Authors: Hilary Storm
“Aid, you want me to drive you two out there?” His eyes stare into me and I finally nod my head slightly, giving him the approval he’s been pushing for.
“Yeah, stop and get us some food on our way.” He smiles at me and opens the front passenger door, letting one of the girls out and motioning me to enter.
“You sure are full of demands tonight.” His sister continues talking to him as I climb into her giant truck.
“You know I’ve done this shit for you and your friends more times than I can count.” He leans over me to talk to her. I’m pretty sure that was intentional because I can still feel the heat of where his hand was on my thigh.
“I know you have, I’m just kidding. Get in and get over yourself.” I like this girl. I hear him open the door behind me and then slam it closed before he gets in. My door flies open before I have a chance to realize what he’s doing.
“Scoot, I’m not sitting back there with all her shit.” I slide to the center and slide the seat belt on before he gets his in. His legs are against mine and I now know why he did this. Not that I’m going to complain. He lays his arm on the back of the seat behind me and his sister looks at him like he just grew three heads.
“Hi, I’m Macy. My brother is an ass for not introducing us.”
“Macy, this is Brie. Brie, this is Macy.” We both smile and do the whole greeting nod and I now feel guilty that I haven’t corrected him. Shit, that seems so long ago that I said that and now would be a terrible time to tell him I lied to him the very first time my mouth opened. It’s not like I’ll ever see him again. I know what I have to do to get over Luke and move forward. Staying at his friend’s cabin isn’t going to do the trick.
“Aiden. You alright tonight?” She starts to roll forward and I begin to feel the true awkwardness of this situation. She knows he’s taking me home and it probably looks exactly like it is. He’s hoping for more. I’m not sure what I’m hoping for, but I know I’m hoping for a carefree night.
“Doin great! But I could take a damn burger. Rosie’s was packed and I didn’t have time to order.”
“Alright. I’ll pull into a drive thru and then I’ll take you to the house.”
There’s something about his girl. I saw her the second I entered that bar and shit was she a sight for my sore eyes. I needed a night like we’ve had. These past few weeks have been hell and I don’t want to think about the fuck up we had today. Holden is going to be pissed, but it’s part of the job when we’re trying to expand like we have been. These guys need to be trained and that’ll take time. He’s been texting me all night telling me to go to the cabin to check on his friend, but she’s going to have to wait.
I’m sure I’d come off like an asshole if I went there now anyway. I’m feeling this girl and walking away right now would leave me pissed off. It’s been a long time since I’ve instantly connected with someone that I want to push it further with so quickly. I generally take my time when it comes to sex, hell tonight I need this and I hope it goes there sooner rather than later.
“So Brie, where are you from?” My sister starts to quiz the girl she’s never seen before. Her stares went straight through me when she saw who I was taking to the house. I said a friend. I didn’t say a female friend. I’m never here and she’s just not used to seeing me with someone. She’s definitely never seen me take a stranger to one of our houses. I just hope she goes easy on her.
“I’m from the West Coast.”
“What has you in this little part of the world?”
“I’m taking a vacation.”
“That’s nice! I hope you like it here. It’s one of my favorite places to escape to. Our family owns a couple of houses out here and we’re just fortunate we can get out here when we want.” I listen to the two of them make nice while I text Holden. He’s not happy that I haven’t been by the cabin.
Holden: I need you to go there now. I can’t get her to answer. Ev is up my ass and honestly this girl has been through some major shit. I know I can count on your ass. What in the fuck is taking you so damn long, Cowboy?
Aiden: On my way now.
Damn it. I know this is about to fuck up my whole night. “Macy, can you stop by Old Man Mallard’s place before you take us out there? I need to check on something.” Holden is adamant that I check on this girl.
“Sure. We’ll stop out there right after you go in and get your damn food. You’re full of demands tonight Aiden.” She pulls us into the parking spot and I turn to see if Brie wants anything.
“I’ll come in with you.” I hold the door and watch Brie move as she climbs out of the truck. Fuck. I wish it was my truck she was climbing out of. I can almost imagine her in the center seat, sliding her fine ass across my driver’s seat to get out.
I can’t believe I’m about to mess this shit up. I have to go to the cabin and check on that girl for Holden. I get that she’s been through alot and I’m not sure I should take these girls out there, but I’m hoping she’s asleep and I can just tell him to chill his shit and let her sleep. If he’s this connected I know I have to pull through. He hasn’t told me all the details, but I know she’s Luke’s girl from California and I know Luke is now with Lilly, so I can imagine this girl is a broken mess. Where I’m normally the best guy to go in and take care of a broken woman, tonight I just want to spend time with this girl right here next to me.
