“I work at a kitchen for the homeless. Our paths cross sometimes.”
“Right.” But he continued to frown, taking on a more distracted look, before his eyes paused looking at the window, and whatever he’d been thinking just then vanished. His eyebrows pinched together, and the sides of his mouth curved down. “You guys have to clean that shit up. And why only one of our houses—”
“Because it’s yours.” Both Sasha and I said that at the same time.
Chad shut up before rolling his eyes. “I need a drink.” He started out of the room. “You guys want anything?”
Sasha, “Hell yes, all that rolling has me parched.”
Me, “I’m on medication.”
Chad’s head came back. “What?”
Sasha started laughing.
“I’m on heavy, psychotropic medication. Do you know how bad it would be if I had a drink? Know how nuts I would get?” My voice took on a threatening tone.
I couldn’t help myself.
Sasha knew what I was doing, and she looked away, biting down on her lip.
Part of this was to get back at him, but he was remembering. I saw the look, and he was remembering it all from high school.
I started for him, my head tilted to the side. “I was so bad that you were sent away. Remember? That I was so nuts, that they didn’t tell me I had a little brother?” He winced at that one. Good. I kept on, “That I was so dangerous, that when my mom died, I couldn’t be with my dad. Everyone feared it would fuck with your hockey training. Remember that? I sure do. That’s what Natalie was worried about.”
The air after I finished saying my peace was heavy.
My heart was beating, and fuck me, but I was suddenly completely and totally focused on one person.
Chad looked like he wanted to throw up. His mouth pressed in. White lines formed around his mouth, and then, behind us all, came a gravelly voice.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Sasha purred. “Oh. This just got fun.”
I looked, and standing just beyond the doorway to the large house, in the doorway that led to the living room where we were standing, was Cut. His jaw was clenched. His eyes smoldering, and he looked fierce.
Chad swore again. “It wasn’t totally like that.”
“It was totally like that.”
He swung around to Sasha. “You weren’t even there.”
She shrugged, her chin raising up. “Doesn’t matter. My girl doesn’t lie, and she told me years ago how it went down. Her mom died, and instead of going to live with her father, she went back to her uncle’s until she went off to college.”
He started for her, his hand up. “She wanted to stay with her uncle.”
She snorted, rolling her eyes this time.
He swung my way. “Didn’t you? That’s what I was told.”
“It would’ve messed up your hockey training. My first time living there had already messed up enough.”
His mouth hung open. “That’s not what I was told.”
No one said a word. There didn’t seem to be much of a point at this time in our lives.
I didn’t think it would hurt, but then again, I never thought about Chad, or thought I’d have this conversation with him. I guess all I focused on back then to get me through was being in love with Cut for so long, from so far away—it had taken on a whole fairytale feeling to me. Sasha was right. He was the knight in shining armor to me, and I had no idea why I put that image on him.
I glanced his way, his eyes were laser-focused on me. His gaze was piercing, and I winced, feeling him slide right inside, just like the first night at the charity gala. He saw me, and he claimed me, and he hadn’t backed out. Yet.
He would, though. It was just a matter of time.
Fuck. Fuck! That hurt realizing that.
This was stupid. We shouldn’t be here.
I shouldn’t even be playing with the notion of him and me. It was all going to end in disaster. Every relationship in my life did, except Sash and Mel. Both of them had stayed so far.
“Shy,” a soft call from Sasha.
I already knew.
Shit, that hurt.
I was swallowing knives. Pain sliced down my chest.
“Cheyenne, whatever you’re thinking, stop.”
“Not how my brain works,” I gutted out.
“Well, stop it. Do your exercises. I can see you’re thinking a whole lot of bad shit that’s going to sabotage you, so stop it. Right now.”
“What kind of things?” Cut.
And damn, his tone was soft, too.
Here it was. He was seeing the beginning of a freak-out. I’d be bouncing off the walls in two seconds, then he’d run. Then he’d be the one to call the police, not Chad.
It’d be done then. Once and for all.
Sasha ignored him, saying to me, “You drive your brain. Got it? Not the other way around.”
She didn’t get it. And if anyone got it, it was her, but she didn’t get it. Her brain wasn’t a total rollercoaster ride by itself, and now I was shaking because dammit, I was trying to do what she was saying.
The carpet was extra soft.
There was a lingering smell of tanning lotion in the room.
Some blinds in another room were rustling.
I was bouncing around.
“What’s going on?”
That was Chad, but he sounded like he was running around me.
“I thought she got back on her meds.”
I jumped, but a hand touched my arm. Soft. Gentle. It was Cut, and he was there, right next to me.
I leaned into him, not even thinking.
Mess, mess, mess. Me.
I was a mess.
Sasha cursed. “Babe, what do you need?”
I was shaking my head. No wonder it was getting worse? I was working myself up, or not even that. It was like a bull always in my head, always ready to go and charge at a moment’s notice, but sometimes I could corral him in. But this was me, letting him out myself and I had to stop it.
I kept seeing the pool outside. A few floaties were on the surface, lights underneath were now lit up, and I was moving for the back patio doors in the next instant. “I need to swim.”
There were voices behind me.
The floor’s texture was smooth, but there were a few pebbles under my feet. I could tell Cut how many different colors he had in just his living room. I could tell him there was a weird whirring sound from upstairs. I could tell him so much more, but then I was outside and I breathed in the air.
I was always better outside, and then two more steps and I was jumping in the air.
Everything was doused. Dulled. Quieted. I stilled under the water, drowning out the raging bull inside.
I could think.
It was only me, the water, and my thoughts.
After that, I kicked off and I swam.
I needed to exhaust my brain.
I had no idea how to help her.
I’d been watching her swim laps for thirty minutes, and she just kept going. This wasn’t normal. I mean, I knew. She’d told me, but this was… This just was. I had nothing to back that up.