Reveal

 

Chapter 1

 

CalJac’s.

 

Sage looked up at the sign and knew this was the place, having looked up directions on MapQuest.  She’d been selected for an interview after applying for a secretarial position within the company, excited when she got the call.  The economy was rough these days and Sage had applied to countless companies for all different type of positions, though she preferred the administrative field.

 

She heard of CalJac’s and heard from a few of her friends that it was a tailor store, but they also sold jewelry and different accessories – all for men only.  Sage rubbed her temples and looked down at her interview outfit, hoping it wasn’t too casual.  It was a simple pair of khaki pants with a short sleeved black dress shirt that had a hoop neckline, black pumps on her feet. 

 

Her long strawberry blonde hair was pulled back in a tight French braid, a few curly strands framing her face.  Her hair was naturally curly and went down to her waist, though Sage rarely left it down.  Her stunning sapphire blue eyes were outlined in thin black eyeliner with dark pink gloss on her lips, making them shimmer.  No foundation was needed to cover up blemishes because Sage had been blessed with natural beauty and hardly any acne, leaving her skin clear.

 

“Well here goes nothing.” Sage took a deep breath and had her resume in hand before heading inside, a gentle bell dinging above her head as soon as she entered.

 

A woman looked up from behind the counter as soon as she heard the bell ding throughout the shop and smiled warmly, knowing this was probably Mr. Calaway’s three o’clock interview. “Hello, welcome to CalJac’s, how may I help you?” She greeted, the nametag on her silk blue shirt reading Katherine.

 

“Hi, I’m Sage Evans and have an interview schedule with Mr. Calaway.  I’m a little early…” It was a quarter to three, which was perfect timing for an interview, so Sage was actually right on time.

 

“No problem, Ms. Evans.  Please have a seat and I’ll inform Mr. Calaway you’ve arrived.” Katherine picked up the phone and pressed a few buttons, waiting patiently for the recipient to answer. “Mr. Calaway, your three o’clock is here.” She hung up and turned to face Sage. “Please head straight to the back.  There’s a door that says his name on it and just knock before entering.”

 

Sage nodded and flashed the woman a warm smile of her own. “Thank you.” She walked past the desk and headed to the back as instructed, making sure none of the corners were crumpled and it looked professional. ‘Breathe, just breathe a little.’ Sage coached herself, wondering why she was so nervous and froze outside of Mr. Calaway’s office door.

 

Mark looked up when he heard a knock. “Come in.” He rumbled loud enough to where Ms. Evans could hear him, watching the door open as a stunning woman stepped inside.  He stood up, wearing a simple pair of black jeans with a black short sleeved shirt that hugged his muscular frame perfectly, extending his hand. “Ms. Evans, Mark Calaway.  Nice to meet you.”

 

This man was huge and towered over her small five foot six frame; though Sage knew she couldn’t be intimidated.  Maybe on the inside, but on the outside she was a fierce predator, ready to do whatever it took to get this job.  He stood at least seven feet tall and looked like he could crush skulls with one blow.  Not to mention he was absolutely gorgeous, his dark auburn hair pulled back in a low tail, but that’s not what caught Sage’s attention.

 

Mark Calaway had the most incredible emerald green eyes she ever seen on a man.

 

“Nice to meet you too, Mr. Calaway.” Sage shook his hand, keeping eye contact, and released it after a few seconds before taking a seat.

 

“Call me Mark, please.” Mark requested with a small smile, also sitting down. “I hate formality.”

 

“Only if you call me Sage since I’m the same way.”

 

“Fair enough.” Mark chuckled, already liking her and took the resume she handed over, already having a copy of it. “So Sage, I’m not the type of man who doesn’t like repeatin’ what the job involves because everything you applied for you should already know about from reading the ad in the paper.  It’s a nine to five, Monday through Friday desk job with a lot of computer skill needed.  You’ll be inputtin’ the orders from customers from our website and also taking orders over the phone.  Also, we have an inventory that needs to be updated daily in order for us to keep track of what items and supplies need to be ordered and when.  Also, whenever Kathy or Lucy needs help at the front desk, you will have to help them out when required.  Tyler and Kyle work strictly with the tailoring and right now it’s wedding season,” Mark sounded annoyed when he said that, causing Sage to bite back chuckling. “So it’s been incredibly busy in that department. If you’re asked to help out in any of the departments, please do it.  I think that’s it, do you have any questions?”

 

“What about benefits and the pay?” Sage asked promptly, having went over these interview questions in her head at least a hundred times.

 

“We do offer insurance after your ninety day probation period, but it’s completely optional.  The pay would start out at twelve dollars an hour.” Mark thought that was reasonable and saw her eyes widen slightly, trying not to chuckle. “Does that sound good to you?”

 

Considering Sage had put down on her resume she wanted at least nine dollars an hour, twelve was golden. “Yes it does.” She answered, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice because she hadn’t gotten the job yet. “And so does the benefits.  What about holiday pay?”

 

Mark sighed warily and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head. “You have to be here at least a year before holiday pay kicks in.” He answered reluctantly, hoping that didn’t turn her away from the job offer.

 

“Sounds good.” Sage wasn’t that worried about holiday pay, though she did have another question. “So, are the employees that don’t get paid for the holidays allowed to make up for that time somehow?”

 

Mark eyed her for a moment, considering what she asked, finally nodding. “Sure, I’m sure we could work something out, maybe you could work Saturdays when we have one of the weekdays off.  It’s only major holidays; we still have to work on Martin Luther King JR’s birthday and President’s Day, the bullshit holidays.”

 

Sage nodded, understanding fully. “Sounds fair.” She appreciated this man’s honesty and could tell the employees were happy working for him.

 

“Anything else, Sage?”

 

Her name rolled right off his tongue and Sage fought back a shiver, his voice definitely having an effect on her. “None that I can think of right now, but I’m sure once I leave something will pop into my head.” She half-joked, flashing a soft smile and let him know silently she was still interested in the job.

 

“Usually how it goes.” Mark chuckled, placing both her application and resume in a pile on his desk. “Well Sage, that’s pretty much it.  I will be making my decision tonight and contacting people first thing in the morning.  There’s only one position open for the secretary, but I’m also hirin’ for retail positions that are only part-time.  You put down you’d be interested in any of those categories, so I’ll be contactin’ you either way to let you know if you got the job or not.”

 

Her stomach dropped a little, but Sage kept the smile on her face and nodded, standing up when Mark did to shake his hand. “Sounds good, thank you for the opportunity Mark and hopefully I’ll be hearing from you sometime tomorrow.” If not, it was back to square one, which was something Sage was quite frankly tired of doing.

 

“You sure will, have a good day Sage.” He watched her walk out of his office and leaned back in his chair, immediately looking over her resume again.

 

She definitely was a top choice for the secretarial position.

 

~!~

 

“So what’s the verdict?”

 

Sage rolled her eyes and tossed her pumps to the side where all the other shoes were, scowling a little. “Can’t you even ask me how my day was before jumping to the damn gun, woman?” She demanded, walking into the kitchen to grab a glass of juice.

 

“Hi, how was your day?  What’s the verdict?” Marisol demanded sweetly, leaning over the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room, batting her chocolate brown eyes.

 

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Sage contemplated hurling the bottle of juice at Marisol’s head, still wondering what possessed her to get a two bedroom apartment with her best friend. “I’ll get a call tomorrow telling me if I got it or not.” She mumbled, coherent enough for Marisol to hear and grasp the concept of backing off. “He sounded interested so…”

 

“Ooo he?” Marisol walked fully into the kitchen and sat at the table, smiling. “Was he hot?”

 

“What about Randall?” Sage changed the subject, flat out refusing to call him anything else because the man was a complete scumbag in her eyes, arching an eyebrow at her best friend. “When are you going to finally call it quits with him and find someone better?”

 

“I really don’t want to talk about this…again.” Marisol grunted and stood up from the table, putting a headband on so her bangs didn’t fall in her face. “I already told you it’s easier said than done…”

 

“Oh yeah sure because he’s awesome in bed?” Sage snorted, folding her arms in front of her chest while Marisol began doing dishes. 

 

Marisol always started cleaning whenever Randy popped up in their conversations, which happened often because Sage wasn’t going to stop until she got it through Marisol’s head that she deserved better than an alcoholic drunk for a boyfriend.  The woman was stubborn and bullheaded, always making excuses for him, even when she came home looking unhappy.  That usually meant Randy had gone on a drinking binder the night before and got so plastered that Marisol had to clean him up.

 

“I’m not talking about this.” Marisol was steadfast and always shut down, not wanting to talk about her drunken boyfriend. “I love him, Sage.  I know it may be hard for you to understand that because you’ve never been in love like this, but when you are, it’s not easy to just walk away when things get a little hairy…”

 

“A little hairy?” Sage echoed in disbelief, already feeling her blue eyes narrow to slits. “A little hairy is not cleaning up after your boyfriend goes on a damn binder vomiting all over you and you coming home crying your eyes out.  A little hairy is not him fucking every woman he comes across because you simply refuse to sleep with him when he’s drunk, which is ninety nine percent of the damn time!  A little hairy does NOT give him the right to treat you like garbage and call you every name in the book when you deny him sex or anything else the stupid little asshole wants!”

 

Marisol tossed the towel down on the counter and held her hands up, pursing her lips tightly together because she didn’t want to say something she’d regret later. “Look, I know you care about me and everything, but what you’re doing is pissing me off and not respecting my decision NOT to talk about my relationship.  It’s none of your business.  You are my best friend, my sister, but there are just some things about my life that you don’t need to know.  I don’t get after you every time you go out on a date, only to come home cracking open a bottle of wine because of how much it sucked.  So please, please Sage, just stop bringing up Randy and let me handle him.” With that said, she walked out of the kitchen, deciding they needed some distance and Marisol had to call her boyfriend to make sure they were still going out that night.

 

Growling in frustration, Sage was tempted to follow her friend and stopped, knowing it wouldn’t do any good.  Marisol was bound and determined to make it work with Randy, no matter what he ended up doing to her.  She’d give him this much credit, he hadn’t struck her friend yet and, if he ever did, Sage would be cutting off each and every one of his fingers individually. 

 

He wasn’t an abusive drunk, though Sage had a sinking feeling that Marisol kept a lot from her when it came to Randy’s drunken states.  Calling Marisol at three in the morning and demanding her to come over because he was bored did not constitute for a healthy relationship, which is what Marisol deserved.  Hell, Marisol had come crying her heart out to Sage a few months ago, which is why they now lived together in a two bedroom apartment, because she couldn’t stand living with Randy anymore. 

 

Sage had lived with her mother, who popped pills constantly and spent her days sleeping her life away, only getting up late at night to go out to bars to try to find that special someone.  Her father, Clifford, had died of lung cancer after smoking cigars and cigarettes most of his life, being buried at the young age of fifty three.  After her father’s death, Annie was never the same again and fell into a deep depression, her doctor prescribing her pills to help cope with the loss. 

 

It’d been three years of drinking, popping pills and sleeping.

 

Sage’s thoughts turned away from her parents to what Marisol said about the dates she went on, shivering at the awful memories.  She did end up going out with a really nice guy named John, but he ended up being nothing more than a playboy.  Marisol and Randy had set them up on a blind date and Sage had been against it, but after a lot of begging and pleading from her best friend, she reluctantly gave in. 

 

The night was wonderful, dinner and a movie, ending with a walk through the park that was just down the street from the apartment.  It happened shortly after Marisol and Sage moved in together and John was Randy’s best friend, which automatically popped red flags in Sage’s head.  Somehow though, she believed his sweet words and even let him hold her hand, laughing harder than she had with any other man. 

 

They ended up sleeping together that night, something Sage never did with her dates, but she honestly thought John was different.  It was nothing more than a night of passionate dirty sex and, when Sage woke up the next morning, John had already left without so much as a note.  That didn’t set well with Sage, but she let it go and went on a few more dates with John that ended with nothing more than good night kisses. 

 

Sage had explained to John that she didn’t sleep with men she wasn’t in love with and what they did on their first date was moving way too fast, wanting to take things a lot slower if they were going to have a relationship.  John agreed and told her he understood perfectly, promising that they wouldn’t have sex again until she was ready for it.  Sage thought everything had been going good and, after two months of dating without sex, she finally decided it was time to stop being a prude. 

 

She came to the realization she was in love with John and wanted to be with him in every way possible…or so she thought.

 

Chapter 2

 

Sage had ended up going over to John’s place, wearing a long black robe that had a black negligee underneath, having done her hair and makeup.  John always left his front door unlocked, which Sage berated him for on several occasions because it was the city, and knew he was probably sleeping for work in the morning.  So she crept in quietly and shut the door behind her, heading down the hallway toward his room with a big smile on her face. 

 

John lived alone; he was a local firefighter and got paid well by the city, so he was on call twenty four hours a day.  In a way, Sage felt guilty for sneaking in on him while he was getting rest, but at the same time she knew how badly he wanted to have sex with her again, having dropped several hints during the last few of their dates.  Her hand reached up to push open the door and Sage suddenly stopped, hearing faint noises coming from behind it and the smile vanished from her face instantly, tears filling her eyes.

 

“Oh John!”

 

“Mmm god I love fuckin’ your pussy, Kim.”

 

The bed squeaking just confirmed what was going on behind that door and the burning curiosity got the better of Sage, pushing open the door just a hair further to witness John cheating on her.  The white sheets were drawn over their bodies and John was on top, the muscles in his back rippling, grinding the woman into his mattress, hearing her crying out his name in ecstasy.  Having no idea who this Kim was, Sage honestly didn’t care and immediately walked out of the house in tears, running home feeling completely humiliated.

 

When John blew her phone up with countless text messages and voicemails, Sage finally answered and basically told him to go find someone else’s heart to break.  He demanded to know what she was talking about and Sage told him that she snuck into his house and caught him screwing some girl named Kim in his bed.  He stammered over his words and finally called her a lowly sneaky bitch, which promptly ended their phone call because Sage hung up on him. 

 

Marisol was livid at John and told Randy what happened, only for the drunk asshole to say that she should’ve given up the goods when she had the chance.  That was just one of the many reasons why Sage hated him and it nearly destroyed her friendship with Marisol.  Even after what John did to her, Marisol still refused to break up with Randy because, in Marisol’s mind, it had nothing to do with their relationship.  It was just a poor excuse, but Sage decided it wasn’t worth ending their long friendship over.  However, she did make Marisol promise never to mention John’s name again as long as she lived, reaching an agreement.

 

After that, the dating went downhill for Sage, but she never ended up making the same mistake as she did with John, learning from that experience.  Most of the guys she went on dates with never called her back or she didn’t return their phone calls.  Out of twenty dates, Sage had second and third ones with about five of them, but even those ended badly. Sage finally gave up the dating scene and hadn’t been on one in over two months, spending her nights curled up in bed with a good book to escape her problems.

 

John wasn’t the first man Sage slept with, but she always thought of him as her first real relationship.  She had others, but not with as much intensity and passion as she had with John, even though they’d only had sex once.  Sage often stayed up late at night wondering what went wrong between them and why did John feel the need to go to another woman for sex.  All she wanted was a little time to get to know each other, to build a relationship that was based on more than getting in each other’s pants, and apparently all he wanted was to get his dick wet.

 

Her cell phone ringing jolted Sage out of her thoughts as she finished taking her French braid out, making her hair even curlier.  She walked over and looked at the caller ID, sighing heavily at the name that flashed across the screen.  Part of her wanted to answer it and part of her didn’t, though Sage wondered what else she had to lose at this point and flipped it open, putting it to her ear.

 

“Hey beautiful.”

 

“What do you want, John?” She demanded quietly, not wanting Marisol to overhear her conversation with her ex-boyfriend. “I told you to stop calling me.”

 

John chuckled while popping open a beer, downing it in a few gulps. “Come on Sage, don’t be like that.” He hadn’t stopped calling since their falling out, wanting to make things right. “I thought we had a lot of fun together.”

 

“Yeah until you decided to fuck someone else.  I don’t have time for this, I have to go to bed, John.” Sage was tired from her interview and all the flashbacks, hating it when she had nights that she couldn’t forget about what happened.

 

“It was just sex, I didn’t even really like her, but I didn’t know what else to do.” He sighed heavily, taking a long swallow of his beer. “I mean we were dating, but I didn’t know if we were serious because you never told me.  You told me you wanted to wait to have sex again and I was fine with that, but that was it.  I know you miss me.” John could feel and sense it in her voice, hearing her suck in a sharp breath over the line. “And I miss you, Sage.”

 

“You really hurt me.  I was surprising you that night because I was finally ready to have sex with you, to take our relationship to the next level…” Sage couldn’t believe she was letting him get to her like this and felt a headache coming on. “But apparently you didn’t know we were in a relationship, even though I asked you point blank if we were boyfriend and girlfriend.  That implies a relationship, Cena.”

 

Rolling his eyes, John wondered if it was even worth making this phone call because Sage would never forgive him for ONE indiscretion. “I made a mistake, what else do you want me to say?  I’m sorry, okay?  I’m really sorry for what I did to you and I wanna make it up to you, if you’ll let me.  I deserve a second chance, everyone does.  Just look at Marisol and Randy.  She’s given him countless chances and they’re happy…”

 

“No, they’re miserable acting like they’re happy.” Sage stiffly corrected, pulling her pants off and tossed them in the hamper, knowing she would definitely need to do laundry tomorrow. “And I’m not Marisol.  I don’t believe in second chances, especially to cheating lying pricks like you.  And quite frankly, you’re not worth my time or energy anymore, John.  Now lose my digits and stay away from me.” She clicked the phone shut and tossed it on her bed, burying her face in her hands as a few tears slid down her cheeks.

 

Maybe now he would finally take the hint.

 

When her cell went off again, Sage completely had enough and flipped it open, deciding to give John a piece of her mind. “Listen asshole, I don’t want to see or hear from you ever again so get rid of my number or ELSE!” She snapped, not even looking at the caller ID and paled when a different voice came over the line.

 

“Is this Sage Evans?”

 

“Oh god…” Sage whispered, covering her mouth with her hand, hating it when she jumped the gun and let John get under her skin. “I’m so sorry, yes it is.”

 

Clearly she wasn’t referring to him, so Mark decided to let it slide, chuckling. “Sage, this is Mark Calaway calling about that job at my shop.” He informed, trying not to sound amused by her colorful greeting. “Is this a bad time?”

 

Now she was even more mortified.

 

“No Mr. Calaway – I mean Mark.” She quickly corrected, remembering what he said about not being formal and swallowed hard, wondering if she just completely destroyed her chance at this job offer. “I’m really sorry about that, I thought you were someone else and neglected to look at my caller ID before answering.” John was going to pay for this, Sage vowed, if she didn’t get this job because of his phone call.

 

“It’s alright, darlin’.” Mark hoped she didn’t mind him calling her that, but it was a pet name he used for all women, even the ones who worked for him. “Hopefully your night is gonna get better because I’m callin’ to offer you the secretarial position at CalJac’s.  I’m assumin’ you’re still interested?”

 

Her night just went from bad to amazing with those words and Sage grinned happily, taking a deep breath so she didn’t squeal in her boss’s ear. “Yes I am, Mark.  Thank you so much!” John was the furthest from her mind at that moment and nothing could ruin it, blue eyes sparkling.

 

Mark couldn’t help chuckling at the excitement in her voice, nodding. “Good to hear, you start on Monday at nine AM sharp.  Mindy will be trainin’ you on the job, you’re her replacement.” He would honestly miss Mindy and hoped Sage would be the perfect replacement, though Mindy was indeed one of a kind.

 

Given his earlier impression of Sage, Mark wondered just who had pissed her off that much to answer the phone in such a way.  First impressions weren't always accurate and, in her case, definitely not.  He had assumed she was mild mannered and maybe a bit meek, professional though.  Now he had a new impression all together, the corner of his lip curving upward into a slight smirk.

 

“Are you free to come in tomorrow?” He asked, keeping his amusement hidden.

 

“Yes I am...” Sage chewed her bottom lip, rubbing the back of her neck.  She would be checking her caller ID from now on, trying to push John to the far recesses of her mind. “Does this mean I have the job?” She was very brave to ask that, but Sage wasn't about to beat around the bush either.  There was no time for it, knowing bills had to be paid and she'd given not the best second impression.

 

“Until Mindy leaves.” He clarified. “Consider yourself on probation, with the likelihood -if all goes well- of being hired in permanently as her replacement once she's gone.” Mark said, hearing the apprehension in her tone and knew she was recovering from the way their phone call had opened up, entirely her fault, but he found it funny. “We open at eight AM sharp; I want you here at seven thirty to fill the paperwork out so we can make out a time card for you.  I’ll give you the weekend to sort things out after the paperwork is filled out.  I want it processed before you start on Monday.”

 

“Thank you so much, Mark.” Sage hadn't meant to squeal in her boss's ear, but the excitement had overtaken all other rational thought.  John was now the furthest thing from her mind, sapphire eyes sparkling with happiness. “I will be there on time tomorrow in the proper attire to fill the paperwork out.” Black dress pants and a nicer shirt, Sage already had her outfit in mind, even though she wasn’t starting officially until Monday. “Do you need me to bring anything to make copies of?” Some places required birth certificates these days; she wanted to be absolutely prepared

 

“Social, state ID or valid driver's license and birth certificate.” He already had some of this information, thanks to her job application and was currently running a criminal background check on her, but it would take a few days to come in.  Or at least, he had told Mindy to do it; he made a mental note to remind her in the morning. “I will see you tomorrow Sage, and hopefully...you'll be having a better day.” Mark couldn't resist that or keep the low chuckle from escaping. “Any questions?”

 

“No, I’ll see you tomorrow morning at nine.  Thank you again for the opportunity, Mark.  Have a great night.”

 

“You too Sage.”

 

They hung up and Sage finally let out the squeal she’d been holding in, jumping up and down, not even caring when Marisol burst through her bedroom door with wide brown eyes.

 

“WHAT THE HELL?”

 

“I GOT THE JOB!!” Sage screamed out, not caring if the neighbors heard her and pretty soon both girls were jumping up and down squealing excitedly.

 

“Oh my god, I'm so proud of you, Sage!” Marisol completely ignored Randy and hugged her friend tightly; knowing Sage had searched high and low for a job for the past few months, genuinely happy for her. “We have to celebrate!!” It never occurred to her that Randy was extremely pissed off that she'd jumped off of him right in the middle of sex.

 

“Not tonight.” Sage stated, stopping her excitement as soon as she noticed Randy in the doorway, though the smile never left her face. “I have to go in at seven thirty in the morning to sign papers so they can process everything.  I start officially Monday.” She couldn't help squealing out again, not expecting Mark Calaway to call her so quickly. “Maybe this weekend or something.”

 

Randy could hear Sage screaming out about getting her job and Marisol joining her as well, his eyes crossed as he focused on breathing and not going into Sage's room to either strangle her or shut her up by stuffing his now painfully hard cock right into that pretty mouth of hers.  When he had talked the erection away, or at least, down enough to hide it, he stepped back into his jeans, not bothering with any other articles of clothing and zipped them up, skipping the button. Plastering a smile on his face, he walked out of Marisol's room and to Sage's, leaning in the doorway.

 

“Congratulations.”

 

Sage did what she did best and ignored Randy completely; he apparently had shown up while she was on the phone with both John and Mark.

 

“At least come out to the kitchen and let me whip up a quick batch of low-alcohol margaritas!” Marisol pleaded, keeping hold of Sage's hands as she jumped up and down, thrilled to death for her friend. “You won't have to go out and you won't even get buzzed, we have to do SOMETHING to celebrate!”

 

Randy just leaned in the doorway, the smile never leaving his face as his ice blue eyes took in the women jumping together.  They could celebrate all night as far as he was concerned.

 

Chapter 3

 

After the mean things Sage said to Marisol earlier, she couldn't deny the woman anything and nodded, both of them walking past Randy toward the kitchen. “I can't believe he hired me.  I answered the phone because John called...again...and somehow managed to get under my skin...”


“John called you?” Marisol blinked, glancing over her shoulder at Randy, wondering if he had anything to do with it. “What did he want?”


“To give me the same spiel about how he was sorry and wanted to make things up to me.  I told him he wasn't worth my time or energy and to lose my digits.” Sage grinned, refusing to let the subject of her ex get her down. “And when my phone rang five minutes later, I thought it was John so I answered and yelled at him to leave me alone...only it wasn't John, it was Mr. Calaway.”

 

Randy could honestly say he was completely innocent here.  He hadn't known John was going to call Sage, though considering she had yelled at her future boss, he stored the name Calaway away for future reference.  He also made a note to let John know what had happened and what she was saying, John WAS his best friend after all.  

 

Bros before hoes and all that.


“You want one?” Marisol asked once she had started digging out ingredients for margaritas, mostly asking to be polite because she knew that one drink her lush boyfriend refused to touch was margaritas.  He hated the chick drink, which is what he called it.


