Twenty-One

x

As Andrea felt her sleep being robbed of her, she was highly aware that a phone was ringing.

Wait.

Was that-

Her mistake. Two phones were ringing.

She looked from her cell phone to her landline and back again, trying to make a quick decision.

"Hello?" She answered into her cell phone, voice cheery despite feeling groggy and agitated. The landline cut to a message.

"Hi, Andrea?" It was Carl Davis, her new boss.

"I'm the only one that lives here." Andrea said, frowning when she realized how irritated she had let her voice sound.

"Sorry to bother you this early," Andrea glanced at the clock- Six? In the morning? "I was just preparing for work when I caught the morning news. Why is it that Reed Vance's girlfriend was hanging around the police station last night?"

Damn it, did things ever get out fast.

Andrea had barely had a night to sleep on the events of the previous day and they were already back to haunt her. She thought despairingly of Buster, who was still missing.

"I was mugged yesterday when I was taking my dog for a walk." She explained simply. "And I'm not his girlfriend."

Carl Davis was silent. Andrea's eyes were struggling to stay open.

"That is terrible news to hear." He finally said slowly, "And I do not mean to sound insensitive by this, but you firmly told me that you would no longer be on television. I meant what I told you yesterday, Ms. Evans. There are plenty of other qualified people who will work for us and draw a significantly smaller amount of attention to our company through the media.

"I'm sorry." Andrea apologized sincerely. "I could not have foreseen the events of yesterday. I stand true to my word, Mr. Davis, the media will lose interest as soon as word spreads that Reed and I are no longer together."

She didn't like how foul the words sounded coming out of her mouth. Admitting it aloud made it all seem so final.

"I have a simpler method." Carl Davis said with conviction. "Go to the media yourself and let them know that you are no longer an interest to the general public as you are not going to be associated with Reed Vance anymore."

Andrea swallowed. Yes, this was very final.

But was she going to let some stupid hope prevent her from getting her life back and starting a job? Certainly not. She couldn't pine after Reed forever.

"Of course, sir." Andrea replied, her tone clean and courteous. "I will have it taken care of immediately."

"That is exactly what I wanted to hear." He said with approval. "This is the type of behavior I am sure I will soon be growing fond of. Apologies again for disrupting your morning."

"Not a problem." Andrea assured him, "Goodbye Carl."

"Bye Andrea."

After she hung up, Andrea glanced over at the blinking light on her answering machine. She was still mentally reeling from her conversation with Carl Davis. Perhaps she had been too quick to write him off as the nice boss. He definitely did not seem too pleased with her. He didn't get mugged. It hardly seemed fair that he make her feel guilty for going to file a police report.

She frowned, reminding herself that she needed the job. Well, Carl Davis could turn out less friendly than she had hoped for, but she would hold her chin up. She didn't have a choice.

She had to tell the media an aspect of her personal life that she did not wish to disclose. And she couldn't help but feel angry about the way things were starting to turn. Maybe she didn't want to have to immediately alert the media that Reed Vance had rejected her. Maybe she couldn't swallow her pride and face that yet. She didn't want to.

She glanced back at the answering machine. Damn blinking red light.

Eric and Jonathan were going to be over shortly so the search for Buster could begin once more, but until then, Andrea was convinced she would be having a staring match with her answering machine.

Fuck it.

She hit the button and listened to the message.

Hi Ms. Evans, sorry to be calling this early. This is Officer Blake, and I have some great news for you. Andrea listened more closely now. Late last night, all of your belongings were returned, we have them ready for you whenever you wish to come down to the station. Your mugger attempted another robbery, and was unsuccessful. Your wallet still has money in it, even. This is excellent news, the chances of your belongings turning up unscathed are one in a million! I look forward to seeing you sometime today.

Andrea drew a blank. She thought of the wallet and purse that were waiting for her.

Nothing in her bag was of any significance to her anymore. What were a few plastic credit cards? A driver's license? Makeup compacts? Meaningless.

So she wasn't smiling despite her incredible luck. Because she would gladly trade her entire purse for a glimpse of Buster. Or maybe even a glimpse of a certain blue-eyed rock star that she couldn't get out of her head.

x

Jonathan and Eric drove her to the station. Andrea sat in the back seat, head leaning against the window.

"Why are you still trying?" Andrea asked, breaking the silence that had engulfed them during the length of the ride. Eric turned around and cast her a confused look. "I mean, why are you trying?" She asked again. "Buster is gone. The city is gigantic. What can three people do?"

Jonathan was driving but she knew he would have plenty to say. "Andrea, give it up." He muttered, "This 'I'm depressed and broken over one guy' thing isn't going to give you free permission to wallow in self pity forever, you know that? Eventually Eric and I are going to run out of sick days to take from work, and run out of reasons to want to help you. You take us for granted. We're always at your disposal, we're always there to protect you."

"I don't need to be protected." Andrea snapped. "You know exactly who I am, Jonathan. You grew up with me. You know what you're getting into every time."

"Jonathan, that was uncalled for." Eric sighed. "She's in crutches, her dog is missing and a man she clearly cared a lot for left her."

