A Fight without Remorse
Not everything in life is a piece of cake. Sometimes you have to work hard and push your limits to reach your ultimate goal. Alex and Marc had been through a lot over the past year. Their hard work and persistence paid off, bringing them to where they were today.
Their relationship had its ups and downs, a seriously bumpy road. They had to traverse many obstacles. Obstacles requiring their rapt attention and efforts to overcome. Initially their reunion consisted of friendship. They both gave it their all to really get to know each other. Marcus continued his 'Friday tradition' of giving her notes, each one peeling back another layer of himself.
In return, Alexis wrote him letters revealing her own secrets to him. Alex still was gifted with seven beautiful roses every week. No matter how hard she begged, Marcus refused to capitulate, continuing to send her flowers. It was his way of telling her how much he did indeed love her and only her. She was his whole world.
Three months after she learned of his charitable foundation, she rehired Marcus as her executive assistant. They were quite the talk of the business world. The value of HEHG stock went up over 10% since they rekindled their business collaboration. The Henderson empire was expanding almost daily as plans for new hotels were being drafted. It seemed the sky was the limit with their success.
Today was a special day, however, and it had nothing to do with the company. They were celebrating the one year anniversary of their friendship. They were going on a date. It would be the first time, aside from the roses and the letters, they'd done anything remotely romantic. Alexis had absolutely no idea what Marcus had been up to, but she suspected something big.
They had grown so much closer over the past several months. She loved him with all her heart, even though she had never said the words out loud. Marcus told her every morning how much he loved her, yet she hadn't been able to respond in kind.
As silly as it felt, she was afraid. Afraid to bare her soul. Afraid the words would somehow make everything real. No matter how much she trusted Marc not to leave, there was still a tiny part of her that didn't quite trust that he wasn't playing her. Shane had destroyed her trust in men, Marcus had both built it up and torn it to shreds with his deception.
Even after so much time has passed, she hadn't fully overcome her trust issues, maybe she never would. The deep wounds were so imbedded in her psyche, she didn't know if those scars would ever be erased.
"You picked the perfect dress," Jade smiled cheekily as she stepped into the room and checked her sister out. Alex smiled and nodded. After endless hours of shopping, she finally found the dress. It was a strapless, deep sea blue gown that ended just above her knee. There was a small v-cut in the bustier of the dress, showing off a delicious amount of cleavage. It was the perfect outfit for their first official date.
Nerves were crackling through her body, gripping her heart and making her jittery with the need to do something – anything – but sit still. She was slowly, but surely going absolutely insane. Marcus hadn't dropped a single hint of where they would be going tonight. He'd only told her to wear a dress.
"Have you figured out what he's up to?" she questioned her sister, slipping on one of her four inch heels. They were the same color as her dress and matched the outfit perfectly.
"Nope, I only know it's something big," Jade winked, handing her a pair of silver earrings.
Alex accepted the jewelry and put them on. "What do you mean by something big?" she asked in confusion. She'd suspected they'd be going to some fancy restaurant for dinner. Maybe they'd go to the movies or a Broadway show afterward.
"Look, I don't know what Marcus has planned. All I know is that it's going to be spectacular. Apparently, he invested a lot of money in your little date night," Jade prompted.
"You do realize you're only making me more anxious, right?" Alex moaned in frustration, tapping her foot against the wooden floor. Her sister started to laugh and shook her head in amusement.
"It's not funny, Jayjay. Stop it already," she cried out, throwing her hands up in the air and screaming in annoyance.
"It's hilarious really. You should see yourself," Jade snorted, a broad smile covering her features. Alex sighed rather loudly, turning around and beginning to pace the room.
She peeked at the clock, her breath hitched momentarily when she realized Marcus would be there any minute. Her heart was hammering against her chest, beating so fast it had to be unhealthy.
Adrenaline was coursing through her veins, when a sudden knock on the door stopped her in her tracks. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. The words echoed through her mind. She threw a nervous glance at her sister who was currently giving her thumbs up. "Go on," she mouthed inaudibly.