“Small one.”

 

She blinked at that before nodding, making sure to make these very LOW low-alcohol margaritas.

 

Sage wondered if Randy having even a drop of alcohol was really in their best interest, deciding not to say anything more around him.  John was his best friend; Randy would be running off at the mouth for sure.  She hadn't said anything that wasn't true though, including what she'd said to Mr. Calaway.

 

“He sounded...amused I think?  And said he hoped I had a better night.” The women giggled softly while Marisol mixed the margaritas in the blender, handing over the strawberry flavored one to Sage. “Thanks sweetie.” There was no way Sage was apologizing for ruining Marisol's evening with Randy, proud of herself even though it wasn't intentional.

 

Randy accepted his...strawberry margarita with a gracious nod, well aware she had poured a very small drop of tequila into it and that was fine.  He wasn't going to get drunk here, not in front of her cunt friend at any rate.  That was all he needed, Sage running off at the mouth and having even more fuel to encourage Marisol to smarten up and leave him.  If THAT happened, he would have to show Sage up close and personal just what kind of drunk he was.


“Well, at least he didn't take it personally, that's good.  Sounds, so far, like he's going to be a good boss.  So now here’s the question: “Is he hot?” She’d asked her friend earlier and the curiosity just burned deeper when Sage didn’t answer her.


“That's all you ever think about isn't it?” Sage shook her head while taking a swig of her margarita.

 

Marisol could only smirk, her brown eyes sparkling. “Hey, there's nothing wrong with a single woman asking and looking, I'm merely curious, even though I’m currently taken.” She smiled over at Randy, knowing it was because of his bad boy streak and the mind-blowing sex that she decided to put up with his other problems.


“Uh huh.”

 

“Well?”

 

“I really didn't pay attention to whether or not my could-be boss is hot because that would be unprofessional.”

 

“Who cares if it's unprofessional?  You're allowed to have an opinion on whether or not your BOSS is hot.  Is he short? Tall?  Fat?  Skinny?  Built?” She was purposefully baiting Sage because she knew her roommate was probably hot under the collar about Randy being present for her impromptu celebration.

 

“He's tall and that's about all I noticed.” Sage was telling the truth, not feeling comfortable talking about this because the last thing she needed was having visions of her new boss dancing in her head in an unprofessional state.

 

“Oh my god, you think he is!!” Marisol crowed, finishing up her own margarita as she joined Sage at the table. “Details woman, give me SOMETHING!”


“He's tall, that's all I really noticed because I was trying not to blow chunks from how nervous I was.” Mark Calaway also had possibly the sexiest voice Sage ever heard, though she wasn't about to admit that. “I'm being honest!”


“So he's hot then.  Tall guys are usually hot.” Marisol stated observantly, glancing over her shoulder at Randy. “If you want to go home and not listen to our girl talk, I'll understand.”

 

Had Marisol just dismissed Randy politely?

 

Yes, she had, knowing that their sex for the night was pretty much not going to happen because she had totally lost the mood and it was doubtful he was going to regain it.  Not that she was about to find out.  She was going to have a drink with her best friend, then keep things calm and quiet so Sage could get a good night rest, which would definitely not happen if Randy was there.  When he just arched an eyebrow at her, she smiled sweetly.

 

“I was just giving you an out, we're about to discuss her boss in a very chick way.”

 

He could tell he wasn't wanted and just nodded, walking over to drop a kiss on her cheek. “I will leave you two ladies to it then.” He gave Sage another one of his smiles, knowing she wished he would just drop dead already. “Have a good first day tomorrow.” Randy was about to go hit up his boy and have a drink or two.

 

Sage smiled sweetly back at him, though it didn't reach her eyes. “Have a good night, Randall.” She smirked when his smile slowly faltered and let Marisol walk him to the door.  Honestly, Sage hadn't felt this good in a while and heard the front door slam shut moments later. “Don't let the door hit ya where the lord split ya.” She muttered under her breath, giving Marisol an apologetic smile that was totally phony. “I didn't mean to disturb you guys.”

 

Marisol shrugged nonchalantly, sipping her drink. “You didn't, he just wasn't doing it for me.  I couldn't get into the mood for some reason.” It was partially due to what Sage said, Marisol wasn't admitting that though. “He understands.”

 

Sage knew damn well Randy was angry that he hadn't had his night of sex like he wanted to with Marisol and it was all because of her, which made her smile even more.

 

“Listen, I’m really sorry about what happened earlier.” Marisol apologized, feeling horrible about their earlier argument. “I just get really defensive about my relationship with Randy because I know it’s not perfect.”

 

“It’s okay, Mari.” Sage sighed, both of them sitting down on her bed. “I shouldn’t have said what I did because you’re right; it is none of my business.  I know you love him and I…I support any decision you make, no matter if I don’t agree with it or not.” That was the best she could do and Marisol could tell, both girls hugging again. “I only want you to be happy.”

 

“I know and I am.” Marisol said, knowing she was lying because deep down Sage was right about everything she said earlier about Randy. “I believe there’s good in everyone and Randy is just going through a rough patch right now.  That’s why I asked if you wanted to get a place together because I couldn’t live with him, not until he straightens up and stops drinking.”

 

“What if he never does?” Sage couldn’t help asking, watching as Marisol’s eyes lowered.

 

“He will, I just have to give him a little more time.” She whispered, trying to convince herself as well as Sage that Randy would wake up one day and stop destroying his liver.

 

Sage didn’t want to get into another fight and simply patted her hand, giving Marisol the support she needed. “Don’t worry about it right now, Mari.  Everything will work out for the best, I just know it.” Though, if Marisol ended up marrying Randy, Sage would have to walk away from the friendship because that would be too much for her to handle.

 

It was always one of the main fears Sage had when it came to Marisol and Randy.

 

“Thanks Sage, I appreciate that.” Marisol took the tissue Sage handed over, wiping the few tears away that fell, not able to stop them. “I’m giving him another month and, if he doesn’t stop drinking and start going to those AA meetings I set him up with, I’m leaving him.”

 

“You are?” Sage’s jaw dropped when she heard that, wondering when Marisol decided to do this. “Are you sure?”

 

“Yes.” Marisol chewed her bottom lip and stood up from the bed, trying to decide if she should tell Sage what was going on. “I need to tell you something, but I don’t know if I should because I know how much you hate my relationship with Randy.  But we are best friends and we tell each other everything…” Now she was rambling.

 

Sage could feel her stomach tighten and had a feeling she wouldn’t like hearing whatever Marisol was about to tell her, bracing herself. “You can tell me anything, Mari.  You know that.” She said encouragingly, cracking a small smile. “So out with it.”

 

“I’m two weeks late.” Marisol couldn’t look at Sage and walked over to stare out the window, swallowing hard. “Randy and I haven’t been using protection when we have sex and…I took a home pregnancy test this morning…”

 

“You’re pregnant aren’t you?”

 

More tears fell as Marisol nodded, slowly turning around to face Sage, looking completely defeated for the first time since Randy’s first drinking binge. “I’m barely a month along and I’m going to the doctor tomorrow just to confirm the results. I’m giving Randy a month because…” She had to sit down, feeling her knees weaken. “If he doesn’t straighten up and stop drinking, I’m getting rid of the baby.  And I need you to take me to get it done.”

 

Now Sage just stared at her best friend dumbfounded, blinking. “You mean…you’re getting an abortion?” She didn’t know what to think or even feel, trying to find the right words to say.

 

“I refuse to have a baby with a man who can’t grow the fuck up.” Marisol stated sharply, eyes narrowing a little and placed a hand over her stomach, taking a shaky breath. “This is hard for me, but he’s not leaving me with a screaming infant with a loaded diaper while he goes off drinking his life away.  It’s not happening.  So if he wants to destroy his life, then I’m going to have to move on without him…and any piece of him will be too much for me to handle.  So will you go with me if I decide to get one?”

 

Sage could only nod.

 

The girls had talked well into the night and, as Sage went to sleep that night, she could only hope her friend made the right decisions and that her nightmares stayed away so she could get decent rest for her new job.

 

~!~

 

Randy headed straight to John's, stopping once to pick up a bottle of scotch and a twelve pack of beer, repeating that name Calaway over and over in his head.  He gathered from Sage and Marisol's conversation that Sage found her soon-to-be boss attractive, but wasn't admitting it.  John would love hearing that; the man had been trying to get back into her good graces for quite some time now.  And as she was starting to have an effect on Marisol, Randy was ready to step on board and get her the hell out of his hair by getting her into John's bed.

 

“Are you serious?” John scowled at his friend, wondering if Randy was jerking him around. “When did this come about?”

 

“Tonight.  You should’ve seen the way she was talking about him.  Practically fuckin’ him verbally.” Randy lied, stretching the truth, which wasn’t uncommon.  He was a natural-born liar and always had been. “She got that job and was squealing like an idiot with Marisol.  It was sickening.”

 

This didn’t sit well with John because he’d been trying for a while now to get back with Sage.  Granted, he had one indiscretion with Kimberly, but that was over and done with.  John honestly didn’t know how Sage felt about him at the time and he figured getting his dick wet elsewhere wasn’t a bad idea.  Sage wasn’t giving up the goods; he had no choice and was a man with needs.  John had a very insatiable appetite when it came to sex; he was the first to admit it.

 

“When does she start this so-called job?” John snorted, draining his beer and crushed the can in his fist, tossing it in the trash.

 

“Tomorrow, I think.  Or Monday, I really wasn’t paying attention.” Hell all Randy paid attention to was the name of Sage’s boss and that was it. “I suggest you do something to get her in your clutches before this Calaway guy snatches her up.”

 

John already planned on it, nodding. “I have a few ideas running around in my head on what to do.  Just gotta mull them over a little more.  Thanks man.”

 

Anyone else would’ve kept this information to themselves, but Randy was straight forward and a true friend, never letting John down.  Randy knew how much John cared for Sage and wanted her.  John would’ve done the same thing if the roles were reversed with Marisol.  Even if John knew what Randy’s real ulterior motive was, he still would’ve considered Randy a true friend…a selfish true friend.

 

 “No problem, I just want you to be happy.” Randy stated, telling half the truth because honestly his buddy did deserve a good woman. 

 

Randy didn’t think that was Sage, but apparently John did, and had his sights set on her for some odd reason.  Personally, Randy thought Sage was a cold bitch, who enjoyed verbally shredding a man’s balls every chance she could.  He knew this because she’d done it to him several times and Randy was starting to get sick of it, hence the reason he was planting the seed of jealousy within John.

 

“Hey, weren’t you supposed to get some from your woman tonight?” John asked, changing the subject and arched an eyebrow when Randy merely snorted. “I’ll take that as a no…”

 

“I was SUPPOSED to, but your woman decided to interrupt us with her squealing.” Randy practically spat, cracking open another beer. “I swear I hope you wear earplugs when you two finally do have sex because, if that squealing I heard tonight is any indication, you’ll be deaf afterwards.”

 

John chuckled, taking what Randy said lightly because he believed his friend. “I’ll keep that in mind.” They toasted and then proceeded to finish the twelve pack while John whipped him in some Call of Duty: Black Ops on the PS3.

 

Chapter 4

 

Before Sage knew it, Monday rolled around.

 

“Why are you wearing slacks?  This isn't Thursday.” Mindy commented, studying her boss intently as she watched him unlock the safe, not offended that he blocked her view of the combination numbers with his way too large back.  She was more than used to it at this point. “You never handle clients unless it's a Thursday or sometimes Tuesday.”

 

“I'll be out on the floor today.” Mark replied, turning with a tray of jewelry and placed it in her waiting arms. “Do you honestly think I'm going to let you train the new girl by yourself?”


“Hey, I'm all about the training and doing it properly.”

 

Mark arched an eyebrow.


“I see you are too.” She replied with a cheeky grin before carrying the tray out to the floor.

 

At seven fifteen AM, Sage stepped out of her car wearing black dress pants that had a silver buckle around the waist along with a black spaghetti strapped top, a black and white pinstriped shirt over it.  She left the top two buttons undone and the shirt had three quarter sleeves.  Her hair was once again pulled back in a French braid, silver hoops with a simple silver necklace around her neck.  She had natural makeup on with light browns and clear gloss, black two inch dress boots on her feet that were comfortable since she would be standing a lot, hoping she looked approving for Mr. Calaway.

 

“Good morning!” Mindy greeted ever so cheerfully, all bright and perky, thanks to coffee. “You look...very nice.” She definitely liked the silver buckle around Sage's waist, it was a nice accessory. “Coffee?” She offered, then without waiting for an answer, poured another mug from the urn behind her desk. “We have Irish cream, French vanilla and plain...tons of sugar.  Mark can't live without coffee, so...you'll have to make sure you always order plenty of it when doing inventory for business supplies.  This is considered a business supply.”

 

Mark stepped out from the back, carrying his own mug and frowned when Mindy said ‘see’ to her replacement as he headed for the coffee. “See what?”

 

Sage didn't laugh and just smiled, accepting the cup of coffee from Mindy, waited for Mr. Calaway to finish with his combination before dropping some French vanilla creamer and sugar into hers. “Good morning, sir.” She greeted softly, not anywhere near as chipper and perky like Mindy was, hoping that's not what he was looking for. 

 

She simply wasn't that type of woman. 

 

Sage nodded when the boss instructed her to follow him to fill out paperwork.  She had come in to fill it out the next day after Mark called her about the job, only to tell her that their system had been down.  So they had to take care of it first thing today before she began training with Mindy.  Sage handed over her license, birth certificate and social security ID card when he asked for them, sipping her coffee.

 

Mark set the items down on his desk, easing himself into the massive, custom built leather chair behind it.  He was a big man; a regular desk chair wouldn't survive even an hour if he was using it.  Taking a slow sip of his drink, his eyes silently appraised her thoughtfully.  He hadn't missed the change in her attire, much preferring this over the sales clerk look she had been sporting the day before.

 

“I'll get copies of these made off.” He reached for a small stack of papers to his right, setting them in front of her. “You'll need to fill those out.  W2's, emergency contacts, and other meaningless documents that have to be filled out for our government.”

 

Sage nodded and took the pen Mr. Calaway offered her, beginning to fill out the paperwork without another word.  She knew better than to say anything, especially after blowing up at him last night unintentionally on the phone.  Finishing the paperwork, Sage handed it back over to him about twenty minutes later, watching him merely file them away.  Marisol was her emergency contact obviously; Sage really didn't know anyone else in the city, having lost contact with her friends after the accident.

 

His eyes skimmed over the paperwork, double checking that everything was filled out properly, which at this point was mostly a formality as she had already given him the impression that she was very thorough on paperwork. “Now...” Mark set it down, leaning back in the chair to eye her speculatively. “Let's get the awkwardness out of the way.  Thursday night...was a mistake on your part, an honest one.  I am not mad, or offended, in the least.” Unless she was naturally reticent, and if she was, that was going to take some getting used to because Mindy was the complete opposite.

 

“Thank you for understanding, sir.” Sage wasn't worried about her boss being angry or offended because he sounded almost amused after her mortification. “I'm hoping we can just move on and pretend that never happened.  It was a personal matter and...I promise that I will never let my personal problems interfere with my work.” She was giving him her word, which Sage never broke, being as professional as possible. “And once again, I do apologize for calling you...what I did...and my caller ID is being checked every time my cell phone rings now.”

 

“Asshole, I believe it was.” Mark said, his face expressionless, though his eyes had just a hint of amusement in them, his tone also neutral. “Yes, you called me an asshole.  I have been called worse, however.” He had been called a cock sucking, son of a crab infested whore once…now THAT had been entertaining. “Mindy!”


“You bellowed?” She sighed when he held out Sage's information. “Copies?”


“Yes.”

 

Shaking her head, Mindy headed to the copier. “I know what you're doing, you're trying to squeeze a lot of work out of me before I quit.”

 

The corner of his lips quirked into a slight smirk.

 

“It wasn't meant for you, sir.”

 

That was very stupid to say indeed, but Sage couldn't take it back, not lowering her eyes as Mindy went to make the copies of all her private information.  He wasn't an asshole, he was very straightforward and blunt, but definitely not an asshole.  And he didn't deserve the way she answered the phone either.  The only way for her to prove that she did belong here and wanted the job was to simply do it, which Sage planned on doing.

 

“I gathered that, Sage.  And call me Mark.”

 

It wasn't a request.  He hated being referred to as Mr. Calaway, though his current secretary did it a lot to annoy him. Mark looked up when he heard the chime go off, signaling they had a customer and knew his man on the floor would take care of it, at least until they needed -if they needed- one of the women out at the desk.

 

“When you're done; Mindy, take her out front.”


“For proper training?” She batted her blue eyes at him innocently.

 

She wasn't going to make it to her wedding.

 

Mindy had called him Mark a time or two, but Sage refused to do it unless she was instructed otherwise...like now. “Thanks again, Mark.” She flashed him a heartfelt smile before following Mindy out the door, knowing when she was being dismissed and headed out to the front for her training. 

 

The first thing Mindy showed her was how to work the register, putting the inventory on the back burner because customers always came first.  Sage had her notebook in hand and jotted down important notes that she would go over later on at home, nodding to acknowledge she understood what Mindy said.  She didn't talk much, though when customers came up to her, she was very polite and had excellent customer service.  Though, Mindy told her she needed to be a little more chipper and that wasn't happening even if her job was on the line.

 

Once the customer had left, they returned to inventory, which Mindy had to have finished today and sent out by five. Sage's help made it go a little bit faster, though she had no idea what was in stock and what they needed off the top of her head like Mindy did so she then showed Sage the database on inventory, also making sure to reference the paper files they kept in case the computer ever went down.  Mark was ALWAYS one step ahead of a disaster.

 

“Oh, here's another- Well, Mr. Michaels, what can we help you with today?” Mindy asked sweetly, waving off Brad when he approached.  Shawn was a repeat client.


“I see we have a new girl.”


“Yes, we do, but I'm your girl, so…how can I help you?” Mindy was outright flirting with him, smiling sweetly when he began browsing the jewelry, looking for cufflinks. “Sage, why don't you show him our diamond selection?”

 

Mark was standing in the hallway, listening and watching from the shadows, wondering if Sage was going to think Mindy was a complete idiot.  Shawn was her fiancé’s best friend; naturally, she flirted shamelessly with him, in front of Paul, just to tease her husband.  Though he also knew nothing ever came out of it because she was heads over heels in love with the...facially challenged man.

 

“Sure, right this way, Mr. Michaels.”

 

Sage smiled when he requested for her to call him Shawn, guiding him over to the diamond selection.  It wasn't her business why Mindy was flirting with this man.  She had a job to do and remembered how Mindy instructed her with showing customers the different selections without opening the cases unless the customer was interested in something.

 

“Was there something in particular you were looking for?” She asked cordially, knowing Mark was watching her like a hawk and remained calm, cool and collected.

 

“Hmm...show me that pair.” Shawn pointed, watching as she bent down to retrieve them, arching an eyebrow when her top gaped just a little bit. “No, the pair to your left honey.”

 

Mark cleared his throat, catching Mindy's attention and nodded at Shawn.

 

Mindy didn't catch onto what was going on and simply shrugged, mouthing 'what?’.


“How about this pair up front here?” Shawn’s front, where she would have to lean forward, he was unable to keep the grin off his face.


“Enough, Michaels.”

 

Shawn arched an eyebrow then nodded, not about to get beat down by Mark Calaway.

 

Sage knew what Michaels was doing and immediately buttoned up her shirt all the way so everything was covered, smiling sweetly when the man simply stared back at her questioningly. “I may be great at customer service, but I won't tolerate being undressed with yours or any other man's eyes.  If you'll excuse me, Mr. Michaels, I think we're done here for the day.” If Mark didn't like the way she handled that blatant abuse of sexual harassment, he could fire her on the spot. “Mindy, I need to use the restroom, I'll be right back.” She excused herself politely, needing a moment to recollect herself.

 

Mindy simply pointed her finger towards the door, her eyes narrowing as Shawn slunk out.  She was more than tempted to pull off her spiked high heel and hurl it at his head for what he had been doing, having finally cottoned on.  Sighing, she turned to Mark, squirming under his frown.

 

“I'm sorry; I'll have Paul kick-”


“If I catch him in my store ever again, there won't be an ass to kick.  I won't have my employees treated that way, even if he is someone you may know.” His voice left no room for doubt that it was a promise, not a threat.

 

Sage had to take several deep breaths, patting her cheeks and neck with a wet cloth, not believing how shameless Mr. Michaels had been.  Mark was probably going to fire her, but until then Sage would continue on with doing her training.  She took five minutes and walked back out into the open, plastering on a smile at another customer that walked through the door.  Mindy was already greeting them so Sage took that opportunity to step behind the counter, waiting patiently.

 

Mark had remained out on the floor, though behind the counter, deciding that since today was her first day on the job, technically, he would be out here to supervise.  That, and if any other regulars decided to mess her around, he was going to step in and squash them quickly.  There would be no repeats of the Michaels’ incident and he hoped Sage didn't think that was something he allowed to happen frequently.

 

Chapter 5

 

The rest of the day went without any more incidents, which Sage was thankful for and smiled when Mindy commended her for a job well done for her first day.  The woman had such a great chirpy spirit that Sage found herself smiling more than normal, both of them actually cracking jokes and getting along.  She was definitely going to miss Mindy.  The woman had a light about her that couldn't be put out, no matter the circumstances.  Once they cleaned up, it was time for Sage to learn how to close up the jewelry part of shop, waiting for Mark patiently.

 

“I believe you were already told, but I'm going to repeat it: I am the only one who puts the trays in and out of the safe. It's nothing personal against you, or any of my employees, but I'm more comfortable with it this way.” Not to mention what Mark paid for insurance in the event the jewelry was ever stolen or something.  If it happened because of an employee...well, that would have been very bad. “Always remember to check that everything is back where it belongs and...” He slid on a pair of gloves, holding up the cufflinks she had touched. “Clean them at the end of the day.  Jewelry cleaner is right here.” He gestured beneath the counter, quickly cleaning any hint of prints off the gold and diamonds, twisting it back and forth in the light just to watch it sparkle. “That's about all you have to do at the end of the day regarding jewelry, quick inventory and a print check.  Bring the trays back.”

 

Mark took one while she took the other, leading the way into the office.  He held the tray in one arm, using his free hand to start unbuttoning his dress shirt, truly hating how confining they were.  Sighing in relief when it was halfway unbuttoned down his chest.  If Sage noticed him unbuttoning his shirt, she didn't show it, simply waiting for him to open the safe.  She lowered her eyes as Mindy instructed her to do while he put the combination in and looked up only when the door opened, the first tray sliding it.  She handed over the other tray, feeling a sigh of relief escape her because holding all of that gold and diamonds was nerve-wracking.

 

“Mindy said she didn't want to bombard me all at once, so tomorrow we'll go over inventory more thoroughly...” Sage knew she shouldn't mention what happened with Michaels, but couldn't get it out of her head. “I know earlier wasn't very customer service friendly, but...I hope you understand why I did it and I hope I didn't jeopardize my opportunity over it.”

 

He snorted at that, securing the safe before straightening up to his full height and turning to stare down at her out of piercing, emerald green eyes. “I would rather you speak up and say somethin' then stand there and let him get away with it.” Mark informed her, a bit of his Southern accent seeping through his tone. “Shawn thinks he's god's gift to the women and he'd of kept on with it if you'd of let him.  You did the right thing.”

 

“Thank you, Mark.”

 

Sage felt another weight lift from her shoulders, those emerald green eyes piercing her down to the depths of her soul.  He was a very gorgeous man; especially with the long hair and those eyes...Sage definitely wasn't going to mention this to Marisol.  She would never hear the end of it.

 

“Was there something else you wanted to show me?” She asked, desperate to get back to the professional level, though if Michaels made another appearance, Sage wouldn't be servicing him.

 

Given that he was pretty sure he had seen the barest hint of interest, and not professional interest either, flicker in those beautiful eyes of hers, there actually was something else he wanted to show her.  But he wasn't given to sexually assaulting or harassing people who worked for him.  He wondered, however, what Sage’s thoughts would be in being shown something very unprofessional from him.

 

“Not off the top of my head, darlin'.” Mark drawled, clearing his throat and turned around, scooping up an extra set of keys he had had made, holding them out. “On the rare occasion that I do not show up to unlock the doors for you, or Mindy isn't here, you can let yourself in and start the set up.  Don't lose them.”

 

“They won't leave my side.” She promised, clipping her work keys to her car ones, which were with her at all times. “Good night, Mark.” She exited before she made an even bigger fool of herself, not believing she just ogled her boss and knew that was definitely not a road she should go down.


“Have a good night, Sage, see you tomorrow!”


