Chapter Two

There were a lot of things that Ben had expected to see when he had agreed to meet Josh's fiancé for dinner. But Thea Flores, the one person he had worked so hard to forget, standing not two feet away from him was definitely not one of them.

Surprises, it seemed, were just being stacked right on top of each other lately. And watching her take one look at him and crumple to the ground at his brothers feet had just put the icing on the cake.

From his kneeling position next to his brother, he studied the woman that Josh was desperately trying to wake while a memory of her in that exact position, her face pale, and blood in a puddle around her filled his mind. Shaking his head, he pushed it aside. That was another time, another place, and a completely different situation. And remembering it, he knew, would do him no good at all.

Bringing himself back to the present, he studied her closely. She lay still on the floor, looking as though she were simply asleep. No blood was pooled around her, but her face was pale and her breathing regular. She had cut her hair, he realized. Her soft ebony tresses caressed the curve of her neck, tickling at her jaw. Her eyes remained closed but he knew that when they opened they would reveal light hazel orbs. His eyes tracked down to the rest of her and locked on her left hand, zeroing in on the square cut diamond on her ring finger.

Ben felt his jaw crack.

There had to be a mistake. Surely fate could not be that cruel?

"Ben, what are you doing? Call an ambulance." His brother's frantic voice pulled him from his study of the woman that was no longer his. At the thought, Ben felt something stir in his already clenched stomach.

Shaking himself from his thoughts, Ben moved closer. "Lean back, give her some room." As if Ben's voice had summoned her from her stupor, a low groan came from her lips. Automatically Josh moved closer.

"She's coming around…"

The voice sounded muffled and hazy to Thea's muddled brain. She blinked her eyes groggily, trying to bring the scene if front of her into focus. When her vision began to clear, she caught sight of Josh's worried expression hovering above her. Shaking her head she pushed herself up from her laying position on the hard wood floor.

"Easy, baby. Go slow." Josh said quietly, helping her into a sitting position.

Putting a hand to her throbbing head she glanced around, seeing that she was currently sitting on the floor of Credo's with a bunch of curious eyes focused on her. She felt embarrassed color flood her cheeks. "What happened?" She asked.

"You fainted on us."

"Fainted?" She asked in surprise. Fainted? She had never fainted in her life. Except when… but that didn't count, that was completely different. She shrugged the thought away and looked toward Josh.

Josh nodded in assent, smoothing her hair. "You took one look at Ben, sputtered something, and the next thing we knew you were on the floor."

As soon as Ben's name sprouted from Josh's lips the color fled from her cheeks, leaving her pale once more. Glancing up she zeroed in on the cause of her fainting episode. He stood off to the side of Josh, his face completely composed.

"You gave us quite a scare."

At the sound of his voice, Thea felt heat flood through her body as a hundred memories flashed through her mind. Benjamin Lawrence. What the hell was he doing here? She wondered frantically once again. She tried to get up from her position on the floor, allowing Josh to help her stand.

"Why don't we go to the hospital? You're still looking a little pale, Thea." He said, concerned.

But Thea didn't hear. She couldn't pull her eyes away from the man standing next to her fiancé. He looked exactly the same as she remembered, and yet so different. "What are you doing here?" She asked, finally voicing her frenzied thoughts.

Ben inclined his head slightly, his expression never changing and thus remaining completely neutral. "I could ask you the same question."

"I live here," She said firmly. "And you didn't answer my question. Why are you here? You have no reason to be."

Josh's brow puckered as he looked from his brother to his fiancé. "You two know each other?"

But again he was ignored.

"Actually I do have a reason to be here. I came here to see who my baby brother was marrying. Let me tell you, I didn't expect this." He gestured briefly with his hand, giving a short humorless chuckle.

"Baby brother? What are you talking about?" She asked, confused. She felt a headache beginning to form at her temples.

But before Ben could respond Josh stepped forward, his hands held up. "Okay, hold it. What's going on here?" He looked from the two of them again. "How the hell do you two know each other?"

Ben's eyes never left Thea as he replied, "We used to-"

But before he could finish, Thea did the job herself. "Work together. Back in New Orleans. Right, Ben?"

