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✍️✍️✍️✍️ The Kiss 馃拫馃拫馃拫馃拫 18+ Reading 228|| 229 || 230 || 231|| 232 || Final Episode✍️✍️✍️✍️

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 23✓
[228] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|..

〰️❤️〰️

I turned to see Novan rubbing his chin with a small smile as he checks me out.
I straightened up. Blushing, I run my hand over my wet her. I brought it to my shoulders and plaited it in three.

"Let's go," Novan said behind me and I made way for him to lead but he won't move.

"Novan."

"Lead the way, Mariana. I didn't know you'll look so incredibly hot in just a damn short of mine. Just look. Wow. I can't get my eyes away."

"Oh, God." I covered my face, turned, and began to walk backward out of the room.

He laughed, throwing his towel over his shoulders. When we got to the living room, he turned to the kitchen for a bottle of water.

I used that opportunity to run back inside to wear a slipper then

"Since you're with me the entire time am going to watch anyway." He chuckled and opened the door to go out.

When we reached the corridor, he stopped and the man cleaning the place stopped mopping and raised his gaze to him then smirked.

"Holla Kiddo." He grinned to reveal his stale teeth. He's wearing oversized clothes which aren't really clean with walenting boots and a hat over his head. On his hands are hand gloves.

"I told you to stop calling me that, George. I clocked twenty-three."

"Congratulations but you'll always be my kiddo."

Surprisingly I catch Novan smile. "How are you?"

"I'm fine. I didn't see you the whole of yesterday."

"Went out with my sister but before going, I looked for you. Where did you go?"

"Nowhere." He scratched his neck. Something Novan will always do out of nervousness but I don't know for the man. "I like your friend."

"Fuck off." Novan holds my hand.

"Easy man. She's pretty."

"I know so?"

"Since my wife left me, give her to me."

"That will bring an end to you and I.."

"See, he's jealous." George mocked.

"She's my wife okay."

"Whoa! You didn't tell me you're married." Now George sounds serious.

"Well, I am."

"Wow. Hello princess."

"Hi." I'm still waiting to leave here so Novan will tell me who the heck he is.

"Running late. Wait for me at my door when you're done and don't fucking go near my kitchen by yourself."

"I won't Sir."

Novan laughed as he walked me out. "Who's he?"

"He cleans this place and he started getting friendly with me and I thought he's cool."

"He looks homeless. Is he?"

"Maybe. He sleeps just anywhere around this apartment."

"So what do you do?"

"I'm a cook and I have a lot of food in abundance so what I do is make sure he doesn't suffer from hunger at least while he's still alive."

"Is he alright?"

"I don't think he'll be for a long time."

"Sick," I mutter.

"I couldn't take care of my dad when he was sick. There are similar men around suffering and just need care before dying. I thought I could do this."

I stepped closer while we walk and put my hand around his waist and my head against his shoulder while we walk. I didn't ask more.

Novan is trying to make up for what he failed to do. His father needed him then but he was an angry boy who didn't see it but now this man here has learned his lesson.

We walked down the cold street under the cloudy sky which was yet to clear for the sun to set.

Down the street, we passed a coffee shop, and beside it is the gym building but it has been locked. Novan brought a key out and opened it.

"What? You own it?"

"No. I bought this time. Nobody joins me from this time until two hours later and since the owner doesn't arrive early, I got a key."

"You're a regular customer then."

He didn't say anything but chuckle.

When we entered he put on gloves then began to warm up. I sat on a couch and watched him while looking around the huge place filled with modern machines for bodybuilding and keeping fit.

"So when would you stop? You seem to have everything already." I admired his body all over again.

He just smiled.

"Oh answer me."

"I don't come on a regular."

"How many times?"

"Twice or thrice a week and I mainly punch."

"You don't lift those heavy things?" I waved my fingers at them.

"Not all the time. But since you're here why not make use of the treadmill at least or do some squatting?"

"No please." I laughed.

"Then go get us some coffee."

"Alright."

By the time I came, Novan is busy punching the big bag in front of him. I sat and just watched.

"Is this some therapy?" I asked when he isn't stopping.

He didn't answer until he was done. "Yeah. I let some of my anger out this way. Instead of picking a fight to beat people or make holes in walls, I do this."

"Oh okay." I studied the way his wet hair has laid flat on his head and the sweat trekking from it, showing on his neck then disappearing into his chest. Already his shirt is clang on him to show his muscles.

Before I knew it, I'm on my feet walking to him.

"I'm sweating, don't come the fuck near."

"You look good." I blurt.

"Oh please." He picked his water bottle and the towel to wipe the sweat off.

"Don't. Please." I begged and walked back to sit which made him drop the towel and went back to another thing.

"So what are your plans?" He asked on our way back.

"When I go back am going to look for a job."

"What kind of job?"

"Any job."

"And what of school?"

"I don't know. I have so many resits that it scares me. I just feel like getting admission in another school."

"You're going to start from scratch then."

"I'm not caring about that now."

"Hmm. So when are you leaving or you won't? I will be happy if you stay."

"I don't like traveling across the country all the time but I also don't like it here. You also didn't."

"Yeah but I am getting used to it."

"Come back to Australia Novan."

"No, I won't." He refused flatly.

"So you want America should be a permanent place for us to stay?"

"Yes. I won't move into any other country."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"And I also don't like it here but you can come back to Australia for my sake."

"You also can come to America for my sake."

This should be some suck joke.

I paused my steps. " I thought you're willing to do anything for me."

"Don't get me wrong. Not anything. I'm not a fool."

I opened my mouth and closed it back. He thinks he'll be a fool if he does what I want. How can he think that way?

"I thought we're past this stage." I resumed walking.

"Not when you're telling me what to do. I live here and I'm your husband. You're supposed to live with me and not the other way round. Australia is a past I am trying to forget. I'm never getting back there again."

"Just space you asked and it has become your permanent place?"

"Yeah."

"Then you can stay. I have nothing here in America also."

"What the fuck do you mean?" It's his turn to pause walking.

" Just like you have nothing in Australia."

"This is crazy but I am never coming back to live there."

"Okay." I tried to walk ahead of him but he beat me.

I walked to Nervisa's room when we arrived but she was still sleeping so I went back to his room and picked my bag. I called CJ then got out of his clothes into the clothes I came with.

"When I came out Novan is in the sitting room and his eyes moved straight on me.

"Where are you going?"

"Leaving."

"What? For what?" He got up.

"I'm tired of us traveling across the continent all the time to see each other. Can't you see how far we're away and you want me to move here instead while I have all my family, everything of mine in Australia? How can I just leave everything behind?"

"You can't do that for me?"

"Think it through. You have nothing to lose here. You're just alone whereas everything of mine is in Australia. I can't just live it behind?"

"You're setting me as a damn option!"

"Same thing you're also doing." I fire back.

"No. I also have my work here. And I love this work as fuck."

"You can get another in Australia. You worked there before."

"No. I love it here."

I sighed and walked to the door when I heard a horn.

"When you decide, you know where to find me."

"This is not fair. A woman follows her husband wherever he goes." He grumbled.

"I can't leave my family."

"But you can leave me. Who do you love most? You keep doing these senseless things all the damn fucking time and I keep being your sweet lovely puppy who runs after you. So then what now? You'll leave and I will come and find you?"

"I'm not asking you to."

"But at the end of the day, we all know one of us is crossing the continent. What's the use?"

"I have to go back to my family. You can't trap me here."

"Trap you?" He mocked. "You knew you had a family when you had to run all the way to me for comfort? What is the use of staying with them if they can't make you happy?"

Now he'll use my own words and actions against me.

"I can see how perfectly you're making me happy here Novan." He's throwing trash at me for the first time in a long time and it hurts. I even forgot he can be this way.

"Of course I am trying but you're the type who always wants more of everything. I found life here whereas yours is depleted over there but you still want to go. Our mentality is completely different can't you see?"

"That is not it. What happened to you'll do anything for me." I repeat his vows and what I believed.

"I am doing it? But you won't stop being the spoilt brat you are. You want me to give up all this that I have worked for just to come start from scratch with you. I have to go forward if you're stagnant..."

"Novan!"

"What? Trust me. You really haven't stopped being so annoying. When I thought all this is over. That we won't visit this place again but look..look where we are. Looks like we'll never get past this." He got up and paced around.

Who knew we would be doing this again.

I didn't say he should agree immediately. I just want him to tell me that I should give him some time to think about it.

But the truth is that he doesn't want to leave here and I also don't want to come live here. I want to be close to all the people that love me and not only one.

"Seems you enjoy being alone." I smiled sadly at him.

"As you can see. I've always been. I'm not the type who latches himself on people?"

His tongue is still venomous. He hasn't actually changed. He's only hiding that part of him but character is not something to hide for long. It's bound to surface one day.

I chose not to answer and walked out. CJ is already waiting by the road in his car so I walked to it.

"That's so fast. I thought you'll be spending a week."

"I also thought that way." I looked behind to see if he's coming after me but there's no sight of him.

Since none of us is willing to compromise, I guess this is how it ends with us.

As the car takes off, it was his new friend I saw who waved at me and I returned the gesture. I will focus on his good and this is another victory for me.

Maybe he has actually built something here that he can't leave behind. I didn't come to stay for long anyway. I came to see him even if it's just for a day because I need to go back and to try and put my life back to normal.

I can just come and stay here with him?

He even made a mockery out of my coming here. Why must he be this way when we argue? He just spits anything out whether it's going to hurt or not.

That is just Novan being Novan.

***

SIX MONTHS

"Is this working?"

"What?" I turned to see Betsy standing at my door in a big hoodie which I am sure isn't hers and her hair in a messy bun. All of a sudden, Betsy whom I thought will never add up weight is gaining it.

"You haven't seen or talked to him in the past six months but here you are packing up to travel to Germany to see him in a competition."

"You know I've been really busy these days but we talk once in a while and he actually talked to me about this competition of his though he didn't invite me. I can take a week to support him."

"Is it only to support him?"

"Yeah. You know no matter what, I want to stand with him."

"You miss him."

"No." I blinked my tears away and focused on packing. I'm scared Novan and I will never be. That ego is still working among us. Nobody wants to give up for the other but I think mine is more understandable. I have so much here in Australia than in America though it was there I was born.

"Since I've known you two, it has been this way. I don't know how you do it but you always manage to get back so I hope for the same this time too."

I talked to him before Morgan's graduation and I waited that he'll come but he didn't show up. Sometimes I think I look pathetic trying to always hear from him so I do it through his mom but then he doesn't make those efforts. I don't see it.

I like that he's progressing and even if we're not together, I will always be happy for him. Lately, I've seen him partake in some of America's best cooking shows and it's such a delight to watch him on the big screen. I watch all of it and anytime he raised his gaze to look in the camera, I always feel he knows that I am watching with how his eyes meet mine directly.

I talk to Nervisa too but she doesn't say much and letting her know that I have issues with her brother is the least I will ever do.

"Don't go and stay there and miss my graduation, Mariana."

"I will never do that to you." I simply say but I meant it.

"I trust you."

I got up and half hugged her before taking my luggage with me.

"Take care and greet that big head for me."

"I will." I smile.

"Have you taken any books along to distract you? It's a 20 hours journey."

"I did."

"Which collections?"

"I'm rereading the twilight series and Grey's Trilogy."

"Cool."

The ride to the airport and the journey all the way to another continent tensed me up and made me nervous. What if he actually didn't want me to come? He's been doing pretty well lately. I hope I won't go and mess things up for him.

The books were able to take my mind off but since I am a fast reader, I finished before the journey came to an end. I ended up looking at his pictures till the plane landed and I lodged at a hotel.

It's the final competition tomorrow and the result will be declared. I will stay in a corner and watch then leave when it's over.

Taking a cab to Erfurt, where it was being held, I only made it to see the award ceremony. The place is crowded and I had to push through to find a seat.

They've already begun to mention winners of the categories and I had to ask a man sitting beside me if Novan's name has been mentioned but surprisingly he only shook his head.

"I don't think anyone is competing with that name."

"Are you sure?"

He nodded and I lost hope. After waiting for an hour and I haven't heard Novan's name and the list seem to be coming to an end, I got up to leave. I can't believe my effort has been a waste.

"And for the winner of the individual category we have twenty participants;" the mc started mentioning names. "And James McGuire but it goes to Everett Alec Anderson from America who's also a winner of three cooking television shows and a grand winner of Bocuse."

I returned to sit back and buried my face in my palms. Tears poured out as I couldn't believe what I just heard. I lift my head to verify and there he walked to the stage looking smart in a button-up black shirt and tailored pants. and looking around with sharp piercing eyes as if looking for someone but I know. He's not close to where I sat but I can see how much he has grown into a man than the last time I saw him. He looked more mature and his hair is just longer and he has left his beard but it's in shape. He looks really good. Really good.

But that is not the case. It's the name they mentioned.

Even though I know we are not really good after what happened, I know he's looking for me as his eyes continue to search even when the award was being presented.

Getting down from the stage, I also got out of my seat to not be a coward and meet him.

Getting close to him was impossible because of the celebrity that he has turned to. Everyone is just around him and finally, I lost sight of him.

Tired and sad, I found a spot away from the humans and leaned on a tree, kicking at the stones under it.

"Looking for me?"

My pulse quickened and I felt warm, looking beside me then to my back, there he was.

He looks more handsome at the short distance between us. I left the tree spot and shifted my weight from one foot to the other. I can't believe we're close again and the shock of it is not leaving for me to say anything to him.

"Hi." He said again and took a step near.

I awkwardly took one back and he stopped and furrowed his brows at me.

"You're no longer Donovan," I whispered and wondered if he heard but when he took another step near, I knew he did.

It seems anytime we meet he has something positively new to throw at me whereas me, I got nothing.

"Yes. I was never Donovan. That was self-acclaimed."

"Congratulations." I smiled. He won yet another international biggest exhibition of culinary art in the world and I am genuinely proud. What more, he finally accepted his biological name.

"Thanks for coming."

"I will always come."

He nodded and I saw him gulp. While looking at me thoroughly. "You're looking more beautiful."

I blushed and looked down at my feet.

"You don't look bad yourself. You look good."

"With my beard?"

"I like it. It's nice and your long hair." I smiled again.

"But you don't love it like you do my short and smooth face right?"

"Yes," I admitted.

