Aspen shivered and hugged herself.
“All it took was for one person to believe me and do a little investigating, and knowing that has bothered me for a full fucking year.” When she glanced at me, I almost felt the urge to tear up. “It’s my fault you got fired.”
Her shoulders fell. “No. No, it’s not. It’s my fault I was fired. I’m the one who started a relationship with a student. I knew the rules. I knew the consequences, and I did it anyway.”
“No. If anything, your actions merely accelerated the inevitable. What happened was going to happen, Ten. And you know what? I’m glad. I ended up with the man of my dreams. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I’d stayed there. But here I am now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, happier than I ever thought I could be. I feel fulfilled in every way, because I’m going to get that goddamn teaching job at that high school, and Noel is going to stop stressing that he somehow ruined my life, and then everything is going to be perfect. So, honestly, I would like to thank you for whatever part you played in all that.”
I shook my head. Instead of getting mad at me, the woman had ended up thanking me. “That’s messed up,” I said.
She smiled. “Well, take it or leave it. I’m still grateful for everything you’ve done for us.” This time it was her turn to eye the front door. “It’s been over an hour since they left.”
“An hour and eighteen minutes.”
Aspen shot me a knowing glance. I pulled back, hoping I hadn’t given anything away.
“Caroline’s been so much happier lately,” she said.
My pulse thundered through my ears. I had no idea how to respond. Was this her way of telling me she knew about us? Or was she just rattling out stray conversation topics?
“I’m sorry, what?” I asked, my mouth incredibly dry.
Her eyes flashed wide. “Nothing.”
I nodded. “Well.” I pushed to my feet. “I’m probably going to shove off. This conversation’s filled my quota of touchy-feely for the next few months, so I’m getting the itching need to go do something really manly like go home, watch some sports in my underwear, and scratch my balls for an entire hour.”
“Oh, good.” Her shoulders released all the tension in them. “Because I was running out of things to say.”
I chuckled and gathered my things. “You’re all right, Dr. Kavanagh. I mean...shit.” I flashed her an apologetic cringe. She hadn’t been Dr. Kavanagh for months. She was Mrs. Gamble now. Or was it Dr. Gamble?
“It’s just Aspen,” she told me.
I slipped the strap of my messenger bag over my shoulder. “See you around.”
As soon as I escaped the house, I pulled out my phone and started for my truck.
Where are you? I wrote to Caroline. Meet me. Now.
I didn’t even have to wait thirty seconds for her reply. I’m not really in the mood for sex tonight.
“Jesus, woman,” I muttered, and punched in my reply. Wow, you honestly think that lowly of me, don’t you? This isn’t a booty call. I just need you.
I waited another minute. When she didn’t respond, I growled under my breath and started my truck. Once I made it home, I restrained myself from sending another message until I was in my room with the door shut. Zwinn had been cuddled on the couch, watching one of their shows together, but I’d just grumbled something at them as I passed.
As soon as I flopped myself onto my bed, I pounded out a new text. Do you even realize how fucking hard it was for me not to race after you when you left the kitchen crying? I just got out of my session with your sister-in-law, and I’m not holding back any longer. If I don’t get you into my arms before the end of the night, I might lose my fucking mind. COME OVER NOW.
Wow. You have the sweetest way with words, she wrote back.
I snorted. If you wanted sweet, you would’ve gone after Hamilton. But you wanted me, so this is what you get. If your ass isn’t in my bedroom in twenty, I’m coming for you. I don’t care if I have to break into Gam’s house, push him out of my way, and storm the halls to find you.
Fine. I’ll be there in five.
Tell me where you are. I’ll come get you.
I SAID I WOULD BE THERE IN FIVE.
Okay. Fine. Damn. I let her win that one and come to me.
I wasn’t sure what I was doing here. Oren had been downright pushy in his texts. I wasn’t in the mood for pushy. I wanted to be mad at him, at the entire world. I didn’t feel stable enough to be around anyone, but I found a sense of relief as I tromped up the steps to his apartment building and to his front door. No matter how I felt or what mood I was in, I still wanted to be near him.