If You Stay

Chapter Nine


Fuck her.

My head is spinning as I walk woodenly from her shop and to my car. I can't believe that just happened, actually. I bared myself to someone for the first time in forever and she stomped on it. I don't know who I'm madder at - her for rejecting me or me for putting myself out there for her to reject.

But either way, fuck her.

I jam my keys in the ignition and turn the volume up. Hard rock vibrates my chest as the bass rumbles and I tear out of the parking lot and toward the highway to Chicago. Since I'm in a bad mood anyway, I might as well get this over with.

The highway stretches in front of me and the loud music calms me as I drive. I lose myself in it, actually. I allow it to numb me, to absorb the negative thoughts. I almost reach for my vial, which is safely ensconced in my jacket, but I don't. I told myself that I wouldn't, not for a while, and I won't. I'm not weak. And I'm not a pussy.

As the miles are absorbed by my rearview mirror, the sky swallows the road in the horizon bit by bit until I'm finally crossing the bridge into Chicago and onto the Skyway.

By the time I arrive at my dad's downtown office, I have managed to put my agitation away, to tuck the image of Mila's face far away in my mind.

Because fuck her.

I have the urge to punch a wall, but I don't. Instead, I make my way to the eighteenth floor and my father's receptionist lets him know that I am here. I make myself comfortable in his sitting area, taking a mint out of a bowl and popping it into my mouth.

My eyes are closed when my father finally appears twenty minutes later.

"Pax, get your feet off of the furniture."

His voice is tired and I open my eyes. He looks older since I saw him last quarter. His dark hair is just beginning to gray at the temples, and he has lines around his eyes. And his mouth. His navy blue suit seems to hang a bit on him, like he lost weight and hasn't taken the time to have his clothing altered. I stare at him, amazed at the idea that my father is growing old.

And then I yank my feet off of the table in front of me.

"Sorry," I mumble. My father nods and leads me to his big office.

I sit in a chair in front of him and wait until he slides a few papers across his desk toward me.

I don't even read them, I simply sign my name. I trust him.

"You should always read anything that you sign your name on," he admonishes me for what seems like the hundredth time regarding this subject. And for the hundredth time, I reply in the same way.

"I do, when it's a stranger. But you're my father. I know you aren't going to fuck me over."

Dad sighs again. "Can you at least try to watch your language? It's the respectful thing to do."

"Sorry," I mutter again.

For Christ's sake. He acts like I'm a child. But that's part of our problem. Our relationship will always be frozen in his head- back to a time when I was a child and he was the adult. He doesn't seem to understand that we're both adults now.

"Alexander Holdings had an exceedingly good quarter," my dad remarks, taking back the papers and shuffling them. "So your income has increased this time. You really might want to consider investing. You're twenty-four years old. It's time to grow your portfolio. And maybe take an interest in your family's company. Your grandfather has contacted me, wanting to know how to reach you. He's an old man, Pax. He won't be around much longer. He wants to know that his company is in good hands."

I stare at him, fighting the urge to curl my lip.

"I don't want anything to do with the business," I tell my father. "I don't agree with anything they stand for. As far as I'm concerned, I'll hire a CEO to run the place after he finally kicks it. And as far as my grandfather goes, it's his fault that he's all alone. He basically disowned me when we moved away. He's got himself to blame."

My father's eyes glaze over and he turns to stare out his window.

"Pax, your grandfather wasn't the same after your mother died. None of us were. You can't hold that against him. When we moved, he felt like he was losing you too, and you were the last connection that he had with your mother. Since your grandma died so long ago, you and Susanna were all he had. When he lost her and then you, he felt like he lost everything."

"Yet he didn't have to lose me," I spit angrily. "His fucking temper is what caused him to lose me. He chose to be angry and cut off contact. I was just a kid. I didn't even choose to move. You did. But he took it out on me. So, as far as I'm concerned, he can rot."

My father stares at me, his gaze thoughtful as he temples his fingers in front of him. Finally he sighs and nods.

"I guess I can understand your feelings. Your grandfather is a formidable man. And stubborn. He used to make your mom want to pull her hair out sometimes."

And now his eyes really do glaze over as he thinks about my mom, lost in his memories. If there was ever anyone who didn't get over her death, it was most certainly my father.

"Dad, you look like you aren't eating right," I tell him, pulling him from his thoughts and back into the present with me. He doesn't look happy about it, either. He prefers to live in a world made from memories.

He shakes his head, shaking away my concern.

