“I made coffee!” Justin yells over the TV as soon as I make it to the bottom landing. I wonder how the hell he heard me when the stairs didn’t even squeak. “Told you—you are safe with me,” he teases loudly as soon as I finish my thought.
I shake my head and walk into the living room, seeing that the whole space is covered with food wrappers and open bottles of soda. I have no idea how he consumed so much food in such a short amount of time. I take a seat next to him on the couch, pull a bag of Doritos from the coffee table to my lap, shove my hand in the bag, pull out a handful, and stuff my face.
“What game is this?” I ask through a mouthful while watching a guy get his head blown off.
“Call of Duty,” he mumbles. “These f**kers are campin’!” he shouts into the mic while the guy on the screen looks around him, trying to find whoever is shooting at him.
Before I know it, I’m yelling at the TV every time Justin gets shot at. I get so lost in the game that I don’t even realize how late it is until I look at the clock and see that it’s already after eight at night and I haven’t done anything with my day besides eat junk food and lie on the couch.
“I gotta get ready for work,” I tell Justin.
He grunts and nods. I get up and go to the office to get online. After I pay my bills, I check my e-mail, and the first one is from Sid.
There is so much I should have told you, so many things I should have said. I want to hear your voice. Please call me. My number hasn’t changed.
I close my eyes and lay my forehead against the desk. I do not want to deal with this, but I know I need to let Sid know that there’s nothing between us and never will be. I feel bad, but I know I’ll feel worse if I let him believe even for a second that I felt anything for him.
“What’s going on?”
I lift my head and look at Justin, who is standing in the open doorway of the office.
“It’s something,” he says, coming in and setting a cup of coffee down on the desk in front of me as he takes a seat and raises an eyebrow.
“Thanks.” I take a drink of the coffee and sigh with happiness.
“So, what’s going on?” he repeats, and I know there is no way he is going to let it go.
“My old boss sent me an e-mail and wants me to call him.”
“That’s nice,” he says, leaning back in the chair.
“I think he believes there’s something between us,” I say quietly, shaking my head.
“Boss man won’t like that.” He smiles, rubbing his eyes.
“Kenton won’t care.”
“I beg to differ, sweet cheeks.” He shrugs. “I’ve known Kenton for a long time and have seen plenty of women come and go—”
“I don’t want to know this,” I cut him off, feeling a ball of jealousy beginning to form in the pit of my stomach.
“Do you want to know how many times I came to stay when Cassie was living here and Kenton went out of town?”
“Do you want to know how many times he asked the guys to swing by her job to check on her or any of the other women he’s been with?”
“No,” I repeat again, that warm feeling settling in.
“Do you know how many women he’s become possessive over?”
“No,” I whisper.
“The answer to all of the above is zero. You are the first woman to have him tied in f**king knots, and I know you’re going to say it’s because he’s looking out for you, but I guaran-fucking-tee it that’s not the reason.”
“Please don’t say anything else,” I mumble.
“Why are all women the same?” He shakes his head, running a hand through his long hair. “Women are always talking about how men are so afraid to commit when the truth is you guys send the most f**king confusing signals. One minute, you want us, and the next, you’re running away.”
I raise an eyebrow and he shakes his head again.
“E-mail your boss and let him down easy. If you don’t and Kenton finds out about him, he will let him know and won’t be nice about it.”
“I think you’re blowing this out of proportion.”
“You think so?” He smiles and gives a small, humorless laugh. “Kenton had one of his best friends by the throat for calling you a sweet piece a few days after they saw you at the hospital. It took three dudes to pull Kenton off him. I’ve never seen him react like that over a female.”
I have no idea what to do with that information. I’m not even sure I want to know what all of that means exactly.
Justin continues. “All I’m sayin’ is whether you want to be or not, you’re his, and he won’t like your ex-boss sniffing around.”
“Did you beat the game?” I ask, trying to change the subject.
“You never beat Call of Duty.” He smiles then looks out the window.
“Have you heard from him today?” I ask softly, thinking about everything he just told me and really wanting to talk to Kenton. I want to know that he’s okay. I really want him to know that I’m thinking about him and miss sleeping with him.
“Not after your text last night, though I’m surprised he messaged you back. But that only proves my point—you’re the exception.”
“You know I sent him a text?” I ask, surprised and slightly annoyed while ignoring everything else he just said.
“His phone goes thorough my computer. I get all his messages. It’s easier than waiting for him to send me the info I need. In this business, a second can mean the difference between landing a case and getting hurt.” He stands up and leans on the side of the desk.
I don’t want him hurt, so I’m glad they’re taking every precaution necessary. Then I wonder what kind of texts Kenton gets daily where he needs that kind of precaution.
“Oh God,” I whisper in horror when I realize that Justin probably saw my drunken texts to Kenton. “Do you read all his personal messages?”
He smiles and nods. “Yeah. The ones from his mom are the best.” He starts to laugh, and I can only imagine the kinds of texts Nancy sends Kenton. I’m sure they’re something like, Did you eat your vegetables? Are you taking your vitamins? Do you have clean socks and underwear?
“I like Nancy.”
“She likes you too,” he says softly, making me wonder what he knows.
I look away and try to swallow the lump in my throat.