He nodded and moved his hands awkwardly beside him then finally eating up the gap between us. He tried to reach for me when we heard a familiar excited voice.

We turned and saw Tricia coming with her big stomach but she looked lovely.

"Son." She opened her arms and Novan walked shyly to hug her gently.

"I told you not to come. You can't carry this stomach of yours anywhere you want." He chided.

"It's just a two hours journey."

"You had to sit on a plane. I wonder who allowed you to take a flight or.."

"Keep quiet or I fight you."

"I will like to see you walk past that stomach of yours first." Novan put his hands on his waist challengingly.

"You naughty rascal." She holds his ears and he groaned while laughing.

I smiled at the sight of mother and son.

"Fuck. Let me go. That hurts."

"Never."

"Please." He made fake crying sounds and Tricia finally let go.

"But I am proud of you. You just keep winning and you ditched that name for the one we gave you. That's a whole lot."

"My father deserves that at least. Since I don't hold anything against either of you, I don't know why I should keep the name I chose purposely to annoy you with."

I want to reach over and hug him but I controlled myself.

"Looks like Tricia dawgged me." I faked rueful.

"No no. Never. This boy is trying to buy all my attention on credit. It's not working." She began to walk to me and I met her. Her tummy served as a barrier so I couldn't hug like I used to.

"I missed you," I whispered.

"I did a lot more. I'm happy to see you here. You've always got his back, together or not."

"Yeah. How are you and the little guy inside there."

"I don't know why you and your husband keep saying it's a boy." She laughed.

"Novan also says that?" I craned my neck to look at him and he's busy biting his nails like a boy.

"Yeah. For some reason, he thinks it's a boy right from the beginning so I can't wait for the scan results to come out to know the sex."

"You haven't done that yet?"

"No. We wanted to be surprised." She laughed but tears were dropping from her eyes. I guess it's pregnancy issues which I will never get to experience.

"Oh okay. That's exciting."

"Yeah right? You want to feel it kick? You can. Everett, come and feel it kick."

"What the fuck are you saying?"

"I just want you to feel my baby." He looked at me then back to Tricia and the tummy. "No. It's not going to add anything to me."

"You're a bore. Come on Mariana."

I hesitated before stretching my hand. Tricia held my hand and directed it to her stomach then suddenly my heart skipped and I jerked back in surprise when I felt it. Tricia laughed.

"Did you feel it?"

I nodded.

"Is wonderful huh?"

"Yeah." I put my hand back to feel it again and my eyes teared. This is priceless and beautiful but I will never have it.

"You'll enjoy more of it if you get pregnant. Hurry up and give me a granddaughter. Eh Everett? What are you waiting for?"

"I don't want a baby." He said and I looked away to wipe under my eyes, to wipe away all evidence of the sorrow of my great loss.

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 24✓
[229] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

"What about you too, Mariana. You don't want it?" Tricia asked.

I turned back to them and even though I didn't plan to look up at him, I did.

"Well, I want it but not now."

"Oh. Why not now?"

"Enough Tricia. We're still young." Novan said, bailing me from his pregnant mom.

"Young." Tricia scoffed.

"Come let me get you in a car. You've been standing here for long."

"Look at someone trying to take care of me."

"Oh shut up."

Tricia laughed while Novan smiled as he took her hand.

"By the way, I came in my own car. It will be here to pick me soon. I've already called it."

"Okay, but we can sit while we wait for it."

"Okay."

I followed them but before we could find a seat, she got a call that the car is in. We walked outside with her to the car.

"You two have fun. Would've loved to stay around but my waist feels as if it's gonna fall off. Russia is not far from here. You two are welcomed anytime and I will be so glad to see you. If you don't come now, make sure you do the day I call that my baby has arrived."

"How many months more?" I asked.

"Just two and a half."

"Oh." I almost can't wait.

"Sure, we will...well...I mean I will make it." I can't be speaking for Novan..well that too has been changed... Everett.

"Alright." She hugged me and tried to hug Novan too but he stepped back.

"He's a devil." She muttered and got into the car.

Novan leaned on the window and said something that made her laugh and kiss him on the chin. Novan got out and wiped his cheeks with a grin.

I waved at Tricia as the car took off.

"I will be back... please don't leave." Novan said immediately.

I shrugged and he ran back into the building.

While I waited, I got my phone out and replied to my parent's messages that they sent to me.

"Hey."

Oh, he came quickly. I put the phone back in my bag.

"Thanks for coming again." He said with a bag hanging on his shoulders.

"You knew I would."

"Yes, but I can't be so sure. I was only hoping. You surprised me though."

I nodded and moved a stone from under my feet.

"There's a restaurant ahead. We can sit there and talk or have something?"

"Okay."

We took the sidewalk with none of us saying anything till we got to the place and I ordered a juice.

"How are you?"

I looked up from my glass at him. "Fine."

"How's school? Your resit and all."

"I'm not getting them. Just some." I couldn't control my sadness from appearing anywhere on me. I couldn't get all of it and now I feel like quitting college.

I spent the last six months behind only my books and.. and..well... working alongside too at a hotel at night.

"What's the problem? I know you can do it."

"I don't know. I might quit."

"Quit what?"

"College and everything. Maybe it wasn't meant for me to have a higher education."

"I don't like it when you get negative. You're sounding like me now."

How nicely the tables turned. I used to advise him to not lose hope.

"But I am very proud of you. You know that right?"

He nodded with his upper lip trapped in his mouth.

"Where are you staying?" He asked.

"Thirty minutes drive from here in a hotel."

"Did you get a car?"

I shook my head.

"Well, but I can take you?"

Our eyes met and the emotions lining his eyes made me get lost in them for far too long.

"Okay." I dragged the last bit of the juice from the glass through the straw as if I just came back from a hunger strike.

"I can get you more."

You see. He thinks I am hungry.

" No thanks." I smiled and got up.

"I'm not thinking that you're famished. I'm just thinking of the way you love anything juice to get more for you."

Good to know he still lives in my mind after all this while. I should think of charging him a rent fee soon.

We walked back to the venue and he went for his car in the lot. Same classic car.

"You'll never get over classic cars," I commented and entered.

"Then I'm walking. I don't like any other car."

"Mmm." I gave him the address and he took off smoothly.

"Won't.. won't you spend some time with me?" His hand brushed my thigh causing a shiver to run through me and he quickly took his hand away as if shocked by my skin so I rolled my dress to cover the exposed part.

I didn't answer.

"I'm sorry if I am asking for too much."

I didn't know what to say.

He wants me to spend some time with him but he doesn't want to be with me forever.

I traveled a lot of hours to be here. We always seem to be doing this. The cycle isn't ending and he did say one of us will surely cross the continent and this is me.

He pulled up in front of the hotel and I held the handle to get down but he held my hand to stop me with eyes pleading for what I don't know yet.

"What?"

"Nothing." Then he let go.

I got down, walking away then turned. I walked to his side of the car and luckily it opened.

He looked at me with so much sadness in his features. "What?"

"Come inside? With me?"

"Sure." He quickly unbuckled his seat belt and I stepped back then walked ahead for him to follow.

We took the elevator to my floor and I dropped my hands into my bag for the key. Opening the door I stepped in and he followed with my heart beating rapidly.

That change of energy that comes around when we're together alone. I feel my palms wet, my heart thumping, and warmness spreading all over me.

I closed the door, dropped my bag, and didn't know what to do next, we both didn't know what to do or say and I am trying not to look at him.

He walked closer, held my hand, and pulled me towards his hard yet comforting chest. Instantly, I felt at home. This is homely. I closed my eyes and took all of him in with my eyes closed and my arms around his torso. He smells just like I remember every other day. So nice and fresh.

"I hope you didn't stop loving me." He whispered and I felt him inhale me with a sigh.

"We keep doing this. Till when?" I asked.

"Come and live with me."

His mind didn't change.

"I told you. I can't.."

"It's okay." He cuts me off.

"So when are you leaving..."

That moment my phone began to ring and I stepped back reluctantly for it.

Betsy's name flashed across the screen and I picked it up to my ears.

"Mariana." Her voice cried out and I became alert.

"Betsy? Are you okay? Is there anything going wrong?"

"I got a pet..just when you left and..and today it died...I don't know...I feel so guilty and scared."

I sigh. Since when did she start getting emotional over those things and a pet? We've never thought of getting one.

"I'm sorry but you know you can get another one."

"No...I don't think. You know..see...I also found out...I found out that I am.."

"Mariana." Novan groaned.

"Oh. Talk to you later then. I didn't know."

She must've heard the whining boy behind me. I know he purposely did that on purpose.

"No. We can talk. What did you find out?"

"Nothing. Have fun." Then she ended the call.

"What's the matter?" Novan asked.

"I don't think Betsy is alright. She sounds like she's been crying." I answered but I know he doesn't really care much.

"Damn her!" He muttered under his breath with a pissed face.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing."

He thinks I didn't hear.

"I came purposely for the ceremony and it's over. If there's more in the near future, be assured that I will always come unless you tell me not to." I began to pack my bag.

"So what are you doing now?"

"You can't see it?"

"You just came." He sat on the bed.

"I told you that if you need me you know where to find me and come."

"You always want to have your way is that not it?"

"Who? Me?" I laughed dryly.

"Our problems will be solved if you just pack up to be with me."

"It won't also solve if you come?"

"We're not doing this again."

"Yes." My bag is on my shoulders and I am ready to leave.

"You're leaving me..you don't even miss me. You know how miserable I am without you...I can't... it's too much." His voice is sorrowful that it pulls at the break in movement.

"You always leave me. You don't want to come to me but you want me to. I've always been the one to chase after you." He added.

"Seriously? You told me the last time that we'll never be parted again and even if I send you away you're not gonna leave. I didn't send you away instead I said you should come but you won't and now you're blaming me?"

"How can I come to you? It's your duty to come to me. I don't even know. This is all useless, baseless. I knew it was never gonna work."

"What?"

"Marriage…the label." He waved his ring finger in front of my face."It's just some stupid formality."

"Oh."

"Yes. I don't even feel that we're married. This is not marriage? When people marry they live together do they not?"

"Well..." We've barely lived under a roof together for even a month without one of us leaving or doing it this way. Arguing.

"It's not working. Maybe we'll never come around.. maybe we.. don't have a happily ever after." I said.

"I think." He seconded.

I looked up at him and wondered where this was going. He just admitted my claim that we won't work.

"We're our own driving force. I don't understand...and it's tiring." He heaved with his hands going through his head.

A sign of defeat. We're both giving up...I can see it and it brings me to tears.

"It doesn't mean I will stop loving you...I can't. I will continue to love you until the day that I die."

"You can't do anything for that love?"

"Don't use my love for you to corner me into doing what you want Mariana."

I nodded and reached for the door.

"If it's goodbye, is this how you gonna do it? Hmm, Riana? You're just gonna leave me like this to my fate?"

If it's not emotional blackmail but I don't care. Right now he had me in tears. My bag dropped and I ran to him, going down before him since he was sitting, and wrapped my arms around his back, my face pressed to his stomach.

"I've never been happy since that time." He cried and I felt him kiss my hair.

"Me too."

"I am not living, Mariana. Forget about my competitions. I just want you to keep getting proud of me at least. When you're not around me I can't breathe. I didn't leave my hair or my beard on for fashion? I didn't get that energy to dress myself."

"I'm sorry."

"Who's that guy? The one who came to pick you the last time?"

"A friend I made the first time I came to see you in America. He lives in my grandfather's house with his family."

"He looks nice. I hope you don't like him."

"I..NO.." I shrieked.

"I like him and I am scared. I haven't liked all the guys that ever had an interest in you. This one is different."

"Have you been seeing him?" I looked up at him and he wiped my tears away.

"Yes. He hasn't stopped his chauffeur work. He used to pick Nervisa frequently to school."

"I am not capable of loving anyone else, Novan. It's only you... it's only going to be you."

He smiled.

"If in case you change your mind..you begin to love him let me know. I'm not going to stop you.."

I gulped and got on my feet. "How can you tell me that?"

"Just look at us? Calculate the year we started this struggle, deduct the amount of time we spent together and analyze what we achieved so far."

It's almost four years.

"It's always the same thing," I whispered straight forward.

"Nothing changed so much."

I nodded in agreement and went for my bag.

It's good we both understand this now. We're forcing it but it's not happening. He's just tired just as much as I am.

We're hopeless defeated souls.

"Bye Everett." My voice is barely audible because of the lump at the back of my throat.

"Bye Del."

I smiled at him for mentioning my middle name for the first time ever but cried through the journey back till I could cry no more.

With puffy red eyes, I got down the plane to my car at the airport and drove home. It's late so no one was awake or so I thought until I saw my mother just sitting on my bed in my room.

My bag slided off and I didn't wait for her to ask me anything or try to explain why she's in my room and laid in between her lap.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't wanna talk mom...I don't wanna talk about it."

"So what do you wanna do?" Her hands stroke my back.

"I just want to cry or if you can get me some drinks, please. I want to cry until I lose my voice or get tired or drink till I'm all numb up. I don't want to feel all of this mom. It's so painful."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah."

"Do you want to travel out? For some vacation?"

"How can I have a calm vacation when everything is destroyed in my life?"

"All is not lost. You're stronger than this."

"Well, I am tired of keeping strong. I am tired of hiding my tears and my pains. "

"You're broken."

"That is what I have been. You just didn't notice."

"You've always acted so strong as a rock. Like nothing can move you. That is the daughter I knew."

"Too much of everything runs over mom. I have always acted as if I am strong and bottled my problems away and now it has gotten to the peak. I can not take more."

"I understand."

"So get me some drinks?" I pushed back and begged her with my tearing eyes.

She got up and walked out. After some minutes she returned with a bottle of liquor.

"Thanks." I stretched my hand for it.

"I am sorry. Please will you forgive me? I am a terrible mom for doing this. For giving you this."

She's letting my state cloud her judgment.

"It's fine." I took it and got the lid off. She can't bear to see me this way. She's just helping.

When I raised it to my lips and drank directly from the bottle, she looked away.

"Want some?"

She shook her head and sat beside me on the floor.

"I couldn't sleep so I came here. I didn't know you'll be back so early. Did you fight with Everett?"

I chuckled. "Did we ever stop fighting?"

"What!" She's shocked. If she knew how we used to fight.

"But that is not the issue. It's not because of our fights that I am like this."

"Why don't you go live with him instead? You might feel better."