This didn't seem to stop Jonathan, who appeared to be in an increasingly bad mood. "Well I meant what I said!" He spat, frustrated. "Get over it, Andrea. Wake up. While you're here waiting for him to come back, the world is still turning. We tried warning you a thousand times and you never listened. So maybe you'll learn your lesson now and suck it up. Reed Vance doesn't care about you, and he never did. You should have listened to us. Not everything revolves around you. Count your blessings; your possessions turned up through a miracle, and your brothers are here doing the very best they can. That's more than a lot of people could ask for."

Andrea was appalled. "You tried to warn me?" She repeated in disbelief, "I should have listened to you?"

Eric turned around again warily, the look on Andrea's face, as she imagined, was one that both brothers likely knew rather well.

"I came all the way to New York to warn you against that scum bag!" Jonathan ground out, voice rising in volume and intensity. "Sounds like more than a warning to me."

"I did listen to you." Andrea said, voice low and threatening. "I listened when you told me he loved me. I listened when you said anyone could see it. I listened to you and look what it brought me. He's gone. So don't tell me you tried to prevent this. Don't you dare."

Jonathan didn't speak, and the angry silence in the car issued a thick tension.

"Regardless." He let out after a while, in a tone of forced calmness. "If you remain hung up on Reed, it could end up costing you your job. A job that you really need. So do what your boss said. Let everyone that needs to know that Reed is no longer part of your life."

"If it were that easy!" Andrea shouted back, more cross than ever. "How does one tell everyone that needs to know?" She lowered her voice now. "I don't have it in me anymore, Jonathan, to go and tell the whole world that I got dumped with a proud face."

Admitting her vulnerability seemed to silence Jonathan.

"You're right." Eric said, "What can three people do? Jonathan and I need to get back to work and you need to focus on making yourself feel better. I'm not saying relinquish all hope for Buster… Just stop searching a fruitless search. Someone will find him and call the number on his collar. Looking ourselves in a city this huge will only do damage to frazzled nerves."

Jonathan didn't appear convinced. "Damn well waste of my time." He muttered.

"Damn well waste of your time?" Andrea's voice was rising in hysteria. "If it's a damn well waste of your time and I take you for granted, why are you still here? I can drive, that leg is fine. I don't need your arrogance here, go back to your precious job."

"You're one to talk about arrogance!" Jonathan yelled back, unable to let the fight die. Andrea had struck the wrong nerve with him today. "The only person I have ever had the displeasure of being acquainted with who possessed a greater arrogance than yourself is Reed Vance! And look what happened there! When are you going to admit to yourself, and everyone else, that the arrogance isn't working for you? That gig is up, Andrea. Get over yourself."

Jonathan wanted to take her down a peg. That much was obvious.

But it had already been done. Reed Vance had taught her that lesson. Jonathan's efforts were futile.

Andrea was getting too irritated to speak to Jonathan. Eric was mute. They hit a red light and the tension rose particularly high as the agonizing silence waged on. Frustrated and fed up, Andrea hoisted herself towards the car door and swung it open.

"What are you doing?" Jonathan was hissing, straining in his seat to get a better view of her.

She pulled her crutches out of the back seat with difficulty, and then shut the car door. Jonathan rolled down his window.

"Have you lost your mind?"

"I'm walking." She stated, voice indicating that there was no room for argument. She didn't care that she was acting over dramatic and childish; Jonathan had started that game.

The light changed, but Jonathan refused to move. "Andrea, get in the car. You're acting ridiculous."

Cars honked in annoyance behind Jonathan, but still he did not move. "Andrea." He commanded. She was testing his patience.

"Your head is too big." She muttered. "I feel like there is no room for me in the car."

"Andrea, come on!" Eric put in when the honking began to get out of hand. "You're acting completely irrational."

"You're the only reason they're honking." She pointed out. "You can drive away and let me walk. The fact that you aren't moving is clearly infuriating them. Don't want a ticket to tarnish our perfect record, do we, Jonathan?"

Jonathan's ears burned red in frustration. "Well you know what, Andrea? I think I'm going to go back to work."

Eric turned to face him, "What?"

"You heard me." He snarled, "I'm going back to work. If you wish to accompany Andrea to the station, then be my guest. But I will not be taking her there if she is to be ungrateful."

"Suit yourself." Andrea drawled, beginning to make her way down the sidewalk. The car peeled away, and the honking finally ceased. Moments later, Eric caught up with her.

"Jonathan just needs to get laid." He joked, walking beside her. "Expect a few dozen apology messages on your machine before the end of the night. He has no backbone anyway."

Andrea grinned. Shame Jonathan didn't realize Andrea had exited the car mere blocks from the station. Crutches or not, there was no long walk ahead of them.

x

"How exactly did these turn up?" Eric asked, as Andrea rummaged through her bag.

"The details are unclear." The officer said, "But what is clear is that the mugger attempted another robbery and was unsuccessful."

"How does someone fail to mug some stranger, but get away with it when Andrea is involved?" Eric snorted, "Who did he try mugging, some body builder?"