“You know this is a terrible date. Don’t tell anyone because McDonald’s cheeseburgers on a first date will ruin my reputation. I never eat this shit.” Her laughter goes through me and I watch her face as she looks at the menu to order. She’s obviously not a regular here either.
“I guess just order me what you’re having.”
“Four cheeseburgers coming your way.” The shock on her face amuses me.
“Wait. What? No. I just want one.”
“Haha. I thought so!” I order our food and a few drinks, knowing my time with her will possibly be over soon. She pulls out her phone and scrolls through a few things before she frowns and slides it back in her pocket.
“You need to save my number before you put that away.” She looks at me confused for a brief second before she slides it back out and lets me enter my number. We take the food to go and the second we get back in, I've turned on the light above me, pulled the fries out and have a cheeseburger in my mouth. She holds hers and I offer Macy one of mine.
"Those smell. You know I don't eat that crap, Aiden."
"Well, tonight I'm fucking hungry. Don't judge my ass." We drive awhile in silence before we turn into the long driveway to the cabin. Brie starts to really look around. I open my third tiny cheeseburger and take a bite.
"Holden will have your ass if you get all fat on him. How do you plan to run a business like you do eating like this?"
"Ahhhh. It'll be alright little sister. Don't you worry about me."
"You work with someone named Holden?" Brie turns to look at me. Her eyes have changed.
"Yeah. He's my business partner."
"Aiden, what do you do?"
"We own a security team."
"Shit. Stop the truck." Macy slams on the brakes and we all look out the windshield for what could possibly have her screaming.
"Let me out. Let me out, please." Brie starts to push on my chest and I swear if I didn't open the door to get out myself, she would've climbed over me.
"Shit woman. What's wrong." She starts pacing in the grass and I'm waiting for this damn emergency that has her practically hyperventilating.
"Tell me they don't call you Cowboy." What is she talking about?
"Tell me your friend Holden doesn't call you Cowboy. Shit, I'm so fucking stupid."
"Yeah. They all call me that, why?"
"Because I lied about my name when I first met you. I'm Kimber. I'm staying in that damn cabin just down this road right here. The road you're on going to check on 'something' Aiden. Tell me it's not Holden's friend you're headed to check on."
"Damn it. I never lie. You were some stranger I just met and I'm just trying to start a new life for myself, then you come up with that fucking smile and swagger and then I lied about my name. If I would've just said what my name is right then and there, you would've known right away, but nooooo, I name myself fucking cheese. Cheese, Aiden. I name myself cheese and have a great fucking time with a stranger that made me forget the shit I'm trying to move on from. I didn't think one fucking time about my real life. I just enjoyed you. I enjoyed being free from the weight of all the bullshit. Fuck." She starts to pace faster and I just lean up against the truck and watch her. This is not as bad as she's making it out to be.
"I kissed you. I kissed Luke's fucking friend. How can I move on from him when I kissed his friend? Hell, I would've slept with you if you hadn't decided to come here." I knew we were going there. Any chance of that has been blown out the window now.
"I'm such a whore."
"STOP. I can handle a lot of things, but I won't listen to you talk like that. You're not a damn whore. I can tell by the way you carry yourself. Hell, I saw plenty of whores in that bar, but you weren't one of them." I move to stop her angry pacing and she walks around me, then behind the truck.
"How does this happen? I went for groceries, decided to stop for a drink and a burger. You just walk in like you own the place, make me lose all logic, then boom, I've fucking kissed his friend. I don't kiss strangers. Hell, I've never even really had the real chance to date like normal people do."
"Are you a damn virgin?" I have to ask, because the way she's talking I'm not even sure what she's saying. She stops in front of me and looks at me like I'm crazy.
"No I'm not a virgin. I've just had a strange life. My father chose my boyfriends through business decisions. It's a long story and I'm just going to walk to the cabin. Can you have your sister's friend bring my Jeep here? I'll leave in the morning. I can't take this shit anymore." She starts to walk fast toward the cabin and I lean in to tell my sister to get the vehicles moved here before I run to catch up with her.
I finally reach her and flip her around to face me. "Stop walking so damn fast. We need to talk about tonight. Nothing happened and Luke isn't some jackass that would hold this against either of us. If he tried, I'd kick his ass."
"Why did I not see that your nickname would have to be Cowboy? Hell, I even heard the girls in the bathroom call you the cowboy and it didn't even register that you could possibly be him. Never."
"Everything happens for a reason."
"Oh my god. I can't even deal with this night. Can we just pretend none of this ever happened?" How can I forget tonight when I've had a great time? I know I'll have to because she's going to run. Not that I want to do anything with Luke's ex, but shit I had a great connection with this girl.
"We can talk about it all in the morning over breakfast if that's what you want." She starts to walk again, this time at a much slower pace.
"No, I'm leaving in the morning."
