Willow pushes herself to the brink and someone has to be there to catch her.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
All in all, the Thanksgiving weekend was rather miserable. A handful of family members from all around came to the vacation home in Oak Bluffs to celebrate the holiday with Papa Arthur and Nana Shirley, but there weren’t many compared to the previous years. At first, Willow was grateful for that because she thought that she wouldn’t have to deal a time-old question dreaded by all bachelors and bachelorettes: How is your love life?
However, she proved herself wrong. She was asked that many times. She also had the pleasure of enduring the looks of disappointment and pity when she revealed to each person who asked that she didn’t have a love life. In addition to that, she also had to endure the side-eye glances as her older sister trotted around with her glitzy brown diamond engagement ring and the poor sucker of a fiancé who gave her that ring.
Willow remembered the overwhelm feel of jealousy that consumed her as she watched her sister and fiancé act like a happily engaged couple. She hated the way Jeffery looked at her sister as if she were the only woman in the world. She also hated the way he touched her sister so tenderly. She knew she shouldn’t have been jealous over her sister, but the whole weekend she couldn’t help but think that Simon could have been her Jeffery. The whole jogging incident left her rather sad and sour. As for the whole incident with Sebastian, she decided not to think too much into it.
Now it was the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and it was everyone’s second day back at work after the holiday weekend. Willow attempted to avoid Simon, but failed miserably as usual. As she moseyed about the office to run errands here and there, they often caught sight of each other and shot each other smiles. His smile was bright and warm. Her smile was less than stellar and dripped with awkwardness.
When it neared lunchtime, her best friend and coworker Darlene appeared at the entrance of her cubicle.
“There’s a weird vibe going on here.”
Willow was in the middle of editing a photo of a recently adopted four-year-old black lab in Photoshop for the ‘I Found a Family’ page on the charity organization’s website when the woman popped up. “What in the world are you talking about now,” Willow said with the roll of her eyes, mentally preparing herself to deal with Darlene’s new office conspiracies.
“Something is up with you,” Darlene frowned.
“Have you ever spend Thanksgiving with my family?”
“If you did then you’d know what is up with me,” Willow replied, her attention never drifting from her task.
Darlene shook her head. “No, I am not talking about that. I am talking about between you and Mister The-Name-We-Will-Not-Speak.”
“Voldemort,” Willow teased and glanced up at her best friend who had a rather unpleased look on her face.
Darlene narrowed her eyes and slipped into Willow’s cubicle. “You know exactly who I am talking about.”
Of course, she knew who Darlene was talking about. She just didn’t have the strength to talk about it. Willow sighed heavily and resumed working.
“Did something happen on your jog with him,” Darlene asked.
Oh, yes. A lot of things happened on her jog with him. She was effectively promoted to being the official friendzoned chubby girl that hot guys go to for womanly advice. Then, of course, another hot guy pressed her against her car and smashed his lips against hers.
She shook her head to rid herself of the second memory of that morning. That situation confused her greatly and for the last few days, she attempted to push it aside and pretend like it didn’t exist.
Willow glanced at her computer’s clock and cursed softly under her breath. She rose from her chair quickly.
Darlene’s eyebrows furrowed. “What’s wrong now?”
“I have lunch with my mom and sister,” Willow said as she slipped on her OSU hoodie and grabbed her purse from one of her desk’s drawers.
“That sounds disastrous,” Darlene said.
“Yeah, it most likely will be,” Willow agreed as she slipped out of the cubicle.
“Don’t think this conversation is over though,” Darlene replied aloud enough for Willow to hear. She smiled weakly at her friend’s words as she made her leave.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Willow replied back.
On her way out the door, Willow passed by the receptionist desk. Cara was in the middle of answering a phone call when she saw Willow and gave her a genuine kind smile and a small wave.
Willow waved back and gave a weak smile of her own.
Yes, this would be disastrous indeed.
Willow felt out of place as she entered the four-star restaurant in the downtown area. For it to be a Tuesday, the restaurant was bustling with patrons. Everyone wore business suits and expensive dresses while she wore a ‘Paws and Protect’ graphic t-shirt she designed and jeans with wedged tan-hued fur boots. The restaurant hostess was a beautiful blonde woman who asked politely if she had a reservation or if her party was already here.
“Was the Carter party arrived yet,” Willow asked. The hostess looked at Willow as if she sprouted three heads before she gave the chubby woman an once-over from head to toe. Willow was rather used to this reaction especially in restaurants and other establishments where her mother and sister frequented.
“You are Mrs. Carter’s younger daughter.”
