It was nearly ten. Jia had begun to wonder if perhaps he would show up at all an hour ago, a stray thought that she could feel ballooning into another episode now that she knew what to look for. Knowing the enemy made it easier to fight, so she had spent a little time reorganizing the kitchen to take her mind off of Atlas and Ava and whatever they were talking about for the past five hours.
When he did show up, she didn't even answer his call. She simply toed on her sneakers and shuffled out in a hurry with the shoes only half on her feet.
He was standing outside his car and leaning against the passenger door. When he saw her appear, a faint smile turned up the corners of his mouth, and he opened it so that it could slide upward to let her in. She was already in a long, worn out white T-shirt and a pair of loose training pants, both of which had seen better days and absolutely did not suit the glamor of the car or the man who owned it -
Stop, she told herse
"You should come help me."Jia had allowed Ava into the outer office when the woman came knocking, not bothering to ask how she had managed to come exactly at a time when Atlas and Lydia were in one of the conference rooms on the lower floor for a meeting. Then again, those two were getting busier and busier, and nearly a third of their day was simply attending video conferences; perhaps it was a coincidence after all.She had to stop suspecting Ava just because she was jealous. And she knew that was the reason, too. She had promised herself a week ago after the conversation in Atlas's car that she would remain self-aware, that she would handle herself with integrity when it came to the other woman. This was business. This was professional....It was still hard."What can I help you with?"Her response was the right one. She knew it already, but there was a pleased glint in Ava's eye as if she were impressed that Jia hadn't come running up with her
"Mr. Burhock!""Jia, so good to see you again. How are you! You look ten times more lovely than before, how is that possible? Maybe if I spin around once, it'll happen again."Mr. Burhock was his sweet, jovial self as usual as he pulled her into a hug and pounded her back a little too hard with his plump fist. He babbled on about his new grandchild and about the rigors of childproofing his house now that there would be yet another small baby running about wild. No, he wasn't his usual jovial self - he was exceedingly so, more than normal.They were meeting in the hotel lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ava would be here in a second as well once she adjusted her makeup in the bathroom. And then they would be off to a eat a celebratory dinner, a reservation at Burhock's favorite Greek restaurant. Jia was looking forward to it for more than one reason. For one, it was the one time Atlas would be eating with them instead of working himself to death in his offic
"How is our new schedule working for you?"Jia pressed her knees together and looped her hands around them as she thought about how to answer. She liked this place more than she had thought she would the first time she came, and the second. It was strange how liberating it felt to be in the one place she felt the most vulnerable."I think it's good," she said. "I didn't think I'd want to be here more than I had to, but you were right. I felt a lot better this week. And I think I was more stable. Well, stronger, I guess.""That's good," Dr. Brody - or Lisa, she preferred - remarked. She smiled at Jia and settled back in her armchair. "Do you want to tell me about it?"She made herself more comfortable on the sofa as well. Their very first meeting a month and a half ago, Lisa had told her that she was free to lie down if she preferred, that the kind of therapy she conducted encouraged her to be as comfortable as she could be physically so that she could be
Clearly, they weren't going to be heading back into the building anytime soon. Jia took a deep breath before turning to look at Ava, making sure her face betrayed nothing but steady composure."You care about Atlas," she said shortly, "and so do I. It's your right to doubt my intentions, but our relationship is ours and no one else's. Meaning that it's his choice to stay in one with me, just like it's my choice to do the same with him.""So, in other words, you don't care. About letting the company crash because you can't give him up?""...I'll consider everything you said to me today. You can interpret my intentions however you want. I care about Atlas. He is important to me. So is Pandora Lights. I am not 'giving' either of them up like I'm swapping trading cards.""That's a nice, self-righteous way of saying you'd rather screw the whole company over rather than let go of his money. Before you say it's not about that, I'll just remind you that it's funn
When Atlas finally came to bed, it was already past two in the morning. Jia had let the twins know she wouldn't be coming home - and although they probably thought she was up to mischief, the reality was that she knew she couldn't leave Atlas alone tonight. Even now, he sat on the side of the bed, slouched over with his elbows on his knees.She sat up and rested her fingertips on his bare, muscular shoulder. He felt so strong, and yet..."Sleep," she told him. "You'll know what to do tomorrow."He reached back and grasped her hand in his before turning around and sliding under the covers beside her. She was ready when he pulled her close and began kissing her neck and working his way down her chest, pulling on her clothes with growing insistence. But instead of yielding, she reached up to cradle his face in her hands and urged him with slight pulls to lift his head and look at her."Atlas," she murmured as she stared up at him. "I'm glad you told me."He stilled, so she kept on."If yo
Jia pushed Atlas away from herself with a furtive look around the dim rear hallway they found themselves in. "Stop that! Someone will see."But he didn't listen. With a low, rumbling chuckle in his chest, he pressed her up against the wall and nuzzled her neck, breathing her in as if he couldn't get enough of her scent. She did her best to keep from melting in his arms as they snaked around her, one around her waist and the other coming up to cup the back of her neck, but a small gasp left her lips when she felt him grind his hips against hers."The things you do to me," he whispered in her ear, and she had to bite down hard on her tongue so that she didn't let out a breathy moan and tremble against him.No, they were absolutely not doing this. They were in a restaurant. In public! At a party! The last time they had done this, they had almost gotten caught by a waiter and only barely managed to hide themselves in a tangled mess in the utility closet."Atlas -""Fine, fine," he said, an
The ending has been modified due to feedback from several readers that were unsatisfied with the ending. While I can't really say I'm proud of the cut version because it doesn't properly envison what I had in mind for the story's conclusion, I'm happy to let readers leave off the story on a thoroughly final note.As a result, I have withdrawn plans to write a sequel and will leave the story as is. But thank you all anyway for coming with me on this journey! :DFind me on facebook @ManaSolStories so that you can keep up with my other stories here on GoodNovel instead.