"I'm fine, Pax. Just stressed about some big cases that I'm handling. How are you doing? Are you pulling things together?"

"You mean, am I still using?" I stare at him harshly. I mean, fuck. If you have a question, just ask it. Don't beat around the bush. Dad nods, tired again.

"Fine. Yes. Are you still using?" He asks the question haltingly, as if the words taste bitter in his mouth. And he doesn't really want to know the answer, I can tell. He thinks I'm a fucking addict who can't quit.

It's fucking annoying.

"No, I haven't used," I tell him, rolling my eyes. "I said I wasn't going to and I'm not. Not the hard shit, anyway. I'm not an addict, dad. Seriously. I use it because I like it. Not because I have to."

My father stares at me with his best hardened attorney gaze.

"That might be so," he tells me. "But eventually, when a person keeps using, they become addicted. You're pushing it."

"Whatever, dad," I sigh, pushing away from his desk and standing up. "It's been good to see you. I'll see you next quarter."

I stalk out, away from his disapproving stare and his doubts. What he doesn't understand is that if you constantly expect the worst from someone, that's probably what you're going to get. He should have learned that by now. I've certainly shown him time and time again.

I am headed back toward the Skyway when I decide to take a quick detour, into a seedy little bar that I know of. I've had to stop there numerous times after heated visits with the old man. The bartender knows me and calls out a greeting when I enter. I never can remember his name. Dave? Dan?

I make my way across the dingy room, glancing around at the split vinyl seats and dark walls. This place hasn't changed. It still has a hole in the paneling back by the pool table where somebody punched it and it still smells like piss and old grease. It's not what you would call upscale, but it's perfect for drinking away a bad mood.

I nod at the bartender.

"I'll have a Jack."

The bartender nods back and fills a tumbler with the dark golden liquid, sliding it towards me. It sloshes a bit onto the bar, but he's not concerned. Cleanliness isn't exactly his highest priority. You can tell that by his stained shirt and greasy hair. But that doesn't bother me. The whiskey will taste the same regardless of the bartender's personal hygiene habits.

Before he can attempt to talk with me, he's distracted by another customer, a dirty old man who is clearly far too drunk. I watch with interest as the bartender tries to cut him off, then just gives up and pours him another drink.

"Hey, big fella. I'm Amber."

I stare down at the big-busted woman who has just slid up to me. She's got bar whore written all over her, from her extremely tight jeans that exhibit camel toe to her garish overly done makeup. Her tits are practically busting out of her top because it's three sizes too small.

I cock an eyebrow and take a gulp of whiskey.

"Big fella? The 1940's called. They want their phrase back."

Amber throws her bleached blonde head back and laughs as though it is the funniest thing she's ever heard.

"I'm from Iowa. I guess we still talk that way back home."

"Charming." I knock back the rest of my drink and motion for another. I look at Amber. "Would you like one?"

I figure it's the polite thing to do, even though I'm not much in the mood for company. She nods.

"I'd love one." She looks up at the bartender. "Dan, can you make it two?"

Dan the bartender. I've got to remember that.

But I'm sure I won't.

Amber slides her hand up my thigh. "Thanks for the drink. But if you don't want me to call you big fella, you've got to tell me your name."

I eye her, at the way her eyes are already dilated because she's already had a few too many. "Do I?"

She examines me for a moment, before she laughs. It's a slutty laugh. A fake one. I almost shudder, but don't. I don't know what's wrong with me. This is an easy woman who is mine for the taking. If I wanted to take her, that is, but I find that I really don't. And I think I do know what's wrong with me.

Mila Hill is in my head, wholesome and sweet. But I'll be fucking damned if I let her invade my life when she doesn't even want me in the first place.

I knock back my glass of Jack and signal for one more. I knock that one back too.

A comforting sense of calm descends upon me, the familiar numbness that I love so much. When all else fails, the obscurity prevails. I almost laugh at my deep thinking, but instead, I reach over and grasp Amber's thick thigh, enjoying the fleshy feel of her leg in my fingers. If this chick wants me, she can have me.

And then I do what I always do. I block out logical thought with drugs or women. In this case, a bar slut and Jack Daniels.

"Come with me," I whisper into her ear. Amber smiles knowingly and nods. She clings to my hand as we pick our way through the dirty bar, down the dingy back hall and into the women's bathroom.

The bathroom is exactly how I figured it would be - disgusting. A single light bulb hangs from the yellowed ceiling, casting a dubious light around the small room. There is evidence of puke on the sides of the toilet, the tiles are grimy and the walls look as though they haven't been washed since 1969. But it doesn't matter. I lock the door behind us and turn to Amber.

