Read Stone Walls Online

Authors: A.M. Madden

Stone Walls (10 page)

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With Ben, it’s more than the sparks and the flutters. It’s this unexplainable need. I don’t understand it, I hardly know him. I suddenly have this innate craving for a relationship. I was enjoying my newfound freedom. I now dread being alone. It has nothing to do with my safety or being sexually frustrated. It’s more. Maybe it’s because of Andrea and Rob’s engagement. An infectious need to suddenly mate and multiply, all caused by the union of good friends?

Yeah, that must be it.

The train pulls in, and without asking, Ben grabs my bag off the ground and leads us to the closest doors. I follow to a set of quad seats facing each other. He sits at the window, and I automatically choose the seat facing him rather than next to him.

Pulling out my
Kindle
, I settle in to enjoy my latest read. The problem is, my mind reads the words yet they aren’t registering. I have to keep flipping back to reread pages. Feeling his eyes on me causes those flutters to take hold of my insides.

“Do I make you uncomfortable?”

I slowly raise my eyes to meet his. “What?”

He doesn’t repeat. He knows that I heard him. He narrows his eyes, scrutinizing my behavior. He’s a cop. Of course, he can tell by the blush, panting, and fidgeting that he most definitely makes me uncomfortable. The worst part is he’s calling me out on my shit. He’s forcing me to explain myself. That’s where things get sticky. I can’t.

Deciding to be honest, I sigh and say, “I don’t know, yes, no.”

“Why?”

“You’re very intense. I feel like you’re constantly interrogating me.”

He nods slowly. “Most of the time I am. It’s who I am. Why else?”

“You have no problem asking me questions, but you remain very closed off with personal details.”

“You haven’t asked me any questions.”

His comment throws me. He’s right. I was either too embarrassed or I didn’t want him to think I was interested in any way.

I lean closer, lowering my voice to just above a whisper. “Have you ever killed anyone?”

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“One.”

“Has Rob?”

“No.”

His responses are very robotic, routine. My mind conjures up all sorts of scenarios he may have been involved in to cause him to kill another man. A visceral, primitive look flashes in his eyes. Deciding to change the subject, I ask, “Okay, you know about the event that turned my life upside down. What turned yours?”

“What makes you think something turned my life upside down?”

“You’re such a cop,” I respond frustratingly. “Responding with a question doesn’t answer my question.”

“Fair enough.” He looks down, watching as he taps his foot. A few more seconds pass before he looks back up at me. “My father killed my mother and then himself.”

My mouth gapes open in complete shock. Guilt creeps through me for putting him in this position. I can’t even imagine what he went through. His response immediately shuts me up. I stare uncomfortably out the window, watching the dull, dirty cement walls of the train tunnel fly by. When I look back at him, his eyes drill right through me.

“I’m so sorry, obviously about your parents, but also because I asked. I had no right. You didn’t have to tell me the truth.”

His expression remains blank and void of all emotion.

“I’m sorry,” I repeat.

His features soften, and he shrugs. “I could have avoided answering. I didn’t want to. You opened up to me. I’m glad you did.”  I’m overwhelmed with compassion for this man that I barely know. “Is there anything else you want to know? You can ask me,” he says quietly.

“How long ago?”

“I was nineteen and my brother was thirteen. My aunt came to stay with us. ”

“You have a brother? Where is he?”

“He’s studying law at UCLA.”

“You must be so proud of him.”

Now it’s Ben’s turn to stare out the window. “I am.”

From his posture, I can tell he’d like the discussion to be over. I focus on my
Kindle
, but instead of reading my mind wanders to two boys who were entirely too young to face such tragedy.

With that one comment, Ben manages to inadvertently explain why he is the way he is. Yet, at the same time it doesn’t. I want to know more. I want to know
everything
about him. That’s not going to happen, though. I’m too proud and stubborn to willingly open up to him or ask all the questions I’m dying to ask. He’s too guarded and tainted to willingly open up to me of his own accord.

The combination leaves us avoiding each other, once again.

Aunt Beth sat staring blankly at the piles of mail on the table.

“Hey,” I said as I came into the kitchen. I moved around her to the fridge to grab a drink.

“Ben, I need to talk to you.”

Dread filled me. I’d been avoiding her since the funeral. I didn’t know what to say to her. I had no idea what was expected of me. I felt like I was suffocating. Being in that house was not good for Jon or me. It was especially not good for Beth. She deserved better than that.

I sat across from her at the table, resigned to hear her out. She smiled warmly and shrugged. “Ben, you need to go. You need to transfer to New York and not worry about Jon or me.”

“I can’t go now. Jon is too young.”

“Ben, I plan on selling the house. Jon and I don’t need all these rooms.” She waved at the piles of mail on the table and added, “With the sale of my house, it will help me pay off all these bills. It will also help you get settled in New York.”

“No way.”

“You can’t talk me out of it. My mind is made up,” she said.

“I want to be here. He needs me and you deserve a better life than this.”

“Ben. I’m not here because of guilt or any reason other than I want to be here. I want to raise Jon as my sister would raise him. It’s important to me. It’s also important to me that you live your life and follow your own path. My sister did a wonderful job with you. Now you need to go out and make her proud. It’s your time to create your own destiny. Please, think about it.” She stood, kissed the top of my head, and handed me a piece of mail. “This one is for you.”

It had my name and address printed on the outside of the envelope. It was postmarked the day my father killed my mother. I couldn’t bring myself to open that damn letter.

The rest of the train ride is somewhat uncomfortable. I tease her a bit, we make small talk, but mostly we sit with our thoughts.

Just as we pull into the station, she touches my arm and says, “Ben, I’m sorry that I pried.”

“You didn’t pry,” I respond with a shake of my head. A moment passes as we stare at each other. Deciding to break the spell, I take her bag from her shoulder and lead her off the train.