Alexis nodded and slowly made her way towards the door, her hands shaking as she pushed the handle down. The door slid open, revealing a breathtaking Marcus, clad in an expensive looking tuxedo. She inhaled his spicy scent, the familiar smell hitting her olfactory nerve. The butterflies in her stomach came alive as their gazes locked. Time stood still.
She wanted nothing more than to jump into his arms and nestle herself against his solid chest. For the first time in months she gave in to the urge to be close to him and took a step forward. She carefully wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, satisfaction surging through her when Marcus pulled her tightly against his chest.
It had been much too long since he'd held her like that, too long since she felt entirely safe and comfortable. "You look absolutely gorgeous," he whispered in her ear, causing shivers to run through her spine. He pecked her cheek softly before he pulled back and took a step backward.
"Do you want to come inside?" she proposed, stepping aside so he could enter her apartment. Marcus shook his head and took hold of her hand to pull her with him.
"We need to leave before we're late," he smirked, waving one last time at Jade before closing the door.
"Late for what exactly?" she curiously asked, her eyes glinting with excitement. Marcus didn't answer her question as he lead her outside of the building towards their waiting limo.
"That's our ride?" she blurted out, her eyebrows raised. Marcus nodded, effectively shutting her up. The driver opened their door and helped her inside. As she sat down on the soft leather cushion her eyes widened when she took notice of the interior. There was a fridge filled with beverages, a large stereo, lights in the ceiling and lots of other stuff.
"I see you like it," Marcus whispered close to her ear, his breath caressing her skin. She inwardly shivered, shots of liquid fire streaming through every inch of her body.
"I love it," she replied softly, sounding slightly overwhelmed. She carefully leaned into him, her head resting on his shoulder. Marcus wrapped his arm tightly around her frame to pull her even closer. She sighed contently as she nestled her face in the crook of his neck.
The limousine suddenly took off. The scenery flew by as they drove towards their secret destination. Alexis desperately wanted to know where they were going, but decided for once in her life she would be patient. If Marcus wanted to surprise her, she wasn't going to ruin it for him.
"You look very handsome today," she admitted, a smile playing at her lips. A low chuckle came from deep within Marcus chest as he placed a feather light kiss on her temple.
"Hand tailored Italian suit, baby," Marcus smirked, winking flirtatiously. She rolled her eyes, her bright smile intact.
"I wouldn't have thought otherwise," she smiled, her fingers trailing up and down the buttons of his shirt. The sudden urge to pop them open one by one grew stronger. Damn it, their date hadn't even started and she was already imagining undressing him and getting him into her bed.
It seemed surreal. It felt like she was embarking on her very first date ever. She knew Marcus better than any other man on the planet. They had started a new chapter of their lives today. One she hoped would last forever.
The rest of the ride passed in silence, she nestled herself comfortably against Marcus hard, muscled body while she waited for the limousine to reach their destination. When the vehicle finally stopped, she raised her head to look through the darkened window. Her eyes widened in surprise when she realized they'd arrived at JFK airport.
She suddenly stilled in her seat. "I know how much you hate flying, but there's simply no other way to reach our destination," Marcus told her, a grin spreading across his lips. She turned her head towards him, her eyes catching his.
"Where are we going?" she repeated. Marcus feigned to zip his lips and throw the key away.
"My lips are sealed," he smirked before stepping out of the limousine and holding a hand out to help her. She rolled her eyes in annoyance, but accepted his help anyway. Guess she would find out when they checked in to get their tickets.
When Marcus lead her through the airport bypassing the lines, her eyes started to widen. "What are we doing?" she asked as he dragged her along.
"You ask way too many questions, my dear," he told her, not slowing for even a second. A few minutes later they arrived at an outlying gate leading to a private jet. Her eyes almost bulged out of their sockets.
"Marcus!" she stated furiously, not understanding what was going on. If there was one thing Alexis Johnson hated, it was the unknown.
Marcus grinned at her and shook his head. He fucking grinned at her. How dare he? She was boiling with fury when he suddenly pushed her forward towards the entrance that lead to their plane. "Better be quick so our flight isn't delayed," he smirked, that evil grin making another appearance.
