Aftershock / Page 5

Page 5

Author: Sylvia Day

He wasn’t wrong, damn it all.

“It works both ways,” I pointed out quietly. “I’m going to know what he’s into, too.”

I hadn’t really thought of my relationship with Jax that way before, as a situation that required tiptoeing around issues. Hadn’t wanted to. I wanted things with us to be real and straight and beautiful. But everyone I worked with wasn’t in sync with that hope, including Jax. Of course, Jax expected the hits to come from the outside, but no matter what, it seemed as though I needed to be a little more realistic about what being with Jax was going to entail.

You’re swimming with sharks....

Chad assessed me. “No offense, Gianna. But Rutledge might be out of your league.”

“Oh, he is for sure. That doesn’t mean I can’t handle him. That said—” I took a deep breath “—if you want someone else to spearhead your projects with Savor, I’d understand.”

His lips pursed. “I hate to say it, but that might be best.”

* * *

I’d planned on heading straight into work after landing at LaGuardia, but decided to stop at home first instead. My conversation with Chad had rattled me and I really felt as though I needed some time to pull myself together before going in to face Lei.

I slid open the large metal front door to the loft and found two of my brothers on the couch, playing a video game.

“Catch that one, dude,” Angelo snapped, jerking his controller to the right. “Come on! Fucker’s about to take me out.”

“Hang on.” Vincent surged to his feet, frantically hitting buttons. “I’ve got six of them on me.”

I paused on the threshold, feeling so grateful to be home. “Behind you!” I shouted to Angelo as a zombie lumbered up to his avatar.

Both guys jumped and two pairs of dark eyes swung toward me.

“You scared the shit out of me!” Vincent complained, hitting Pause on his split screen.

“Hey,” Angelo greeted me, returning his attention to his game. “How was Hotlanta?”

“Hot,” I said wryly, turning to pull the door closed behind me. The apartment smelled like bacon, and I could see the remnants of breakfast on the counter and sink. The guys were too used to having dishwashers take care of things at Rossi’s.

“You got the day off?” Vincent asked, strolling over. Dressed in shorts and nothing else, he reminded me why my high school friends had been so eager to come over to my house all the time.

“Nah. I gotta show up,” I said. “Just wanted to drop off my stuff.”

“Get your ass back over here,” Angelo muttered. “I’m getting slaughtered by these freaks.”

Vincent rolled his eyes. “Damn. I was hoping you’d take over the game, Gianna. You and Nico are the ones who like this shit.”

“Not right now. Hey, before I forget, thanks for putting me in touch with Deanna.”

“Sure.” He grinned. “Thanks for doing my laundry.”

I deliberately bumped his shoulder as I passed him on the way to my room. Our apartment was mostly one large massive space, but we’d put up some walls to block off bedrooms for a semblance of privacy. They were more like giant cubicles than actual rooms, but it worked for us while we were renovating the place.

It didn’t escape me that I was thinking about leaving a place where I was totally safe and secure to live with a lover who I hadn’t entirely trusted just forty-eight hours before.

I sank onto the edge of my bed and gripped my knees with damp palms. I was giving up a lot to be with Jax, and I couldn’t think of anything he was really risking to be with me in return.

My smartphone started ringing. Without looking, I dug into my purse and pulled it out. Seeing Jax’s name on the screen wasn’t a surprise. “Hello.”

“Hey, babe.” His voice was deep and low, intimate. “Glad you’re back.”

“Amazing how much everything can change over just a couple of days.”

“What’s wrong?”

It was wryly amusing that he knew me so well. Maybe Chad was right to be worried about me being an open book. “What isn’t wrong?

His tone turned brisk. “Be more specific.”

“Chad Williams has some understandable concerns about me, his project leader, sleeping with the enemy. Shacking up with you seems likely to be a deal breaker.”

“Who’s shacking up?” Angelo asked, scowling at me from my bedroom doorway. He was the shortest of my three brothers at an even six feet tall and he had the longest hair, the dark waves framing his handsome face and brushing his shoulders. A lot of hearts had broken when he’d married Denise.

“Fuck,” I muttered, wishing I could just hit a reset button and start the day over. “Get out!”

“I’m not in,” my brother argued. “You left the door open.”

“Well, close it!”

“Are you back together with that asshole?!”

I pushed to my feet. “Did I ask you?”

“Gia!” Jax barked through the phone.

“Hold on,” I told him, glaring at my brother. “I’m on the phone, Angelo. Close the door and mind your own business!”

“Is that Jax you’re talking to?” He barged into my room as if he had the right. “Let me talk to him.”

“Excuse me?”

“Gia! Damn it, talk to me,” Jax snapped.

“I’m a little busy right now,” I snapped back. “I’ll call you later.”

“Don’t you—”

I cut Jax off by hanging up, tossing my smartphone on the bed as Angelo made a grab for it. “Have you lost your mind?” I yelled at him.

“Rutledge certainly has if he thinks you’re moving in with him!”

Vincent’s interruption drew both of our attentions to the doorway. “What’s going on?”

