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Authors: Dani Wyatt

Promise (10 page)

BOOK: Promise
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I listen to his snorting chuckle as I open my eyes to see him checking his teeth in the mirror by the door.


Stop
. I’m not feeling anything.” I am usually a very good liar, but right now my skills are lacking. Besides, I’m sucking in far too many deep breaths trying to pretend he’s not right on the mark. There’s hardly enough oxygen left in the room for the both of us.

“Well, I know men, and I know that look. You deserve a little fun. You need some dang lessons in flirting and doing that hair of yours. You’ve got a little junk in the trunk.” His voice goes up an octave, and he points his finger down toward my seated behind. “But you have to
know
it’s good. They throw the money at you every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.”

“Only Friday and Saturday now. Darla took Wednesday.” I give him a huff. I’m relieved and upset about the club cutting me back. I hate it there, but I need the money more now than ever.

I take my hands off my forehead and pull my knees up to my chest, resting my chin on top. I can tell he’s not done, and I learned a long time ago, you don’t interrupt him when he’s on a roll. You just have to ride it out.

“Listen, little one. You’ve grown on me, what can I say? You’re trying to pretend that the miracle of god’s creation didn’t crawl up under those panties and leave a little wet mark, but I know better. Time to take a ride on the truth train. My work here is never done.” His sing-song voice meets a snap of his fingers, and he’s out the door.

He is the one person I think who could carry on an entire conversation with you, and you never have to say a word.

I glance around the living room and wait.

Whenever he leaves, there is a vacuum of absent energy in his wake, like the room has to fill back up because he’s taken it all with him.

It reminds me of Beckett. His energy shocked me when I touched his hand. I can’t stop thinking about how it felt. It was a split second. Barely a brush.

But the prickling sensation is still on my arm, and if I'm honest, it jetted up and landed smack between my legs like some school girl’s first tingle.

You don’t need this. Stay focused. That’s got trouble written all over it.

He does have that neck thing. That twitching thing he does.

Yes, that’s a flaw, right? Something’s
wrong
with him. That’s what I must focus on.

But there are so many other things so very right about him.

Stop. No, think of that twitch.

And those scars.

No.

Stop.

Those only make it harder
not
to
think of him.

There’s something there, something that feels like a story I need to hear. Something I need to know.

STOP.

Uggg, sleep. What I need is sleep.

Instead of sleep, my phone starts dinging at me and I shake my head and let out a growl toward the ceiling when I see who it is.

JEREMY: You up?

ME: Yes

JEREMY: Why didn’t you come talk to me tonight?

ME: Sorry, just a busy night. Tired.

JEREMY: Hmm. Too bad. Maybe I’ll be tired next time you need me. Maybe I have something to tell you about Jordan, but you’re obviously not grateful for my help.

ME: What? What about him? Tell me, please . . .

JEREMY: Maybe tomorrow. I’m tired.

Just the mention of Jordan’s name and I’m wide awake. I’m wired like I’ve been chugging espresso.

Jeremy’s not answering any more texts.

How could he do that?

He knows saying anything about Jordan will have me hysterical.

Why does he do that?

He’s been there for me for so many years. He’s trying to help, but he gets so touchy sometimes. He helped me get my job at Windfield, looked after me all those years after the fire. And, all the ones before.

After the other thing too. The thing I don’t talk about. Ever.

I shake my head; this is too much. I’ve learned the past is no place to visit, and you definitely don’t want to live there.

I make my way to the bathroom. The girl in the mirror has dark circles under her eyes, but there is a sheen of white glitter still on her face from the club. I bend over the sink and try to wash the last of the Promised Angel off my cheeks and nose.

I peel off my jeans and t-shirt, throw on my robe and flop down on my bed. I stare at the walls, at the hundreds of paintings. Some are so small, little three-inch by four-inch canvases. Others are a good three and four feet across.

All of them are on fire.

I close my eyes, but I can’t stop wondering why Jeremy does that to me.

Why would he hit me in the most vulnerable place I’ve got? Just because I didn’t come and talk to him at the club? I wish he would stop coming there.

Jordan.
I can see his face.

Sleep is impossible.

I bounce up off the bed and throw my phone as hard as I can against the two, yellow pillows leaning against the wall.

I flip off the lamp on my nightstand, turning the room completely dark. I tiptoe the few steps to the center of my room, feeling my way up the cord until I click on the super spotlight I have clipped to the top of the easel.

I look at the canvas leaning, half finished. This one is a river. Not a soft, light blue river with happy fish somewhere under the ripples. Nope, my river is red. The rest of the canvas is streaks of black and orange and yellow, the sky not day or night. It’s just blazing. And screaming.

The colors are what
I
see, not what anyone else would see. The paint is thick, textured with layers upon layers adding depth. It makes you want to look deeper to see what is under the bold strokes.

Behind the red river, past the overturned rowboat leveled against the bank, he’s there.

He’s always there.

As much as I try to leave him out, he always manages to find his way into the brush strokes and onto the canvas. His face is black, impossible to see.

I still don’t know who he is. This stranger that I paint. This mystery man that I can’t forget.

It’s always the same. He’s always here. And for some reason, he feels closer than ever.

Beckett

Dad is sitting in his wheelchair, lips set tight and he looks at me with the scowl of a defiant teenager.

“So that’s it. There are no other options, so don’t give me any shit.” I’m leaning on the window sill. I’m too pissed to actually put my ass in a chair.

The 3 AM call from Bruce had done nothing to change my opinion that coming home to Cleveland, thinking I may be able to change something between us, might have been a huge fucking mistake. Bruce explained to me that I have two choices.

Either Dad can go into the lockdown wing here at Windfield, or I find him a new place to stay.

