Lick, p.39
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       Lick, p.39
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         Part #1 of Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
Page 39

  Author: Kylie Scott

  We sat there staring at one another in some bizarre sort of standoff. Neither of us spoke. The way he looked at me, like he’d been hurt too, like he was hurting … I couldn’t take it. Waiting to drag this whole sorry mess of a relationship out into the light wasn’t helping either of us. Time for a new plan. We’d clear the air then get on with our respective lives. No more hurt and heartache. “You wanted to tell me about her?” I prompted, sitting up straighter, preparing myself for the worst.

  “Yeah. Martha and I were together a long time. You probably already know, she was the one who cheated on me. The one we talked about. ”

  I nodded.

  “We started the band when I was fourteen, Mal and Jimmy and me. Ben joined a year later and she’d hang around too. They were like family,” he said, brow puckered. “They are family. Even when things went bad I couldn’t just turn my back on her …”

  “You kissed her. ”

  He sighed. “No, she kissed me. Martha and I are finished. ”

  “I’m guessing she doesn’t know that, since she’s still calling you and all. ”

  “She’s moved to New York, no longer working for the band. I don’t know what the phone call was about, but I didn’t return it. ”

  I nodded, only slightly appeased. Our problems weren’t that clear-cut. “Does your heart understand you’re finished with her? I guess I mean your head, don’t I? The heart’s just another muscle, really. Silly to say it decides anything. ”

  “Martha and I are finished. We have been for a long time. I promise. ”

  “Even if that’s true, doesn’t that just make me the consolation prize? Your attempt at a normal life?”

  “Ev, no. That’s not the way it is. ”

  “Are you sure about that?” I asked, disbelief thick in my voice. I picked up my beer, gulping down the bitter, dark ale and creamy foam. Something to calm the nerves. “I was getting over you,” I said, my voice a pitiful, small thing. My shoulders were right back where they belonged, way down. “A month. I didn’t really give up on you until day seven, though. Then I knew you weren’t coming. I knew it was over then. Because if I’d been so important to you, you’d have said something by then, right? I mean, you knew I was in love with you. So you’d have put me out of my misery by then, wouldn’t you?”

  He said nothing.

  “You’re all secrets and lies, David. I asked you about the earring, remember?”

  He nodded.

  “You lied. ”

  “Yeah. I’m sorry. ”

  “Did you do that before or after our honesty rule? I can’t remember. It was definitely after the cheating rule though, right?” Talking was a mistake. All of the jagged thoughts and emotions he inspired caught up with me too fast.

  He didn’t deign to reply.

  “What’s the story behind the earrings, anyway?”

  “I brought them with my first pay check after the record company signed us. ”

  “Wow. And you both wore them all this time. Even after she cheated on you and everything. ”

  “It was Jimmy,” he said. “She cheated on me with Jimmy. ”

  Holy shit, his own brother. So many things fell into place with that piece of information. “That’s why you got so upset about finding him and that groupie together. And when you saw Jimmy talking to me at that party. ”

  “Yeah. It was all a long time ago, but … Jimmy flew back for an appearance on a TV show. We were in the middle of a big tour, playing Spain at the time. The second album had just hit the top ten. We were finally really pulling in the crowds. ”

  “So you forgave them to keep the band together?”

  “No. Not exactly. I just got on with things. Even back then Jimmy was drinking too much. He’d changed. ” He licked his lips, studied the table. “I’m sorry about that night. More fucking sorry than I can say. What you walked in on … I know how it must have looked. And I hated myself for lying to you about the earring, for still wearing it in Monterey. ”

  He flicked at his ear in annoyance. There was still a visible wound there with shiny, pink, nearly healed skin around it. It didn’t look like a fading earring hole at all.

  “What did you do there?” I asked.

  “Cut across it with a knife. ” He shrugged. “An earring hole takes years to grow over. Made a new cut when you left so it could heal properly. ”

  “Oh. ”

  I waited to come talk to you because I needed some time. You walking out on me after you’d promised you wouldn’t … that was hard to take. ”

  “I didn’t have any choice. ”

  He leaned toward me, his eyes hard. “You had a choice. ”

  “I’d just seen my husband kissing another woman. And then you refused to even discuss it with me. You just started yelling at me about leaving. Again. ” My hands gripped the edge of the table so tight I could feel my fingernails pressing into the wood. “What the fuck should I have done, David? Tell me. Because I’ve played that scene over in my head so many times and it always works out the same way, with you slamming the door shut behind me. ”

  “Shit. ” He slumped back in his seat. “You knew you leaving was a problem for me. You should have stuck with me, given me a chance to calm down. We worked it out in Monterey after that bar fight. We could have done it again. ”

  “Rough sex doesn’t fix everything. Sometimes you actually have to talk. ”

  “I tried to talk to you the other night at that club. Wasn’t what was on your mind. ”

  I could feel my face heat up. It just pissed me off even more.