The officer clearly didn't catch the humor. "The second person was able to incapacitate the mugger and retrieve all the belongings. A real hero, if you ask me."

"Fantastic." Eric grinned, "Everything there, Andrea?"

"You know," Andrea said slowly, "I don't think I had this much money in my wallet before I got mugged."

"What are you suggesting?" Eric asked, laughing, "That the mugger gave you money? Yeah, right."

"Maybe I was wrong." She shrugged. "Weird."

x

The two Evans siblings took a cab back from the station – Eric went back to work, and Andrea requested to be dropped off at the beach. Big storm clouds hovered overhead, but Andrea wanted to enjoy the seclusion offered by the beach on an ugly day.

She sat in the sand not far away from the boardwalk, knowing she needed to be able to walk with crutches; something rendered an impossibility by the sand.

She didn't want to go to the media. She really, really did not.

Could she find another job?

She pushed these thoughts away. These thoughts were fueled by a stupid hope that she was still clinging onto that Reed would come back. She couldn't deny herself a good job because she wanted to be with him. Reed wouldn't deny himself of anything for her, why should she act any differently? As little as she liked to admit it, Jonathan was right. She had to get over it. He was gone.

Maybe she just needed to call Carl Davis and tell him it was going to take some time to sort out everything with the media. She could tell him that she would wait to start work until her face was forgotten. He might like that. He might hold the job for her.

She thought back to Reed. His eyes and his smile. She thought of his infuriating comments and his equally infuriating smirk. His effortless look, his laid back demeanor. His voice when he sang. That look in his eyes when he was serious. The touch of his calloused hands against hers.

Then she thought of Carl. She thought of the promise of the job.

And finally, she felt the lurch in the pit of her stomach. The right decision was obvious. The right decision was to get over it and move on, and get started on working again.

So maybe the hollowness she felt would go away. Maybe she would immerse herself in work again, and feel the passion she used to feel when she worked. Maybe this was just a bump in the road.

As the first few raindrops began to fall and the sky began to darken further, Andrea stood slowly to begin her walk back home. Hooking her crutches underneath her arms, she began to make her way from sand back to solid ground.

Not paying full attention, one of Andrea's crutches snagged a loose branch on the path. Losing her footing, Andrea felt herself falling and with no way to pull herself back up. She closed her eyes, anticipating the impact-

The impact, which never came. Sturdy arms were holding her steadily when she opened her eyes in surprise.

And she knew who it was. She didn't have to turn and look into his eyes or hear him speak to guess that it was Reed.

Every defense she had built up against him fell crashing down.

Reed slowly helped Andrea up and handed her the crutch that had betrayed her. Neither spoke, and Andrea could not find it within her to meet his gaze. His gaze, which she could feel burning holes into her head. She felt pathetic. She had been completely prepared to fall.

Refusing to look into his eyes, she looked down. And when she looked down, she could not believe her eyes.

Buster was on a leash, a leash hooked around Reed's wrist.

And now her watering eyes pushed upwards to meet his. How had he found Buster? The puppy was yanking anxiously at the leash, trying to get closer to Andrea. Andrea, who was now overwhelmed by her emotions and even more so by her many questions.

"How-" She finally let out, her gaze glued intently to his, her voice wavering and quiet.

"I was wrong." Reed said, emotion finally seeping into his features. The look he was giving her made her heart feel as though it were going to burst into pieces. "Andrea, I was so wrong about you."

"What?" Her words were soft and uncertain. After all, her feelings in that moment could only be summed up into that single sentiment of confusion.

Reed swallowed, running a hand through disheveled hair. He looked just as amazing as he always did, and Andrea could feel her heart beginning to throb painfully inside her chest.

She knew she looked terrible. She hadn't bothered dressing up today. She hadn't bothered fixing up her hair. She was letting her full weight be supported by a pair of flimsy crutches. And she knew her eyes were still puffy from her prolonged moment of weakness the night before.

"I was wrong." He repeated with more conviction, hesitantly reaching over towards Andrea. She knew her hurt had betrayed her aura of indifference in that moment, because she moved away from him. Reed seemed to react with disappointment, blue eyes shifting downwards. He looked incredibly regretful and guilt ridden, as though he had been there when she had been hurting, watching when she was weak.

"Wrong about what, Reed?" She asked softly, knowing full well that every ounce of her vulnerability was showing in her facial features. If he was here to make her feel worse, then he might as well get it over with. She would just yank that dog away from him and be on her way.

Her hope still made its presence known though, and Andrea's stomach was churning as her pulse raced. Reed looked as torn as ever, having trouble getting his next thoughts out.

The raindrops began to fall harder. Somewhere in the back of her head, Andrea was laughing at the particularly appropriate match of mood and weather. Her already messy hair began to stick to her face, rain rolling down her cheeks just as her warm tears had a day earlier.

Reed's disheveled hair began to lose shape as the rain continued to fall, falling over his eyes and obscuring them from her view. With his eyes hidden, Andrea had no way to anticipate what he would say next; she had no way to probe his emotions.

