The first time he'd gone astray they'd been teenagers. They'd been dating exclusively since junior high, so while the infidelity had hurt like hell, once she'd gotten over him and started seeing other people, she'd come to realize everything happened for a reason. The breakup had been a blessing in disguise. She'd grown up and become self-reliant, pursued a teaching degree, got a position at the local elementary school. She'd never stopped caring about Tony, never stopped thinking about him, but she'd managed to build a good life for herself during those years they'd spent apart.
When they'd reconnected after college, it was like falling in love all over again. Only this time as two mature adults. After dating for nearly two years, Tony had proposed on bended knee at a beautiful little bed & breakfast in Door County, and Melissa had never been happier. They'd come full circle. They were meant to be together.
That two-timing rat bastard.
Melissa dragged herself downstairs to the kitchen and searched around for some alcohol. Anything would do, she just wanted to get good and numb so she couldn't feel anymore. And no way in hell did she feel like talking to a lawyer tonight. She'd save that particular chore for tomorrow, when she could speak without falling apart.
There was a knock at the door accompanied by the doorbell, and she rolled her eyes. Christ, just what she needed, company, when all she wanted to do was curl up on the couch, watch a movie, and get blind ass drunk. Soon as she found something to drink. She and Tony weren't much in the way of drinkers, but she'd thought for sure they'd have an open bottle of something somewhere.
The bell rang again, then again and again. Whoever it was decided they weren't taking no for an answer. With a curse, Melissa stalked through the house and squinted through the peephole on the front door. Her neighbor from across the street stood on her porch, arms loose at his sides, expression grim. She took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and swung open the door. "Look, Ryan, I don't mean to be rude, but I'm not in the mood for company."
He eyed her from head to toe, those gorgeous baby blues missing nothing. "Tony peeled outta here so fast he knocked your garbage can into the street, and you look like you've been crying for hours. What the hell's going on? And don't worry, I put your garbage can back on the curb."
"I…I'll be fine, honest. I'll call you tomorrow, all right?"
"Come on, Missy, you know I can't just leave you like this. Tell me what's going on. Is it Tony? Did he…did he hurt you?"
And just like that, the damn burst for a second time. Melissa broke down in sobs and crumbled at his feet. Ryan muttered a curse, scooped her into his arms, and carried her into the house.
"Christ, I knew it. I knew that asshole hurt you. I'll fuckin' kill him."
She pulled back and gazed up at him through her tears. God, she was so tired of crying. "Ryan, please don't get involved. I love that you want to defend me, but I'm handling it."
He sat down on the living room couch with her held tightly in his arms. Ryan's feelings for her were inappropriate considering she was a married woman, and she knew it. He'd never said anything, but even Tony had sensed Ryan's attraction for her, although he'd never made a big deal of it. Partly, she supposed, because Ryan was bigger than Tony, and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do to boot. The vindictive part of her wished Tony could see her like this right now, curled up in Ryan's strong embrace, knowing there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.
Ryan used his thumb to gently wipe away her tears. Their gazes locked. Melissa was overcome with the urge to pull him down and kiss him breathless. It would be so easy to use Ryan to wipe away her pain, but she didn't want to do that to him. Use him for stud service.
Use him for revenge.