There was the slightest hesitation before Ben answered, "Right." He glanced at his brother, silently asking himself why he was lying for her. "We used to work together." He finished.

Surprise registered on Josh's face. "Wow. Small world, huh?"

Thea looked back at Ben. "You have no idea."

At Josh's persistence, they skipped dinner and went to his and Thea's apartment instead. And to Thea's dismay, Ben followed.

The entire ride, Thea sulked while immersed in memories she had long tried to forget. For four years she had tried her hardest to forget Ben Lawrence. And just when she had finally pushed him to the back of her mind, since it had became obvious very quickly that she couldn't forget him no matter how hard she tried, here he was again. And all the progress she had thought she had made seemed to have gone up in smoke.

When they finally arrived at their apartment complex, she couldn't get out of the car and up the stairs fast enough. She wanted answers, and she wanted them now. There had to be a reasonable explanation for all of this.

She opened the door and, not waiting for the men to follow, walked right into the living room. Dropping her purse onto the leather couch filled with throw pillows, she turned and placed her hands on her hips as the men filed into the room. Josh looked confused and Ben, as usual, indifferent.

But she barely took notice and instead demanded, "Somebody needs to explain. Now."

"Baby I know you're surprised, so am I. And though I'm not sure as to why you're so upset, maybe we should worry about this later. You still look a little pale."

Because of his concern, Thea couldn't bring herself to snap at him and instead softened. "I'm fine. Too much work and not enough sleep, I guess." She lied. "I'd really rather know what Ben meant when he said he was here to see who his little brother is marrying."

Though he didn't look convinced, Josh sighed. "Fine," he conceded. "But I'm going to order some pizza first. You should at least eat something." Figuring it was best to be content with that, Thea waited as he picked up the phone to order.

Since she wouldn't meet his eyes and, in all honesty, he wouldn't meet hers either Ben settled for studying the room he was currently in. The walls were a color a little darker than cantaloupe and the floors were covered by a thick beige rug. In the center of the room a leather couch and matching recliner sat, both covered with pillows that matched the walls and floor. And in the center, courtesy of his brother he was sure, was a large flat screen TV that took up most of the wall it was in front of.

When Josh put the phone down and came to stand next to him once more, Ben brought his attention back to the people in the room. When Thea raised an eyebrow, he shrugged. "I don't see what's so hard to understand. I came here to see why my brother, Josh, would have it in his mind to get married and to whom."

"And I don't understand what you mean by Josh being your brother." She replied, equally snippily.

"Well, you see sometimes parents decide to have another child after their firstborn and sometimes they both happen to be boys. Hence the term brothers."

She narrowed her eyes. "There's really no need to be a smartass."

Knowing by her tone that things were on their way toward dangerous territory, Josh stepped in. "Ben and I are brothers. Half brothers if you want to be technical," he continued. "We have different dads, which is why we have different last names."

Thea settled herself down on the couch and knowing she wanted to know more Ben followed suit, opting for the chair instead of the seat next to her. "My biological dad died when I was four. Line of duty, he was a cop." Not waiting for a response Ben leaned back in the chair and continued, "My mom was devastated. My dad's partner was there to help her through- completely platonically at first. My dad and Phil were best friends and he was just as devastated as my mom was. So they took comfort in each other." He shrugged. "Then things changed, became more serious. They fell in love and got married." He jerked his thumb over toward Josh. "Then this thing came along."

Josh rolled his eyes. Thea smiled and realization dawned on her as it occurred to her. "So you kept your dads last name." She concluded, looking at Ben for confirmation.

He nodded. "Yeah. My mom never wanted to make me feel as though she were replacing my dad in anyway, so she let me keep his last name. I guess as a way to let me know my dad would always be my dad. Phil respected her for the decision, and so do I."

Secretly she did as well, but she said nothing and instead raised an eyebrow. "And you didn't think you should have told me about this?"

Ben mirrored her expression. "I didn't think that telling my co-worker my family history was necessary." He deadpanned.

Shifting uncomfortably and having no choice but to agree, she nodded. "Right."

At that moment, the door bell rang. Josh popped up from his seat next to her. "That's the pizza. I'll be right back."

