“Look,” I say, backing off a little and letting him know it, “I’m not looking for either, just so you know.”
“Either of what?” And then he realizes ‘what’ a second later. He smiles and shakes his head. “It’s alright. I’m with you on that one—I really did just bring you up here for the conversation, as hard as that may be to believe.”
Something tells me that if I wanted either, sex or a date, or both, that Blake would give it to me, but he’s smoothly backing off without making himself look rejected.
“To answer your question,” I say, giving in to him for conversation’s sake, “I’m single because I had a few bad experiences and right now I’m just not looking for any do-overs.”
Blake nods. “I hear yah.” He looks away from my eyes and the breeze catches his blond hair, pushing his semi-long bangs away from his forehead. “Do-overs generally suck, at least in the beginning. The learning process in itself is a nightmare.” He looks back at me to elaborate. “When you’re with someone for so long you get used to them, y’know? It’s a comfort-zone thing. When we get settled in our comfort zone, trying to pull us out of it even if everything about it is hell and unhealthy, is like trying to pull a fat ass couch potato out of his living room long enough to get a life.” Maybe realizing he was getting too deep with me too soon, Blake lightens the mood by adding, “Took me three months with Jen before I was comfortable taking a shit with her in the house.”
I laugh out loud and when I’m brave enough to look back at him, I see that he’s smiling.
I’m starting to get the feeling he’s not over his ex-fiancé as much he’s trying to make himself believe. So, I try to do him a favor by steering the hurtful topic to myself before he has that eureka moment and his world comes falling down around him all over again.
“My boyfriend died,” I blurt out, mostly for his sake. “Car accident.”
Blake’s face falls and he looks right at me, his eyes full of remorse. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
I put up my hand. “No, it’s perfectly alright; you didn’t do anything.” After he nods subtly and waits for me to go on, I say, “It was a week before graduation.” He places his hand on my knee, but I know it’s not for anything other than to comfort me.
I start to tell him what happened when I hear a loud smack! and Blake falls off the tabletop and hits the roof floor. It happened so fast I never saw Damon rushing him from the side, or heard when he burst through the metal door several feet away.
“Damon!” I shriek as he tackles Blake before he can get up and starts pummeling his face with his fists. “STOP! DAMON! OH MY GOD!”
Another series of punches rain down on Blake before the shock wears off me and I run over and try pulling Damon off of him. I lunge on Damon’s back, grabbing his flailing arms by the wrists, but he’s so focused on beating the shit out of Blake that I feel like I’m on the back of one of those mechanical bulls. I’m thrown off and land hard on the concrete on my butt and hands.
Blake finally gets up after serving one good punch at the side of Damon’s face.
“What the f**k is your problem, man?!” Blake says, stumbling to his feet. One hand never leaves his jaw where he continuously rubs it as if trying to pop it back into place. His nose is bleeding from both nostrils and his upper lip is busted and swollen. All of the blood looks black in the darkness.
“You know what the fuck!” Damon roars and goes to attack him again, but I rush over and do what I can to hold him back. I step around in front of him and shove the palms of my hands against his rock-hard chest.
“Just stop it, Damon! We were just talking! What the hell is wrong with you?” I’m yelling so loud already my voice feels strained.
I turn at the waist, keeping my hands firmly on Damon’s chest and I look right at Blake. “I’m so sorry, Blake, I-I—”
“Don’t worry about it,” he says with a hard, rebuffed expression. “I’m outta here.”
He turns and walks away through the metal door. A vociferous bang! resounds through the air as it slams behind him. I whirl back around at Damon with fire in my eyes and I push him as hard as I can in the chest. “You a**hole! I can’t believe you did that!” I’m literally screaming three inches from his face.
Damon’s lip furrows and he’s still breathing hard from the fight. His dark eyes are wide and unfettered and sort of feral. A part of me feels suspicious of him, but the part of me that has known him for twelve years cancels the suspicion out.
“What are you doing leaving with some guy you just f**king met? I thought you were smarter than that, Cam, even buzzed out of your mind!”
I step back from him and cross my arms angrily over my stomach. “Are you calling me stupid? We were just talking!” I shriek and my blonde hair falls down around my eyes. “I’m perfectly capable of recognizing the a**holes from the nice guys and right about now I’m seeing a total f**king a**hole!”
He appears to grit his teeth behind his tightly-closed lips. “Call me what you want, but I was just protecting you.” He says it surprisingly calm.
“From what?” I shout. “Bad conversation? A guy who genuinely just wanted to talk?”
Damon smirks. “No guy just wants to talk,” he says as if he’s an expert. “No guy is going to lead a girl that looks like you out alone on the top of a goddamned warehouse building just to talk. Ten more minutes and he would’ve thrown your little ass on top of that table and had his way with you. No one can hear you scream out here, Cam.”