“You too Steph, take care!” She called over her shoulder, heading out of the store toward her car, knowing Mark was always the last one to leave the shop because he wanted to make sure everything was completed.

 

Like her own personal ray of sunshine, John was standing by her car, with a grin on his face and a small bouquet of her favorite flowers in hand. “I heard you got a job finally.” He said when she drew closer, not surprised when she came to a halt a few feet away, obviously not trusting him. “Sage, I want to talk to you, baby girl.  Please?” John flashed big blue eyes at her.

 

“What part of lose my digits and stop calling me did you not understand?” Sage demanded, not believing he had the audacity to show up at her job of all places, sheer disbelief shining in her sapphire eyes. “I mean seriously, what part of I want nothing more to do with you did you not get?  Are your ears clogged, Cena, or do you just have selective hearing?” If he came even a fraction toward her, Sage would end up hurting him, having two inch black boots on that had steel toes.  She would use them if necessary. “Get out of here right now before you make an even bigger fool of yourself.”

 

“You know me, I'm persistent.” John said, the grin never fading.  But he was no fool and knew better than to approach her or let her get too close to him, not with THOSE shoes on.  Of course, it would be easy for him to overpower her, but the idea of getting one of those heels in the balls made that idea less than appealing. “Sage, if you really wanted me to stop trying, you'd of changed your number by now.  You want me to call; you want me to beg, I think you've punished me enough though.  I want to give us another shot.”

 

“Why would I change my number for a lowlife scumbag like you?” Sage retorted derisively, eyes turning to pure ice, gritting her teeth at his cockiness, which wasn't attractive in the slightest.  If anything, she was more annoyed than ever. “I'm not punishing you, this isn't a fucking game, Cena.  I. Don't. Want. You!  Get it through your head and leave me the hell alone!  I answered last night because you caught me at a bad time, but trust me when I say this: I won't be answering my phone when and if you call me again.  Get over yourself and go find someone else to screw around with.  I'm. Not. Interested.”

 

If she really wanted him to leave her alone, then she would have changed her number.  As it was, she was being brassy and that was only going to backfire. “You really need to get laid, Sage.” John said after a moment, placing the flowers on the hood of her car, his blue eyes glittering wickedly. “You're so tense...looks like you have a lot of...pent-up frustration.” He made a lewd gesture with his hand, a smirk tilting his lips. “Or maybe doing the job solo isn't getting it done anymore?”

 

“Unlike you, I don't need to open my legs in order to get rid of pent-up frustration.” Sage smiled coldly, refusing to let him get under her skin again. “And it's not your business how I've been getting the job done.”

 

When his eyes narrowed, Sage knew he was automatically thinking she was screwing someone else.  Pulling her keys out, Sage never taking her eyes from him, tempted to get her in car and run him over.  She walked over and swiped the flowers off of the hood before stomping on them, the sound of them crunching beneath her boots satisfying.

 

“And I know Randy is the one who told you about my new job.  Word of advice: Don't let him get you in a situation that will get you hurt.” That wasn't a threat, simply a promise.

 

“Right...because you are in the position to hurt me.” John snorted, obviously finding that a very amusing thought.  When she was dumb enough to try to unlock her car, John pinned her to it, using one leg to trap her feet and grabbed hold of her wrist before she could bring the key up and into his eye, blinking at how close it had gotten. “You really are a vicious bitch, Sage, you know that?” He purred, squeezing until she dropped them and pinned her body back to the car with his, stopping any incoming nut shots. “Tell me, how DID you get this job anyway?”

 

Sage didn't answer him, instead using her free arm to elbow him in the gut and felt him release her enough to where she could backhand him across the face, shaking her hand since it now throbbed painfully.  John was a powerful guy; he could definitely take a beating or two. “Don't fucking touch me, you prick!” She spat angrily, having taken a few self-defense classes.

 

When he came toward her again, she kicked him square below the belt, watching him crumble before her and gave her the opportunity to retrieve her keys from the asphalt.  Before John could grab her again, Sage pulled the can of mace out of her purse and sprayed him right in the eyes.  His roaring pain echoed throughout the night and Sage honestly hoped she blinded him, trembling.

 

“YOU FUCKING CUNT!” John roared, one hand over his now red and swollen, tear filled eyes while the other was cupping his balls.

 

Feeling like vomiting any second now, John forced himself to swallow it down.  He heard her moving and lashed out blindly, catching hold of her leg and began jerking her down.  Not caring if he was currently blind, he was going to beat the hell out of her for this.

 

Mark had heard screaming and was walking calmly out of the shop, a steel chain wrapped around his fist and murder in his eyes.

 

“Get off of me, John!!” Sage screamed out, pounding on his shoulders and back with her tiny fists, tears beginning to fall. 

 

She sprayed him again when he got too close, the mace can flying out of her hand when John blindly hit it away.  Panic set in and Sage began kicking him, doing everything she could to get him away from her and cried out when he bashed her head against the asphalt, instantly making her see stars.  If Sage got away from him alive, she was definitely reporting him to the authorities and getting a restraining order.

 

Bending down, Mark wrapped the chain around the man's -John was what Sage had screamed- thick neck and pulled him back viciously, hearing the other man make a yelping sound very much like a dog.  He took a quick glance at Sage, ensuring she wasn’t damaged to the point of needing immediate attention and then turned his gaze back onto who undoubtedly was the asshole from the previous night.  Not saying a word, Mark began dragging the screaming, apparently temporarily blinded, man towards an alley between his shop and an adjacent building.

 

“Do you know what happens to grown men who beat women?” Mark asked in a calm, grave tone of voice. “They die.”

 

Sage was shocked to find her boss of all people coming to her rescue, her vision a little fuzzy and tried stopping her head from exploding.  She managed to back up against her car, pulling herself up on shaky legs, not believing John actually laid his hands on her.  Sage felt the back of her head and put her hand in front of her, seeing a smear of blood on it.

 

“Shit...” She whispered, jumping out of her skin when she heard a blood curdling scream echo from the alleyway and didn't dare go investigate.  John was away from her, that's all Sage cared about at the moment and managed to get her car door open.

 

Mark walked out of the alleyway, casually wiping the blood off his hands and onto his slacks.  They were black and it was dark anyway, he wasn't overly worried about anyone seeing it.  He also wasn't overly worried about anyone pinning him back to the barely breathing body in the alley either. 

 

He had taken a barrel full of rain water and poured it over John, washing everything away and leaving the bastard nice and clean, ready to be mottled with his still streaming blood.  He spotted Sage fumbling her way into her car and walked over to her, his completely unbuttoned shirt flapping behind him.  His hair also out of the braid he had been wearing it in all day.

 

“Sage.”

 

“Goddamn door...” She muttered, the pain in her head only intensifying and jumped out of her skin at the deep baritone behind her, slowly turning her head to stare at her boss.  Her eyes didn't dare widen because that would just make her head pound more, not even caring that silent tears were streaming down her face. “Where is he?” Sage whispered, refusing to say her ex-boyfriend's name and shivered when Mark merely said the alleyway, nodding. 

 

What was she supposed to say to this man?  First she called him an asshole without meaning to and now her ex-boyfriend had shown up at her job to attack her!  He was probably thinking she had some serious issues, too many for his shop, and Sage didn't blame him.

 

“I'm sorry about this, Mark.”

 

Actually, Mark was thinking that she had HAD serious issues.  That boy would have to be completely out of his mind to ever mess with her again, let alone in THIS parking lot.  Providing he ever got use of his legs again, he hadn't been too particular about where he hit with that chain.

 

“Sorry for what?  Having a psychotic, sub-human male in your life?” Mark snorted, nostrils flaring, the anger still simmering in his eyes. “Here.” He reached out to pull her towards him, steady fingers feeling her head gently for a lump.

 

“I'm bleeding.” She whispered, wincing when he found the huge lump on her head and had to lean against him so he didn't faint, blinking rapidly. “He's not in my life, not by a long shot.  He just thinks I want him and I told him to lose my digits because I don't want anything to do with him.”

 

Why was she even saying any of this to him? 

 

This was her boss, her NEW boss, and she'd already caused several problems.  Sage went to pull away, only to stumble slightly and Mark caught her, once again leaning against him.  She definitely had a concussion from how hard she hit the asphalt; there was no doubt about that.

 

“Damn that hurts...”

 

Nodding, he bent down and picked her up, one arm going beneath her knees and the other wrapping around her back and shoulders, cradling her against him.  He shut her car door with the heel of his foot and headed back towards the shop. There was a vacant apartment over it, an apartment that had been vacant for three years now and would remain that way, but on the rare occasion, he did use it to crash.  Tonight, it was going to be put to use because Sage was in no condition to drive.

 

“I've got you.” Mark murmured as soothingly as he could, trying to keep the growl from his tone, giving serious consideration to finishing off the job he had done on John.

 

Chapter 6

 

“Home, I have to go home...” Sage murmured softly, though that didn't stop her from snuggling against the warmth Mark gave off. 

 

It actually helped in a weird way and she groaned when the warmth was replaced by a cold bedding.  She watched as Mark pulled something out of a nearby cabinet, procuring two pills from a bottle and handed them over.  Sage looked at them skeptically, popping them when he muttered they were pain killers, trusting him oddly enough.

 

“I'm bleeding.” She muttered, repeating herself from earlier, feeling him roll her over on her stomach and winced when he began parting her hair to find where the blood was coming from. “Ouch!”

 

It was going to be ouch until those pain pills kicked in and Mark gritted his teeth when he seen the gash on her head, knowing it was from her head hitting either her car or the pavement. “This needs stapled or glued.” He said finally, planting the palm of his hand between her shoulder blades when she tried to roll over. “Stay put.” He got off the bed and headed back to the cabinet, searching for skin glue, something he had purchased about three months ago when he had sliced open his arm with a box cutter, not about to go to the hospital for something he could easily take care of himself. “I'm going to wait a few more minutes to let those pills kick in, this is going to hurt.” He cautioned, settling back down on the bed after retrieving the glue, some antibacterial soap and cream, and a damp, warm washcloth.

 

Sage had to bury her face in the pillow to muffle her screams, though she didn't move an inch, knowing that would make her end up having glue elsewhere.  Tears streamed from her eyes and soaked the pillow as he glued the gash in her head, knowing she probably should've gone to the hospital to check and see if she had a concussion.  If Mark didn't think she had to be checked out and could handle it himself, Sage wasn't going to complain.  She had no insurance currently so an ER visit definitely wasn't in her budget.

 

“Thank you.” Sage whispered when he finished the job, looking up at him as silent tears slipped down her nose, half of her hair out of the French braid she'd had it in.

 

“You have a concussion.”

 

He figured that would be obvious, even to her, but just in case…Mark studied her dilated pupils, reaching down to grip her gently beneath her arms, hauling her into an upright position.  Her back pressed against the headboard and he sat on the bed beside her, keeping his arm around her shoulders to keep her steady.  He couldn’t let her fall asleep, wondering if she knew that with a concussion, she had to stay awake for at least two hours, possibly three.

 

“You need to stay awake at least for an hour, Sage.” Sage was definitely getting the award for most exciting first day and Mark decided to take pity on her with the time frame.

 

“Am I fired?” Sage couldn't help asking, watching Mark shake his head and leaned against him because she simply didn't have the strength to stay up on her own. 

 

John was outside bleeding with multiple broken bones hopefully and Sage knew she couldn't contact the police after what Mark did.  So if John attacked her again, she would be ready for him, deciding it was time to book herself for another self-defense class and carry something other than a damn can of mace that only blinded him.  That didn't stop him from attacking her and giving her a concussion, the bastard.

 

Mark idly stroked her shoulder with his fingertips, contemplating what came next.  Obviously he couldn't have employees assaulted in his parking lot and was now going to escort both her and Mindy out each night.  He knew Mindy was safe because nobody was dumb enough to mess with her given who her fiancé was, but Mark refused to let Sage’s safety be jeopardized when it came to working for CalJac’s.

 

“Does he bother you a lot?” Mark asked after a moment, catching her nod and rolled his eyes heavenward, praying for strength so he didn't go finish the job.  It would be so easy too...the bastard was laying right there, knocked out. “You need to learn how to defend yourself.” And he was going to be the one to teach her. “And not just with mace.”

 

“I know that, I've taken some self-defense classes, but apparently none of them are good enough.  He's not exactly a small man, either...” Sage hated admitting that, wondering what the hell was in the water suddenly because she was surrounded by monstrous men. “I'm thinking about carrying a pocket knife, maybe even a small gun...” Blowing his balls off would get John to leave her alone, Sage could hope anyway.  She leaned further against Mark because he was very comforting, needing that right now. “I didn't peg you for a teddy bear type.” She commented offhandedly, looking up at him with a goofy smile. “Sorry that's probably out of line.”

 

“You would need a permit for a small gun, to carry it in the city, which requires classes that can take forever.  I would go with a knife.  And no, he wasn't a small man.  Though now, he's half a man, if that.” Mark snorted, not finding her teddy bear comment all that amusing, but let it slide, figuring he would attribute it to the pain medication.  Some people reacted differently to it. “I'll just pretend you didn't say it, how about that?” Mark murmured, disarmed by the silly smile on her face.

 

“Sure, whatever you want, my hero.” Now she was giddy and knew it was definitely the pain killers, hoping he didn't maim her for some of the things that popped out of her mouth. “I did fight him off though.  I backhanded him and kicked him in the gut, then his balls and then blinded him.” She grinned proudly, the pain disappearing and leaving her feeling numb and comforted with the warm body she leaned against. “You're a damn furnace you know that?” Sage hoped he didn't leave her side for the night, knowing there was no way she was making it home.

 

Mark made a mental note to NEVER piss this woman off, having seen the shoes she had been wearing today, was still wearing and considered taking them off of her. “You did a good job on him, darlin', I just finished it up a bit.” He wasn't about to go into detail on what he had done, having no idea if she had a weak stomach or not. “I've been told, if you're too hot, I can move.  Or you can take off one of your shirts.” She was wearing two of them after all.

 

“Normally, I would consider that a come-on sentence, but I know it's not and I don't want you to move.  So please don't.” Her sapphire eyes locked with his briefly, the hidden fear swirling through them, truly afraid of being alone tonight after her attack. “Help me up please.” She used him as leverage to sit up, unbuttoning her shirt and pulled it off, tossing it to the side and leaving on her spaghetti strapped black tank top, yawning.  When Mark went to remove her boots, Sage didn't stop him, sighing as soon as they were off because she was even more comfortable now. “Much better.”

 

He was also feeling much better, with her boots removed, and arched an eyebrow as he studied her.  She did look more comfortable, and he already knew he wasn't leaving tonight so he figured he would be as well.  Mark kicked off his own shoes and shrugged off the shirt, having discarded his belt earlier and stored it in a desk drawer downstairs.  Leaning back again, he raised an arm, somehow not surprised she snuggled into him and leaned back against the headboard.  This was by far the most interesting first day he had ever had with an employee, though he was hoping it never happened again.

 

“Better, darlin'?”

 

“Yes indeedy.” Sage murmured, yawning again and placed a hand on his bare chest over his beating heart.  It was one of the most soothing sounds she ever heard.  Sage would no doubt wake up in the morning and be mortified by what happened, but right now the pain killers were her best friend. “You're very mysterious.” She commented out of left field, admiring the muscular form she currently cuddled against. “You don't seem like the type of guy who would own a tailor/jewelry department store.  And why all the tattoos?  You do realize when you're eighty years old they'll all run together and be saggy right?” Oh yeah, the pain killers were definitely making her braver than usual. “Even though they do fit you.”

 

All Mark could do was stare down at her, one black eyebrow arched and then finally looked at his tattoos then to her hand which was moving to stroke the BSK on his abdomen, wondering if she even knew what the hell she was doing. “They will not be saggy.” He grunted, catching her hand to stop her from fingering the letters, having a brief, but very wicked idea of where she could move her hand if she wanted to touch him. “And I like them; they are part of me.”

 

“Think what you want, but I'm telling you right now when you're eighty years old, gray from head to toe with wrinkles all over, they WILL sag and run together.  It happens with anyone who gets a tattoo.  Eventually the skin stretches and then sags because muscle tone is lost.” She was rambling about how Mark would lose his muscle tone and his aging...Sage wasn't sure if she'd remember any of this, suddenly sitting up a little. 

 

Without his permission, she took his arm and began looking over the intricate designs of his tattoos, running her fingertips over them, not realizing that was a major turn-on to him.  She was too busy being hopped up on pain killers with a goofy smile to notice anything, tilting her head slightly at some of them.  Sage moved to straddle his lap so she could look over his other arm, not one hint of fear or hesitation in her sapphire eyes, her strawberry blonde wavy hair pooled over her shoulders.

 

At the same time she was annoying the hell out of him, she was turning him on.  It was the strangest combination he had ever experienced.  She wouldn't shut up about the loss of skin tone, and wondered idly just how many eighty year old men she knew with saggy tattoos.  When she moved to straddle his lap, his arms automatically went to her hips, both steadying her and just a gut reaction.  The usual follow-up to that reaction was a thrust from HIS hips, but given these circumstances, Mark knew that wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

 

“What're ya doin'?” Mark murmured huskily, watching as she bent over him, leaning forward to inhale her scent.

 

“Looking at your tattoos, they're definitely interesting and do represent you.” She concluded, pulling away from his other arm to look into his now smoldered green eyes, though Sage didn't notice. 

 

Done with her exploration, Sage rolled off of his lap and snuggled against his side again, starting to play with the ends of his hair.  She was exhausted, her eyes slowly drooping and began twirling some of his hair around her finger.  Draping one of her legs over his, Sage didn’t realize the position she had put herself in, not really caring at the moment. 

 

“Hope you don't mind, more comfy this way.” She murmured sleepily, not stopping playing with his hair because it weirdly soothed her, another yawn escaping. “Mmm…”

 

Mark glanced at the clock, seeing her time up was approaching and thank GOD because he wasn't sure how much more of this he could take.  Taking advantage of the new girl, who not only had a concussion, but apparently couldn't handle her Vicodin was not the best way to get off on the right foot.  He was a professional, though at the moment Mark was lured to toss the professionalism out the window, his eyes devouring her silently.

 

“Don't close your eyes.” He ordered in a low rumble, unable to keep the huskiness from it, scooting down until he was lying beside her, rolling onto his side to face her. “You can't sleep just yet.” Mark was very tempted to offer to keep her awake.

 

“Mmm can't, sleepy.” Sage whispered, snuggling into the pillow and scooted closer to the heat, soaking it up as much as possible. “Warm...So warm...”

 

For once, Sage hadn't felt the chill when she went to sleep and slowly opened her eyes when Mark brushed a strand of her strawberry blonde hair away from her face, smiling softly.  He was a gentle giant.  Mindy would probably go crazy –not to mention Marisol- if she ever found out what happened tonight, hoping Mark kept it between them.

 

“Don't leave.” She whispered softly, once again resting her hand over his heart and felt his fingers begin running through her hair. “Tattooed hero...”

 

“Don't. Fall. Asleep.” He repeated, groaning inwardly because it had been so long since a woman had been nestled against him like this.  Hell, it had just been a long time since he had even been in bed with a woman, period. “Sage, open your eyes or I'll do somethin' to wake you.”

 

Mark was giving her fair warning, growling softly when she simply smiled and murmured another little remark, pretty sure he heard gentle giant and inclined his head, pressing his lips against hers in a firm but gentle kiss.  The moment Sage felt warm lips against hers, she instantly responded and cupped his face gently in her hand, pressing her body against his.  She'd barely heard his threat and, -normally Sage wouldn't be caught dead in a situation like this- given that she'd taken two Vicodin and felt no pain...Sage wasn't thinking clearly. 

 

A soft moan escaped her as she felt strong arms wrap around her body, her leg curling around his muscular hip, knowing who she was kissing.  Her boss.  The man who had hired her...and he was kissing her and she was reciprocating the notion.  If he wanted to keep her awake that badly, Sage definitely wasn't complaining, running her fingers through his hair.

 

Mark figured...he'd keep her awake for about ten minutes more, let her fall asleep and then go take a very cold shower to handle his problem, which was now very evident since he was wearing damn dress pants instead of his usual jeans.  There was nothing to keep him held in check.  The way she had her leg hooked over his hip...Sage was eventually going to realize it wasn't HIS leg digging into her.

 

When he finally pulled away from her, breaking the kiss, Sage stared up at him in a complete daze, her lips swollen from having them ravaged.  She just kissed her boss, or rather he kissed her, and they had crossed a line that couldn't be uncrossed!  Sage would've freaked out by now, but due to the Vicodin, all she could do was stare up at him with a soft smile, touching her lips with her fingertips.

 

“Wow the tattooed mysterious hero can kiss too.” All Sage could think about was how to get her body to stop burning from just one kiss. 

 

No man had EVER had that kind of effect on her.

 

“Go to sleep, Sage.” Mark said in a low deep baritone, knowing she was fine to sleep now.

 

If she didn't sleep, he was going to do something she would definitely regret in the morning.  Mark let out a soft groan when she shifted against him, unable to keep from arching into her, his own body trembling from the amount of sheer willpower he was exerting to keep himself from thoroughly waking her up and then wearing her out all over again.  His voice was enough to definitely soothe her enough to close her eyes, though she didn't release him. 

 

She buried her face in his bare chest, his scent intoxicating and the sheer warmth from his body felt amazing.  Sage didn't want him going anywhere, feeling his fingers once again run through her soft hair.  Within seconds, Sage was fast asleep with even breathing and a slow heartbeat, Mark's being the ultimate sound that lulled her into the dark abyss.

 

After he was sure she was in a deep sleep, Mark tried to extract himself from Sage's grip, but it was a bit like getting chewing gum out of long hair, damn near impossible.  He knew this for a fact because he had once wound UP with chewing gum in his hair and had to cut it off, though...re-growing it out had done wonders.  It had come back thicker and longer, which had been a perk.  Giving it up, he laid there and continued stroking her back and hair, his body slowly calming down enough to eventually let him fall asleep alongside her.

 

Chapter 7

 

When Sage woke up the next morning, she was by herself in a strange bed and her head was pounding furiously.  She slowly managed to sit up, though couldn't open her eyes, not right away at least.  The previous night's events suddenly rushed over her and Sage felt tears sting her eyes, blinking as they slid down her face. 

 

She was attacked by John and ended up being treated by Mark...Mark...She had kissed him!  Sage groaned and buried her face in her hands, wondering what the hell was wrong with her and if she'd completely lost her mind?  Sighing heavily, Sage stood up from the bed and had to stop because a dizzy spell came over her, the pain in her head excruciating.

 

“I’m going to kill that little fucker.” She muttered, meaning John and found the nearby bathroom, wincing when even the slightest running of water made her head hurt. 

 

Marisol was probably worried out of her mind and Randy...Randy was a dead man for opening his mouth to John about her new job.  Mark came up carrying two cups of coffee, having called Stephanie to let her know he was closing the shop today for a routine 'bug check'.  She didn't believe the excuse, but hadn't prodded either, apparently not minding the day off, especially when he told her he was still going to pay her as if she was on the clock.  He heard water running in the bathroom before seeing the empty bed, setting the mugs down on the small kitchen table before waking over to knock gently on the door.

 

“Sage?” He called out softly.

 

Sage jumped when she heard Mark's voice through the door, letting out a groan because the echoing of his baritone made her head hurt. “Be out in a minute.” She said very quietly, hoping he heard her because she wasn't talking any louder, knowing her head wouldn't allow it.  She had to get out of there and go home, feeling sick at the thought of having to face Marisol and especially Randall.  Opening the door, Sage looked up into the emerald green eyes of her boss and swallowed hard, accepting the cup of coffee he handed her, wondering if caffeine was a good idea. “Thanks.” She whispered, inhaling the scent and immediately took a long swallow.

 

Caffeine was a great idea because he felt like he had hardly gotten any sleep, having kept waking up to check on her to make sure she was still alive.  He knew in theory, after an hour, she should be fine to sleep, however...theory hadn't done him any favors.  That and he wasn't used to someone pressing against him all night long.  Not that he minded, because it was honestly nice, it was just different.

 

“How's your head?” Mark asked, knowing she probably wouldn't let him just take over and examine her like he had the night before.

 

“Throbbing, I can barely talk.” She murmured and knew he wanted to look over her head, taking a deep breath.  Without a word, she walked past him to the bed and laid down on it stomach first, after setting her coffee on the windowsill, bracing herself for the pain that was sure to come.  Even if he parted her hair slightly, it was going to hurt like a bitch. “Just do it.” Sage ordered gruffly, burying her face in the pillow and tensed as soon as his fingers began parting her hair, tears already stinging her eyes. “God please tell me you have some more of those pain killers...or something to help with it...anything...”

 

“Vicodin.”