When Josh and the delivery guy's voice rang though the silence, Ben turned to her. He crossed his arms over his chest. "So tell me, Thea. Why am I lying to my brother?"

"You think telling him the truth is better?"

"And lying to him is?"

She glared. "Look, I'd rather not complicate things. That part of our lives is over, I'd really rather keep it that way."

Though he looked like he wanted to disagree, he leaned back on his heels. "Whatever you want."

Before she could answer, Josh walked back in with a box balanced on is hands and an oblivious grin on his face. "Who's ready to eat? I'm starving."

Thea hurried into the office the next morning, more glad to be in work than she had ever been in her entire life. She was glad to be out of the house, she didn't think she could stand being there any longer. She had survived last night, barely, but when she had gotten up this morning fate had decided that it obviously wasn't finished with her.

And, not being able to take anymore at the moment, she had escaped to the office at first opportunity. And she was hoping to put last night completely out of her mind for a few hours, at least. But her hopes proved to be dashed the moment she stepped into her cubicle.

"You fainted?" She turned to look at her very surprised looking best friend and didn't bother to wonder how she had found out. Josh couldn't keep that big mouth of his closed for more than two minutes.

"I think I'm going to sew his mouth shut before we hit our first anniversary." She decided as she stored her purse in her desk drawer.

Leila rounded the half cubicle wall and leaned lazily on the post, a coffee cup in hand as usual. "Oh don't be mad at him. You know he can't help it. Besides, he was really worried about you. That bullshit about exhaustion really had him concerned."

Thea paused while booting up her computer to frown at Leila. "What do you mean bullshit? People faint from being overworked and exhausted all the time."

Leila shot her a bland look. "Thea. How long have I known you? Forever. You don't faint because you're tired or overworked. So spill."

Thea sighed. She should have known it would be pointless to try and spin the same, hah, bullshit to Leila as she did to Josh. She considered lying for a minute but figured Leila would probably see through it anyway. And who knew? It might help to get it off her chest.

Thea sighed and took Leila's coffee cup, taking a large gulp. She was going to need as much caffeine as possible for this.

"What if I told you that I just found out that my ex, whom I was madly in love with, is Josh's half-brother. Who is also, by the way, now staying in my apartment until further notice to 'help' prepare for my wedding. To Josh. His brother."

Leila started to laugh but stopped when Thea didn't join in. "Holy shit. You're serious."

"As cancer."

Leila glanced around the office, making sure no bosses were around, and sat down on the corner of her best friend's desk. "Tell me."

So she did. She explained in detail, as demanded from Leila, about the minute she saw Ben to the minute she convinced him to lie to Josh about their past.

"Wait, wait, wait. You lied to Josh?" Leila asked.

"Well what was I supposed to do, tell him the truth?" Thea demanded. "That part of our lives is over. It makes no sense to drudge up any old feelings or memories when it's already done and over with. So, I'd really rather just leave it all in the past where it belongs."

Though in her opinion, if her and Ben were really done and over with it wouldn't have affected her best friend so much in the first place, but Leila said nothing. She doubted her best friend would listen anyway. Remembering something Thea had said Leila furrowed her brows in confusion. "Wait a minute. You said Ben was staying at your apartment? How did that happen?"

Thea sighed. "Well…"

Thea woke up that morning feeling groggy and a bit like she had a dull hangover. Rubbing her head, she sat up in bed and looked over to see Josh already gone. A note lay on his pillow. Leaning on her forearm, she reached over and grabbed the folded piece of paper. On it she read, "Had to be in office early. Didn't want to wake you but we need to talk later. I hope you feel better. Love you."- written in Josh's messy chicken scratch.

Smiling, she laid the note back on the pillow before getting up to stretch. Only then did she remember why she would need to feel better in the first place. Ben. After they had eaten dinner, Josh had cajoled Ben into staying the night at their apartment and she had snuck off as soon as possible.

Needless to say she didn't get much sleep, cornered by thoughts and memories.

She hoped Ben had already left so she would finally be able to get some peace and, being too chicken to peek outside to check, Thea gathered what she needed and tiptoed to the bathroom.