  “Fuck. Look,” he said, rubbing at the back of his neck. “The thing is, I needed to get us straight in my head, okay? I needed to figure out if us being together was the right thing. Honestly, Ev, I didn’t want to hurt you again. ”

  A month he’d left me to stew in my misery. It was on the tip of my tongue to give him a flippant thank-you. Or even to flip him off. But this was too serious.

  “You got us straight in your head? That’s great. I wish I could get us straight in my head. ” I stopped babbling long enough to drink more beer. My throat was giving sandpaper serious competition.

  He held himself perfectly still, watching me crash and burn with an eerie calm.

  “So, I’m kind of beat. ” I looked everywhere but at him. “Does that cover everything you wanted to talk about?”

  “No. ”

  “No? There’s more?” Please, God, don’t let there be more.

  “Yeah. ”

  “Have at it. ” Time to drink.

  “I love you. ”

  I spat beer across the table, all over our combined hands. “Shit. ”

  “I’ll get some napkins,” he said, releasing my hand and rising out of his chair. A moment later he was back. I sat there like a useless doll while he cleaned my arm and then the table, trembling was all I was good for. Carefully, he pulled back my seat, helped me to my feet and ushered me out of the bar. The hum of traffic and rush of city air cleared my senses. I had room to think out on the street.

  Immediately my feet got moving. They knew what was up. My boots stomped across the pavement, putting serious distance between me and there. Getting the hell away from him and what he’d said. David stayed right on my heels, however.

  We stopped at a street corner and I punched the button, waiting for the walk light. “Don’t say that again. ”

  “Is it such a surprise, really? Why the fuck else would I be doing this, huh? Of course I love you. ”

  “Don’t. ” I turned on him, face furious.

  His lips formed a tight line. “Alright. I won’t say that again. For now. But we should talk some more. ”

  I growled, gnashed my teeth.

  “Ev. ”

  Crap. Negotiation wasn’t my strong suit. Not with him. I wanted him gone. Or at least, I was pretty certain I wanted him gone. Gone so I could
resume my mourning for him and us and everything we might have been. Gone so I didn’t have to think about the fact that he now thought he loved me. What utter emotional bullshit. My tear ducts went crazy right on cue. I took huge, deep breaths trying to get myself back under control.

  “Later, not today,” he said, in an affable, reasonable voice. I didn’t trust it or him at all.

  “Fine. ”

  I strode another block with him hanging at my side until again a crossing stopped us cold, leaving room for conversation. He had better not speak. At least not until I got my shit together and figured all this out. I straightened my pencil skirt, tucked back my hair, fidgeted. The light took forever. Since when did Portland turn against me? This wasn’t fair.

  “We’re not finished,” he said. It sounded like both a threat and a promise.

  *

  The first text arrived at midnight while I was lying on my bed, reading. Or trying to read. Because trying to sleep had been a bust. School started back soon but I was finding it hard to raise my usual enthusiasm for my studies. I had the worst feeling that the seed of doubt David had planted regarding my career choices had taken root inside my brain. I liked architecture, but I didn’t love it. Did that matter? Sadly, I had no answers. Lots of excuses—some bullshit and some valid—but no answers.

  David would probably say I could do whatever the fuck I wanted to. I knew all too well what my father would say. It wouldn’t be pretty.

  I’d been avoiding seeing my parents since I got back. Easy enough to do considering I’d hung up on the lecture my father had attempted to give me the second day after my return. Relations had been frosty since then. The real surprise was that I wasn’t surprised. They had never encouraged anything that didn’t directly support the plan. There was a reason I’d never returned their calls when I was in Monterey. Because I couldn’t tell them the things they wanted to hear anymore, it had seemed safer to stay mute.

  Nathan had been running interference with the folks, which I appreciated, but my time was up. We’d all been summoned to dinner tomorrow night. I figured the text was my mother ensuring I wasn’t going to try and wheedle out of it. Sometimes she sat up late watching old black and white movies when her sleeping pills didn’t kick in.
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