“Get him out of here!” I told him, waving my hand at Angelo.

“Rutledge wants Gianna to move in with him,” Angelo said, facing Vincent and crossing his arms.

Vincent’s brows rose. “You got a ring?”

I threw up my hands. “I don’t believe this! It’s the twenty-first century. Did you know that?”

“The rules haven’t changed,” he said, crossing his arms, too. “He wants the milk, he’s got to buy the cow.”

My gaze narrowed. “Did you just call me a cow? And for your information, I’m not a virgin! I’ve had sex. More than once!”

Both Vincent and Angelo plugged their ears. Angelo hummed loudly.

“You’re both ridiculous!” I scolded them. “I’m an adult. I can do what I want.”

Vincent dropped his hands. “And you want to live with that guy? Really?”

“Maybe. It’s my decision.”

Angelo crossed his arms again. “You’ll break Dad’s heart.”

“Oh, my God.” I rubbed my temples, fighting a growing headache. “You’re going to pull a guilt trip on me now? For what it’s worth, Jax wanted to sit down with you all and talk this out.”

“So what?” Vincent scoffed. “We’re supposed to give him props?”

“I do,” Angelo said unexpectedly. “Takes balls to face a girl’s brothers and family and say you want to live with her.”

Vincent shook his head, his jaw hard. “If he wants you around that bad, he should put a ring on it.”

“Before she knows what she’s getting into?”

We all turned to find Jax standing in my bedroom doorway. He was dressed for work, looking dashing in a slate-gray suit, white shirt, and black tie. I realized he must’ve been on his way when he called me. Despite everything, I got a little thrill from that.

“The security in this place is nonexistent,” he pointed out tightly. “Jesus. I just walked right in!”

Vincent raised his fists. “I’ve got security for you, right here.”

I snatched up my phone and my purse, and headed out. If everything was going to implode at home as well as work, I figured I might as well go to work.

“Gia.” Jax caught my upper arm as I moved to pass him. “I’ve got this. Don’t stress.”

“Easy for you to say,” I told him, my chin lifting. “You don’t have anything on the line.”

His jaw tightened. “I love you. I’ve got everything on the line.”


LEI WAS ON the phone when I got to work, pacing in her office while talking into a headset. She waved in greeting and offered a quick smile, which only made me feel worse about my news.

Because she was busy, I went to my desk and started going through my voice mail, taking down messages for Lei and making notes to return calls that had come in for me. Usually being at work soothed me, but I was too edgy. My feet tapped restlessly beneath the table.


I looked toward Lei’s office and found her leaning against the doorjamb. She was dressed in crimson pants and a white silk shell, her black hair pulled back in a simple ponytail. She looked younger than her years, and delicate, but her dark eyes gave her away—Lei could be as delicate as a saber-toothed tiger.

“How’s Chad?” she asked.

Standing, I put my hands on the desk to anchor myself. “He’s very happy with the Mondego, and the plans, and the progress. He’s happy with the choices of David and Inez, too. But...he’s not so happy with me.”

“Oh?” Her eyes widened. “What happened?”

“Jackson Rutledge. More precisely, the fact that Jax has asked me to move in with him.”

“I see.” She straightened. “Why don’t we talk in my office?”

I followed her, feeling a bit like I was being called into the teacher’s office for a lecture.

Beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows of Lei’s expansive office, Manhattan was laid out for viewing pleasure and awe. Glittering spires with architecture designed to impress overshadowed buildings that were centuries old. Wooden water towers on matchstick stilts were everywhere, features of the cityscape as distinctive and beloved as any other landmark. Blue rooftop pools and green terrace gardens marked the apartments of the wealthy. Giant cranes reminded you that the city, already teeming with life, was still growing.

The metal-and-glass jungle was a gourmand’s paradise. New York was known for its fantastic food and its great chefs, and Lei was a driving force in the world I loved so much. It was a hard blow, feeling as though I was disappointing her.

“A week ago,” she began, “you hadn’t heard from the man in two years.”

“Lei, I’ll be honest. I’ve heard enough from everyone—including myself. I’ve never felt more pressure to stay away from something in my life. If only people were so helpful when I’m on a diet!”

She leaned against the front of her desk, her hands gripping the edge. She didn’t crack a smile at my poor attempt at humor. “Well, I moved in with Ian over time. It wasn’t planned. I just spent more and more nights with him until it seemed ridiculous to keep paying rent on my own place.”

Lei paused as if she was thinking of how best to say something I might not want to hear. Then she came right out with it. “Just be smarter about it than I was. Have some sort of legal agreement between you, so you’re not fighting over petty crap while your heart is breaking.”

My hands clenched. “You’re so sure it’s going to end badly.”

“I shouldn’t have to point out to you that it took ten years for Ian to backstab me. It took Jackson less than a week to pull a similar move on you. Come on, Gianna. You’re not naïve.”

“I learn from my mistakes,” I said, wishing my voice didn’t sound so defensive.

Prev Next