"Kimber. You and I both know you're here to figure out where you'll be going next. I know you haven't had time to think clearly and besides that, I'm here for the next four days for my fucking vacation. You may as well stay somewhere and think about what your next step should be."
"Aiden, I can't be around you for four days. I can't stay in the same house as you. The shit I've been thinking about is the exact reason I need to go."
I can't stay. I'm not even sure how I'll get past the fact that I've done what I've done. He finally lets me walk the rest of the way by myself. I need fresh air and I can't seem to get that even though I'm in the wide open night air.
I walk onto the back deck of the cabin, and look down at the damn cheeseburger still in my hand. Seriously. I hate this. I should've known something so easy wouldn't be. I start to think about where I can go. New York City. Or Florida. Maybe I'll drive to both and see which I like better. A lot of drive time will do me good.
I sit back in the wooden chair and prop my feet onto the stool. The cheeseburger is cold by now, but I start opening the wrapper just as I hear his footsteps on the deck.
"Stay for at least one day. Think about your plan before you just get on the road. I'll leave you alone. You won't even know I'm here." He slides the glass door open and starts to step through it.
"Aiden." He takes a step back and we both look at each other. My mind flashes with his smile that no longer graces his face. The look is one of sadness or is it pity? He's not looking at me like he did at the bar. I'm sure my look has changed too.
"You don't have to hide. Just let me think."
"Alright." He moves to go back inside and I hate the way he looks right now. I wonder if he's mad at me for lying in the first place or if he's just upset how the whole night turned out.
I sit out on the deck for about an hour and reflect on a few things. I haven't heard a thing except the girls bringing my Jeep and his truck before they all left again.
How embarrassing. His sister knows about all of this and I know one day Luke will find out. He shouldn't care, but I just don't want him to think I'm trying to hang on to him. I walked away from him so he could have the happiness he was robbed of. Surely he wouldn't judge me for something I did at a bar when I didn't know it was his friend.
Why am I worried so much about this? Luke has so much going on in his life that he most likely won't even have time to care.
Shit. My nerves are shot and I know one person I can thank for that. My history with Greg kept me on edge every single minute of the day. The way I'm feeling right now is pulling me back to those days. The days before Luke calmed me and showed me how I deserved to be treated. But the pattern of behavior that I've lived my entire life is so easy to fall back into.
I need to focus on me. The old me and the new me. I'm a work in progress and I'm not afraid to admit that. If I ever have to face the consequences of the way I met Aiden, then I will.
I can finally breathe without the heaviness on my chest. I release a large breath and stand to look over the edge of the railing. I know the scenery is gorgeous even though it's dark. I'll need to have my coffee out here before I leave tomorrow.
I slide open the door and walk quietly to the master bedroom. I feel bad that I took his room, but I don't know where he is and I don't know that I want to open up doors to find an empty room. My luck, he'd be sleeping in one of the beds and I'd make this night even more awkward.
I still can't believe I let him know my mind had us having sex tonight. I'm not sure what I'm thinking. Sex after Luke will be tough. He was good and I truly cared about him. I think that made us even better. He was the first I actually cared about like that.
I turn the knob and close the door silently before releasing my grip. There's not a lock on the door, but I know he won't bother me.
I look around at my bags piled in the corner. Every single thing I own is right there in that three-foot space with the exception of my Jeep and the clothes on my body. It can’t get much more simple than this.
I remember to respond to Holden and send him a simple reply so he knows I’m ok.
Kimber: Sorry. I’ve been thinking a lot tonight. Your friend made it. I’ll call you tomorrow. Thanks for everything.
Holden: You scared the shit out of me. You almost had my ass on a plane coming to check on you.
Kimber: I promise I’m doing ok. I’ll do better staying in touch. Night.
Holden: Goodnight Kimber. Remember we’re here if you need us.
I don’t respond to him. He knows I know that, just like he knows I don’t want to need them. I have the money from the last fight in my account. Luke had his own money from the band and wouldn’t let me give him the fight fee from that night. We only got half the money since the whole thing was busted, but that’s still enough to help me get relocated and figure out what I want to do with my life.
I take a deep breath and pull back the covers on the massive bed. I don’t even change out of my clothes before I crawl in and lay my head on one pillow and pull the other in close to wrap my arms around it, snuggling it as I bury my head into the softness surrounding me.
I leave the lamp on knowing it’s just easier when I’m in a strange house. It’s not long and I’m out for the night.
I’m watching a fight at my father’s gym. Greg is somewhere behind me and I know he’s watching me. I can feel him. That’s why I don’t dare let my eyes stay on any of the guys for longer than a brief glance. He’s jealous even though he has no reason to ever think I’d leave him.
