My knees weakened—like, weakened for real. Not just a figure of speech. I literally wanted Reese Hayes inside me so badly I had trouble supporting my own weight, which was a huge problem. Then his hand squeezed my butt almost spasmodically, and I saw a hint of sweat start to bead on his forehead.
If Reese Hayes wanted me even half as much as I wanted him … Stop thinking about it! I needed him out of here. Now. Before I did something really, truly insane like drag him back into my bedroom and ride him until I completely forgot about Nate.
The man I’d almost had sex with less than an hour ago.
Oh. My. God. When had I become such a faithless slut?
I put up my hands and shoved against his chest—hard—until he let me go. Reese stepped back, holding up his hands, a mocking smile on his face. He obviously saw right through me. My eyes darted away, which was a huge mistake because they caught on his jeans instead. The giant bulge in his pants made me feel even more unsteady, everything melting and mixed up deep inside.
How could this be? Why could a man I didn’t even like drive me crazy like this? Make me doubt Nate, who’d never done a thing to make me suspect him?
You. Have. A. Boyfriend.
I rubbed my face with one hand, leaning back against the wall for support.
“Just go,” I told him, refusing to meet his gaze. Instead I stared at the door, pointedly. “Thank you for bringing Jess home.”
Hayes laughed harshly, the sound a rough rasp along my spine.
“Sleep tight,” he said, tapping the tip of my nose with his finger. Then he casually strolled out the door to his truck, as if he owned the place. I watched him, completely unable to look away from that beautiful butt of his. Why was he so helpful and hateful at the same time? And who was he to imply nasty things about Nate? I didn’t believe it for a minute—Nate was a total gentleman, and if the sheriff wasn’t happy with him, he could just fire him. Hayes was a tainted source. Nobody even pretended the Reapers were on the up-and-up, so why he thought he could get away with making accusations like that I couldn’t imagine.
I shoved the front door shut hard, wood scraping as it settled into the warped frame. Loud music burst suddenly out of Jessica’s room, pushing me over the edge. Stalking down the hallway, I grabbed her doorknob.
I pounded on the door and yelled at her, “Open up, Jess! We need to talk.”
Long seconds passed and the music got louder. Oh my God, was she really doing this? I thought my head might explode, I had so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside. Enough. I prowled through the kitchen and out the side door. The electrical panel was mounted on the wall right next to it. I ripped the small metal door open, slamming the breakers to the side.
Instantly the house fell dark. And silent.
I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed it quite so much, but it was the first thing that’d gone right for me that night. Then I stomped back in, bashing into the stove top with my hip. Ouch. I rubbed the small hurt as I jerked open the junk drawer. Slight miscalculation, I realized, peering down at it in the darkness. I should’ve grabbed the little flathead screwdriver I’d need to pop Jessica’s lock before cutting the power. I dug my phone out of my pocket, flipping on the flash-light app. There it was.
I snatched the tool and stomped back to Jessica’s room.
“You going to let me in?” I asked.
“No!” she yelled. “You can go to hell! You have no right to tell me what to do! I’m an adult!”
My blood pressure rose. “My house, my rules. Open the damned door.”
I growled, sliding the tiny screwdriver into the hole in the knob, popping it open easily enough. Wasn’t the first time I’d had to break into her room.
I opened it to find Jess glaring at me by the light of a candle. “I asked you not to burn things in here,” I said, even more frustrated than I’d been before. She’d nearly set the place on fire a couple of months ago. “I don’t want to die in my sleep because you like candles.”
“No, fuck you,” I snapped back at her. Jess froze, because I didn’t cuss. Not that I couldn’t—I’d just made a conscious decision when I first took custody of her not to set a bad example with my language. So much for that. “I’m about done with your shit, Jessica. You think you’re an adult? Fine. Starting this month you pay rent. You follow the rules or you’re out on your ass. How’s that for treating you like an adult?”
She gaped at me, then quick as a snake she grabbed a picture frame off her dresser and threw it at me. I ducked as she started screaming, darting out of the room and slamming the door behind me.
What the hell had just happened?
Another crash hit the wood behind me and then another. The kid must be tearing apart her room. I heard yet another shriek, then the door flew open. Jess stood there, bag in one hand and her phone in the other.
“You can go fuck yourself,” she hissed, pushing past me to stomp down the hall. “I don’t need you.”
I followed her, a detached part of my brain observing that she really needed to expand her vocabulary.
“And how—exactly—do you think this will play out?” I asked her, crossing my arms in determination.
Jess ignored me, jerking open the front door and marching out across the porch. Then she started down the driveway, frantically texting as she kicked the occasional rock out of her path.
Just like her mother, I realized. I should go after her, make her stop.
I should make sure that candle was out and then I should go to bed. Why keep fighting? She’d come home sooner or later. She wants to be an adult? Let her figure it out for herself. She just saw the doctor, she should be safe enough …
So instead of chasing down the girl I’d spent the last six years raising, I poured myself a glass of wine and drank it, pondering how I’d lost control of my life.
Nate. Reese. Jessica and Amber.
Right now I didn’t want to see or talk to any of them.
Defiantly, I poured a second glass, followed by a third. Then—feeling warm and giddy and relaxed for the first time in forever—I called my college roommate, Dawn, and we talked for two hours, laughing like we were still twenty years old. By three in the morning I still hadn’t heard anything from Jess, but for once I didn’t care. I just collapsed into bed, reveling in the peace and quiet.
It was fantastic.
You know, there’s a party game I’ve played before, where people try to decide where they’d go or what they’d do if they could travel back in time. Some people say they’d go back and meet Jesus, or kill Hitler, or talk to Albert Einstein … But if I could go back and change one thing, it’d be the fact that I went to bed that night without finding my girl first.