Authors: Hope Conrad
“I told myself I shouldn’t see you again.” She pinches the bridge of her nose. “I told myself I should talk to George about having you fired.”
That cuts deep, but the confusion runs deeper. “If you want me fired, or out of your life, then why did you just give me a good word
My eyes follow the air as she breathes it, first into her mouth, and then down her throat.
“You didn’t let me finish. I thought about having you fired, but…”
Suddenly, I can’t stand the distance between us any longer. I slowly walk up to her, take her hands in mine, and gently pin her to the wall with her arms held above her head. “But what?”
She stares at me even as her fingers tighten their hold on mine.
“But what?” I ask again, this time more firmly.
“But a part of me thought the way you acted after we… Well, I just wasn’t sure. I wanted to hear your side of the story before I rushed to judgment.”
She shifts her weight, and feeling her against me triggers a wholly expected physical response. “Hear my side?” I question, and shift my body against hers so that my lips graze her ear. “Or have me inside you, again?”
She cranes her neck so that our eyes meet once more. She’s trying to control her breath, trying to pretend she could stay away from me if she chooses, but I know better.
Her lips separate, like she’s prepared to speak, but nothing comes out except bated silence between ragged breaths. I release her hands and move my palms to cup her face, holding her still while I kiss her passionately and deeply.
She kisses me back, finally giving me the answer her words couldn’t. Even after I hurt and confused her, she can’t stay away from me any more than I can stay away from her. That’s why she came here. If she really wanted me gone, she could have been rid of me with one phone call to George. If she really wanted me gone, she would have told my PO what a piece of shit I am. But she didn’t. She fucking saved me from going back to jail, and suddenly all my fears about not being good enough are wiped away.
be good enough. She inspires me to be the best I can be, and even if it kills me, that’s exactly what I’m going to be.
I pull away from the kiss with an idea, and wait until she catches her breath and she’s left wanting more before I speak. “Who watches your kid?”
Her brow furrows at my unexpected question. “My sister.”
“Can she watch her two nights from now, after work?” Two days should be enough to plan a proper date. I’ve never actually been on a real date. I’ve been hitting it and quitting it since the day I matured from my teenage years, and into adulthood.
“Because we’ve done everything in reverse.” I tilt my head. “Maybe we can do this right. I’ll take you to dinner, and then I’ll take you home.” I grip her hip with my palm, tight enough to tease her, but not tight enough to leave a bruise—we’ll save that for the next time she’s on her back, except this time she’ll be in my bed. “In between, maybe you can have me inside of you again… Or not. Whichever you choose.” I allow her the space to believe she’s in control, but know the outcome before the gears are set into motion. We’re two of a kind, each blinded by our obsession with one another. It might be an unhealthy relationship, but the obsession runs through our blood.
“Is that a yes?” And if so, to what? The date
She pushes her hand against my chest, trying to hold on to a modicum of self-control. “It’s a maybe.”
“That’s not going to work for me, Princess.”
“Fine,” she huffs and pushes past me. “It’s a yes.”
“Then I’ll see you Friday night,” I say as she reaches for the doorknob.
“You have to work tomorrow.”
“Oh yeah.” I’d taken today off, figuring I’d need to chill out after Edgar’s visit.
“So, I’ll see you at two.” She swings the door open. “I’ve got an exam Friday morning and then I’m taking the rest of the day off. But if you’re a good boy and get all your work done, then we’ll go out on a date Friday night.”
“Fine,” I grumble under my breath, knowing she was enjoying having some power over me after what I’d done. But I don’t begrudge her that. She’s giving me a second chance. I’m more than willing to put in some hard work if it means getting to take her out on a proper date. As she swings the door shut behind her, my eyes are drawn to her perfect, taut ass, and the way her cheeks move in the dark denim. Yeah, I’d do just about anything for this girl.
I’m startled as the door is thrown back open, a mental case of whiplash. She stands in the doorframe with one hand gripped to her hip. “Why did you leave so abruptly last night?”
I’m torn between telling her the truth and stretching the answer out into some kind of a lying game. I settle on the truth, for maybe one of the first times in my life when it comes to a woman. “I just needed to breathe.”
“That’s what windows are for.”
“Right,” I say again and brush my thumb against my lip. “The truth is…what we did destroyed me. You’re all I can think about and that’s fucking frightening. And I ran because that’s all I’ve ever done and what I’m good at. How’s that for honesty, Princess?”
She just stares at me without blinking, but her eyes seem just a touch glassier.
I take a step closer. “Are you—”
“I’ll see you at work tomorrow, Street.”
“That’s it? I open my soul to you and that’s it?”
Her mouth quirks and she nods. “Yep. That’s it.”
She walks out and softly closes the door behind her, leaving me in a state of frustration and confusion.
But I smile wide, because underneath it all, I’m relieved. I’m elated.
She’s giving me another chance.
And this time, I’m determined not to blow it.
It’s been an unusual day in the shop. Street has worked non-stop from the second he first walked in the door. And for the four hours that followed, he’s done everything he was supposed to do and more, all without taking a lunch break or anything.
I know exactly why he’s been the perfect little worker bee—he wants to ensure he’s able to take me to dinner tomorrow night. Though I’m sure what comes after dinner is what he’s
looking forward to.
I am, too.
He told me whether we had sex again was totally up to me.
And of course we’re going to have sex again.
