My chest clenched as he straightened once again and then stepped around me. The back of my eyes burned as he left the bedroom and I was . . . I was left staring at the bed. The morning together felt like years ago.
Wheeling around, I followed him out to the living room. He already had his duffel bag in hand and had pulled on a black baseball cap. It was pulled down low, shielding his eyes.
“Reece, I . . .” Words left me as he opened the front door. “Are we okay?”
The muscles under his white shirt rolled as if he was working out a kink in his shoulders and then he faced me. The sculpted line of his jaw was as sharp as a blade. “Yeah,” he replied in that same flat tone. “We’re okay.”
I didn’t believe him, not for one second. That ball was at the back of my mouth now and I blinked several times. I couldn’t speak, because if I did, the ball would come out.
Reece looked away, jaw working. “I’ll call you, Roxy.” He started out the door and then stopped. In that tiny second, hope kindled to life like a match dropped on a pool of gasoline. “Make sure you lock this door.”
And then he was gone.
I exhaled roughly as I gripped the door and watched as he hung a right at the sidewalk, disappearing from my view. Numb, I closed the door. I locked it. And then I stepped back. My cheeks were damp. Hands shaking, I pushed my glasses onto the top of my head and then pressed my palms against my eyes.
Oh God, this had gone as bad as it possibly could’ve gone. Shuffling over to the couch, I plopped down as I lowered my hands. “Oh God,” I whispered.
I knew he’d be mad and I had been terrified that he’d hate me for lying. After all, that knowledge was what made it so hard for me to tell him once we started talking again, but after last night—after this morning—I didn’t think he’d walk out. I got that he’d still be upset, but I . . . I don’t know what I thought.
Tears tracked down my cheeks, and I dragged in a breath; it got stuck on a sob. This was so not good, and it was my fault. This was my fault.
“Stop crying,” I told myself. It felt like two hundred pounds had settled on my chest, and I replayed what he’d said as he left. “He said we were okay. He said he would call me.”
And Reece didn’t lie.
Not like me.
I didn’t hear from Reece the rest of Tuesday.
I didn’t paint—didn’t even step foot in my studio. All I did was lie on my couch like a steaming pile of crap, staring at my phone, willing it to ring or for a text message to come through.
Reece didn’t call or text me on Wednesday.
I didn’t go into the studio at all, and the only reason I pulled my ass off the couch was because I had to go to work. I would’ve called in if it hadn’t been for the windshield I’d broken. Yet another bad decision I’d made that I was literally and figuratively paying for.
Working at Mona’s Wednesday sucked moose balls.
A steady throbbing pain moved from my temples to my eyes, and then back to my temples. My eyes were swollen, and I told myself it was allergies. I told Jax that was why I looked like crap when he asked me why I looked like shit. But that was a lie. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I could still smell Reece’s cologne on my sheets and I . . . I cried like I had when I’d found out Reece was dating Alicia Mabers, a perfect blond tennis player within a handful of months of moving to town. Except then I had Charlie to ply me with chocolate and stupid horror flicks to get me through what had felt like the end of the world.
I kept telling myself the tears were for what was probably the loss of a friendship more than the potential of what we could’ve become. I’d never let myself truly consider a future with Reece, so the tears couldn’t be because of that.
They couldn’t be.
Halfway through the night, Brock “the Beast” Mitchell showed up without his usual entourage of girls or muscle-bound guys. Brock was kind of a big deal around these parts. He was an up-and-coming UFC fighter who trained out of Philly. I had no idea how he and Jax knew each other, but Jax seemed to know everyone.
Taller than Jax with a body that showed he spent hours in the gym every day, Brock was a hottie. He had dark, spiky hair and skin that reminded me of sunbaked clay. Brock had an edgy look about him that was super intimidating for people who didn’t know him, but he’d always been low-key and kind every time I’d been around him.
He took a seat at the bar, giving me a wink as Jax strolled up to him. Immediately, it was bromance time between the boys. I wasn’t really paying attention to them, but since it was a Wednesday night and only the regulars were in the bar and the music was off, I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. At first, it was nothing major. Just information about an upcoming cage death match and something about a sponsorship deal that Jax looked like he was going to have an orgasm over, but then the subject changed.
“Man, today has been fucking sick,” Brock said, tipping the bottle back and taking a drink. “One of the girls who works in the office at the club where I train wasn’t at work yesterday. Coach Simmons said she was a no call, no show but . . .” He shook his head, his dark brown eyes glinting with anger. “Some sick ass got ahold of her.”
I stopped, clutching the cloth I was using to wipe down the higher end liquor bottles on display. Jax cocked his head to the side. “What happened?”
“Some fucker broke into her apartment. Messed her up pretty badly, from what I hear.” His empty hand closed into a dangerous fist. “Man, I cannot even wrap my head around how a man could hurt a female. Just don’t understand that.”
“Jesus.” Jax shook his head. “This is what, the third incident in a month or so?”
“There was that girl that disappeared at the beginning of summer.” I walked over to where they were, dropping the cloth on the counter. “I think her name was Shelly or something like that.”
Brock nodded. “I’m not a cop. I’m not a psychologist, but sounds like we got a psycho around here.”
I folded my arms against the shiver that danced up my spine. My thoughts wandered to the strange things in my house, and I stiffened. It sounded crazy to even think what was happening there had anything to do with these poor girls. Plus it didn’t make sense. How would anyone get in my house to do those things without me knowing about it? But still, I had to ask. “Do you know if the girls were stalked or anything? Like any warnings?”
“I haven’t heard,” Jax answered, angling his body toward mine. He arched a brow. “I bet Reece would know though.”