Tonight had been so wonderful. Not even all the bad stuff that happened since we got home could take away all the giddiness I felt about my first official date with Cam.
After all the tangles in my hair were gone and it was shining around my shoulders, I set down the brush.
Something caught my eye.
There on the vanity near my brush, propped in front of the mirror, was my sea glass barrette.
The one that was stolen earlier today.
My stomach churned and my palms became slick with nervous sweat.
I knew then the reason nothing, besides Roxie, was disturbed tonight when someone broke into this house.
They weren’t here to steal anything.
They came to leave something behind.
The next couple days went by in a blur. I walked around on autopilot, going to work, making snow cones, dancing (let’s face it, I would never be a great stripper), and serving drinks at the Mad Hatter. In between all that, Roxie and I obsessively checked the locks on the door and stared out into the shadows of the parking lot at night.
I questioned Roxie again about the man who muscled his way into our home, and she seemed very convinced it was Craig. Both of us were waiting on pins and needles to hear what the police would tell us after they paid him a visit.
Shouldn’t they have done that by now?
Shouldn’t we have heard something?
Did it really matter? Because the more I thought, the more I obsessed, the more I began to think that it wasn’t Craig. I was beginning to think that Roxie’s visitor was meant for me.
But that seemed crazy, so crazy that I hadn’t confided my fears to anyone. Why would someone come after me? I was a broke college student who spent all her time working. Sure, I had friends, but no one I really hung out with. My roommate had been the only person I spent time with outside of school, and she moved to another state last month to get a job with her shiny new bachelor’s degree.
It was the reason I was so happy to have met Roxie. She seemed like good friend material. And Cam… Cam was perfect boyfriend material. Not that we were official or anything. We hadn’t really had time to have the “talk.” Plus, it was all still pretty new. There was no reason to rush things. Yeah, okay, some people might say we rushed things already by having sex so fast, but the way I see it is I’m twenty-one years old, a woman. I go to school, work two jobs, and take care of myself. Cam makes me feel things I never have before. My body practically purrs whenever he’s near. His touch scrambles my thoughts and turns me into Jell-O. I might not love him (not yet anyway), but I was old enough to make my own decisions.
I was beyond thrilled when my shift at the snow cone cart was finished and I could go home. I spent most of the day zoning about the barrette and searching the crowds for faces that I might recognize or for a stranger who seemed intrigued by me.
I was tired. Neither Roxie nor I had been sleeping well, and I secretly missed Cam. It seemed silly because spending just two nights in his arms was enough to make me reach for him in the middle of night.
As I trudged through the heat toward the parking lot, someone grabbed me from behind and I stiffened, a shriek clawing its way out of my throat as I prepared to scream and kick.
“Harlow, it’s me,” Cam said, releasing me and stepping back. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I called out your name.”
I spun around and launched myself at him, hugging him hard around the waist. “I’m sorry, I must not have heard you.”
“You okay?” he asked, looking down. “Are you still upset about the other night?” He brushed a finger beneath my eye where they were no doubt shadowed with dark circles.
“Talk to me.”
“I didn’t know you were coming to see me today,” I said, changing the subject.
“I finished up the board I was working on this afternoon and figured I’d come see my girl.”
I knew it was just an expression, but every time he called me his girl, or sweetheart, something inside me melted just a little bit more. “I’m glad you came.”
He leaned down and kissed me. His kiss was like a really good book or movie. It completely transported me to another place. It took me out of my own head, and I did nothing but get lost in him.
“I needed that,” I murmured when he lifted his head.
“You need ice cream too.”
He nodded and draped an arm across my shoulders, fitting me alongside his body and steering me toward Ben and Jerry’s. He ordered a massive serving of Phish Food (chocolate ice cream swirled with gooey marshmallow and caramel with fudge fish) swimming inside a giant waffle bowl. I had no idea where he was going to put it all, but it was definitely going to be interesting to watch. I ordered a scoop of chocolate mint crunch in a regular-sized cone and then we sat in the corner of the scoop shop at a tiny round table.
“Seriously, how are you going to eat that?” I mused, watching him shovel a huge bite of the sweet treat into his mouth.
“It’s Phish Food,” he declared like that somehow explained everything. Then he scooped up a fudge fish and held the spoon to my lips.
I opened my mouth and he slid the spoon between my teeth and then pulled it back, my lips dragging across the cold plastic as he pulled. His eyes darkened as he watched my mouth move.
When the spoon was gone, I pulled up my cone and started licking across the top and around the edges.
“Are you trying to kill me?” he asked, leaning over the table, his eyes still on my mouth.
“Definitely not.” I held the cone out to him and he licked up the side of it slowly. After he swallowed, he lowered his voice and leaned even closer. “You taste better.”
I wagged my eyebrows at him and he chuckled.
He looked so good today with a navy-blue baseball hat turned backward covering up his blond hair, rocking the beachy tan that never went away, and wearing a white T-shirt with a pair of navy-blue board shorts with a wide gray stripe down each side.
“Have you gotten any sleep the last couple days?”
I nodded. “Some.”
“Have you heard from the cops?”
“No,” I said, frowning. “I really thought they would have said something to Roxie by now.”
“What else is bothering you?” he asked, studying me.
“How do you know there’s something else?”
“I can see it in your eyes. You’ve been kind of quiet since the other night. What’s bothering you?”
Someone bumped into our table and I jumped back.