Acting very much like a toddler, she angrily stomped her feet before following him towards the plane. "I'm going to get you back for this," she promised him, bumping into his side as she strolled past him.
"I'm counting on it, babe," he winked, the sultry tone of his voice not going unnoticed.
After several hours of a trouble free flight, the jet finally landed. She still had no clue where they were. There had been tons of food, beverages, books to read, a flat screen to watch a movie and even a private bedroom. Alex had always lived a luxurious life, but even she hadn't seen this much luxury in such a close proximity.
"Don't pout, in a few minutes we'll be back on solid ground," Marcus told her as they waited for the jet to taxi toward the gate. Alex couldn't wait to disembark after a flight lasting so many hours.
"Where are we?" she asked for the billionth time since they departed as she watched the sun shine through the small window. It was almost seven PM eastern time when they left New York. "Europe?" she guessed. It was now morning and they'd been on the plane for many hours. It was impossible that they were still in the states.
Marcus remained steadfast and silent. In a few minutes the secret would be out. Once she stepped inside the airport, she was bound to figure out where exactly they were.
Half an hour later, her eyes finally saw she'd been looking for. Charles Du Gaulle. Wait…that meant…Oh my gosh! "Paris!" she shrieked, quickly covering her mouth when she noticed people giving them weird looks.
Marcus grinned as he nodded. "Yup," he admitted, wrapping an arm around her waist to lead her toward the exit after going through customs.
"What on earth are we doing in Paris?" she questioned, still not believing she was really in France. Her mind could not wrap itself around the simple fact. It always had been her dream to go to France. The opportunity just never presented itself as she was always preoccupied with HEHG business.
"Having our first date," he teased, pecking her cheek casually as they strolled through the airport. She rolled her eyes.
"Really?" she said, feigning surprise. Marcus chuckled and playfully bumped her shoulder.
"Really," he agreed. Alex rolled her eyes for the umpteenth time at his ridiculous answer.
"You know, someday, your eyes are going to stay that way," he told her, smirking.
Alex didn't reply. She didn't see the need. If they were going to keep this up, they were, without doubt, going to have another fight by tonight. Over the past few months it had become clear they were each other's perfect match: both too stubborn for their own good and more hot-tempered than anyone she knew.
They were both extremely fervent, which often lead to intense and passionate fights. It often annoyed her that Marcus was too stubborn to give in, yet part of her enjoyed their heated exchanges. Life would be pretty boring without Marcus by her side.
"Bonjour, monsieur," a Frenchman smiled as Marcus stepped towards him. He was holding up a sign that read Mr. Jordan.
"Bonjour, vous êtes François? La personne que j'ai appelée? "Marcus questioned. His accent was pretty funny. He tried his best though.
"Qui, je suis François. Bienvenue à Paris," the man answered politely, before pointing at the exit of the building. He clearly didn't know any English words. Alexis smiled at him before following him towards the car, her hand still intertwined with Marcus'.
"Why did you ask if he was the person you called?" she asked softly, making sure no one but Marcus could hear her.
"He helped me to make a special arrangement," he grinned devilishly. At least she now knew where they were.
François lead them to a sleek black Mercedes that was parked in the taxi zone. He helped them put their suitcases in the trunk before returning to the front of the car and starting the engine. They drove off in silence. Alex wanted to fire thousands of questions, but she was too enthralled by their surroundings.
They drove past a bunch of beautiful ancient houses, the kind you only see in movies. She always wondered if they truly existed. In New York even the oldest buildings still looked quite modern. It was almost impossible to compare both cities. They were too different in many ways.
The car took another turn and suddenly they were driving alongside the Seine. The Eiffel tower looked to be approximately 400 feet from their location. Squealing excitedly, Alexis started pointing to France's most well-known landmark. Marcus grinned at her obvious enthusiasm and nodded his head.
"The Eiffel Tower was built for the World Exhibition in 1889, held in celebration of the 1789 French Revolution. The construction was only meant to last for the duration of the Exposition. Despite protests from contemporary artists who feared it's construction would be the advent of many without individuality, it still stands today. Today, despite what many people feared, there is no such aversion anymore among the Parisians. One could not imagine Paris without the Eiffel tower, it is itself synonymous with Paris, the city of light." A voice came blaring over the loud speakers.