I’m not foolish enough to think otherwise. If I can fuck him in my car and then go to his apartment after the way he left, I’m obviously in this for as long as he’ll let me be. Or at least for as long as we can sustain things before we crash and burn.
I’ve never done drugs but I can’t imagine being addicted to anything more than I am Street. There’s something about him that makes me
, and I’m not just talking about desire. Maybe it’s because of where he is with his own life—trying to put his mistakes behind him and get a fresh start, no matter how much people doubt him—that makes me feel like I can do the same. The past few days, when I’ve been in class, wanting to cry because I feel I’m not smart enough to pass my tests, or wanting to quit school because I miss being with Riley or feel guilty for how much I rely on Dee, it’s been thoughts of Street and what he’s been through that gave me strength.
I’m in too deep in this dangerous game we’ve entangled ourselves but I can’t put on the brakes. I want to savor the drive, and every twist and turn along the way. I want to soak Street in while I can, because it won’t last. It can’t.
Ex-con or not, there’s something compelling about Street. He’s meant for more than what Darsbury can offer. More than I can offer. When he figures that out and leaves town, I’ll relish the wild time we spent together, and return to building a stable life for me and Riley.
I check the clock on the wall above the front door and notice it’s quarter till six. It’s been a slow day, and nobody has been in the shop for the past hour, so I decide it’ll be okay to close a few minutes early. I’m sure George would disagree, but it’s not like he’s around to scold me.
Those are extra minutes I can spend with my daughter and extra minutes I can study for my exam tomorrow.
I wrangle the shop key from my pocket and make my way down the first aisle where Street is busy rearranging books. When he notices me approaching, he rises to stand straight. “Where you going, Princess?”
“I’m going to kill the lights, and then we’re going to get out of here.”
“Is it six already?”
“Close enough,” I say and tap him on the ass as I pass him. I’m not sure what possessed me to do it. The gesture just felt natural, but I can tell by his wide eyes that it surprised him much as it did me.
“Sorry—” I begin, but he pulls me into his arms.
“Don’t be, babe.”
“What did I tell you?” I pout. “Don’t call me babe.”
He chuckles and runs his thumb along his lower lip. “Sorry. Can I have a kiss, Princess. After all, I’ve been working hard, haven’t I?”
I pull out of his arms and walk away, but wink at him over my shoulder. “For which you will earn a pay check. You’re going to have to work even harder for a kiss from me, Mister.”
Wow, I’d tapped him on the butt and now I’m teasing him. I’m not sure what’s gotten into me, other than I’ve never had a boyfriend I felt comfortable teasing. Not that Street’s my boyfriend, of course. But it’s odd he brings that out in me.
I kill the overhead lights, and all that’s left is the dimming sunlight filtering through the oversized front windows, casting an eerie glow upon the aisles of the store. Street looks particularly dangerous in his faded jeans, and a bleach-white tee. Funny how different things looked when it was darker.
In the light, I could pretend Street was nothing more than a good man doing his job. Now I’m reminded that he’s supposed to be anything but. I’m torn between those two men, and how each of them is capable of making me feel. I’m attracted to the dark side of him, and I’m blinded by the light side of him—the part of him I’ve only gotten glimpses of.
His confession at his apartment that he’s good at running struck a chord with me. It confirmed there’s so much left to discover about Street, and that he probably isn’t even aware he’s hiding it in self-defense. So what am I going to do? Try to pull it out of him, even when I don’t have faith anything permanent can happen between us?
Damn straight. If we’re going to do this, I want to experience everything that is Thomas Street. After all, I’m risking a lot. I’m taking time to be with him, precious time that I can spend with my daughter. That’s selfish of me, but I remind myself I’m more than a mother. I’m a woman, and I’m a woman who’s willing to take some risks so long as he does the same.
He follows me to the front door, and exits behind me. I turn to twist the key in the lock, and pull the door once to ensure it’s closed and secure. Just when I turn back around, my phone rings. It’s Dee. “Hello?”
“Can you pick up some milk on your way home?” she asks.
“Sure thing. How’s Riley?”
“She’s sleeping. How are you?”
I look at Street. “I’m good. I’ll be home soon.”
She hangs up first, and I shove my phone back into my pocket.
“Who was that?” Street questions, and it’s different from any other time a man has asked me who I was talking to on the phone. There are no signs of jealousy. Just curiosity. It’s a refreshing change of pace.
“My sister. Or as you know her, the babysitter.”
“Oh.” He nods and smiles mischievously. “When do I get to meet her?”
“Don’t count your eggs before they hatch.”
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,
“Right.” I exhale sharply and take a look around us. There’s not much action on the streets, but that’s to be expected on a Thursday night. I’m supposed to pick up some milk, then go home and start studying. But I find myself wanting just a little more time with Street.
“Do you want to sit down on that bench over there?” I point to a bench right across the street, where a small city-owned park is situated between two three-story office buildings.
“I want more time with you. So yes.”
* * *
I sit on the bench with my legs crossed and with Street to the right of me.
“So, where’s the dad?”
It’s a question so out of the blue that I’m left flustered. When I don’t answer, he presses on.
“How long were you with him before he flew the coop?”
It’s not a conversation I want to have right now, if ever, but I answer his questions so he doesn’t ask a third time. “Her dad is gone, and he didn’t
fly the coop
. I threw his ass out.”
“But how long were you with him?”
“Too long.” My response is brief, but it says everything I need to say.
He shifts against the bench and rests his back on the wooden arm. “How did you finally get rid of him?”