 

That was it.  Mark didn't generally keep pain killers around because it was too easy to abuse them, whether intentionally or not.  But considering her head wound and the pain she was obviously in...After examining the glued gash, he retrieved ONE pill this time, knowing it would take the edge off without hopefully making her loopy again.*

 

“You need to see your personal physician and have to examined professionally.” Mark instructed as he handed her the pill.

 

Sage nodded, not liking the sound of that and sighed heavily before popping the Vicodin, hoping it kicked in soon enough. “Damn...”

 

She winced when he touched her head again, tears leaking out of her eyes again and buried her face in the pillow completely embarrassed.  How could she even look this man in the eye?  Sage was contemplating quitting the job because they had crossed the line by kissing. 

 

How could John attack her the way he did?  She didn't want him so he attacks her?  Sage wanted to kill him and was pretty sure Mark nearly did, crying silently into the pillow.  She was humiliated and wanted to go home and never come out of her apartment again.

 

It took him a few moments to realize that Sage was crying, the slight tremble in her shoulders giving it away.  Frowning, Mark sat down on the edge of the bed and gently rolled her over, staring down at her intently. “Does it hurt that bad?” He asked softly, brushing the back of his hand against her forehead. “I'll send for my physician, he can come here to look at you.” That would save her the hassle of jostling herself around.

 

“Yes it hurts, but it's not just that!” Sage cried out, not caring if she sounded like a whiny bitch.  She had every right to after what happened to her! “I get this great job opportunity and then my ex has to blow it for me!  I end up with a concussion the size of Mexico and then I end up kissing my boss!!” Her eyes widened as soon as that last part popped out of her mouth, Sage sitting up quicker than she should've. “I have to go.  I need to go home.  Thanks for everything, Mark.”

 

Sage didn't even bother getting her boots and shirt, rushing out the door and ignored the pounding drums in her head. Mark chased after her, catching her before she wound up toppling down the stairs and growled.  Heaving her over his shoulder, Mark carted her right back inside, lightly slapping her ass when she tried wiggling down.

 

“Knock it off, you're not goin' anywhere until that head gets checked out.  Besides, I'm the one who kissed you first and you don't see me running, do you?”

 

Mark laid her back out on the bed, standing at the foot of it with his arms folded over his chest.  He had gotten up, showered and dressed in an old pair of light blue skintight jeans and a white beater, his hair hanging loose over his shoulders.  If she even thought about trying to leave again, Mark was going to tie her to the bed, his green eyes glinting wickedly for a mere second at the thought of Sage in that position and immediately shoved it in the far recesses of his mind.

 

“You have no reason to.” Sage mumbled, lowering her eyes to the bedding and sat there with her legs crossed Indian style, chewing her bottom lip. 

 

She just wanted to go home in her apartment, in her bedroom more specifically, and never come out again.  Mark would surely understand if she didn't keep her job, right?  Marisol would kill her, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

 

“I'll get my head checked out...” Not in this lifetime, Sage couldn't afford to go to a doctor and sighed when he simply repeated he was having his private physician come over to examine her. “Please don't tell anyone about last night, Mark.  Please!  I was going to turn him in, but I don't want to get you in trouble!  So please don't say anything, just tell your doc I had a fall or something outside of work and you found me.”

 

Mark snorted, letting her know exactly what he thought of that idea as he rung up his physician, who was also a good friend and someone he trusted. “Considering I have every intention of not going to prison, I doubt I'll be telling very many people about last night.”

 

Mark had checked the alleyway this morning and found John gone, which wasn't too surprising.  The man had probably dragged himself away or called someone, either way.  So long as he was gone, that’s what really mattered.

 

Sage had no choice except to sit there and wait for Mark’s physician to arrive to examine her.  This was by far one of the most humiliating situations she’d ever been in.  Though Sage couldn’t help sighing with relief when Mark informed her he would be keeping what happened between them a secret.  That meant the kiss too.  Sage still couldn’t believe she actually kissed her boss, even though Mark initiated it, she hadn’t pushed him away.  Hell, with lips as sinful as his, what women in their right mind would?

 

‘That is NOT the right train of thought, Sage.’ She scolded mentally, looking up when, who she could only assume was, Mark’s physician walked through the door.

 

He noticed the different emotions flitting through those midnight orbs and wondered what Sage was thinking, having a pretty good idea what was on her mind.  The kiss.  Mark openly admitted it wasn’t the greatest idea to keep her awake, but he had to do something.  Concussions were not to be trifled with and, honestly, Mark had thoroughly enjoyed kissing her.  If she allowed it, he would do it again in a heartbeat and purposefully slid his tongue out to wet his lips.

 

“So is this our patient, Mark?” Lawrence asked, sitting down beside the bed with his black case of medical supplies in hand. He was middle aged with graying hair and had soft blue eyes that were very trusting. “What’s yer name, honey?”

 

“Sage.” She answered timidly, looking up at Mark for the briefest of moments, wondering why he was tormenting her this way. “Look this really isn’t necessary…”

 

“Now, now honey, I realize that this isn’t the most comfortable of situations, but I am very discreet and Mark wants to make sure you’re okay.  Just let me do the examination and I promise it’ll be as painless as possible.  It will also make him happy and let ya out of here.” He winked at the woman, chuckling when she merely raised an eyebrow. “Turn now so I can look, Sage.”

 

Reluctantly, Sage did as the doctor requested, wincing when he ran his fingers along her head injury.  It was still incredibly tender from what John did to her.  Mark frowned at the tears that formed in Sage’s eyes and walked over to sit beside her on the bed while Lawrence continued his examination, taking her hand in his. 

 

He knew she was in a lot of pain, not to mention embarrassed, but he wasn’t about to let her walk out of here without getting checked out properly.  Embarrassed was an understatement, Sage was mortified that she’d not only kissed her boss, but slept in the same bed as him her first day on the job.  Granted, it wasn’t her fault that John decided to show up and attack her, but Sage couldn’t help feeling like she could’ve somehow stopped him.

 

Even though she couldn’t.

 

“You have a concussion, honey.” Lawrence announced, breaking both her and Mark out of their thoughts. “I’m gonna prescribe you some ibuprofen eight hundreds to help with the pain and swelling.  You’re gonna need to take it easy for a few days, no strenuous activity…” When Mark raised an eyebrow, Lawrence merely waved him off, his eyes focused on the patient. “That means you need to stay off of your feet and let your head heal.”

 

“Any idea what grade it is?” Mark wanted to know everything, seeing the color somewhat drain out of Sage’s face and squeezed her hand to assure her everything would be fine.

 

“I’d say it’s minor, nowhere near an A, but she does need to still take it easy as if she was healing from a grade A.” Lawrence explained, standing up and opened his bag to dig through it, searching for something. “Here, this is a special cream that you can apply to the injury and it’ll numb it to ease the pain even more.”

 

All Sage could do was reach out to take it, actually thankful to Mark for forcing her to get checked out. “Thank you, doctor.” She murmured quietly, already planning on using the cream as soon as she was home in the confines of her room.

 

“No problem, honey.  And the name is Lawrence.”

 

“Most call him Larry though.” Mark supplied with a grin, glad her injury wasn’t as serious as he originally thought. “Thanks for makin’ a house visit, man.”

 

“The bill is already in the mail.”

 

“Along with the check.”

 

Lawrence nodded with a grin of his own before exiting, having other patients to see and closed the door behind him.  Sage couldn’t look at Mark and simply stood up from the bed, ready to head home before Marisol began ripping her hair out from worrying.  Mark could tell Sage was getting ready to leave and didn’t want her driving, not with a concussion. 

 

He stood up with her as well, seeing her gathering her shirt she’d removed the previous night, biting back a smirk.  She definitely was a character when she was drugged up; Mark couldn’t help finding her both beautiful and amusing.  The way she’d played with his hair and tattoos had lit a fire inside of Mark he knew only she could quench, having a feeling that would never happen.  She was too professional and he could tell she had regretted the kiss they shared the previous night.

 

“I’ll take you home.” Mark offered, not really giving her an option as he began slipping his boots on, waiting for her to make a run for it away from him again. “You can’t drive in your condition, darlin’.”

 

“Mark, you don’t-” Sage sighed when he held his hand up to silence her, wondering when this humiliation would end. “He said I just had to rest…”

 

“I know what he said, I heard every word.” Mark stated, not giving in and stood up from the bed, squaring his shoulders. “But you neglected to ask him if you can drive.  And since we didn’t think of that question, I’m not taking any chances.  So we can either do this the easy way and you come with me without tryin’ to run or I’ll simply chase you down like I did before and take you home anyway.  The choice is yours, I would go with option one if I were you.”

 

Mark had to be the most over-bearing, egotistical man she’d ever met…and Sage had never been more turned on in her life.  She didn’t want to leave, a vision flashing through her mind of jumping into his arms and letting him take her to bed to have his wicked ways with her.  Since she was planning on quitting anyway, Sage started giving it serious thought and would have done it had Marisol not popped into her head. 

 

The fact was if Sage didn’t keep this job, they wouldn’t make rent this month and Marisol would end up living with Randy again.  Sage couldn’t let that happen to her best friend, not after what happened to make Marisol leave Randy in the first place.  She still couldn’t believe Marisol was not only pregnant with the scumbag’s child, but was still sleeping with him. The worst part was Marisol refused to listen to her or anyone who tried telling her that Randy was no good for her, always using the excuse that she loved him too much to walk away.

 

Sometimes, walking away was the best thing a person could do.

 

“Fine, since I have no choice in the matter, lead the way.” Sage said, needing to get out of this apartment and away from Mark before she ended up throwing all of her morals out the window.

 

Mark was a very observant man and watched the different emotions flash across Sage’s face, almost certain he saw a hint of lust in her eyes for a brief second.  Sadness, anger, annoyance…what the hell was this woman thinking?  Smirking, Mark did as Sage requested and guided her out of the small apartment, locking the door behind her before heading downstairs to the parking lot of CalJac’s.  There, parked in the corner of the building, was a beautiful silver Titan motorcycle with black flames painted on it, the chrome glinting in the sun.

 

“After you, Sage.” He helped her up on the motorcycle before mounting it himself, firing it up. “What’s your address?” He called over the roaring engine and nodded when she mumbled it off to him, knowing exactly where she lived.

 

All Sage could do was hold onto him tightly as Mark sped out of the parking lot away from CalJac’s.

 

Chapter 8

 

“So let me get this straight: John came to your work last night with flowers and ended up attacking you in the parking lot?”

 

Sage nodded, pressing an ice pack to her head. “Pretty much.”

 

Marisol was livid and it showed as fire erupted in her brown eyes, pursing her lips tightly together. “I’m going to beat the hell out of him for touching you.” She vowed darkly, cutting up some tomatoes to put in her salad. “I don’t get how he can go from bringing her flowers to attacking you.  What happened, Sage?”

 

This was where Sage was at a crossroads because she didn’t know if coming clean about spending the night with Mark to Marisol was in her best interest. “I told him I wanted nothing to do with him, like I do every time he contacts me, and he got pissed about it.  Said that I want him to call and beg for my forgiveness or else I would’ve changed my phone number.  I’m not changing my number for a piece of shit like him.” She growled, remembering what else John said, but decided against angering Marisol more than she already was.

 

“So where did you go last night after being attacked?” Marisol was still trying to piece everything together and it showed, frowning. “Where did you sleep?”

 

“Mindy’s.  She’s the woman I’m training with to take over her position.” Sage lied smoothly, deciding she was taking what happened with Mark to the grave. “She came out of CalJac’s, along with another guy that works there.  I don’t remember his name.  John ran away before they could pull him off of me, which is a good thing because I couldn’t fight him off…” Tears formed in Sage’s eyes at the memory of feeling John holding her down, knowing what would’ve happened had Mark not shown up.

 

Marisol immediately went to her friend’s side, wrapping her arms around Sage’s shoulders and kissed the top of her head soothingly. “It’s okay, Sage.  I’m gonna tell Randy about this and…”

 

“NO!” Sage broke free from Marisol, whipping around to face her friend and immediately regretted it, a wave of dizziness overtaking her. “HE is the reason John showed up last night.  I don’t want your drunken boyfriend knowing ANYTHING about me from now on, Marisol.  I’m putting my foot down, you either keep your mouth shut or you can find another place to live!” Sage stalked out of the kitchen and went to her room, slamming the door so hard the hinges nearly broke off.

 

Marisol could only stand there in shock, blinking at Sage’s outburst and felt tears already sliding down her cheeks.  She knew Sage was upset about John’s attack, but refused to let it be taken out on her.  So Marisol decided to give Sage some space of her own, needing to have a talk with Randy anyway.  She was going to tell him about the baby, hoping that would somehow jolt him out of his current drinking addiction.

 

Sage could only watch as Marisol left the apartment, knowing she was going to Randy and shook her head sadly.

 

~!~

 

“So how are you feeling, Sage?” Mindy asked, dusting off the glass on the jewelry counter while they closed up for the night.

 

“Feeling better, thanks.”

 

“Good.”

 

Mark ended up giving Sage three days off, with pay, to recuperate from John’s attack.  Mindy only got the one day off because there was still a business that had to be ran.  Sage had tried telling Mark she was thinking about quitting, but the sincerity in his voice stopped her from doing so.  He as a great boss and didn’t blame her for anything that happened with the attack, though Sage still felt guilty. 

 

Tonight was a different story though.

 

She was going to quit.  There was awkwardness between her and Mark that couldn’t be ignored.  All day they had skirted by each other, Sage only answering questions whenever he asked them and Mark keeping himself in his office.  Mindy didn’t seem to notice anything and, if she did, she wasn’t saying anything thankfully.  She was simply told that Sage had been mugged outside of her apartment and sustained a head injury that required her to rest for three days, doctor’s orders.

 

So apparently, Mark didn’t want anyone knowing what transpired between them either.

 

“Hey, I meant to tell you earlier that I have to leave early tonight.” Mindy stated, finishing polishing the glass holders. “Paul is taking me out to pick out some more things for our wedding.”

 

Mindy beamed whenever she mentioned her fiancé’s name, completely and hopelessly in love with him.  It was sickening to hear Mindy constantly gush about him, but Sage plastered on a smile.  She genuinely liked Mindy and hoped they could remain friends even after the woman left CalJac’s to pursue her new life with marriage.  Mindy was also trying to get pregnant, another reason for her leaving because she wanted to start a family as soon as they were married.

 

“No problem, I can take care of everything else.” Sage assured her, owing Mindy for her absence the last three days. “You go and have a great time with Paul.”

 

Grinning, Mindy nodded with glittering blue eyes. “Oh I will, no worries on that.” She giggled as Sage shook her head, walking over to her desk to clock out for the evening.

 

This was actually a good thing that Mindy was leaving because now Sage would be alone with Mark.  She would be able to talk to him without anyone else eavesdropping and finally tell him that the job wouldn’t work out.  Marisol had decided to move back in with Randy since she told him about the baby, which she was keeping.  Randy had been insistent of her moving back in with him, promising to change his ways and it made Sage’s stomach churn. 

 

So she was currently looking for another place to live, along with another job, just two more things to add to the pile of worries Sage already had stacked up.  She wondered if her life would ever start balancing out or if she would constantly be struggling to survive on a daily basis.  Marisol had already packed most of her things and was moving during the weekend, unless Randy could somehow pull himself away from his liquor long enough to move her sooner.  Sage put her thirty day notice in to the landlord, knowing she couldn’t afford the rent of the two bedroom apartment by herself, and hoped something dropped into her lap.

 

Mark wasn’t avoiding Sage because of what happened because he honestly wasn’t ashamed of it, enjoying the kiss.  He thought about it frequently and for some reason couldn’t get it out of his mind or the feeling of her body pressed against him.  So it was a pleasurable experience for him to remember; Mark was tempted to see how far he could push Sage before she cracked under pressure and gave in to what he knew she felt.  Being her boss though, that definitely presented a problem because of the professional relationship they already had.

 

The fact was after being gone for three days, –Mark had asked Mindy to take over all duties of CalJac’s while he took a few personal days- the paperwork had stacked up on him.  So he spent the day going through it and signing things off, catching up on business and trying to distract himself from thinking about the strawberry blonde beauty that captivated him.  Mark had gone for a long ride that up the whole three days, visiting a close personal friend of his. 

 

Steve basically gave him the advice of either seducing Sage into submitting to him or finding a woman that looked like her to take his desires and frustrations out on.  His friend was never one to sugarcoat anything and, in the end, Mark had left his house more confused than ever.  He didn’t like feeling this way because Mark was normally in full control of his emotions, but there was something about Sage that drove him to that fine line of wanting to cross the professional barrier between them.

 

Maybe Steve had a point, though Mark wasn’t sure what advice he should follow.

 

Sage stood behind the jewelry counter polishing the Rolex watches with the special cloth and spray, not realizing she was humming to the music softly playing throughout CalJac’s.  She wore a black skirt that went two inches above the knee along with a wine colored shoulder less top that had three quarter inch sleeves and dipped in a V shape.  It hugged her curvaceous body nicely, going a little past her hips.  Her strawberry blonde hair was down and curled at the ends for style, black pumps on her feet, the dim lighting shining off of her.

 

Mark was entranced and simply watched her work.

 

It’d only been four days since she started at CalJac’s, Mark couldn’t help thinking it seemed a lot longer than that.  He watched as she moved her head lightly to the beat of the song and nearly lost it when she turned to bend down, sliding the tray of Rolex watches back in their respective case.  Sage was slowly killing him and didn’t even realize it as Mark blatantly reached down to adjust himself, glad he’d worn black jeans to work today.  They were doing the job in cutting off circulation to his current problem, though that didn’t ease the throbbing pain any.

 

“Sage.” He practically growled, stepping out of the shadows and walked toward the jewelry counter, smirking when she jumped slightly. “Mindy leave?” He tried like hell to keep the huskiness out of his voice, but it wasn’t happening, his normal emerald eyes a cloudy dark forest green.

 

“Yes.” Sage swallowed hard at the look in his eyes, feeling him practically devouring her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes as he patently undressed her visually. “I was just about to come get you to lock everything up.”

 

Mark nodded and headed toward the safe, bare from the waist up again. “How are you feeling?” He meant to ask her earlier, but today had been hectic with customers and sales.

 

“All better, head doesn’t even hurt anymore.” Sage answered quietly, heading toward him to start cleaning the most expensive jewels, which Mark always put away first. “Thanks again for what you did.”

 

“No problem, darlin’.” He rumbled, opening the safe and turned around, their fingers brushing together as he took the tray from her, the heat flooding each of their bodies.

 

Sage felt that all the way down to her bone marrow. “Listen, Mark I need to talk to you about something now that we’re alone.” There was no time like the present and Sage decided not to delay this any longer.

 

He didn’t like the sound of this and merely nodded, taking the second tray away from her after she cleaned it. “What is it, Sage?” Mark asked, giving her his full attention.

 

“I appreciate everything you did for me, including this job opportunity, but...”

 

Mark pressed a finger to her soft lips, instantly stopping her from speaking any further. “Stop.” He ordered, his voice a mere whisper and towered over her petite frame. “I know what you’re gonna say.  There’s no reason for it, Sage.”

 

He was her boss, did he really have the right to stop her from quitting his company? “Mark…” She mumbled against his finger, gently but firmly pushing it away, turmoil in her midnight orbs. “Please let me say this.  It’s for the best…”

 

“Why?” He suddenly demanded and lifted her up by her waist, setting her on the glass counter top with fiery green eyes. “Give me one damn good reason why it’s the best that you give your job up.” Mark stood between her legs, his hands never leaving her sides.

 

“What happened between us.” That was about the best reason she could come up with and even then something told her that wouldn’t be good enough for Mark to let her quit. “This isn’t right and you know it, Mark.  You’re supposed to be my boss.”

 

Mark gritted his teeth, hating that she reminded him of that fact. “You think I don’t know that, Sage?” He growled, pulling her further against him to where he wrapped his arms around her waist, preventing her from moving. “And so what if it’s not right?” Kissing her had felt too good and right NOT to be wrong. “Nobody has to know besides us.  Or are you gonna run away again?”

 

His challenge made Sage’s eyes narrow, not appreciating his tone of voice. “What are you trying to say?  And I don’t run away from anything.” She stated, folding her arms in front of her chest while her body molded to his, feeling his huge hands run up and down her back. “I just think it would be best…”

 

“Best if what?  You quit?” Mark practically spat that last word, trying not to let his anger override his rationality, but damned if this woman didn’t make that nearly impossible. “That’s not what you wanna do and we both know it.  Jobs are hard to come by nowadays and Mindy really likes you.  She trusts you, she wasn’t going to leave here without finding a suitable replacement for her job.”

 

Mindy thought of her that highly after only two days?  Sage had a hard time believing that, but knew Mark had no reason to lie to her about it.  Sighing, her eyes lowered from his to stare down at her lap, trying to gain her courage back that Mark was making her rapidly lose.  What was she going to do if she couldn’t find another job?  She would be homeless and Sage couldn’t let that happen, no matter what transpired between her and Mark.

 

“I-I don’t know what to do…” She whispered finally, cheeks tingeing red, embarrassed that she’d upset not only herself but Mark also. “I’m sorry…”

 

Mark lifted her chin with his strong hand, forcing her eyes to meet his, nodding. “I understand why you’d automatically jump to quitting, but darlin’ there’s no reason for it.  This isn’t a bad thing.” He reasoned, moving his hands from her back to her hips, beginning to massage them tenderly. “Don’t run away from me.”

 

“You’re my boss though…” She breathed, her heart pounding furiously because his lips were just an inch away from hers, his hot breath sending shivers down her spine. “What do you want from me exactly?” Sage had to know, wanting all the cards on the table.

 

Mark’s answer was to simply cup the back of her neck with one of his hands, capturing her lips with his in a passionate kiss. If she didn’t know what he wanted from her by now, the woman was dafter than he originally thought.  Sage was a very intelligent woman and Mark knew she would figure it out, especially when his hands moved from her hip and neck to begin massaging her thighs, inching his hands up little by little up the skirt she wore. 

 

Mark was going to make it a dress code just for her to wear only skirts.

 

Sage got the message loud and clear, returning the kiss with equal amount of passion, hoping pursuing this with Mark didn’t backfire on her.  She moaned softly at the feeling of his hands and ran hers up his bare tattooed sleeved arms to run down his chest slowly, the feeling of his hot skin wonderful.  Mark groaned at her soft touch, swiping his tongue across her lips and groaned when she immediately opened her mouth, deepening the kiss, making both of their worlds spin off their axels.

 

They simply stayed there kissing for the next hour, touching and feeling, which was by far the greatest thing that happened to Sage in a long time.

 

Chapter 9

 

Why had she ever agreed to go to her friend's party in a violent storm like this? 

 

Sage had no idea what possessed her, hating the fact that it was Halloween night and she was dressed in a hooker Greek goddess costume that barely covered her ass.  It definitely rode up her hips currently as she tried navigating her way down the road, going thirty miles an hour and felt tears sting her midnight blue eyes because of how terrified she was.  She had to turn the radio down to keep her nerves from completely taking over the rational thought, swallowing hard.

 

“I can do this, I'm almost home.  I'm almost home.” She repeated, taking another deep breath and ran a hand through her strawberry blonde hair, ignoring the fact she'd had a crown on top of her head made of leaves for the costume. “God please get me home...”

 

Sage had looked down when she heard her cell phone for just a split second...a second that changed her life forever.  She saw the headlights coming at her head-on, eyes shooting open and immediately slammed on the brakes, the car skidding against the wet slippery asphalt.  A scream echoed seconds later as the car collided with her, causing her car to spin around three different times right in the middle of the road.  The other car hit at the perfect angle to where it was sent careening off the cliff, Sage luckily wearing her seatbelt, her cell phone still going off. 

 

Blood ran down her face from when she hit her forehead on the steering wheel as Sage shakily reached down, unbuckling herself and managed to open her car door.  Her headlights were shattered and the front of her car had been crushed in, but because of her tiny frame, she managed to crawl out, feeling her head throbbing, the rain pouring even harder, instantly soaking every part of her.  Somehow, Sage managed to arrive at the edge of the cliff and looked down, tears falling even harder than the rain when she saw the car that hit her engulfed in flames, knowing whoever was in it was dead...and it was her fault.

 

The flames lit up the night sky, even with the rain pouring down on them, gasoline fumes keeping them going long enough to ensure that anything in and around the car was caught in the inferno…

 

~!~

 

A heartbreaking scream echoed throughout the room as Sage bolted upright in bed, tears streaming down her face, trembling from head to toe.  For a moment, she thought she was back at that terrible horrific night that was etched forever in her memory.  The night she murdered an innocent man all because she had looked away from the road for one split second. 

 

Sage never carried a cell phone with her after that and when she was in the car, she had it turned on vibrate so she wasn't distracted.  Sage would never forget the flash of headlights, the pounding rain and the bleeding wound on her forehead. The faintest of scars from how hard the car hit her before careening off the cliff proof that it really happened.

