Lick, p.40
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       Lick, p.40

         Part #1 of Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
Page 40

  Author: Kylie Scott

  I was wrong.

  David: She surprised me when she kissed me. That’s why I didn’t stop her right away. But I didn’t want it.

  I stared at my cell, frowning.

  David: You there?

  Me: Yeah.

  David: I need to know if you believe me about Martha.

  Did I? I took a breath, searched deep. There was frustration, plenty of confusion, but my anger had apparently burned itself out at long last. Because I didn’t doubt he’d told me the truth.

  Me: I believe you.

  David: Thank you. I keep thinking of more. Will you listen?

  Me: Yes.

  David: My folks got married because of Jimmy. Mom left when I was 12. She drank.

  David: Jimmy’s been paying her to keep quiet. She’s been hustling him for years.

  Me: Holy hell!

  David: Yeah. I got lawyers onto it now.

  Me: Glad to hear it.

  David: We retired Dad to Florida. I told him about you. He wants to meet.

  Me: Really? I don’t know what to say …

  David: Can I come up?

  Me: You’re here??

  I didn’t wait for a reply. Forget my pajama shorts and daggy old T-shirt, washed so many times its original color was a faded memory. He’d just have to take me as he found me. I unlocked the front door of our apartment and padded down the stairs on bare feet, my cell still in my hand. Sure enough, a tall shadow loomed through the frosted glass of the building’s front door. I pushed it open to find him sitting on the step. Outside, the night was still, peaceful. A fancy silver SUV was pulled up at the curb.

  “Hey,” he said, a finger busy on the screen of his cell. Mine beeped again.

  David: Wanted to say goodnight.

  “Okay,” I said, looking up from the screen. “Come in. ”

  The side of his mouth lifted and he looked up at me. I met his gaze, refusing to feel self-conscious. He didn’t seem put off by my slacker bedtime style. If anything, his smile increased, his eyes warming. “You about to go to bed?”

  “I was just reading. Couldn’t sleep. ”

  “Is your brother here?” He stood and followed me back up the stairs, his boots tapping loudly on the old wooden floors. I half expected Mrs Lucia from downstairs to come out and yell. It was a hobby of hers.

  “No,” I said, closing the door behind us. “He and Lauren went out. ”

  He looked around the apartment with interest. As usual he took up all the space. I don’t know how he did that. It was like a magician’s trick. He was somehow so much bigger than he actually seemed. And the man didn’t seem small to begin with. In no rush at all, his gaze wandered around the room, taking in bright turquoise walls (Lauren’s doing) and the shelves of neatly stacked books (my doing).

  “Is this yours?” he asked, poking his head into my bedroom.

  “Ah, yes. It’s a bit of a mess right now, though. ” I squeezed past him and started speed-cleaning, picking up the books and other assorted debris scattered across the floor. I should have asked him to give me five minutes before coming up. My mother would be horrified. Since returning from LA I’d let my world descend into chaos. It suited my frazzled state of mind. Didn’t mean David needed to see it. I needed to make a plan to clean up my act and actually stick to it this time.

  “I used to be organized,” I said, flailing, my fallback position for everything lately.

  “It doesn’t matter. ”

  “This won’t take a minute. ”

  “Ev,” he said, catching hold of my wrist in much the same manner that his gaze caught me. “I don’t care. I just need to talk to you. ”

  A sudden horrible thought entered my mind.

  “Are you leaving?” I asked, today’s dirty work shirt clutched in my suddenly shaking hand.

  His grip tightened around my wrist. “You want me to leave?”

  “No. I mean, are you leaving Portland? Is that why you’re here, to say goodbye?”

  “No. ”

  “Oh. ” The pincer grip my ribs had gotten on my heart and lungs eased back a little. “Okay. ”

  “Where did that come from?” When I didn’t answer he tugged me gently toward him. “Hey. ”

  I took a reluctant step in his direction, dropping the dirty laundry. He pressed for more, sitting on my bed and pulling me down alongside him. I sort of stumbled my butt onto the double mattress as opposed to doing it with any grace. Story of my life. Object achieved, he gave up his grip on me. My hands clenched the edge of the bed.

  “So, you got a weird look on your face and then you asked me if I was leaving,” he said, blue eyes concerned. “Care to explain?”

  “You haven’t turned up at midnight before. I guess I wondered if there was more to it than just dropping by. ”

  “I drove by your apartment and I saw your light was on. Figured I’d send you a text, see what mood you were in after our talk today. ” He rubbed at his bearded chin with the palm of his hand. “Plus, like I said, I keep thinking of stuff I need to tell you. ”

  “You drive by my apartment often?”