She reaches for me and I let her, sliding my hand up her thigh and under her tight shirt, gripping her fat tit. I squeeze it hard and she moans.

I squeeze it harder and she moans again.

I want to roll my eyes at this stupid game. I know what's going to happen because I've played it a thousand times before. She's going to pretend to enjoy anything that I do, and I'll pretend not to know it's fake.

But who gives a fuck? Pussy is pussy.

I pull a condom from my wallet and rip it open with my teeth, but discover a problem. I'm not hard.

"Suck me," I tell Amber. And then I smile charmingly.

She smiles back and immediately drops to her knees on the dirty floor, her head bobbing. It's not long before I'm hard enough for the condom, in spite of myself. I slide it on, help Amber to her feet and turn her away from me. And then I enter her from behind, with no preamble, no foreplay.

She doesn't seem to mind.

She moans as if my dick is the best she's ever had. I close my eyes and picture all of the porn scenes I've ever watched, all of the tits and ass and masturbation and shower scenes. But something is off. The smell in here is putrid, I'm tired, I'm pissed. Things aren't coming easily tonight and I know that having an orgasm isn't going to be easy, particularly with whiskey-dick.

So I picture Mila.

And immediately, I feel a gush of warmth. I picture her small waist, her lush hips. Her full lips. Her soft tits. Her feminine smell, clean and floral. It immediately floods life into my dick and I'm back in the game.

As I envision Mila, I bang Amber hard and I hear her forehead thumping against the dirty tiled walls. She allows it because, like me, she doesn't feel like she deserves anything more than this... this dirty fuck in a dirty bar bathroom.

It's pathetic on both our parts.

I picture Mila again, and then for some reason, it stops working. It's doesn't feel right. Amber isn't Mila. And even thinking of Mila while I'm in this pathetic place with this pathetic chick feels wrong on a hundred different levels.

I pull out abruptly and Amber turns to look at me in confusion. Her eye makeup is smeared from sweat. In fact, I can smell the sweat from here and I fight the urge to shudder.

"It's not you, it's me," I tell her. "Whiskey dick."

It's a lie, but it doesn't matter. She nods knowingly, as if she encounters this problem all of the time. She pats my shoulder sympathetically, as if I give a flying fuck what she thinks about me.

But I smile as if I'm grateful for her understanding.

I toss the condom into the trash and walk out.

As I do, I hand Dan the bartender a twenty.

"To cover her drinks the rest of the night," I tell him.

Dan smiles. "Sure thing. See you next time!"

I nod and make my way into the parking lot, collapsing into Danger. My car is familiar and comfortable and I feel calmer now that I'm in it. I rest my head against the seat and inhale the leather smell and the fresh air. It's so much better than the stale, smoky air in the bar. And then I drive home with the windows open and my music blaring.

The road is black and long as it flies beneath my car, but I am home before I know it. Before I am even ready, actually. I stand in my driveway and face the dark house, and for the first time, I have the feeling that I don't want to go in, simply because it is so empty.

Living alone is great, but sometimes it is just so fucking lonely.

I stand still for a moment, my hands dangling at my sides, before I head back to my car. I've still got agitation to burn, I guess.

I don't know why I head to the Bear's Den, the little bar in town. I know that Jill is probably there or her other bar whore friends, and if I want to spend time with them, I'll call them. I don't want them hanging on me when I'm not in the mood.

And I'm definitely not in the mood for that tonight. I just want to walk in, draw up a seat at the bar and be around people, without actually having to interact with them. Is that so much to ask? I'm not in the mood for bar whores.

I nose my car into a parking slot and slam the door, taking a deep breath of the night air as I walk inside. It's the last clean breath I'll get once I cross the smoky threshold of the bar.

I walk in and glance through the smoky haze that floats through the dim room. Locals sit and chat, while others play pool or darts in the back. I know their faces, but not their names. I'm not much of a socializer.

True to form, Jill is here. I see her situated in the back, perched on the edge of a table, her half-naked ass shoved into some poor sap's face. So much for her promise to get help. Quite honestly, now that I know she has kids at home, all I feel is disgust for her. What a waste of oxygen.

She notices me looking at her and her heavily made-up face lights up and she practically leaps from her table to come to me.

But I shake my head, mouthing the word No.

