Lick, p.38
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       Lick, p.38
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         Part #1 of Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
Page 38

  Author: Kylie Scott

  “You didn’t have to do that. ” I stepped back out onto the street, giving the pizza box suspicious glances.

  “It’s just pizza, Ev,” he said. “Relax. You don’t even have to ask me to share it with you if you don’t want. Which way is it to your place from here?”

  “Left. ”

  We walked another block in silence with David carrying the pizza box up high on one hand.

  “Stop frowning,” he said. “When I picked you up last night you were lighter than in Monterey. You’ve lost weight. ”

  I shrugged. Not going there. Definitely not remembering him lifting me and my legs going around him and how badly I’d missed him and the sound of his voice as he—

  “Yeah, well, I liked you the way you were,” he said. “I love your curves. So I came up with another plan. You’re getting pizza with fifteen cheeses on it until you’ve got them back. ”

  “My first instinct here is to say something snarky about how my body is no longer any of your business. ”

  “Lucky you thought twice about saying that, huh? Especially since you let me back into your body last night. ” He met my scowl with one of his own. “Look, I just don’t want you losing weight and getting sick, especially not on my account. It’s that simple. Forget the rest and stop giving the pizza dirty looks or you’ll hurt its feelings. ”

  “You’re not the boss of me,” I muttered.

  He barked out a laugh. “You feel better for saying that?”

  “Yes. ”

  I gave him a wary smile. Having him beside me again felt too easy. I shouldn’t get comfortable, who knew when it would once again blow up in my face? But the truth was, I wanted him there so bad it hurt.

  “Ba—” He cleared his throat and tried again, without the sentiment that would have earned him an automatic smackdown. “Friend. Are we friends again?”

  “I don’t know. ”

  He shook his head. “We’re friends. Ev, you’re sad, you’re tired, and you’ve lost weight, and I fucking hate that I’m the cause of it. I’m going to make this right with you one step at a time. Just … give me a little room to maneuver here. I promise I won’t step on your toes too badly. ”

  “I don’t trust you anymore, David. ”

  His teasing smile fell. “I know you don’t. And when you’re ready we’re gonna talk about that. ”

  I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat.

  “When you’re ready,” he reiterated. “Come on. Let’s get you home so you can eat this while it’s still hot. ”

  We walked the rest of the way home in silence. I think it was companionable. David gave me occasional small smiles. They seemed genuine.

  He tramped up the stairs behind me, not really bothering to look around. I’d forgotten he’d been here last night when he got my whereabouts from Lauren. I unlocked the door and took a peek inside, still scarred from catching Lauren and my brother on the couch last week. Living with them wasn’t going to work long term. I think everyone was getting to the point of needing their own space.

  The last month, though, had been beneficial for Nate and me. It had given us a chance to talk. We were closer than we’d ever been. He loved his job at the mechanic shop. He was happy and settled. Lauren was right, he’d changed. My brother had figured out what he wanted and where he belonged. Now if I could just get my shit together and do the same.

  Rock music played softly and Nate and Lauren danced in the middle of the room. An impromptu thing obviously, given my brother’s still-greasy work clothes. Lauren didn’t seem to care, holding onto him tight, staring into his eyes.

  I cleared my throat to announce our arrival and stepped into the room.

  Nate looked over and gave me a welcoming smile. But then he saw David. Blood suffused his face and his eyes changed. The temperature in the room seemed to rocket.

  “Nate,” I said, making a grab for him as he charged David.

  “Shit. ” Lauren ran after him. “No!”

  Nate’s fist connected with David’s face. The pizza went flying. David stumbled back, blood gushing from his nose.

  “You fucking asshole,” my brother yelled.

  I jumped on Nate’s back, trying to wrestle him back. Lauren grabbed at his arm. David did nothing. He covered his bloody face but made no move to protect himself from further damage.

  “I’m going to fucking kill you for hurting her,” Nate roared.

  David just looked at him, eyes accepting.

  “Stop, Nate!” My feet dragged at the floor, my arms wrapped around my brother’s windpipe.

  “You want him here?” Nate asked me, incredulous. “Are you fucking serious?” Then he looked at Lauren tugging at his arm. “What are you doing?”

  “This is between them, Nate. ”

  “What? No! You saw what he did to her. What she’s been like for the last month. ”

  “You need to calm down. She doesn’t want this. ” Lauren hands patted over his face. “Please, babe. This isn’t you. ”

  Slowly, Nate pulled back. His shoulders dropped back to normal levels, his muscles relaxing. I gave up my choke hold on him, not that it had done much good. My brother did the raging bull thing scarily well. Blood leaked out from between David’s fingers, dripped onto the floor. “Crap. Come on. ” I grabbed his arm and led him into our bathroom.