 

The door thrust open as Marisol rushed inside, tripping over one of Sage's shoes. “Jesus woman, are you okay?!”

 

Sage didn't say anything right away and simply took the trashcan right beside her bed, vomiting.  Marisol was used to this, it wasn't uncommon for Sage to have a bad nightmare.  Murmuring soothing words under her breath, she reached for a hair clip on Sage's bedside table and clipped her hair out of her face, then began rubbing slow circles on her friend's back with her palm.

 

“It was just a nightmare, honey.” Marisol whispered gently, trying to calm Sage down before she began dry heaving, wondering what her friend dreamt of that shook her up this badly. 

 

Sage never talked about it, simply telling Marisol it was something that happened long ago and there was no need for her friend to know.  She met Marisol at the Halloween party she attended the night of her accident...the night she murdered an innocent man along with his fiancée and unborn child.  Sage had found out from the coroner and ended up needing to seek therapy because she couldn't believe she'd been responsible for the death of two people and a fetus. 

 

Who wouldn't feel guilty and sick over something like that?  She'd have to be completely heartless and could already feel the hot tears sliding down her face, taking the tissue Marisol handed her.  Marisol never found out about the accident or anyone from the party for that matter; Sage preferred it that way.

 

“Sorry.” Sage muttered, wiping her mouth off and blew her nose, not able to stop the violet tremors that rocked her body. “I-I need to go wash my mouth out...”

 

Sage wondered if she could even move from the bed, let alone make the walk from her bedroom to the bathroom, afraid her knees might buckle.  Marisol had no idea about the accident, but it didn't take a genius to determine something had happened to Sage in the past.  She didn't pry.  If Sage ever wanted to open up and confide in her, then she'd listen, but wasn't going to push either.

 

“Here.” She bent down to help Sage up, steadying her for a minute before letting go, knowing the last thing her friend needed was to be treated like an invalid. “You got it?”

 

One thing about Marisol Sage respected and admired was the woman's ability not to pry, simply being there for support and nothing more.  That's what Sage needed more than anything right now...support.  She'd been put through the ringer with what happened and couldn't believe it'd been four years ago to this day. 

 

It was the day that Sage dreaded living through for the past now four years, her nightmare always like clockwork, reminding her of what happened.

 

“Thank you.” She whispered, allowing Marisol to help her to the bathroom and managed to hold herself up by the sink, trying to take slow deep breaths like her therapist instructed her to whenever this happened. 

 

Sage stopped going to Martin after a while because she felt strong enough to where she no longer needed him as a crutch.  She wondered if maybe she'd left his services too soon, sighing.  Marisol smiled at Sage in the mirror, stifling back a yawn and just nodded.

 

“No problem sweetie, any time.  I'm going to step out and give you some privacy; you look like you need a moment.” Possibly with the porcelain god for another round of throwing up.  Patting Sage on the shoulder, Marisol vacated the bathroom, knowing that Sage knew to holler if she needed anything.

 

“Thanks Mari, I'm sorry for waking you up.” Sage managed an apologetic smile and watched her friend walk away to head back to her room, leaving Sage alone with her thoughts. 

 

Sage stared in the mirror, her reflection almost mocking her and swallowed hard, the dark black circles beneath her eyes almost too much to bare.  Turning away and deciding a soothing bath was in order, Sage shut the bathroom door and stripped out of her nightgown and garments, starting the water and tried making it as hot as she could stand it without singing her skin.  She could still feel the cold rain from the nightmare on her skin and had to get rid of the chill, sinking into the hot water almost immediately while the bathtub filled, shivering.

 

Frowning, Marisol headed back to her own room, making sure to kick Sage's shoes against the wall as she walked out of the bedroom, just in case she came running back in later.  Not about to attempt killing herself with a sneaker twice in the same night, Marisol couldn’t risk it being pregnant and all.  Sage was looking...pretty bad, not that she would ever tell her friend that. 

 

That definitely wouldn't help whatever Sage's issues were.  Whatever it was, Marisol hoped Sage got it straightened out before it sent her friend over the edge for good.  Staring at the packed boxes throughout her room, Marisol suddenly wondered if moving in with Randy was such a good idea, hoping Sage would be alright alone.

 

After her hour long bath -Sage had to keep turning the hot water on to keep the water from going cold-, she finally felt like she could fall back into bed for a few more decent hours of sleep.  Sage pulled herself out, the steam surrounding her helping keep the chill from her nightmare away and wrapped a towel around her body along with a robe before heading to her bedroom.  She didn't bother dressing, just collapsed on the bed and closed her eyes, falling into the dark slumber moments later.

 

~!~

 

The furthest thing from Mark’s mind was work as he stared down at his desk, having sat there since arriving earlier that morning.  He got zero sleep the previous night and Mark knew why, gritting his teeth at the thought.  This day marked the four year anniversary of his little brother’s death, Glen Jacobs. 

 

Mark started CalJac’s with him, both of them having the same mother, but different fathers, hence the last name difference.  It was hard to believe that his little brother had been gone for four years already and tore him apart whenever this dreaded day came around each year.  Even after four years, Mark still had a hard time swallowing the fact that Glen was dead and gone, that he would never see him again.

 

Closing his eyes, Mark leaned back against his chair and turned it around, the lights in his office turned off.  He remembered his mother’s sobbing voice mumbling over the phone when she called to inform him of Glen’s death.  It was a horrible accident and the weather hadn’t been in his favor that night.  Glen wasn’t the only one who died that night in the accident…His wife, Nova, had died along with their unborn child.

 

Apparently, Glen was trying to rush Nova to the hospital because she’d been experience pre-labor contractions.  The roads were slick from how hard the rain poured, it was one of the worst storms in history and Glen was stupid enough to take his pregnant wife out in it because of contractions.  Another car had lost complete control, swerved and hit Glen’s car, forcing it to careen right over the cliff Glen had been driving on at the time. 

 

The car had exploded in flames, no survivors.

 

If Glen had lived, Mark would’ve beat the hell out of him for making such a stupid decision, but he wasn’t.  The fact that Mark would never again get to argue with his brother again was almost too much for him to take, even after four years. Aside from their mother, Mark had taken Glen’s untimely death the hardest, having drank himself nearly into oblivion the first straight year just to try numbing the pain of losing his brother.

 

They ended up having a double burial for Glen and Nova, putting their stones side by side.  It was the way Glen would’ve wanted it, even their mother couldn’t disagree with the decision she forced Mark to make.  She was so distraught that she had to be sedated and hospitalized, having completely lost it at Glen’s funeral.  She nearly threw herself in the grave with Glen and Mark thankfully had been close enough to stop her, immediately having her sedated because he refused to lose two people that meant the most in his life at the same time. 

 

A year after Glen’s death, their mother passed away and Mark knew that she was with her baby boy again, both of them watching over him somehow, someway.  Mark had always been fascinated with death, most of his tattoos signified that and he wasn’t ashamed of covering his body with ink.  It was his way of coping, not to mention Mark enjoyed feeling a little pain and getting inked was a perfect balance to him.

 

Jolting out of his thoughts about Glen at the ringing of his cell phone, Mark contemplated not answering it, until he saw the name flash on the caller ID. “Austin, now isn’t a good time.” He said by way of greeting, his voice incredibly low.

 

Steve knew what today signified and wanted to check on his best friend, nodding. “I know it’s not, had to call and check up on ya though.”

 

Mark heaved a sigh, appreciating Steve’s thoughtfulness, but he just wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. “Not doing good today.” He admitted, knowing there was no reason to lie to Steve. “Thinking about going for a ride to clear my head.”

 

Cracking open a beer, Steve couldn’t help wondering if that was such a good idea. “Mark, don’t do somethin’ stupid.” Steve cautioned, taking a swig. “Ya can’t bring him back by killin’ yerself on that bike, remember that.”

 

“I know that.” Mark growled, tightening his jaw slightly. “I’m not gonna kill myself, Steve.  I’m not that stupid.” Taking a ride would help him though.

 

“What ‘bout spendin’ time of that little new tart ya got on yer arm?” Steve suggested in a drawl, leaning back against his chair while flipping through channels on his television. “Beats the hell outta dealin’ with this shit by yerself, man.”

 

Mark thought it over for about three seconds before nixing the idea of telling Sage about his brother. “It’s only been a month and I don’t wanna drag this depressing shit into our relationship so soon.  Still trying to break her in.”

 

Steve snorted, shaking his bald head. “That’s a lame fuckin’ excuse if I’ve ever heard one, but it’s up to you.  Though if I had that hot little number on my arm, I wouldn’t be spendin’ time by myself.  I’d be takin’ full advantage and distractin’ myself by havin’ her in my bed.” He was a crude man that didn’t sugarcoat anything he said, smirking at the sound of Mark’s heavy breathing on the other end. “Ya know, if ya didn’t want her, ya could always send her my way…”

 

“Austin, don’t make me hurt you.” Mark cautioned in a low growl, not amused by his friend’s baiting. “I’ll think it over as far as telling her.”

 

“Good idea, don’t let her slip through yer fingers.” Steve stated, not remembering the last time Mark had been so happy with a woman as he was with Sage.  Even though Steve had never met her before, Mark had sent him a picture via text message and the happiness in his friend’s eyes told Steve all he needed to know. “She can help ya if you let her.”

 

“Thanks, I’ll remember that.”

 

Mark and Steve talked for a few more minutes before ending the call, leaving Mark alone once again in his thoughts about Glen.  Scowling, Mark decided to go for that ride on his Titan, just needing to get away for a while.  He knew Steve was concerned about him doing something stupid, but Mark wasn’t dumb enough to kill himself, not with everything he had going for him currently. 

 

With as fascinated as he was with death and depressed about his brother’s death, Mark was strong and smart enough to understand that there was nothing he could do, that killing himself wouldn’t bring Glen back.  Grabbing his keys, Mark shoved his wallet in his back pocket, wearing black skintight jeans and headed out.  Slipping black shades over his eyes, Mark stopped over where Mindy was at the receptionist desk, knowing Sage was on her break currently.

 

“I’m leaving for the day.” He announced, watching Mindy nod. “Lock up.  See you in the morning.”

 

Mindy could only watch her boss stalk out of CalJac’s and frowned, hoping he was alright before tending to another customer.

 

Chapter 10

 

“You look like shit.”

 

Sage couldn’t agree more with Mindy, nodding solemnly. “Didn’t sleep well last night.” She mumbled, busy hanging up new suits that came in the previous night.  Mark wanted them out on the floor immediately because they were new merchandise.

 

“How come?” Mindy didn’t mean to be nosy, but was honestly curious, a worried look shining in her blue eyes. “If you don’t mind me asking that is.”

 

“No I don’t, I just have some things on my mind.  It’s nothing.” Sage refused to talk about why she hadn’t gotten sleep, wishing she could somehow forget about what happened.

 

Mindy couldn’t help noticing that Mark didn’t look well rested today either, eyes narrowing thoughtfully.  She hadn’t been told much about Sage’s three day hiatus, only that she’d been attacked outside of her apartment building.  The woman seemed like she had trouble following her and, normally, Mark wouldn’t deal with that kind of drama. 

 

Yet, here he was giving the new girl –her potential replacement- three days off after only working one day for CalJac’s. Mindy was starting to grow suspicious of the fact that something was going on between the boss and Sage that neither of them were letting on.  She knew it wasn’t her business if they were sleeping together or whatever was happening, but Mindy also wondered if screwing the boss would be in Sage’s favor or against her.

 

“Well, if you ever need to talk about it, I’m here.” Mindy offered with a soft smile, walking away to leave Sage alone, having a feeling that’s what the woman wanted.

 

“Thanks.” Sage whispered at Mindy’s retreating form and went back to focusing on her current task, trying to get her mind off of what today was.

 

The four year anniversary of the night she murdered an innocent family.

 

On her fifteen minute break, Sage stepped out with a cup of coffee and looked up at the dreary cloudy sky, raindrops slowly beginning to fall.  Tears stung her eyes as Sage thought about everything that was being thrown at her, including reliving that nightmare.  Marisol was moving out the following day to be with Randy and Sage still hadn’t found a place to live. 

 

It’d been almost a month since Marisol told Randy about the baby and agreed to move back in with him.  Sage had looked high and low for an apartment, but found absolutely nothing and knew her time was up in three days.  She would end up living in her car again, which was something Sage wasn’t looking forward to, but there was no way she was turning to her current boyfriend for help either.

 

He also happened to be her current boss.

 

Sage had no idea what possessed her to agree to a relationship with Mark, especially since she worked for the man, but one look from those emerald green eyes and she couldn’t deny him anything.  It was wrong, it was very wrong, but sometimes the heart simply wanted what it wanted, wrong or not.  How could something so wrong feel so right?  Until Sage could come up with a good enough answer to that question, she wasn’t going to deny herself being with him, boss or not.

 

The door suddenly swung open and Mark stalked out, scaring Sage in the process as she jumped, eyes wide.  Mark took one look at his girlfriend and didn’t say anything, just walked away down the sidewalk toward the parking lot of CalJac’s. He wanted to be alone, deciding going for a long ride and letting Mindy take over CalJac’s for the rest of the day was in order.

 

Sage didn’t miss the sadness and pain coursing through Mark’s eyes, frowning deeply.  She looked through the window and saw Mindy had things handled, deciding to go after her boyfriend to find out what was wrong with him.  Tossing her cup of coffee in the nearby garbage can, Sage took off down the sidewalk after him, her two inch pumps not slowing her down since she was used to wearing them.

 

“Mark, wait!”

 

He didn’t listen to her and kept heading toward his Titan, nearly growling when she grabbed his arm, stopping him from leaving. “What do you want, Sage?” He demanded, not meaning to be short with her, but he couldn’t be here right now.

 

Sage was taken aback by his tone of voice and slowly pulled her hand from his arm, worry swimming in her eyes. “I…was just coming to make sure you were alright.” There was obviously something wrong and Sage hoped he trusted her enough to tell her. “You stormed out of there pretty fast…”

 

“I know.” He pulled a bandana out of his back pocket he always carried with him and tied it around his head, his hair already braided back tightly. “Got some things on my mind.  And no, I don’t wanna talk about it.”

 

Nodding, Sage understood that wholeheartedly because she felt the exact same way. “That makes two of us then.” She stated, taking a step back and turned around, heading back toward the building to finish her shift.

 

Mark caught that and immediately stopped mounting his bike, instead going after his girlfriend. “What do you mean, darlin’?”

 

It was his turn to grab her arm, gently of course since he wasn’t exactly a small man, and for the first time saw all the sadness coursing through her midnight blue eyes.  There was also pain and Mark sucked in a sharp breath from how intense it was, feeling horrible for pushing his girlfriend away.  Something was bothering her and he hadn’t even noticed it because he was too busy drowning in his own self-pity over Glen’s death.  He felt like an asshole and pulled her into his arms; the guilt just intensified when she clung to him like he was her lifeline.

 

“Sage, what is it?”

 

Sage couldn’t help crying as soon as he pulled her into his arms, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist.  They were out in public and she didn’t care, they hadn’t exactly established if they were hiding their relationship from everyone or not. Sage needed Mark more than ever right now, hoping he didn’t push her away because somehow she knew he needed her just as much.

 

“Just a bad day…” She whispered, slowly pulling back enough to look up into his shade covered eyes and sniffled as Mark wiped her tears away. “I know I’m on the clock and everything, but…I want to come with you.  I don’t want to be alone right now.”

 

“No.” Mark extracted himself from her arms, knowing he couldn’t leave Mindy to fend for herself with CalJac’s. “You need to stay here and do your job.  I need to do this alone.  If you wanna see me later, I’ll be at my place.”

 

A surge of anger flowed through her as Sage stepped back, trying not to be irrational about this because deep down she knew he was doing what was best for the company, but couldn’t help feeling betrayed. “Do what alone?  Are you kidding me?  I can’t work today, Mark!  You don’t understand…” Of course he didn’t because Sage never thought she would have to tell him what she did four years ago. “You’re supposed to be my boyfriend right now, not my boss, and I need you right now.  I need to escape with you wherever you’re going.”

 

Tightening his jaw, Mark simply stared down at her and folded his arms in front of his chest, trying not to let her tears bother him. “I can’t be your boyfriend when you’re on the clock, Sage.  You know that.  We agreed.” He wasn’t backing down, having given her too much time off as it was. “And no I don’t understand because you’re standing there snifflin’ and cryin’ instead of telling me what’s bothering you.  I don’t appreciate you tossing that boyfriend card at me either, Sage.” Mark knew he probably sounded like a complete dick, but he couldn’t put his business in jeopardy and had to put their relationship second.

 

“Boyfriend card?” Now Sage saw red and held her hands up in defeat. “You know what?  I’m taking that card off the table.  Have a nice ride by yourself, Mr. Calaway.” Sage tersely stated before turning and stalking back inside CalJac’s, blinking as more tears slid down her cheeks.

 

Mark snorted, knowing he could easily change her mind once this particular day was over with.  She would get over it and he wasn’t chasing after her, both of them needing time to cool down.  Mounting his Titan, Mark fired it up and peeled out of the parking lot, heading out to the country where he could push the bike to its absolute limits.

 

Mindy didn’t dare ask Sage what happened when the woman came stalking inside CalJac’s and got back to work, feeling the tension in the air.  It was so thick, it couldn’t be cut with the sharpest blade.  Whatever was bothering Sage, Mindy hoped the woman could maintain her professionalism and plaster on a smile for the customers.  The last thing CalJac’s needed was horrid customer service, Mindy refused to let it happen.

 

Surprisingly, Sage managed to plaster on that smile while helping customers, much to Mindy’s relief.  They ended up becoming busy, selling a lot of merchandise, which Sage was actually thankful for.  Why?  It distracted her from what today denoted and that’s what Sage needed, especially after her fight with Mark.

 

By the time they closed CalJac’s, Sage was drained in every way possible, saying good night to Mindy.  She was appreciative the woman hadn’t pried about what was bothering her and let her do her job without ridicule.  They wished each other a good night and parted ways, leaving with Paul escorting both of them out to their cars.  Apparently, Mark refused to let the women be completely alone without some sort of protection and Sage knew it was because of John’s recent attack.

 

Sage arrived home with a bottle of Tequila Rose, not surprised in the least that Marisol wasn’t there.  She was with Randy naturally.  Snorting in disgust, Sage pulled out a glass tumbler from the cabinet and poured herself a healthy dose of the Tequila Rose, needing to numb the pain she currently felt somehow.  Sage planned on getting completely plastered, not caring about anything else except drinking until she could no longer remember the fateful night of her accident.

 

Mark sat outside of Sage’s apartment, his Titan idling, wondering if she would even want to see him after their argument today.  He hadn’t meant to be cruel to her, but Mark just needed to go for a ride alone to clear his head and mourn his brother’s death.  He didn’t show emotion often because he felt it was a sign of weakness and refused showing it to Sage. During his ride, all Mark pictured was the look of betrayal and hurt in Sage’s blue eyes, his chest tightening when they flashed in his head again.

 

“Damn it.” He grunted, seeing the dim lighting coming from her window and knew she was up.

 

Making up his mind on what to do, Mark shut his Titan off and dismounted it, slowly making his way up the stairs to the apartment building and pushed open the door.  He knew what apartment number she lived in, Sage had brought him home once to change when he wanted to take her for a ride on his bike a few weeks ago.  Mark stood outside her door and knew Sage didn’t want to see him, but that wasn’t stopping him. 

 

He had to explain himself, not wanting his relationship with Sage to end just because of his emotional issues.  She was going to listen to what he had to say before he let her walk away, trying to get the look in her eyes out of his mind. Growling, Mark reached up and ran his fingers down the white door before tapping his knuckles gently on it, hoping she answered.

 

Sage looked up from the couch when she heard a tapping at her door, wondering who it was and downed her third glass of Tequila Rose.  She had a nice little buzz going on and planned on turning it into a full blown obliteration.  She made sure to buy the biggest bottle of Tequila Rose she could find and then ended up getting two bottles just to be on the safe side.  Also changing into a black baggy nightshirt that went to her mid-thigh and hung off her right shoulder, there was some kind of silver design etched on it.

 

Stumbling over, Sage didn’t even bother to look through the peephole of her door and just opened it, staring at a slightly bare chest. “What do you want, Mark?” She demanded, not even looking up to know who it was and refused to move from the doorway. “I don’t wanna see you, BOSS.”

 

That stung a bit and Mark knew he deserved it, but that wasn’t going to make him leave either. “Well I’m sorry, but you’re gonna see me, darlin’.  I’m standing right here in front of you.” She was drunk, that much was obvious, he could tell just by the glossy look in her blue eyes…the same blue eyes that had haunted him all day during his ride.

 

“Well you can stand there in front of me all you want, but it’s gonna be staring at a door.  I meant what I said today. Good evening, BOSS.” Sage went to slam the door in his face, only for Mark to block it with his huge boot, a scowl forming on her face. “Go away!”

 

“No.” Mark pushed the door open with ease, making her stumble back a little. “I’m not leaving, not until we talk and my name is Mark.  Don’t call me boss.”

 

Sage snorted, rolling her eyes. “Why not?  That’s all you are to me.  You made that perfectly clear today.” She walked away from him as he shut the door, grabbing her glass from the coffee table in the living room before heading into the kitchen. “What more is there to say?”

 

She was angry and hurt, Mark didn’t blame her because he had been a total dick about wanting her to stay at the store to help Mindy. “Darlin’, there’s a reason why I made you stay behind and why I didn’t want you with me today.  I had something…personal to do and…damn it I’m not good with this shit!  I’m not good with emotion!”

 

“Well good that makes two of us then.” Sage poured another glass and began sucking it down, not even feeling the tears pouring from her eyes down her cheeks. “Just leave, Mark.  I’m not in the mood to hear anything you have to say.  I needed you today and you weren’t there.  You made it perfectly clear what our so-called relationship is and I meant what I said.  That card is OFF the table now.  You’re free; go do whatever the hell you want and leave me alone.”

 

Growling, Mark didn’t appreciate her smarmy attitude, especially when he was trying to apologize for what happened.  He wasn’t listening to her request because, deep down, he knew Sage needed him as much as he needed her.  Taking three long strides, Mark took the glass away from Sage’s fingers, threw it in the trashcan and pulled her forcefully into his arms, ignoring her struggling.  The next second, his lips had descended on hers in an explosive passionate kiss that she felt right down to the tips of her toes.

 

All Sage could do was kiss him back, more tears falling and melted against him, not having any more fight left inside of her.

 

Chapter 11

 

Sage was up before Mark the following morning, though she hadn’t moved from the bed, instead staring out the window deep in thought.  His arm was draped around her waist, her back pressed against his chest with his nose buried in her hair. They hadn’t had sex yet because Sage didn’t want to rush anything with him, wanting to take their time. 

 

In her last relationship, Sage hadn’t given John sex and he ended up cheating on her, but that didn’t mean she was just going to hop into bed with Mark.  She had morals and believed that building a solid relationship full of love and trust was the right thing to do.  However, Mark was completely different from John and Sage found herself wanting to throw her morals out the window, dying to feel every part of him. 

 

He was simply that irresistible, but Sage wasn’t the only one holding herself back and she wondered why Mark hadn’t tried going in for the kill.  It was almost as if something was holding both of them back from full commitment to each other and it had nothing to do with the fact he was her boss either.  Last night, all Mark did was kiss and touch her, but never made any attempts to remove her clothes. 

 

She could feel the pain radiating from him and had tried pushing him away, but her heart wouldn’t allow it.  Sage wanted to take his pain away, but had no idea how to do it because he refused to tell her what was bothering him, what was causing him that much pain.  It wasn’t physical; it was all emotional and seeped from his pores, which in turn saddened her more than she already was.

 

A soft brush from his goatee on her neck jolted Sage out of her deep thoughts as his arm tightened around her, his lips following.  Turning to face him, Sage caressed his face with her hand and pressed her lips to his, her leg draping over his jean covered thigh.  Mark groaned softly, his hand gently sliding down her side to her outer thigh, massaging it gently while his lips devoured hers.  It was the sweetest good morning kiss Sage ever received and she didn’t want it to end, accepting Mark’s weight when he rolled slightly to hover over her, the kiss never breaking.  Mark was the one to break the kiss, slowly opening his eyes as green met blue, running his knuckle gently down her cheek.

 

“Mornin’.” He rumbled softly, bending to bury his face against the crook of her neck.

 

“Morning.” Sage whispered, running her fingers through his black tresses absentmindedly and could already tell Mark was troubled, a frown slowly forming on her lips. “Mark…”

 

“I’m sorry about last night, darlin’.  And yesterday.” He apologized in that same rumble, loud enough for her to hear. “I-I had no right forcing my way in here…”

 

Sage’s frown quickly turned into a smile as she forced Mark’s head up until their eyes met again, softly brushing her lips against his. “If I really didn’t want you here, you wouldn’t be.” Her attempts at telling him they were over hadn’t meant anything, especially when he kissed her. “You didn’t force your way in, I was just hurt by how you treated me.  I told you I needed you and you threw the fact you’re my boss in my face.  I was hurt, confused and worried about you because you weren’t yourself yesterday either.”

