Free Me (Page 56)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(56)
Author: Laurelin Paige

I listened until the end of the piece. Then I kissed my palm and placed it on the closed door, holding it for the space of a prayer before I pulled my coat tighter around myself and went home.

Chapter Fourteen

I’d begun to measure my life in Wednesdays. Every episode of my inner television show revolved around them. I filed the titles in my head: The Wednesday I Fell Asleep. The Wednesday He Canceled. The Wednesday He Canceled Again. The Wednesday I Tried the Butt Plug. That episode was broken into two parts—the second was called The Wednesday I Snuck Out.

This one was The Wednesday I Stayed Home. It wasn’t a decision made on a whim. I’d pretty much known as I walked out of the Four Seasons in the Snuck Out episode that I wouldn’t be back. On Monday, I’d given a note to Alyssa to deliver to JC. It felt shitty and gutless, but he’d set the precedent.

The worst part was Alyssa’s smug expression. “You’re going after him with a note?”

I’d thought of several comebacks after—Wouldn’t you like to know? Or Please, I don’t have to go after him. But I’d felt too guilty, so I’d lamely said, “Just give it to him.”

Then I spent the next two days curled up in a ball in my bed trying not to cry. On Wednesday night, Norma stuck her head in after work. “You still not feeling good? Are you not going out tonight?”

She’d been so happy the last week, going on and on about Boyd now that she could finally talk about him with me. I hadn’t wanted to kill her buzz with my stupid boy drama. “Yeah, I’m no good. I canceled.”

“Oh.” She frowned. “I was planning on staying with Boyd tonight since you weren’t going to be here. But I can tell him I need to stay home and take care of you.”

Her kindness was salt in a wound. My days off were salt in the wound too. Basically, I was an open wound and everything pressed against it and rubbed against me in a way that made my breath trip and my chest spasm. Maybe Norma could make it better—distract me with a hot bath and instrumental music and make me peppermint tea like she used to when she’d come home from college and find me bruised and sore from my father’s latest rampage.

Except this pain was in the inside. And instrumental music would only make me think of JC at the piano, giving his soul away to an empty room. And I didn’t want to ruin her date with the person who finally seemed to take care of her.

“No, Sissy. I’m fine. I’ll probably sleep the whole night anyway.” I wouldn’t sleep. I’d toss and turn and relive every minute I’d had with JC. It was exactly what I hadn’t wanted with him. I’d wanted freedom and fun and a reason to feel alive.

Instead, I was restrained and confined.

I’d get over him. Of course I would. I was tough like that. But that would be another episode. This episode I would wrap the chains around me like a blanket, clinging to the corners of my prison like an animal that had yet to realize that its cage door had been left open.

***

I’d half expected JC to show up at the club on Thursday night. Especially since the last time I’d seen him, I’d left without a goodbye. It seemed reasonable that he’d wonder what was up and come looking for answers eventually.

When he didn’t, I swallowed the lump in my throat and took it as a sign. He’d fought for my interest before. Now he was done. It made it easier to give the note to Alyssa the next Monday. And the next. The problem was trying to decide when notes were no longer necessary.

When Alyssa’s vacation came around and I had no one to deliver my message, I figured it was time. It had been the fourth Wednesday, anyway. He should have gotten the hint by now, but if JC wondered at all whether or not we were finished, he’d know when I didn’t show up this time. Without a formal cancellation, he’d know we were over.

That became my mantra, in fact. It’s over, it’s over, it’s over.

It’s over, as I went into work that Thursday night.

It’s over, as I checked out cash bags to the bartenders for their registers.

It’s over, as I finished my opening tasks and climbed the stairs to the Viper to set up for that night’s bachelorette party.

It’s over, as I opened the door to the room and found him sitting in the same pose as when I’d first seen him. His legs stretched out in front of him, his arms casually at his sides.

I froze in my tracks, but my blood…my blood ran hot. Like I’d suddenly walked into a sauna, except the steam was on the inside. It was hard to get a breath, and when I did, all I could smell was him—half real, half remembered scents of sandalwood cologne, sweat, and sex. With my heart thumping and my stomach swimming and my senses on overdrive—yeah, this wasn’t over.

This wasn’t over by a long shot.

He’s here.

Through the lust-inspired haze, excitement spiraled through me that had less to do with his ability to carnally intoxicate me and more to do with the empty pit in my chest that was only filled by his presence. That center part of me that recognized him as the guy I wanted. As the guy I loved. That hum was harder to silence than the ache between my legs. And oh, how I wished for that hum both to quiet and to crescendo. How I wished I could simultaneously drown out even the faintest whisper of the emotion and yet sing it full out at the top of my lungs.

I needed to be strong. I needed to not want him. I needed to not get sucked back in.

I needed to jump in his lap and beg him to let me ride him.

No. Not that. Not ever that again.

Besides, what if he wasn’t there to claim me as I secretly yearned he was? What if he was there to make our ending official and final? I clung to the disappointment that bubbled up at those thoughts and let that be my guide in our interaction.

I suppose I didn’t cling quite enough, because my voice was coated with desire when I found the strength to speak. “I wonder if I’ll ever stop being surprised at your ability to show up in this club when the doors have yet to be opened.”

Actually, I was pleased with my greeting. I thought it made me sound laid-back even though every muscle in my body was tense.

He smiled, and I swear I went wet.

“I hope you’re not. I like to be able to surprise you.” His eyes narrowed. “Your surprises though…I’m not really sure I like those.”

I swallowed, not sure I wanted to go where he was going. “My surprises?”

“First surprise was an empty bed after I’d left you in it. The second surprise came when you no-showed on me last night.”