Knight In Shining Armor

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Gareth looked exhausted. Dark circles ringed his eyes; his hair appeared disheveled though she wondered if it was intentional for the look suited him. He always did have that bad boy charm about him, though this time it did nothing for Riley.

"Gareth, what are you doing here? Everyone's looking for you," she exclaimed.

"I didn't bring my charger, so my phone's dead," Gareth said. "Can I come in?"

Riley stepped aside, and he walked past her and into the apartment. She shut the door behind him and leaned against it. He turned around to face her, and Riley wondered what he wanted to talk about, or if he wanted something else. She became suddenly conscious that she was wearing only a thin T-shirt with matching pajama bottoms and no bra, and hugged her arms defensively to her chest.

"Did Paige tell you what happened?" she asked, hoping that the answer would be in the negative. "Is that why you're here?"

"What about Paige?" he asked, alarmed. "Are the boys all right?"

"Nothing," she said, shaking her head. "The boys are fine. I know about them, Gareth. I know they're yours and not Clint's. I also know that it was Clint who had me moved out of the apartment three years ago, not you nor Paige. He was the one who left me the money."

"I know," Gareth said, frowning. "Collette no longer works for me. I fired her as soon as I found out."

"Did she tell you?"

"I overheard her telling Clint yesterday morning that she'd kept the rest of the money as her babysitting fee. I guess he just found out, too, and had to make sure. She said something about leaving 'Gareth's girlfriend twenty grand,' and I didn't need to hear any more," he said, sighing. "Riley, I honestly had no idea that Clint and Collette were behind all this. If I'd known—" he took a step toward her and stopped. "Could you put on a robe or something? I see that you got your nipples pierced. Looks great, by the way."

Riley glared at him before walking past him and grabbing her robe from the bathroom and slipping it on. It was so like Gareth to say it and probably why she wasn't as horrified as she should have been.

She gestured to him to sit down, choosing to perch on the short part of her L-shaped couch while Gareth sat on the longer side, although they were still close enough for their knees to almost touch. Riley thought how Gareth would have touched her thigh if they had still been together. He was always touching her, just to let her know that he was there. It was one of the things she had missed the most when he'd left, which had driven her to use drugs to numb the empty feeling every night when she went to sleep, and again every morning when she got up. But it had been three years since he'd touched her that way and she had become used to being alone until Ashe had come into her life.

"I'm sorry for everything, Riley," Gareth said. "All this time, I really thought you were fine. You never answered my letters when I was filming Hell's Kingdom. Collette told me that you had already moved out of the apartment by the time she got to New York, and I had no reason not to believe her. Then I got busy with my career, but I should have checked on you. I should have at least called to see-"

"I don't care anymore about what happened between us, Gareth," she said. "What I want to know is why you and Paige did what you did. Two weeks ago, I heard you tell her you loved her. Have you loved her all this time? Was it Paige you really wanted from the beginning? If you came all the way here from Nashville to apologize to me, at the risk of getting fired from your movie, at least, answer me that."

He exhaled and rubbed his temples. "All I wanted to know was why she kicked you out of your apartment, and why she left you that money. I thought it must have been Paige—had to be. That's the only reason I went to see her. I swear, Riley, but even there, even with the best intentions, I fucked up." He cradled his head in his hands. "But then, when have I ever not screwed up?"

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