“Is that why you have so many toothbrushes?” I blurted out.
“Toothbrushes,” I stated, gesturing behind him, toward the stairs. “You have all these unopened boxes of toothbrushes in your bathroom. Do you have them for the girls you’re with? One for me and one for Aimee and whoever else?”
A moment of complete utter silence passed between us as he gaped at me. Like so silent, you could hear a cricket sneeze.
“You really are f**king serious,” he said, and that really did nothing to calm me down. “First off, I have so many goddamn toothbrushes because my mom gets me one for every damn birthday and holiday. She always has. It’s a f**king tradition, and I keep them.”
Well, that sounded kind of believable.
“Second, no girl—not a single f**king girl except you—has ever used one of those toothbrushes. Not even Aimee. When I was with her, when I was with other girls, I f**ked them, they f**ked me, some might have stayed the night, but they all left in the morning or before then, and they sure as hell didn’t use any of my shit. Not even the damn shower.”
I really didn’t want to hear about him f**king anyone.
“I’m not trying to sound like a dick, and I get the way this looks to you, and I’m sorry—I really am, because this is the last thing you need and to deal with her being here. And I get that you don’t have a lot of experience with these things,” he went on, and I felt my cheeks heat with color, because what he said was true. I was twenty-one and had absolutely no experience with boys. “So I understand and I’m trying to be real cool with the fact you don’t get the difference between the girls I’d f**ked and you.”
“I really don’t want to hear about the girls you f**ked,” I said, speaking my earlier thoughts. “But since you brought it up, what about your train station bed?”
Something crossed his face as he drew back, and I didn’t know why it looked like hurt, because he was the last person who should be feeling butt sore. “Yeah, okay. I’m not particularly proud of some of the shit I’ve done in my past—not the drinking and not the sleeping around. Bad decisions, but that shit . . . that shit is so in the past.”
Oh my God.
It hit me then—the thing he never told me that he’d done when he’d gotten back to the United States and when he was here, and couldn’t get his head to shut down. Alcohol and sex go hand in hand. A bit of guilt wiggled free. “I don’t want to hear this.”
“You’re gonna hear about it, Calla, since it’s such a big f**king deal that we’re arguing about it in the middle of the night.” His voice was still level, but his eyes were so dark, they almost seemed black. “I’m only going to say this once. I’ve been with enough people that I know the difference between what was going on with them and what’s going on with you. You’re not one of them. You’re not Aimee. You’re not even in their ballpark.”
Flinching, I stiffened.
“Oh no, no you do not take that like I just insulted you. You’re not in their ballpark, because I’m not playing any bullshit games with you. You get me? What I had with them or what I didn’t isn’t anything like what I got going with you. Okay?” He continued before I could answer. “And I wanted to talk to you about what had gone down in the bar when your friends showed up, but you were almost kidnapped and then Clyde had a heart attack, so really, there hasn’t been a good time to talk about that shit.”
Once again, he made a good point, and I hated that. Like for real.
“But we’re going to talk about that now—we’re going to finish the conversation you should’ve let me finish before you walked away from me.” He advanced forward, and man, he was pissed. I forced myself not to move. “You were right.”
“I should’ve done more to make sure Aimee got the picture that I wasn’t interested and I wasn’t into her. Every time she touched me or got up on me, I stepped back. I didn’t just stand there and let her. But yeah, I obviously didn’t do enough. And I didn’t even realize how much I didn’t do, because I never expected her to show up here. And not only that, but when I realized how hurt you were and how embarrassed you were, I did feel like shit about that. I still feel like shit over that. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to tell you that or even show you, but I did.” He paused, his dark and intense eyes holding mine. “I never want you to be embarrassed over me or anything I do, but you were, and for that I’m f**king sorry. I really am. And that shit isn’t going to happen again.”
Some of my anger started to slip away, and I grabbed at it, trying to hold it close, because anger got me through a lot, but what he said was the right thing to say. And he was right. A lot of crap had happened between Saturday and now. So much that I hadn’t really even thought about how Aimee had behaved in the bar until she showed up tonight.
“You got anything to say to that?” he asked.
I did. There was a lot I could say. This was the moment that he was giving me to take this whole shitstorm to a rational place, but I didn’t say anything, because there was a part of me that was still mad and I still was hurt and I was embarrassed about all of that and more. And I wanted to be a bitch. So I stared back at him in silence.
“Nice,” he retorted.
A wave of goose bumps rushed down the back of my neck. I needed to open my mouth. I needed to say something.
Then he moved another step and he was right in front of me. “I’m going to tell you what else, Calla. Like your life hasn’t been normal. It hasn’t been much of a life.”
And that was about when I found the ability to speak. “I have a life!”
“You do? Seriously?” he challenged. “Because I’m pretty sure you’ve done an awful lot of nothing when it comes to actual living. All you had is your Three F’s. What the f**k is that? For real.”
Surprise rocked me. “How do you know about them?”
“Tequila, babe. You were quite chatty.”
Shit! Of course he’d remember that. And now my embarrassment knew no limit. I’d shared my Three F’s, and they were just sad. And damnit, he was right about not really living. But that didn’t make it any easier to hear.
“I’m the first guy you’ve kissed or been with,” he said.
“Oh, thanks,” I replied snidely, because now I had a firm grip on my anger.
He shook his head. “You aren’t getting what I’m saying. That shit isn’t something to be ashamed of. All I’m saying is that you haven’t let anyone get close and I bet there’d been guys who wanted to and you never saw that. Like I said, you don’t have a lot of experience with this.”
