Frayed Page 86

As soon as Bell is dressed Charlotte and Jack walk us to my car and stand in the parking lot watching as we drive away. I did my best to reassure them, but I think the concern goes beyond her head wound. I get that.

We\ e both quiet as I drive from Malibu to LA. My thoughts keep flipping back to what might have happened to her if I hadn\ gotten there in time.

’’How long has he been harassing you?’’ I ask because it\s driving me crazy.

She turns toward me. ’’He wasn\ really harassing me. But ever since I ran into you I think he could sense I was interested in someone and sometimes he\d make inappropriate comments, but it wasn\ anything I couldn\ handle.’’

’’Inappropriate how?’’ I ask, my stomach plummeting.

’’I really don\ want to think about it. But I promise, today was the first time he actually got physical.’’

I shudder at the word physical. The thought of anyone touching her sickens me. I take her hand in mine.

’’He wouldn\ have hurt me. I know what you\ e thinking.’’

I hope she\s right, but it\s over now and we never have to find out. ’’How about some food?’’ I say, deciding to lighten the dark conversation.

’’I am kind of hungry.’’

’’Good, because I am too.’’ I turn and grin at her and then look down at my shirt. ’’Takeout okay with you?’’

’’The Kettle has the best broccoli cheddar,’’ she says.

’’You want soup?’’

’’Yes, when you\ e sick you\ e supposed to eat soup.’’

My head snaps to hers. ’’Do you not feel well?’’

She presses her fingers to her bandage. ’’I feel fine. You know what I mean.’’

I try to control my laughter but feel my shoulders shake. ’’Sure I do.’’

’’I can call ahead.’’

I grin over at her. ’’I thought you didn\ eat vegetables.’’

Her eyes light up. ’’Cheese goes with everything.’’

This time when I look over at her, I let my laughter fill the car.

CHAPTER 28

Talk Dirty

Bell

While Southern California is being battered by the powerful Santa Ana winds, Ben and I pick up the soups and he takes me to the ridge to look at the city view while we eat.

’’Do you believe me about Beck\s?’’ he asks.

’’Strangely enough, I do.’’

I place my spoon in my golden cheddar soup deliciously nestled in a bread bowl. ’’Want to try some?’’ I ask, pulling the spoon now laden with soup toward my mouth.

’’I\ll pass. Even cheese can\ conceal the broccoli smell. Brings back nightmares from my childhood.’’

I think about him as a child for a moment and how cute he must have been. ’’Did you have to sit at the table until you ate all your vegetables?’’

His teeth graze his own spoon slurping in a giant noodle. Once he swallows he says, ’’Something like that. For me it was more like I had to sit at the table until I could get my dog to eat all my vegetables.’’

God, he was a bad boy even as a kid. I find that oddly to be a turn-on. Watching him eat has my stomach yearning with desire and not for food. ’’We had a dog too. A golden retriever named Beat.’’

He laughs. ’’That makes sense since your dad was in the music business.’’

’’What was your dog\s name?’’

A gleam enters his eyes, one I\ve never seen. ’’Kahuana. He was the biggest, baddest, chocolate Lab you could ever have seen.’’

I laugh. ’’Sounds like \Leroy Brown.\’’

Seemingly lost in his thoughts still, he looks at me questioningly.

’’The song \Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.\ He was meaner than a junkyard dog.’’

He shakes his head at me again. ’’Yeah, something like that. Can I ask you something?’’ His tone changes to something more serious.

’’Sure,’’ I say, blowing on my soup.

’’That night I came over and you pulled out a bottle of wine, I saw vodka on your counter too. Are you drinking again?’’

I tense up while his eyes study my face. ’’No, I never drank any of what I bought. I thought about it. I opened the bottles. Even poured a glass or two but never drank a drop.’’

His hand moves to tuck a piece of hair behind my ear.

I jerk away, moving to swat his hand. ’’I\m not like my father. I\m not an alcoholic, you know.’’

He catches my wrist and gently closes his fingers around it. ’’I know that and it doesn\ matter anyway. I just want to make sure you\ e okay.’’

My heart beats faster, as if it\s reaching for him. ’’I am.’’

The moment suddenly feels too serious.

’’Good, because I\m the jackass that got so drunk that night at the bar I couldn\ remember where I parked.’’

’’You didn\ drive home, I hope?’’

’’No, Beck drove my bike home, and believe me, he was not happy.’’

We finish our soups and talk about fun things we did as kids. When we\ e done and heading back, I stare out the windows watching the trees sway side to side. It seems as though so much time has passed since our first dates. But in actuality not that much time has passed;it\s more that much has happened between us.

Before I know it we pull up to my apartment building. He puts the car in PARK and turns to me. ’’You know, I really missed you.’’

I smile. ’’I know.’’

He shakes his head, somewhat amused, I think.

I leave him there pondering my answer and open the door to get out.


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