"You can live without me? Don't lie to me, mom."

"It's true. We found you not too long ago. I've been missing you for so long and honestly, I just wish you'd stay with us until the day I live this world but it doesn't work that way. A woman lives with her husband and forms another family."

"I understand but my issue is complicated." I don't know what benefit I will be to my parents if I don't get my life together and take care of the business. That is all they've always wanted me to do.

"It can be fixed."

"I had that hope." I smiled, not giving a gap between how many times I raised the bottle to take more.

"Don't listen to that new cynical part of you. Be hopeful with positive energy and don't let skepticism and pessimism get into your mind."

"Come to think of it, mom. Why should I have only the bad things to come into my life? Even Novan is bad..well..was bad." I laughed.

"As much as life can be Rosy, it has thorns in it. I have understood that we can't have it all and things don't always go the way that we want it or have it planned. Even though it's not favorable, we just keep masking the effect and keep living. We don't have a choice until nature gives us a home call. Until then, we keep living it through and don't always think you're alone. Most people we see around with smiles all the time have the biggest problems. You won't know unless they tell you or you go into their homes. But they're still living because they have hope for a better future one day once you're breathing. That is what keeps us going..hope."

"I have lost hope," I mumbled and wiped my eyes.

"That is why I am scared."

"Think about it, mom."

"I know. I know but the pain will soon be gone. Don't let the world see it and mock you. Keep being strong. Shame everyone. Show them how tough you are. You're unbreakable."

Hmm. I only sigh and emptied the bottle. "I want more."

My head is spinning, I can feel the alcohol taking over but slowly and I am not numb yet.

"No, I can't. I'm sorry."

"You brought me a drink with the lowest percentage of alcohol mom. That's an offense to me."

"I'm sorry."

I just kept sighing and I decided to close my eyes.

"Don't go and see Betsy yet."

"What?" I opened my eyes. "She's the reason I came."

"Why?"

"Her new pet died. I think she needs me."

"Is that all she told you?" Mom asked.

"Yes."

"Don't go see her yet?"

"You're crazy." I laughed. "You won't stop me from seeing my sister."

"Yes but.."

"No mom. We won't talk about this again. Discussion dismissed." I closed my eyes back.

I am seeing Betsy early tomorrow morning. I am worried about her.

"I found out that not every story must have a happy ever after mom."

"True but you can create your own happy ending. Happiness is a choice and free."

I remained quiet then finally shook my head because I do not agree with her on the 'free' part.

I understand happiness can be a choice but we suffer to get it. It's not free. We pay, sweat after sweat, pains upon pains and...

It struggles after struggles to get to an after ever happy.

Why must it be so?

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 25✓
[230] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

Low percentage of alcohol or not, I woke up with a migraine and it's so severe.

I saw a glass of water and medicine beside the lamp and swallowed it before getting to the washroom. I set the bath and disappeared in it. I spent far too long in it that when I got out, the water was so cold.

When I sat in front of the mirror, I took all the time in masking my face with makeup then styled my hair the best way I could. My hair is boring anyway. I will think of changing the color soon.

Looking in the mirror, the makeup is massive and I look different but then I also look like I can carry the world.

My jeans jumpsuit looked okay so I went for converse instead of my sneaks.

I got out and down the stairs. I sat with my family at the breakfast table and it felt like it's been ages since I did this.

I smiled at them and picked a pancake, avoiding how they were looking at me as if I grew a devilish horn.

"How are you?" That's my mom.

I nodded since my mouth is full. I poured my usual type of coffee and dropped cubes in it which earned a look from everyone.

"Where's the bicycle, Marion?" I asked after taking the coffee all at once..

"It should be in the garage. I don't use it anymore."

"Okay. Bye, everyone. I am at Betsy's." I picked one bunch of grapes and stepped out.

The sun is already out and I love it. I found the bike and rode it to Betsy's place.

I greeted her parents who in turn gave me relief looks.

"Thanks that you're here. Betsy doesn't want to talk to anyone or come out."

I nodded. I got up to her door and pushed it open. There is my friend bundled in the form of a ball in bed.

"Hey!" I got my shoes off and sat on the bed beside her.

She turned to my side before her eyes opened to look at me.

"Shit! You are here?" She got up.

"Yeah. I came."

"But... it's so soon. You were with him and.."

"It's okay Betsy. Something is bothering you. Do you care to tell me? And about your pet am really sorry. Tell me the other issue."

"Before that, you look beautiful yet different. What are you masking?"

"Masking?" I shook my head and laughed softly.

"You are hiding your turmoil as usual. "

"It's not anything we mop around with Betsy. I came because I thought you need me so let's talk about you."

She got up and brushed her hand across her face. When she got it off I saw the dark circles around her eyes and her pale face.

"Are you alright?"

She shook her head.

"Let me see your pet. What was it?"

"A nice puppy." She smiled and took her phone from under her pillow. She goes through it and gives it to me.

"That's him."

My eyes beheld a little puppy with so much fur which is white and brown. It was cute and if he hadn't died, I would like to cuddle it because that is what I feel like to do now.

"He's pretty." I gave her the phone back and she stared at the screen for long with a sad smile. "He is."

With a nod and biting my lips, I looked around. "Where's Morgan?"

"He traveled."

"Okay. So what is it? What did you find out?"

She heaves a sigh and facepalms. "Your mom didn't tell you?"

"No. She didn't." I'm puzzled. Mom only said I shouldn't see her.

"I fainted in front of the stairs after you left and it was only your mom there. She called the doctor for me and..and.. he said.." she paused.

I looked at her, waiting but also praying that it's not what I am thinking. I can see the signs though.

"Well... I got pregnant... I'm pregnant." She gasped out and backed it with a deep breath.

For some seconds,I couldn't find my voice but I have to say something before Betsy thinks otherwise.

"You're pregnant?" I smiled though this came as a tight slap across cheeks from nature telling and as well showing me what I can never have. It's like salt over a wound, the salt keeps rubbing in anytime, wherever. I am happy for my friend but this just reminds me of what I can't have. What I have been robbed off of. I think this was what my mother was trying to protect me for how long? Pregnancy isn't something we can hide?

"Congratulations..I...I am.. happy." I took her hand and moved closer to her on the bed.

"You're happy?"

I nodded and I didn't stop my tears. I am happy and at the same time pitying myself.

"Then why are you crying? Do you feel sad that I have ruined my life?"

"No, not at all. I am genuinely happy."

" But how can you be happy? I haven't finished college and I can only imagine my parent's reaction when they get to know."

"You only have a few months to graduate. Once the baby is in, you can get a sitter and look for a job and I know you don't even have to work. Morgan can take care of you... wait, did you tell him?"

"I did."

"And?"

"He just went silent on the call and later told me he'd call back and that was it. I haven't heard from him. I don't blame him. He's still young and this is not what he needs. I'm really sorry for doing this to him but I want to rectify it."

"How?"

"I want to terminate it. I don't want the baby if it's going to make him sad or angry and leave me."

"You can't be serious! What the hell! You want to kill it? How can you think of that?"

"I've decided."

"You won't do that Betsy. You know..some people will kill to have what you have and you have it you want to kill it?"

Some unlucky people like me.

"I am not ready."

"Then you should've used a fucking rubber." I flared.

"I didn't know."

"But you're not going to kill it."

"I don't think I want this now." She insisted.

"Okay fine." I got up to leave. If there's someone to convince her not to do this, then it's the one who fucked her or maybe I should just go ahead and tell her what I'm facing. Tell her just how damn blessed she is to have something that I will never have and what many other women out there pray for everyday. Maybe then she'd value her pregnancy and see it as a blessing and not a burden or obstacle.

"Are you really leaving?"

"What do you want me to do? I'm telling you something and you don't want to take it."

"You can just stay with me. I feel so alone."

"I've got things to do. I'm sorry." I opened the door and left.

On my way home, I called Morgan. After three dials, he still hadn't picked and when I was giving up, he finally picked.

"I'm sure by now you've heard and if you called to advise me or scold me then don't fucking try. I know what it is. I'm only eighteen and I am not prepared to be a dad. I have my whole life in front of me and this? I'm just not ready." He sounded pissed on the line and I just want to pretend as if I didn't hear what he said and ask him if I am the one who told him to fuck her raw.

"So you're going to run away from your responsibilities?"

"Not exactly. I just never made a plan for babies."

"Good, then she can terminate it then?"

"Wait what? You mean abortion?" He's alarmed.

"Yeah. When someone doesn't want a baby, it's killed and Betsy wants to do just that. I didn't approve but listening to you now, I will give her a go-ahead."

"No don't! Don't!" He yelled over the phone.

"Why?"

"Nothing but just tell her not to do anything stupid. I might not be ready for a baby but I won't kill it you hear me?"

"So what are you doing? Where are you?"

"I am... I'm at home."

"Where?"

"My parent's house." He answered.

"You mean you came? I thought you traveled."

"I did but I came back immediately she told me."

So he came and since been hiding away like a coward? "Morgan I swear I won't forgive you if you planned to abandon my friend in a time like this. If you do that I don't know you and you'll see the worst of me this I promise.."

"Geez. Calm down. I'm doing that."

"So what are you doing?"

"I don't know. I just want to be alone to think. Definitely, I will be the youngest dad in the world now and I don't know how to take it. I am just thinking."

"So you won't abandon her right?"

"I will never. I just need sometime to put everything together."

"Don't take too long. She needs you. She thinks you left her because you don't want the baby."

"Yeah? I can imagine."

"Mmm."

"You know something, please don't leave her. Go to her, be with her, and take care of her for me. Tell her that I love her and I just want time to take it all in."

"You can do that yourself."

"Please Mariana. I can count on only you for this. I also hate that we're not even married and her family still doesn't know we're together and I don't know how to be a father..what if we fail and... It's a lot. Please stay with her."

"Alright but don't take too long."

"I won't. Thanks."

So I turned around.

It's funny to see what you want not being wanted by somebody else. Life.

ANOTHER SIX MONTHS

Finally, resit free and I am actually happy today and he's the reason. Not that we've finally worked things and are back but because he has done yet another great thing that we're all proud of.

I remember I dreamt of this day and it wasn't pretty, it's still not pretty but it's okay.

In the presence of everyone, he called me to join him in the ceremony and I was actually surprised. I couldn't believe it until together we cut the ribbon, launching his first-ever restaurant. Not big or small but just okay for a start.

"Why are you smiling so much?"

"Because I am happy." I looked up at the devastatingly handsome tall man walking beside me in an expensive tuxedo. He's all I see since I arrived instead of his new restaurant that is being shown around or watched the ribbon that we were cutting and I don't regret it or get tired of admiring him.

"That?"

"Come on.. are you going to ask?" I tapped against his chest which was covered in an expensive tuxedo.

"I thought you're happy for the pregnant lady over there who's eating all my food." He looked back and when I followed his gaze, it fell on Betsy. I laughed. She's busy eating and must I say pregnancy looks gorgeous on her?

She's wearing a pink flowery dress and her hair is straightened. I can see her engagement ring and that stretched my smile further.

Her fiance was nervous at the beginning that it was after two weeks when he showed up at Betsy's house. He boldly went straight to Betsy's parents and told them everything. They acted just like any caring parents will do. I like that Betsy's parents didn't let Morgan's status sway their morals or make them support them going against them to date.

On Betsy's graduation day which Novan surprised me by coming, Morgan engaged her and now they're living together in his house in New York. Yeah. They moved from Australia. Morgan has learned to accept his new responsibility and he's doing well with it. Betsy is loved by Amy and Daniel so much that they won't stop spoiling her. I can only wait for their wedding. Trust me, it's going to be grand.

Tricia also gave birth to a cute bouncing baby boy who's four months old now and in our midst. Just like she requested, Novan and I went to Russia to see them and with Nervisa too.

"You're laughing? It's not even time for food and she's taking it all."

"She's two. Allow her." I looked back at Betsy again. The host is taking the big guests ranging from my parents, his mom and stepdad, officials from all the competitions he's ever been in. His friends are here and every member of our family from both sides came. Novan is fortunate and smart enough to keep good relations with some top chefs and they all came and the place is filled up. The media and paparazzi are here in their numbers and there's an abundance of food prepared by Novan himself for everyone and as you can see, Betsy is already patronizing it to herself and the little one inside her.

"Yeah."

"Nice restaurant you've got here."

"Is it?"

"Of course."

"Thanks."

"How did you do it? You never told me about it before. I would've loved to support you in any way." Maybe he chose not to let me know about his plans because we aren't together.

"I never spent the money I get from my competitions. I kept saving and when I thought it was enough, I bought this place."

"You never told me." I stopped walking but he took my hand, freezing me for a second, and walked us away from the people into a room then closed the door.

"Sit." He pointed to the couch then he went to sit behind a desk.

"This is your office?" I looked around while I sat. E and M entwined in a logo are carved big in the wall behind him and all the workers seem to have that logo as a badge. Even the suit he's wearing has that logo. The certificates of the titles he won decorated a part of the office and the desk was cleared. Only a computer and a frame facing him and other normal stuff always found in an office can be seen.

It's simple, anything Novan will go for.

"Yes. This is it." He answered.

"It's nice. What's the full name of your restaurant? I know of E&M."

"Seriously, are you going to ask that?" He picked a pen and just played with it.

"Am I supposed to know?"

"Yeah. It's us."

I nodded, getting it all. Novan has made it and this is all I've always wanted. I wonder how it never occurred to me before that the name of the restaurant is composed from our names..

"You made this happen, Mariana. Yes, you're responsible for how far I've come in life. I couldn't have done it without you. You know where we started this from."

"Yet you didn't include me."

"I'm sorry about that but you had a lot going on which weren't nice. I didn't want you to feel like a loser that's why I kept most of it to myself but I am ready to tell you all now. I'm happy that you don't have any more resits to take."

"I will never let my situation make me feel bad about your success, Novan. You won't be rubbing anything in. I will always be happy for you."

"Yes. I'm sorry. I was silly to have thought that way."

"You won't keep anything away from me again."

"I won't."

"Good."

"So tell me about school. How are you fairing?"

"I gave up on literature, my English major."

"Why? So what are you doing now?"

"Sociology. I want to understand life more and how to come around which won't be based on some fictitious lifestyles. I want something real to be able to help my community and bring a better life to the people suffering various challenges in it."

"Okay but you're still doing business?"

"Yeah."