I swallow down a lump in my throat, but another one forms in its place. Maybe Damon’s right. Maybe I was so blinded by Blake’s sincere and privately wounded personality that I completely fell for a tactic I never contemplated. Sure, I’ve envisioned these kinds of situations before and have seen the typical ones on television, but maybe Blake was trying something else on me…No, I don’t believe it. He would’ve thrown me on the picnic table if I asked him to, but my heart tells me he wouldn’t have otherwise.
I turn my back on Damon, not wanting him to see anything left in my face that might give away that for a second I actually believed him. I’m pissed as hell for the way he handled it, but I can’t hate him forever because he really was just looking out for me. Overloaded on alpha male testosterone, no doubt, but looking out for me, nonetheless.
“Cam, look at me please.”
I wait a few defiant seconds before turning around with my arms still crossed.
Damon peers in at me with a softer gaze than before. “I’m sorry, I just…,” he sighs and looks off to the side now as though what he’s about to say he can’t while looking right at me, “…Camryn, I can’t stand the thought of you with some other guy.”
I feel like someone just punched me in the gut. I even let out a weird yelping sound from my throat and my eyes grow wide.
I glance nervously toward the metal door and then back at him. “Where’s Natalie?” I have to drive this topic completely off this roof. What the hell did he just say? No, he can’t mean what it sounded like. I must’ve heard him wrong. Yeah, my buzz is back and I’m not thinking straight.
He steps up closer to me and cups my elbows in his hands. Instantly, I feel the need to back away from him, but I’m frozen in the same spot, barely able to move anything other than my eyes.
“I mean it,” he says, lowering his voice to a desperate whisper. “I’ve wanted you since seventh grade.”
There’s that punch to the gut again.
Finally, I manage to back away from him. “No. No.” I shake my head back and forth, trying to make sense of this. “Are you drunk, Damon? Or strung out? Something’s wrong with you.” My arms come uncrossed and I put up my hands. “We need to go find Natalie. I won’t say anything to her about what you said because you won’t remember it in the morning, but we really do need to go. Now.”
I start to walk toward the now closed metal door, but feel Damon’s hand collapse around my bicep and he turns me around. My breath catches and that suspicious feeling I had about him earlier comes back full-force, completely reversing the years I’ve known him and have trusted him. He glares at me with eyes more feral than before, but manages to retain a sort of eerie softness in them, too.
“I’m not drunk and I haven’t done any coke since last week.”
The fact that he does coke at all is more than enough to make it impossible to ever be attracted to him, but he’s always been one of my closest friends and so I’ve always overlooked his drug use. But he’s telling the truth right now and being such a close friend for so long is what allows me to know this.
For the first time, I wish he was strung out because then we really could forget this ever happened.
I look down at his fingers clamped around my arm and finally notice how much pressure he’s applying and it scares me.
“Let go of my arm, Damon, please.”
Instead of loosening, I feel his fingers tighten and I try to pull away. He jerks me towards him and before I can react, he crushes his mouth over mine, his free hand wraps around the back of my neck forcing my head still. He tries to stick his tongue in my mouth, but I manage to rear my head back just enough to butt my forehead into his. It stuns him—and me—and instinctively he lets go of my body.
“Cam! Wait!” I hear him yelling out to me as I run away and throw open the metal door.
I hear his fierce footsteps moving after mine as he races down the loud metal stairs behind me, but I lose him once I make it back into the cage elevator, slam the fence gate closed and pound hard once on the MAIN button. The same ogre who let us in the club is standing at the door when I rush past him, having to partially shove him out of my way to get outside.
“Take it easy, babe!” he shouts as I run down the sidewalk and away from the warehouse.
I walk as far as the Shell station and call a cab to pick me up.
MY CELL PHONE WAKES me up the next morning. I hear it buzzing around on the nightstand beside my head. NATALIE reads in bold letters across the screen and her wide-eyed, toothy smiling face is staring back at me. Seeing her face wakes me the rest of the way up and I rise up stiffly from the bed and just hold the phone in my hand, letting it buzz against my palm for a few seconds more before finally getting the courage to hit the answer button.
“Where did you go?” her voice shrieks into my ear. “Oh my God, Cam, you just disappeared and I was freaking out and Damon was missing for a short while and then he showed back up and I saw Blake leaving at one point with blood all over his damn face and then I really started to see what you were talking about when you said that Damon was pissed—.” She finally breathes. “And I kept asking him what I did or said or if it was because of last week at the restaurant, but he just ignored me and said it’s time to go and I—”