Preview of Only Yours!

Chapter One

The harsh reality has finally hit me. All those fairy-tale stories of Cinderella and her Prince Charming? Just a load of bullshit.

Little girls need to learn that real men, like the ones we read about to them, don't really exist. It's all just one big facade, a carefully constructed fantasy that will never come true. I learned the hard way tonight that happily ever after is nothing more than a dream. It doesn't actually exist.

Curling myself into a tight ball on the plush couch, I ignore the incessant ringing of my cell phone, and down the last few drops of rich red wine from my crystal glass. I've lost track of how many glasses I've had since I stumbled home earlier, but my heavy limbs and blurry vision are clear indicators that I'm pushing past my normal limit. But hey, go me!

I know I should probably slow down, but in this moment, I just can't bring myself to care. The pain and betrayal I feel from Daemon's lies is still too raw, and all I want is to numb it out completely. Grabbing for the open wine bottle sitting on my coffee table, I refill my glass with shaky hands before silencing the constant buzzing of my phone. Right now, all I need is to be alone with my thoughts.

As if sensing my distress, Dimples, the crazy kitten Daemon gave me, jumps onto the couch and rubs against my hand. She reminds me that I'm not completely alone in this empty apartment. Pulling her close to my chest, I bury my face in her soft white fur and let out a deep sigh. Her rhythmic purring fills the air and soothes my troubled mind for just a moment. Maybe...maybe I should just swear off men altogether, get a few more cats, and become the local cat lady.

I drunkenly giggle at the thought, feeling a sense of freedom and independence in it. Maybe it's not such a bad idea after all.

Pulling my favorite red and white checkered chenille throw off the couch, I cuddle down into it, and drift away to the land of too drunk to care, while listening to a collection of old sad love songs streaming from the radio.

As one song fades into the next, so do my glasses of wine. With my eyes closed, I let my thoughts drift until I'm abruptly jolted back to reality by loud, insistent pounding. The noise causes my head to ache, and I wince as I sit up to survey the room. It takes a moment for my foggy mind to register, but eventually I realize someone is violently knocking on my front door.

Why can't people understand that I just want to be left alone? Tonight has been horrible. Not only did I have my heartbroken, but I was thoroughly embarrassed too. In front of the person I admire most, no less. I dread having to face her on Monday morning.

“Can't you just go away and leave me in peace?” I shout towards the door, hoping it will magically grant my wish like a genie. My words come out slurred from the alcohol, but they are clear enough for whoever is outside to know that I don't want any visitors.

"Honey, please open the door. Tony and I are worried about you," I hear Sasha's voice and can't help but smile. She's always been there for me through thick and thin.

Realizing that my two best friends left the party just to check on me brings another round of tears. Tonight has been an emotional rollercoaster; I didn't even know it was possible to cry this much. There should be a limit on how many tears one can produce in a night.

I unwrap myself from the cozy throw and clumsily make my way to the door. I cautiously peer through the peep hole, making sure Daemon is not with them before unlocking and letting my friends inside. It's not that I don't trust them, because I do, but I am aware of Daemon's persistence and his willingness to manipulate and deceive. Using my friends as a way to get to me would be a tactic he wouldn't hesitate to use.

The man has no moral boundaries.

As soon as Sasha and Tony step into my home, they envelop me in a warm hug. We move to the living room, all three of us hugging tightly while I continue to cry uncontrollably. These two are more than just friends; they are like family to me. No matter what challenges or setbacks I face in life, they are always there to lift me up, brush off the dust, and push me back towards the right path.

“How much do you know?” I ask, feeling my cheeks heat with embarrassment.

“I picked up bits and pieces of what happened when I was spying on Daemon and Trey’s conversation.” With a humorless laugh, she adds, “And I am pissed that neither of those assholes ever told me about buying Cash and Simmons. I knew there was another acquisition in their records, but I wasn’t privy to the details.”

Tony’s scowl makes an appearance as he gives Sasha and I both a comforting hug. “Those two brothers screwed you both good with all their secrets. No one deserves that kind of shit in their life,” he says, practically spitting out the words.

I take in their pristine outfits and a pang of guilt hits me in the gut. “I hate that I ruined your nights. I wish you had stayed and enjoyed yourselves. You two look so beautiful.”

“No way, babe,” Tony says, blowing off my concern. “Once we realized what was going down, Sasha and I were out of there. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need us right now.”

And he is right.

The weight of my heartbreak threatens to crush me but knowing that I don't have to bear it alone makes everything inside me lighter. Sasha and Tony are my rock, my support system, always there to pick me up when I fall. Their love and unwavering support gives me the strength to endure the heartache and come out stronger on the other side.

