Xavier Cold

Page 12


“You hungry?” Xavier’s voice cuts through the otherwise silent room. “We could go out and eat since we don’t have any food here yet.”
“I’m not hungry just yet.” I continue to study the pictures on the wall, and my curiosity needs confirmation to what it already knows. “Is this your mother?”
Xavier blows a rush of air out of his nose before walking over to where I’m standing. He stares at the pictures, and instead of answering my question, he moves in to take the frames off the wall. “I forgot all these were up here. I should’ve had Nettie take them down a long time ago.”
I wrap my fingers around his wrist as he reaches for the next picture. “You don’t want to leave them?”
“No,” he replies instantly. “I don’t like to be reminded of the past.”
Since I’ve known Xavier, all I’ve done is push him to talk about his past even though he’s warned me over and over again that the topic of his family was off-limits, so I’m curious to find out more about them.
I watch as Xavier pulls all the pictures off the wall, one by one, before tucking away the memories that haunt him into a storage closet not far from the front door.
Once he’s satisfied that all the pictures are gone, he turns and surveys the room. “I don’t like looking at her.”
I’m not sure who he means, but I’m trying not to get him aggravated by asking too many questions.
He lets out a long sigh, like he doesn’t know what to do with himself in this space. It’s clear that being here is a struggle for him. I’m beginning to have my doubts about talking him into facing his past. It might not be such a good idea.
Lord knows I do my best to keep from facing my past. Last I spoke with my father, he was angry, and I pissed him off even further when I told him I was staying with Xavier. As far as I know, I’m still not welcomed at home, and since the day Father showed up in Atlanta, I’ve not heard a peep from anyone in Portland.
I’d shocked them all by running away the way I did, but I couldn’t see another way out of the situation with my controlling family. I hadn’t wanted the life they had planned for me, and the only way to stop that from happening to me was by breaking free.
And, man, did I ever get freedom.
My eyes have been opened to the cruel realities that others, like Xavier, have faced. His life is, by far, worse than mine, but I respect the hell out of him for finding his own way and making something out of himself on his own terms.
I slide my arms around his waist and snuggle up against him. I’m not sure what’s going on in that head of his, but I want him to know that I’m here, and he can count on me.
Chapter 7
It’s harder than I thought, walking back into this house. Everywhere I look, I’m reminded of something horrible that happened. If anything good ever happened, I sure as hell don’t remember it.
When I look at the couch, I picture Mom lying there, strung out, after returning from a bender. That image in my head leads me back to the moments that make up my nightmares.
If I didn’t love Anna so damn much and have this overwhelming desire to protect her and see to her every need, I would’ve rather lived on the street again before coming back here. But that life—the hardness of it—isn’t for Anna. She’s much too pure for that, and I’ll be damned if I’m the man who taints her light.
She clings to me, not saying a word and not pushing me for more information about the house. I appreciate that.
I’m not ready to spill all my secrets to her. God knows, it was hard enough, telling her about the death of my mother. There’s no way I want Anna to know that the woman in those pictures, the one with the seemingly sweet face, is at the very center of all the things that haunt me.
Nettie is the only person on this earth whom I’ve ever told about the beatings I received at the hands of my grandmother, and that wasn’t by choice. She figured it out when she tried to wake me up from one of my nightmares, and I took a swing at her. I didn’t make contact—thank God—but it scared her. I could see it in her eyes. It made her question taking in a kid off the streets. Desperate to stay with her and Carl, I confessed everything about my life. She didn’t like what she heard, and she begged me to turn my grandmother in, but I knew that wouldn’t do any good. To the community, my grandmother was a saint. She gave to every charity, smiled all the time, and was loyal to her church. No one would’ve ever believed me. They would’ve taken one look at the raggedy street kid in front of them and accused me of lying. That wasn’t something I wanted to deal with. After that night, Nettie never brought up my past again, and it bonded us together. She never had any kids of her own, and I suppose I was the next best thing.
I have to get out of this house. I’ve been here for only a few short minutes, and I already have the desire to run out of here as quickly as I can.
“Ready?” I ask Anna.
She nods. “Let’s go.”
Once we’re on the bike, relief floods through me. I’m grateful to be out of that fucking house. The bike rumbles to a stop, Anna peels her body off me and hops off. I balance its weight between my thighs as I grin and reach over to unfasten the buckle beneath her chin. My fingertips lightly trace her skin, causing her to instantly blush. I love the way the slightest touch from me affects her. It’s nice to constantly have confirmation that I can turn her on so quickly with such a simple move.
She pulls the helmet off her head and hands it to me. I throw the kickstand down and then set the helmet on the handlebar before I swing my leg over the bike to get off.
When I turn around, I catch Anna staring at my ass, and it causes me to chuckle. She jerks her eyes away, embarrassed that I caught her looking.
One corner of my mouth pulls into a lopsided grin. “See something you like?”
The blush on her cheeks deepens, and she shrugs sheepishly. “I can’t help it. Your body . . . it’s pretty fantastic.”
I tuck two fingers into the waistband of her jeans and pull her against me. I gaze down at her pouty pink mouth, and all that crosses my mind is the thought of kissing her. “You keep saying things like that to me, beautiful, and I’ll toss you back onto this bike and take you right here in this parking lot.”
Her eyes widen, and her mouth falls agape. “You wouldn’t.”