On our way out, he picked up a small stuffed stingray—a white one with brown spots—and handed it to me. Then he jogged back to the counter, laid some cash on the table, and then we left the aquarium to walk out into the night.
The Broadway was almost entirely empty and the fountain was lit up with pink and blue lights. The sound of the water as it poured from the top sounded like a rainstorm on a sunny day.
I held the stingray between us on the ride back to my place, keeping my cheek pressed against his back. The night air actually felt cool as it raced over my skin and pulled at my hair. But I didn’t care. I would sit here and freeze to death before I even thought about moving.
The parking lot at my building was full, most people home for the night already, so he had to park a little farther away than usual.
“How late is it?” I wondered when I noticed my Toyota parked nearby. “Roxie’s already home.”
“I haven’t looked at the clock at all,” he said. “It can’t be two a.m. though.”
“Maybe she got off early.”
We stopped on the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs. “Do you want to come in?” I asked him, looking up through my lashes.
“I don’t want to move too fast and mess this up,” he said, his eyes sweeping over my face.
“I think we should just stop worrying about moving too fast and just go at our own pace,” I said, meaning it. What were the rules for this anyway? Were there any? I mean, I spent almost four years with a guy that I felt like I was waiting for the perfect time for everything. But that time never came. Because he wasn’t the right guy.
I wasn’t sure if Cam was the right guy, but after tonight, I was thinking he might be.
He opened his mouth to reply, but I never heard what he said.
Because a shrill scream pierced the night.
It came from my apartment.
As Roxie screamed, the door to my apartment flew open, slamming against the wall with a sharp cracking sound. I hadn’t noticed until that moment that the porch light above our door was out and so was the closest street lamp nearby.
A man in dark clothing and a ski mask rushed out of the apartment and lunged down the stairs. Roxie was still screaming, and I began to worry she was hurt.
“Roxie!” I cried, rushing forward.
Cam yanked me back, shoving me behind him, and then rushed forward after the man who was running across the parking lot and disappeared behind the building. Cam stopped pursuing and turned back, torn between leaving me and chasing the man.
I rushed up the stairs into the apartment, yelling my roommate’s name, flipping on the lights as I went.
Thankfully, they all turned on. Roxie was sitting in the living room in the middle of the path between our bedrooms. She was on the floor with her back against the wall and her knees pulled into her chest.
“Oh my God, Roxie,” I said, falling to my knees in front of her. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Cam rushed into the apartment behind me, his eyes locking on the both of us, then narrowing as he went from room to room searching the place for any more unwanted intruders.
“Roxie,” I said again, trying to calm my frantic voice.
“I’m okay,” she said, her voice a little shaky. “He didn’t do anything to me.”
“I saw him run out of here. What happened? What are you doing home so early?”
“I wasn’t feeling well. I have a horrible headache. I only got a couple hours of sleep last night, and I sat at that godforsaken garage half the day and they didn’t have any air-conditioning either.”
“You’re probably overheated.”
She nodded. “Adam sent me home. He told me I looked like shit.”
“Wasn’t that charming of him?” I observed.
She laughed and it turned into a sob.
“He must have been watching the apartment, waiting for me. The porch light was out when I came home and I just figured the bulb was burnt out. When I was trying to unlock the door, I heard the crunch of glass under my feet and I realized that the bulb had been broken.”
I made sympathetic noises as horror raced over my skin, leaving behind a fine coating of chills.
“I turned to leave, but he was already coming up the steps. I tried to get inside and lock him out, but he shoved the door open and tackled me. I managed to kick him and run away, but he caught me again and was dragging me through the living room when I fell.”
“Oh my God,” I said, horrified. I couldn’t help but wonder if he planned to rape her.
A cold bottle of water appeared before Roxie and she looked up at Cam, who offered it to her. “Thank you,” she murmured and took it, taking a sip and drawing in a deep breath. “I yelled at him to please stop and to leave me alone. And it was so weird. Whenever I said it, he paused, like he was actually considering my request.”
“And then what happened?” Cam asked.
“He got up and ran out the front door. Then you got here.”
I nodded. “We saw him run away.”
“I would have caught the bastard, but I was afraid to leave you ladies alone.”
“Thank God you showed up when you did,” Roxie said and started to cry.
I reached over and put my arms around her. She leaned her head onto my shoulder and kept crying.
“Are you sure he didn’t hurt you?” Cam said, reaching out to touch her shoulder.
She flinched and he pulled away. “I think so,” she said, still crying.
“I’m calling the police,” he said and got to his feet, pulling out his cell phone.
There was a noise by the still-open front door. Roxie screamed and Cam spun around defensively.
“What the hell is going on?” Adam said, stepping through, his eyes going straight to Roxie huddled against the wall. “Roxie?”
At the sound of his voice, she started sobbing even harder. His eyes grew wide and he looked at Cam for an explanation.
“Someone broke in and attacked her.”
Adam’s face went completely white. Then he strode across the room and reached down toward her. She let go of me and moved willingly into his arms. He picked her up off the floor as Cam spoke quietly on the phone.
I watched Adam carry her over to the couch and sit down with her in his lap. She wasn’t a small girl. She was pretty tall, but she looked small sitting there in his lap.
“Hey,” he murmured, trying to pull her away from his chest. She clung to him, not budging, not wanting to move. “I’m just trying to see if you’re hurt,” he told her quietly. “Let me see.”