My feet stop with my back to her. Do we really have anything more to talk about? I felt like it was left pretty fucking cut and dry.
But when I turn back to her, my eyes land on the Salvation sign above her head. I’m not one to believe in signs, but if there was ever a time to, this is it.
I glance down at the tattoo on my finger, the other half of the one that still scars her body. Salvation.
Call it grace coming over me, but in regard to the future, I start to rethink my position on the damage she’s done. Maybe she didn’t ruin it. Maybe she righted it.
She deserves to be heard, to get a few things off her chest that might also give me the peace I’m seeking. It’s a chance we never gave each other with guards standing by and thick glass dividing us. “Sure,” I reply, leaning against the brick wall. I blame the chip on my shoulder for standing there and making her come to me. She doesn’t seem to mind and moves closer. She always was better than me.
The slight wobble of her ankles has me studying her body language. With her hands out to give her balance, I realize she’s been drinking. Heavily.
“Are you drunk?”
Holding two fingers close together, she eyes me through the small space. “A little, but I still want to talk.”
All the mercy I was giving now seems like a bad idea. Nothing good ever comes from drunken confrontations. Rivers of emotions are hard enough to steer before alcohol drags us into deeper oceans. “I don’t think this is a good idea, Chloe.”
She moves closer, and then her eyes close as she savors the moment—a small smile on her face and a deep inhale. “I always loved the way you said my name.” It was something I loved that she did as well . . . maybe I still do. She looks back at the cab, and then to me. “I want you to know that—”
A horn blasts through our conversation, and Ruby leans out the window, “Come on, Chlo.”
Being on borrowed time makes me anxious, so I ask, “That what? What do you want me to know?”
Staring into my eyes, she takes another step closer, leaving little room for misunderstanding. “Joshua, I’ve been thinking about what happened, and I’m just so—”
“Hey Josh? What are you doing out here?”
I push off the bricks and tilt my head covering the distance beyond Chloe to find Lola at the front door. When it comes to me, her curiosity usually gets the best of her. It’s no different for her now as she glances back and forth between me and Chloe. “I’ll be right there, Lola.”
Please go back inside, I silently beg.
Chloe turns to look, and I see the chance we’d been given drift away. Lola nods before returning inside. “Don’t be long.”
When Chloe’s eyes meet mine, the light that shone has faded along with the smile she was trying to confine just seconds prior. “I won’t keep you,” she says, standing steadier on her feet. The other side of my life is exposed in a sobering reality.
Rushing between her and the taxi, I say, “We can still talk.”
“You’re wanted inside.” Pushing past me, she stumbles from those damn shoes, her arms flying into the air.
I reach out to catch her from falling. Our breaths come heavy as I remain wrapped around her from the side, holding her still. When she tilts her head up, I’m covered in her hair. Taking advantage of the situation, I inhale her into my lungs once again. Floral with hints of vanilla. It’s been too long, but the scent awakens my body, and my heart starts thudding in my chest.
Despite the noisy street, I bet she can hear it. I help her stand upright, righting her on her feet. “Are you okay?”
Flipping her hair out of her face, she raises her chin, pride keeping her from laughing, or crying, about it. I can’t read her and that fucking pisses me off. “I’m fine,” she says, untangling from me. “Just fine, Josh.”
Josh . . . that name is not right coming from her mouth, but I have my own shit to deal with. This landslide of fucked feelings has become an avalanche that’s too late to avoid. I move away from her, needing the space and clarity I still can’t seem to find. “Good.”
“Good?” Her eyelids dip closed as she struggles to catch her breath. “Right.” Thumbing behind her, she says, “They’re waiting.”
Her gaze darts from me to the door and back again. “And Lola’s waiting on you.”
Why does this make me feel worse than I did before? Fuck. I hate leaving things like this, but I have to. “I need to get back.”
A self-righteous, “Good luck,” is tossed my way as she opens the door to the taxi.