  He leaned over the sink, swearing quietly but profusely. I bundled up some toilet paper and handed it to him. He stuffed it beneath his bloody nostrils.

  “Is it broken?”

  “I dunno,” his voice was muffled, thick.

  “I’m so sorry. ”

  “’S’okay. ” From his back jeans pocket came a ringing noise.

  “I’ll get it. ” Carefully, I extracted his phone. The name flashing on screen stopped me cold. The universe had to be playing a prank. Surely. Except it wasn’t. It was just the same old heartbreak playing out all over again inside of me. I could already feel the ice-cold numbness spreading through my veins.

  “It’s her. ” I held the phone out to him.

  Above the ball of bloody toilet paper his nose looked wounded, but intact. Violence wasn’t going to help. No matter the anger working through me, winding me up just then.

  His gaze jumped from the screen to me. “Ev. ”

  “You should go. I want you to go. ”

  “I haven’t talked to Martha since that night. I’ve had nothing to do with her. ”

  I shook my head, out of words. The phone ringed shrilly, the noise piercing my eardrums. It echoed on and on inside the small bathroom. It vibrated in my hand and my whole body trembled. “Take it before I break it. ”

  Bloodstained fingers took it from my hand.

  “You gotta let me explain,” he said. “I promise, she’s gone. ”

  “Then why is she calling you?”

  “I don’t know and I’m not answering. I haven’t spoken to her once since I fired her. You gotta believe me. ”

  “But I don’t. I mean, how can I?”

  He blinked pained eyes at me. We just stared at one another as realization dawned. This wasn’t going to work. This had never been going to work. He was always secrets and lies and I was always on the outside looking in. Nothing had changed. My heart was breaking all over again. Surprising, really, that there was enough of it left to worry over.

  “Just go,” I said, my stupid eyes welling up.

  Without another word he walked out.

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  David and I didn’t speak after that. But every afternoon after work he was there, waiting across the street. He’d be watching me from beneath the brim of his baseball cap. All ready to stalk me home safely. It pissed me off, but in no way did I feel threatened. I’d ignored him for three days as he trailed me. Today was day number four. He’d traded his usual black jeans for blue, boots for sneakers. Even from a distance, his u
pper lip and nose looked bruised. The paparazzi were still missing in action, though today someone had asked me if he was in town. His days of moving around Portland unknown were probably coming to an end. I wondered if he knew.

  When I didn’t just ignore him as per my usual modus operandi, he took a step forward. Then stopped. A truck passed between us among a steady stream of city traffic. This was crazy. Why was he still here? Why hadn’t he just gone back to Martha? Moving on was impossible with him here.

  Decision half made, I rushed across during the next break in traffic, meeting him on the opposite sidewalk.

  “Hi,” I said, not fussing with strap on my bag at all. “What are you doing here, David?”

  He stuffed his hands in his pockets, looked around. “I’m walking you home. Same as I do every day. ”

  “This is your life now?”

  “Guess so. ”

  “Huh,” I said, summing up the situation perfectly. “Why don’t you go back to LA?”

  Blue eyes watched me warily and he didn’t answer at first. “My wife lives in Portland. ”

  My heart stuttered. The simplicity of the statement and the sincerity in his eyes caught me off guard. I wasn’t nearly as immune to him as I should have been. “We can’t keep doing this. ”

  He studied the street, not me, his shoulders hunched over. “Will you walk with me, Ev?”

  I nodded. We walked. Neither of us rushed, instead strolling past shopfronts and restaurants, peering into bars just getting going for the evening. I had a bad feeling that once we stopped walking we’d have to start talking, so dawdling suited me fine. Summer nights meant there were a fair number of people around.

  An Irish bar sat on a street corner about halfway home. Music blared out, some old song by The White Stripes. Hands still stuffed into his pockets, David gestured toward the bar with an elbow. “Wanna get a drink?”

  It took me a moment to find my voice. “Sure. ”

  He led me straight to a table at the back, away from the growing crowd of post-work drinkers. He ordered two pints of Guinness. Once they arrived, we sat in silence, sipping. After a moment, David took off his cap and set it on the table. Shit, his poor face. I could see it more clearly now and he looked like he had two black eyes.
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