the light switch. I thought I could do it, but I can’t. No guy, not even Adam, has ever seen me undressed with the lights on. I didn’t realize just how much I lacked con dence.

I hear him laugh, but I can’t see his face in the dark.

“Two things,” he says, his voice rm. “Turn that back on. Get in here.”

I shake my head, even though he can’t see it. “I’ll get in there, but I’m not turning the light back on.”

I hear the shower curtain slide open and then wet feet splash against the tile oor. Before I know it, an arm is wrapped around my bare waist and the light is back on. His face is directly in front of mine and he’s grinning. He leaves the light on and lifts me up, carrying me to the shower with him. He stands me inside the shower and I immediately cover what I can with my hands.

He takes a step back until we’re a couple of feet apart and I can’t help but notice how con dent he is, standing completely naked in front of me. He has a right to be con dent. Me . . . not so much.

He tilts his head back far enough to wash the soap from his hair, but not too far that he can’t see all of me. His eyes roam over me while he rinses his hair with a satis ed smile.

“You know what I love?” he asks.

I keep my arms and hands in front of me, covering myself, and I shrug. “I love it when you wash my hair,” he says. “I don’t know why. It just

feels better when you do it.”

I smile. “Do you want me to wash your hair?”

He shakes his head and turns around to rinse the soap off his face. “I already washed it,” he says, matter-of-factly.

I can’t help but stare at the back of him now. Flawless.

I tense up even more, knowing just how not awless I am. And I don’t feel this way because I have a case of low self-esteem, and I’m not pretending to be self-conscious just so he’ll compliment me. It’s just that I’m a girl who has had a baby, and bodies don’t look the same after having babies. My stomach is covered in faint white lines and the scar from my cesarean is front and center, right above what should be one of the most attractive areas to a man.

I won’t even talk about what pregnancy does to breasts. I close my eyes just thinking about it.

“It’s kind of like when someone makes you a sandwich,” Owen says.

My eyes ick open. He can see the confusion on my face, and he laughs. “When you wash my hair.” He says it like it’s an explanation. “Sandwiches are the same way. I could use the same ingredients and make my sandwich the exact same way as someone else, but for some reason it

just tastes so much better when I’m not the one who makes it. Just like when you wash my hair. It feels better when you do it. It also styles better.”

Here I am, almost shaking I’m so nervous, and he’s casually discussing sandwiches and shampoos.

He takes a step forward and places his hands on my elbows, turning me until I’m under the water. “I want to wash yours,” he says, grabbing the travel-sized bottle of shampoo that’s now half-empty.

He tilts my head back and runs his hands through my hair as the water saturates it. I’m not like him—I can’t keep my eyes open while his hands are in my hair, so I let them fall shut. He lathers my hair, and I’m not sure what feels better, his ngers massaging my scalp or the part of him that’s pressing against my stomach.

“Relax,” he says as he begins to rinse my hair. I don’t relax. I don’t know how.

As if he knows this, he moves closer. His closeness actually puts me more at ease. It’s when he’s several feet away and I’m under the scrutiny of his gaze that I’m the most nervous.

He begins to work the conditioner into my hair this time, and he’s absolutely right. I’ve had my hair washed by other people before, a result of being in cosmetology school. And it does feel good, sort of like a massage. But this is more. His hands are so much more.

His lips press softly against mine and he kisses me. His hands move from my hair to my arms, and he pulls them away from my body, wrapping them around his waist until we’re ush together. I nally open my eyes and look up into his as he begins to rinse the conditioner out of my hair.

“Feels good, doesn’t it?” he says with a slightly wicked grin. I smile. “I don’t ever want to wash my own hair again.”

He kisses my forehead. “Just wait until you taste my sandwiches.”

I laugh, and the tenderness that enters his eyes at the sound of my laughter makes me realize that this is what I want. Sel essness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they’ll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel.

“I want you to know something,” he says, kissing his way down my neck.

“And I’m not saying this just to make you feel better.” One of his hands slides up my waist until it meets my breast, and he holds it there. “I’m

saying this because I want you to believe it.” He pulls away from my neck to look at me directly. “You are so, so beautiful, Auburn. Everywhere. Every part of you. On the outside, on the inside, when you’re beneath me, on top of me, painted on a canvas.” His eyes are boring into mine and I close them, because there is way too much truth in his. “So beautiful,” he whispers.

