Lick, p.37
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       Lick, p.37
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         Part #1 of Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
Page 37

  Author: Kylie Scott

  I shook my head, fury bubbling away inside me. “Not your call. ”

  “You’ve been miserable. What was I supposed to do?” She threw her arms sky high. “He said that he’d come to make things right with you. I believe him. ”

  “Of course you do. He’s David Ferris, your very own teen idol. ”

  “No. If he wasn’t here to kiss your feet I’d have killed him. No matter who he is, he hurt you. ” She seemed sincere, her mouth pinched and eyes huge. “I’m sorry about dressing up this morning. It won’t happen again. ”

  “You look great. But you’re wasting your time. He’s not going to be here. That isn’t going to happen. ”

  “No? So, who gave you that monster on your neck?”

  I didn’t even need to answer that. Damn it. The sun beat down overhead, warming up the day.

  “If there’s a chance you think he might be the one,” she said, making my stomach twist. “If you think you two can sort this out somehow … He’s the only one that ever got to you. The way you talk about him …”

  “We were only together a few days. ”

  “You really think that matters?”

  “Yes. No. I don’t know,” I flailed. It wasn’t pretty. “We never made sense, Lauren. Not from day one. ”

  “Gah,” she said, making a strangled noise to accompany it. “This is about your fucking plan, isn’t it? Let me clue you in on something. You don’t have to make sense. You just have to want to be together and be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. It’s amazingly simple. That’s love, Ev, putting each other first. Not worrying about if you fit into some fucktard plan that your Dad brainwashed you into believing was what you wanted out of life. ”

  “It’s not about the plan. ” I scrubbed at my face with my hands, holding back tears of frustration and fear. “He broke me. It feels like he broke me. Why would anyone willingly take that chance again?”

  Lauren looked at me, her own eyes bright. “I know he hurt you. So punish the bastard, keep him waiting. The fucker, he deserves it. But if you love him, then think about hearing what he has to say. ”

  Maybe I was coming down with a cold, tight chest and itchy eyes. Having your heart broken should come with some positives, some perspective to balance out the bad. I should have been wiser, tougher, but I didn’t feel it just then. I jangled my house keys. Ruby was going to kill me. I’d have to forego my usual walk and catch a streetcar to have even a hope in hell of not getting my Texas-sized ass fired. “I have to go. ”

  Lauren nodded, face set. “You know, I love you so much more than I ever loved him. Without question. ”

  I snorted. “Thanks. ”

  “But has it occurred to you that you wouldn’t be this upset if you didn’t still love him at least a little bit?”

  “I don’t like you making sense at this hour of the morning. Stop it. ”

  She took a step back, giving me a smile. “You were always there talking sense at me when I needed it. So I’m not going to stop nagging you just because you don’t like what you’re hearing. Deal with it. ”

  “I love you, Lauren. ”

  “I know, you Thomas kids are crazy for me. Why just last night, your brother did this thing …”

  I fled from the sound of her evil laughter.

  *

  Work was fine. Two guys came in to ask me to a frat party that was coming up. I’d never received such invites pre-David. I therefore declined them post-David. If I was indeed post-David. Who knew? Various people tried for autographs or information and I sold them coffee and cake instead. We closed up close to dusk.

  All day I’d been on edge, wondering if he’d put in an appearance. Tomorrow was today, but I hadn’t seen any sign of him. Maybe he’d changed his mind. Mine changed from one minute to the next. My promise to him not to decide yet was safe and sound.

  We were just locking up when Ruby jabbed me in the ribs with her elbow. Probably a bit harder than she meant to because I’m pretty sure I sustained a kidney injury.

  “He’s really here,” she hissed, nodding at David who did indeed lurk nearby, waiting. He was here, just like he’d said he’d be. Nervous excitement bubbled up inside of me. With a ball cap on and the beard, he blended well. Especially with the haircut. My heart sobbed a little at the loss of his long dark hair. But I’d never admit to it. Amanda had told Ruby about his reappearance last night. Given the lack of paparazzi and screaming fans in the vicinity, it must still be a secret from the rest of the city.

  I stared at him, unsure how to feel. Last night at the club had been surreal. Here and now, this was me living my normal life. Seeing him in it, I didn’t know how I felt. Discombobulated was a good word.

  “Did you want to meet him?” I asked.

