“Why are you scared?”
I shrugged, to no one again. “It’s…” What could I say? “I need to regroup for a bit.”
“Got it.” She was whispering now, “And I’m on my way. Text me your location.”
I whispered back, just for the hell of it, “On it and I love you.”
“Love you back.”
I heard a man’s voice before she hung up.
Who was that?!
I pulled up the GPS on my phone and sent her my location. We were in the suburbs of Kansas City, actually a bit outside the suburbs. And now I needed to perform some high-end assassin moves.
I went to the bathroom. (Not an assassin move.) I washed my hands. (Also not an assassin move.) I cleaned up, the quietness of it all was an assassin move, though. I took stock of his bathroom. He kept it clean, and there was a stack of clothes on the counter.
I fingered through them. Mostly shirts. A couple sweatpants. Why did he have these here? For him? For guests? Was I one of many guests? Was he a Boy Scout when it came to protected sex and one-night stands, and he was always prepared? I didn’t know.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
But fuck it.
I was so totally that girl.
I pulled on one of the shirts, and I had somehow slept in my underwear and bra. Why the bra, I didn’t know. I didn’t think I’d ever know. It would remain one of the world’s mysteries, like where did the socks keep disappearing to? I didn’t think I’d ever know the answer to it, and after that, I eased open the door.
I was assassin quiet.
He was there.
He was in the bed.
But, hold breath, hold breath—he was still sleeping.
Gah. He looked so good. The bedsheets slipped down so I could see his back and his sculpted shoulders and those very very broad shoulders. I was still on the shoulders. Moving down. The curve of his spine, how his back was so contoured and itching for me to touch it—nope.
Assassin mode back on. I was fully not paying attention to anything in the feelings department.
Spying my purse (I didn’t even remember bringing it with me), the rest of my clothes, and my sandals, I nabbed all of them.
I tiptoed out of the door, still being my assassin badass self, and once in the hallway, once I had pulled the door shut, I moved down the hall a little bit. I shimmied up my skirt, toed on my sandals, and was ready to roll.
I was not waiting around, so I reached for the door, and the alarm panel caught my eye at the same time I had the door open. An ear-splitting alarm pierced through the house, and I had a split-second decision to make.
Stay or bail?
I bailed. And awkwardly fast.
So not an assassin move.
My sandals were kicked off. I bent down, grabbing them and then I was running barefoot down the driveway. I turned down the sidewalk just as I heard the front door being wrenched open behind me, and I immediately went into stealth-mode.
I mean, not really.
There was actually a line of tall privacy hedges blocking his house, so I’d only managed to get behind the hedges. If he came out to the road, he’d see me. Because of that, I hotfooted it down the block. Seeing a tree big enough to shield me, I stepped on the other side of it.
Then, I called Sasha and gave her my new location.
I was walking down the block, on the other side of the road when Sasha found me.
I’d told her that I was going to be on the move.
A short toot on the horn and her minivan pulled up next to me.
It’s an unspoken rule that no one is to ask Sasha why she has a minivan. It’s been asked before, and the person who asked the question was never seen again. (That was a bit dramatic, but for real, I never saw the girl again who asked. I’m sure she lives in New Jersey, now married with two kids, but I learned to respect that rule.) I never asked why she drove a minivan. She just did. It was now Matilda, our home-mobile. Or that’s what Melanie called it. Sasha didn’t have a name for it.
The back had been converted into a small bed, so some mornings, it was the miracle van and not a minivan. Which was amazing if Sasha was picking us up on hangover-mornings.
I climbed up, strapped in, and turned.
She had my coffee waiting for me in hand. I took it, and there was a breakfast sandwich perched on top.
I so loved my girl.
“Thank you,” I moaned from how good the coffee smelled.
She gave me a cocky grin before pulling forward and turning at the next street. “So, you ran, huh?”
I groaned, closing my eyes. “I hid.”
“Behind a tree.”
She choked. “A tree?” She groaned. “Girl.”
“I know.” I groaned again.
“And your reason being?”
I was already shaking my head, knowing she was going to ask. “I have no idea.”
Bleak. I was so bleak.
She let out a sigh, hitting the turn signal and pulling over. “I should take you back.”
Christ. My heart stopped just at the thought of that.
“You don’t think I don’t know how you felt about him in college?”
Oh. Crap. Where was Melanie with the toilet jokes when I needed her?
I was still so bleak here.
I knew this was a serious talk because Sasha was not sticking to her one-word commentary. She was being real. And her voice was gentle as she said, “And since college. He’s best friends with your brother—”
“Stepbrother, and he’s not family anymore. Deek and Natalie divorced.”
“Still. You guys share a brother. That connects you, and he’s connected to your hockey hottie in a big way. Why do you think I was hitting on him last night?”
Blood rushed to my face. I was hot, like red in the face hot.
I didn’t think she knew, so I thought it’d been a ‘miss’ kind of thing.
I eyed her, biting my lip. “You knew?”
She laughed. “You go to every home game. I know you work a lot, but gurl, I am not stupid.”
“You’re at the strip club.”
She snorted. “Like I don’t keep tabs on my girls. You included.”
See. Total secret agent.
Pressure was building in my head. I knew I should have her take me back, but there’d been dreams and delusions. All that got steamed over when my own stepbrother took one look at me in college, in my own living room, and gave me such a look of disdain and condemnation that was burned in my head to this day.
Sasha and Chad had had a night, and that’s how he ran into me for the first time at Silvard. He knew I was there. I knew he was there, but we’d successfully avoided each other up until then. I came into their lives for a brief stint before going away again, but his mom and my dad had been married during that time. They had still been married when the college plans were put in motion, meaning that Deek wanted me to get to know my stepbrother. That’d been the entire reason I went to Silvard.
Funny how everything turned out, and not in a good way.
Deek and Natalie divorced that first year we were at college.
Cut got drafted the next year. He left, and Chad followed him.
I was the only one who stayed at Silvard, but it worked in my favor.
I hadn’t seen Chad since that day in the dorm.