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I wanted to ask how well. And what he was doing. And where he lived exactly. And if he had moved on. And who with? But I gritted my teeth because knowing all this information might destroy me. Even after five years my heart was racing at just the mere mention of his name. Also didn\ help we were in the same exact town now.

’’He\s... changed.’’ Lucinda sighed, heavy in thought. Something was wrong, and I think she wanted me to ask what so she could elaborate, but my fear held me back.

The loud sound of a motorcycle roaring down the street stirred me from my thoughts.

’’Well, speak of the devil...’’ she muttered.

’’What?’’

I could hear the motorcycle approach a close distance to the house, and then it was roaring in the driveway. Speak of the devil? What did she...? Oh, no. Oh, f*k no.

’’Is he here? Is that him?’’ I asked, my voice hysterically growing.

’’Yeah, that\ll be him on his bike.’’

Just like that the engine turned off, and the thought of him walking to the front door panicked the living hell out of me. I\d rather have been eating dog shit. Naked. On a stage. In front of thousands of people if it meant not seeing him.

I stood up abruptly, knocking the chair back, and said, ’’I can\ be here. I gotta go. Can I go through the back gate, please?’’

Lucinda leaned over and grabbed me tightly around the wrist, looking up at me with what I would assume was a reassuring face. ’’It\s alright. You\ll be fine. Sit down, it\ll be fine.’’

’’No, no,’’ I shook my head quickly. ’’No, it won\ be fine. You don\ understand. I left him all those years ago and-’’

’’Hey, Mom!’’ The familiar sound of his voice nearly gave me a heart attack. I jumped, panic and adrenaline surging through my body like a current.

’’Sit down,’’ Lucinda demanded, tugging me back down to the chair.

I reluctantly fell into the seat, and not because I wanted to, but because my f*king knees were too weak to support my body. I was shaking like the leaves on a tree in the wake of a storm. My impending storm was coming. He was in the house.

Lucinda told me she\d be right back and I helplessly watched her leave the gazebo and walk into the house. I balled my fists together, closed my eyes and breathed. My heart was hammering against my chest;my palms were stricken with cold sweat.

No, no, I\m not ready to see him. No, I can\ . I can\ .

I told myself to calm down, but how could I? I left him five years ago in the most horrible way and yet the pain felt as tangible as if it were yesterday. I held my breath so I could hear any noise coming from that house. But it was silent as death.

I felt ambushed. This was the last thing I expected to happen coming here. Worst case scenario had been seeing Lucinda - but never, ever this.

There were several more roaring motorcycles coming down the street, and they approached the driveway seconds later. More people. This was bad. Very bad. I wasn\ used to social situations. I could only handle a couple people at a time. Plus having to act normal around a bunch of people while seeing Jaxon for the first time in forever? Yeah, that was an impossible task I was going to likely fail.

Lucinda\s voice sounded through the sliding door. ’’Well, come on out and say hello. I\m waiting.’’

I bit the inside of my lip until I tasted blood. And when I looked up at the sliding door... I saw him.

Thirteen

The world stood still. Everything happened in slow motion. I don\ even think I was in my own body to feel it. Numbness wore over like a blanket in time of need.

He was trailing behind Lucinda, and she was saying something to him that I couldn\ make out. My ears were ringing with the rush of my own blood and erratic heartbeats. He came out, and, my God, he was tall. Every time I imagined him, I\d forgotten how tall he was. My memory betrayed me, maybe tried to dull his appearance so the pain of our separation was easier to live with. Because the man who was walking to the gazebo to sit in the same vicinity as me was practically unrecognizable.

I recalled his body well, but he was twice the size he used to be. Broader, and wider, but narrow at the hips, he had the body of a warrior. Wearing casual jeans, a black top and an all-black leather jacket that hugged every inch of his upper body beautifully, he was beyond divine to look at. And his hair. My heart tugged in silent protest. He\d cut it off. It was short, maybe two inches past his scalp, but it brought out his features, tremendously emphasizing his cheek bones, square jaw, straight nose, and prominent blue eyes.