  “No, I’m reserving judgment. I think actually meeting him might render me partial. He’s very attractive, isn’t he?” Ruby gave him a slow look over, lingering on his jeans-clad leg longer than necessary. She had a thing for men’s thighs. Soccer players sent her into a frenzy. Odd for a poet, but then I’d found no one ever really fit a certain type. Everyone had their quirks.

  Ruby continued looking him over like he was meat at market. “Maybe don’t divorce him. ”

  “You sound very impartial. See you later. ”

  Her hand hooked my arm. “Wait. If you stay with him will you still work for me?”

  “Yes. I’ll even try to be on time more often. Night, Ruby. ”

  He stood on the sidewalk, hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans. Seeing him felt similar to standing at a cliff’s edge. The little voice in the back of my head whispered damn the consequences, you know you can probably fly. If you can’t, imagine the thrill of the fall. Reason, on the other hand, screamed bloody murder at me.

  At what point exactly could you decide you were going insane?

  “Evelyn. ”

  Everything stopped. If he ever figured out what it did to me when he said my name like that, I was done for. God, I’d missed him. It’d been like having a piece of me missing. But now that he was back, I didn’t know how we fit together anymore. I didn’t even know if we could.

  “Hi,” I said.

  “You look tired,” he said, mouth turning downward. “I mean, you look good, of course. But …”

  “It’s fine. ” I studied the sidewalk, took a deep breath. “It was a busy day. ”

  “So this is where you work?”

  “Yeah. ”

  Ruby’s café sat quiet and empty. Fairy lights twinkled in the windows alongside a host of pamphlets taped to the glass advertising this and that. Street lights flickered on around us.

  “Looks nice. Listen, we don’t have to talk right now,” he said. “I just wanna walk you home. ”

  I crossed my arms over my chest. “You don’t have to do that. ”

  “It’s not like it’s a chore. Let me walk you home, Ev. Please. ”

  I nodded and after a moment started a hesitant stride down the city street. David fell into step beside me. What to talk about? Every topic seemed loaded. An open pit full of sharp stakes lay waiting around every corner. He kept shooting me wary sidelong glances. Opening his mouth and then shutting it. Apparently the situation sucked for both of us. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about LA. Last night seemed safer territory. Wait. No, it wasn’t. Bringing up alley sex was never going to pass for smart.

  “How was your day?” he asked. “Apart from busy. ”

  Why couldn’t I have thought of something innocuous like that?

  “Ah, fine. A couple of girls came in with stuff for you to sign. Some guys wanted me to give you a demo tape of their garage-reggae-blues band. One of the big-name jocks from school came in just to give me his number. He thinks we could have fun sometime,” I babbled, trying to lighten the mood.

  His face became thunderous, dark brows drawn tight together. “Shit. That been happening
often?”

  And I was an idiot to have opened my mouth. “It’s no big deal, David. I told him I was busy and he went away. ”

  “So he fucking should. ” He tipped his chin, giving me a long look. “You trying to make me jealous?”

  “No, my mouth just ran away without my head. Sorry. Things are complicated enough. ”

  “I am jealous. ”

  I stared at him in surprise. I don’t know why. He’d made it clear last night he was here for me. But the knowledge that maybe I wasn’t alone out on the lovelorn precipice, thinking of throwing myself off … there was a lot of comfort in that.

  “Come on,” he said, resuming the walking. At the corner we stopped, waiting for the traffic to clear.

  “I might get Sam up here to keep an eye on you,” he said. “I don’t want people bothering you at work. ”

  “As much as I like Sam, he can stay where he is. Normal people don’t take bodyguards to work. ”

  His forehead scrunched up but he said nothing. We crossed the road, continuing on. A streetcar rumbled past, all lit up. I preferred walking, getting in some outside time after being shut inside all day. Plus, Portland’s beautiful: cafés and breweries and a weird heart. Take that, LA.

  “So what did you do today?” I asked, proving myself a total winner in the creative conversation stakes.

  “Just had a look around town, checking things out. I don’t get to play the tourist too often. We’re going left here,” he said, turning me off the normal path toward home.

  “Where are we going?”

  “Just bear with me here. I need to pick something up. ” He escorted me into a pizza place I went to occasionally with Lauren. “Pizza’s the only thing I know you definitely eat. They were willing to stick on every fucking vegetable I could think of, so I hope you’ll like it. ”

  The place was only about a quarter full due to the early hour. Bare brick walls and black tables. A jukebox blared out something by the Beatles. I stood in the doorway, hesitant to go further with him. The man nodded to David and fetched an order from the warmer behind him. David thanked him and headed back toward me.
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