Andrea and Rob sit in their car, waiting for us when we descend from the platform. Andrea hops in the back with Ella, and immediately starts yapping, somewhat diffusing the uneasiness that settled over us. She shows Ella her ring, and fills her in on every detail of Rob’s proposal.

“You already told her that, babe.” Rob smiles around his words.

“Oh, I did?” Unfazed, Andrea continues her train of thought.

I can see Ella’s reflection in my side mirror. She smiles and nods mechanically, every so often looking out her window or at the back of my head. I continue to watch her inconspicuously, studying her features. The girl is stunning. She reminds me of that actress I had a crush on when I was a teenager from
Who’s The Boss
.

I notice when she gets nervous, she quickly licks at her bottom lip. She always smiles right before she laughs. When she is concentrating, she twirls a strand of her hair. Her perfume fills my senses. It’s neither obvious nor overwhelming. It’s sweet and subtle and makes me want to sniff her neck, and while I’m there, kiss it, as well.

“So, dinner reservations are at eight. We have a few hours to relax. Ben, we’re going to that place you love,” Andrea distracts my visual.

“Sounds good,” I speak my first words since getting into the car.

Minutes later, we’re piling into their tiny apartment. Their patio is almost as big. It can seat four comfortably, and with an oceanfront view it’s my favorite place to be. I especially like to sit out there at the crack of dawn and watch the sunrise.

Once Andrea sets Ella up in the spare bedroom and explains I’ll be on the couch, adding unless we’d like to share, we decide on sitting on the beach to enjoy the gorgeous weather.

“We have a lot to tell you guys. We want something small and intimate, immediate family, closest friends. We think we want a destination wedding, Aruba or Bermuda. We’re looking at dates this fall.”

“Of course, I need to make sure it’s okay with Farley,” Rob blurts out. Andrea shakes her head at his comment, and he shrugs. “Babe, I told you how it’s going to be for a while.”

“Who’s Farley?” Ella asks.

Rob and I exchange a quick glance.

“He’s our supervising officer on a new case we’re on,” Rob explains.

“He would stop you from getting married?” Ella asks disbelievingly.

“I doubt it. I still need to make sure he’s okay with it.”

“This must be quite a case,” she says before glancing my way.

“Technically,” Andrea says, tapping her lip with her pointer while deep in thought. “Our engagement gives me spousal privileges.”

“Not quite, Barbie.” I raise a brow at her pathetic attempt. “You’re nosey, and the fact that your fiancé has a big mouth tells me you already know details of this case. Since I don’t know Ella from a hole in the wall, and she can be a spy for all I know, we need to stop talking about it.” I turn my gaze to Ella and wink.

Andrea doesn’t miss a beat. “What was that?”

Ella huffs at her friend’s bulging eyes. “We discussed our predicament and decided to play nice.” Just as Andrea opens her mouth to say something, Ella points a finger and adds, “NO!”

Undeterred, Andrea says, “You don’t know what I was going to say, bitch.”

“Yes I do. No.”

“You’re too mean to be my maid of honor,” Andrea grumbles under her breath.

“See, you
are
mean.” I decide to tease Ella by confirming Andrea’s statement. “I was telling her that just this morning.”

“This morning? You only got here an hour ago.”

Ella sighs at my slip. “Is it time to get ready for dinner? I’m starving.”

“I’m so on to you two.” Andrea nods. She turns to Rob and says, “Babe, mark my words.”

 

“Doesn’t Ella look gorgeous?” Andrea asked me as we piled into the car.

“Yes,” is all I said to her statement. The dress she wore skimmed her curves, hitting her mid-thigh. It was a light pink, and I couldn’t stop staring at her all night long.

Andrea pulled out all the stops to ensure that Ella and I were physically near each other all night long. She hopped into the front seat of the car, leaving us to share the small backseat. I complained about folding my over six-foot frame back there. Andrea’s response was that she got carsick in the back and to do it for her. I had to inhale Ella’s scent the entire car ride to the restaurant as she sat inches away.

She kept her hands securely clasping her bag on her lap, and pushed herself against her door, trying to put some space between us. At the restaurant keeping our distance was harder to do. We shared one side of a booth in the dimly lit room. The seat prevented any wiggle room, aligning us from shoulder to knee. The feel of her body against mine was messing with my insides. In between courses, I laid my arm on the back of our seat for some relief. A new urge to twist my fingers in her hair consumed me. I needed to know if it was as silky and soft as it looked.

Needless to say, thoughts of touching Ella invaded my mind throughout the meal.

Surprisingly, dinner was pleasant. Conversation flowed freely between the four of us, and we laughed a lot. It wasn’t forced or awkward. Andrea had a lot to do with that, not allowing there to be a lull at any moment during the course of the night. After dinner, we spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and watching
Taxicab Confessions
reruns back at the apartment.

It’s obvious we’re attracted to each other. It’s even more obvious that we are both fighting the attraction. She has her reasons, and I have mine. The way she looked, a few glasses of wine, being near her all night, and not having had sex in days has made it very hard to remember my reasons.

It’s now close to morning and of course I’m awake. I’m sitting in my favorite spot on the balcony waiting for the sun to rise. The calming sounds of the waves do nothing to relax me. I’m all pent up with frustrations and sexual energy. I’ve been trying to think of work, which is usually very easy for me to do. My mind refuses to cooperate, shifting back to Ella and my desire to have her. I’ve never felt a need like this. If I’m attracted to a girl, I act on it, end of story. More times than not, after the one night, I quickly discover that she is out of my system and find it easy to move on. With Nat, the sexual attraction remained, but the reason I stayed with her was mostly for the convenience of a good lay and laziness to end it. There really wasn’t a need to end it as it was happening...until recently.

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