She looks startled, then hurt, as she stops in her tracks. I turn my back and head for the bar. As I sit down on a stool, I can see from my periphery that she sat back down at her table. I can feel her wounded gaze, but I don't look at her. I think my time with her is over. Someone else can be her supplier and contribute toward her wasted life.

I know the bartender's name here, because he wears it on his nametag. I guess that makes it easier for the drunks to remember. Or people who don't really give a shit. Like me.

"Hey, Mickey," I greet him. "I'll have a Jack. Double, neat."

Mickey nods, a wiry guy who looks like he's seen better days and more than his share of bar fights. He's got a scar running from his ear to his chin. I've never asked him how he got it, and he's never offered to say.

"How you doin', Tate?" he asks as he sets the whiskey in front of me. I pick up the glass, drain it in one gulp and thump it back down.

"Better now," I tell him. "I'll take another. In fact, just keep 'em coming tonight."

He nods, pouring one and then heads down to help someone else. I take a small gulp from my glass and set it down, closing my eyes. It feels good to be surrounded by people, but still lost in them. No one will approach me other than Jill and I shut her down already. I'm alone here, but it's less lonely than it is at home.

Feminine giggling invades my hearing and my eyes pop open.

Because I know that laugh.

I turn in my seat to find Mila and her sister stumbling from the hallway leading to the bathroom. It looks like they are holding each other up and I roll my eyes. You've got to be kidding me. I run into her even here? This was the last place I would have expected to find her. She and her sister both look as out of place in this little hole as they can possibly get.

Mila glances up and stops, her giggle dying on her lips as she recognizes me. Her eyes widen and she looks like she wants to come over to me, to possibly say something. But her sister is pulling on her arm, and even though Mila looks over her shoulder at me, she allows Madison to steer her away. I'm pretty sure Madison is moving her away from me on purpose and I clench my jaw. Mila's an adult. She can make her own decisions.

Not that her decisions are always wise.

I come to this realization very quickly as she and Madison rejoin a couple of local guys who are playing darts.

The darts aren't the problem, the guys are.

I roll my eyes again. What the hell does Mila think she's doing? Either one of those guys would eat her for breakfast. She probably thinks she's safe because she's most likely known them her whole life. But they are both snakes. I've seen them with a million women in this very bar, none of them twice.

I sigh and drain my glass, signaling for another. It's not my problem. She made that clear when she said I wasn't a good idea.

So fuck her.

I turn away as I watch one of them wrap his meaty paw around her slender waist and pull her close, supposedly showing her how to properly throw the dart. It makes me want to hurl so I turn my back to them.

I do everything I can to ignore them. I make small-talk with Mickey. I watch ESPN on the overhead TV. I close my eyes and listen to the conversation around me. And even though I know that it would be much easier to just get up and leave, something in me wants to stay. Something in me thinks I need to stay.

I can't explain it.

And then I realize the reason in a sudden rush of clarity. I'm staying because I think she'll need me.

Holy shit, what kind of idiot am I? I slam my glass down on the table and toss some bills on the bar. I head to the bathroom to take a leak before I go, but then I'm out of here. She's made it clear what she wants. And it isn't me.

When I come back out, Madison is already at the door of the bar with one of the guys. She's leaning into him, laughing into his ear. She's clearly very drunk. I shake my head and fight the urge to say something.

It's one thing when a bar whore goes home with random men. Bar whores know exactly what they're doing. They're giving something for getting something, be it drugs or drinks or even just attention. It's a conscious decision. But Madison isn't a bar whore and that jackass is taking advantage of her. But it's not my place to interfere.

Until I see Mila grab her purse and stumble toward the door. The guy she's with tags along at her heels and she turns to grab onto him, unsteady on her feet. He laughs, his hand brushing her perfect ass as he steadies her.

My blood boils. And since I'm already on my way out the door, I can't do anything other than trail behind them, something that causes my blood to burn even hotter. Fuck this.

They stumble out and I even hold the door open as Mila's jacket gets caught on the handle. Her eyes meet mine, and hers are blurry and unfocused. She's in no condition to be choosing a bedmate. My gut clenches, but I keep my mouth shut.

She made her choice.

She made her choice.

She made her choice.

I repeat it in my head, as if it will make it an easier pill to swallow. It doesn't. It still pisses me off. I step outside and turn to walk to my car.

I hear their voices behind me, fading into the distance. Mila is laughing, the guy is talking to her, low and deep. As I turn to open my car door, I glance in their direction. They are standing next to what must be the guy's car because he's opened the passenger side door, but Mila is trying to shake his hand instead.