The only and one, Willow thought. Willow nodded her head and gave a dramatic sigh. “I know it’s quite a surprise. She rarely talks about me and she never lets me out in public because of the curse an evil witch bestowed upon me at birth.”
The hostess gave a trivial laugh before offering to take the OSU hoodie she wore.
“No thank you,” Willow declined. Eventually, the hostess guided her through the restaurant. Though it was rather crowded, everyone talked in such a politely soft volume that you could hear the generic piano music stream through the air.
Willow approached the table where her mother and Farrah sat. The mother and daughter duo sat on the same side of the table looking as if they had just returned from a presidential brunch. Honestly, the possibility wouldn’t have been too far-fetched considering they all lived in Maryland.
“Willow, you’re late,” Farrah frowned. “You’re always late.”
“Well someone keeps planning lunches during the times I don’t have my lunch break and text me the morning of to tell me about it,” Willow retorted. “If you do recall, I have a job.”
“If you are going to be late, the least you can do is wearing something more,” Farrah paused, “appropriate for this type of establishment.”
“I am dressed appropriately because I am fully clothed, but if you prefer that I run around here naked then let me step into the powder room for a moment for a wardrobe change,” Willow said after sitting down on the opposite side of the table.
“Willow,” Sabrina spoke in a warning tone, narrowing her eyes.
Willow frowned, “If I had known this would be a two-against-one WWE fight, I would have brought along Darlene for a fair chance.”
Farrah sighed heavily before sipping her iced water. “There is no need to be so defensive, Willow.”
Willow closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She already felt a headache coming on and an overwhelming wave of regret for even coming to this lunch. “Is there a purpose to this lunch?”
“Yes, to discuss the wedding,” Farrah stated, perking up immediately at the topic. “Mother and I think this restaurant would be a great choice as a caterer to the wedding.”
“Okay,” Willow nodded, scrunching her eyebrows slightly. “If you and Mom have already decided that this place is a great choice then why am I here exactly?”
Farrah gave Sabrina the ‘you tell her’ look before Sabrina looked at her youngest daughter. “We wanted to know the progress of your exercising.”
Willow cocked her head to the side and looked at her mother in confusion. “It’s going fine. Why?”
“Willow, the wedding is in April and today is already the first of December. From the looks of it, you have barely lost any weight,” Farrah added.
“I’ve lost almost ten pounds and I’ve been jogging for two months. Let’s not forget, I was also attacked by a madman in the parking lot for that.”
Farrah sighed, “That was a very unfortunate incident but...”
Sabrina winched at Farrah’s statement. At least, their mother knew Farrah’s response wasn’t respectful.
“Unfortunate incident,” Willow repeated. “I could have been raped. I could have died if Seba … if a man hadn’t rescued me in time and even after that ‘unfortunate incident’, I still jog.”
“Maybe you should try something new. I could introduce you to my personal trainer. She does absolute wonders. She can slim you down in a few weeks’ time and then we can go searching for your maid of honor dress before it’s too late.”
Finally, their waiter arrived and greeted them warmly. He passed each of them a menu and when he reached Willow, she declined by holding up her hand. “No thank you,” she said as she rose up from her seat.
Sabrina frowned, straightening herself up in her seat. “Willow Angelique, where are you going?”
“Maybe if I skip out on this lunch, I’ll slim down,” she said, her voice shaky with emotion.
She didn’t eat lunch, dinner, or breakfast. It had been exactly a week since that very eventful incidents at the park. She was lightheaded and her stomach clenched painfully in hunger, but she didn’t care. She had to lose this weight. If she lost it, then maybe her mother and sister would look at her differently. If she lost it, maybe Simon would look at her differently too.
Willow came early to the park before her normal time and started jogging without Sebastian again. It was easier said than done to think about that damn kiss. It haunted her sometimes when her brain had spare space for a heated memory to sneak in.
She didn’t want to think about him though. Not right now.
She chalked it up to be a fluke, a glitch in his system.
He didn’t want a girl like her. Plus, he barely had said more than a few words with her and they had known each other for quite a few weeks.
They had shared this bizarre experience. She could have died and he saved her.
That was it.
She jogged. She jogged harder than she had ever thought she could. She pushed herself to the brink even as her whole body ached in protest. All she could think about was that damned lunch meeting from yesterday or her miserable morning walk with Simon.
Everything could be different if she pushed herself a little harder.
Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. A strong wave of lightheadedness that made her knees wobble and her body weak. She fell forward, gaping like a fish out of water. The concrete sidewalk was ice cold against her cheek as she slipped into a dreamless sleep.