"I'm proud of you for being so strong and kind to everyone.." he cracks a smile for me.

"I'm proud of you too." I smiled back at him.

"Here you are saying you didn't get a chance to help me in this. I can't believe you came out on social media for the first time and made this video, made a hashtag campaign, and posted it on Instagram to advertise my restaurant." He showed me the video on his phone. "Thank you so much. You took E&M to the whole world. Your family, those big big people are just spreading the hashtag. I am really grateful."

He's still playing it and watching.

"Hi everyone. Finally, what you've wanted has come true. This is Mariana Del Dominguez and I am live on Instagram for the first time ever..."

I got up and took the phone from him. That's enough.

"What, it's a trending video. All over the place and I heard you have 100 million followers already."

"Really?" I'm shocked.

"See. It means you haven't gone back to check on your people after telling them to pass by the restaurant."

"I'm not used to it. I guess I will have to learn." I gave his phone back after stopping the video.

"Thank you for going out of your way for me. It really really means a lot."

"I have to. I would've done more if you had told me you had something like this in the pipeline so soon."

"This is also a lot. Who helps her ex like this?"

My eyes met his own and I went back to sit. Ex? Yes. I no longer have my ring on and neither did he. When he came to the graduation which would've also been mine, we decided to be friends. We've been talking with respect to that for the past six months now. Simply friends but I miss him. However, I can't say.

He got up and I thought we were leaving so I got up but he put his hands over my shoulders and gently pressed me down back to the seat.

He sat down beside me, his eyes on my face and I didn't try to look away from the charming twenty-four years multiple award winning chef and now the owner of a restaurant who's sitting beside me.

He looked away and sighed. "I just have to say it."

"What?"

He glanced at me again and then licked his lips slowly. That distracted me. "I miss you."

His eyes didn't leave mine. He took my hand, let it travel my bare arm then to my face. I closed my eyes to his touch as he strokes gently at my cheeks.

My hands reached to touch his face and I brushed my thumb against the young stubbles above his lips while admiring the black ink peeking out of his sleeves and up his neck.

Before anything, his thumb is brushing my lips just like he used to do and though I don't want to blame it on the few glasses of champagne I took, I want to when I pressed my lips to his and he kissed me back in desperation and passion.

"What are we doing?" He paused to ask.

"I don't know," I answer truthfully but I know this minute, I enjoyed him kissing me. His fresh breath is fanning my face as he breathes and the mint still lingers on his tongue.

"Then I will kiss you again." He said but I am just as eager so I returned the same fervor.

I didn't want to. I don't know what is controlling me but I know the love I still have for him is what is fueling me when I got on his lap to straddle him.

|~DONOVAN~|

My hands disappeared under her floor-length dress and when she didn't stop me, I went ahead to push it up to her waist.

I stopped kissing her to look at her all over again. I have seen less and less of her these past months and I have to force and make time out of my busy schedule just to see her under the pretense of coming for my friend's graduation. Anytime I see her she looks even more beautiful and the pain in my chest increases that we're not together. This isn't about my unwillingness to compromise for us. What wouldn't I do for her? This is about me having a lot to do here at the moment and I am just waiting for the right time to move to her but before then, I couldn't live without her that is why I wanted her to stay with me. She obviously has plans and I didn't want to control her so I had to let go. I hated and lost faith in myself when we had to fight over it. I realized we haven't actually gone past our usuals and my fucked up mind gladly came to action, inculcating the negativity that we will never be after it reminded me of the year our struggle began. She agreed with me as she herself was having her thoughts in a mess at the moment and here we are now fucking trying to deceive our self into something that we both are so damn sure about will never work for us. We can never be friends. Love may be possible after friendship but friendship can't be possible after love. I won't even allow it. Mariana and I belong like this. This way where I have the entire world waiting outside for me but I chose that this woman matters more to me. This is the woman who has given me a lot in life already. My life which was nothing, void, she took it and brought something into it and made something good out of me. She's my Midas, the touch that changed me from my fucked up life and gave me a future. Everything I have now, I owe to her because even when we weren't together, Mariana still helped me every damn step of the way when she herself was battling to stand on her feet. She cares for me even more than herself and seeing the admiration in her eyes and voice for me each time I do something good, I get happy.

I hissed when my eyes met her red panties and the way they're already wet from beneath then I looked back at her.

"Novan, I think everyone is waiting... let's go."

She'll never stop calling me Novan. I love it though.

I shook my head. "You want this?"

Her cheeks heated up then she took her lips between her teeth, looked down at my zipper then to my face before beginning to get my heavy tux off.

"You sure?"

She nodded and kissed me, bringing me back to home, her home. My hand pushed her panties away to the side to have its way and as she kissed me, she zipped me and groped me through my pants, drawing a moan from me. I missed this.

Lifting her off slightly, I helped her take my pants off while I pulled her panties out along. Gripping my shoulders, she wants to go down on me but I didn't allow it. I carried her to my desk, parting her thick thighs, I kissed her, conveying all my love through it then before entering her but she stopped me midway. "This is nothing.. we're still not together."

"Yes but even that, hope I've been the only one." I searched her face for the truth even though I know.

"Yes, you'll always be."

Such a relief and as always, she's so fucking tight and feels so good. The feeling is so strong that I bet I might not last long on this. How long? Feels like a decade since I've gone inside her, had this type of closeness. Even if we do this every damn day, I will never be full as each one feels so differently intense. I can never get enough of her.
If we don't end up together, then this as well will be the last sex I will ever have because I cannot touch someone else who's not her without throwing up. She has made me addicted to her after she has taken my addiction from me. But this addiction is better.

I let the strap of her dress slide below her shoulders and took her beautiful large chest out, it literally spilled in front of me and I brought my face to them, nuzzling into it then finally taking her in my mouth. It was when my hand went underneath to rub her did I notice that we're doing it raw. No wonder I almost released the moment I entered. I should panic but I am not. I am praying instead that she gets pregnant so that I can use the child to tie her to me forever. Yes. I have long decided that I want a baby with her if that would make her stay with me and I think this is just the perfect opportunity if there's nothing that will truly get in the way as I've been assuming.

As she moans, her little hands found my face and she raised my head from her tits to kiss me. My hand rubs her clit as I push in and out of her gently. I just want to last, this moment to last so I go slow to relive the moment later but I am not sure anymore when she tightened around me.

"Fuck!" I feel my own release climbing up, running in my veins. I found her spot, then with my vocals which I know throw her on the edge, she comes and I follow, our names falling from each other's lips as we do it.

"Sir?" A knock sounded on the door and Mariana exchanged looks with me. Her face panic-stricken.

"Fuck the fuck off!" I growled.

"Everyone is waiting.."

"I say fuck off."

"Be nice," Mariana whispered. I rolled my eyes and pressed my lips to her neck while I got out of her, wasted but still hard as fuck. Getting a tissue from the drawer, I tried to clean her but she took it to do it herself.

"Why should I be nice?" I asked, zipping myself and looking at the woman whose makeup is still perfect but her cheeks bright red, and her lips were swollen from the kiss.

"Oh, I get it. Because I made love to you?"

"Hush. We don't have to talk about it."

"Seriously? You don't want it?" I tried not to laugh at the way her beautiful face was flashed.

She nodded and put her breasts back, adjusting her dress then jumping down from the desk.

"We need to hurry up." She went straight to my fallen tuxedo and helped me to wear it. After, she just stood in front of me, looking deeply into my eyes. Someone who said we need to hurry up. She wants more. I can tell. Not more of what we just did, well it's also part but more of us, we miss each other this way.

I kissed her to show her that, we can't have just sex. Our intimate is a kind that leaves us in a kind of spell after and it renews our bond. Sensing she realized that, she wriggled from me, opening the door, she escaped but I knew I would find her the entire time once I got out even though she tried to hide from me all through.

|~MARIANA~|

Still not believing what just happened, I ran from him and tried to behave as normal as possible when I got out into the crowd who's waiting for him.

He came out and just like me, he looked like nothing happened but we both know what just occurred in his new office.

He offered apologies then gave his address. It was time to talk about the dishes and I watched the usual ways his mouth moved smoothly and slowly when he talked. He named all the dishes and finally we can eat. I took a seat with my family but I am not actually with them. My attention can't stop being taken by the other half of my soul who just entered me and he couldn't keep his eyes anywhere either but on me. Anytime I turn, I meet his eyes and when I am not even looking, I feel his eyes on me.

I didn't have to taste any of the food that was served because I know what he can do so hearing people compliment and nod their heads to the food didn't surprise me but only made me prouder and excited for him.

I gulped water when I saw him get closer then put something in front of me. It's my favorite lasagna in the form of a cupcake and an emoji blowing kiss drawn on it with buttercream and left but not after seeing me smile and he smiled back. Only the two of us will understand this. Still smiling while staring and remembering when he said he'd have to kiss me each time he cooks for me. When I knew what was happening, I quit smiling at the piece of food and got up. We're friends and aren't supposed to be doing this but look what we did so far. I excused my family and got up to find my way out. Before I could step out, a strong hand grabbed my wrist to stop me.

"Where are you going? Leaving?"

"No." I shook my head.

"Then what?"

"I wasn't leaving." I lie.

"Then let's go back in."

"Why?"

"This is our ceremony. It doesn't matter if we're together or not. You helped me to reach this far so you should stay by my side through this day."

"Is that all you want?" I asked.

"We would like to know what keeps inspiring him."

And that was it, a camera landed on us and they began to throw questions.

"Her." Novan simply says, putting his hands at the small of my back.

Once again, this didn't happen in my strange dream. He's giving me the credit for something he achieved. So as it didn't happen, this man will never multreat me.

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 26✓
[231] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~MARIANA~|

〰️❤️〰️

TWO YEARS LATER

My college and my future were on the brink of doom, I had had all my hope lost of ever being able to put my life back together but finally, after everything, I completed college though I delayed a year. It was one of the best days of my life and I was really happy and proud of how far I came. I really thought all hope was lost for me but that isn't it now. I graduated with two certificates both online and campus and with flying colors. My parents paid for my fees but I don't take any other from them since I was working. I quitted my hotel job after college and now as a professional social worker, I also work with my mom at the jewelry company. That is mine. I haven't made any name yet on my own but that is okay. I get paid for my social working and though I told my parents to not give me any money, they do. I might never run out of money in my life. I say this anytime I check my bank accounts. My organization is also doing great. All the small kids are all grown including Everly and Emma whom I've given up for adoption two years ago. I visit them sometimes when I am free and they're always excited to see me.

Hilarious as it may be, Novan was my first client when I started work. After a month of getting employed, I was in my office case studying when he came in. I actually thought he just came to see me but that is not the case.

"Novan what the hell.."

"Calm down miss Dominguez. I have an issue to be solved professionally."

"Okay. You can have a seat."

Once he did, I welcomed him. We kept it professional but not the problem he brought to me.

It was about us and I didn't know how to solve it.

He told me everything about us and what we're facing then how he's being affected by it. He told me that he misses her so much which is me.

It was hard keeping it professional and I try to not cry as he laments his sorrows.

It turned out that the popular chef and restaurant owner is not actually happy as he seems.

I told him to take into mind the good he thinks she brought to his life and be grateful for it as people come and go in our lives but not all leave something good behind to talk about.

He said he tried to move on with a girl but it didn't work after six months so he gave up.

I told him to focus on himself and do what he thinks is right and would benefit him.

In all, we had a successful interview and he left me his card after inviting me for lunch which was very unprofessional.

A month after, Novan and I were invited to a morning show. I was still getting used to the media attention so yeah, I was nervous. Novan was too.

I was asked about my work and I spoke about it with pleasure. I really love my work, something that impacts positively in people's lives.

I had to say that Novan was my first client when I was asked and that made it to the headlines of every station which I regretted because the media started digging into Novan's life.

I apologized for it but he said it's okay. Much to my surprise, Novan came out on it and talked to the world about what he had to face growing up. Since then, he helped me heal people from addiction by talking to them for me, throwing his challenges, and how he fought to come out of it.

This really helped me and made my work easier for me when it comes to addiction and abuse.

So together, Novan helped me to help the homeless, vulnerable, drug addicts, and the ones with mental disorders. He's still in America but anytime I call on him, he comes and sometimes we zoom chat.

We've become famous over time because of our collab and people don't even know that we're no longer couples.

Novan's restaurant is ranking number one in America now and he's usually there. In the past two years, we've had sex only three times and that happened when we're working up late on a client's case.

He's been gone for a year now and I haven't heard so much about him. He doesn't talk about me joining him there and I tried not to tell him to come either. We have come to accept that we can both live where we want.

Betsy had a beautiful baby girl who's two years now and they named Megan. You should know whose idea it still is. Amy definitely wants that name in her family so now that she has a granddaughter, she named her Meghan. That's the baby's name but his father affectionately calls her Sisy in regard to Betsy.

Morgan is strictly just a model now and Betsy works at world Bank. Huge huh? Yeah, she's that brilliant and all of a sudden, Anosova bank is not her limit.

Ronnie and Courtney got married just after Novan launched his restaurant. Evan and his girlfriend are together but not married. And Nina, well. Ciara's parents broke them up and that's what I heard. I haven't heard if she moved on or not.

Aria and her mom are still living in my house and I still don't have a problem with it and I don't go interfering in what they do in their lives either but when I ask Aria about how good they're doing, she always says they're fine.

Nicholas hasn't made his relationship with Sharon official so my parents didn't know if he has someone or not. I think I wouldn't have known if I had not seen them in Novan's house that night.

Yeah. So who would've thought that I will come this far with my life? My mom was the happiest when I completed as she was feeling guilty for being the cause of my education being almost destroyed before. She cried and cried. My dad was proud and I was also proud of myself. Novan and Nervisa came and he clapped for me then outspreading his arms to take me in a hug. Meghan was freshly born but Betsy still came. It was a memorable day for me in all.

I got a breakthrough,soared high, and now I am doing what I love and also helping my parents in their companies. I think this is all I've always wanted to do. I might have some of my dreams being shattered but I see happiness in the smiles of the people whose lives I bring light into. Helping others has always been something that I love and enjoy to do so I feel fulfilled in a way. I might have fallen back a few times and honestly, I delayed but I finally arrived. It didn't matter how late I was in life, I still got to my destination since I was determined. I didn't let the fact that I slack behind while my friends were ahead affect my future. No matter the setback or what comes your way, whatever that is your purpose in this life will surely come to pass if you don't lose hope or try to give up. I didn't become the author I always wanted to but it doesn't mean I will stop reading. Books are like food to my soul, it keeps it nourished. I won't survive if I stop reading.