He begins to kiss his way down my throat until the warmth of his breath teases my breast. He takes me in his mouth, and I moan softly. I bring my hands to the back of his head and keep my eyes closed, hoping we end up in a bed before I collapse from dizziness.

His hands slide down my waist, down my thighs, until his mouth begins to follow their direction. When his tongue meets my navel, I gasp. Partly because of the sensation, and partly because I want him to stop heading in the direction he’s headed. I don’t want him near the parts of me I’m most self-conscious about.

He repositions himself until he’s on his knees in front of me. He’s no longer kissing me, and his hands are wrapped around the backs of my thighs. I can feel his breath against my stomach, and the fact that he’s not doing anything makes me curious enough to open my eyes and look down at him.

He looks up at me. He smiles gently and brings a hand in front of him, trailing his ngers over the scar that marks my abdomen. “ is,” he says, looking at it. “ is is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a woman.”

e tears sting at my eyes and I refuse to cry at a time like this, but I think I just ocially fell for this man.

His lips meet my stomach, and he presses a gentle kiss against my scar. He begins to work his way back up my body until he’s standing straight, looking down at me again. “How many days have we actually seen each other since we met?” he asks.

I want to laugh at his randomness, because I think it’s my favorite part of him. I shrug. “I don’t know. Four? Five?”

He slowly shakes his head. “If you count today, it’s seven,” he says, sliding a hand through my hair. “So tell me, Auburn. How is it possible that I’m already falling in love with you?”

He catches my gasp with his mouth, and he picks me up, carrying me out of the shower and straight to the bed.

And this time, I don’t get lost in his touch. I don’t get lost in his kiss. I don’t get lost in how it feels when he pushes himself inside me.

I don’t feel lost in him at all, because it’s the rst time I’ve ever felt like someone truly found me.



“I’ll park in the parking garage,” he says. “Take my key and go through the back door.”

He brings the car to a stop, and I open the door to get out. Before I do, he grabs my arm and pulls me toward him. His lips meet mine and his kiss feels like a promise.

“I’ll be up in a second,” he says.

I rush to the back door of his studio. I insert the key into the lock and shut it just as fast, then hurry up the stairs. Once I’m in his apartment, I can

nally breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t know why I would think Trey would be waiting out there. It’s just disconcerting because he hasn’t texted me since last night, when I told him I’d talk to him today. He’s either giving me the space I need, or he knows I’m up to something.

Owen-Cat appears at my feet, and I pick her up and carry her into the kitchen with me. I set her on the bar as I reach for a bottle of wine. After the couple of days I’ve had, I de nitely need a drink. I’m sure Owen, does too, so I pour him one, just as I hear him walk up behind me.

He wraps his arms around me from behind and pulls me against him. I lean my head back against his shoulder and rest my hands on his arms.

As soon as I touch him, my eyes ick open and my mouth attempts to form a scream, but I’m cut off by the words whispered into my ear.

“Can’t even tell which man has his arms around you?”

Trey’s voice stiens my entire body. His grip around my waist tightens and that’s when I feel the dierence. e dierence in their height. e dierence in their hands. e dierence in the way they hold me.

“Trey,” I whisper, my voice shaky.

“Save it, Auburn,” he hisses into my ear. He spins me around and shoves me against the refrigerator, pushing my arms against it. “Where is he?”

I swallow, relieved that he doesn’t know where Owen is. Maybe Owen will hear him and be able to do something to protect himself.

I shake my head. “I don’t know.”

His eyes seethe with rage and he tightens his grip on my arms. “I’m not sure I can handle another lie from you. Where the fuck is he?”

I squeeze my eyes shut and refuse to answer. His mouth meets mine in an abrupt crash, and I attempt to push him off me. He breaks away and backhands me.

My legs instantly buckle, but he holds me up when I try to fall. His mouth returns to my ear.

“Call out his name.” I don’t.

He wraps his hand around the back of my neck and squeezes. “Call out his name,” he says again. I open my mouth to tell him to fuck off when I hear Owen’s voice.

“Let go of her.”

I open my eyes cautiously. e smile on Trey’s face when he hears Owen’s voice scares me more than what just happened between us. He pulls me to him, spinning me around, and presses his chest against my back. We’re both facing Owen now.