When she got there safely, she made sure not to close the door all the way and instead turned the sign on the door over so it read occupied. The doorknob had a tendency every so often to get stuck and then you were completely screwed, seeing as it only opened from the outside. Their landlord though, no matter how many times Thea and Josh bugged the old man, never seemed to find the time to fix the damned thing. She just hoped Josh reminded his brother- she still couldn't get over the idea- about the doorknob. She didn't think she could handle an unexpected run-in with her houseguest at the moment.

Especially since she was currently in nothing but her underwear.

When she finally crept out of the bathroom again, her hopes were instantly dashed when she saw him standing in front of the coffee pot, naked from the waist up. At the stir in her stomach, Thea seriously considered sneaking down the fire escape.

Calling herself an ass, she forced herself to walk into the kitchen. Getting a mug down for herself she muttered a good morning. With something close to a grunt, Ben watched bleary eyed as the coffee dripped drop by stingy drop into the pot. When it was finally ready he poured both of them a cup, still not uttering a word. He instantly felt better when the first drops of caffeine were in his system. She stared into her coffee cup as though the cure to cancer were outline in the liquid.

Watching her as another moment passed in silence, Ben rolled his eyes. "This is stupid." She glanced up and raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow again and he continued, "It's ridiculous to sit here and say no more than two words to each other. We're both adults, we should be able to act like it. Especially if I'm going to be staying here for a while."

At that her shoulders snapped back in attention. "What do you mean you'll be staying here for a while?"

"Josh asked me to stay, to help out with the wedding plans. I said yes. We haven't seen each other in a while and I could use a vacation."

She placed her mug on the counter with a snap. "So go to the Bahamas."

A smirk flirted around his mouth. "Don't want me here, Thea?"

She huffed out a breath. "Am I that obvious?"

He placed his mug on the counter as she did and walked over to her so he stood no more than a few inches from her. She backed into the counter but he didn't move. "Well you'd better learn to be a bit more hospitable, 'cause I'm not going anywhere."

She glared at him, placing a hand against his bare chest to give him a nudge back. Her glare deepened when the action only proved to cause warmth in her hand. "This is my apartment and I don't want you here."

He smiled, slowly. "Well hopefully you'll have a change of heart, darling sister-in-law." He leaned back and walked toward the bathroom, calling an 'I'll see you later' over his shoulder leaving her with nothing to do but hope he forgot about the doorknob and got locked in the bathroom.

Just remembering the night before and this morning proved to bring on a headache, but now voicing it all out to Leila just caused all of her frustrations and nerves to bubble to the surface again. They had taken a walk outside while she had retold to events from earlier and letting out a groan, Thea plopped onto the cement steps. "Gah, this sucks. I mean it really sucks." She threw her hands up. "Everything was going great, you know? I finally thought I had moved on and now he comes back and just..."

"Throws a monkey wrench into it all?"

Thea's shoulders slouched. "Yeah. I seriously thought I was over him Leila. For good. But seeing him again…"

"Makes you wonder if you really are." She guessed.

"God, this sucks." Thea said as a means of agreement.

Leila stared at her friend for a moment. She took in the hunched shoulders and pouting face and with a shake of her head, hopped off the steps. "Okay, snap out of it." Thea's eyes snapped up to her and Leila narrowed her own orbs. "You love Josh, right?"

Even with her depressed mood, she managed to roll her eyes. "I did agree to marry the guy."

Ignoring the sarcasm, Leila nodded. "Exactly. And if you really, truly love and want to marry him then just because your ex walked back into your life, half-brother of your fiancé or not, doesn't mean you should second guess that." Leila pointed one long manicured nail at her. "So stop this sulking bullshit and shake it off." Leila shook back her shoulders as though in demonstration. "You're going to marry Josh. Whether this Ben guy likes it or not. And that's that."

Thea laughed. "You're the best Leila."

She grinned. "I know. Now let's get back to work."

Leila was right. She was going to marry Josh and that was that. She wasn't going to let Ben act as her monkey wrench. And if he tried, well, then she'd just lock him in the bathroom until further notice.

A.N: I know it took me a while to update. Life, as usual, got in the way : P But what do you think so far? Review please.