And so, with acute hesitation, she reached over and brushed the hair out of his eyes. He shivered, but perhaps it was due to the fact that he was wearing a thin shirt in the middle of downpour.

"I love you." He finally spit out, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Andrea, I would do anything for you. I'm an idiot for thinking that I felt any other way."

Every muscle in Andrea's body loosened. Her heart was in her throat.

Her brothers, Carl Davis, the mugger, Buster, the media... All miles from her realm of thoughts.

Reed loved her?

"How can I not love you?" Reed continued, running his hand through his hair again, keeping it clear from his eyes. "When I hear Buster goes missing and I spend hours searching for him, screaming at Charlie and Sarah until they have everyone and anyone looking for him. When you tease me and you smile that damn smile that makes me insane. When you're the only woman that can remind me that I can be the good guy, rather than the sleaze and the pompous asshole I became. When I get a black eye from your brothers and my key concern isn't giving them shiners in return – it's you. When I claimed I would never respect, let alone associate with a Red Sox fan, but still let myself be drawn to you. It's you. It was always you.

"You changed me. You proved to me the significance of knowing the person behind the image they portray. And I fucked it right up. I was afraid, and stupid. But now I know, and I'm tired of trying to convince myself and anyone else that I am not someone that falls in love. I love you, Andrea Evans. And I don't know when it happened. But it did." He stood very still as his blue eyes held her gaze.

"I love that you were the first woman to snub me and have the nerve to sell my jacket. That you stepped out of your car in damn high heels and made me feel like I was doing you a favor by taking you to Japan. That your favorite movie is Casablanca. That you can make a joke out of something without ever having to explain yourself. That you put me in my damn place when I need to be. That despite the aura you give off, you are true to your morals. That you can put your two brothers in place and make it look easy, meanwhile I am intimidated as hell by them. That you can make a child giggle, an adult laugh, and Buster's tail wag. That you look stunning, always, be it in a dress or a pair of old pajamas. That the look you give off when you are about to tell someone off is incredibly attractive. And the look you give off when you are telling someone off is even more so.

"I don't like you a lot, Andrea Evans, I love you."

After Reed finished speaking, the only sound was that of raindrops hammering against the ground. He stood firmly in place, eyes staring into hers with such ferocious intensity she feared to look away; she couldn't look away. And she couldn't speak, she couldn't move. If her crutches had not been there supporting her, she might have just fallen right over.

"And I'm sorry." He said, his tone much softer. "I don't know if you can forgive me, but I will do everything it takes to make things better, to make them right."

Her next few thoughts came in a rush, and Andrea finally found her voice.

"You're an asshole." She spat, surprising not only herself, but Reed as well. He appeared momentarily defeated, his eyebrows falling in dismay. "Fuck, Reed." She growled, "That damn well hurt."

He opened his mouth to say what certainly would have been another apology, but Andrea cut him off.

"But I never needed an apology…" She trailed off, a weak smile forming on her lips. All it took, and all it had ever taken, was for Reed to come back. Standing in front of her and telling her everything she had wanted to hear was beyond what was necessary. She looked over at his tense and uncomfortable figure. "I deserved everything that happened. And I sure as hell don't deserve you."

Her stubbornness never stood a chance against Reed. She knew this better than anyone.

Reed visibly loosened, and took a daring step towards her. This time, Andrea did not move. He let his fingers run softly along her cheek. "You don't understand just how wrong you are, Andrea."

"Regardless," She plowed on, "I've never been in love, Reed. And I'm scared shitless. But I trust you. Maybe that little slip was what we needed to see if we could handle the other."

"Well I've seen it." Reed replied immediately, "And the only thing I cannot handle is being without you. I want you to be there when I'm performing at a concert. When I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night. When I'm watching television, I want you next to me, making your unnecessary comments about the commercials. I want you to be there when I'm at the beach, when I'm walking Buster, when I'm out buying a coffee. I don't deserve you, Andrea. But, if through some miraculous loophole, you still want to be with me, then damn it, I'm going to milk this for what it is worth."

Andrea couldn't look away from him. She finally understood. It was sincerity. The look Reed gave her that she had always been unable to put her finger on; it was sincerity.

"Well you still have the key to my apartment." Andrea muttered, "This has been your decision to make all along."

Reed was smiling now, smiling a full smile, the kind that made Andrea's stomach twist in the very best way.

"Forgive me if I mess this up." Reed said, dropping Buster's leash and stepping firmly upon it. He then delicately wrapped his arms around Andrea's waist, letting the crutches fall away from her sides. He was holding her so tightly that her legs were barely applying pressure to the ground. He slowly leaned in and let his nose graze her own.

Andrea let out a breath she had been holding and leaned in further, so that their cheeks were resting against each other's. Reed sighed, satisfied. "I missed you."

Andrea wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled herself closer to him. It did not matter that their clothes were drenched, it did not matter that it was a terrible storm. "Me too."

The moment was ruined when a flash caught their attention. Andrea turned to see not one, but an entire mob of paparazzi hidden underneath umbrellas, eagerly watching them.