Willow was curled into a tight ball under the covers when she awoke from a dreamless slumber. At first, she thought she was home in her own bed, but then she realized that she wasn’t. The covers and pillows were a crisp white with a subtle aroma of a familiar cologne. She pulled back the covers and glanced around to inspect the foreign surroundings.
The room had glossy gray concrete walls and floors, high ceilings, a glass roof slanted into glass walls braced by the rusted black metal that presented the city landscape.
She climbed out of the bed and shivered as her bare feet touched the cold concrete floor. She walked slowly across the span of the spacious room and towards what appeared to be a black metal staircase on the other side of the room.
She braced herself on the railing as she descended down the staircase through a hole carved in the concrete floor. The staircase was long and winding and when she reached the bottom, she realized that she was in a warehouse that had been converted into someone’s modern home.
There were book-filled bookcases that covered most of the walls. Modern pieces of furniture littered throughout the drafty space. There was a sleek gray kitchen to the north of her and a rusted warehouse door to the west of her. The warehouse door was half-slid. She walked over to it—taking her time—and peeked her head inside.
She saw the muscular back of a man doing chin-ups on a metal bar that expanded from wall to wall. She watched in awe as his sweaty muscles brunched and moved under his flesh as he did them.
Willow finally cleared her throat, making her presence known.
The man completed his remaining chin-up and hung there for a moment before he dropped down onto the floor. He turned around to face her.
Green eyes. Dark beard. Square jaw. Lots of scars.
Willow stood there in complete disbelief as she watched Sebastian reach up to grab a towel that was dangling on the long metal bar. He wiped the sweat off of him with the towel, but he still had a glisten to his flesh. He observed her with his green eyes the whole time he did so.
“How did I get here,” she asked.
“I brought you here in your car,” he said as he continued to dry himself off.
Immediately, her hand went to her chest. If he brought her here in her car then that meant he had to have reached into her sports bra to retrieve her car key.
Note to self: Never put your car key in your bra EVER AGAIN, Willow screamed in her brain.
Sebastian’s lips quirked upward into a slight smile at her reaction. “I found you passed out on the sidewalk. The smartest option would have been to bring you here where I could keep an eye on you.”
“What if I had a health condition where I needed medical attention,” Willow frowned.
“You didn’t need medical attention because your ‘condition’ was quite obvious,” Sebastian stated.
Willow crossed arms over her chest and cocked her head to the side. “And what is that?”
“Hunger,” he said in a quite judge-y tone. “Your stomach was grumbling and growling the whole time. You starved yourself then decided to push yourself to the brink by jogging.”
“Don’t judge me,” Willow said with a tint of anger in her voice.
She was so tired of everyone doing that.
Sebastian hung the towel back onto the metal bar and walked towards her. Out of instinct, she backed herself through the warehouse slide door and back into the main section of the warehouse, wanting to put a good distance between him and her.
“I would never do such a thing. You do enough of that for the both of us.”
Willow’s mouth dropped at his words. “Excuse me?”
“You worry about others judging you when you are your own worst culprit,” Sebastian elaborated as if she needed more explanation but she didn’t.
He walked over to the open kitchen.
“So what are you a therapist now?”
“No, but I’ve saved you twice already. I suppose that is enough to show that I have some concern in your well-being.”
Willow followed after him with brisk steps. “What the hell do you want from then, Sebastian? A reward? Money? A gift card to Macy’s?”
Her angry voice carried across the warehouse. “I need to know what you want from me, so that I can repay you,” she said, the tone of her voice converting from angry to almost pleading as she finally reached him. She grabbed his arm.
He stopped in his tracks and looked at her with a glint of something twinkling in his eye.
She casted her eyes downward, trying to collect her thoughts. “That morning I was with my co-worker Simon, you kissed me and told me to go. Why did you do that?”
“I wanted you to remember,” Sebastian said.
Willow peered back up at him. “I’m sorry?”
“I said I wanted you to remember.”
She cocked her head to the side and gazed at him in confusion. “You wanted me to remember what?”
“That I’m a man,” he replied.
She asked softly, “Why do I need to remember that?”
“Because I want you to know the difference between a man and a boy.”
Willow released his arm carefully. “Why do I need to know that?”
“Because I want you to know the difference between how I am going to make you feel versus how he made you feel when he drove off and left you in that parking lot.”
Her breath hitched in her throat and a burn crawled into her veins. She shook her head slowly and took three steps away from him. This couldn’t possibly be happening.
“You can’t say things like that.”
