Page 35 of Shiver

That left me more irritated than ever, because I got insanely restless when my head was full of ideas. If I didn’t empty them out onto a piece of paper or my laptop, I was like a woman who’d had way too many expressos—full of inner energy, twitchy, and increasingly intolerant.

I tried not to let that irritability bleed over into my emails, blog, or social media posts, but I wasn’t sure I was successful. I certainly wasn’t successful with that during face-to-face interaction. That was bad, since I wasn’t particularly social at the best of times.

Hearing my cell phone beep, I fished it out of my purse and swiped my thumb across the screen. My stomach fluttered. It was a message from Blake.

Meet me at the Vault at 7

Anger slammed into me hard. Motherfucker. Why was he a motherfucker? Simple. Because Ricky Tate wasn’t the only one who’d gone silent. I hadn’t seen or heard from Blake even once since the night he left me at my apartment with a “Be safe” two weeks ago. He hadn’t called last weekend to arrange another meet, despite telling me that he would. Nor had he answered the text I’d sent, asking if there was a change of plan.

Sure, he was a busy guy. I understood that. Still, he’d found enough damn time to push me for sex before we agreed to our arrangement. It wouldn’t have killed him to send a quick text to let me know that he wouldn’t be able to meet with me, would it?

It wasn’t that I was expecting regular texts or calls from him to check-in. This wasn’t a relationship. Our worlds would stay separate—I got that. I even preferred it, since my world was kind of complicated right now and I didn’t particularly want to share those complications with him. But if a guy said he was going to call, he should call. It was about basic respect and common decency.

I’d started to wonder if maybe he was bored now that the chase was over. That happened with some guys—they were all about the thrill of the chase, the challenge, and things were no longer fun when they’d run down their prey. I’d met men like that before. Blake didn’t seem to be one of them, but it was hard to tell for sure, since he held so much of himself back. It made him extremely difficult to read.

Another possibility was that he was behaving this way to make some kind of point—communicating what expectations I should and shouldn’t have of him and, thus, staying in control. But that seemed a little childish. Blake had never struck me as childish. And he was far too straightforward to passively make a point. Again, though, I just couldn’t be sure.

Whatever the case, he was one bold fucker to break his two-week silence with a text that didn’t even include a ‘hi.’ He hadn’t asked how I was. Hadn’t apologized for not being in touch or for not replying to my text. Hadn’t asked if I was free tonight. No, he expected me to jump at his order. Not only that, he’d told me to meet him at seven, which was in an hour’s time.

“You okay?” asked Sarah, brow pinched.

“Blake just texted me.” I showed her the message, and her expression hardened.

“What kind of advanced notice is that?”

“The kind of notice that says he thinks I’m sitting at home twiddling my fingers, just in case he calls. And look, he hasn’t called. He sent me a text, summoning me.” Had I really struck him as the type of person who jumped at anyone’s order? If so, he wasn’t quite as perceptive as I’d thought.

“What are you going to do?”

“Exactly what any self-respecting woman would do in my position.” I typed a quick, succinct text:

Can’t tonight. Busy.

Watching me type, Sarah nodded her approval. I had been tempted to comment on him acting like a dick, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how much it had bothered me. Moments after I sent the text, my phone beeped again. It was yet another message from Blake:

Busy doing what?

Well, Sarah and I had plans that involved Netflix, popcorn, and a bottle of wine. I could tell him the truth that I was having a girl’s night with Sarah. A girl’s night could be anything from a movie night to a club crawl—he deserved the annoyance of not knowing what I meant. As I was debating exactly what to type, another message from him came through:

Where are you?

I thought about replying with something like, ‘My location isn’t important—our worlds don’t mix outside the Vault, remember?’ But it would only sound bitter. Would sound as if I wanted more from him when I truly didn’t. I simply responded:

Out with Sarah.

In a matter of seconds, there was another message:

Where are you, Kensey?

Teeth grinding, my thumbs furiously tapped on the screen as I responded:

Got to go. Speak soon.

Dismissed. I smiled, knowing that would gall him, since he seemed to think I should answer to him. With that, I dropped my cell back in my purse and waited while Sarah paid for the bangles she’d chosen. Happy, she stuffed the small bag in another store bag. That was when my cell rang.

Oh, now he calls.

“Think that’s Blake?” Sarah asked.

“Probably.” I ignored the chiming and chatted with Sarah as we made our way down the escalators to the food court on the ground floor. We both found a table and settled there with takeout boxes from the noodle bar. I was so hungry that I almost groaned with every bite. Of course, I probably would have been enjoying the meal a whole lot more if my cell phone didn’t keep sporadically ringing.

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Take pity on him and answer it.”

“Why would I do that?”

“What he did was shitty, but I don’t think it’s something you should take personally. This is a guy who probably never has to explain his actions to anyone. He’s used to having what he wants when he wants.” Using a napkin, Sarah wiped her hands. “I’m not saying that’s okay. He needs to understand you won’t stand for that shit. You’ve made your point. I’m sure he heard it loud and clear. But you won’t know unless you take his call and hear what he has to say. There could be a perfectly good reason why he hasn’t been in contact. Maybe he was in the hospital or something.”

Since I’d recently felt tempted to put him in a damn hospital myself, it was hard to be understanding. Still, I pulled out my phone as I told Sarah, “I need a minute.”

She grinned in a way that made me nervous. “Take all the time you need.”

Casting her a suspicious look, I turned sideways in my seat as I answered, “Hello.”

“Where are you?” It was a deep rumble that made my stomach roll.

“Hello to you too. I told you, I’m out with Sarah.”

“You and I have an arrangement.”

“Yes, but that arrangement doesn’t include me hanging around on the off-chance that you’ll call or text,” I stated, firm yet calm. “If you want me to meet you at the Vault, you need to give me some advanced notice.”

“I did,” he clipped.

“An hour is not enough notice. And I’m not cutting my time short with my friend for no good reason.”

“I’ll fuck you into oblivion—that’s a good reason.”

My pulse spiked. “You know what I mean, Blake. And since I haven’t received a word from you in two weeks, I’m not feeling inclined to—” My phone was suddenly snatched out of my hand.

“Hey, Blake, it’s Sarah,” she said into the phone, smiling sweetly at me. “I’m guessing from what little I heard that you’d like to see Kensey tonight … Yeah, see, we agreed to spend the day together, and she’s loyal to the bone. She really won’t drop me for a guy but well, if I went along with her to the Vault, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Romance