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Authors: Kaylee Ryan

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BOOK: Tempting Tatum
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“Tatum, what are you doing here?” he asks me. He reaches for his pants and hastily throws them on. He pulls a throw off the back of the couch and tosses it over the blonde. The same throw that he and I have snuggled under, made love on.

I don’t answer; I can’t. I can’t pull my eyes from the train wreck in front of me. I want to scream. I want to tell him what a piece of shit he is. I want him to know he let me down, but I can’t speak. My words are stuck. Just two short hours ago, I was notified that I lost both of my parents in a fatal car crash, and the one person who I needed, the one person who I thought could bring me comfort, was just buried five inches, sad but true, into some blonde bimbo. What do you say to that?

“Tatum, are you okay? What happened?” he asks, like he’s concerned. Blondie is just standing there with her lady bits on display looking confused.

Really?
“Are you fucking kidding me? Am I all right? You just had your dick in her.” I wave in the direction of the bimbo who is currently holding
the
throw around her naked body. “What part of this is okay?” I yell.

He moves toward me. “Honey, it’s not what it looks like.”

For every step he takes, I retreat the same. “Stop!” I scream at him. He stops. “How could you? How long, Josh? How long have you been screwing around on me?”

He reaches for me. I smack his hand away.

“You know what? Fuck it! We are through. I don’t care if this was the first time or the tenth; I’m done.” I back up further until I can feel that I’m standing in the doorway. “I needed you.” I say as tears run unchecked down my face. His betrayal slicing me to my core. I am broken, broken and alone.

“Tatum…” Josh says as he follows me to the hallway, reaching for me.

“Don’t touch me! You lost the right to touch me!” I scream.

Josh raises his hands in the air, but he doesn’t back up. His eyes are boring into mine. His are dark and angry. “Tatum, just stop and listen to me!” he yells.

His neighbor, whose name I can’t remember, steps out of his apartment. “Is everything all right here?”

“Mind your own damn business.” Josh growls in reply.

“No, it’s not all right. I’m trying to leave and he won’t let me.”

The neighbor, who has a good two inches and at least thirty pounds on Josh, steps out into the hall and in front of me. “Leave, he won’t follow you.” He tells me. His eyes never leaving Josh.

“T—thank you.” I manage to croak out as I turn and flee from the building. I take the stairs, not willing to wait on the elevator. I stumble a few times through my tears, eventually making it back to my car. I start the engine and pull out of the lot, heading toward home. My parents’ home, where I continued to live all through college. We live right outside of the city limits and my commute to school every day is only thirty minutes. My parents and I were always close, and living at home saves us both money. I’m an only child and they have always treated me as an adult.

I make it home, again, I’m not sure how. I turn off the ignition and sit. My eyes are swollen and painful, my vision blurred. My gaze is locked on the front door. I don’t want to get out of my car and walk through that door. When I do, and they aren’t there, that means this entire day is real. Not just a horrid nightmare that I can wake up from.

The shrill ringing of my cell phone causes me to jump. I glance down at the cup holder to see my best friend Leah’s name flash across the screen.
She knows.
I stare at my phone. The hum of the vibration, as well as the ringtone, fills the car. As soon as she gets my voicemail, she calls right back and the vibrating ring starts all over again. She’s relentless, my best friend. I know she’s already on her way to find me. I need to answer so she knows I’m oaky, well physically okay. I’m not sure about my emotional state, not sure I will ever be the same.

Again, the ringing stops and immediately starts. Taking a deep breath, I grab the phone and swipe across the screen, placing it to my ear. I don’t say anything, and I don’t have to.

“Tatum, oh God. I just heard. Where are you?” she asks, anguish in her voice. Leah and I have been best friends since kindergarten. She knows my parents well. Knew my parents well.
Shit!
They’re gone. I feel panic set in as I struggle to drag air into my lungs. “Is Josh with you?” she asks.

“No,” is all I can say at the moment, and that is a valiant effort. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest.

“Tell me where you are.” Her voice is now pleading.

“Home,” I croak out.

“Stay there, I’m on my way. I’ll call Josh.”

“No! Please don’t,” I beg her. I don’t want to be anywhere near him.

“Okay, just stay there. I’m about five minutes away,” she tells me.

I nod my head, even though she can’t see me, unable to form words. I hit end on my cell and drop it back into the cup holder. I try to focus on taking slow, deep, even breaths. I need to get myself under control.

My cell rings again. I peer down at the screen and see that it’s Josh. My chest aches from his betrayal. Josh cheated on my. My parents are gone. My entire life is crashing and burning. A sob escapes my lips as the doctors words continue to play through my mind. “
They’re
gone. Your parents didn’t survive. I’m so sorry.”

I jump at a gentle knock on my window, the sound a welcome one due to its creator. Leah. She is peering through the window watching me, tears rolling across her cheeks. I fumble with the door handle, trying to get out of the car. A task that minutes earlier seemed too daunting. Leah is here; I’m no longer alone. Seeing me struggle, she pulls open the door. I step out and she immediately engulfs me in a hug. I sag against her, letting go of the pain, as I sob into her shoulder.

Leah hugs me tighter. “I am so sorry, Tate,” she whispers through her own tears.

I’m not sure how long we stand there, but my best friend never wavers. She holds on tight and allows me to grieve the loss of my family, and the future I thought I was planning with Josh.

