Shade's Fall

Page 22


“I would complain, but the food looks too good,” Lily said with wry amusement.
Shade placed one of the big steaks on her plate before serving himself. Lily cut off a piece of the tender meat then took a bite.
“It’s delicious,” she complimented.
“You didn’t think I could cook?” Shade raised a brow.
“Why would you need to cook? You have a bunch of pretty women cooking and delivering it to you,” Lily teased without rancor.
“I’ll have you know that we all take turns cooking and sharing chores.”
“I bet that’s interesting. How often does Winter get stuck doing chores?”
“Not often, unless it’s a punishment. She has a way of finagling things to get her way.”
“I know. It comes from being a high school principal. She was a mastermind at making the kids do things that they didn’t want to do.” Lily remembered her own experiences at losing to Winter’s machinations.
Lily nodded her head. “The seniors wanted to cut class on the first day of spring—it was a tradition at our school—yet students every year would manage to get into trouble. The previous principal had tried to stop it but wasn’t successful. Winter, on the other hand, acted all gung ho for us to have the day off. She told us that if we volunteered to clean the kitchen of the school’s chef training program she would let us have the afternoon off. What she didn’t tell us was that the students had made pizza the day before and hadn’t used pizza pans. It took us all day to clean those ovens. I had nightmares about burnt-on cheese for a month.”
Shade had stopped eating. Lily looked at him in question before it dawned on her what the look meant. She couldn’t stop the laughter from bubbling from her throat.
“Don’t tell me she got you on that one?”
“Let’s change the subject before I decide to stuff her into our oven.”
They talked the rest of the meal about the different things people ordered through the factory.
“Knox put Diamond on a budget,” Lily said when he described Diamond sneaking into the factory when a new shipment arrived.
“She finally calmed down. She’s too busy decorating her new house.”
Lily didn’t tell him about the two cases of MREs she had bought on his day off.
Cleaning the table, she watched Shade turn off the grill, making sure it was out before they went inside.
“I cooked; you can do the dishes,” he said, opening the fridge to take out a beer. Lily stiffened as he went to the living room and turned on the television.
“What do you want to watch? Something scary or something funny?”

“Funny,” Lily answered as she continued putting up the dishes.
“Scary it is.”
“Don’t you dare.”
“Then you better hurry up.” Lily closed the dishwasher before going into the living room to take the other side of the couch.
He had chosen a romantic comedy to watch, which Lily didn’t watch often and never with a male. She became so uncomfortable watching the two main characters fool around on the screen that, during one particular scene, Lily jumped up and went into the kitchen to make popcorn. She filled two bowls, grabbed a soda for herself and hesitantly took another beer for Shade.
“Thanks.” He took the beer and popcorn from her, and then Lily resumed her seat.
She didn’t even stiffen when she heard the can pop this time while not taking her eyes off the television.
After the movie was over, Lily carried the popcorn and empty cans to the kitchen.
Shade was already at the door when she returned.
“Lock the door behind me.”
“I will. Thanks for the steaks, Shade.” Lily braced herself and leaned up, brushing his cheek with a soft kiss before stepping back hastily.
“Goodnight, Lily.”
* * *
Shade sat on his bike in the parking lot of Rick’s Pub. The lights inside cut off and the workers exited, casting cautious looks in Shade’s direction. Charles came out last, shutting and locking the doors behind him. When he turned to the parking lot and saw him sitting there, Shade didn’t see any surprise. He walked towards him. Shade had to give the kid credit, he didn’t flinch from his hard stare.
“If you came for that dinner, I’m afraid were closed.”
Shade let a wry smile touch his lips. “We both know that’s not why I’m here.”
Charles looked him over. “If you came here to threaten me to stay away from Lily, I won’t. You’re wasting your time. Even if you beat me up, all I have to do is show Lily. It would turn her against you. There’s no way you can win, Shade.” The little shit smiled at him.
Shade smiled back affably before reaching into his pocket, pulling some photographs out and handing them to Charles.
Charles took the photos from him, turning pale. He looked back up at Shade.
Shade leaned forward, taking the photos back, looking at the woman and child in the picture. “Amazing resemblance, isn’t it? I think we both know what Lily would do if she found out you knocked up one of her friends. Miranda may have passed your kid off to the dumbass she married, but we both know the kid is yours. Not only would Lily not have anything to do with you, but it would break up Miranda’s marriage, and the gossip would get back to your daddy. I believe her husband is a Deacon in the church.” Shade leaned forward, resting his forearm on his knee, his eyes pinning Charles in place.
“What do you want?” Charles asked, his jaw tight. Shade smiled in satisfaction.
“What I want is for you to go back to Lexington. I’ll even give you a couple of weeks home before you have to leave, just don’t try to see Lily anymore.”
Charles nodded his agreement.
Shade straightened, starting his motor.
“She won’t ever love you. What makes you think you stand a better chance than me?” Charles looked him over as if he was trash.
Shade gave him his moment. Charles knew he had lost all hope of having Lily; he sure as fuck was taking it better than Shade would have. He gazed back at the man, but felt no pity.
“The difference between us, Charles, is I would give my right arm for her. You, on the other hand, didn’t take five seconds to put on a fucking condom.” Shade drove off, leaving the speechless man behind.
Chapter 9
Lily changed into her workout outfit, no longer worried about its brief coverage. She had become used to Shade seeing her in it after working out with him for almost a month now.
As she beat him to the mats, which was a first, she could hear music playing upstairs, so that meant that the usual Friday party had already started.
She began stretching while she waited for Shade to appear. The time had flown by and she could tell her defense lessons had helped her confidence, combined with the weights making her feel stronger. Her panic attacks had decreased to be almost nonexistent.
She had also confided to Rachel that she had decided to stay in Treepoint and finish her classes on the internet. Lily was enjoying feeling more comfortable in the world, and she didn’t want to go back to the insecurities of college life.
She couldn’t admit that she would miss everyone too badly if she left, though. She had become used to spending her Saturdays with Rachel, and she liked spending her days at the factory. Georgia was the only fly in the ointment. Her hostility had increased as she witnessed the strengthening friendship between Lily and Shade.