Alexis smiled broadly when she noted François putting a CD into the stereo. The man was too kind and thoughtful.
"The man behind the Eiffel Tower was Gustave Eiffel, known from his revolutionary bridge building techniques, as employed in the great viaduct at Garabit in 1884. These techniques would form the basis for the construction of the Eiffel Tower. He was also known for the construction of the Statue of Liberty's iron framework. The structure took more than two years to complete. Each one of the nearly 12,000 iron pieces were designed separately to give them exactly the shape needed. All pieces were prefabricated and fit together using approx. 7 million nails."
"He's not going to put in another disk every time we drive past an important monument, right?" Alexis whispered softly, pulling at Marc' sleeve. She enjoyed learning new information about historic buildings, but she didn't need to know the entire story about each one of them. Otherwise she'd bought a culture book about Paris and its many ancient buildings and artifacts.
"Nah, don't worry about it," he smiled. She nodded before tensing when Marcus suddenly rested his hand on top of her thigh and squeezed her sensitive flesh. Her body was instantly on high alert, her heart beating steadily against her ribcage.
Marcus noticed the way her body strained and quickly removed his hand from her leg. She smiled gratefully. No matter how much she enjoyed Marcus touch, she didn't need the extra tension. Her hormones were already spinning out of control. If he kept that up, she probably would jump his bones. Over a year of not having sex did that. Her libido had skyrocketed.
"Oh, that's so sad. The Eiffel tower will be closed today. I was looking forward to walking all those stairs!" Alex pouted as they stopped in front of the monument. The ground underneath the tower was fenced off due to some private event. A sign read that the monument would be up for visiting again by 7am the next day.
"How unfortunate," Marcus stated calmly. She turned her head to the side and gave him a weird stare. He could have at least acted unhappy. She'd been giddy with the thought of reaching the monument's summit. One she'd only ever seen in pictures and postcards. Marcus acted like it was no big deal. Who would spend the money to visit Paris and avoid the Eiffel Tower?
"You didn't want to stop?" Alex asked, sounding incredulous and slightly incensed. Marcus tried showing his serious face before bursting into laughter. She cocked her head to the side and looked at him as if he'd gone crazy.
"Oh, my sweet little kitty cat," he grinned, before opening the car door and stepping outside. She followed him, still not understanding what the hell was going on that seemed to be so funny.
"Good morning, Mr. Jordan," a woman clad in a tight suit smiled as she walked closer to them and nodded politely at François. "This lovely young woman is your girlfriend, I presume?" she said with a bright smile as she shook Marcus' hand.
"Alexis Johnson," she introduced herself as the woman turned to face her. The French lady was quite beautiful. Were it not for a few wrinkles on her otherwise perfect features, Alex would've guessed her to be in her late twenties.
"Marie Lefevre," the woman said as she shook her hand. "Welcome to Paris' most precious asset," she stated fluently. It was clear she had been well-educated in English. Her accent was barely noticeable.
"I hope you had an enjoyable flight," she said as she started to walk towards the fences. Marcus took Alex hand in his and followed the woman.
"We were lucky, very little turbulence," Marcus replied when they halted at the gap between two fences.
"That's good to hear," Marie smiled as she waved her hand to the opening. "Feel free to enter whenever you want. Breakfast will be served in an hour." Marcus nodded and smiled gratefully.
"Uhm, what does she mean?" Alex questioned dumbfounded once Marie was out of earshot.
"I rented the Eiffel tower for the day," Marcus deadpanned as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Alex stood still as a statue, her eyes wide as saucers, "You what?" she cried out.
"I rented the Eiffel tower for the day," Marcus repeated, grinning like a six year old that had just gotten a lollipop.
"That's what I thought you said," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. As if traveling by private jet wasn't lavish enough, she now understood why Jade hinted that Marcus spared no expense for their date.
