Page 10 of Mayhem (Mayhem 1)

I find the strength to give her a half smile. “That’ll be our little secret.”

She rewards me with a grin of approval and starts the car. I waste no time buckling my seat belt and making sure it’s pulled tight. Riding with Dee is . . . unpredictable. And with the nausea I’m still feeling from my hangover, this just isn’t going to be good.

By the time we arrive at IHOP, I’m practically dry-heaving.

“Oh, stop being a baby,” she says as she whips the car into a parking spot and hops out, stretching her arms behind her back. I brace my hands on the hood, trying to calm my contracting stomach.

“That should’ve been a twenty-minute ride,” I say.

“I made it in ten!”

“I know!”

She laughs and starts walking toward the entrance, and I follow. Inside, we both order strawberry pancakes with coffee and sides of bacon. Dee fishes a hair tie from her purse and ties back her long dark chocolate curls. “So before the incident last night, did you have fun?”

I pour a heart-clogging amount of syrup over my pancakes, letting it soak in before adding another coat. “Yeah, I did.” I look up at her. “Seriously. Thanks for making me go. And honestly, I’m glad I found out about Brady. Sooner rather than later, you know? If he would have proposed, like I wanted him to . . .” I don’t even want to finish the sentence, but Dee knows. I would have said yes and given the rest of my life to him without ever looking back.

“So what about this hot guy you were with?” She’s staring at her sugar packet as she tears it open and pours it into her coffee. Thank God, because that means she doesn’t see the panic that flashes across my face. Adam comes back to me in a rush, making me feel . . . needy. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. Is it possible to miss someone you just met? And miss doesn’t even feel like the right word . . . yearn? Is it possible to yearn for someone you just met?

I try to keep my voice even. “Um . . . what about him?”

“Did you get his number?”

I shake my head. I need to lie like I’ve never lied before to the only bloodhound who can smell my bullshit. “We were just talking. And then I saw Brady.”

“You saw Brady while you were with him?”

“Yeah . . .” I’m trying to force my eyes to look trustworthy as Dee stares at me suspiciously, but then she lets it go.

“Well, that’s a shame.”

I shrug. “It is what it is. Maybe next time.” I pull my phone from my purse and turn it back on. Six missed calls, four missed voicemails, three missed texts. “You ready?” I ask, and she nods. We’re in a corner booth and the restaurant is dead since we came between the lunch and dinner rushes, so I lay the phone in the middle of the table and play Brady’s voicemail on speakerphone. His smooth voice breaks my heart all over again, but I need to hear what he has to say for himself.

“Rowan, I just got home and . . . all your stuff is gone. Baby, what’s going on? I tried calling you three times now and I’m not getting any answer. You need to call me back as soon as you get this. I’m really worried . . . I love you. Please call me.”

I look at Dee, and she rolls her eyes. I move on to the next one.

“Baby, seriously, I’m really getting worried here. Your car’s still out there, but all your clothes are gone. Everything is gone. I have no idea what’s going on. Please call me. I’m worried about you. I love you . . . I love you, so just . . . just call me back, okay?”

Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes. I play the third one.

“Look, if this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny, Rowan. Did I do something wrong? Please just talk to me. I have no idea where you are. I called Dee and I even called your Mom. Dee’s phone went straight to voicemail and your mom hasn’t heard anything either. You need to call me. I’m lost here, baby. I don’t know what to do. Please come home. Or at least call me back . . . I love you.”

“Shit!” I immediately snatch my phone off the table and call my mom.

“Rowan?!” She’s panicked, and I feel so stupid for not predicting this would happen.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Are you okay?!”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Nothing to worry about. There’s just some stuff going on between Brady and me right now, so I moved my things out of the apartment and I’m staying with Dee for now.”

“Oh, no, Ro . . .” She sounds so sad for me, and it’s precisely what I don’t need to hear right now because I do not want to cry again. “Are you alright, honey?”

“Yeah, I think so.” And even if I’m not, I will be. I’m determined to make sure of that.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Maybe later, but not right now.”

Dee yells loudly enough for my mom to hear, “I’m taking good care of her, Tracy!”

My mom breathes a sigh of relief. “Oh, good, Dee’s with you? Tell her I say hi.”

“My mom says hi, Dee.” Dee smiles, and I tell my mom she says hi back.

“Rowan, honey, is there anything you need? Is there anything you need me to do?”

“Actually, yeah . . . Can you please not tell Brady that I called you? If he tries to get ahold of you again, just don’t answer the phone. Tell Dad to do the same.”

“Honey . . . I don’t know what’s going on between you two, but he is really worried about you. Are you sure you don’t want to—”