"Mariana are you not done yet? We're running late." CJ shouted from the doorway and I hustled to get ready. Already Betsy has announced that he's here an hour ago and now he's up here himself. It could only mean I've taken really long.

"Coming." I reapplied my lipstick and checked myself one more time in the mirror.

I picked my purse and got out. "Sorry."

"It's okay. You look beautiful." He gave me one of his nicest smiles.

"Thank you." We walked outside to the car I rented and he drove me to the venue. The Dante's have already left.

It's an award night in New York and I've been around for a week now at Betsy's house. My parents got a nomination including Novan and I am just going to witness it and give my support as usual with CJ who has been so good to me in the last two years. He'd stopped his Uber work and now pursuing law, yet to finish.

Getting down, the cameras also follow even when we got on the red carpet. Well, it's not like that place doesn't have it and I could care less about the cameras. Growing up, I've got more exposures that I don't even feel the way I used to each time there's attention on me. It definitely goes the same for the two kids busy posing on the red carpet and the cameras couldn't get enough of them.

"Meghan," I called but would she hear? She's just two years and tiny so seeing her turning herself to pose and stand is really funny. I guess this is what is expected for being the granddaughter of a model and having a dad as a model too.

Her accomplice, Stefan, who's some months older than her seems cool with what he's doing as they make baby poses. As for him, I know he must have seen people do this on TV but Meghan sees her grandma do it all the time.

I looked around for either Novan or Tricia or Betsy. When I saw none of them, I walked forward to take them back inside. That's enough shots in just a night and the paparazzi are crazy to be giving them lectures on how to stand so they can get a perfect shot. I don't blame them, these two kids are coming from a fucking loaded family.

"Where are you going?" CJ asked.

"I know the two kids and I need to take them away from there."

"They seem to be enjoying. Let them be."

"No. I'm sure Novan won't be happy to see his kid brother doing that." Novan hates the word modeling and that is the reason for his teenage sister all the time.

"Alright, I'll follow you."

"Okay." I pushed gently among the people and called her again. "Meghan."

She looked around and continue. She hasn't seen me yet if not she'd be running into my arms this minute.

Just when I got to them and my body bend to pick the girl, someone also came and bend to pick the boy. Soft sweet masculine cologne that tugged on the person hit my nostrils and I raised my head to look and the same time the person also raised his head to look at me. Hazels meet against chocolate brown and my heart skipped. We're so close and I need to breathe as he has knocked the air from my lungs and caused my blood to pump in a rush. He looks just too frigging gorgeous. His full lips part slightly then he did what he used to do when he had a tongue ring. I can see him put his teeth on his tongue. I hope it's there. Just remembering what his tongue ring does when he uses it on me makes my knees go weak. A metal is back in his eyebrow and I remembered his hay days and how he looked. Only that he looked hotter but I still miss how he looked having all of them in his face.

"Meg." I finally looked at the girl.

"Auntie!" Her little arms looped around my neck and mine went around her and I got on my feet.

"What were you doing?"

She shook her head as she can't really say much.

"Taking some pictures for daddy?" I asked.

"No. For Gammy." She answered with a beautiful grin and excitement in her round eyes.

"I see. Let's take you to mommy then?"

"No daddy." She pouted and let her small bright eyes look around. Seems she's afraid she's going to get scolded by Betsy.

"Okay." I looked back intending to look for CJ but my eyes fell on Novan instead. Stefan is in his arms and they seem to be talking. Noticing that he'll raise his head and catch me staring, I decided to move but that only made me step on my long gown, causing me to almost fall but CJ came to my rescue. I smiled at him to thank him and we walked in.

|~DONOVAN~|

This shit is almost over and Mariana is nowhere to be seen. I haven't seen her in a year so if I could just get a glimpse of her. I have asked Paula a thousand times if she's sure that Mariana will be here and she says yes each fucking time but she's not coming. I decided to ask Betsy when my mom ran to me.

"I can't find Stefan. Please would you help me search for him?"

The first thing I did was to look around for Betsy's little girl. She's not with Paula or her parents so it only means they might be together. This shit happening between Nervisa and Marion seems to be throwing its head in again. Why the fuck must my siblings get hooks?

"Okay. Don't worry. I'm going to try and find your prince."

"You're my prince too." She raised her hands to pull at my cheeks but I wasn't going to allow that. I stepped back.

I got out and taking the red carpet route, there I saw her and my heart fucking rocked against my chest. But what the hell did she do to her hair? Her hair which is close to brunette, is now lighter in color, almost like a blonde. The ends are more blonde. What the fuck? But it's nice. Has anything never looked good on her?

My eyes followed her and there was my brother and Betsy's daughter. What the fuck are they doing? Fucking doing 'change-your-styles'

My world.

Anyway. That is only my advantage to get close to Mariana. I rushed to pick Stefan that same moment and she looked up at that moment when I also decided to. Fuck. She's the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, in the entire fucking world even. She looked at me for only a moment then to the girl who just by her name mentioning, she threw herself on Mariana. Fucking lucky her. I wish for that.

She picked her up away and I just couldn't look away even if I tried until Stefan tugged on my blazer and raised his brows at me. I ruffled his hair then picked him up. What the hell was he doing anyway?

I noticed her eyes on me and I wanted to check if she's not moving just then, she almost tripped but I have that boyfriend of hers to thank for not allowing it. Though I have him to thank for saving the woman I am going to spend my entire life loving, I want to flip him over. Fuck him.

She smiled at him and I watched him put his hand at her back protectively as they walked inside.

My eyes never left her, I keep looking out for any opportunity that will take me to her. I didn't pay attention to the award program. My turn came and I finally went for one for my restaurant. That's it. Paula and her husband gathered the majority of it. They just kept mounting that stage once they sat for more and I am happy for that because I get to see Mariana smile happily all the time for her parents.

"Ladies and gentlemen, before the night ends, we have a surprise award for someone here for her selfless dedication to humanity. Without talking much, on behalf of APA international humanitarian we call on Miss Dominguez for this award."

I swear I heard Mariana gasp from where I sat. She didn't expect it but I know she deserves this a long fucking time ago. I hate that it took long for her work to be recognized.

She has seen me take an award so many times, now is the time for me too. I'm seeing her shine and it's the fucking best feeling ever. No wonder she won't miss any of my competitions.

A minute has passed and Mariana hasn't gotten on her feet yet. Her face is hidden away in her lap and I just want to go up to her and carry her.

Finally, she got up for it and I admired the way her creamy dress clung to her from her chest to below her round bottoms then flowed to the ground, sweeping it. Just the way she walk alone with so much poise and charisma. Superwoman.

Not giving a fuck to what anyone will think and eager to do it before her lawyer boyfriend gets up to do so, I got on my feet to walk her back.

"Congratulations." I took her hand and led her down the podium.

"Thanks but I can't believe it."

"You have to because you deserve it." I intentionally slowed so that we can talk more before she gets to her seat where her pretty boyfriend will take over. That hurts.

"This is for us."

"Fuck no!"

"You helped me a lot last year, Novan."

"I helped myself. It felt good sharing my ordeal and seeing it have a positive impact on the youths. I enjoyed working with you."

"Thank you." She mouthed and smiled afterward. I smiled back like a fucking dummy.

"How's it going with 'objection my Lord' ?"

She chuckled harder than she should and everyone turned to look at us. It's not like they were looking somewhere else anyway since I walked up that stage.

"He's not yet a lawyer and stop calling him my boyfriend."

"Didn't you date him?"

"We did but it didn't work...Still, I won't call that a date."

"Why? Were you only kissing cousins?"

"Don't say that."

"Did he fuck you?"

"Novan!" She looked terrified.

"Kidding. Tell me why it didn't work." I know she won't sleep with him but it's all I've been scared of since I learned that something is going on more than friendship.

"I sold my heart to the devil and even after I wanted to give his money back and take my heart, he refused so it's his, never going to belong to me or anybody else."

"Am I still that devil?"

"Thought you're my God."

"Wrong. I can only be your God after you tell me what you've been hiding from me."

"Oh, you still remember?" She's surprised.

Why won't I fucking remember? I remember till date the first time I set my eyes on her in elementary and how far we came only that we didn't have a happy ending. I found her but she made me close to something that can be named perfect and that makes her my treasure.

"I remember everything."

"I see. How's your girlfriend then? What's her name? Sexy Louisa?"

She's started again. Giving me shit about a girl I actually got but she's also annoying as fuck. I can't stand anybody..well only Mariana but not all the time. She drives me fucking mental and the day Louisa said she loves me, I broke up with her. I hate nonsense! I want to only hear Mariana tell me that. Not some bitch. Mariana knows this. That I hate my girlfriend but she doesn't stop teasing me about it. This beautiful woman.

"Don't start. You know I hate her and you're the only sexy woman I last fucked."

"You're crazy. Who hates his girlfriend?" She looked around as if to inspect if anybody heard what I said.

"I'm single and searching now. Any woman like you to make an honest man out of me is welcomed."

"I see."

"And you? Did you say you dumbed the lawyer's stupid ass?"

"Novan!" She scolded and I laughed. "I didn't dump him. We understand that it won't work and decided to remain friends."

"If that is the case...then let me make an honest woman out of you. Marry me again."

She stopped, eyes threatening to pop then looked around and walked to her seat, leaving me to just stand there.

I walked to my seat and fucking counted every tiny second for the program to end so I can talk to her again.

"You don't stare at people like that." My mom diverted my attention to the stage when she said that.

"Well, you can look at her. She has also started to look for you anyway."

I'm tempted to look at her and truly, her eyes were searching. They finally stop in my direction and I think she's looking at my mom..no... it's me. I tried to meet her eyes but she looked away.

My stomach is fucking turning and twisting as I tried to not stare at the beautiful woman sitting a few tables away from me who stole my heart body and soul all those years ago.

"You two are the strangest beings ever. "

"Why do you say that." I snatched Stefan's chocolate and he fucking shot me a glare. I ate it anyway and he looked like he'd cry but I don't give a fuck.

"You try to stay away from each other when you know it's not possible and for no concrete reasons at all."

"You see it that way."

"No. You two are just stubborn." I looked at her again and frowned when 'objection-my-Lord' placed his arms behind her chair and she leaned slightly into him.

"That is not lovey-dovey. Their relationship is purely platonic."

I huffed.

"It looked like your wedding seeing you walk her from the podium. It was so nice."
She gave Stefan new chocolate and I eyed it while the boy looked away, hiding it.

"Ha-ha." I turned to look at her but panicked when I didn't see her or the lawyer. I sat at the edge of the seat and critically scanned the whole place for her. God. I'm finished if she leaves.

"There she is." Tricia pointed towards the entrance and I saw her walking back in with the lawyer following like a puppy.

My chest heaved in relief when she took her seat and I relaxed in my seat. I wish I could go there now, knock the lawyer out of his seat to sit beside her then admire her and tell her that she's the most beautiful and strongest woman in this room. I will tell her how I am really happy that she excelled in college with two certificates and did something for herself, something that really makes her happy.

"See." My mother mocked.

"Fuck off."

"Don't fucking curse in front of Stefan..." She paused and I laughed.

"What did you just do yourself?"

"That was a slip of tongue. It's not gonna happen again. You're the cause."

"Seriously? You're the type who blames Satan for your evil deeds but I am leaving. Satan is not this generous." I snatched the chocolate again from my kid brother but my mom was fast enough to take it back before Stefan's loud cry could reach outside the building.

Children. He screamed as if I had my foot against his throat. Just common chocolate and everyone is looking at me as if I attempted murder.

I walked to Mariana. "Come with me," I whispered in her ears and smirked when I saw the goosebumps that appeared immediately on her neck.

"What?"

"Please."

"I can't just get up."

I rolled my eyes and looked at 'objection-my-Lord'

Do I have to ask his permission? It fucking shouldn't be but I found myself doing it anyway.

"I want to talk to her for a while. Allow her if you don't mind."

He looked at Mariana then to me and I bet if he had a pair of glasses on, he's going to push it down to his nose and take a critical look like the way our headmaster's do and judges or even grannies.

"No. I don't mind."

"Thank you, my Lord." I teased. I would've taken her away if he had refused anyway.

★★★

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 27✓
[232] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~DONOVAN/EVERETT~|

〰️❤️〰️

"Let's go," I whispered again and she took the effigy along as if she'd not come back again but that's fine with me. I'm happy that she's taking everything along in case we don't make it back.

Once we stepped out she wrapped her arms around her torso.

I took the effigy from her and removed my blazer then made her wear it.

"Thanks."

"You're welcome." I walked her to my car, opening it, I dumped her award inside before catching on myself.

"Why did you.."

"I'm sorry," I said before she could complete her reprimand.

"Why did you bring me out here?" She asked and I leaned on the car. I have a lot to say to her but right now, I am lost for words.

I stepped closer to her and brushed a loose curl from her face to the back of her ear and she gulped and blinked but didn't look away.

"I'm so proud of you," I whispered. There were times after Paula called to tell me in tears what she was facing but wouldn't tell me and I thought my girl is all broken up beyond repair. I was scared and mad that she was dying inside but won't tell me shit about what she was facing but she finally came out of it somehow though not completely. I was so happy for her when she finally made it out of college than even she was. I loved the way she came up alive that day. It was satisfying to watch. As time went by, she grew stronger, bold, confident, and collected than she's ever been.

"I am.."

I put my hand up to silence her. "I'm not done. "You're so fucking incredible, Mariana, and all your inputs in the world is fucking legendary. Not only are you pursuing your dreams. You are an activist, a great philanthropist right from childhood, got an intense passion for humanity, you are an iconic businesswoman, and a successful boss lady. You're so fucking phenomenal."

Her cheeks are flushed and she bites her lips gently. "That is enough. You're just exaggerating."

"Me exaggerating? I won't ever do that."

"I'm happy for you also. You're an international amazing cook, you own a successful restaurant and you're earning a lot of titles. You're an activist also for self-recovery and drug addiction. Thank you so much for working with me and helping me to help others. I am happy about how freely you come out to talk about surviving your addiction and amazed at the number of people you transformed. You're incredible."