"Why on earth would you rent the Eiffel tower?" Alex asked once the shock wore off. She couldn't believe it. Honestly, she hadn't even known it was possible to rent the notorious monument. Given the right amount of money, it was possible to buy almost anything, she guessed. "You don't like it," Marc suddenly stated, the broad smile vanishing from his face, the lollipop taken away.
"I didn't say that," she hastily corrected before giving him the wrong idea. It was an incredibly generous gesture. His thoughtfulness made her fall in love with him all over again. Honestly, he hadn't needed to take such extravagant measures. She would have been just as happy had he taken her to McDonalds for a Big Mac and a milkshake. It didn't matter what he did, she loved him all the same. He didn't have to take her to the other side of the world to make her happy, being with him was enough.
"You can't know how much I love that you went to such lengths to surprise me and make me happy," she explained, choosing her words carefully. Hurting Marcus' feelings was the last thing she wanted to do but he needed to know that he needn't have spent so much money to impress her. "You could've taken me to a lake to go fishing and I'd have been over the moon. Sure the atmosphere is spectacular, Marcus, but it's who you're with that makes or breaks a date," she clarified with a smile.
"I just wanted to see the look on your face when I told you we had the Eiffel tower all to ourselves for the rest of the day," Marcus pouted, taking her hand in his and intertwining their fingers.
"You're too adorable for your own good, you know that?" she laughed as she shook her head.
"Adorable?" Marcus repeated, affronted. "I'm a man and men are not adorable, kitty cat. We're handsome, sexy or simply amazing, but we are not - ever – adorable." She let out a girlish giggle and squeezed the dimples in his cheeks.
"Whatever you say, sweetie," she winked. Marcus gave her a warning glance that only made her laugh harder. "Now, when are we going to climb the tower?" she asked impatiently once her laughter died.
"Whenever you are ready, my love," he smiled as he pulled her forward. They took the elevator to the first floor. No matter how much Alex pouted, Marc wouldn't let her take the stairs. Apparently, she'd be exhausted shortly after beginning their ascent. She would need to conserve her energy to survive the day and his plans for the night.
The view from the first floor observation deck was breathtaking. Alex could barely imagine how amazing the horizon would be once they reached the highest level. She had never been in such up this high before and couldn't believe her eyes. It was the most exhilarating experience of her life.
She'd debated more than once whether or not she wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building. Her fear of elevators always kept her from doing just that. Maybe if Marcus accompanied her, she'd feel more confident and relaxed when they arrived on the viewing platform.
"It's incredibly beautiful," she stated aloud, her voice filled with awe. Below them she could see boats small as ants sailing the waters of the Seine. People were barely visible and cars seemed smaller than baby ants. It was a sight she would never forget. She captured all kinds of images on her brand new iPhone 5S.
"It most certainly is," Marcus agreed sultry. The hint of lust in his voice didn't go unnoticed. Immediately, she cocked her head to the side, only to meet his lusty stare.
"I meant the view," she teased, pointing in front of her. Marcus grinned before pulling her close and placing a soft peck on her lips.
"I prefer this view," he whispered seductively in her ear before stepping back and rearranging his wrinkled suit.
Alex couldn't help the bright smile that curled her lips upward, nor the soft blush that now colored her already rosy cheeks. "Smooth talker," she told him, stepping back and walking towards the elevator.
"Just stating the obvious," Marcus retorted with a wink. She shook her head and tried to hide the shy smile that spread across her features. She always got incredibly uncomfortable when someone complimented her that freely.
"Ready for breakfast?" he asked her as they stepped inside the large elevator. It could easily carry a dozen of people. She nodded, not entirely sure what he was getting at. She'd heard Marie mention something about breakfast as well.
A minute later they arrived at the second floor of the tower. As she stepped outside the elevator, her breath caught in her throat once she noticed a small table covered with croissants, Belgian chocolates, freshly squeezed orange juice, a variety of cheeses and champagne. "No way," she blurted out as she eyed the table filled with delicacies.
"Yes way," Marcus grinned as he stepped closer to the table, pulling her chair back so she could sit down.
"Have you completely lost your freaking mind?" she questioned rhetorically as she sat down, her eyes glancing at the array of scrumptious foods. Her mouth watered as the aromas bombarded her senses, she was practically drooling to partake.
