Follow Seth to a hotel.
Stay there tonight.
Meet Jase tomorrow for dinner.
He ends the rattled-off list of things I’m required to do with, “We need to have a conversation.”
The pit of my stomach sinks as I take in my current reality.
“I was a fool to think I’d outrun you, wasn’t I?” My words are whispered and as they leave me, Seth’s car comes to life. As he pulls up in front of my house, his eyes meet mine in the faint darkness. I rip my gaze away.
“You’re far from a fool, but running from me … it won’t be tolerated, Miss Fawn.”
There’s a saying about life and how it can be anything you want it to be. I forget how it goes exactly. Not that it matters, because the saying is a fucking lie. You can’t just decide one day you’re going to change and everything will change with you. That’s not how it works. That’s not life. It’s more complicated than that.
Life is a tangled mess of other people’s bullshit and other people’s decisions. Even decisions they make on a whim.
Sometimes, you get to decide whether or not you care about them and their issues. If you do, you’re fucked. Their problems become yours and sometimes that means you fall down a black hole and there’s no easy escape. “Today I choose to be happy,” is a joke. You can’t be happy when there’s a rope around your neck and another around your feet. You can’t step forward, and even if you could, you’d just hang yourself.
Sometimes you don’t get to decide a damn thing at all. There’s not a choice you could have made that would have prevented what’s to come. My sorry ass has been thinking about that all day. Whether I had a choice or not. And if what I choose is what I deserve.
Because right now it feels like that rope is pulled snug under my chin with another wrapped tight around my ankles, scratching against my skin with every step I take.
As I stare at the slip of paper I’ve kept in my wallet that says, in a life where you can be anything, be kind, I don’t think twice about balling it up to toss the crumpled scrap in the trash can outside the restaurant.
I miss on the first try. Figures. It mocks me as it falls to the ground, daring me to pick it up and really discard it. Which I do, albeit spitefully.
A strong gust of wind blows the hair from out of my face, and without the scarf I left in my car, the chill sweeps down my collarbone and seeps into my jacket. The weather is just as bitter as I am.
I don’t know how long I’ve been standing outside of Crescent Inn, one of the nicer restaurants in this town. I’ve always wanted to come here, but I could never justify it because of the price. Pulling my coat collar tighter around myself I peek in through the large floor-to-ceiling windows, past the wooden blinds that only cover the top third of the windows and search for Jase.
He’s not hard to find. In the center of the room, filled with bright white tablecloths amid a sea of small cobalt blue vases, each housing an array of fresh flowers next to tea lights for ambience, he stands out.
Just seeing him does something to me. Even as a couple passes around me, giving me a disconcerted look for blocking the door and staring inside the place, I can’t bring myself to go to him. I couldn’t sleep without dreaming about him.
I can’t think without wanting to know what he thinks about it all.
It’s only when he brings his gaze to meet mine, as if he could feel my stare, that I dare consider taking the necessary steps toward him.
How did I get in this deep? How did I let the ropes of his life and my sister’s death wrap so tightly around my every waking moment?
More importantly, how the hell do I get out of this?
I tell myself the only reason I came is because he said he found my things they stole when he called this morning. They were all thrown in a trash can a few blocks down from my place. There’s no way it was a break-in. Jase is on my side; it was staged to disguise something else.
It’s easier to enter though, knowing I’ll get my book back.
“Good evening, Miss Fawn.” The host greets me the moment I walk in. Without another word, he graciously takes my coat from me, ignoring the shock and apprehension that must show on my expression. With my jaw dropped, and the air absent from my lungs, I don’t have a chance to ask him how he knew my name, as if the answer isn’t obvious.