Page 116 of We Were Once

The oven door slams closed behind me, getting everyone’s attention. When the others get back to work, Todd stands there silently with oven mitts on and stares at me. I say, “Chloe Fox.” You know, just in case he’s not sure who I’m talking about.

His eyes pinch at the corners, and the disappointment isn’t hard to decipher. Leaning against the counter, he looks down, shaking his head. “Chloe Fox from New Haven?”

“Technically, she’s from Newport, but yes, the Chloe Fox I went to school with—”

“The same Chloe who put you in jail?”

“Again, technically—”

“Fuck the technical shit!” Tossing the mitts on the counter, he takes an angry breath, and then turns back to me. “She’s just as responsible when she didn’t show up to defend you.”

We still have jobs to do, but I pull the pan off the heat so we can deal with this mess. “How was she supposed to defend me if she couldn’t remember?”

“That was real fucking convenient, wasn’t it?” A humorless laugh follows the sarcastic remark, causing me to keep my eyes on the grill.

There’s no room to let him explore the anger he feels when I’m not open to listening. “Don’t do that.”

“It’s your life, Evans, so what-the fuck-ever.”

With my back to him, I take a breath that has me lowering the temperature of my mood. My voice lower, I say, “She’s an ER doc like she always said she would be.” Turning back, I lean against the butcher block. “Sewed my finger right up.”

“Do you have to say it with such pride? Have you forgotten what the Fox family did to you?”

“No, I haven’t. I’ll never forget, as you know, but she’s not to blame for my sentence. I made the mistake of trusting her father.”

“You’re really going to stand in front of me and say shit like that, like it didn’t matter?”

“It was my life. But fuck, Todd, I told you I saw her. I’m not dating her.”

“Then why do I get the feeling your intentions toward her have changed?”

“You don’t know anything about my intentions.” I grab a plate just to keep my hands busy.

“That right there says it all, now doesn’t it?” He comes over with another potato, and this time he doesn’t give a shit about anything he filters onto the plate. So, I clean up the mess.

Tyler comes to take the dish, but I raise the plate. “I got this one. What table?”

He steps aside. “Eight.”

I shove the kitchen door open with an ax to grind. Holding the plate in front of me, I weave through the dining room, and then stop, almost tripping over my own feet. My heart rate spikes, but then the opportunity I’ve been given sinks in and a smirk creases my left cheek. “Well, what do we have here?” I’m suddenly feeling a lot less pissed off, that is, until I realize I had blocked out the other side of the table.

Irritated, a growl rumbles through me as I make my way over.

Friend? Co-worker? Client? Boss? A thousand guesses cross my mind to who he is, and I plead to a higher power that it’s not her boyfriend. Just in case, I steal myself for the worst and deliver the dish. “Your steak.”

Don’t look at her. Not even for a second.

One second.

Two seconds.

Three. I give myself permission and instantly regret it as my chest tightens and my stomach clenches. Why does she have to be so goddamn breathtaking?

With her eyes fixed on mine, I let my gaze take a vacation over the beauty of her landscape. Her body rising and falling with the rolling hills of her chest. As if she can feel me like I feel her without a single touch shared between us, a shiver runs up the river of her spine. Goose bumps pebble across the tops of her arms, the delicate hair standing on end as she shifts in her seat.

I drag my hand back to my side when I find it lifting to touch that spot near her ear—a high-pitched scrape of the blade against the plate ends the peace I’d found with her in my head.

Turning to her date, I recognize him the minute I see him, but I can’t say he recognizes me. Why would he? I was nothing to him. “It’s good,” he says, with meat stabbed on the tines of the fork.

“Good?” I know I’m supposed to hold my tongue, but I also know that’s the best goddamn steak he’s ever tasted, even if it is cooked by a townie.

He nods. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Trevor,” Chloe cautions.

Trevor. That’s right. The name alone makes me want to punch him in the face. Some feelings never die. I’ve done my best to keep from touching Chloe, but I can’t promise he won’t meet my fist. What the fuck is she doing here with him?

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