He shrugged her off and took a step in my direction, but then Ian glanced up and recognition flared in his eyes as he realized who I’d been dancing with, apparently.
He let go of me and smiled, greeting Brandon with a ‘Hey!’ as they clasped hands and did the whole one-shoulder-man-hug thing. Brandon grinned back at him and Leah and I both looked at each other with confusion as we realized we were now standing still like morons in the middle of the floor while our dance partners ignored us.
Leah jerked her head toward the table and turned to go sit down. I followed, leaving the guys on the floor. Calland was standing beside the table looking out toward the crowded dance floor. We stopped beside him and realized that the red-head from the bar was standing with him.
“Hey, there you guys are. Your drinks are on the table and I swear I saw Brandon here somewhere. Do you think you guys could get a ride home from him tonight?” He winked at us and I laughed as Leah gave a pretend shudder of disgust in return.
“You whore,” she muttered under her breath and then grinned at him when he laughed unashamedly.
Brandon broke in behind us. “Yeah, I’ll get them home. Or we will…however it works out.”
We all turned and noticed Ian standing with him. Leah moved toward Ian, and honestly, I don’t think she even realized she did it. It’s like they just gravitated toward each other and it was cute. Seriously cute.
Calland glanced between Ian and Brandon in surprise. “You two know each other?”
Brandon shook his head in affirmation, then said, “Yeah, how do you think he got all that awesome-ass ink?”
Calland inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Sweet. Alright then, I’m gonna take Tiffany and get out of here, then.”
Brandon broke in before Calland could leave. “Wait, so how do you know Ian?” He addressed the question to Calland, but he looked at all of us for the answer.
“This drunk guy at the fight was getting pretty rowdy, spilled his beer all over Chloe, and then when we were standing, he basically clocked her pretty good and almost knocked her down. So then my sister decided she was going to jump the big bastard and Ian stepped in.”
He turned to Ian, giving him a crooked grin and said, “By the way, thanks again, man, for helping out and getting Rocky out of there before she could hurt herself. Or anyone else.” He grinned at his sister who pouted and punched him in the arm.
Ian grinned back, thumped Calland on the back and said, “No problem.” He glanced at Leah from the corner of his eye and continued. “I have a feeling that I’ll probably see you again.”
Awww. How sweet was that? Leah looked up at him with a shy smile, and I felt my lips stretching into a wide smile as she blushed for the first time in like…well, ever. I swear that girl has no shame. It was absolutely adorable to see her smitten. There was no other word for it, and I was getting the feeling that it might be mutual.
I waved to Calland as he left and scooted inside the booth, moving further over when Brandon slid in beside me, pushing his thigh against mine. I moved over even more to put some distance between us and, thankfully or regretfully, I wasn’t quite sure how I should feel, he didn’t move towards me anymore. Leah and Ian slid in across from us and, even though Brandon was a little quieter than normal, the next couple of hours were full of good food, good drinks, and good company. And a definite budding romance…
It was late when we finally left the bar, and neither one of us spoke as Brandon started his truck and pulled away.
“Thanks for giving me a ride home.”
My words were quiet, barely breaking the silence filling the truck. It was just he and I because, surprise, surprise, Leah had gotten a ride from Ian. He had asked her if he could drop her off and she had accepted before the words were totally even out of his mouth. Brandon had vouched for him, so I wasn’t too worried about her getting in the car with him and everything, even though they’d just met tonight.
It made my heart ache, just a little, seeing that instant attraction, that bond being forged right in front of me between them. It was bittersweet, but I was happy for Leah. She deserved to find someone that made her feel special and loved. I could only hope that it was the beginning of a very good thing for her.
Brandon jerked his chin, I guess in acknowledgment of my thanks, but he didn’t say a word, not even when he pulled into my driveway and shut off his truck.
We sat in silence, but for the first time in a long while, it wasn’t awkward. At least not much. I was sort of at a loss, to be honest. Not a word had been spoken about this morning - about the kiss or anything else.
The kiss. Oh, God. My thighs clenched as the memory of his lips on mine once again flashed through my mind, the sweet heat of his mouth, the nip of his perfect, white teeth, the slow thrust and curl of his tongue tangling with mine…
A shuddering breath left my lips, seeming to echo in the silence surrounding us as we sat in the darkness. All of a sudden, his closeness was too much and too little, all at the same time. I needed to get out of there, and fast, before I climbed over the console and attacked him like a lust-crazed psychopath. Or was it sociopath? Ugh.
I reached for the door handle but my mouth decided to become animated on its own and I blurted out, “Do you want to stay?”
“Uh…yeah. Sure.” He paused. “Thanks.”
I scrambled to get out of the vehicle, tugging my keys from my purse and fumbling at the lock until he took them from my hand and unlocked the door smoothly and quickly, smirking at me. The glow from the moon bathed his face in shadows, sharpening the angles of it until they stood out in stark relief, making him look even sexier and…dangerous.
My breath caught and my stomach dropped, but I still had no idea where we stood, and I was beginning to think I never would.
We still didn’t speak as we went inside, parting ways at the door to the spare bedroom when he went in and shut the door behind him. I continued on to my room, stripped down and fell onto the bed without bothering to put any clothes on, suddenly worn out.
I laid in the darkness, my eyes feeling heavy. My last thought before the dark swept me under was relief that maybe I’d actually get some sleep tonight…
With a shaking hand, I combed my long blonde locks, staring at myself in the mirror. My eyes were dark, haunted and huge in the gaunt face of the stranger looking back at me. I closed my eyes, disgusted with myself. How the hell did I get like this? How did this happen? My God I’m so fucking pathetic.
I started as the door slammed downstairs, panic flooding through me as I realized I wasn’t in the kitchen, standing at the counter where I was supposed to be. Disgust with myself turned to terror as I ran, tripping down the stairs and twisting my ankle in my haste but not caring. The pain of that would fade quickly beneath the onslaught of my ‘punishment.’
Limping into the kitchen, I gripped the edge of the counter and waited, head down, eyes shut. I knew what was coming…I just didn’t want to see it.
It didn’t take long. The first blow came quietly and quickly in the form of a well-placed kick directly to the ankle I’d just twisted. I bit my tongue to hold back my cries, agony flashing through me in a red hot haze as I grappled to keep hold of the counter and not fall to the floor.
“Ah, gonna play the silent strong type today, huh, honey? Is that what this is? Can’t be where you’re supposed to be, bitch, and now you want to play games with me? I’ll make you fucking cry, you little cunt. Let me hear you!” Greg roared, kicking out at my ankle again as the open palm of his hand met my cheek, causing my head to jerk violently to the side.