What the hell?

I pause and watch. Mila is slurring her words by now, but she is definitely trying to shake this guy's hand. And say goodnight.

A feeling of satisfaction wells up in me before I can stop it.

Until the guy smiles like a piranha and pushes Mila against the car, where he shoves against her and sticks his tongue down her throat. His hands are all over and she is pushing at him, struggling.

"No," she cries out.

I see an explosion of red and I close the gap between us in three strides.

I yank the guy off of her and slam him onto the ground. Before I can think or breathe, I stomp on his hand as he grasps for my leg. His bones crunch and he howls in pain, clutching his broken hand to his chest.

Mila gasps, her eyes wide, as she huddles against the car. As my attention is on her, the guy kicks at my leg, connecting with my knee.

Fuck. But I don't feel it with all the adrenaline pumping through me.

He kicks again, but this time, I see it coming and move. He only connects with air.

"Fuck you, man," he slurs. "Fucking prick. This isn't your business. You broke my fucking hand, man."

He is scrambling to get up now and I put my boot on his chest.

"Don't," I tell him, as he tries to grab at me. "You're lucky that's all I broke. The next time a woman tells you no, stop whatever the fuck it is that you're doing. Now go home and sleep it off. And don't come near Mila again. If you do, I will break your dick off and feed it to you."

The drunk guy glares up at me. "What the fuck is your problem? You don't know what she wants."

I turn to Mila, my foot still firmly planted in the guy's chest.

"Mila, do you want to see this guy again?"

She shakes her head. "No."

"There you have it," I tell him calmly, removing my foot. "Get the fuck out of here."

"Fuck you, man," he mutters as he struggles to his feet. "I don't need this. Fuck that slut, too."

That's when I punch him.

Hard. In the side of head. He goes down like a bag of rocks. Mila gasps and I shake my head, bending to make sure he's still breathing.

He is, so I turn to Mila.

"Come on. Let's get you home."

"Why did you do that?" she whispers, her eyes frozen on the unconscious asshole on the pavement. "Jared didn't mean to hurt me. He was just drunk. I've known him for a long time."

I stare at her as I walk to her side.

"You have no idea what he meant to do. Trust me. It wasn't good."

I take her arm and lead her to my car, opening the door and tucking her into the passenger seat before I strap her in.

As I'm getting into the driver's seat, Mila is rummaging through her purse. She looks up at me.

"Uh-oh," she says quietly. "I can't find my keys. My apartment is locked. Can you take me to Maddy's?"

Her words are seriously slurred by this point. It sounded more like she said I cent fine my keel. Miz part is lock. Cent you take me to Man's? I shake my head.

"You're seriously fucked up," I tell her. "You're probably going to get sick soon. And I don't think your sister is going home. I'll take you to my house."

Her eyes widen and she shakes her head. "Pax, no. It's not a good idea. I don't trust myself around you." Her words are completely garbled of course, but I can make them out.

I startle and stare at her.

"You can't trust yourself around me?"

She shakes her head pathetically, then leans her head on the cool window glass.

"No. I can't let you break my heart. I don't have much of it left."

My gut clenches yet again, something that it seems to do a lot of when I'm around her. I ram the key in the ignition.

"Don't worry," I tell her. "I won't be breaking your heart tonight. You can sleep it off in my bed. I'll take the couch."

She nods, her face planted firmly against the window and I know that she's not long for the conscious world. And I'm right. By the time we reach my house a scant five minutes later, she has passed out in the seat.

I stare at her for a minute, at her shiny dark hair, her tight jeans, her full breasts, which I can just barely see through the opening of her jacket. Her lips puff out with each little breath that she exhales in her passed out state. She's going to feel this tomorrow. If she hadn't been so stupid, I'd feel sorry for her.

I scoop her out of the car and carry her to the house, trying to ignore the soft way she melts into my body, and the way her head leans against my shoulder. She can't weigh more than a hundred pounds soaking wet.

I set her on my bed, pull off her boots and cover her up. I drag my bathroom trashcan next to her, just in case, and then sit in a chair and watch her for a bit. I have no idea if she's going to wake up and be sick or if she's definitely passed out for the night.

She remains still and quiet, with a little snore erupting from her every once in a while. I can't help but smile just a bit over that. I'm guessing she would be embarrassed to know that she's snoring, even though it's actually cute as hell.

I sigh.