Sasha looks around my living room, taking in the discarded glass of wine, sad music playing on the speaker, low lighting, and piles of crumbled up tissues with sad smile. “Honey, there has to be a better way to deal with this shitstorm. This is just downright depressing.”

“I know, but I’m not ready to face the world just yet,” I admit with a heavy sigh.” Everything inside me is still too raw and fresh. Give me a day or two to wallow and process. Then I’ll be ready to get back to my old self.”

“You get one day,” Tony states, his tone set in stone. “Wallowing is okay in small doses, but anything more can turn into something ugly, and we won’t allow that to happen.”

Sasha nods in agreement with Tony's words, her dark hair falling over her shoulder as she leans in closer to me. A comforting warmth fills me as she pulls me into a side hug, and I let myself sink into her embrace. “That asshat is a dead man walking,” she hisses, her voice laced with anger. “I warned him early on that he only got one shot with you, and he still managed to screw around and fuck things up.”

My fears spill out freely to my two friends, and I can feel the weight of them lifting slightly as I share them. “I'm scared. I gave Daemon my resignation tonight. Through a text no less. I'm jobless,” I admit, my voice barely above a whisper. “I have some savings I can live on, but it won't hold me over very long. I'm going to have to find something else and soon.”

But Tony isn't having any of it. “You aren't going anywhere,” he argues fiercely. “You've worked your ass off to earn the recognition you have under Cash and Simmons. Don't you dare throw that away because of Daemon. If anyone needs to step away from the business, it's him.”

My chest tightens at the thought of all the consequences that could come from leaving my job because of Daemon's betrayal. “If anyone at work finds out about this mess, I'll be the laughingstock of the office,” I say bitterly, already feeling the humiliation weighing down on me. “And then there's the issue of him being my boss. Sleeping with a client is bad enough, but getting cozy with the new CEO will no doubt put me in the same ranks as my gold-digging assistant, Charity.” My hand clenches into a fist at the thought of being associated with someone like her. “I've worked too hard to endure that kind of humiliation.”

“Let’s take one thing at a time,” Sasha says, taking a seat on my couch. “First thing tomorrow I plan to look into the acquisition into Cash and Simmons and see how close it is to closing. From there we can make up a plan for your future.” She picks up an empty bottle of wine and winces. “You clearly are not ready to be making any life altering decision tonight.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” I agree on a yawn. The wine mixed with the whirlwind of events of the day are starting to weigh on me, making me extremely tired. Tony goes to the kitchen and comes back with a glass of water in hand. He offers it to me, and I take it, my fingers gripping around the glass like it’s a life line.

“Thank you,” I tell him before taking a big drink. The cool liquid eases some of my internal panic and the ache from my parched throat. Placing the glass on the table, I give them each a thankful smile.

“How long do you think I have before Daemon comes banging down my door?” I’m kind of surprised that he hasn’t done it yet, but I keep that thought to myself. Wondering about Daemon is probably not something I should be doing after the stunt he pulled.

Trying to erase Daemon from my life and thoughts is going to be a monumental task. I know it's something I need to do, but the thought of completely letting go of someone I loved so deeply makes my heart ache. It was almost too easy to fall for him, but now that our trust has been shattered, I'm torn between holding on and cutting him off. There's so much at stake, and I can't help but wonder if letting go is truly the best option.

"Don't worry," reassures Tony, noticing my troubled expression. "Trey promised to keep him away, so you had time to gather your thoughts and recover from the ordeal. He won't bother you again," he says firmly.

"At least for tonight," adds Sasha with a pained expression. "But given how unhinged he became when he realized you were gone, I wouldn't put it past him to camp out on your doorstep. That man has no sense of boundaries."

I gasp for breath, knowing that her assessment is spot on. Collapsing onto the couch, I grab my wine glass and pour in the remaining contents of the bottle. I know there are healthier ways to cope with my pain rather than turning to alcohol, but right now all I want is to numb myself from the world. It's easier to avoid the thousands of unanswered questions swirling in my mind. But I know they will still be there tomorrow, and once I'm feeling stronger and more clear-headed, I'll face them.

With a sigh, I rest my head against Sasha's shoulder. "I think there might be one more bottle in the kitchen. Would either of you like to join me?"

"It's late and you've already had enough," scolds Tony, exasperated. "You're going to feel terrible tomorrow, sweetheart. Let me get you some water and something for that inevitable headache. We can talk more once I come back."

Blushing profusely, I nodded in agreement. Once Tony goes into big brother mode, he becomes unbearably bossy. It's futile to try and defy him.