"You like it?" Marcus asked softly, sounding a tad unsure. He looked adorable, like a small boy who'd given his first love a present. She desperately wanted to pinch his cheeks, he looked that cute.
"I love it," she told him truthfully, a bright smile radiating her features. Marcus nodded, leaning back in his chair as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Smiling, Alexis took a bite of the croissant and closed her eyes in satisfaction. It tasted absolutely divine, much better than anticipated.
"You have quite an appetite," Marcus grinned as she stuffed her mouth full with food. She nodded, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment realizing she been shoveling food in her mouth as if she were a starving naif.
"Sorry," she quickly apologized after swallowing the food down. Her manners had disappeared after their long transatlantic flight.
"Don't be. It's wonderful to see you enjoying your food. Too many people these days are constantly on some kind of diet," Marcus smiled as he took a sip of his champagne.
Keenly aware of Marcus' nervous habits of toe tapping and fiddling with his shirt buttons, Alexis curiously asked "Is there something wrong?" before reaching across the table to take his hand in hers.
Marcus laughed nervously and shook his head. "Not at all," he assured her as he squeezed her hand.
"Then why do you look like you're about to give a speech in front of a multitude?" she retorted, smiling victoriously when she saw his eyes downcast. He didn't know what to say anymore. She'd rendered him speechless for the first time in the two years they had known each other.
"There's something I want to give you," he confessed, swallowing the lump in his throat as he fingered what he had hidden in his jacket pocket. Her eyebrows lifted in confusion as she watched him take a small box out of his coat.
She struggled to breath once he opened the tiny box to reveal a sparkling gold and diamond ring. "Don't worry, I know you're far from ready for that," Marcus laughed nervously as he eyed her shocked face.
"With this ring, I promise to love and remain faithful to you. We have come so far this past year, much farther than I ever dared to dream. There have been moments I thought for sure I had lost you, yet your forgiving heart surprised me time and time again. I screwed up more than once, but you've been incredibly patient with me. No matter what happens in the future, no matter how many obstacles we will face, I will always love you. I will be at your side to pick up the pieces when something goes wrong or to share your happiness when something good happens.
You are the most valuable and precious woman I have ever met and I promise I will do everything in my power to make you happy. Legally binding or not, you are stuck with me, Johnson. I'm not leaving you. You'll have to kill me first," Marcus pledged, holding his hand above his heart as he looked her straight in the eye.
His sincerity melted her heart. "I love you," she whispered, her voice hoarse and filled with emotion.
"God, you have no idea how long I've waited to hear you say that," Marcus breathed out, an ear to ear smile spreading across his face.
"Let's take a detour to Vegas on our way home," Alex suddenly stated, her confidence growing stronger when she noticed the perplexed look across Marcus' face.
"You want that legally signed paper or not?" she grinned as his mouth opened and closed silently.
"I imagined this moment differently," Marcus choked. "Isn't it supposed to be me who proposes?" he added, his mouth slightly agape.
"When have we ever done anything traditionally? This is our first date for crying out loud and we've already slept together many times," she stated, making a point. "So Marcus, baby, will you marry me?"
"Only if you'll allow me to slip this ring onto your finger," he smirked as he took her hand in his and slipped it on. "I still can't believe you asked me to marry you," he stated after a solid minute of staring at her finger that now held his beautiful ring.
"Believe me, neither can I," Alexis sighed softly as they both silently stared at her left hand. It hasn't always been easy, but she truly believed they were going to make it. In the beginning they had fought like blood thirsty lions. See how far they've come, a ring on her finger and a plane ready to drop them off in Vegas. Hallelujah.
This was the final part of Marcus and Alexis' story. There won't be a sequel. On the bright side, I am currently writing the second book in the Henderson Empire Series. The book will follow the lives of Jade and Sedric. Alexis will make an appearance in the book, but she is not the main character.
I want to thank all of you who have supported me along the way. Without my faithful readers I couldn't have done this.
Hopefully, I will see all of you back when I start publishing Crossing Paths. The first chapter will be up soon.
Last chance to show me some love: review! It's very much appreciated.