There was something different about him. I caught it immediately. This was, after all, the guy I grew up with and knew everything about. He had a hardness about him that sent shivers down my spine;the coldness was there in his face as clear as day. When his eyes landed on me, I wanted nothing more than to shrink into nothing to avoid the heat of them. He wasn\ the same person, and if looks could kill, I\d be dead on the spot.

It was only after he entered the gazebo and took a seat directly across from me without so much a word to me did I notice another figure coming through the door. It was a woman, and a very pretty one at that. She was tall, dressed in black tights and a long, tight grey knit sweater that stopped just below her bum, amply hugging every soft curve. She was pulling out her ponytail, and sorting through her long beautiful blonde hair as she took a seat next to Jaxon. She smiled a dazzling white teethed smile at me, and I attempted a rather pathetic upwards move of my lips that most likely had me looking more constipated than happy.

’’Did you seriously have to invite the rest?’’ I heard Lucinda groan.

’’You told me to,’’ Jaxon replied casually. ’’Said there was a big dinner tonight, and yet I don\ smell that turkey roast you promised coming from the house.’’

’’Well, I kind of got side tracked if you hadn\ noticed.’’ Lucinda openly gestured to me.

’’We can just order pizza then or something,’’ the blonde bombshell piped in.

’’Yeah, alright, you\ve got the number in your phone, Jaxon. Go at it, then.’’ When she gave him an expectant look, I heard the sound of his phone dialling out the number.

Loud ruckus of men came through the door amidst his large order of pizza. There were three men, and one other woman, but she wasn\ nearly as pretty as Jaxon\s girl. Oh, God. Did I seriously just label her as his girl? My stomach tightened, and the numbness I\d been happy to wear was slowly fading away.

I looked down at the tray in front of me, feeling awkward and out of place. The others flooded in through the gazebo and took their seats. One guy took the seat to the side of Jaxon and me, and I attempted another weak smile at him. He was large too, and had on a leather jacket with the word ’’Ghouls’’ in white thick ink etched on it. Quickly looking around at the other two men I noticed they too wore the same leather black jackets. They weren\ as big as this guy, though.

I refused for the longest time to look in the direction ahead of me. When everyone was seated and chatting up a storm, I was silently listening in and praying for time to pass so I could get the f*k out of there.

’’This is my darling daughter I never had,’’ Lucinda suddenly announced to them, and they fell silent to listen to her. Man, I hated introductions. ’’She\ll be in Gosnells for a little while. Her name\s Sara.’’

’’Hey Sara,’’ they all piped in. By all I\m obviously excluding Jaxon of course.

’’Hey,’’ I weakly responded, looking up at each of them.

’’We\ve got Ashley over here with the red flaming hair and her partner Bugs - don\ ask me why they call him that.’’

’’Because I like bugs!’’ he cackled.

Lucinda chuckled at his remark and moved on from the thin built blonde haired man who had scary tattoos of spiders crawling up his neck. His girlfriend Ashley was seated beside Jaxon\s girl, and Bugs was on the end. ’’On your side we have Kurt and on my side we have Josh.’’

Kurt and Josh looked very much alike. Same bronze hair, big brown eyes, and heart shaped face. You could tell from a mile away they were brothers, except Kurt was less built than his giant brother Josh.

’’And over here,’’ Lucinda gestured to the blonde tanned beauty beside the man I will never have again, and paused for a second, knitting her brows together in thought. ’’We have... Cindy, was it?’’

I caught the tone in her voice that this woman wouldn\ know to catch. Jaxon caught it too and rolled his eyes. It was a condescending tone filled with mockery, yet it came out all question-like with a tiny hitch at the end that gave it away.

’’Christy,’’ the girl corrected with an easy smile. She brightly looked over at me and extended her hand over the table. ’’Nice to meet you, Sara.’’

I awkwardly bent over the table and took her warm and soft French manicured hand and shook it. ’’Nice to meet you too,’’ I replied. I tried not to look at Jaxon, but my eyes deceived me. He was still glaring at me, oozing a kind of hate that, if it had any chemical effect in the air, I\d have choked on it.