Either way, from here on out, he’s on my dime.

Sending him to the lockdown unit is not an option. He’d either kill himself or every other person in there.

Besides, I wouldn’t want to. We’ve got our history, but I wouldn’t do that to him. Bruce had walked me through that unit, and it was not where Dad deserves to be. He’s not ready for that.

So, almost twelve hours later and at least I’ve got a plan. It’s a sucky, flimsy plan with gaping holes, but it’s a plan non-the-less.

“I’m not staying with you.” Dad jabs his finger toward me.

I’ve been trained to live under pressure and without sleep, put up with anything mother nature can throw at me, but I’m about at my limit.

My foot shoots out and smacks the metal rail on the side of the hospital bed with a
bang
, catapulting it two feet in the opposite direction. Sharp pain is shooting from behind my left eye into my brain like an aneurysm.

“You don’t scare me.” My dad gives me an icy stare.

I’m on my feet heading toward the door before my foot ends up somewhere it could do real damage. I leave because I know enough about myself to recognize that he’s pushing me where the dark blocks out the light, and I can’t trust what might happen after that.

Next, I find myself stopped dead in front of the one person who I do not want to see right now, not when I’m like this.

Her hair is tied up on top of her head, secured with two chopsticks, and I see her tongue dance on her lower lip just before I all but run her over in the doorway.

“Fuck, sorry.” My hand goes to my forehead, fingers on my temples, trying to squeeze out the ugly that is making its way to the surface.

“I’m here to read, right?” She looks confused even as her eyes drop to the floor.

If I had my way, I’d be making sure she never did that again. And just like that, I have a million questions I want her to answer and another million ways I want to make her happy.

There’s a sudden impatience crawling up my pant leg, and it’s not just about the way she gets a rise from my dick every time I see her.

“Yes. Come on in. Sorry,” I angle my body so that she can get passed me. It’s like the clouds lift, the darkness vanishes, and I can see the light. “Wait . . .”

Before I can stop myself, my hand grips her upper arm, and I feel her entire body tense. I let go immediately, but both of us are stunned for a moment. She felt it, too.

“Do you want me to read or not?” That cut to her voice is back. I’ve put her on the defense. It seems she likes things kept at a certain distance.

I get it, Promise.

I get it.

“Okay. Sorry, again. Can I talk to you for a second before you read?” I rest just the tips of my fingers on her arm. The grab was too much, and I regret it. I can see how it set her back.

I tip my head toward the open door and take a half-step that direction, giving her arm just a little pressure, hoping she’ll follow. The pain behind my eye hits me again, and my neck jerks as I see her eyes light on the rough side of my face.

It’s okay. I’ll tell you all about that someday. Whenever you’re ready. I’ll tell you anything. Well, maybe not anything.

It’s been a long time since I felt like life made any sense. I went from happy home life to system life, to street life, to the hell of the desert. I’ve seen shit that would make most guys’ balls disappear. I’ve encountered evil. It’s as real as taking a breath. It’s jaded me, changed me and left me cynical and indifferent. But, I feel like I may have been wrong.

The me that flew home a few days ago would have laughed in my face for what I’m thinking now. That things really do happen for a reason.

Standing here looking at Promise, I realize I haven’t felt hopeful for so long that I’ve forgotten what hopeful feels like. But, if she agrees to what I’m about to ask, I know she is here to give me back some hope.

“Look. I don’t know if you heard, but my dad—” I watch as she stuffs her hands into the front pockets of her scrub top, and it serves to pull down the v-neck just enough that I can’t help but see the peek of the black and pink lace of her bra.

Jesus take the damn wheel.

I have no idea what I was about to say.

I swallow hard and try to look somewhere else, anywhere else, as I clear my throat and try to form a thought.

“I heard. He eloped last night.” Promise gives me a sympathetic look and pulls her pink lips to the side. She scrunches her nose up in a sweet sign of concern for my plight.

How can every simple thing she does make me want to scoop her up and carry her away? Either that or pin her against the nearest wall and mark her right here in front of the two, white-haired ladies smiling at me as they lean on their walkers. That would make their day.

“Yeah, and that means he can’t stay. I have to move him today. Which I can, that’s not the problem. But, I need help. Would you be able to help me? I mean with him? I’m moving him into my place, but he is a
pain in the ass
. He does not want me helping him.”

I’m rambling, and she’s giving me a polite stare as my eyes lock onto the way her chest is rising and falling slightly faster than it was a moment ago.

“So, can I hire you, please, to come and stay with him for a few hours every day? Or as many days as you can spare? I’ll pay; I’ll pay you fifty dollars an hour for four hours a day. If that’s not enough, just tell me your price. I know it is not the introductory book reading price, sorry. I don’t know for how long, but for a few weeks until we figure out what’s next.”

She stiffens and I can’t tell if it’s from fear or interest. Probably fear because I’m giving off some desperate fucking energy, both from wanting to strangle my father and from her being so damn close.

“Name my price? Are you serious?”

“I guess so. That’s kind of what I said.”

I’m taking in every tiny detail of her reaction. Every flutter of her eyelashes, the way her breath rises and falls under her top, the way she’s playing with something in her pocket and how she shifts her weight twice before she speaks again.

“I can only work weekday afternoons. After I leave here. But, I can work weekend days until about five o’clock.”

Thank Christ. She doesn’t say anything this time about her second job. I take note, but I’m so happy she is even considering my offer, I tuck that away for another time.

“Yeah, that’s fine. I just need you to,” I take a step toward her, I’m so fucking excited, and she immediately counters me with a step back. I soften in retreat, trying not to scare the shit out of her. “I just need you to do some of the things for him you do here.”

BOOK: Promise
2.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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