I'm fucking tired and I could easily sleep right here in this chair, but I know that if she wakes up and finds me here, it might be startling, particularly in the dark. So I head downstairs and find that once again, I'm just not ready to sleep. I'm worked up now, from all of the shit at the bar and by the fact that Mila is in my bed at this very moment. Alone.

And I'm downstairs. Alone.

And my hand hurts.

Fucking A.

I grab a baggie of ice for my hand and a bottle of whiskey from my garage and make my way out to the beach behind my house. I drop onto a chair and stare up at the stars as I listen to the rhythmic crash of the waves. I take a gulp of the liquid fire. I feel the warmth all the way into my belly and I take another swig.

I fall asleep humming a song that I don't know the words to or even where it came from. The last conscious thought I have is that the night is so very, very black.

Minutes, or days, or years pass before something wakes me. Time has run together.

"Pax," the soft voice murmurs, intruding upon my sleep.

And for a minute, just a scant minute, it seems like it might be my mother. In the blur of sleep, the voice has the same soft timbre as hers. But it can't be. Even in sleep, I know that. It's only the wishful thinking that comes from that grayish, half-awake place. It isn't my mother. I know that before I even open my eyes.

But I'm surprised, when I do, to find Mila standing in front of me.

She seems uncertain, but she's so fucking beautiful in the morning sun. Radiant, actually. She doesn't seem hung-over at all. Her dark hair is loose and flowing and the morning breeze carries her scent to me. I inhale it and stare at her.

"What are you doing out here?" I ask groggily. I squint into the light, then rub my forehead. As I do, I wince because my fucking hand hurts. And then I realize that I must have fallen asleep here. The night air made my throat scratchy, so I clear it, then clear it again. "Are you feeling alright?"

I glance down and find that my bottle of whiskey is beside me on the beach, its contents spilled onto the sand. I think. I certainly hope I hadn't drunk the whole thing. If I did, I'm going to feel it later today, just like Mila.

Mila looks even more uncertain now.

"I... uh." She shifts her weight from one foot to the other nervously. I look at her and cock an eyebrow. "I feel fine. Mostly. My mouth is dry and I have a headache. I don't, um. I don't remember exactly what all happened last night. But I sort of remember that you punched Jared and brought me here. And I think you might have broken his hand."

I eye her. "Yeah, that happened. Do you make a habit of getting trashed at the Bear's Den and going home with assholes?"

It came out a little harsher than I meant for it to and Mila flinches.

"No," she answers quickly. "In fact, I don't usually drink much at all, unless it is wine at dinner. Maddy has been bugging me to go out with her and blow the cogs off and after yesterday, I just felt like I needed it."

I stare at her with interest now, my lip twitching.

"I think you mean cobwebs. And what about yesterday? When you rejected me, you mean?"

Color floods her cheeks and she stares at the sand.


"If that was stressful for you, then did you ever think that maybe you made a mistake? That maybe you shouldn't have rejected me? And that maybe you should give this thing a chance?"

I stare at her, trying to force her to meet my gaze.

"Well," I prompt. "Have you?"

She lifts her chin, her green eyes bright.

"That's all I've thought about since you left my shop yesterday," she admits. "All I can think of is you. Even when I was with Madison and Jared last night. And then when you were there at the bar, it was all I could do to keep from running over and jumping in your lap."

I cock my head. "Why didn't you? I think I would have enjoyed that."

She blushes again, her cheeks and neck flushing prettily.

"I think it might be considered socially inappropriate," she replies wryly. "Thank you for coming to my rescue last night. I guess we're even now. I saved you, then you saved me back." She pauses and looks at the ground before she looks back up at me.

"And I have been thinking about you. It's probably not smart or good for me, but it's all I seem to do lately. I think about you. Is your apology still on the table from yesterday? Because if it is, then I think maybe you were right. Maybe this is worth taking a risk for."

She fidgets with her hands nervously.

I raise an eyebrow, deliberately obtuse.

"This? Can you be more specific?"

She doesn't answer. She just bends down without hesitation and kisses me square on the mouth.

The lips that I fantasized about last night are on mine, her tongue in my mouth. I know that I taste like whiskey and smokes, but I don't care and she doesn't seem to either. She tastes like heaven.

Finally, she pulls away and I can see that she is a bit breathless.

"So, was that a yes?" she asks hesitantly.

I shake my head in bewilderment and smile at her. Having her here like this is fucking amazing. And surprising. My chest is swelling with the amazing feeling so much that I can't believe my next words.

"That's a yes," I tell her. "My apology is still on the table. But I think I probably owe you another one."

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