"I didn't even notice the cameras." Andrea mused, recalling something Reed had once told her.

He had said-

"Like I said," Reed grinned, letting his fingers dance across her waist, "One day you won't even realize that cameras are snapping anymore-"

"Your mind will focus to more important things." Andrea finished for him, smiling. "How delightfully corny."

Reed smirked. "You love it."

"I might." She teased, smirking back at him.

And then Reed pulled her up into his arms, holding her bridal style and kissed her theatrically. All their surroundings seemed to disappear, and Andrea couldn't help but smile against his lips as he kissed her.

This kiss was different. This kiss had the understanding that it was to be one of many more to come. No hesitation, no fear, nothing.

Andrea knew the paparazzi must adore this. She knew that it would be all over the television. She knew this would upset Carl Davis, and her brothers, and Charlie. She knew her parents would have plenty of questions. She knew all of this.

But she didn't care.

Reed pulled away. "Is your mind focusing to more important things?" He asked.

"You'll have to let me think about it." Andrea decided, still hanging tightly onto him.

Reed leaned back in and kissed her with an intensity that made her dizzy.

"Now?" His eyes were grinning.

"Oh I just don't know." Andrea said, but her voice sounded husky and low, effectively betraying her.

Reed smirked, again. "You're a terrible liar."

"I'm not lyi-"

Reed cut off her denial and kissed her once more. This time he did not pull away when Andrea was dizzy. He did not pull away when she completely ceased all thought. He did not pull away until she forgot where they were or what was happening or who was watching, or that it was raining, even.

"Now?" He persisted.

"What?"

"Case and point." Reed grinned, carefully letting her down and brushing wet hair out of her eyes. "Let's get out of here."

He knelt down and retrieved her crutches, but instead of handing them to her, he tossed them aside. "You want me to limp all the way to my apartment?" Andrea questioned, confused.

"I am giving you a piggyback, you fool." Reed explained, hoisting her up onto his back. Andrea found herself giggling like a child, and leaning in so that their faces were close.

"Thank you." She murmured, elated.

"Tell you what," Reed said to a nearby photographer. "Take this dog to the apartment with us, and maybe we'll let you take photos of the inside of the apartment."

The man nodded eagerly, grabbing Buster's leash and following the two. They began walking towards Andrea's apartment, which wasn't too far down the road, when a car pulled up beside them.

"Impossible." Andrea stated in disbelief, when none other than Carl Davis rolled down the window, looking anything but pleased.

"It seems to me that you were supposed to alert the media that Vance and yourself were no longer together, Ms. Evans." Carl said, frowning. "Were you feeding me blatant lies? Because it certainly appears to me that you are being carried by none other than the man himself."

Andrea felt Reed tense slightly beneath her. "You're right." She replied, voice even. "I was supposed to. But I cannot, and I will not. If that is enough for you to deem me an unfit employee, then fine. Maybe I don't belong at Richardson & Smith after all."

Carl was infuriated. He quite reminded her of Rick in that moment. "Have fun seeking employment elsewhere." He muttered tersely, "We are not the only company that frowns upon paparazzi followed celebrities." He raised his nose at her in disdain, eyes settling upon the photographer that was following them. The photographer eagerly snapped a shot of Carl, whose eyes widened in rage.

"Thanks for your wishes." Andrea replied snootily, eliciting a laugh from Reed. "Maybe we'll see your face in star spotting on page six next week. Shame, we really wouldn't want any unnecessary attention drawn to your company."

Carl did not dignify her with a reply, rolling up his window and speeding away. But before speeding away, he was sure to drive in a puddle, effectively soaking the duo further.

Andrea laughed, hugging Reed more tightly. They had practically been showered by now. The photographer holding Buster walked more quickly to catch up with them. "I got a photo of him splashing you." He informed them, satisfied. "If we can get his name, we could do the asshole justice."

Reed grinned. "A nice paparazzo. That's a first."

"Carl Davis." Andrea drew out, "Works high up at Richardson & Smith; it's a law firm that I have been hired and fired from within a week." The man pulled out a waterlogged notepad and scribbled a few notes down, before falling back behind them, presumably to take more photos.

Reed continued walking, seemingly undisturbed by Andrea's weight upon his back. "They weren't going to hire you because of an association with me?"

Andrea sighed. "He said it would draw unnecessary attention towards his company. When I got mugged, he was hardly upset that I had injured my knee or been robbed of my dog and my belongings. He was upset because the media happened to catch me as I was heading down to the police station."

Reed exhaled. "This is so unfair. I'm so sorry that-"

"Reed." Andrea stopped him before he would continue his train of thoughts, "It isn't your fault. When a company that believes I possess real skill and isn't bothered by my being around you hires me, then I know I will have found a great job. Working for Carl Davis would not have been a great job. It would have probably ended up with me insulting his endowment and finding myself out of another job...Again."

Reed laughed at that. "So you're saying that I have a man like Carl Davis to thank for meeting you." He set her slowly down; they had finally made it to her apartment. He helped her up the stairs and then they walked inside.