 

“I know.” Mark heaved a heavy sigh as his eyes momentarily closed at the thought of his younger brother, swallowing hard. “I-I wanna tell you everything, Sage…”

 

It was the truth. 

 

Mark thought back to what Steve said and knew his friend was right, he had to come clean to his girlfriend about Glen. He couldn’t let his brother’s death tear them apart, caring too much about Sage to let that happened.  He just didn’t know where to begin and hated the fact he had to dump this big part of his life on her so soon since they’d only been dating for a month.

 

“Then tell me.” She urged quietly, feeling his forehead rest against hers and caressed the side of his face tenderly. “You can trust me, Mark, whatever it is.”

 

Those words sounded so sweet and sincere, Mark couldn’t help believing anything that came out of her beautiful mouth. “I will.” He promised, very reluctantly pulling back from her to sit up on the bed, resting his elbows on his knees.

 

Frowning, Sage moved to sit on her knees on the bed, her hands beginning to knead the muscles in his shoulders and back, trailing soft kisses along his neck.  He felt so tense, the amount of sadness pouring from his body making her heart bleed for him.  Sage wanted to do something, but she wasn’t sure what and just continued massaging the broad expanse of his muscular back.  He was a beautiful man, fit and toned, definitely took great care of his body.

 

Everything about him heightened her longing.

 

Sage suddenly knew what she could do to take his pain away, at least temporarily, as well as her own.  Slowly slipping from the bed, Sage moved to stand in front of him and sat his head was down, face covered by a curtain of black tresses. She chewed her bottom lip and forced herself to continue, trembling slightly as she reached down to pull her baggy black nightshirt over her head, letting it drop to the floor. 

 

Even with his head down, Mark saw the material float to the floor and slowly looked up, taking his time to admire the beautiful body before him.  The black boy cut short panties clung to her every curve and Mark growled softly at the discovery that she hadn’t been wearing bra.  His eyes devoured her whole, feeling her shiver when his hands at first gripped her hips before slowly sliding to squeeze her clad ass firmly.

 

“Darlin’…”

 

Sage pressed her finger to his lips, feeling him pull her closer to stand right between his legs and felt his forehead press against her flat stomach. “Let me help you, Mark.” She murmured, running her fingers through his hair and closed her eyes as his lips began lighting a fiery trail down her stomach. 

 

His goatee just added to the sensation as the tiny hairs pricked her skin with every brush, traveling further up and finally just pulled her down to straddle his lap.  Mark dipped his head and continued running his sinful mouth up her body between the valley of her breasts, molding them in his strong hands.  Sage was in ecstasy as her head lulled back, feeling his other hand supporting her back so she didn’t fall off of him. 

 

A soft gasp escaped her parted lips when his hot mouth took one of her nipples, suckling, feeling it instantly harden against his tongue.  He definitely had an effect on her and Mark wasn’t stopping, moving his mouth over to her other breast, refusing to leave it unattended.  If she was giving herself to him, Mark wasn’t wasting a second; wanting this woman from the first day she set foot in his office.

 

The things this man was doing to her body made Sage heady, her head clouded with a passion haze and it showed in her now near midnight blue eyes.  She completely melted against him, his mouth finally releasing her other nipple before continuing up her neck to her jaw line, taking his time to methodically consume her.  When his lips finally captured hers, Sage kissed him with every ounce of passion and feeling she could muster, trembling from the pure intensity of what was currently happening.

 

As much as he enjoyed having her on his lap like this, Mark wasn’t even close to being done with her, only in the preliminaries.  He stood up, both of his hands holding her up, before depositing her right back on the soft bed.  The kiss never broke.  His tongue swiped across her lips and Sage couldn’t help opening her mouth for access, his tongue instantly taking the invitation, delving into her sweet flavor.  Both of them tasting each other for the first time, it nearly made Mark’s head spin.  They had shared kisses in the past month, a lot of them, but never a kiss quite like this and Mark was savoring every second of it. 

 

Sage’s strawberry blonde hair splayed all around her haphazardly as her soft hands ran up his tattooed sleeved arms to his broad shoulders, her mouth massaging against his.  A soft whimper escaped her when one of his hand snaked down between them, beginning to rub her through the thin material of her boy cut short panties, instantly arching into his fingers.  Mark smirked, breaking the kiss to move his mouth to hover over her ear, his hot breath caking it while he continued working her body into a frenzy.

 

He didn’t even have to ask if she liked what he was doing, just her reactions were answer enough for him.

 

The combination of Mark suckling the soft flesh of her neck and rubbing her sensitive nub was enough for Sage to start begging him to just take her. “Mark, please…” She whimpered out breathlessly, hoping he took pity on her before she ended up exploding.

 

Mark didn’t want to drive her over the edge yet, though he did enjoy hearing his name spill from her sweet lips.  He stroked her a few more times, emanating some pretty deep moans from Sage before finally pulling back just before she could completely dive over the edge.  He chuckled at her groan of protest and reached his finger up to press against her lips, silently telling her with his eyes he wasn’t done. 

 

Sage smiled and gripped his goatee, pulling him down to replace his finger with his lips against hers, massaging the back of his neck with her hand.  Groaning, Mark pulled back and hooked his thumbs in the waistband of her boy cut short panties, sliding them down her beautiful legs.  Chewing her bottom lip, Sage watched through smoldered now dark blue eyes as he brought the lace material to his nose, inhaling her scent.  For some reason, that just turned her on further. 

 

Tossing the panties over his shoulder, Mark went to unsnap his jeans, only for Sage to stop him. “Allow me.” She murmured seductively, eyes twinkling up at him and brought her attention back to the task at hand.

 

His eyes drifted shut as soon as her wrist flicked, unsnapping his jeans and slid the zipper down.  Just that sound made Sage’s body flame even more, becoming wetter if that was possible and sent a shiver spiraling down her spine.  Her hands slid down in the jeans, gripping his perfect ass and gave it a squeeze, digging her nails into the soft yet firm flesh.  She pushed them down his muscular legs and Mark stepped out of them, his eyes a cloudy dark forest green.

 

Backing up from him on the bed, Sage spread her thighs as he followed, hovering over her.  Mark settled between her legs, the sheer friction of his throbbing shaft brushing against her dripping wet sex almost enough to make them both come completely unhinged.  Sage was more than ready for this, having wanted to have sex with Mark the moment she laid eyes on him.  Boss or not, Mark was extremely attractive and Sage was absolutely powerless against him.

 

Her breathing became ragged as soon as Mark began sliding inside of her receptive body, stopping halfway to let her adjust to his massive size.  It would hurt more if he filled her completely without letting her get used to him first because of how big he was and Mark refused to do any damage.  Sage was going out of her mind and just wanted him to take her, trying really hard not to move too much because Mark was adjusting as well. 

 

Mark gritted his teeth once he was fully sheathed inside of her and buried his face in her neck, breathing heavily, trying to keep his composure.  Her walls surrounded him in a vise grip and Mark had to wonder for a split second if Sage was a virgin because of how tight she was.  He enjoyed a tight pussy, but this was exceedingly tight, though he definitely had no complaints. 

 

Once Sage was fully used to him, Mark took a deep breath and experimentally slid out of her, leaving the tip of his cock inside, before snapping his hips forward seconds later.  The feeling of Mark thrusting inside of her completely took Sage’s breath away as her feet dug into the comforter, spreading her thighs wider so Mark could thrust deeper inside of her. Mark kept a slow, steady rhythmic pace as he slid in and out of her smoothly, taking his time to feel her out in every way, allowing Sage to do the same.

 

As much as Sage enjoyed Mark going slow, not having sex for months was quickly catching up to her and her body was demanding more. “Mark, please faster…” She wasn’t above begging and heard him growl, his mouth devouring the spot just below her ear, which drove her crazy. “I-It’s been so long, please just pound me…” They could always do the slow love making later on, but right now Sage needed to be dominated.

 

Within seconds, Mark had Sage flipped to where she was on her hands and knees before him, his huge hands gripping her waist, his cock slamming right back inside of her.  This was more like the pace she wanted and Sage dug her nails into the bedding, meeting him for every hard, powerful thrust.  She gasped when he Mark pulled her up by her hair to where her back was pressed against his muscular chest, his hand resting on her throat while he continued thrusting.  Sage was in pure heaven, her moans quickly turning to cries of pleasure when Mark slid his free arm around her waist, which left his hand free to venture lower. 

 

He wasn’t climaxing until she did and increased the pace, his thumb stroking her swollen sensitive clit, both of their bodies having a thin sheen of perspiration.  His stroking combined with the relentless thrusting inside of her was too much for Sage to take, especially since she hadn’t had sex in months.  She hated how she couldn’t hold out more, but it was simply too much for her fragile body to handle at the moment. 

 

Sage screamed out as the hot coil sprang free inside of her, cumming in waves and was breathless as Mark rode out her first release.  Her breathing was nothing but sharp rasps when a second wave crashed over her right after the first, still jolting back against him with every thrust.  Smirking, Mark didn’t stop the assault on her clit and groaned in her ear at the feeling of her hot fluids coating his fingers, rubbing even faster and harder. 

 

Once he felt her third climax building, Mark finally couldn’t hold back anymore, wrapping both of his arms tightly around her waist as he started thrusting as fast, hard and deep as he could, bringing his own climax climb to its highest peak before crumbling.  His release had triggered a third for her and Sage completely sagged against him, crying out in a hoarse voice because of all the screaming he made her do, feeling Mark hold her up.  His seed completely filled her and it felt amazing for both parties involved, both of them really needing this, which clearly showed in the intensity of their bout.

 

Both of them dropped to the bed in a heap, Mark slipping out of her, though she landed spooned against him.  His leg draped over hers and both of them just lay there, trying to catch their breath.  Sage laced her fingers with Mark’s as they both rested over her heart, feeling his lips and goatee brushing against her neck, nuzzling it.  The hairs of his goatee both tickled and felt wonderful, Sage hoped he never shaved it off and would even go as far as to request he never shave it off. She absolutely loved a man with a goatee and on Mark it looked incredibly sexy and did things to her body that Sage never felt before.

 

Neither spoke a word as they learned how to breathe again, regulated their heartbeats and fell asleep in each other’s arms, sleeping the morning away without a care in the world.

 

Chapter 12

 

Sometime later that afternoon, Sage and Mark finally managed to leave her bed, after another intense bout.  She currently stood at the stove in just her silk robe making some bacon and eggs.  They were having bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with eggs, the lettuce and tomato already cut up.  Mark was currently showering, both of them deciding if they showered together, they probably wouldn’t leave the bathroom and Sage needed food to keep her energy up if they were going to have sex again.

 

A pair of tattooed sleeved arms wrapped around her waist and Sage smiled while flipping an egg in the pan, making them sunny side up.  She wasn’t sure how Mark liked his eggs and figured he would eat however she cooked, not even asking. It was food, he would either eat or not, the choice was entirely up to him.  Sage definitely wasn’t the type of woman who made her man happy, it was an equal partnership as far as she was concerned and Mark could always make himself something to eat if he didn’t like what she chose to cook.

 

“That smells good, darlin’.” He rumbled in her ear, pressing a soft kiss to the side of her neck and glanced over his shoulder at the table, a towel draped around his waist. “BLTs?”

 

“Very good.” Sage grinned, flipping over the bacon as it sizzled on the griddle before placing the two eggs on a plate. “It’s almost done; I just have to make the rest of this bacon before it goes bad.”

 

Mark nodded, taking the plate of eggs she handed him and turned her to kiss Sage quickly before reluctantly releasing her. “Thank you.” He chuckled when she waved him off and walked over to set the plate of eggs on the table. “Anything I can do to help you out?” He was starving and anything he could do to make the cooking process go faster, Mark would do in a heartbeat.

 

“Yeah, go get dressed so we can eat.” Sage replied, winking over her shoulder when Mark raised an eyebrow. “Unless you prefer to stay naked for the rest of the day?”

 

Smirking, Mark adjusted the towel around his waist, lowering it teasingly. “Would you prefer me to do that, Sage?” Her name fell from his lips in a seductive caress, green eyes twinkling when he saw her do a full body shiver. “I’ll go get dressed, there’s something I wanna talk to you about while we eat.”

 

Sage didn’t know if she liked the sound of that, though kept the smile on her face, nodding. “Okay, hurry up I don’t want this getting cold.  I’m just gonna pop the bread in the toaster.  How many do you want?” She asked, knowing he had a big appetite and wasn’t surprised when he said three without hesitation. “Good thing I have a big toaster.”

 

Mark chuckled with a nod of his own before heading out of the kitchen, going back into the bedroom to get dressed.  He sat on the bed after discarding the towel and glanced over his shoulder, recounting the mind-blowing sex they had.  He couldn’t believe it was already going on three o’clock and knew if he was going to do what he wanted today, they had to eat rather quickly. 

 

Sighing, Mark slid his jeans and shirt on before heading back out to the kitchen, watching as Sage put a plate of toasted bread on the table. “Darlin’, you’re gonna make me gain some pounds with this kind of meal.” He teased gently, dropping a kiss on her lips and waited for her to sit down before he did. 

 

“You better get used to it if you plan on dating me.” Sage shot back playfully with a wink, grabbing two pieces of toast before slathering them in miracle whip, placing bacon, lettuce and tomato along with grabbing two eggs. 

 

She made Mark two as well, figuring that would be enough since BLTs were usually filling.  Mark fixed his three BLT sandwiches before digging in, far too hungry to care about anything else except satisfying his hunger.  Sex with Sage had really built up his appetite and Mark couldn’t help noticing that it did the same thing to her.  They ate in silence, both in their own thoughts and honestly the food was too delicious to do much besides chew and swallow.

 

Once they were full, Mark helped Sage clear off the table, ignoring her protests. “So, what did you wanna talk to me about?” Sage finally asked, turning to face him while rinsing a plate in the sink.

 

“With the shop closed today, I wanna take you for a ride.” Mark handed over dishes from the stove and stretched his arms in the air, deciding he wasn’t going to tell her what he wanted to here. “I want to take you somewhere because…what I have to show you will make you understand better about what’s bothering me.” He’d made up his mind and decided to take Steve’s advice in telling Sage about Glen.

 

Sage blinked, registering that and began scrubbing down her stainless steel griddle. “You mean what was bothering you yesterday?” When Mark nodded, Sage became quiet, chewing her bottom lip. “Alright, do you mind if I clean up the dishes first?  I really hate leaving my kitchen dirty after cleaning.”

 

Mark smiled, kissing the top of her head softly. “No problem, darlin’.  It’s only a quarter after three and it won’t take long to get where we’re going.  Do you want me to-?”

 

“Go sit down in the living room and watch some television.” Sage ordered, already pushing him away from the sink gently but firmly, surprised Mark was going easily enough. “I got this, just go relax.  I’ll get dressed and we’ll go.”

 

“Yes ma’am.” He saluted her and chuckled when Sage snapped a dish towel toward him, easily dodging her. “Woman, do that again and I’ll make sure to snap YOUR ass.”

 

Sage merely giggled and waited for him to leave the kitchen before turning back to her cleaning.  She was happy that Mark was trusting her enough to tell her what was bothering him the previous day and could only wonder what it involved. Whatever it was, no matter the circumstances, Sage wanted to know so she could help him through it. 

 

They were in a relationship and she wasn’t going to judge him for anything he told her, expecting him to do the same with her.  Depending on how well this ride went, Sage was contemplating telling Mark about the accident, hoping he wouldn’t look or think of her differently.  Once the dishes were done and in the strainer, Sage decided to let them drip dry while she wiped down the stove, counter and kitchen table before heading into the bedroom to get dressed.

 

Pulling on a pair of blue jeans, Sage decided on a yellow top that had short sheer sleeves that had ruffles on the hems, the material tight and it had a chiffon overlay over it, which had a dark pink and green swirl embroidery design on it.  She pulled on two inch black boots, pulling her jeans over them and also pulled her hair back in a tight high bun.  She grabbed a black zip-up sweatshirt for when the sun went down and had a feeling if she put makeup on she would regret it, so she didn’t.

 

Mark looked up when Sage walked out and felt his heart rate increase, not believing how beautiful she looked in the color yellow of all things.  He was never a fan of the color, but on her…Mark was seriously considering changing Sage’s dress code every day at CalJac’s, smirking at the thought.  Standing up from the couch after clicking the television off, Mark extended his hand and pulled her into his arms, kissing her softly.  She was definitely a light in his life that Mark had been missing for the past four years ever since his brother’s untimely death and he didn’t want to lose her, ever.

 

“You look beautiful.” He murmured against her lips, tempted to just cart her back to the bedroom and rip her clothes off.

 

“Thanks.” Sage blushed, rubbing her nose against his and pulled back when she saw the cloudiness start filling his eyes, grabbing her purse. “We have all night to sex each other up; I want to go for this ride with you.”

 

Mark groaned, knowing if he wanted to he could easily change her mind, but he couldn’t. “Fine, but you’re mine for the rest of your life.” He stated, gauging her reaction and was satisfied when she simply nodded back at him with another breathtaking smile. “Come on darlin’.”

 

Sage walked out of the apartment with him, their hands clasped together and locked her door before letting Mark guide her outside to his bike.  She blinked when he gripped her hips and set her on the bike with ease, mounting seconds later in front of her, firing up the Titan.  He sped away from the apartment building once he knew Sage was firmly in place, opening up the throttle and hitting it hard as he flew down the road, heading out of town.

 

Out of instinct, Sage wrapped her around tightly around Mark’s waist, hanging on for dear life as he sped out of the parking lot.  The vibrations of the motorcycle flowing through her only made Sage want to beg Mark to pull over and forget about taking her wherever he was, wanting him to screw her right on the Titan.  She’d slept better in Mark’s arms than she had in months, for once not having her nightmare about the accident.  Mark had slept great as well, even though it still felt strange having a woman in his arms and groaned when she pressed herself closer to him. 

 

If Sage didn’t stop doing that, he was definitely going to pull his bike over and ravage her again.

 

About forty minutes later, Mark finally pulled up to a huge black iron gate, idling the Titan as he planted his feet on the ground, staring through the bars.  Sage frowned at all the headstones staring back at her and wondered why Mark brought her to a cemetery of all places.  She didn’t say anything, only tightened her arms around Mark and kissed his back through the thin material of his shirt.  Sighing, Mark finally went through the black iron gates on the small road that lead the way into the cemetery, heading straight to the back.

 

When Mark stopped the bike again and shut it off, Sage knew they had arrived as Mark dismounted, extending his hand to her.  Sage took it silently, swinging her leg over to land on the soft grass and didn’t release his hand as he guided her over to one of the stones.  Her heart was already hurting for Mark, knowing it was a death that had been bothering him and couldn’t help feeling déjà vu sink in because she had the same issue the previous day.

 

Mark stopped in front of a headstone, blocking it from view and turned to fully face his new girlfriend.  Sliding his black shades off, Mark tucked them in the long silver chain he wore around his neck, taking another deep breath.  He grabbed both of her hands, green eyes filled with sorrow and sadness, which broke Sage’s heart completely.  She reached pulled one of her hands from his and reached up, caressing his face with her soft hand, hating to see him like this.

 

“Whatever it is, you can tell me.” She murmured softly and quietly, pulling back to take his hand again, cracking a small encouraging smile. “Tell me.”

 

“I am, just have to bear with me, Sage.” Mark stated just as quietly, fighting back the pain that threatened to envelope him, which happened every time he came here. “Darlin’, yesterday was the anniversary of my…my little brother’s death.” He released her hands and closed his eyes, turning his back to face her as he tried reigning in his emotions. “Sorry, give me a minute…”

 

“Take your time.” Sage whispered, feeling the pain radiating from him and knew better than to try touching him at the moment, doing what he wanted.

 

“Four years…He’s been gone four years.” Mark said sadly, not turning to face her because he didn’t want her seeing him this vulnerable. “He died in…a car accident...with his wife and…” He couldn’t go on, closing his eyes tightly shut to prevent tears from forming.

 

Sage stared back at him and knew now wasn’t the time to start having issues with her own guilt, fighting back all emotion because Mark needed her right now. “What happened to them?” She asked, placing a hand on his back and could feel how tense he was, frowning deeper.

 

“Glen was on his way to the hospital with his wife, Nova.  She was pregnant and I guess she was in labor or something. They were in the middle of a severe storm and, Glen being Glen couldn’t call a damn ambulance to come get Nova from their house.  He had to drive her himself for whatever reason.  The road was…slippery and Glen ended up veering off the road…” Mark swallowed hard, pausing to try to compose himself, clearing his throat. “The car went over a cliff and exploded, there were no survivors.  They said the car didn’t explode on impact, but…they didn’t make it out…in time…” His eyes moved to the headstone at that moment, not realizing Sage had completely gone stiff behind him, coughing. “The police said it was an accident, that another car lost control, hit them and forced them to veer off the cliff…”

 

Sage couldn’t breathe.  She stood there completely stiff and still as all the headstones surrounding her, chest rising and falling rapidly.  Tears poured down her face and Sage didn’t feel them, her mouth slowly falling open as shock overtook every part of her body.  It couldn’t be.  It just couldn’t be!!

 

Mark noticed Sage had gone quiet and turned from the headstone to stare at her, worry instantly entering his eyes at her condition. “What’s wrong?  Sage?  Sage, can you hear me?” Mark demanded, grabbing her shoulders and hated seeing her cry. “Darlin’, it was four years ago, there’s no reason to-”

 

“I killed them.”

 

Blinking, Mark stared into her eyes, his hands slowly sliding up and down her arms, not understanding. “What are you talking about, Sage?  What do you mean you killed them?” He asked, furrowing his brows. “You didn’t know them…”

 

Sage didn’t say anything to him at first; forcing her legs to move toward the headstone Mark had been standing in front of, her suspicions confirmed at the sight of the names etched in the huge stone. “Oh god no…” She whispered, covering her mouth with her hand and dropped to her knees in the soft grass, wrapping her arms around her abdomen tightly, the tears falling faster.

 

Glen Jacobs & Nova Jacobs.

 

Chapter 13

 

Mark frowned when all Sage kept doing was whispering no repeatedly, her eyes not moving from the headstone.  What the hell was going on?  What did she mean she had killed them? 

 

Maybe bringing Sage here wasn’t the best idea because Mark suddenly remembered how distraught she was the previous day.  She had begged to go with him and leave CalJac’s, to which he denied her and commenced their first official fight. He squatted down and placed his hands on her shoulders, beginning to rub them, trying to calm her down the best way he could.

 

“Darlin’, this isn’t your fault…”

 

“Yes it is.” How the hell was she supposed to tell him her horrible discovery?

 

Now Mark was getting fed up and got to his feet, pulling her by her upper arm to stand, thankful she hadn’t fought him. “I’ve had enough of this.  You can’t blame yourself for this…”

 

“Oh Mark, you don’t understand…” Sage sobbed, pulling away from him to wrap her arms around herself, once again facing the headstone. “If you only knew the truth, you would probably kill me right here and now.”

 

Mark was officially staring at Sage like she’d grown three heads, eyes narrowing. “What are you-?”

 

“It was me.” Sage whispered, not trusting her voice at the moment and wiped her tears away that just kept falling, not believing this was happening. “M-Mark, the person who…that night…the roads were slippery and...God I’m so sorry!  I’M SORRY!!” She screamed, gripping her hair in her fingers tightly and shook her head, not believing she was dating her victim’s family…his BROTHER!

 

His heart nearly stopped when Sage began rambling, though he caught most of what she said. “Sage…” Mark’s breathing had increased tenfold, not moving to take a step toward her because he wanted her to finish what she was trying to tell him. “W-What are you trying to say darlin’?”

 

This was a very messed up situation and Sage felt like running as far away from this man as she could, trembling from head to toe. “I-I’m the one who…who hit them that night…” She watched as the realization dawned in his green eyes and stumbled back when he took a step forward, scared out of her mind right now. “I-I didn’t mean to do it!  The roads were very slick, it was pouring down rain and I couldn’t see!  I looked down for one second because my cell phone rang and…storms terrify me!  I-I didn’t answer it, it was only one second and…I hit them.  I didn’t even see the car go off the road because…I hit my head on the steering wheel…” Sage touched her forehead with a shaky hand, the events of that night flooding back to her. “I swear to you, I swear to god I didn’t know you were related to them!  If I had known, I never would’ve applied at CalJac’s and I never would’ve started dating you!  I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”

 

“Stop saying sorry.” Mark ordered in a low calm voice, staring back at her with bewildered eyes, trying to register everything she just said.