With my eyes swollen and red from crying, my nerves on edge, and exhaustion setting in, I must look like a complete mess. Excusing myself for a moment, I make a quick trip to the bathroom. The bright fluorescent lights pierce through my sensitive eyes and I instinctively cover them with my hand.

I splash cold water on my face and reach for a hand towel to wipe off whatever is left of my makeup. As I stare at my reflection in the mirror, more tears well up in my eyes. It's hard to believe that just a few hours ago, I was filled with so much happiness.

Turning off the light, I head back to my bedroom where I can hear the sound of laughter. When I enter, I find Sasha and Tony snuggled up together in my bed, surrounded by snacks and watching the movie Dumb and Dumber. Not wanting to be left out, I climb onto the bed and make room for myself between them. Tony quickly props two pillows behind my back.

"Why are we watching Dumb and Dumber out of all the movies available?" I ask with raised eyebrows.

"Tony picked it," Sasha replies with a mouthful of gummy bears. "He thought we could use a good laugh to end the night."

With a grateful smile, I reach over and plant a kiss on Tony's cheek. "Thank you," I say sincerely. "It may not be the best movie choice, but I appreciate the thought behind it. You always know how to make me feel special."

Tony grins, his eyes sparkling with mischief. "I aim to please," he says playfully. "But let's be honest. Not all men can be as wonderful as me."

Sasha groans and rolls her eyes at Tony's comment. "You give yourself way too much credit," she says teasingly. "Let's not forget about Daisy Sherman at the high school dance. I think she would beg to differ about your 'mad skills'. You up and left her to go fool around with Tiffany Henderson."

I burst out laughing, remembering the infamous incident. "Oh my God, I completely forgot about that," I say between chuckles.

Tony shrugs nonchalantly, but a mischievous glint remains in his eye. "Hey, I was a stupid horny teenager back then," he confesses. "Tiffany Henderson had those D sized tits and she kept waving them in my face like they were candy. Her parents were gone for the night, and I saw an opportunity. Any guy in my shoes would have done the same."

Sasha throws a pillow at him, hitting him square on the head. "You are such a pig," she scolds, but there's a hint of laughter in her voice.

Tony rubs his head where the pillow hit and gives Sasha an innocent look. "It was high school!" He defends himself with a grin. "Besides, I've grown up since then. And I've leaned a lot. For example, who needs more than a handful? Little boobs can be just as much fun as the larger ones."

Sasha shakes her head with mock disapproval while I try to contain my laughter. These two have been friends forever and their banter never fails to entertain me.

We settle in and watch the movie while eating junk food and reminiscing about the stupid things we’ve done when we were younger. Halfway through the flick, my kitten Dimples joins us, her playfulness taking center stage. I laugh as she jumps around the covers, batting at Tony’s legs, and leaving tiny scratches in her wake.

Squished onto my bed, we snuggle up close, and laugh so hard, my sides ache. My friends are the best. Once more, they came to my rescue and know exactly what I need. As the movie comes to an end, we grudgingly begin cleaning up the debris surrounding us. At our age you would think we wouldn’t make such a mess, but no, my bed is sadly covered in an assortment of gummy bears, crushed Doritos, and smooshed multi-colored M&M’s.

The weight of the day's events hung heavily on my shoulders as I walked down the hallway, expecting my friends to head home now that my tears had dried and the immediate danger of Daemon breaching my door had passed. But to my surprise, they followed me to the living room, their faces filled with concern.

"Where are you going, baby girl?" Tony asked, his eyebrows raised in question.

"To turn off the lights and walk you two out," I answered with a yawn, exhaustion seeping into every word.

Shaking his head, Tony took my hand and pulled me back towards the bedroom. And before I could protest, both he and Sasha silently climbed into bed with me, one on each side, their warm bodies curled around me protectively.

"This is nice," I murmured against my pillow, feeling comforted by their presence. "Nobody told me we were having a slumber party."

"It's been too long since we've done this," Sasha said, her words coated in sleepiness as she gripped my hand tightly between our bodies.

Before I could respond, Tony reached around my waist and intertwined his fingers with ours. Looking down at our lump of entwined hands, a sense of peace washed over me.

"Thanks guys, for everything," I whispered, my voice cracking slightly. "I love you more than peanut butter and jelly."

"I love you more than ice cream," Sasha replied with a small smile.

"I can top that," Tony chimed in with a lazy drawl. "I love you more than a banana split covered in three scoops of ice cream and a mountain of M&M's."

We all laughed, sounding more like teenagers instead of grown adults. But in that moment, it felt good to be silly again. It was so much better than wallowing in sadness. And as I lay there surrounded by my two crazy friends, I couldn't imagine getting through life without them. They gave me hope that I could survive whatever tomorrow brought.