I remained speechless for some time as my head get bigger and bigger. I always love it when she expresses how proud she is of me but I love it more this time since she doesn't have problems like she used to.

"I enjoyed working with you." I always tell her this.

"Thanks for being my first client as well."

"I will always be your first in everything."

She looked down this time to her shoes which were barely visible shyly.

I love that I am her first, I will always love that but coming to seek help from her, I didn't know I was her first but getting to know of it, later on, threw me over the moon and I've been staying there since.

"What did you do to your hair?" I got a pin out so it fell behind her. I told her times without number not to be leaving her neck for people to see but she's stubborn.

" I dyed it. You like it?"

I shook my head.

"Well, don't like it. I didn't do it for you anyway and it's my hair, I do whatever I want with it. Your opinion isn't needed."

"Whoa!" I stepped back a little and stretched my arms then rolled my sleeves up. Who would've thought that I will be wearing suits at least once every week? I hate to have places like this to go to every week.

Her eyes fell on the inked skin I just revealed and if it's not my vision that is deceiving me, I saw her step close. I knew I didn't have a problem with my sight when her hands moved to my face and brushed my brow, the one I had slipped the metal back in. I sighed at the contact that it took everything in me not to close my eyes when her thumb brushed my brow.

"You look manly." She stares at my brow then back in my eyes.

"Yeah? I'm twenty-six only. Don't say I look old."

"No, not what I am trying to say. I mean you look really good, very charming...hot also."

I cocked my head and raised my brows at her. She bit her lips too hard and I can tell she didn't mean to say them out loud.

I can't believe she thinks that I am that good looking. It's a lie. "Am I handsome more than objection-my-Lord' ?"

"No, more than 'objection-overruled.' " She laughed and the sound is the sweetest I've ever heard and the beauty of the smile illuminated the lot for me.

Her laughter is contagious and fucking attractive. I stepped closer to her. She's just confirmed that I am handsome than the lawyer.

"And you're the sexiest and prettiest in this entire world. You've always been."

"Well.." she hid her face behind the fall of her hair beside her face.

I lifted her face and I was tempted to brush my thumb over her full lips.

She stared back at my brow again. I'm sure it's about the metal I plugged back in. I decided to wear it on New Year Eve after I clocked twenty-six.

"Spill."

She blinked. "The metal in your eyebrow."

"What about it?"

"It was what made me say those things. Do you have it anywhere else?"

I nodded and her eyes lit. "Where?"

I know she's expecting it to be on my tongue.

"On my dick," I said and watched her eyes widen.

"What!"

I laughed.

"Tell me you're lying. How can you go for a new piercing and there?" She's horrified.

What if she learns that I got new tattoos to fill up my torso but my back. That is for her and our star.

"It's a lie. I have it here." I snaked my tongue out and I saw excitement shine in her eyes.

"Do you want to feel it?"

She wanted to bite her lower lip again but bit my thumb instead since it was still over her lips.

"Sorry." She apologized.

"It's nothing." If anything, I twitched down there just by that.

"Answer me. Do you want to feel it?"

She nodded. "How would you do it?"

"Like this." I tilted her chin to take her lips in mine and she moaned straight away. Sweet relief is what I feel. My tongue delved deep and she sucks on it to feel the metal. I kissed her lips a few times then brought my lips against her neck. She shivered and put her arms around my waist, causing my expensive blazer to fall off then she let her head fall back to give me more access.

This is awesome. I can't remember the last time we did this. I miss..miss her. I stopped and hugged her, burying my face in her neck this time and breathing her in and the way she's holding me tight proves just how she's still drawn to me, we're still drawn to each other the same way we've always been and that makes me the happiest man alive. Even the way we're just standing in this lot and hugging is satisfying than any sex we'd ever have. I'm not going to trade this moment for anything. Not for anything.

"I miss you." The words tumble from her lips. I can tell by the way her hands stilled around me. She didn't mean to say it. She never wanted to say it even when I said it to her and I don't know why.

"I miss you more." I breathed. She sighed and her hands came tight around me again.

"If I had actually got a ring in my dick, I should be fucking you now against my car to show it. I wish I did."

"Novan!" She gasped but I know how much she loves my filthy lips.

"Mariana." I teased and she laughed into my neck, the sound of it and the warmth from her mouth sent vibrations through me. We remained hugging and I wish its never end as I closed my eyes. I will just have to say it.

"Can..can we start all over again?" Okay, I've said it. I'm tired of living without her. It's not supposed to be so. We belong together. Last two years I only got a few doses of her. That's not enough. I spent an entire year without seeing her until now. I can't.

"Why?"

She didn't ask that. I pulled back to stare into her face.

"As much as the five years didn't work for us, I find it difficult to let go. Let's try it one more time. Maybe this time will be different. Let's fight it one more time...or the last." I begged. All my plans to keep her failed. She didn't get pregnant or she did and aborted.. no. Mariana will never kill anyone talkmore her baby. Then it means she gave birth to it and is hiding the baby from me. After all, we've been away from each other for a year. That's enough time to get pregnant and give birth. Or she didn't get pregnant because I am not fertile. My sperm isn't capable of impregnating her. That's going to be pathetic and a shame on me.

"I find it difficult also but before that, I want to tell you something. If after that you still want, then I am all for it because I still love you just as much."

"Whatever it is, it can't be great enough to stop us from having our AFTERGLOW."

"Then you'll become my God."

I smiled at her but deep down I am scared and praying that it shouldn't be any of the possibilities running in my head.

Maybe she wants to tell me that she gave birth to our baby and hid it away from me. It has to be that.

"Tell me?" My heart is beating as I go back to lean on my car.

"Here?" She looked around the parking lot and picked the blazer from the floor.

"Oh sorry. Where do you want us to talk?"

"Somewhere that is not here." She replied.

"Okay." I opened the door for her and until she settled, I closed the door, round the car and went to sit beside her. The drive through the busy streets of New York is daunting as I try to think of all the things my fucked up mind throws in my head and anytime I look at Mariana, I catch her looking nervous. That worsened my anxiety.

What could it be?

***

I stopped by a beach and looked at her. " Is this place okay?"

"Better than the lot." She began to work on her heels.

Smart. I just started imagining her walking in the sand with the tall pairs and it's impossible.

"I can pick you up."

"No thanks." She got down and I followed. I didn't hesitate to take her hand in mine as we walked close to the bank.

"Would you sit on those chairs or in the sand?"

"I prefer nature." She got her hand from mine and walked close to the sea and sat, facing it.

I sat beside her and the first five minutes were spent admiring how the waves crash at the bank according to all the three sets of energy it comes with.

She's playing with the sand and keeps throwing small stones and seashells into the waves.

Though there's a sound of the roaring waves, it's peaceful out here and the breeze is just perfect.

"I regret my tattoo even more that you've changed your name." She broke the silence.

"You don't call me Everett."

"Yes." She filled her palm with sand.

"Why?"

"I don't know. I just find myself saying it instead of the Everett."

"It's not by force. Call me any name you want, be it 'daddy'."

She smiled and I fucking loved the way her face looked under the moon.

"Louisa won't complain." She teased.

"Stop it." I looked away. I am loving how she's trying to make the mood lighter but I am fucking eager. I want to know what she's been keeping for that long.

"Okay. Do you agree with me that New York is a beautiful city?"

I looked back at her. "I agree but I hate how fucking busy and crowded it is. I like to have peace of mind hence a calm place."

"Like our cabin?"

"Yes. The cabin." I replied.

"Then why did you sell it?"

"Because it was supposed to be our secret place but you let the whole world know."

"I didn't."

"You did."

"How?"

"By taking my friends there and your brother that he had to also take Nervisa there who questioned me for not ever taking her there."

"Okay. I'm sorry."

"It's nothing. We can always get another one."

"Where?"

"Anywhere you want."

"We keep traveling around Novan. How many continents have we been to so far?"

"Europe, America and Australia and tons of countries. The continents are just three."

"The last we were close to Asia. When we went to Russia and it's not three. It's four. We've been to South America too."

"Yeah. You want us to go? To the others?"

"No."

"Be serious. I can take you around the world. Just tell me where you wanna go. Africa? Asia? Or even Antarctica."

"Oh please. I don't want to go to Antarctica where I will turn to ice. I would love to go to Africa and experience how actually the sun glows there. I learned it's the hottest continent but it doesn't mean it's hot all the time right?"

"Yes. They have seasons just like we do over here."

"I learned their men are also hot, very." She gave me a smug smile.

"I don't care but just like the sun, I will keep them away from you. They're too hot for you." I told her.

Black men are just naturally hot. I see that from my stepdad. I learned from Tricia that he has roots from there.

"I would like to see you try if you don't get burned yourself."

She won't stop. "I also heard..no.. I've seen with my two eyes how endowed their women are with proper body shape. Not whites with flat bums and chest."

"That's a lie. Asians are the one noted for that type of body shape. Korea's to be precise but they're also beautiful in their own way."

"Deny the Africans too."

"Okay okay. I know they have it but come on, you won't say we're not moderate."

"I only look at you and you're perfect for me, all I want. I don't care about the others."

She remained quiet. Serious even.

"What?"

She shook her head. "It's nothing but when you say these things, you make me speechless."

"Okay. So tell me where you wanna live if we should get our own house."

"Anywhere but I have to pay equal part of the money."

"Alright." I know she's not going to allow me if I want to pay entirely so I have to agree.

"But before that will happen, I need to tell you this."

The much awaited moment is here. I hope she doesn't bring out any irrelevant conversation like the one we just had out to buy herself more time.

"Okay." I sat well in the sand, my hands stretched to the back and fingers buried in the sand in anticipation. Not forgetting that my heart has started to rise and fall as it beats vigorously like the way a Bollywood actress's chest rises and falls when a man touches them or they're scared. Those stars can exaggerate their breathing like crazy. The fuck! It's so fucking unreal but I am glad I can at least use them to exaggerate. Whichever way, my heart is hammering.

I focused on the waves and couldn't help symbolizing it to our love. The wave is periodically peaceful, but always there. That is our Love! It will be there even if we don't end together...

******

♾️馃崅The kiss and now,
our AFTERGLOW?♾️馃崅

By: @AvisMens (Kels)

CHAPTER 28✓
[233] of the LIFE SERIES.

|~DONOVAN/EVERETT~|

〰️❤️〰️

"Promise you're not going to get mad at me for long after this."

Now she's making my heart beat harder.

"I won't survive if you don't talk to me again." She crossed her legs and looked down at it.

"I won't survive it either. I love you so no matter what, I will find a way to forgive you."

"Okay." She breathed deeply.

"Are you hiding my baby?" I asked. I couldn't keep it in.

"What?"

"Yes, Mariana. We didn't use condoms the last time so I expected.." I stopped when I thought I heard her take a sniff.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you look like a thief."

She laughed but it was sad at the end. "How can I steal my own baby?"

"Well from me. Women do that a lot when they're not on good terms with their husband."

"Where did you get that ridiculous idea from?"

"You don't know? I got it from a book I read. A novel actually. It goes like this. The lady walks in to see her man in bed or office with another woman then apply for divorce. She leaves and after a month or she even faints on the way while leaving and it's usually pregnancy. She doesn't tell the man and sometimes gives it to another man. Some are crazy to the extent of killing the father of the baby in the baby's head hence making him non-existent and the child grew thinking his father is dead. Worse, they poisoned the child's mind against the father. Mostly, those things they see are fucking conspiracies or what it does not look like. This is similar to our problem. Because we don't agree, you got pregnant and decided not to tell me about it and since we've been a year apart, that's your advantage."

"I won't do that."

"How would I believe you?"

"Because I was once the victim of the story you just told, it's similar. I know how it feels like so I would never do it to my child no matter what."

Oops. I remember.

Her parents separated for some years and she didn't know her dad all those times because Paula madam kept it away from her.

"Sorry."

"It's okay."

"So it means you didn't get pregnant?" I asked with my voice shaking. It's either there's something wrong with me. Come to think of it, there were a lot of times we went without a condom and there was no pregnancy.

"Did you get on birth control?" I asked again and this time she shook her head.

"I think there's something wrong with me."

"No. It's not you."

"Why? You're not a doctor."

"I am not a doctor but I know this isn't from you. I am the one with the faults."

"What do you mean?" I turned properly to her.

"Yes, Novan. This..this is what I wanted to say to you all this time. I found out I can't give birth. I'm barren. More like infertile. I can't have a baby Novan." Her voice catches at the end painfully.

"You can't say that when we haven't been to the doctor."

"There's no need. I went to the doctor and he told me this."

"What? When? Tell me everything."

"Yes." She swallowed and shifted away from me.

"The accident I had...I never went for a proper review so my parents made me go for it. It was then I learned that I was given the wrong medication in my comatose state and that damaged my organs. My reproductive organs malfunction and the doctor said there's nothing that could be done. If you ever saw me taking some pills, it's to clear any bits of the strong medicine if there's any from further destroying unaffected ones. That is it...I am just like this.." She sniffed, trying not to cry.

I've always wondered what medicine she's been taking so this is it?

"I'm sorry." She added.

I didn't know what to say to her. This is painful and sad and I am angry at her and everything and it's stupid but...

So we'd never have a baby? I will never be a father? She won't be a mother?

How can life be so cruel? I've had enough of it. I don't deserve it and neither does she.

"You're not going to say anything?"

"What do I say?" My voice is sharp and I want to correct it immediately but it's already out.

To be frank, I suspected this but I didn't care if I get to be a father one day or not and I cleared the thought away also because I thought Mariana is too good, perfect to have those problems but it's not the truth.

She actually has faults, a massive one. No wonder she keeps preaching adoption to me.

What the fuck?!

"Oh." Her voice shakes.

"You kept this from me for so fucking long. Why would you do that?"

"I didn't want you to leave me."

"That's crazy and a fucking lie. If you didn't want to leave me you'd have packed eagerly to stay with me in California when I requested but you fought me and ran off to leave in your sweet Australia. Claiming your life is there including all the people you love. Are your kids not there too?"

"Novan!" She cried, getting on her feet but she sat down again. Maybe after realizing that we're not in Australia where she can run home anytime.

"The fact that I can't have a baby won't make me do what I don't like."

"You're still proud and confident." I snort and I know I am behaving childishly but I can't help it. I am twenty-six and that Morgan is not even twenty-one but already a Father. I also want to be a father but once again I am robbed. The world surprised me. I feel as if something has been taken away from me.

"You never wanted a baby."

