Then it clicked. Heather. She’d had to leave their girls behind. Totally different circumstances, but that didn’t change the end result—young women without a mother, forced to grow up too early.
“Her dad is a drunk,” I said, deciding five more minutes wouldn’t make a difference. I let my head fall down on his chest, and he loosened his fingers, running them through my hair again. “I think he was beating on Nicole. She’s Mellie’s mom. I tried talking to her a couple of times but she didn’t want to hear it.”
“And now she’s taken off and left her kid behind? Fuckin’ cunt. He treats her like that, he’ll treat her girl like that, too.”
Wow, that was harsh … but fair. Nicole was a cunt. She abandoned her daughter to a drunk who liked to hit women. If she didn’t fit the word, I wasn’t sure who did.
“Don’t worry—I’ll take care of Mellie. She’s like my own.”
He looked thoughtful, then nodded.
“Okay, let’s get some shit straight and then you can head out.”
Great, here it came. The Talk. Fortunately I was ahead of him for once.
“Don’t worry, Reese. I know this was just a one-off for you, and that you don’t want a relationship. That’s what I needed, too, so in a way it’s perfect. No harm, no foul. We can just pretend this never happened.”
A scowl covered his face. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Us. Or rather, the fact that there isn’t an ‘us.’ I get it—you like to sleep around. I had a good time, but I’m not expecting a ring or anything.”
His eyes widened, and I smirked.
“Although I’ll be around if you want another booty call,” I added slyly.
Yay me! I’m a sophisticated woman who knows the difference between love and sex.
Reese’s scowl grew deeper, and then suddenly he moved and I was under him, pinned down against the bed. He pulled my hands up, holding them prisoner above my head.
“Are you fucked in the head?” he demanded harshly. “You get laid for the first time in years, it’s phenomenal—”
“Well, aren’t you the modest one?”
“It’s phenomenal,” he repeated, emphasizing the word heavily. “And now you’re just going to ignore me? I am not fuckin’ down with that.”
Now it was my turn to be startled.
“I see you with women all the time,” I said, confused. “I know how you operate. Strictly sex. I’m not looking to change that.”
“The fuck?” he muttered, shaking his head. It was like we were having two completely different conversations, because I had no idea why he was acting this way. “You’re so fucking stupid I could strangle you. Don’t know exactly what we’re doing here just yet, but it’s not just sex. For one thing, I’m not okay with your seein’ anyone else, especially Deputy Dick.”
“Right, and I suppose you’re planning to be true and faithful? I don’t buy it. You’re a known man-whore. Also, you ever call me stupid again and I’ll dump paint stripper on your bike. That isn’t a threat, it’s a promise.”
He looked me straight in the eyes, his face grim and serious.
“I have no plans to fuck anyone but you, at least for now.”
“I don’t believe you,” I told him, feeling almost wistful. “And you don’t need to be saying things like this, because I’m not interested in tying you down.”
“Listen. To. Me,” he said, his face growing colder, which I wouldn’t have considered possible ten seconds earlier. “I’ll admit it—I’ve slept around since Heather died. Slept around a lot, but none of them ever felt real to me. There’s something about you, London, something that’s real in a way I can’t even begin to explain. I like it and I want it and you dumped your boyfriend and came to me when you were hurting. Guess that means you want it, too. So far as I figure, that makes you mine.”
“I don’t understand,” I whispered. “We hardly know each other.”
“And we won’t get to know each other if we’re out there screwing other people, so I think we’re gonna have to stop doing it. Should be easy enough for you, under the circumstances.”
“So you’re saying you want to be in an exclusive relationship with me? I thought you didn’t do that. What about Heather?”
“Heather is dead. I’m not. Now I’m gonna kiss you and you’re gonna kiss me back. Then I’ll let you go home because it’s important and I respect that. Tomorrow you’ll go get your girl at the airport and I’ll give you the evening together, but come Friday night you’re with me. Havin’ a party out at the Armory and I want you there. You got a problem with any of that?”
I shook my head quickly, relatively certain that “havin’ a problem with that” wasn’t really a solid option at this point.
“Great. Let’s get started.”
Then he kissed me, and not in a laid-back kind of way. His mouth took possession, head slanting as his tongue pushed in. It wasn’t a seductive kiss, or even a comfortable one. Nope, this was his body telling mine we had unfinished business. I didn’t even notice I’d spread my legs for him until he pulled away long enough to slide on a fresh condom. Then he was deep inside, claiming and conquering me yet again.
Turns out you can improve on phenomenal. Go figure.
Half an hour later, when Reese gave me another kiss, it was a quick peck through my van window.
“Sure you don’t want someone keeping an eye on your house? If her daddy’s a mean drunk, might not be a bad idea.”
I shook my head, which jiggled my chest. He’d destroyed my bra, unfortunately—and I was a big enough girl that going bra-less wasn’t the best of options.
“Mel’s spent at least two nights a week at my place for the past three years. Not sure what the long-term plan will be, but I’ll get her set up. Unlike Jessica, she’s got a job and she’s planning to start classes at NIC in August. They’ve got student housing.”
He smiled at me, reaching out and tucking a strand of my bright red hair behind my ear.
“You know, this is sexy as fuck,” he said. “But you were gorgeous as a blonde, too.”
“Thanks,” I whispered. Then I pulled away and turned the key in my ignition.
The starter turned over, but the engine didn’t catch.