Uncut: White Flame-8

Fight Love… Must Fight Love Even As She Burns

Audrie’s distracted silence ended when she looked outside the car’s window and saw the long row of opulent houses on both sides of the quiet streets.

If she saw Sean’s townhouse as well as his residential home, she’d have more memories to erase from her mind.

The Talbot’s garden alone would surely give her a lot of nightmarish dreams…

She felt hot and cold at the same time.

“Please, turn around,” she said agitatedly. “I — I can fix myself in a public toilet.”

“You need to change your clothes as well.”

There was a lace of distaste in the sharp glance that he threw her way.

“You smell like a cheap bar girl.”

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Audrie bit her tongue when shame overcame her again.

Sean would never let her forget how immoral she behaved last night.

Every time they see each other, he would torment her with hurting words.

For just a few moments of indiscretion, she would suffer and be punished for as long as she lived!

“Do I have to carry you?” Sean’s sarcastic words broke into Audrie’s deep thoughts.

“Huh! No — No, of course not.” Audrie fumbled for the door’s knob clumsily.

A muscular arm shot across her front to open the door for her.

“Thank you.” She flinched away when she felt the warmth of his body.

Her first instinct was to lean towards him and to experience his embrace once again.

She hid her burning face as she scrambled to get off the car.

She’d die if Sean could read her mind.

“Follow me,” Sean muttered tersely, striding towards a white-washed townhouse with hanging orchids along the short pathway.

Blindly, she followed his footsteps.

“Can you manage in fifteen minutes?” He pulled out a bunch of shiny keys from his pocket.

She just nodded. The desire to learn more about the man who owns her heart overcame her awkwardness.

She couldn’t stop her eyes from looking around the plush interior of the modern-styled living room.

She was not an art enthusiast but she could tell a fine painting with an exorbitant price tag even from a distance.

Sean’s mother is an avid antique collector.

Leila Talbot’s painting collection is also well-known.

“You’ll find whatever you need in here. The bathroom’s at the left side,” Sean said in a clipped tone, as he pushed open a door.

Before Audrie could speak, he was already gone.

Sighing, she cautiously entered the bedroom.

She averted her eyes to avoid looking at the king-sized bed but the large painting beside it caught her attention.

It was a life-sized portrait of her sister.

Audrie froze as she stared at Anne’s beautiful face and lovely body.

Looking like a pagan goddess in white transparent gown, Anne could captivate any man effortlessly.

‘Sean is yours. I know that, Anne,’ she whispered to herself before turning away to go the bathroom.

Seeing Anne’s portrait was like a douse of ice water on Audrie’s soul.

She felt cold but strangely calm. Her mind became suddenly blank.

She moved automatically — washing her hands and face, combing her long hair and tying it with a handkerchief, and straightening her rumpled clothes.

She still looked mildly disheveled but more like her old self.

The bathroom has an adjoining walk-in closet with a glass door.

From where she was standing, Audrie recognized some of Anne’s clothes hanging inside.

There were also shoes and other personal things.

Audrie realized that Sean expected her to borrow some of Anne’s things to ‘fix’ her appearance.

Audrie shook her head as she tidied the bathroom sink and counter.

Wearing Anne’s purple dress last night had given her the worst experience she’d ever had.

There’s no way she’d repeat that mistake again!

Sean was standing by one of the tall windows of the elegant living room, holding a glass of whisky in one hand, when Audrie saw him.

“I’m ready to go,” she said quietly.

The calmness she found while looking at Anne’s portrait seemed long-lasting because she was able to look at Sean’s face without flinching.

Sean looked at her appearance but did not make any comment.

“Sit down.”

“No. I’d like to go home.”

He ignored her and sat down on one of the couches scattered around.

He laid his head against the plump backrest as though feeling very tired.

“I’ll just take a taxi.”

“The door’s locked,” Sean said without moving.

“Will you come over here or do you want me to fetch you?”

It was a threat even when uttered without emotion.

Audrie had no choice but to obey so she chose to sit on the farthest chair from him.

Sean’s eyes were closed so she let herself stare at him. A peculiarly serene silence reigned for several minutes.

For the first time since last night, the air that surrounded them was not charged with electrifying tension and animosity.

Anne’s presence in the townhouse must have acted like a sedative to both of them. Audrie shook her head.

Anytime soon, she’d be returned inside the vortex of fiery emotions she felt only for Sean — and she must fight them even when she burns.

“Anne and I used to come here every weekend.”

Sean suddenly broke the strangely peaceful silence.

His eyes were now open but seemed sightless as he stared at the intricate molding designs on the ceiling.

“We’re happy whenever we’re together. She hates cooking because she doesn’t like eating much. She believes that cooked food will just destroy her lovely figure so she eats only fresh salads. Surely you know that. She’s your sister.”

Audrie nodded. She wanted to hear more even when she’s starting to feel pain again.

Sean didn’t see her nod but continued on talking.

“Anne was ecstatic when she got the New York project. It was a dream come true. I asked her to marry me before she went but she declined. She said she didn’t want to be unfair. She wanted to be a full-time wife when we married so she must finish her project first.”

Sean laughed briefly, as though laughing at his own foolishness.

There was an underlying bitterness in his tone when he resumed.

“That was two years ago. Every time her contract ends, I offer my marriage proposal. And she always asked me to wait.”

Audrie was dying to ask how he persuaded Anne to accept his proposal this time but she remained silent.

Sean seemed talking to himself only.

“I’m planning to run for re-election and I need a wife by my side. The novelty of having a bachelor mayor has worn off. The people of Love City wanted to see a leader with a stable family life.”

He laughed again but still without amusement.

“So I put the heat on Anne for about one month then gave her an ultimatum. It was the most unromantic proposal and Anne doesn’t deserve it — but I am getting desperate. I’m afraid her career might destroy her love for me so I wanted to put my stake on her. I can’t let her go. Since we were kids, I dreamed of marrying her someday…”

Audrie’s heart went out to him. She could feel his desperation, his sorrow, and his fear of losing his only love.

“Do you think she’ll marry me…?”

Audrie did not realize that he’s asking a direct question to her until he turned his head and looked straight into her eyes.

“Yes — Yes, of course, Anne will marry you,” she assured him hastily.

She went suddenly out of breath as their eyes met so her voice sounded raspy.

“There’s no of course about it anymore.”

Audrie’s lips opened to ask why but something in his eyes made her close her mouth shut.

She tried to look away but couldn’t.

She thought she saw a small tongue of white flame dancing in the air between them.

It was transparent but becoming visible because it seemed growing rapidly into a giant ball of fire.

“Ask me why,” he whispered huskily. There was a clear challenge in his deep voice.

“No…” Audrie wanted to shout forcefully but all she could manage was a weak whimper.

“I’d still tell you,” Sean insisted in a harsh tone.

“Anne’s career took her away from me… And I — ”

He stood up and walked towards her while their eyes remained entwined to each other.

“I got changed by our kiss last night.”

Audrie gasped because she felt drowning and burning at the same but she had to fight her attraction to Sean even it killed her.


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