“Yeah, I think I get that. You’ve said it enough.”
He either wisely ignored that comment or was just generally done with me, because he said, “But there’s only going to be so far I’m going to be cool with this shit.”
Air leaked out in a slow, low breath as my muscles locked up. “What are you saying?”
“You obviously don’t trust me, but that’s not even the most messed-up part about this, Calla. You obviously don’t think very f**king highly of me if you really think I’d be okay with making plans to hook up with some chick while I had another one in my house, in my bed, wearing my shirt, you also obviously don’t know me at all.”
This time when I flinched it was for a different reason.
“And that shit burns,” he said.
Jax held my gaze while I dragged in deep, pained breaths, and then he turned and walked away. I watched him round the stairs and I heard him head up them. Then I heard a door slam shut.
I don’t know how long I stood there before I curled my arms around myself. I squeezed my eyes shut, no longer mad so much as I was confused. How had we gone from me being in the right and him in the wrong, to him being pissed-off at me and shutting me out? I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Or had I?
Had I jumped to conclusions? I hadn’t heard everything he’d said to Aimee. I’d only heard bits and pieces. And he had apologized for Saturday night. He’d said it would never happen again, but did that make up for what happened? I didn’t know. That was the problem. I didn’t know.
God knows how long I stood there before I gathered my courage and slowly crept up the stairs. When I reached the landing, I expected to find the bedroom door to be shut, but it was open.
It was the extra bedroom that was closed off. I started to move toward it, to knock on the door, but I stopped short, frozen with indecision. I stood outside the bedroom, hands folded against my chest, but I didn’t know what to say if I did knock and he answered. Flecks of red-hot anger still swirled around in me, mixing with the embarrassment and confusion.
My ears strained to hear movement inside the extra bedroom, and I thought I did hear footsteps nearing the door, and I tensed up in expectation of it opening, but after a few moments, I realized it wasn’t going to.
Biting down on my lip, I closed my eyes, gave it another couple of moments, and then turned, and because I really didn’t know what else to do, I went into the main bedroom and climbed into bed. I scooted over to my spot and waited, watching the clock on the nightstand. Minutes ticked by slowly, and finally I lay down, facing the open door. All of this felt wrong, lying in his bed with him angry at me and me mad at him.
I swallowed, but the knot in my throat went nowhere, and with the next blink of my eyes, my lashes were damp. So were my cheeks. I grabbed the pillow he slept on and tucked it close against my chest as I squeezed me eyes shut. My insides felt so hollow as I lay there, trying to make sense of how everything had gone so wrong and how I was supposed to fix this.
At some point my thoughts rolled into one and I must’ve fallen asleep and tumbled into a dream where I was in this house following Jax and calling out to him, but I could never seem to get his attention or catch up to him. And when that dream faded, I dreamed I felt his hand on me, skimming over the top of my head, carefully tucking my hair behind my ears. And I felt his lips brushing against my cheek.
It had felt so real that when I woke up, tired and bleary-eyed, I almost thought he’d be in bed beside me. That the spot next to me would not be cold, but it was. I still had his pillow snuggled close to my chest and Jax wasn’t there.
I didn’t want to get up.
It felt like I hadn’t slept more than a few minutes and my eyes ached; my throat and mouth felt too dry. There was an ache in my temples. And I immediately started thinking about what happened between us and with Aimee. In the light of the morning, I could freely admit that Jax had been right. I didn’t have a lot of experience with any of this. I didn’t know the difference between the different types of relationships, not personally. All I knew was what I’d seen from my friends.
There was so much he’d been right about.
I’d been rightfully upset with him Saturday, but I hadn’t given him a chance to explain and he had apologized. And he had no control over Aimee. It wasn’t like he’d invited her over.
I squeezed the pillow tight.
Now that the anger had simmered down, I could also admit that I hadn’t heard everything he’d said last night, like seriously admit that, and other than not doing enough to deter Aimee’s advances, Jax hadn’t done anything wrong.
He’d actually stood up for me last night.
He’d apologized and he’d admitted to feeling like shit.
And he’d laid it out to me.
I needed to talk to him without yelling, without overreacting, and I needed to talk to him while listening.
Letting go of the pillow, I climbed out of bed and my bare feet padded over the floors. I went out into the hall. The extra bedroom door was open and he wasn’t in there. Turning to the stairs, I headed down them and then through the silent living room and into the kitchen.
He wasn’t there, either.
My heart picked up and a sick feeling curdled in my stomach as I turned slowly. Where was he? The townhouse wasn’t big enough that I couldn’t find him, for crying out loud. My gaze settled on the front windows. I hurried toward them, pulling back the flimsy off-white curtains, and then I peeked through the blinds. The air lodged in my chest as my gaze scanned the parking lot, once and then twice. His truck wasn’t there.
It wasn’t there.
Jax was gone.
I didn’t know what to do or think.
Jax had left and he hadn’t said anything. There was no note or text or voice mail on my cell phone. He’d just left the house without waking me and while that didn’t seem like a big deal, he’d been really upset.
I sat down on the edge of the couch and I could hear what he said. That he couldn’t believe I thought what I did about him and that I didn’t know him.
My nails dug into my palms. He’d been really mad, had gone to bed like that or had done whatever he had done in his extra bedroom, and had said some really stupid things. I knew that some words couldn’t be unspoken, couldn’t be taken back.