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I shucked my T-shirt and shorts, ripped the condom package open and rolled it on, slowing at the raw fascination in her eyes as she watched me. “Spoke too soon,” I mumbled. I lay over her, kissing her. “No conditions.”
Her hands skimmed over my hipbones, fingers digging into the flexing muscles, thumbs caressing the sensitive spots she’d located on either side of my happy trail that I hadn’t known existed until she found them.
“I want you,” she whispered between kisses.
“Take what you want from me then. It’s been yours all along.”
She took me at my word, sliding her hands to my hips and pulling me in, hard. When I rocked into her, I was convinced we could’ve powered the whole city of Houston on the surge we generated.
• • • • • • • • • •
Monday afternoon, Mom and Riley came home from the title company and packed their shit into the bed of his truck. They hadn’t brought much. They’d sold her coupe to a wholesale dealer for a few hundred bucks because they’d just received a cashier’s check for six figures. Thinking themselves loaded, they were headed back to Amarillo to show off.
Odds they’d blow through that money inside a year? Pretty damned high.
Riley leaned on the truck, smoking, while Mom came to talk to me in the garage. Sam had gone for the day before they’d returned, so it was just the two of us.
“You’re welcome to stay, Mom. He’s not,” I said, qualifying the statement, “but you are.” I forced myself to uncross my arms and hook my thumbs in my jean pockets. My offer was genuine, and I didn’t want my aversion to her taste in men to make it look insincere.
“I appreciate that, Boyce. But a woman needs a man in this world—or at least I do. It’s too bad you had to meet Riley under these circumstances. I think y’all woulda got along otherwise. He can be nice. He’s just a little overly distrustful and protective is all.”
Uh-huh. I didn’t reply. Absolutely nothing would ever make me like that arrogant, snake-in-the-grass fucker. If he was protective of anything, it was first and foremost his own welfare.
“It’s real lucky I got a buyer who’s interested in the garage, you know,” she said then. “So you can keep your job.” As if she’d hunted down an investor herself, making sure he’d look after my interests. Somewhere in her head, she maybe even believed her own bullshit.
I had no mind to divulge anything about the secondary purchase that would occur in two or three weeks. Dr. Frank’s offer to me was literally none of her business.
Riley had apparently finished his smoke, because he honked the truck horn. “C’mon, Ruthanne!” he hollered out the window. “We’re burnin’ daylight.”
She reached to hug me and it was just plain weird. Like hugging a stranger, but sadder. I reckoned I should tell her I loved her, but it wouldn’t come and I couldn’t say those words where they weren’t meant. I wasn’t sure what I felt about her one way or the other.
“Have a safe trip home—or wherever.”
“We thought we’d run up to Eagle’s Pass for a few days before we head north.”
I frowned. “The casino?”
“Don’t look like that—Jesus H. Christ, you’re as judgmental as your brother was. Riley likes to do a little gambling now and then. So what? We deserve some fun.”
Because of how hard you both work? I bit back.
She reached up to lay her hand on my face. “Take care now. I’ll let you know where we land—maybe you can come visit.”
“Okay, Mom,” I said. I studied her face, tried to commit it to memory, but five minutes after she left all I could remember was how she looked when I was a kid—laughing, screaming, cowering from my father’s hand. Promising my fifteen-year-old brother she’d let him know where she was, right before she walked out the door.
I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that call. Not this time.
I’d always scheduled social engagements around academics. While high school friends thought this indicated a harebrained dedication to my education, in college my peculiar lifestyle choice was less peculiar. Most of my friends were either equally studious or they comprehended the reason I was when the term ended and I’d netted another 4.0 semester.
Mel’s questions: “What about parties? College is all about parties.”
That was one of the things I’d loved about being in a sorority—whole semesters of events were planned in advance. I set calendar reminders for all scheduled events, along with course project due dates and exams. If something spontaneous came up and I could fit it in, great. If it would interfere, I begged off. No one cared.
“But what about boys?”
Please. There’s never in the history of boys been a shortage of the ones willing to hook up at the drop of a What’s up? text.
“Okay, but what about actual relationships?”
I’d never craved the company of any of my boyfriends when they weren’t around—not Mitchell or Geoffrey or the two or three who didn’t last long enough to become official. I wasn’t impatient for the next text, wasn’t anticipating the next touch. I didn’t get why anyone felt like that, ever. From the outside, that kind of attachment resembled obsession. Like an unhealthy fixation. Like Get some therapy, ASAP.
Now here I was, utterly infatuated—with a guy I’d known practically all my life. I wanted to spend every waking minute with him. When I wasn’t with him, I contemplated the next time I would be. I daydreamed about him. I had never daydreamed about anyone. In. My. Life. I told myself that this preoccupation was all due to the novelty of it. That it would wear off eventually, and I would be able to get through a few hours in a row without thinking about him.
And then I wondered if I wanted that to happen.
I’d worked an evening shift for six of the twelve days Boyce and I had been official. Our first two evenings out consisted of dinner or driving into Corpus to see a movie, after which I would go home so I could study. I knew he wanted to make a good impression on Mama and Thomas—not asking me back to his place to spend the night, or at all. But when he brought me home, he’d lean back on his Trans Am, slide his arms around me, haul me onto my toes and kiss me good-night until I wanted to shove him into his own backseat in my parents’ driveway.
And then came last Friday. Six days since our weekend in Houston. I couldn’t take it anymore. When I got in his car, I said, “I was thinking burgers and beer tonight.”