Owen is standing just a few feet away, holding nothing but his cell phone and his car keys. His eyes are frantic as they fall from my head to my toes, assessing me for injuries. “Are you hurt?”

I shake my head, but Trey still has a tight grip around me. Owen is solid and still, watching Trey closely. “What do you want, Trey?”

A deep chuckle rises from Trey’s throat and he turns his head to mine. He slowly runs his knuckles up my jaw. “You already tainted what I want, Owen.”

I can see the rage wash over Owen and my eyes immediately grow wide with fear. I shake my head, trying to get him to calm down. e last thing he needs is something else to be arrested for. He’s on probation, and attacking a cop is probably the one thing Trey is hoping he’ll do. “Owen, don’t. He wants you to hit him. Don’t do it.”

Trey presses his cheek to mine, and I watch as Owen’s eyes follow the path of Trey’s hand. He trails it down my throat, between my breasts, and over my stomach. By the time his hand settles between my legs, I can taste the bile in my throat. I squeeze my eyes shut, because the look in Owen’s eyes proves there’s no way he’s going to stand here and allow Trey to do this.

I hear him lunge forward right before I’m tossed aside. I fall to the oor and by the time I turn around, Owen has already punched Trey. Trey is grabbing the counter for support with one hand and reaching for his gun with the other.

Owen is standing in front of me now, facing me, making sure I’m okay. My words don’t come out, but I want to tell him to turn around, to run, to duck, but nothing will come out. Owen takes my face between his hands and says, “Auburn. Go downstairs and call the police.”

Trey laughs, and Owen can see the onset of a new kind of fear in my eyes. He turns around and blocks me with his body, pushing me further away from Trey.

“Call the police?” Trey says, continuing with the laughter. “And who will they believe? e addict and the whore who got pregnant at fteen? Or the cop?”

Neither Owen nor I speak as we both allow the words that just fell from Trey’s mouth to sink in.

“Oh, and let’s not forget the contraband you have hidden all over your studio. ere’s also that.”

I can feel every muscle in Owen’s body tense. Trey set him up.

He broke into his studio not to steal stu, but to leave stu.

I st my hands in the back of Owen’s shirt, fearing the worst. “What do you want, Trey?” Owen asks. His voice sounds defeated. He’s reached his breaking point with Trey, and that’s not a good thing.

“I just want you out of the fucking picture,” Trey says. “You’ve been a pain in my ass since the day we met, and you just continue to resurface.” He takes several steps closer, and Owen pushes me further back, still shielding me with his body. “Auburn needs to be a mother to that boy, and he needs me to be his father. As long as you’re brainwashing her, that’ll never happen.” Trey looks over Owen’s shoulder, directly at me. “You’ll thank me for this one day, Auburn.”

Trey lifts the radio to his mouth. “En route to precinct six,” Trey says. “Subject in custody for assault on an ocer.”

“What?” I yell. “Trey, you can’t do this! He’s on probation!”

Trey ignores me and begins spouting off an address into the radio. Owen turns to face me. “Auburn.” His eyes are serious. Focused. “Tell them

whatever he wants you to say. If he’s telling the truth and he really did plant stuff in my studio, I’ll go to jail for a long time. Let them arrest me for assault; it’ll be a much lesser charge. I’ll talk to my father in the morning, and we’ll gure out where to go from there.”

I refuse to agree with what he’s saying. He hasn’t done anything wrong. “If I just tell them the truth, you won’t be in trouble, Owen.”

He closes his eyes and exhales, practicing patience in a situation that warrants none. When he opens his eyes again, they’re somehow even more focused. “He’s angry. Trey knows what happened between us, and he wants his payback. And he’s right. ey’ll never believe us over him. Not with my history.”

My eyes begin to burn, and I try to remain as calm as he is right now, but it isn’t working. Especially now that Trey is pulling him away from me. Owen puts his hands behind his back and Trey places the cus on them. Owen doesn’t even resist, and I’m crying too hard to try to stop it.

I follow them down the stairs, across the studio, and out the front door to Trey’s police car. He shoves Owen in the backseat and then turns to face me. He opens the front passenger door. “Get in, Auburn. I’ll give you a ride home.”

I get in, but only because there is no way in hell I’m allowing Owen to spend another day in jail that he doesn’t deserve.

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