"His name's Rick." She grinned, falling onto the couch before her. "The one you have to thank." Reed sat down beside her, leaning against her and stroking her hair.

The photographer stood awkwardly in the doorway.

"Thank you." Reed said, standing up and walking towards him. Buster bounded towards Andrea. The photographer snapped a few shots and then disappeared.

Andrea couldn't stop smiling. Reunited with her puppy and Reed in the same day. It could hardly get any better. No. It couldn't get any better.

"How did you find him?" Andrea asked, hugging Buster and ruffling his ears. The puppy was panting, tongue flopping awkwardly out of his mouth.

Reed smiled. "I suppose I'm lucky you haven't been checking my website, otherwise the gig would have been up." He pulled out his cell phone and opened the web browser to his site. On the main page was a photo of Buster. "Sarah and Charlie made it happen. The word that Buster was missing spread in no time. It wasn't long before someone called, explaining that Buster had been hiding in their backyard. I had to keep him a few days, though. I was afraid if I didn't have Buster you might not have even listened to me talk today."

Andrea sighed. "You didn't call. I thought you didn't want anything to do with me."

Reed appeared stung by her words. "I tried." He explained, "I must have picked up the phone a thousand times, but I couldn't think of the right thing to say. I felt terrible, Andrea. I couldn't believe I had been such a coward and walked out on you like that."

He rubbed his eyes and turned back to face her. "Sex isn't what matters." He continued, "I knew it that night, and I know it now. I told you I wouldn't say I loved you if I didn't mean it, and that much was true. But I didn't understand. I've always been so afraid of committing to one person. But why did I have this fear? I was afraid the relationship would get boring, that I would find myself interested in someone else and acting unfaithfully. But this will never be boring. I say this in the best possible way, Andrea. There is never a dull moment with you. I can commit to you, and I will. Because if I don't, I know I will be severely missing out."

There it was. That feeling that her heart was going to burst again. Andrea wasn't sure if she was ever going to feel accustomed to someone reciprocating her feelings so perfectly.

But, looking over at Reed, she knew that he was new to the feeling as well, and she felt more comforted.

"Oh." She said lamely after a moment.

"I sincerely hope I am not scaring you with my unnecessarily corny lines." Reed added, as an afterthought. "I don't believe I have found the perfect balance between attachment and reasonability."

"That is where you are wrong." Andrea grinned, sitting up further on the couch and letting her head lean against his. They were both soaking wet still, but she knew neither would be bothered to move. "You are ideal. You are saying everything I want to hear. You are saying everything that any sane woman would want to hear."

Reed kissed her cheek, his warm breath against her skin immediately causing heat to spread throughout her body. This was how she could feel content even in cold, wet clothing.

There was a comfortable silence, and Andrea felt herself lean further into Reed, hear head resting comfortably against the crook of his neck. Then, something dawned on her.

"It was you." She said.

"You're being vague, my darling." Reed drawled, wrapping an arm around her.

"You returned my belongings to the police." She elaborated, "How else could my wallet have turned up with more money in it than I started with?"

"How would I go about doing that?" Reed dismissed her, but the tensing of his body against her own after her accusation gave him dead away.

"You're a terrible liar." She mimicked his statement from earlier that afternoon.

Reed sighed. "You weren't supposed to know about that."

"Reed Vance, selfless? Fancy that." Andrea grinned, continuing to tease him. He frowned, playfully ruffling her dampening hair. "How did you go about doing that?"

Reed pulled her tighter against him. "We baited the robber, it was simple. I was livid - you cannot imagine how I felt when I saw footage of you limping on the television. I had to see the person that made that possible pay. We went to your exact location later on in the evening and surprised him. Inside his backpack were your things. I had made the assumption that he spent all your money, so I attempted to replace it. Apparently that was unwise."

"Untactful." Andrea decided. "I suppose when you say 'we' you are referring to Charlie, Sarah, and yourself?"

"And the police as well as a few of my body guards." Reed elaborated, "I had to pay that officer a hell of a lot of money to leave out the details to you, I hope you know. And then you went and figured it out yourself anyway. Damn well waste of my time."

Reed's words mimicked Jonathan's from earlier that morning. She paled, thinking of their unusually unresolved fight.

Reed noticed immediately. "Are you okay?"

Andrea pulled herself to her feet and limped towards her answering machine. "Can't believe you threw my crutches away." She muttered, hitting a button and listening to the messages play back.

I hope you're smirking wherever you are. Came Jonathan's irritated voice. I'm sorry. I'm an asshole. What I said was uncalled for.

The next message came on. Jonathan had left four.

I did mean it though, Andrea. I did think Reed loved you. So I'm sorry if I gave you any wrong ideas.

She felt Reed's gaze burning holes in her back, but she continued along with Jonathan's messages.

God, if you aren't answering these you are either more angry than I thought or still outside somewhere. It is pouring, Andrea, as bad as it sounds, I really hope you're still pissed with me.

And finally, the last message.