“Does it make you uncomfortable when I do?”
Willow nodded her head slowly. “Yes, it does.”
That was a lie and they both knew it.
Sebastian chuckled, “Does it really make you feel uncomfortable, Willow?’
She closed her eyes and shuddered at the way her name rolled off of his tongue. She nodded her head once more. “Yes,” she lied in a whisper. “It does.”
Willow nearly leaped out of her skin when she felt heavy hands on her arms. She opened her eyes and her heart quickened in pace as she realized that he had crept up on her, towering over her like a Greek god would a mortal.
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“I’m the terrible liar? It takes one to know one. Guys like you don’t go after girls like me unless you’re really fucking desperate or you enjoy toying with pathetic fat chick’s emotions for shits and giggles,” Willow hissed as she yanked herself out of his grasp.
This was too cruel.
“I am going after you.”
Willow snorted in an unladylike manner and swirled on her heels so that her back was facing him. “Sure, buddy.”
Before she could even walk away, strong hands grabbed a hold of her arms and swirled her back around to face him—to prevent her from retreating. Normal Willow would have pressed the palms of her hands against his chest and pushed him away. She would have called him an asshole and stormed off. This Willow should have pushed him away, but it was the hardened look of determination in his green eyes that rooted her to the ground.
This man was actually serious.
She blinked in shock at the realization. Now, she was genuinely uncomfortable. Not a creeped-out type of uncomfortable that made you beeline towards a nearby police station to file for a restraining order. It was the kind of uncomfortableness that made your tongue feel thick in your mouth and your skin feel tight.
“No,” she said softly, shaking her head. “This can’t happen.”
The amount of strength it took to force those words out of her mouth made her feel lightheaded. She gave him an out and prayed within the depths of her mind that he’d take it—that he’d kick her out of his house.
“And why can’t it happen, Willow?”
“Because we’re complete opposites. You’re white. I’m black. You’re tall and buff. I’m short and fat. This just wouldn’t work,” Willow said, frustration dripping in her voice.
“You don’t like white guys,” he questioned with a twinge of humor.
Willow pursed her lips. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Then enlighten me, so I can prove you wrong,” he said.
“I’m fat and ugly. That’s a plain fact,” she replied.
Though she believed it to be a plain fact, she announced it as if it was a secret that she had kept inside of her for nearly twenty-five years. Twenty-five years of insecurities and self-doubt churned inside of her and made her hungry stomach twist and throb in pain.
Before she could even react, Sebastian grasped her chin tightly and tilted her head back so that she was forced to look him in the eyes. “Don’t you ever judge yourself or put yourself down in front of me again. Do you understand?”
She widened her eyes at his actions and words. The seriousness that dripped in his voice frightened her for a moment, but soon that fright melted into stubborn dose of anger. “You’re not my father. You can’t tell me what to do.”
Words were her only weapon when she felt as if she were being backed into a corner with no means of escape. She hoped she cut him deep, but she doubted it. In fact, he looked like he enjoyed the feistiness that burned from her.
“I might not be your father, but I’d love to put you across my knee and give you a sound smack on the ass.”
She narrowed her eyes and jabbed an index finger into his chest. “I double dog dare you to try that and see what hap—ahh!”
He scooped her up like she was nothing and carried her across the first floor warehouse space until he reached the black metal staircase. She struggled against him as he climbed the stairs, flailing her arms and legs. She bucked within his hold as if she were an angry bull in a rodeo ring. He seemed unaffected by her attempt of escape, which pissed her off even more.
When he reached the top of the stairs and ascended into his bedroom, he walked until he stopped at the foot of her bed and dropped her onto it. “Ooof,” she sounded as she plopped onto the soft bed held up by a modern bed frame.
She gave him a hateful look.
“I’ll cook breakfast. You stay up here or I’ll accept your double dog dare.”
“I think you’re all bark and no bite,” she said matter-of-factly.
He placed one knee onto the bed and grabbed her left ankle, dragging her closer to the edge. His tongue licked the knot of flesh and bone on the side of her ankle before he traveled upwards towards her tattoo of a willow tree. Goosebumps scattered across her flesh and she closed her eyes, moaning a little before she could stop herself.
However, she let out a gasp as he bit down gently onto the patch of flesh that was decorated with the tattoo.
“Am I all bark now,” he asked as he released her ankle.
Willow pursed her lips together and gulped. She shook her head.
Okay, she was wrong. He was right.
He wasn’t all bark.
Sebastian was all bite and business … and though she didn’t want to admit it, she was starting to love it.
And another one! :)