I feel him come up behind me and the harsh fingers squeezing my hips tell me he thinks I’ve done something to defy him.
“I’ll kill you before I let you fuck him.”
“Who are you talking about? I haven’t done anything.”
“I saw you watching the Cowboy.”
I sit up fast and look for Greg in the room. Of course he’s not here, but I feel like he’s near and my heart won’t stop pounding with fear that he’s coming for me. I know he’s in prison, but I also know he has a way of getting to me no matter where he is. A small part of me wishes Luke would’ve ended him in the fight, but I know Luke didn’t need that kind of guilt.
My father did this to me. He orchestrated that whole night and has manipulated my whole life. I had no idea he locked them in for a til death fight only to make his fucking precious money. I hope he enjoys thinking about that the rest of his life as he rots in his own cell. He only slightly redeemed himself with his help to find Lilly, but I can never forgive him for all that he’s done.
I slide my legs off the bed, because there’s no way in hell I can go back to sleep now. The clock on the wall says four o’clock. It’s still the middle of the night, but after that nightmare, I need to find coffee.
I tip toe through the cabin and find the coffee pot. There’s barely enough coffee to make four cups, but that’s ok. That’s more than I’ll need.
The sound of the water keeps me from hearing the front door open, but I hear it close. I turn quickly to see who in the hell could be coming in the cabin at this hour. It’s Aiden.
“You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing?”
“Ah. Sorry. I just need to get a blanket and I’ll be out of here.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve been sleeping in the back of my truck.”
“No, you’re not doing that. Why would you do that Aiden?”
“Kimber. I know this is all hard on you and I don’t want to cause you anymore stress. I talked to Holden last night and I had no idea the shit you’ve been through.”
“So you now have pity for the girl. Great.” I turn to pour the water in the reservoir as slow as I possibly can to avoid this damn conversation.
“No pity. Just understanding. I now see why it was such a big damn deal for you that we connected last night.” We did connect damn it.
“And now you see why I’m leaving today.”
“No, actually. You’re not. I disabled your Jeep so you can’t go anywhere til I know you’re ok.”
“Are you kidding me? How do you think you have any right to do that?”
“Ev called and asked me to do it. Apparently you’ve made quite the impression on the crew and they care about you. I’ll fix it in a day or two when you’re leaving with a clear head.”
“Tampering with my Jeep is fucking low. What makes you think this will make me calm down and think things through? Have you even thought about how I’d feel if you fucked with
“Well, just know that I can hold my own and will just fix the fucking thing myself. You’d better just hope I don’t jack with yours before I go.”
“Don’t hate me for the situation. They just want you to know you’re not alone. I know Eaven is trying to leave on a roadtrip to come see you because you’re trying to rush out of here. They want to give you your space and also know you’re safe. This cabin is the happy medium. If you leave here, they are worried you will self-destruct.”
“I hate to tell them all, I’ve survived my whole life without someone watching over me.”
“You made it in, Kimber. Once you’re in, they take care of you.”
“Damn it. I’m not in. I’m Luke’s ex, or whatever you want to call me, and I just can’t sit and watch him live his happy life even though he deserves it more than anyone I know. I just can’t watch it all when I want that for myself. We had plans and he made promises that I’d never ask him to keep. In fact, I walked away from him because honestly, I couldn’t stomach watching him break the promises to me that he would obviously have to. He loves her. He never hid that from me. I love him. Now I need to keep my distance and figure out where I go from here.” He moves closer to me as I talk and sits on the bar stool while he watches me while I go on and on, probably sounding like I’ve lost my mind. But he never stops me.
“I mean, how do they expect me to stay in touch when I’ve never even met a group of people like them? It was like I had finally found a real family and I knew when I walked away from Luke that I had to walk away from all of them. That is his family and even though I really felt at home, it’s his home.” I stop and look at him. Why am I telling him all of this? He doesn’t want to hear my issues.
“Just please fix my Jeep and I promise not to leave until I’ve talked to you. I’m working on being completely independent, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow you to make me dependent on you when I’ve known you for less than ten hours.” I can’t even talk to him anymore. Reliving all of these feelings is gutting me and I can feel that damn cheeseburger arguing with me and threatening to exit without warning.
I move fast for the master bedroom and go straight to the bathroom and the toilet. My stomach is screaming and my hair falls in my face as I lose the tequila, Jack, cheeseburger, and hell, I think I even lost the salad I had the day before.
I feel his hands brush my face as he pulls my hair back and places a wet towel on my neck. Damn it. Luke was the first to ever do that for me. “Kimber. It’s all going to work out. You just have to remember to live. You deserve to be happy and you’ll find that one day.” I slowly move to my feet and slide the towel in front of my face. I’m a fucking mess. The last thing he needs is to have to take care of me and my complicated issues.