Helping you is never a waste of my time. You're my sister, and I love you. Well, as you like to say, I love to hate you. Please call me.

She picked up the phone and called Jonathan. He answered after one ring, "I'm sor-"

"Save it." She muttered. "You were right. I couldn't be upset if I tried."

Reed appeared behind her and encircled his arms around her waist, pressing her body into his and letting the warmth he was giving off engulf her. Her deliriousness leaked into her voice. "I've got to go." She said; her voice laced with a cheerfulness she knew Jonathan would detect.

"Are you drunk?" He asked, "Andrea, I'm sor-"

Reed yanked the phone away from Andrea before she could protest. "She isn't drunk." He said, tone neutral. "But if you don't mind, I'd like to have her all to myself." And with that, he put the phone back onto the receiver and lifted Andrea off the ground and into his arms. This took pressure off of her knee, and she appreciated this.

"He's going to hate you even more now." She commented, leaning in to kiss Reed.

She pulled away to resume the conversation, but he pulled her face back down towards his. "You drive me insane when you kiss me like that." He said, kissing her again and sending her thoughts into a dizzying euphoria.

They fell onto her couch, Andrea's sense of elation only fading when she felt Reed's phone vibrating against her leg. Reed pulled away and took the phone out of his pocket.

"Ignored." He stated simply, placing the phone back on the table and leaning back in. Their lips had barely molded together when he pulled away again. "Your brother told you I loved you?"

Andrea's thoughts were quite jumbled. "Huh?" She replied intelligently.

"On the phone, before…" He trailed off, "Your brother said he thought I loved you."

Andrea raised an eyebrow. "You're bringing this up now?"

He nodded. "I'm curious."

She smoothed her hair, which had gained alarming volume as it dried. "When I called them, after they came into the apartment and gave us both bruises, Jonathan said he was certain you loved me and that anyone could see it. I didn't believe him. But then…" She trailed off, "Well we know how that delightful situation turned out."

Reed laughed. "He had reason to think that. You remember when he came all the way to New York to warn you against me?"

Andrea nodded. She had remembered how abruptly Jonathan had left as well, and how confused he had sounded when he had called to announce his departure.

"He asked me then straight up if I was interested in you."

Andrea wasn't following. "You weren't."

"Of course I was!" Reed countered, "I had been contemplating making a move forever, and he just completely called me out on it. I was caught off guard. And despite acting like a complete asshole to him in the lobby in front of you, he intimidated me. So I told him the truth. And when I was done he warned me that if I were to make a move, I had to be serious about you." He sighed. "I told him he could never tell you about the conversation we had, and that if anyone could tell you, it had to be me. Surprised it took me this long to choke it out. Always figured I'd look worse in your eyes if you knew how long I felt… this way."

Andrea scoffed. "You are an idiot, Reed Vance."

The conversation was ended then and there, as Reed's phone began vibrating loudly against Andrea's coffee table once more.

"Check it." Andrea said, "I'm not going to bite your head off for checking your phone."

He kissed her cheek and sent her a grin. "I'm a damn well lucky idiot, thank you very much." He said, reading what Andrea assumed to be a text message.

His facial expression shifted. "I'm confused." He stated, "Sarah says I need to come into the office… That it is necessary and urgent."

Andrea raised an eyebrow. "You've spiked my curiosity. Now we have to go."

Reed smiled. "I don't really have a choice in the matter, do I? Let's just change out of these clothes." He scooped her back up into his arms, and they made their way to Andrea's room.

Andrea sat on her bed as Reed stripped down only to his boxers. She grinned, "Jonathan's old clothing is on the back shelf in the closet."

"Like the view?" He asked as he slipped into a pair of old sweat pants and a loose t-shirt.

"I've seen better." Andrea replied sarcastically, limping over to the closet and selecting some of her own clothes. Reed stood in front of her, letting his hands rest on her hips before reaching down and removing her wet shirt from her thin frame. She smiled up at him and placed her arm against his chest to support herself as she took off her equally wet pants.

"I like the view." Reed answered her unasked question, voice low.

She pulled a face in his direction, and again pressed a hand against Reed to support herself as she hopped into a new pair of dry pants. When she looked back up at Reed, he was already taking the shirt she had selected and placing it over her head.

Now changed, the two held eye contact for a long time. God, she wanted to stay here with him for just a little longer…

"We should go." She said, despite her reluctance, and Reed nodded, helping her out of the apartment and down the stairs.

"I'll drive." He said, helping her inside the car and buckling her seatbelt for her. She didn't need him to buckle her seatbelt, nor help her, but she reveled in the fact that he wanted to.

In fact, him chucking her crutches hardly seemed bad now, for Reed was carrying her everywhere and she felt quite like a princess in his arms.

She ignored her typically blunt conscience claiming that her thoughts sounded childish and corny.

Maybe she wanted them that way.

They arrived at the corporation that handled the Vance title a short while later. Reed brought Andrea back up into a piggyback, and they ignored the peculiar stares they were receiving.

Walking towards what she presumed to be the office where Sarah worked, Andrea heard the distinct voices of Charlie and Sarah.