"Yes yes, but at least I knew nothing will come in the way if I change my mind anytime as I did now. I want a baby now Mariana."

"I'm sorry but you're just one confused set of being who doesn't know what he wants."

"Who said I don't know what I want?" I'm getting angrier by the minute. I want to blame everyone tied to her for this, her mom inclusive.

"Then you must know you can go get it with someone else. This was the reason why I didn't want to tell you but I am sorry for keeping you instead of letting you go to find someone fertile. I am sorry Novan."

That is it. I don't want anybody else to. She has bewitched me to love her alone.

"You kept this for so many years, Mariana. It's not fair." I repeated. I feel hurt more than anything. She shouldn't have hidden it. I think that hurts more than not having it.

"I am sorry."

I remained quiet to think of the whole issue. It's important to do this before I do anything I'd end up regretting.

|~MARIANA~|

I just finally told him everything and I really want to hear his final response or just say something but Novan is not even looking at me.

I reached to touch his hand but he flinched and got up.

"Let's go."

"Huh?" He has already begun to walk back to the car.

So this is it? Just what I've been fearing.

I followed him to the car and this time I sat in the backseat as he sped into the streets.

"Give me your address?"

"What? You're taking me home?"

"Where were you expecting me to take you?"

"It's okay," I mentioned it to him and leaned my head against the window.

After some minutes he stopped in front of Betsy's house and I waited for him to open the door for me but when he didn't, I got down myself and began to walk to the gate but turned back towards him.

If this is the last time I will be seeing him, it shouldn't be like this. I walked to his side. "Novan."

He didn't answer or even looked my way.

"Novan I am really..." I couldn't finish when he rolled the glass on and took off on speed.

I have long stopped crying over things like this but this is just too much for me.

Before getting inside, I wiped every trace of tears from my face.

Passing the kitchen, Morgan is holding Meghan in his arms while Betsy does something on the fire.

I walked quietly to go unnoticed when Meghan called me and I had to return. Immediately, I put a smile on and walked to join them in the kitchen.

"Why aren't you sleeping, Meghan?"

"Hunger just woke her up. Don't worry about her." Betsy answered.

"I see. So hunger is worrying you huh?" I tickled her sides and she cracked up.

"Can you take her? I want to go back to sleep." Morgan said in a sleepy voice. Looks like he was even dozing while standing.

"Sure."

I outspread my arms and Meghan readily came.

"Thanks." He picked water on his way out. "I love you Sisy but I gotta sleep. Goodnight."

"Gunight," Meghan mumbled after her dad.

"That won't be fair. I also want to sleep. Quinn, would you take over from here please?"

"No Betsy."

"Okay, I will make it then you feed her for me. Please."

"Alright. I will wait in the living room." I walked out to take a seat on the couch and Meghan on my lap. She kept yawning adorably from time to time and I just stared at her. She's so cute...very beautiful.

When she placed her head on me, I had to shout for Betsy to be fast before she slips back into sleep.

When the food came and she saw it, she immediately did the cross sign in prayer and I laughed.

I positioned her on me properly and when I raised the spoon to her lips, she opened up to take it. I feel good doing this even if I can't have my own. But I will always wish to become a mother.

"Where did you go?" Betsy didn't leave.

"Nowhere."

"Everett wasn't around also. Where did he take you?"

"Nowhere. We just went to talk."

"Hmm.. about settling down?"

"No. Actually, it's finally over between us. We ended things." My eyes welled up saying this out loud.

"I've lost count of the number of times you say this and still see you two together."

"This one is serious."

"What brought it up?"

"You don't wanna know."

"That's why I am asking."

"Well...

"Betsy, I got a problem!" Morgan shouted from their room.

"Tell me this later but I want to let you know that, whatever it is, you'll be fine and don't stop being strong." She began to rush off.

" Hey. What of Meghan?"

"Take her to your room when she falls asleep."

"What?"

"Thank you!"

"But.." she already disappeared.

"Hello, cutie. It's just you and me tonight." I whispered as I wiped her tiny pink lips.

I raised another spoonful and she shook her head then placed it on my chest. She yawned and with pink lips in a pout, she closed her eyes.

I tried not to think of what happened or cry over it again. Somewhere within me, I knew this would happen. Now that my fate didn't surprise me, I gotta accept this part of my life. Things won't change when I cry but I know this pain of never being a parent will stay with me forever.

I love Novan, too much to even beg him not to leave me. He deserves better, to have it all, all the best things. I won't let him suffer my bad luck with me.

|~DONOVAN~|

I didn't get home. I slowed the car when I got to the highway and packed to the side.

Who do I hold responsible for this?

Is it Mariana who has been unlucky? Her parents? Tobias? Or God. Who the fuck should I blame? There should be someone.

The said accident she said caused her was the one they said my dad plotted but I don't believe that shit. It was just natural for them to accuse him of that because he was on their neck but the truth of the matter is, after Paula's accident and the wedge my dad and Florencia drove between them, he thought all was done and left them to be. I got to know all of it from a tape my dad left his lawyer. He explained everything and according to him, he didn't try to clear it because truly, he was a bother in their lives.

Their accident was something normal. Things don't go well in a plane when there's a strong storm and it rained heavily that day.

Jude really had nothing to do with the plane accident but as I always say, once a devil, always a devil. Even if the devil changes, people will still blame and accuse him of any misfortune that happened to them.

My dad has been bad and he went as far as to end Paula's life so it's just natural for them to point to him straight away without even an investigation when the plane crashed.

Clearly, I can't blame Mariana for this. If anything, she's the one being affected by this. She didn't wish for this, it didn't happen because she wanted it and she was even just a child. I can't blame her parents either and even if I blame them, they've already been punished by being away from their child for such a long time. If I blame my dad, he has also paid his price, unfortunately.

Now, what is Mariana paying for? Nothing. Since I know her, she has never wished anyone bad, not even her enemies.

Why must this happen to her? And now a son of bitch like me just worsened her devastation.

This was what she feared and that is why she kept it to herself for a long time and now I brought that to life. What must she be going through now?

Heartbroken, sad, and lonely.

Mariana and I have come this far and God and hell know I can't live without her. I can never.

If anything, this is the time for me to show her that even situations like this won't break us.

Whatever it is, I want to stand by her and fight through this together. I can't leave her? This is the woman who lost herself and everything to make me into who I am today. She went through a lot just by her decision to be with me. Why can't I also stand by her this time when she needed me most? This isn't how much I love her.

Before I know it, I am turning around back to Betsy's house. Luckily the security guard was close by and he opened the door for me.

Getting into the living room, I wanted to take the stairs when I turned and saw someone laying on the couch. I recognized the dress but she wasn't alone. A little girl is sleeping very soundly on her.

I walked to them and the first thing I did was to take her shoes off. My eyes met with the baby bowl with a little food inside, the wipes and all and I just wanted to scold Betsy for not allowing her to even change out of her clothes before assigning her duty for her to do.

She stirred and her eyes opened when I tried taking the girl. She raised herself in a sitting position, her hands wrapped around the girl protectively as if I wanted to harm her.

"What are you doing here?" She looked around.

"I came." I simply said.

"You came? Why?" Disbelief is written in her eyes.

"Let's go inside. We can talk later."

"Are you actually here?" She stared at me from where I was standing skeptically.

"Yes."

Without saying more, she got up and I followed her till we got to a room where she put Meghan on the bed.

"This is your room?"

"It's my room when I come visiting."

"Okay." My breath is taken away as I watch her undress. This is the body I haven't seen or touched in a year.

"Stop looking at me." She turned her back to me but that was even better. Her curves are more prominent than the last time I saw her.

"I can never."

"Why did you come back? Is it to taunt me?" She put a sinful cotton nightdress on and wrapped her long hair over her head.

"No. I came because I have to and we need to talk but not now."

"Hmm. What is left to talk about it again? I told you my problem and you gave me an answer."

"I'm sorry if my actions sent the wrong information.."

"Wrong information you say? I want to sleep Everett, please let me." She got on the bed beside the little girl and closed her eyes that instant.

I got my shoes and pants off before also getting on the bed. I fear if I take my shirt off she's going to make another case for me for the new tattoos.

"You're sleeping here?"

"Yes."

"I don't want you to. Leave!"

"I will leave at dawn. Please let me sleep."

"At dawn."

"Yes. At dawn." I got in bed but did I sleep? I waited for her to sleep first and I watched her the entire night until dawn where I decided to close my eyes but Betsy broke in on us.

"Oops sorry. I just came to check on Meghan." She tried to explain in a whisper.

"It's fine. I was about to leave anyway." I whispered back and pulled my pants on, then my shoe.

"Leave?"

"That is what I said."

"Okay, so when will you two settle down? Haven't you taken it a little too far? You're adults now but the fight is just getting more."

"None of your business." I walked past her out of the room after a glance at Mariana.

She has it all so she'd lecture me. Fuck her. When I come back Mariana won't stay around them again. Who knows what this is causing her and what shit it's feeding to her mind.

It's just reminding her of all the things she can't have but we can actually have everything.

|~MARIANA~|

When I woke up Meghan wasn't with me and Novan kept his word. I got out to check if Meghan is with her mom and I saw them in the kitchen together.

"You're awake." She smiled too widely.

"Yes. Came to check on Meghan. How are you two?"

"We're fine. Thanks for last night."

"It's nothing."

"So..what happened last night?" Her smile deepened knowingly as she dried her hands and picked Meghan up.

"Last night?"

"Yeah, last night."

"Wait...I should be asking you about what happened. I'm not the one who went to help her husband with God knows what and never came."

"Yes... Everett was here last night. You told me you guys broke up for real this time."

"So this is it?"

"Don't take offense. I'm not surprised. It's your thing. I've seen it so many times before."

"Yeah. But I am actually surprised that he came. I didn't expect it. It doesn't mean things are fine."

"It will be fine."

"I hope. Where's Morgan?"

"Still sleeping."

"What did you do to him?" I smiled and she shrugged. "Nothing." And laughed after.

"Going to take a bath. Will be back."

"Why don't you have breakfast first?"

"No. I didn't take a bath last night. I will be done soon."

"Okay, but you might not meet me when you're done. I have worked at the office and I will be dropping my daughter at school on my way."

"Don't worry." I walked back to my room and after some minutes I got ready but I needed to do some work on my laptop, send some important emails and make some calls which went for almost two hours. Lastly, I returned Cecil's calls, and then he told me that he had returned the car.

Thanking him, I had to also apologize for leaving him at the function yesterday all alone and Cecil being the nice person told me that it's alright and that he doesn't have a problem with it.

Getting down from upstairs I had the idea of picking up breakfast but then someone had to knock and I had to answer it since Morgan still hasn't woken up from the bed and there was no sign of Betsy around.

I rushed to it when the knocking got persistent. Opening it, I didn't expect to see him, same as last night. I even thought I was dreaming.

"What are you doing here?"

"Do I have any business here apart from seeing you?"

"Yes, but why would you.."

" Just come with me. I want to show you something."

"What?"

"Just come okay?"

"No, you have to tell.."

" Please Mariana just listen to me and come." He sounds exhausted.

" Okay let me pick my bag."

Getting into his car I realized I left my award inside and his jacket was still in the backseat. "Where are we going?" I couldn't help but ask him again."

"Patience, you'll know soon." He smiled.

"You're strange."

"I know right."

When after an hour and we still hadn't reached the supposed place he was taking me, I had to talk.

"Where the hell are you taking me for the last time."

"Where we're going to live henceforth." He replied coolly.

"You don't get to decide that for me."

"When we get there and you don't like it, I am not going to force you."

"How far is it?"

"You'll throw a fit if I tell you."

"Well, I am hungry."

"Sorry. We'd stop by." He said and after some minutes he stopped by a restaurant where I took my breakfast and insisted to pay.

We continued the journey and after three hours, we arrived in a town, which looks similar to Augusta but this is a little modern.

"What are we doing in Inlet?" I got down and admired some part of the beautiful simple town.

"To select an apartment but I got one. If you don't like it, I won't have a problem hunting for another one for us. Come with me."

Before I could react he took my hand and walked me towards a modern cottage.

When we got in he let go of my hand and I took the time to look around the place. It's lovely and the town is peaceful. The lakes around and the natural vegetation only draws you close to nature and that is one thing I like. This place there's no way you'd get disturbed by the busy lives out there.

Novan likes a simple lifestyle and I wanted the same to...so this is just perfect for us but then...

"Why are you doing this? Why did you bring me here?" I turned around to him. After last night, I thought I won't ever see him again.

"Because I am not ready to let you go." He whispered and I just shook my head. How can he change his mind so quickly?

"What?"

"I won't talk much, it's just that I can't live without you even if I try to."

"But..but.." I gulped. "You know I can't...I can't give birth right? You can't be a father."

"It doesn't matter. I've loved you since and I still do. You're the woman I want the rest of my life to be spent with."

I found a chair nearby and sat on it before I collapsed from the shock he's giving me. My eyes got pregnant with tears when I looked up at him. His eyes are on me too, communicating deeply to me.

"I didn't expect you to say this after the way you reacted." I bit my shivering lips.

"You know I am crazy."

"Of course. That you are." I nodded with a chuckle, still not believing it.

The sound of his boots hitting against the wood floor lifted my eyes to him. He got to me and by my hands, he got me on my feet.

"I am your God." He said with conviction, his eyes never leaving mine as they promise forever.

"No you're not." I shook my head and stepped back.

"Yes I am." He got closer.

"No."

"Yes."

"You're deceiving me. More like a prank."

"No. Never! Look into my eyes and you'd know. Our love has been unconditional, it still is."

I looked into his fine face then into his beautiful eyes. I saw and felt it.

"I'm your God." He whispered.

"Yes you are and I love my God." I teared up. This is too good to be true.

"Trust you do."

"Novan..." I finally burst into tears but an emotional one, throwing myself on him in a hug.

I'm overwhelmed that I didn't know what to do or say. That was all that came into mind. He actually accepted me the way that I am, the way God does. An incomplete woman that I am who has nothing to offer him.

"I love you and because of that nothing can break us. They lie."

"God, I love you more." I jumped to wrap my legs around his waist and he helped me too as I hugged him.

"You haven't said anything about the place."

"You have good taste." I replied, I am still hanging on him

"That's why I have you."

"No, I mean the place."

"What does it matter?"