Jaxon looked away from me and his hand extended out and held Christy\s hand. His long fingers entwined through hers, tightly grasping them as he ran his thumb over her knuckles. She smiled widely, looking at him with even brighter green eyes. He caught her look and broke into a lopsided smile that, I swear, could have melted any girl\s panties off.

It did horrible things to my heart.

I stood up from the table. ’’I forgot my phone in the car,’’ I told Lucinda as I made my way out. I felt her eyes on me before I disappeared into the house and then back out front to my car. I opened the door and was half tempted to start the car and leave, never ever to return again. Only I couldn\ do that. I\d been cruel before, but I was a different person now.

I grabbed my purse and pulled out my phone. I was miserable, and needed to turn to the only person who could make it better right now.

I texted Lexi. He\s here.

She would know what I meant.

Opening my blush case, I looked in the mirror and winced. I looked terrible. The one day I decide to be a lazy mess has to be the day I see my ex-boyfriend in front of his gorgeous upgrade, I thought with disdain.

After a quick breather to calm my rattled nerves, I returned and took my seat back down. Josh had moved his chair to the other side so he could sit and converse with Bugs and Ashley. There were three different conversations taking place, so I turned in Lucinda\s direction and listened in on the one was she was participating in. Ten minutes later the pizza delivery man had arrived. Plates were handed out, and like auto pilot I smiled, grabbed a slice of pepperoni pizza and nibbled away on it. I still hadn\ digested my damn Chinese food, and I was feeling it really bad in my gut, but the pizza smelled too good to pass.

The sun dipped down below the horizon, and night time inched its way overhead. Soon, it was dark and the lights around the patio were on. The warmth of the patio heaters rained down over me, pillowing me in comfort as I reached over for a second slice.

My phone rang in the midst of my reach, and I dug into my pocket to retrieve it. When I saw Daniel\s name flash up, my miserably dead heart sprang back to life.

’’Hello,’’ I cheerily answered, blocking the free side of my ear with my other hand to listen in.

’’Hey, booty call,’’ he chimed in his comedic voice.

I laughed. ’’Hey yourself.’’

’’No, you have to repeat it too.’’

’’I sorta can\ right now,’’ I said, quickly looking over at everyone. They were all deep in conversation, barely batting me an eye. Except Jaxon;I didn\ know what he was doing because I couldn\ bring myself to look at him, but I hadn\ heard his voice in a while.

’’I don\ care what social situation you\ e in. You refer to me as \ooty call\ so they know to stay away from the ass I\ve claimed.’’

I laughed again, looking shyly down at my plate. ’’Hey... booty call.’’

’’That\s my girl!’’

Lucinda turned to me, and her eyes were wide and her mouth formed into a mischievous grin. I ignored her curious gaze and continued staring holes into my plate.

’’How\ e you going?’’ he asked. ’’Did you get a lot done today?’’

’’No, I didn\ . I\ve been delaying.’’

’’Why?’’

’’You know why.’’

’’Do you need me to come down? Be honest.’’

I sighed. ’’Do I need you to? No. Do I want you to? Yes. Do I think you should? No.’’

’’But you want me. I can be down there tomorrow to spend the day with you and help keep you on track. Just say yes.’’

’’But you\ve got work and clients and I\ve seen how booked you are the next few weeks.’’

’’This is a critical time for my booty call, so I can\ ignore her troubles. I can re-schedule some appointments. Don\ worry about it.’’

’’I don\ know. Call me later. I\m busy right now.’’

’’Alright, I\ll call you at ten. You better pick up.’’

’’I will. See you, Daniel.’’

’’Bye, babe.’’

I put the phone away and then paused. Babe? He called me babe for the first time.

’’Now who on earth was that?’’ Lucinda asked, nudging her shoulder into mine. ’’Your booty call, you said.’’

I smiled. ’’It\s just a funny thing we call each other. Means nothing.’’

Her eyebrows rose sceptically. ’’Uh-huh. You in a relationship?’’

Glancing at the two hands wrapped tightly around each other across from me, I gulped the lump in my throat and nodded. ’’Yeah, I am.’’ Technically I was. I mean, Daniel and I agreed we\d be exclusively seeing each other and nobody else as long as our arrangement was commencing.


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