"So you're breaking up with me?" Charlie was stating, voice laced with absolute disbelief. Andrea couldn't help herself, she snorted.

Suddenly it was silent.

"Shit," She whispered into Reed's ear, "Blew our cover."

"That is quite alright." Reed consoled her, "I don't think we would have made excellent eavesdroppers as it is." He carefully let her down and grasped her hand tightly.

The door swung open and Charlie and Sarah gazed over at the two of them.

"Christ, she's back." Charlie remarked upon noticing Andrea. Andrea pulled an immature face in Charlie's direction in response.

"What seems to be the issue, Sarah?" Reed asked calmly, thumb rubbing Andrea's hand gently.

"My husband knows." Sarah stated. "About my affair with Charlie." Her tone was so impressively cordial, Andrea remarked that she could just as easily have been talking about a new budget being passed or relaying a message. "I am fulfilling his request that I resign. I asked you to come here so that I may quit in person. You were an excellent employer, and I can only hope that you are willing to write a letter of recommendation."

Charlie was red. "Sarah, why is your husband stopping you now? Surely he knew before."

"He didn't." She replied shortly. "And I want a family one day, Charlie. You'll never be able to give me that. So maybe I need to quit and mend what I have broken."

Charlie, being… well, Charlie, didn't seem to agree. "You're making a mistake, baby doll." He drawled sleazily.

Andrea made her disgust known. Reed continued to run his thumb along her hand.

"A letter of recommendation will certainly be written." He promised, "I am disappointed to be losing you, Sarah, you were one of my finest. But I will not hold you back nor demand that you compromise your wishes. Whoever hires you next will be a lucky person."

Sarah nodded. Her eyes flicked briefly over to Andrea's. If Andrea didn't know better, she might have thought that the look Sarah sent her was approval.

"So that's it." Charlie declared, still unable to believe what had just occurred. "It's over."

"Yes." Sarah answered, voice even. "It was a pleasure."

And then the sound of her high heels against tile flooring faded away.

Andrea was impressed. Reed seemed disappointed to have lost a valuable employee. And Charlie looked absolutely livid.

"She'll come back." He muttered, stalking out of the office.

Andrea was left alone with Reed.

"Wow." She whistled lowly, "Didn't expect that."

"That's the thing about Sarah." Reed said, "She's unpredictable."

"I think given the chance I could have been great friends with her." Andrea said, surprised when the words slipped out of her mouth.

"I thought you didn't do friends?" Reed laughed, pulling over a leather chair from the boardroom and sitting in it, pulling Andrea by the hand into his lap.

"I didn't do plenty of things." She said, kissing his jaw line and eliciting a groan from him. He brought his hands to her hips and held her steadily. "I didn't like celebrities for starters." She continued, trailing kisses down his neck, "Or Reed Vance. Oh, he was an asshole." She pulled at the collar of his shirt, and kissed the exposed skin on his chest. "I didn't want to kiss him, let alone date him." She kissed his lips now.

Reed's hands moved from her hips to her cheeks. "That's a lie." He declared confidently.

"Forgive me your honor," She mocked him, "I didn't mean to withhold the truth"

Reed kissed her heatedly, arms moving down to her waist and holding her rather comfortably. And finally, when she thought she was unable to sustain her dizzying thoughts any longer, he pulled away.

"I still don't get the whole liking the Red Sox thing." He murmured into her hair. "But I can try to learn, one day."

"A Yankees fan crossing over to Sox nation?" Andrea questioned in disbelief. "Damn. Come on Vance, be a man. Only a cowardly woman would go from supporting the Yankees to supporting the Sox."

Reed grinned, amused. "What are you insinuating about your gender?" He asked.

"Nothing." She said, "But man up, Reed. Don't change which baseball team you support. That's madness."

Reed smirked now, pulling her by the hips so that she was sitting in his lap. "Good." He remarked, "Because the way I see it, when I am finished with you, you are going to be a diehard Yankees fan."

"Sure thing, Reed." She laughed. "I think you are underestimating how stubborn I can be."

"I don't think I can ever underestimate you." He disagreed. "I think you are underestimating my will to convert you."

"I don't think I can ever underestimate you." She mocked him. "I think we are going to have to omit baseball games from places to have dates."

"We'll see about that." Reed decided, bringing an end to their conversation.

Andrea leaned her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat.

"I love you." Reed said after a long silence.

"You're corny, you know that?" Andrea replied.

"You're a bitch, you know that?" He mimicked her.

She kissed him. "And you're an arrogant asshole."

"You-"

Andrea cut him off, pressing a finger to his lips. "I love you too, Reed Vance. And you are absolutely infuriating."

And so they sat in the large leather office chair, world famous celebrity and hot-tempered red head, smitten.

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Author's Note: Holy shit. It's finished? Epilogue up soon. MY NEW MAIN FOCUS will be Opposite Ends of The Spectrum. The prologue and first chapter are already up on my profile, feel free to check it out and or LEAVE A REVIEW ;)

Drop me a review for this MASSIVE chapter c: !