 

He had dated and slept with the driver who had hit Glen’s car, the one person he had wished dead for the past four years.  Here she was, standing before him crying uncontrollably and looked scared out of her mind.  Mark couldn’t believe this and raked a hand through the top of his head since he’d pulled his hair back in a tight braid prior to leaving Sage’s place.  Never did Mark think in a million years he would actually come face to face with the person who had destroyed not only him, but his mother as well.

 

“Mark…”

 

Holding his hand up, Mark stopped her from talking, hating the sound of her voice cracking and didn’t know what to do. He was falling in love with the person who ended Glen’s life, even though it was an accident.  The police investigation proved the car that hit Glen had lost control due to the tire marks on the road combined with severe weather going on. His heart bled and was torn between taking Sage in his arms and ending everything with her.

 

Mark had no idea what to do.

 

Sage didn’t blame Mark for being upset with her, but she hoped he believed her when she said she had NO idea who he was prior to interviewing for the job.  She found the article in the paper and answered it.  Investigating Glen Jacobs’s family wasn’t on Sage’s top priority list, not when she was trying to forget that fateful night completely.  The fact the two men had different last names was also a factor because Sage very well couldn’t go around assuming everyone in the city was related to Glen Jacobs.

 

“I-If there was anything I could do to change that night, I would do it in a heartbeat.  It’s given me terrible nightmares for the past four years.” Sage admitted quietly, lowering her eyes to the ground and stood where she was instead of running away like she probably should’ve. “I-I don’t blame you for hating me.  If it makes you feel any better, I have lived in hell ever since that night happened and I can’t seem to escape it.”

 

“I never said I hated you, Sage.” Mark stated, staring back at her and couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. “I’ll admit I’ve wished death upon the individual who hit them that night and killed my family.  Any normal human being would.  But I never expected it to be you…” He trailed off, glancing back at the headstone and knew this had to be a sign. 

 

This had to be a message from Glen telling him it was time to move on.  Mark had felt restless for the past four years, having grilled the police station countless times, wanting to know the name of the person who hit his brother.  The police didn’t tell him anything, said it was confidential and since it was an accident, there was no need to reveal the information. Mark had nearly gotten himself thrown in jail because he lost his temper toward the chief of police, who decided to give him a break because of the way Mark chose to mourn his deceased family.

 

“How can you stand there and say you don’t hate me after what I did to you and your family?” Sage demanded in a cracked voice, the guilt crashing over her intensely and almost made her knees buckle. “I-I’m a murderer, Mark…”

 

“Stop.” Mark ordered, shaking his head and slowly took a few steps toward her, frowning when she moved away from him. “Sage, I’m not gonna hurt you, darlin’, I promise.”

 

“You should want to kill me for what I did.” Her heart was breaking into pieces because Sage was falling in love with this man and now it was all ruined. “I-I know I would deserve it too…”

 

As much as Mark wanted to agree with her, he couldn’t, his shoulder slumping in defeat. “No you don’t.” He watched as her head snapped up to stare at him, shock filtering in her sapphire eyes. “Sage, what happened that night was an accident. Nothing more.” His voice had shifted to a calm soothing tone, needing to calm her down as he took a few hesitant steps toward her.

 

Sage went to say something only for Mark to press his finger against her lips, quickly closing the distance between them. The tears hadn’t stopped and Mark grabbed her upper arms, forcing her to stay where she was, pulling her close to him. He didn’t do it rough; just firm enough to where she couldn’t run away from him, knowing was terrified right now.  If it was anyone else, Mark would’ve killed them without thinking twice, but Sage was more than just another person to him…much more.

 

“Look at me.” He whispered, dipping his head and claimed her lips as soon as she obeyed, releasing one of her upper arms to grip her chin in his strong hand.

 

A soft gasp escaped Sage when Mark kissed her, not expecting it and instantly returned the gesture, feeling his hand move from her chin to wipe away tears with the pad of his thumb.  Sage cupped his handsome face and slid it up to grab the back of his neck, pouring everything into this kiss, telling him silently how she felt.  Growling softly, Mark’s arms wrapped around her waist as his muscular hands slid down her back to her jean covered ass, squeezing it.  Sage squealed against his lips when her feet suddenly left the ground as Mark hoisted her up with his hands on her ass, instinctively wrapping her legs around his waist, the kiss never breaking.

 

They were kissing right in front of Glen and Nova’s grave, both lost in their own world and to anyone else it would’ve looked seriously wrong, but neither cared at the moment.  Mark couldn’t hate her and felt as if he could breathe for the first time in four long years, a huge weight lifted from his shoulders.  He’d finally found the missing piece in his life and knew it was a gift sent from his brother, this beautiful angel in his arms.

 

When Mark finally broke the kiss, he had a smile on his face and felt Sage press her forehead to his, holding her close to him. “I’m sorry, Mark…” She whispered, surprised by the smile on his face and wondered if that was a bad omen considering what she just revealed to him.

 

“I’m not.” Mark turned with her still in his arms to stare back at Glen’s headstone, nodding. “Everything happens for a reason, Sage.  What happened was a horrible accident and you lost control of your car.  It was bad weather, hell I remember that storm and I didn’t know Glen had been out driving with his pregnant wife.  Had I known, I would’ve tried everything in my power to stop him and made him call for help.” Emerald locked on sorrowful sapphire and Mark ran a finger down her cheek as more tears fell, brushing them away with his soft lips. “Please stop crying.  What happened wasn’t your fault and, call me crazy, but I believe you when you say you didn’t know who I was.” He was a reasonable man and very understanding when he wanted to be or the situation called for it.

 

This was definitely one of those circumstances.

 

“CalJac’s…” It suddenly clicked with Sage as she closed her eyes, finally understanding why the business was named something that unique. “Was he…?”

 

“My partner, yes.” Mark confirmed, slowly setting her back down on her feet and kept his arms wrapped around her, kissing the top of her head. “We started CalJac’s together some odd years ago; I forget how long we’ve been around. Gotta be past ten years now, the paperwork with the exact year is in the files.  Our grandfather died and left us a nice chunk of money, so we decided to open up a business together.”

 

“What made you two decide to make it a tailor/jewelry shop?” Sage had always wondered that and finally got to ask him, her tears slowly subsiding, feeling a wave of peace wash over her. “Sorry, I’m just curious…”

 

Mark nodded, deciding it was time to leave as they both walked away from Glen and Nova’s gravesite, heading back to the Titan. “Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of tailor and jewelry shops for men around the city.  We spent two weeks after getting the inheritance from granddad, trying to figure out what kind of company to open up.  Glen was the one who suggested the tailor suits and I added the jewelry because…well, men need accessories too.” It was reasonable enough and he remembered how Glen had laughed him to hell and back for the idea, but ultimately they had decided to combine their ideas together and made a very successful business.

 

“It’s a very cool concept, when my friend told me about the article, I’d never heard of CalJac’s.  Then again, it is mostly for all men, though you do sell some bridal sets for both men and women, which I think it’s great.” Sage stated, feeling a little more relaxed now that she was certain Mark wouldn’t hurt her, their fingers laced together. “I like the name of the shop too.”

 

Mark chuckled, stopping in front of the Titan and pulled something from one of the saddlebags, handing over bottled water. “That was actually Nova’s idea.” A sad smile crossed his face as he took a long swig of water, his throat no longer feeling dry. “Glen and I were arguing about what to call it because we couldn’t come to an agreement.  Glen was very stubborn, more than me, and Nova finally just suggested why not take the first three letters of our last names and combine them.  We were gonna do JacCal’s, but Nova said it didn’t sound right.  So we ended up with CalJac’s.”

 

“Yeah, I definitely agree with her that JacCal’s doesn’t sound right.  It’s not smooth like CalJac’s and doesn’t sound as professional.” Sage smiled as Mark helped her straddle the Titan instead of just lifting her up, scooting back just a little to get more comfortable. “She sounded like a smart woman.”

 

“She was.” Mark agreed, reaching his hand out to run his finger down her cheek. “You remind me of her in a way.  She was smart, funny and beautiful, all of the qualities you possess, darlin’.” He sighed heavily, glancing back across the way at the headstones where his family lay resting peacefully. “I think they sent you to me somehow, someway.”

 

Sage raised a brow as Mark turned to face her, tilting her head slightly. “What do you mean?”

 

Mark simply smiled and waved her off dismissively. “Never mind, you ready to go?” He wasn’t surprised to see her nod and leaned down to brush his lips against hers again before mounting the Titan, firing it up. “Your place or mine?” He called over the engine, looking over his shoulder at her while slipping his shades back on.

 

“Yours!” She shouted, not wanting to be away from him, especially after everything she found out and discovered. “Can we go to my place first so I can grab some clothes?”

 

Mark nodded, having heard her request and felt her arms wrap around his waist before it took off from the cemetery. ‘Thanks brother.’ He thought, placing his hand over Sage’s when she began rubbing his chest up and down, not wanting her to worry anymore.

 

Neither saw the pair of cold eyes watching them roar away as the figure stepped out from the tree they’d been hiding behind out of sight.  So Mark had someone in his life he actually cared about and possibly…loved.  First, Sage would have to be punished because of her new boyfriend, who she thought was absolutely perfect.  After that, Mark would come afterwards and revenge would finally be in their grasp.  Glancing at the headstones of Glen and Nova, the figure swept away with a growl, heading out of the cemetery toward the city.

 

Chapter 14

 

Two weeks later, it was Saturday night and Sage was alone in her apartment, missing Mark very much.  He had to go out of town for an emergency business meeting, wanting to start extending the business nationwide slowly but surely.  He was going to start in big cities like Chicago and Atlanta just to test the waters and make sure the business would flourish.  The bigger cities usually required more men coming in for tailored suits and jewelry and accessories, especially rich businessmen. 

 

Sage couldn’t go with him because Mindy needed help with CalJac’s, especially since it was usually slammed on the weekends.  It was Mindy’s final weekend before leaving to finish her wedding preparations and embark on the journey of full-time housewife and hopefully future mother.  She didn’t mind it too much, having spent every waking moment with Mark since that day at the cemetery, where she found out Mark was Glen Jacobs’s brother.

 

Ever since that discovery happened, all of Sage’s nightmares about that night faded and she felt as though she could go on living her life.  The guilt was gone.  The burden of possibly being a murderer was gone.  She knew it was because of Mark’s understanding and affection, which made her fall in love with him even more.  Sage hadn’t told Mark how she felt and decided she wouldn’t be the first one to say the three little words she desperately wanted to hear from him.

 

When Mark was ready, he would tell her and not a second before.

 

Before starting dinner, her cell phone rang and Sage blinked at the name flashing on the caller ID, immediately answering. “Well, well hello there stranger.”

 

Marisol laughed softly, staring out the window. “I know, I know I haven’t been calling.  Things have been crazy with this baby thing.” Which she was almost four months along and flourishing in the beginnings of her second trimester.

 

“Right, how are you feeling?” Sage had finally accepted the fact that Marisol was not only becoming a mother, but staying with Randy, even after what happened with John. 

 

Though this was the first time she’d talked to Marisol since the woman left her alone to move in with Randy.

 

“A helium balloon.” Marisol answered, having a carton of ice cream in one hand, already dumping the pickles into it. “Weird ass cravings.  I swear to god, if I fart one more time, I’m going to send myself straight to the moon.”

 

Sage couldn’t help laughing at her friend and smiled when Marisol asked about her relationship with Mark. “It’s great actually.  Mari, I think I’m falling in love with him.” She stated bluntly, a sigh escaping her. “Am I crazy to say that after only dating him a month?”

 

“You can’t help who you fall in love with and how fast it happens, Sage.” Marisol replied, swallowing another spoonful of ice cream with cut up pickle chunks. “Now you know how I feel about…”

 

“The baby, of course.” Sage refused to hear the name Randy come from Marisol’s lips. “Listen, I hate cutting this short, but-”

 

“Listen, the reason I called is because I miss you, Sage.” Marisol figured cutting right to the chase was better than small talk. “I want us to get together and talk.  I don’t want to lose my friendship with you just because you don’t approve of who I’m with.  If you were really my friend, you would support me no matter what, just like I support the fact you’re fucking your boss.”

 

Sage cringed, closing her eyes and couldn’t stop the guilt from consuming her for the loss of contract with Marisol. “Alright, when and where?” She caved, writing down the time and place to meet for some good food and conversation before ending the call, hoping she was doing the right thing.

 

After making a small casserole ham and potato casserole for dinner, Sage put the leftovers away in the fridge before cleaning up the kitchen and then headed into the bathroom for a much needed bath.  She grabbed a bottle of wine on her way along with a long stemmed glass, yawning loudly.  Today had been brutal at the shop, but successful none the less.  It was wedding season so a lot of suits and tuxedos had sold along with cuff links, watches, earrings and rings.

 

Pouring a glass of Sangria, Sage took a long sip of it before setting the glass on the sink while starting the bath water, pouring lavender scented bubble bath in it.  She then shed her clothes and kicked them to the side, smiling when her cell phone began ringing.  Knowing who it was, Sage wasn’t about to ignore the call as she grabbed the cell from the sink along with her glass of wine, opening it and put the speakerphone on.

 

“Hello?”

 

Mark smiled at the sound of her voice. “Miss me yet?” He rumbled softly, a tumbler of whiskey in his hand as he sloshed the liquid gently back and forth, staring down at it.

 

“Mmm maybe…” Sage coyly purred in response, sinking back into the hot water, sighing in contentment. “That depends on you.”

 

“How so?”

 

“Depends if you miss me or not.” Sage set the phone on the small stand that was right by the tub, pushing the shower curtain to the other side so she could hear Mark better.

 

Chuckling huskily, Mark didn’t answer at first and took a long swallow of his whiskey, letting the liquid burn down his esophagus. “Darlin’, if I was there right now, I would show you exactly how much I miss you.” He promised in an almost dark voice with a hint of seduction to it, smirking. “Now answer my question.”

 

Sage loved when he got the dark timbre to his voice because it turned her on faster than a light switch, a soft moan escaping her. “Of course I miss you and I wish you were with me right now.”

 

Mark could hear something like running water in the background and groaned from low in his throat, slamming back the rest of the tumbler. “You’re taking a bath while talking to me?” He practically growled, slamming the tumbler down and raked a hand through his hair. “Teasing wench.”

 

She giggled, running some water up her arms as the tub filled slowly since it was rather deep and big. “I was very dirty, what did you expect me to do, not clean myself?” Sage demanded with a smirk, knowing that was a loaded question.

 

“Just wait until I get back there, darlin’.  I’ll get you nice and dirty before washing that beautiful body of yours from head to toe…in a bath.” Mark promised raucously, filling his tumbler with more whiskey, needing it since his delectable girlfriend was on the phone, naked taking a bath, without him.

 

“Mmm promises, promises…I look forward to that.” Sage purred, chewing her bottom lip when he growled again and dipped her head just enough to get her hair wet, sitting up again. “My nipples are getting hard just thinking about it…”

 

Mark raised a brow and pulled the phone from his ear, putting Sage on speakerphone. “I’ve been hard from the first sound of your voice, Sage.” He admitted without hesitation, walking over to the bed, thankful he’d skipped dressing since it was just him in the room.  No reason for clothing, Mark preferred sleeping naked. “Wanna tell me anything else your body is doing?”

 

“Wouldn’t it be better if I told you what I was doing to myself instead?” Sage retorted in a breathy laugh and moaned as she tweaked her hard nipples with her fingers.

 

She was really doing this.  Mark couldn’t believe Sage actually wanted to have phone sex with him, finding it both amusing and incredibly hot.  He lay down on the bed and set the phone on the nightstand, his tumbler still in hand as he sipped it slowly, contemplating her offer.  Phone sex was better than nothing and Mark needed a release of some kind, his cock needing some attention.  He’d been gone for two days and already craved to be buried inside of Sage, wanting her back in his arms again.

 

“Tell me.” He ordered in a whisper, loud enough to where she could hear and smiled when the sound of running water suddenly cut off.

 

“Well…” Sage had turned the faucet off with her foot, scooting further down into the bubbles. “I’m in the tub and it’s filled with bubbles, covering me from the neck down.  What would you do to me if you were here?”

 

Just the image of Sage completely naked and wet definitely put Mark in the mood, a smirk curving his lips. “I wouldn’t join you right away.” He informed her, his voice dropped an octave or two. “Instead, I would dip my hand in the water to slide down your stomach and cup your pussy.”

 

While he talked, Sage acted as her eyes drifted shut, her hand sliding down her smooth flat stomach until she reached her clean shaven mound. “Uh huh, what would you do with your hand?” She breathed out, not moving to pleasure herself until he said so.

 

“Check to see if you’re ready for me.” Mark growled, his hand gently stroking his chest, dark auburn hair splayed all over his pillow. “Do you feel me, darlin’?”

 

“God yes…” Sage moaned, sliding a finger inside of her and bucked her hips, the water sloshing gently against the sides of the tub. “Oh your finger is so big and it feels so amazing…” Her finger slid in and out in a slow methodic pace, the feeling of her walls clamping in a vise grip almost breathtaking. “W-Would you be opposed to me reaching out of the tub to stroke you?”

 

“Not at all, help yourself.” Mark hissed out when his hand wrapped around his hardened cock, stroking up and down, envisioning her doing this to him. “Your hand feels incredible, darlin’.”

 

“Mmm so does yours…” Sage increased the pace, spreading her thighs wider as she added a second finger, breathing raggedly. “Ready to join me yet?”

 

Mark groaned, trying to hold back, but Sage made him lose control and no other woman had ever been able to do that. “Oh not quite yet…” His hand slid up and down faster, running the pad of his thumb across the tip. “Close darlin’, so close…”

 

She was as well, clenching her teeth as her climax began heightening with every passing second. “I’m sitting up in the tub.” She did. “And my hand is leaving your cock and I’m pulling your shirt from your jeans…and my hands slide up your shirt over your head.  I rake my nails down your chest and you yank me against you.  We kiss and I reach down to unsnap your jeans, bring the zipper down and push them down before yanking you into the tub on top of me.”

 

Neither of them had stopped pleasuring themselves throughout the phone call.

 

“I don’t wanna crush my angel.” Mark grunted, feeling his cock twitch and knew he was incredibly close to releasing, arching his back off the bed. “I roll you over to where you straddle me in the tub…and my hands grip your hips and I lift you to lower you on my cock, wanting you to ride me.  Ohhh ride me hard, Sage…”

 

She cried out, visualizing herself on top of Mark, rolling her hips against him and that just made her fingers thrust faster, the hot coil within her threatening to spring free. “Mark, oh Mark I’m cumming…!!” Sage choked out, rubbing her swollen bud furiously while Mark pumped his cock even faster, both of them voicing their climaxes, reaching their peak of ecstasy.

 

Mark dropped back on the bed, having bolted up momentarily and tried regaining his breathing while regulating his heartbeat.  A content smile spread across his lips and he could feel hers through the phone, both of them chuckling together.  He missed her and wished she was with him for real so he could really make her his completely.

 

“Are you alive over there, darlin’?”

 

“Barely.” That had worn Sage out in a very good way, not able to wipe the smile from her face. “How about you?”

 

“I think I’m ready for bed...” Mark answered honestly, scrubbing a hand down his face and looked down, groaning. “After a shower.”

 

Sage giggled softly, pulling the plug and stepped out of the tub, wrapping a towel around her body, tucking it between her breasts. “Messy are we?” She turned right back around and started the shower as soon as the tub fully drained, needing to wash her hair still. 

 

There was no way she could wash it after masturbating.

 

“I’m not the only one.” Mark retorted, standing up from the bed, crossing his eyes at the big mess on the bed and knew he would need to call down to the receptionist to have someone bring up a fresh bed set.

 

“Well as fun as this has been, I need to get off of here and shower before bed.” Sage stated, taking the towel off and reached her hand into the shower, checking the temperature of the sprays. “What time are you coming home tomorrow?”

 

“Early.” Mark practically droned, licking his lips. “And I plan on coming straight to your place.”

 

“Ooo a wake-up call.  You better get to bed then, handsome.  Early to bed, early to rise.” Sage hummed with a grin, stepping away to stare in the mirror, which was fogging up. “See you tomorrow morning.”

 

“Yes you will.  Sweet dreams, darlin’.”

 

They hung up and Sage jumped in the shower, washing her hair quickly, just wanting to go to bed so she could dream about being with Mark.  She stepped out ten minutes later, dried off, brushed her teeth and hair before heading into the bedroom to dress.  Slipping on white bra and panties with a baby pink nightgown that went to mid-thigh and was spaghetti strapped, Sage walked back into the bathroom to take her wine glass to the kitchen.

 

“Hello Sage.”

 

The glass slipped out of her hand and landed on the carpet, the small amount of wine left in it soaking into the carpet while a scream echoed from her mouth.  The dark figure in the corner stood up, still blanketed in darkness so Sage couldn’t see who it was.  If the figure was a male or female, though judging by the voice alone, she ventured to guess it was male.

 

“W-Who are you?” Sage stammered, blue eyes shot open and felt as though her feet were glued to the carpeted floor. “Get out of my apartment!”

 

The figure snorted derisively, a flash of silver suddenly coming into view as a sharp dagger suddenly came into view that was attached to a huge pale hand. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way…” The figure began almost conversationally, slowly stepping into the dim kitchen light, though a black hood from a hooded sweatshirt was covering his face. “Your choice.”

 

There was no way Sage was doing anything the ‘easy’ way with this criminal and slowly began backtracking down her hallway. “H-How did you get in here?” Damn it, she couldn’t keep the stutter out of her voice to save her life! “What the hell do you want?”

 

A dark chuckle echoed throughout the apartment that dripped of pure malice and hatred. “Wouldn’t you like to know.” The figure took a few steps toward her, coming further into the dim light, his feet covered in black leather boots, legs encased in dark blue jeans, but Sage still couldn’t see his face.

 

Sage was getting this weird vibe and swallowed hard, feeling her blood turning cold while trying to see who was beneath the hood. “Who are you?” She whispered softly, taking a few steps back and cried out when that pale hand shot out, wrapped around her wrist and yanked her violently against him.

 

“I think you know exactly who I am, Sage.” He growled, slowly pushing the hood back to reveal himself, eyes boring into hers. “And you’re going to pay for what you did.”

 

The last thing Sage saw was a pair of angry hazel eyes right before total darkness set in.

 

Chapter 15

 

When Mark arrived at Sage’s early the next morning and she wasn’t there, he figured she’d gone to the store early.  Mindy was there, of course –Mark was really going to miss her when she left-, but not Sage.  He asked Mindy if she’d heard from Sage and Mindy hadn’t naturally.  What the hell was going on?  Even though he hadn’t known Sage that long, he knew her work ethic and there was no way she would no-call, no-show, not to mention she wasn’t at home.

 

Mark told Mindy he would be back and tossed the keys to the jewelry safe, trusting her to put them out before the store officially opened.  Monday was always inventory day and Mark figured Sage had come in early to train with Mindy since it was Mindy’s last week on the job.  He walked over to his Titan and mounted it, staring straight ahead while gripping the handlebars, trying to figure out where Sage could’ve gone.

 

After contemplating it for about five minutes, Mark’s eyes narrowed to slits, his hands gripping the handlebars tighter, knuckles turning ghostly white.  Gritting his teeth, Mark fired the Titan up and roared out of the parking lot, flying down the street.  The night he’d beaten the hell out of John Cena for laying his hands on Sage, Mark had checked his wallet and had burned the address on his license to memory…in case he needed it.  If John had Sage and harmed her in any way, the man would never see the light of day again because he’d be killed and buried six feet under.

 

Persistent knocking woke John up and he wasn’t happy nor was the current woman in his bed.  He still had a cast on his right arm, his two black eyes were now a yellowish color, his cracked kneecap was had a brace on it and all the small lacerations and bruises all over his body were mostly gone.  He would never forgive that bitch Sage Evans for the beating he sustained at the hands of her boss, Mark Calaway.

 

“WHO THE FUCK IS IT?” John roared and yanked the door open, staring into a sleeveless shirt covered chest.  His blue eyes slowly trailed up until startled blue eyes met livid acid green. “Oh shit…”

 

“Oh shit is right, boy.” Mark shoved John back, ignoring all of the injuries he already had and kicked the door shut behind him, stalking the stumbling idiot. “It’s time for us to have a talk, Cena.”

 

“Look, I don’t know what you want from me.  I haven’t seen Sage since you kicked my ass and I have company right now.” John jumped, immediately regretting it when he grabbed his kneecap, hissing out in pain through clenched teeth. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?”

 

Mark raised a brow when John went into the kitchen and stood on the opposite side of the island that was in the middle of it, eyes flashing. “You honestly believe this will keep me from strangling you if I want, boy?” He demanded, splaying both rather large hands on the wooden island, looking even more intimidating if that was possible.