I stared into his handsome face. "I can't believe this... it's too good to be true Novan. Please tell me it's a lie. I thought I lost you forever and now? I got to be dreaming."

"It's not a dream."

"Well then, why did you leave?"

"I needed to think and calm down. That's why I left but I apologized for the way I reacted."

"You went to think?" Wow. That's impressive.

"I realized my life is incomplete without. I don't care about other things. I just want to be with you forever."

"Thank you... I am so blessed to have you."

"No. I am the blessed one. I mean look at me. There's no way I would've been who I am today without you coming into my life."

"I'm equally grateful."

"If you like the place then we should sign the lease and make payment for it. What do you say? There are other places we can look also if you're not satisfied with this place."

"I don't have a problem but this is new York. Are we not so far from everyone?"

"Betsy lives just a few hours from here and your family is moving back to America. You're not far."

"The hell. My parents didn't say anything about moving here to me ever. How did you know?"

"Your brother told my sister. Don't ask me more."

"Yeah. I just have to hear it from the horse's mouth personally."

"Do that then and you can work from home right? I mean the organization while you get another job around here."

"Leave that to me. I will know how to handle it."

"Thank you."

He sat down and I sat back beside him. "No, sit on me. I want to hold you in my arms."

"When we haven't paid for the place yet?" I asked but I sat on him anyway and he had his arms around me.

"Am I the only one you told about?" He asked while plastering a kiss to the back of my ear.

"No, my mom knows about it."

"What!" He exclaimed.

"Don't feel betrayed by my mom, you wouldn't have been happy if you heard it from her instead of me. She told me several times to tell you but I just couldn't. Get angry at me but not her."

"Your mom is not just any other person to me Mariana. She's my friend, best even and I trust her a lot to keep this from me. And how can you tell her and not me?"

"So that you rub it in my face during those fights we had?" I tried to get up but he wouldn't let me.

"I wouldn't have done that." He said quietly.

"Are you sure? You're the same person who told me that I moved around looking for people to latch on to when my life was falling apart and I was doing anything to hold it. I was going through so much Novan and our fights are the last thing I wanted."

"I'm sorry."

"I know but let's be frank. Do you actually want this? Are you sure that you want me just this way?"

"Why are you still asking?"

"Because we're no more teenagers and we can't continue driving back and forth especially at this stage. Imagine us doing our old style again. It's going to make our life a waste especially yours."

"What do you mean?"

"You can go out there and have a family of your own Novan. You clearly don't have to carry this cross with me."

"I can have a family with you also. Family doesn't necessarily mean we have to have our own children? There are kids out there we can adopt and make our own. We're in this together Mariana and it's not going to make me love you less. To me, you're still the best thing that ever happened to a motherfucker like me."

"Are you sure? I really care about you Novan. I want you to be able to find another happiness. To have children of your own."

"Why don't you understand that there's no happiness anywhere for me than the one I have with you? I'm always here, rain or shine, I will always be with you and that is not debatable."

"I consider myself lucky you know." I smiled as he kissed my neck.

"Apart from your mom and me, who else?"

"No one else."

"Not even nosy Betsy?"

"No. But don't call my friend that."

"Whatever but I am glad you didn't tell her. We'll get a baby and they won't know the story about it."

"Thanks for your understanding."

"So do you promise to not go away from me again?"

"I have no other place to be so yes."

"You'll marry me again?"

"We never got divorced."

"Oh yes, so we're going to get the rings back on baby?"

"Yes, daddy."

"Mmm." He breathed against my neck and I felt the usual movement down there.

"You never told me how you're going to manage your restaurant if we stay here."

"I got it taken care of. I got someone trained to cook."

"Okay. Take me home. I want time to myself to think about everything. I still can't believe that this is real."

"Alright, babe but first there are five more houses left. Let's decide on the best one that you want then we can pay and move in as soon as possible."

"Whoa! Why so eager." I cracked.

"I can't wait to live with you."

"Me too but where would you put your sister?"

"I haven't spoken to her yet but I don't think she'd be so happy to live in a town but I will still do."

"Please do because I don't mind having her here with us."

" Okay, Mother Theresa."

"Indeed." I chuckled.

****

"I can't believe you kept the teddy and my old shirts."

"They're still useful to me and that teddy means so much more than you can ever know."

"I see." He dropped the teddy on the bed.

We bought a three-bedroom modern cottage and it came beautifully furnished but it took us two months to move in and we're still arranging stuff in it. I had to go back to Australia, get things in order, and appoint potential people to work on my behalf and some to take my place. While I rescheduled my plans. A lot changed. I work mostly from home now and I spent a lot of hours behind my computer. As much as I am doing the work from home, I also need to be visiting to check things for myself. Hence I decided to go to Australia every month. Novan also does the same as he's not too satisfied with the information his workers give. We hardly had time to talk but we both understand that the beginning of every new thing is difficult so with time, we'd get used to it and it will be easier.

Unfortunately, Nervisa didn't like that place but she promised to be visiting every weekend from my parent's place. So yeah. She lives with my parents in midtown Manhattan for now. She plans to spend vacations with us or Tricia and also to school in the UK. That decision is not yet approved by her brother.

And my brother, well, he said he won't come to New York until he's done with high school in Australia.

Wherever Dominguez goes, the Dante's are sure to follow so yeah. Amy and Daniel also moved to Manhattan and they are in the same neighborhood. My grandfather came to California instead and my mom called to gossip about him taking Sharon. I had to tell her everything. She's shocked and surprised but happy for her father.

"Get your ass from that chair and let's go for a short walk before the sun sets."

"As if you knew I needed it." I switched my laptop off and got up. I stopped packing when I got a call of an email that was sent so I checked it out, replied then got caught in something else.

"And we haven't gone out since we came here."

"That's bad."

"Yeah." He laced our hands when we got out. The place is quiet and with not so many people. Residents at inlet are not more than 400. There's a community school for those who can't afford the one in the city. There's a health center, a few Cafes and right now we're passing a wine base.

"Let's go try some," Novan whispered to me.

We got to the warm place which looked like a ghetto and after taking a seat, we bought a bottle of one of the best wines they had according to an old man who was also there with us.

Indeed it was great.

"Not bad."

"Yeah." I concur.

After the drink, we had every intention of going home but we ended up sitting on a deck of a lake with our feet in the water.

A group of children was busy swimming in it and I noticed how Novan's eyes were watching them. When the children spotted their mothers from afar, they ran out of the water but they saw them and chased them.

"I'm sorry that I couldn't make you experience fatherhood."

Novan looked at me and without a word put his hand over mine.

"God is not a fool."

"What?"

"That is what I've understood from our situation. I took care of my sister right from infancy without any experience and you've always loved kids. You don't have a child but you're a mother to a lot of children and what is being a mother? It's just about being compassionate, having empathy, a big heart, loving genuinely, being responsible, and being able to bring something good out of someone. You do all those things and I know that not all mothers are mothers, and giving birth alone is not what makes you a mother or parent. There's more. You're a mother Mariana and I have been a father. I experienced it when I had to take care of my sister so yeah. Everything happens for a reason too. Right now, I thank my parents for what they did, they gave me a chance to experience what it is like to be a father. I thank them. This was meant to happen, Mariana. It's written in our destiny."

"That's sad. How can it be our destiny? Why should it be us?"

"Life isn't all hearts and flowers. Not everyone is destined to get married, have children, or live in a mansion. Likewise, we won't be the only one to not have children or the first to adopt a child. This is real life and this is how things go. It's just the way it is and you have to learn to be happy with what you have as you can't have it all."

"You're taking this so easily Novan. You amaze me." I let my head fall on his shoulder.

"I tried to understand and accept the condition."

"Be honest with me, look in my eyes, and tell me how you truly feel about this." I lifted my head off his shoulder to look at him and his eyes met mine sadly.

"I... I don't like it..in fact, I hate it so much."

"You didn't want a child."

"It's fucked up. I didn't but I want it now and it's just taken away. We are supposed to have something of our own. Imagine having a girl who would look like you and have my attitude. Wonderful but we don't get to have that."

I let my head fall back on him when I saw tears in his eyes and I didn't stop mine from cascading down my cheeks.

"You know, mine is a little different. I never dreamt of my future as other girls do. I wanted to kiss until forty. I hated boys when I was young. I never dreamt of marriage or settling down but all that changed when I met you. I started wanting more from you and expecting more from the world. I started dreaming of a life with you, our happily ever after where we would have kids running about our home. I just wanted to stay with you and have kids but life had another plan and if I knew, I wouldn't have dreamt of.."

"Don't say that. We'll still have kids in our home and be happy. The best thing is that we're with each other."

"You believe we'll one day have a baby?"

"We haven't tried yet. Why don't we?" He turned to look at me.

"How?"

"Let's try having it and if after a year we don't succeed, we adopt. "

"Okay."

"But we're going to have to travel out and you won't be working so hard to avoid stress. What do you think?"

"I will do anything."

He placed a kiss on my forehead. "Thanks, babe."

"What if it doesn't work?" I will get disheartened all over again if we don't succeed.

"There's no harm in trying. We'll accept whatever comes, after all, we can't kill ourselves can we?" He smiled through the sadness.

"Okay." I tried to smile back but I feel so guilty for causing him this much. I wish I could make him unlove me.

"Don't ever feel guilty Riana. We're in this together so I will never leave your side or blame you."

He still can read me like a book.

"Thank you for loving me the way that you do Everett."

"Let's go home so I can show you better that way."

"What?"

"Get up let's go."

Once I did, he hauled me onto his shoulders. "Novan the town people are gonna look at us."

"I don't give a fuck!"

|~DONOVAN~|

A YEAR LATER...

Spending my life with Mariana Dominguez has always been my dream and I fear that it will never happen greatly because I didn't deserve her. It was hard to believe that she didn't have a boyfriend and I was her first after all. I am lucky to have her and grateful for all that she brought along to me.

Life hasn't been fair but it gave me something to look forward to every day, a reason to be alive and happiness. Life gave me Mariana and really, she's all I've always wanted.

Today we live in a small town at the back of New York, having nature at its best away from the busy life out there. Here, we live a very simple life and we have peace of mind.

Mariana and I have accepted our fate after a year of trying to get pregnant in Hawaii. We fucked and fucked and fucked. We did every shit possible the doctors said but to no avail.

After a year, here we are in our little town and planning to adopt soon. It doesn't mean we don't fuck. We've just taken our minds from the baby-making business. It's not yielding.

It's okay. We have a lot to be thankful for anyway.

My restaurant is going just fine and at twenty-seven I am among the world's top chefs list. I have three more restaurants I will be launching in Australia and America early next year. Aside from that, I started something small here just for the folk in our community. It was just a small inn that I wanted to manage on my own but then, I ended up blowing the alarm which took our privacy and peace from us. Something that was meant for the townspeople but now it's for the entire America. People come from far away just to eat and go when they hear that I was personally cooking here. I wanted peace of mind and less work to do but it's no longer possible and Mariana won't stop laughing at me for it.

I'm already looking for a good cook I can employ to take over. I don't care if the sales drop. It's not like I need the money so much to the extent of spending less time with my wife because of it.

I opened the door and got in. When I didn't see her in the living room I knew she'd be in the bedroom so I didn't call out for her.

I sighed when I saw her top raised as she stared at her flat tummy with a face in a sad twist.

She went back to sit on the bed and hugging the teddy, she started crying. It broke my heart and I felt her pain. This isn't the first time. Mariana pretends to be happy and not caring about her inability to conceive when she's with me but she cries when she's alone. It's not healthy.

Instead of going in to comfort her, I turned around back to town. I didn't find what I needed so I drove to the city to Barnes and Noble where I picked up some particular books.

Knowing Mariana, there's no way she'd go to bed when I haven't returned from work so once she heard my car outside, she got out.

"What took you so long? Where did you go?"

"To get some things." I kissed her.

"What things?"

"Novels."

"Wait. For what?"

"What do we do with novels, Mrs Anderson?" I put my hand around her waist and we walked inside.

"It's strange how all of a sudden you have an interest in books."

"It's because of you. You brought me close to something as the act of loving reading."

"I see...So who are them for?"

"For us."

"Us?"

"Yes, we are gonna read," I answered but Mariana insisted we read them tonight so after taking a bath, we took positions on the bed, each engrossed in the book.

After an hour, Mariana is a crying mess. She couldn't control it and neither did she stop reading. I am also upset. I keep cursing around for how emotional the book is. It was my plan. I did this on purpose. I requested books that are so sad that they'll make you cry.

We planned to exchange after reading but none of us did.

"Assuming what you read is happening around us, someone's life. Will you exchange it with the life you have now?"

"No never! Our story is better, I prefer it to the one I just read."

"Then don't you think we should try and be happy with the life we have?"

"You're right."

"But you're not happy with our life Mariana. You keep crying when I am not around."

"I won't do that again. I will try and be happy with what I have and truly this is the best."

"That's more like it. Now come let me wipe your tears away."

"Thank you for showing me that life isn't perfect and we can't have it all in life but to be grateful for the one we have."

"You're welcome Riana."

She snuggles closer into my arms, where she belongs.

My arm came around her to draw her closer and she looked up at me with a sweet delirious smile, her eyes still sparkling with so much love for me even after those years as she puckered her full lips for me to kiss. And I hurried on with it, kissing her passionately and telling her all the things I couldn't say with my lips. This is the woman I can never get enough of and the one I get to spend the rest of my life with. Fuck, I am so blessed. So fucking blessed. How did I get so lucky? I love..love her with every ounce of me. Drunk in her love that I don't know when I am going to recover. I don't even want to.

We pulled back to catch our breath and she still wore that charming smile. I smiled back, brushing a loose curl from her eyes then she placed her head on my chest.

This woman, nowhere I'd rather be than close to her. She's my home, without her, I am homeless and when I am homeless, I'm going to suffer. The street is hell. I fucking don't want that.

I would've been a pathetic stupid fool to leave her because of a situation that can be rectified. Struggle after struggles, we reached here and I won't ever do anything to ruin it. I learned my lesson and I am trying to make my homework as perfect as possible.

If not anything, we're together and this is our version of ever happy. We ended up together after everything and that is what matters most. Any other thing shall follow if there's any but..

This is our AFTERGLOW馃敟

★★★

So this is where it ends. Finally. 

All The Kiss Episodes are hundred percent written And Owned by Kelsay Physients make the Post to Entertain its Guest thanks for Reading

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