I move to the pile of books on her nightstand, taking note of the titles. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, some smaller, paperback romance novels. A few classics. Noticing there’s a gap in the middle of The Remains of the Day, I pick it up and flip to the center page. There in the crease, still somewhat fresh and fragrant, is a flattened yellow rose. One of the yellow roses I brought her when she was sick? It has to be. It can’t have been inside the book longer than two or three weeks, matching the timing.
Something shifts in my chest and I sit down on the edge of the bed, holding up the yellow rose to the window light. Preserving a flower doesn’t seem like an Addison move. At all. She’s not the whimsical type. At least that I know of. I wasn’t aware she could dirty talk me into another dimension, either, was I? Didn’t know she liked to look out over the water for hours on end. Or that she could gasp over things like master bedrooms and gourmet kitchens, while looking kind of sad at the same time.
Do I know the whole Addison or just pieces?
Not liking that second possibility at all, I carefully place the yellow rose back inside the book. After staring at it for a moment, I enclose it within the pages once more and place the book back on the nightstand.
My cell phone vibrates in my pocket and I groan, already resolved not to answer. But when I tug the object out of my pocket and see Chris’s name, I hit talk. “Hey, man.”
“Hey.” A short pause. “You don’t sound like the guy I just watched charm Charleston on the evening news.”
Did I charm people? In every one of those interviews, I’m positive they’re getting sick of my voice laying down the same facts again and again. “Listen.” I mash my index finger and thumb into my eyes. “You feel like a beer?”
“That’s why I was calling,” Chris says. “Bring your ass over with a six-pack. I’m on babysitting duty tonight.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I take one last look around Addison’s room and get up from the bed. “Where’s Lydia?”
Something about the way he says it so fast piques my interest. “Out where?” My pulse starts to kick in my wrist. “With who?”
“Is she with Addison?”
I’m ready to jump down the phone by the time he gets around to answering. “Come to think of it, that rings a bell.”
Jesus. Is there a pickaxe stuck in my belly? I glance down to double-check, but nothing is there. Addison is out on a Saturday night? Just…looking the way she does around a bunch of hounds? When we stayed inside the apartment together every night, her attractiveness was safe. This is not safe. An image of her laughing with another man tightens my hand around the phone. No. Nope. This isn’t going to work. Addison is my best friend. And she’s now the woman I crave on an hourly basis. Ignoring how badly I want her is insane. Especially when someone could take her from me. I don’t even like the idea of her in the company of someone else. “I’m going to need to know where they went.”
Chris sighs. “Are you going to pass this off as a protective big brother act?”
“No. I’m not.”
“About time.” He says something muffled to his daughter, before coming back on the line. “Listen, she’s out with my wife. They’re not prowling for a hookup.”
“You don’t know that. Lydia could be playing Addison’s wingman.”
“Wingwoman. And I can see no amount of reason is going to convince you they’re just having tapas and going dancing.”
My head almost explodes off my shoulders. “Dancing?”
“Girls dance with each other, Elijah. This isn’t the army ball.” He laughs and I can visualize him shaking his head. “How old are you?”
Done waiting, I collect my briefcase and stride toward the door. “Text me the name of the place.”
“You’re not going to do yourself any favors storming in like Kool-Aid Man. You’re the future mayor. Or did you forget?”
I pause in that act of locking the door, because he’s right. I’m not thinking clearly. My past relationships didn’t have all this…what is this? Angst? How undignified for a thirty-four year old. “I owe you a six pack,” I grumble, disconnecting before Chris can respond. Knowing I’m acting out of jealousy doesn’t stem the tide. It seems to churn hotter in my gut on the drive to Off the Wagon, where Addison and Lydia have gone dancing in downtown Charleston, a place I’ve never been, but know is only a fifteen-minute walk from my house. Or…our house. I’m not sure whom it belongs to at present.
One thing I do know?
I miss Addison. Like hell.
I also want to fuck her until she’s speaking in tongues.