Still Jaded

Page 29


"Did you talk to Grace?"
"What? Uh…no. I haven't had time. I didn't see her yesterday. Wait—you didn't go see your place? Where've you been since you left the hospital? I went there yesterday, but you'd already checked out."
I stood up. "I went to a hotel. Talk to Grace. Tell me as soon as you talk to her."
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going…" I didn't know. "I guess I should go back to my place and see the damage."
"Sheldon." Corrigan crossed the room in two steps and caught my arm. "What is going on? You were shoved into a glass table. Now you're telling me that your place was trashed. You didn't call me but went to a hotel room. Things aren't good between us three. What's going on? Are you okay?"
Was I?
Corrigan squeezed my hand. "I know you were drinking. I can smell it on you. You only do that when something's really wrong. The last time, that night, you were getting wasted on purpose. You do that when you're in self-destructive mode. No matter all the crap that's between us, you're my best friend."
I forced a smile and squeezed his hand back. "I'm fine. The booze helps with the pain. I know I shouldn't drink, but I'm not driving. Talk to Grace. That's how you can help me, but don't let her know that I'm the one who sent you her way."
As I left, I contemplated how I wasn't being a friend to Grace, but some of her actions weren't making sense to me. Call me paranoid after Marcus, but I learned not to trust what doesn't make sense. I couldn't look at Grace how I used to, not until I knew what was going on with her, but I knew she wouldn't confide in me. I hoped that Corrigan could pull the 'love' card to get her to tell the truth, and then I'd proceed from there. Corrigan was right. I needed to find out what was going on.
I caught a cab home and then stood in shock at the end of the driveway. The gates had been left wide open, and I could see the front door was open too. Bryce's Miata was parked in front of the garage with another car beside it. As I headed inside, I called out, "Hello?"
Bryce yelled, "We're upstairs." His voice echoed in the house and gave me a creepy feeling. We?
I had only a second to wonder who else was with him before I took stock of the destruction. Officer Sheila hadn't exaggerated. It looked like a tornado obliterated it from the inside out. And that the tornado had a personal vendetta against me. Pictures were ripped in pieces, cushions had their stuffing yanked out, and I was pretty sure I smelled urine and vomit. An angry atmosphere lingered in my house.
When I got to the bedroom, I couldn't believe my eyes. Bryce stood with two large boxes in the middle of the room. Mathias walked out of the closet, his arms full of shredded clothes. As he dumped them in the box, the pink polo-shirted agent grinned at me. "Hey, Sheldon! Quite a party, huh?"
I narrowed my eyes. When had we become friends?
Bryce crossed the room to hug me. "He's trying to make nice. I laid down the law. We're both trying to make nice."
As he kissed my cheek, I sucked in my breath and grasped his shirt. It felt so good, like I'd been thrown a lifesaver. Bryce had the power to make me numb, crazy, or feel too much. I wasn't sure which was the healthiest.
He brushed his cheek against mine and added, "We'll work things out. I promise. I took the day off to help you."
"This is from your party, Sheldon?" Mathias paused after he dumped another load in the box. "This is going to take a month to clean, and it's not even noon, we've only gotten one closet cleaned. You should hire professionals."
"No need!" Cadence laughed as she moved around me. Her hair was swept into a braided bun, and she wore a yellow rubber apron with cleaning supplies in the pockets. She smiled and puffed out her chest as she posed in front of Bryce.
"What are you doing here?" I asked and stood slightly in front of Bryce. Boyfriend or not, he was still my best friend.
"Some of the guys from Alpha Mu called and told us what happened. We decided to come over and help out. You're going to be one of us, remember?"
"All of the sisters." Cadence gestured behind her. "They've already started cleaning."
Mathias clapped. "Alright!" He rushed to the stairs, mouth agape as he took in the scene below us. Cadence hadn't lied when she said all of the sisters. There were at least thirty of them, and they all wore yellow rubber aprons and braided buns in their hair. Some waved but most were already cleaning.
"You just found out?" I asked.
Cadence smiled. "Well, we were going to come over to clean after the party. Some of the girls were hung over so we didn't get here yesterday. Sorry about that. But we're here now and we're here to help. From the looks of things, I'm guessing a lot of this is just going to be thrown out." She surveyed the room and nodded. "I know the party was rough, but it looks like someone's angry with you."
Only one person? I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and sighed instead. "I'm starting to get use to the feel of being violated."
Bryce curved an arm around my waist and pulled me close. "We'll get it clean. These are just things, remember."
I nodded, conscious of Cadence's eagle-like scrutiny.
"Sheldon, I'm starting to really like your friends." Mathias came back in and picked up a box. "I'm going downstairs."
Bryce chuckled. "If I don't see you for the rest of the day, I'll call you tonight."
The normally polished agent turned and gave him a distracted wave. "Right now, I don't care when you call."
As the doors closed behind him, I noted, "He's not shallow at all."
"He means well. He does," Bryce reassured me.
Cadence shot out her arm. "I don't think we've been introduced. I'm Cadence, president of the Zeta house on campus. You might've heard about us. We're close to the Alpha Mu house, Corrigan's fraternity."
Bryce gave her a polite smile and shook her hand. He retracted his hand too quickly for her liking, but I had to give Cadence some props. She hid her disappointment well. However, I was starting to think our previous deal of Bryce being off limits had been an empty promise. And she didn't even know how messed up we really were at the moment.