I pull away from her embrace, and without saying a word, she grabs my hand and slowly leads me to the front of the house. Instead of going to the door, she makes her way to the porch swing that is slighting swaying with the warm breeze. She takes a seat, and reluctantly, I sit beside her.
My parents loved this swing.

As if she can read my thoughts, she says, “They would sit out here for hours. I remember in high school on warm summer nights, they would be here when we would get home at night. You always said it was to make sure we made curfew, but they just loved each other that much. They enjoyed being with each other.” She pauses to collect her thoughts. I don’t say anything, because she’s right. My parents were high school sweethearts; the love they shared was once in a lifetime.
Will I ever have that
? My mind flashes back to Josh and the blonde bimbo. I open my mouth to spill the horrid details, but Leah speaks first.

“It seems fitting that they were together. They were never far apart, and I’m not sure how one would have gone on without the other,” she says softly.

I let her words sink in. She’s right. My parents shared a bond, a love so deep that either one would have been devastated without the other. I know they loved me. I’m an only child as my mother had complications during my delivery and was unable to have more children. However, what they shared, it was if one was not complete without the other.

“I think you may be right,” I tell her.

She squeezes my hand in recognition. What would I do without her? Then it hits me that she’s moving. Leah and her fiancé Brent are moving to Murfreesboro, TN. Brent is a pediatrician. He just finished his residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital here in Columbus. He accepted a private practice position in Tennessee. Leah is a registered nurse; she will be able to find work once they get there.

Sure they will only be seven hours away, but right now, they’re all that I have.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she tells me. “I’m only a phone call away. You can drive to me in a day, and a flight will get you there in a couple of hours. I will always be here for you,” she says, giving my hand another squeeze.

“The hospital called and said that I needed to come right away.” my voice is trembling. Taking a deep breath, I try to get myself under control before I continue. “I had no idea why, and they wouldn’t tell me on the phone. When I got there and asked for the nurse who called me, I was led into a private room. Once I heard the news, it was like I was living outside my body. I know the doctor was talking, but I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Josh popped into my head, and all I wanted to do was go to him. I wanted to feel his arms around me, and hear him tell me everything was going to be okay.”

I stop to take a breath. Leah offers me a small smile of encouragement. She has no idea the bomb I’m about to drop on her. “I knew he had class, but I just wanted to feel close to him. I decided to use the key he gave me a few weeks ago and let myself into his apartment. I’m not sure how I got there; the drive is a blur. I made it to his apartment and turned the handle; it was unlocked. Looking back now, that should have been the first clue, but my head was so jumbled that it just now dawned on me.”

I shake my head to clear the thought. “Anyway, I opened the door and found Josh with some blonde bimbo bent over the couch. I’ll spare you the remaining visual. Needless to say, I told him we were through. He tried to stop me, but his neighbor heard the yelling and stepped in. He blocked Josh while I got away.” I wipe my hands across my cheeks to remove the tears. It’s a wasted effort because they continue to flow. “I didn’t even get the chance to tell him about Mom and Dad.”

“Fuck him!” Leah spits venomously. “I never liked that jackass anyway. You wait until I see him again,” she seethes.

I smile through the tears, because this girl has had my back for years, and I hers. I love her; she is my sister of hearts. “I’m going to miss you,” I say.

“You can always come with us. The condo has three bedrooms and we would love to have you,” she replies. “Let’s get you through the next couple of days, and then we can talk more. You ready?” she asks, gesturing toward the door.

“Not really, but I can’t live on the front porch.” I stand up, as does Leah. I hug her tight. “Thank you for being here.” I release her and pull my keys out of my pocket. Time to face reality.

 

 

 

The blaring vocals of George Strait’s “Fireman” jolt me out of bed. I look at the clock on the night stand and it’s ten fifty-nine.
Shit.
I reach for my phone and swipe at the screen. “Hello,” I mumble.

“Blaise, you up?” I hear my brother chuckle on the other end of the line. He knows that I’m not, or that I wasn’t rather.

“Seriously, why are you calling?” I ask him, frustrated. I was out until three this morning at an auto accident. I was on call he knows this.

“Just making sure you’re up. Mom will so not be impressed if you miss Sunday dinner,” he replies.

Well, shit.

“Thanks, I’m up. Noon as usual?” I ask, even though I already know the answer.

“Yep, don’t be late,” he says with a chuckle as he hangs up. Asher is my twin brother. My baby brother as I like to call him. I did arrive ten minutes earlier than he did. Our father is the fire chief. Asher and I have followed in his footsteps to some degree. We both volunteer for the department, but our first love is our tattoo shop. We rotate hours at the shop to blend with our volunteer hours with the department. It works for us.

I throw my phone on the bed, grab some clothes, and head to the shower. Sunday dinner at my parents has become a tradition. Asher and I moved out when we were twenty-one, and recently our little sister Ember, well she’s twenty-two, but still little to me, has moved out as well. I worry about her living on her own. Living alone doesn’t seem to faze her, except she complains of boredom. Ember is a social butterfly; that’s what my mom calls her. Asher and I were four when she was born, and we have always gone out of our way to protect her. Hell, Dad beat that into our heads from the time she was born. Not just for Ember, for women in general. Always treat them with respect and never lay a mean hand on them. That philosophy was born and bred into us.

BOOK: Tempting Tatum
10.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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