  He gave me a wry smile. “Only a couple of times. It’s my way of saying goodnight to you. ”

  “How did you know which window was mine?”

  “Ah, well, that time I talked to Lauren when I was first came to town? She had the light on in the other room. Figured this one must be yours. ” He didn’t look at me, choosing instead to check out the photos of me and my friends on the walls. “You mad that I’ve been around?”

  “No,” I answered honestly. “I think I might be running out of mad. ”

  “You are?”

  “Yeah. ”

  He let out a slow breath and stared back at me, saying nothing. Dark bruises lingered beneath his eyes, though his swollen nose had gone back to normal size.

  “I really am sorry Nate hit you. ”

  “If I was your brother, I’d have done the exact same fucking thing. ” He braced his elbows on his knees, but kept his face turned toward me.

  “Would you?”

  “Without question. ”

  Males and their penchant for beating on things, it knew no end.

  The silence dragged out. It wasn’t uncomfortable exactly. At least we weren’t fighting or rehashing our break-up one more time. Being broken and angry got old.

  “Can we just hang out?” I asked.

  “Absolutely. Lemme see this. ” He picked up my iPhone and started flicking through the music files. “Where are the ear buds?”

  I hopped up and retrieved them from among the crap on my desk. David plugged them in then, handed me an ear bud. I sat at his side, curious what he’d choose out of my music. When the rocking, jumpy beat of ‘Jackson’ by Johnny Cash and June Carter started I looked at him in amusement. He smirked and mouthed the lyrics. We had indeed gotten married in a fever.

  “You making fun of me?” I asked.

  Light danced in his eyes. “I’m making fun of us. ”

  “Fair enough. ”

  “What else have you got here?”

  Cash and Carter finished and he continued his search for songs. I watched his face, waiting for a reaction to my musical tastes. All I got was a smothered yawn.

  “They’re not that bad,” I protested.

  “Sorry. Big day. ”

  “David, if you’re tired, we don’t have to—”

  “No. I’m fine. But do you mind if I lie down?”

  David on my bed. Well, he was already on my bed but … “Sure. ”

  He gave me a cagey look but started tugging off his sneakers. “You just being polite?”

  “No, it’s fine. And, I mean, legally the bed is still half yours,” I joked, pulling out the ear bud before his movements did it for me. “So, what did you do today?”

  “Been working on the new album and sorting out some stu
ff. ” Hands behind his head, he stretched out across my bed. “You lying down too? We can’t share the music if you don’t. ”

  I crawled on and lay down next to him, wriggling around a bit, making myself comfortable. It was, after all, my bed. And he would be the only male who’d ever lain on it. The slight scent of his soap came to me, clean and warm and David. All too well, I remembered. For once, hurt didn’t seem to come attached to the memory. I poked around inside my head, double-checking. When I’d said I was out of mad, it had apparently been nothing more than the truth. We had our issues, but him cheating on me wasn’t one of them. I knew that now and it meant a lot.

  “Here. ” He handed me back the ear bud and started playing with my cell again.

  “How’s Jimmy?” I rolled onto my side, needing to see him. The strong line of his nose and jaw was in profile, the curve of his lips. How many times had I kissed him? Not nearly enough to last me if it never happened again.

  “He’s doing a lot better. Seems to have really gotten himself right. I think he’s going to be okay. ”

  “That’s great news. ”

  “At least he comes by his problems honestly,” he said, his tone turning bitter. “Our mother is a fucking disaster from what I hear. But then, she always was. She used to take us to the park because she needed to score. She’d turn up to school plays and parent–teacher nights high as a kite. ”

  I kept my mouth shut, letting him get it out. The best thing I could do for him was to be there and listen. The pain and anger in his voice was heartbreaking. My parents had their overbearing issues, certainly, but nothing like this. David’s childhood had been terrible. If I could have bitch-slapped his mother right then for putting that pain in his voice, I would have. Twice over.

  “Dad ignored her using for years. He could. He was a long-haul truck driver, away most of the time. Jimmy and me were the ones that had to put up with her shit. The number of times we’d come home to find her babbling all sorts of stuff or passed out on the couch. There’d be no food in the house ’cause she’d spent the grocery money on pills. Then one day we came home from school and she and the TV were gone. That was it. ” He stared up at nothing, his face drawn. “She didn’t even leave a note. Now she’s back and she’s been hurting Jimmy. It drives me nuts. ”
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