“Not here.” Keeping a tight grip on my head and ass, he stood upright. I curled my limbs around him and held on as he carried me up the stairs. I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow.
If the woman hadn’t been so damn rude as to park between pumps, I might not have laughed when she absentmindedly began driving away while the nozzle was still attached to her car.
I pulled up to one of the grimy pumps, turned off the ignition, and climbed out of the car … right into the scents of gas, motor oil, and exhaust fumes. Call me weird, but I’d always liked the smell of gas. Yeah, that was weird.
A teenager whistled at me out of the window of an idling car, but it was a wonder I heard him over the music filtering out of the RV in front of me. My mouth thinned at the receipts, paper towels, and cigarette butts littering the cracked pavement near the pump. Did people not realize that gas + cigarettes = a major fucking no-no?
The machine beeped with each press of the buttons as I slid in my card and paid for the gas. Grabbing the rubbery nozzle handle, I inserted it snuggly into the gas port, selected what grade of gas I wanted, and then pressed start. As I watched the numbers on the dial spin and listened to the gas gurgling through the hose, I found myself yawning.
Damn, I was freaking tired. I’d gone on yet another trip to the mall with Sarah, and I was sorely regretting it. I preferred to shop online, which she failed to see the beauty of, since crowds didn’t bother her one little bit. But lies? They bothered her, which was why she was once again not speaking to Bastien.
See, that was another reason why I was regretting that we went to the mall—we happened to catch sight of him at a nearby coffeehouse with Tara. As he’d told Sarah he was going to see his mother, she was pretty pissed off. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Sarah had stayed out of sight and called him to casually ask where he was. After all, it was possible that he’d just bumped into Tara while out and about, right?
He’d lied again, telling her he was having coffee with his mother. Would he never learn?
Sarah had predictably lost her shit and was now hiding in her old bedroom at her parents’ house, refusing to take his calls. I’d offered to stay with her, but she’d wanted to be alone for a while. Respecting that, I’d eventually left—but not before asking Dodger not to do as he’d threatened, which was to “fuck up Bastien’s pretty face with a crowbar.”
There was a ‘click’ as the pump cut off, snapping me out of my thoughts. Once I’d removed and replaced the nozzle, careful to avoid any drips of gas getting on my shoes, I recapped the gas tank and gripped my receipt.
Sparing Rossi—who, after buying some munchies from the station, had returned to where he’d parked across the road as he waited for me to finish—a quick wave, I then slid into my car. It was entirely possible that he hadn’t seen my wave, though, due to the drizzle of rain dripping down his windows. Thankfully, it wasn’t a heavy downfall, but the shit weather made the air feel thick and heavy.
As I drove out from under the roof of the gas station, fine rain steadily pinged on the glass windows. I switched on the windshield wipers just as I pulled onto the main road.
No more than a minute later, my phone rang. On the car’s navigation screen, I saw ‘Blake Calling.’ As he’d paired my cell phone to the car via Bluetooth, I was able to take the call using the hands-free phone system.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hey baby, you still with Sarah?”
“No, I’m on my way home.”
“Good. If Bastien calls you, don’t even answer the phone. He might think you’ll tell him where she is. I don’t want you getting dragged into their shit. It’s his mess, he can fix it on his own or not at all.”
I’d already planned not to answer any calls from Bastien. I liked the guy, but I wouldn’t be able to resist giving him grief for being a lying bastard. Then it would just be awkward when he and Sarah finally made up—which they eventually would do. I was starting to think they both got off a little on the angst. “Don’t worry, I’m not interested in getting involved.”
“I warned him in the past not to draw you into their drama. But if he can’t find her and gets desperate, he may just be dumb enough to risk his front teeth. I know I’d do what it took to find you if the situation was reversed.”
I smiled. “You know better than to lie to me again. I could so easily make your life hell.”
He chuckled. “The only way you’d make my life hell is if you left it.”
Aw, that was sweet.
“There was another reason I called you. It turns out you were right.”
“About what?” Because he didn’t sound happy about it.
“Linton is, in fact, Laurel’s Ben.”
I cursed. That meant bad things. For one, it showed that Linton hadn’t given up. Two, Laurel would pitch a fit. Three, Blake might just lose his mind, and I didn’t want to visit him in prison.
“He’s at Emma’s house right now, oblivious to the fact that she recognizes him,” Blake continued. “I’m on my way over there now.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you there.”
“No?” I echoed, my tone clipped.
“I don’t want you near anyone who is potentially Ricky’s ‘Friend.’ In any case, Linton wants access to you. I have no plans to give him that. Go straight home. I’ll be there soon.”
“Straight home,” he reiterated. Then the line went dead.
“Fucking asshole.” Okay, yeah, he made sense. It wasn’t smart for me to be near Linton. Even if his only objective was to ask me questions for his book, it would be bad for me to go see him—it would be essentially rewarding his shitty behavior. Still, I didn’t have to like that Blake made sense.
Sighing, I continued en route to the apartment. The rain had started to pick up now, which didn’t improve my mood at all. And as some of the windows were distorted by the drizzle, I couldn’t even properly enjoy the scenery along the quiet road. Most people would have called it bland with all the grassy land and stunted trees, but I liked it. The lighthouse was a very pretty sight.
When my eye caught headlights flashing in the rear-view mirror, I noticed that Rossi had stopped at the side of the road. Frowning, I reversed the G80 and poked my head out of the window, letting in the scents of rain, grass, and wet earth. “What’s wrong?” I asked, grimacing as drops of rain hit my hair and slid down my collar.
Standing near his car with his phone in hand, he shrugged. “Don’t know. Engine just stuttered to a stop, if you can believe that. I’ll have to call road assistance and wait for someone to come tow it. You go on home.”
“I’m not leaving you out here on your own.” And I wasn’t stupid. Someone could have tampered with his car to separate us. It wasn’t likely, but I wasn’t taking any chances. “You might as well come sit in here with me while we wait.”
He waved a hand. “I’ll be fine, Kensey. You go on home.”
“Just get in the damn car.” Shivering as the cool wind feathered through my hair, I ducked back into the G80 and called Blake. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. He didn’t answer. It went straight to voicemail. I tried again, but the same thing happened. He probably thought I was calling to complain that he’d insisted I go straight home.