 

“I told you I wouldn’t go near Sage again and I haven’t!!” John practically squealed like a little school girl. “Come on man, what the fuck do you want from me?!”

 

“John?” A feminine voice sounded from the doorway, both men looking in the direction and saw a busty platinum blonde standing there, wearing one of John’s jerseys. “W-What’s going on here?”

 

John specifically told her to stay in the bedroom and, naturally, she didn’t listen. “Kimberly, go back into the room and let me handle this.” He ordered, turning his blue eyes back to Mark Calaway. “Now baby.”

 

Kimberly frowned, looking from John back to the giant that was currently standing in John’s kitchen, wondering what was going on. “Anything I can do to-”

 

“I SAID GO BACK IN THE ROOM NOW!!” John bellowed angrily, watching the blonde squeak in fear before fleeing from the doorway.

 

Green eyes narrowed to slits as Mark watched the blonde obey that command, slowly moving around the island while John hobbled away from him. “Is that anyway to talk to a woman?” Even if she was an easy whore.

 

“Look, what I do in my own house and not to Sage is none of your damn business, bro.” John sneered, wishing he wasn’t in his Scooby Doo boxers in front of this asshole who gave him possibly the worst beating of his life. “I don’t know what you want and I don’t know why you’re here, but if it has to do with Sage, I haven’t fuckin’ seen her since that night!!”

 

“Why don’t I believe you?” Mark shot back angrily, clenching his teeth. “I don’t believe you.”

 

John couldn’t believe this was happening, wishing he hadn’t answered the door. “Goddamn man, look I’m telling the truth!!  I haven’t seen her!!” He yelled in pure desperation, holding his hands up and kept backtracking around the island.

 

“Sage has gone missing.” Mark informed him coolly, taking his time in stalking John around the island. “And the only person who I can think of that would have something against her…is you, boy.”

 

“But I don’t!!  Look, you can ask Kim okay?” John barked out her name somewhat in a panic, not stopping though his kneecap was killing him. “You can ask her and she’ll tell you I’ve been with her the entire weekend fuckin’ her brains out!”

 

Mark really didn’t need to know that and watched as the blonde flew back into the kitchen, smart enough to stay in the doorway. “W-What is it?” She asked timidly, shaking a little from John’s yelling.

 

“Please tell this psycho that I was with you the WHOLE weekend in here!” John requested, watching as Kimberly instantly nodded without any hesitation.

 

“Yeah we’ve been here since Thursday actually.” Kimberly turned her attention to Mark, honesty in her eyes. “Johnny had to come home early from work and I’ve been taking care of him.”

 

“She’s been my personal naughty nurse.” John leered, smirking when Kimberly blushed from head to toe, acting shy while moving her feet back and forth.

 

Mark felt sick because - one, he didn’t need to know THAT information either and - two, he actually believed these morons for some reason. “If I find out that either of you,” He paused to look over at Kimberly with deadly green eyes before turning them back to John. “Are lying to me and I find out you know where my girlfriend is, I’m going to come back here and finish the job, boy.  And I’m going to take your little whore with me.  Am I clear?”

 

“Yes.” Kimberly squeaked out in fear.

 

“Yeah.” John said it the same time Kimberly did, nodding understandably. “I get it and I swear I don’t know anything, homie.”

 

“Don’t ever call me that again.”

 

John nodded, swallowing hard and wrapped his arm around Kimberly when she padded quickly over to his side. “Fuckin’ Christ…” He whispered as soon as the front door slammed shut, followed by the roaring of a motorcycle tearing out of his driveway.

 

“That was so scary.” Kimberly whispered in his neck, gasping when John gripped her hair and smashed his lips against hers, taking her right on the island.

 

~!~

 

Sage opened her eyes sometime later that morning, feeling a little dizzy and couldn’t fully remember what happened.  She blinked several times to clear her vision, finally looking around the dark room, the shades drawn closed.  This wasn’t her room was the first thought that entered her mind and the second was she needed some sunlight so she could see.  Before Sage made it to the window, however, she froze at the sound of a dark voice that resonated throughout the room.

 

“Sit down, Sage.”

 

Jumping about a foot in the air, Sage whipped around and had to adjust her eyes to the darkness, finally spotting a figure in the far corner. “W-What’s going on?” She did plop back on the bed, shaking slightly because she was legitimately scared.

 

A dark chuckle sounded, followed by footsteps that thudded against the hard floor, which was another clue to Sage that she definitely wasn’t home anymore.  Sage felt the bed dip and instinctively backed away, her heart pounding a furious tattoo in her chest, blue eyes wide.  Suddenly, everything that happened the night before came flooding back to Sage and her mouth dropped open, staring back at the figure that was now sitting on the bed.

 

“W-Where am I?” Tears filled her eyes as a large pale hand slid on the bed toward her and Sage backed away further, hitting the headboard moments later. “Please, why am I here?  What’s going on?” As far as Sage knew, she hadn’t done anything wrong to anyone besides John Cena and even he wasn’t this clever to set a kidnapping up.

 

“Hmm I do suppose I owe you an explanation,” The dark voice paused briefly, drumming long fingers on the bedding contemplatively. “Even though I’m doing you a favor.”

 

That confused Sage as she tilted her head to the side. “What are you talking about?” She somewhat demanded, her heart pounding faster. “I-I don’t understand…”

 

“Of course you don’t.  After all, you’re merely a victim.” The man sounded almost sympathetic, but he wasn’t. “I suppose you’re wondering what exactly Mark did?”

 

“T-That would be helpful…”

 

What did he mean when he said she was a victim? 

 

Sage was scared out of her mind and knew her cell phone was back in her apartment.  She didn’t even know what time it was.  Mark was supposed to come see her in the morning and Sage mentally cursed because she still hadn’t given him a key.  If she had, then Mark would notice she didn’t bring her cell phone with her and the wine glass that was probably sitting on the carpeted floor with the wine stains.

 

“Sage, your precious boyfriend isn’t who you think he is.  He’s a murderer.” The bed rose up again as the figure stood and Sage could tell he was beginning to pace, which was never a good sign. “He killed his brother and sister-in-law along with their unborn child.”

 

A hiss resonated off the walls and it made Sage go from being scared to completely petrified.  Glen and Nova Jacobs…Sage swallowed past the lump that formed in her throat, her hands trembling and couldn’t believe this kidnapper thought Mark was the culprit.  There was no way she could come clean that it was her who had killed Glen & Nova Jacobs because it sounded like this person –Sage still didn’t know if it was a man and woman, anything was possible these days- wanted revenge for their death.

 

“I’m not surprised by your silence.  You see, Mark Calaway thinks he’s untouchable and he believes he can get away with absolutely anything without any repercussions.  Well, I’m about to prove him wrong on that.” The man stopped to stare at her and Sage felt a shiver of dread shoot down her spine, opening and closing her mouth, but her vocal cords weren’t working. “Not only is Mark Calaway a murderer, but he’s also a rapist.”

 

Her blood ran cold as Sage felt her eyes shoot open, breathing a little heavier. “W-What are you talking about?” She couldn’t help asking, having a feeling she was about to regret opening her mouth.

 

The figure gritted their teeth, which flashed through the darkness. “What I’m talking about is the fact that Mark Calaway raped Nova Jacobs and killed their first unborn child.” His huge hands planted on the bed, one of them covered in a black thick leather glove, the other plain. “Allow me to explain so your pea-sized brain can comprehend what I’m telling you, Sage.  Nova was raped twice, not just once.  That is why Glen was on the road that night in the severe thunderstorm. His wife had been attacked for a second time, raped in their home and left a message from her own brother-in-law stating she belonged to him and nobody else.  And he ended the message with the word brother.  It was a picture of Glen and Nova torn down the middle and that message was written on the back of Nova.  Glen was rushing his pregnant wife to the hospital with their second unborn child after being RAPED by his own brother!!”

 

Sage felt sick to her stomach by now and closed her eyes, trying to digest all of this. “H-How do you know it was him?” This had to be some kind of mistake, Mark wasn’t capable of raping a pregnant woman…was he? “Please…”

 

“He left a message the first time and it was one of his bandanas that was wrapped around her head, shielding her eyesight. She was tied down by her wrists and ankles while he raped her in…” The voice trailed off, gritting their teeth and Sage as pretty sure she heard some gnashing going on as well. “But Nova didn’t believe Mark was capable of such a crime against her.  She convinced Glen that it wasn’t Mark that did it…only for it to happen again with another message…the torn picture.”

 

“But…that doesn’t make any sense.” Simply because of the fact Sage was not only in love with Mark, but he had nothing to do with the accident that night. “Why would Mark go after his sister-in-law, knowing how much in love he knew Glen and Nova were?  He even told me how close they were, it doesn’t add up even with the messages.”

 

“So you’re calling me a liar?” The figure demanded, his hands moving from the bed and replaced with his knees, leaning over her in a flash. “Would you like me to convince you otherwise?” Sage could only nod, frozen solid against the headboard. “Good answer, sweetheart.  It’s simple, Mark was the one who ran Glen and Nova off the road that night, right off the cliff.”

 

“Look, I don’t think-”

 

“No you don’t because I KNOW for a fact it was him.”

 

“How can you be so sure?” Sage shouted suddenly, trembling even harder and felt her chest rise and fall rapidly. ‘It was me you dumbass, it was ME!!’ Her mind screamed, though Sage wouldn’t and couldn’t say that, even though she really did want to protect Mark.

 

A loud dark chuckle sounded from his lips that had absolutely no humor in it, just pure malevolence. “Because who Mark tried killing that night is still alive…one of them anyway.” Before Sage could say anything, she heard unclasping of something above her head and, against her better judgment, looked up.

 

“W-What…?”

 

The words fell from her lips as the light clicked on and Sage stared at a monstrous man with scars running down his face, curly brown wet hair hanging in his face down his back, going past his shoulders.  Even through the scars and angry eyes, Sage could definitely tell the resemblance and could already feel tears sliding down her cheeks.  Was this really happening or was she dreaming?

 

“Y-You’re…Glen Jacobs, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question, just a simple fact of life and more tears fell when the man just stared back at her hardening. “Oh my god, you’re alive!!”

 

Chapter 16

 

“How the hell are you alive?!” Sage demanded, bolting up from the bed and stood on the opposite side near the window, the tears not stopping. “Y-You’re supposed to be DEAD, Glen!!”

 

Glen snorted, tossing the mask to the side since he wouldn’t need it. “Glen is dead, my name is Kane.” He growled, staying where he was because he knew this was a shock to her.

 

“W-What do you want with me?  How are you here?” Sage’s curiosity was too amplified and she couldn’t hold back finding out everything. “I-I haven’t done anything to you…” That was a flat out lie.

 

“Of course you haven’t.” His voice was sugary sweet, but had ice cold eyes. “But you ARE the first woman my brother has shown any interest in since my supposed ‘death’.  And since he decided to harm my precious Nova, I’m about to return the favor.”

 

Sage didn’t like the sound of that and remembered what Glen said about Mark being a rapist, beginning to cry harder. “N-No please…Please don’t do this to me, Glen…” She pleaded, shaking her head frantically.

 

“Kane.” He corrected in a hiss.

 

He was going to rape her.  The man Sage thought she killed was really alive and he was out for revenge.  She was going to be used to get a point across to Mark.  Sage was going to be sick.

 

“Like I told you, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, Sage.” Glen stated, slowly pulling the hooded sweatshirt over his head before tossing it to the side, along with the beater he had on, burn scars embedded into the thick skin of his muscular chest. “You can lay down and take the punishment willingly…” He paused, reaching down to his jeans and unsnapped them, sliding the zipper down tauntingly slow. “Or you can fight me and it will happen anyway.”

 

Hyperventilation was kicking in fast as Sage watched him slowly round the bed, coming toward her. “No!!” She shouted, diving on the bed just as he was about to swipe her and started scrambling to the other side of the bed.

 

“The hard way it is.”

 

Glen caught her ankle before she could fully get off the bed and slammed her back against the bed ruthlessly, straddling her.  Sage fought against him, but Glen was way too strong and outweighed her by about two hundred pounds.  Tears leaked out of her eyes as one massive thigh forced her legs apart, one hand grabbed both of her wrists and held them above her head. 

 

The other hand tore her pink nightgown right off of her body with a hard yank, the material giving against his strength. He completely ignored her screams, having brought her to a place where nobody could hear them.  That left her clad in just light pink bra and panties, both lace of course because she had been expecting Mark’s morning visit before they both had to go to work.

 

“You can’t do this!!  You’re making a mistake!!” Sage cried out when his hand tightened around her wrists, almost to the point of cutting off her circulation. “Let go of me!!”

 

“No, I know exactly what I’m doing, Sage, and it’s about to be YOU.” Glen snarled, his hand splaying across her smooth flat stomach, the soft skin just boiling his blood further. “Fight and scream all you want, but nobody can save or hear you.”

 

Sage knew he was right and wasn’t bluffing, her muscles contracting against his palm because of how repulsed she was by it. “Y-You never told me how you survived…” There had to be some way to stall and possibly stop him from doing this. “I deserve to know before you…do this…”

 

Staring down into her pleading, terrified tear-filled blue eyes, Glen didn’t pull back, but did stop from touching her.  His hand slowly slid up her stomach to cup her right breast through the thin material of her bra.  Glen supposed he should tell her about what happened because not only would it further explain why he was doing this to her, but fuel his anger more to make this experience more enjoyable for him. 

 

He wanted to hurt Sage the same way Mark had hurt his beautiful Nova and nothing was going to stop him.  Lowering his head, Glen watched as Sage moved her head to the side as far as she could, his nose running down the pulse point of her neck.  Sage clenched her eyes tightly shut and tried not to tremble against him, picturing Mark in a world where Glen Jacobs was still dead and wasn’t about to rape her for revenge.

 

“Mark followed me the night I tried taking my wife to the hospital after he raped her.” Glen stated, his mouth right by her ear, knowing she was trying to go to her special place.  He was going to make it as difficult for her as possible. “It was his vehicle that ran us off the road that night.  Same make and model, everything, right down to the tinted windows. Mark had tried eliminating me ever since we started our business CalJac’s together because he wanted it all for himself…and he wanted MY Nova.” Glen slid his hand from her breast back down her stomach to the waistline of her panties, closing his eyes while pressing his forehead against her cheek. “After he hit us, the car careened off the cliff, but it didn’t explode on impact.  That’s almost impossible to do...” He had to stop talking for a few seconds, swallowing hard.

 

Sage blinked up at him, turning her head to stare in his heartbroken eyes and, even though he was nearly ready to rape her, some part of her went out to him. “W-What happened then?” She whispered, the guilt consuming her completely, remembering looking over the cliff after hitting Glen and Nova with her car and theirs had been in flames.

 

“What the fuck do you think happened then?” Glen barked angrily, wrapping his black leather gloved hand around her slender throat, but didn’t squeeze. “The car was leaking gas so I knew I had to get out…and I did…” He trailed off again, the pain blistering intensely from him. “got out.  I turned to get Nova out because she was unconscious from a blow to the head during impact and the car…exploded…” Tears, actual tears, began flowing down his cheeks as he squeezed Sage’s throat a little harder, gritting his teeth. “It blew up before I could…get her out.  The explosion threw me back, but it didn’t knock me out and I watched…I watched as my wife and unborn child burned to death in the car…” The burn marks had obviously come from the explosion, though Glen honestly didn’t look too bad. “I looked up, saw Mark’s car and someone right before I lost consciousness, but I know it was him.  It was-”

 

“IT WAS ME!!”

 

It was Glen’s turn to blink down at her, tilting his head to the side very slowly. “What are you talking about?” He demanded, feeling his jaw tighten, a vein throbbing in his forehead. “What do you mean?”

 

Sage began sobbing violently, not believing she just blurted that out, tears pouring like two raging rivers. “I-It wasn’t Mark!!  It was me!!  It was all me that night!!  That was my car and I’m so sorry!!” She cried out hysterically, chest rising and falling quickly. “I’m the one who hit you, I didn’t even know Mark at the time!!  It was dark and stormy, I looked down for just a second and…God I’m so sorry for what happened!!  I-I killed her...but it was a complete accident!!”

 

Now Glen was pissed as his hand squeezed her throat to the point where he cut off her air supply, the veins in his arm bulging out. “YOU LYING BITCH!!” He bellowed right in her face, watching as it turned a deep crimson red while she struggled against him. “I’LL KILL YOU FOR LYING TO ME!!  IT WAS MARK AND YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO PROTECT HIM!!” All Sage could do was shake her head frenetically, doing everything in her power to try gaining air, wishing he would believe her because it was the truth. “You tell me the fucking truth or I’ll tear your throat out, whore!!” Glen hissed angrily in her ear, breathing erratically and watched as she barely nodded before releasing her.

 

Sage gasped for air, coughing severely while clutching her rapidly bruising throat and sobbed violently. “I-I am…” She cried out when he gripped her shoulders and shook her so hard, her teeth rattled dangerously. “I AM!!” Croaking out really hurt, her throat burning and knew she would lose her voice from being strangled almost to death.

 

Glen raised his hand, ready to backhand her and watched as she flinched, suddenly realizing what he was doing.  He had a woman beneath him, quivering in fear and was completely powerless against him.  His eyes narrowed and Glen dropped his hand along with his head, Nova suddenly filtering into his mind. 

 

This is exactly what happened to his precious wife, his Nova, who was dead all because of him. 

 

He was the one who forced her to get in the car so he could take her to the hospital after finding out she’d been attacked and raped for a second time.  Nova died because of him, he couldn’t even pull her out of the car in time before it exploded.  To this day, even four years later, Glen was still haunted by the look on his wife’s face while she was still buckled into the passenger seat the night she and his unborn child were taken from him.

 

Growling, Glen ripped himself off of Sage and backed away a little from the bed, tearing his glove-free hand through his hair.  He didn’t know Sage and knew she was saying this just to protect Mark.  She was having sex with him after all, they were in a relationship; of course she was lying to him!! 

 

Glen whipped his head back to look at her, ready to pick up where he left off with his revenge, but once again stopped himself.  She looked absolutely terrified, curled up on the bed in a tight ball and was still coughing with tears pouring down her face…or what he could see of it.  Somehow, someway Glen knew she was telling the truth and also knew Nova was stopping him from committing the same crime that had been executed against her.

 

“You’re the one who was driving that night?” Glen demanded gruffly, walking over to stare down at her through brooding eyes. “Because if I find out you’re lying to me, I will kill you, Sage.”

 

“I-I swear to you…” Sage had to trail off because her throat was killing her, blinking when Glen tossed her nightgown on the bed beside her. “I-It was me that night…”

 

“And you didn’t know Mark at all?”

 

Glen sat down on the edge of the bed, not surprised when Sage scooted away from him while yanking the nightgown over her head.  Sage tried to cover herself up as much as possible, wishing she hadn’t worn a nightgown to bed.  Then again, she had done it because Mark was coming to see her that following morning.  As long as she lived, Sage would never go to bed in a nightgown again unless Mark was with her…if he still wanted her after this.

 

“No I didn’t.” She whispered, voice completely gone and slowly sat up while still cupping her throat. “I can only hope you believe me because, even if I wanted to lie to you, I couldn’t.  I’m the worst liar on the planet.”

 

Eyeballing her suspiciously, Glen fully turned to face her, folding his arms in front of his chest. “Tell me everything that happened that night.” He ordered, deciding to give Sage a chance before tearing her throat out.

 

Sage nodded, not about to deny this man anything and told him about the Halloween party she had been pressured into attending by her so-called friends.  Of course, she didn’t mention Marisol because she met the woman at the party so they didn’t even know each other.  Glen surprisingly sat there in silence while Sage explained to him everything that happened, which made perfect sense and matched the exact description of her car…right down to the make and model.

 

Glen didn’t say a word or move for a few minutes, mulling over everything that Sage just explained to him and scrubbed a hand down his face. “That would explain the angel I thought I saw that night.” He rumbled finally, standing up from the bed squaring his shoulders.

 

That was definitely something Sage hadn’t expected to hear and it confused her. “W-What do you mean?” She asked, wrapping her arms around herself and was thankful her tears had finally waned for the time being.

 

“Before I lost consciousness, I looked up at the cliff and saw someone in pure white staring down at me.  I thought it was an angel...” Glen trailed off, remembering that moment and could still feel his heart rate decreasing while his seared face, chest and hand sizzled from the blast of the vehicle that held his charred dead wife and unborn child. “I thought I was dying.”

 

“Do you believe in angels?” Sage couldn’t help asking, hating that her curiosity sometimes overrode her mindset.

 

“Yes.”

 

“So do I.” Sage was really going to hate herself for asking this next question, but it had to be done, especially in the current situation she was in. “Do you honestly believe your brother would ever betray you by…attacking your wife?”

 

Glen’s shoulders tensed, his teeth clenching along with his fists, not looking back at her. “I have nothing else to believe at this point.” What if Mark didn’t attack and rape Nova?  Then her rapist was still out there somewhere and it was someone both of them knew. “There’s proof…”

 

Sage slowly stood up from the bed, chewing her bottom lip and hesitantly reached out to touch his bare shoulder. “What kind of proof?” She had a hard time believing Mark could ever rape and hurt a woman, her heart slowly breaking at the thought. “Glen, why don’t you confront your brother instead of trying to get revenge on him for something he may have not done?”

 

Whipping around, Glen grabbed her wrist and yanked her against him, though he didn’t hurt her. “He did do it.” He whispered, deadly intentions flashing through his eyes. “And I-”

 

“You owe it to your wife to find out the truth.  You may have proof, but what if…” Sage closed her eyes when his face lowered to hers, their noses practically touching and felt her mouth go dry. “W-What if…?”

 

“What if what?” He barked crossly, surprised she hadn’t tried fighting him off. “Speak woman.”

 

“What if he was framed?  What if you’ve been hunting the wrong man for the past four years?” Sage suddenly shot back, pursing her lips tightly together, sapphire eyes turning to ice. “Until you actually talk to your brother and confront him about it, you’ll never know one hundred percent.  Doesn’t your wife deserve to know without a shadow of a doubt who her rapist is?”

 

This woman had a point and Glen hated her for it, snorting derisively. “And how do you propose I find out the truth if Mark didn’t do it?” He demanded, shoving her back enough to land back on the bed, taking a step forward while folding his arms in front of his chest.

 

“That’s simple, I’ll help you.  I know in my heart Mark could never do anything to you and your wife.  He loved you both very much.”

 

Sage would never forget the heartbreaking look in Mark’s eyes and face when he brought her to Glen and Nova’s gravesite.  She could feel the pain radiating from him and wanted to stop it, but had been consumed in her own grief due to discovering Mark was the brother of Glen Jacobs.  Now she had been kidnapped by the man she thought she killed because of her reckless driving, even though it was an accident and the roads had been very slick that night. 

 

Only now, Glen thought all along it was Mark who had been driving and hit them on purpose to try killing him in order to gain full control of CalJac’s.  As far as the rape, Mark wasn’t the type to rape a woman, especially after all the times he made sweet passionate love to her.  Hell, even his kisses were soft and sweet, though there were times Mark became very animalistic, but it was definitely enjoyable.  Mark never once hurt her.

 

“Let me help you find the truth and clear Mark’s name…please…”

 

Reluctantly, Glen decided he had to give it a chance because Sage was right, Nova deserved to know one hundred percent who her rapist was. “I’ll give you a week.  If you don’t clear him by then,” He paused, pulling her up from the bed by her wrists, pressing her balled fists against his bare chest. “I’ll take my revenge out on YOU.”

 

Sage swallowed hard, nodding. “Deal.”

 

For whatever reason that changed Glen Jacobs’s mind that night and decided to give her a chance to show him the truth, Sage would be forever grateful to him, no matter what else he did to her if she couldn’t clear Mark’s name.

 

Chapter 17

 

Staring up at CalJac’s, Sage could only put one foot in front of the other, breathing slowly and tried to stop the butterflies from erupting in her stomach.  Mark had left over twenty voicemails on her cell phone, along with Mindy, and she even had a couple from John.  Apparently, Mark had gone over to John’s while she’d been kidnapped, thinking John had something to do with it.

 

It wasn’t a far stretch considering what John did her first night working for CalJac’s.

 

“Oh my GOD, SAGE!!” Mindy flew from behind her desk and clobbered Sage with the tightest hug, her eyes shot open. “Christ honey, we were worried sick about you!!”

 

“I know.” Sage whispered, pulling out of the embrace just as Mark came flying out of his office, tears instantly filling her eyes.

 

He looked like hell warmed over, dark circles under his eyes and his hair wasn’t brushed, just pulled back in a loose tail at the nape of his neck.  Sage didn’t even think twice about it and ran straight into his arms, feeling him lift her up as she hugged him tightly around the neck.  She could feel Mark trembling and knew he’d been worried to death over her, pressing her cheek to his while rubbing the back of his neck, trying to calm him down.