I know the first question on your minds. I know because I am sure it was the first thing on Sergio’s mind when he woke up mid-afternoon, sprawled on the bed beside me. I am sure the sun wasn’t too great with the massive hangover he was experiencing.
And the shame. Oh God, the shame he must have felt.
How do I know this? Well, I woke up eventually. And not to a pretty sight.
I did the only thing I could think of. I put my hand on his shoulder gently and murmured, “Are you okay?”
“Did we…?” The regret-tinged voice was enough to tell me exactly what he felt about the prospect of us hooking up. Jeeze, and to think I thought I was decent looking!
“No, we didn’t,” I replied softly. “Not sex.”
“But?” he asked, sensing my pause.
“You might have had your hand down my pants… and up my shirt.”
“Fuck,” he hissed, getting up and storming out of the room. I sat there on the bed, shell-shocked, and tried to process everything. I was pretty sure he wasn’t in a relationship – he mentioned an ex, after all. So what the hell crawled up his ass and died?
I took my time taking a shower, getting dressed, and braiding my hair. Maybe he wouldn’t have such an attitude if I gave him some time to come down from his emotional freak out.
When I came out into the living area, though, he was actively ignoring me. While he savagely stirred waffle mix I busied myself brushing down Jasper, humming to myself. That seemed to annoy him further, since the stirring sped up – so I hummed louder.
I watched him make breakfast, silently leaned up against the fridge and drinking water. They guy was stubborn, I’d give him that. Not a damn word since I came out of the room.
When the waffles were done, he put them on the table and forked a few onto a plate for himself. He stood there, right in front of me, and didn’t meet my eyes. “Food is ready.”
I lost it in a very unbecoming manner.
“What the holy hell is your problem?!” I snapped. “Do you treat everyone like this, or am I just colossally lucky?”
He finished his waffles and put the plate in the sink before turning to me. “I can’t have feelings for you. I can’t. We can’t do what we did last night. It isn’t professional and it isn’t in either of our best interests.”
I crossed my arms and looked away. I didn’t want it to sting as much as it did, but what can I say? I had a crush on the guy and he basically just told me I was a paycheck to him. Just a job.
“We don’t even know each other,” he added softly.
I overreacted. A little… lot.
“What?! What do you mean we don’t know each other?! We spent an entire day together, and an entire night. We talked and-“
“What’s my favorite color?” he asked. My words fell short. “What’s my cat’s name? When did my ex-wife and I divorce?” He shook his head. “You don’t know shit about me, Layla. And I know nothing about you. I don’t even know what your real hair color is.”
I didn’t say anything, but I felt a lump rising in my throat. I didn’t want to cry, not in front of him.
“I have to run into the station,” he sighed softly. “Eat some waffles. You’re too damn thin.” With that, he turned toward the door.
“Blonde,” I muttered.
“What?” he asked, turning to glance at me.
My eyes rose to his. “My real hair color. It’s blonde.”
He nodded and his features softened. “Eat some waffles.”
I ate some damn waffles, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it.
He also didn’t mention staying on the island.
My phone buzzed an hour after he left and I was shocked to feel relieved when I heard Damon’s voice. “Ready to come home from your playdate?” he teased.
“Please,” I sighed. “Do you know where I am?”
“We always know where you are, Layla,” he laughed and hung up.
Finally back home, I distracted myself in the best way I could think – training Bonnie. The show horses had been given free reign and not practiced through their runs since Grandma died and her jockey took off.
Bonnie fought me at first – she finally started falling back into routine the longer we worked. Soon I had her jumping the pond and doing laps around the farm house.
I even taught her to bow. I think I was proud enough to cry in that moment.
“Seriously, guys, you can’t just show up and camp out in my house!” I exclaimed. Damon looked amused which prompted me to ask, “How the hell did you get in here, anyway?”
“You invited us in, darling,” my mother said softly from where she was sprawled across the sofa. She sat up, her movements slow and languid. I didn’t like how Jeremie watched her, like every move she made was for him.
“Yeah, a few days ago. Not today. I don’t want you all coming in here without me knowing,” I added. “I don’t even know you all!” Using Sergio’s argument made me feel like a hypocrite.
Mother was at my side in an instant, moving too quickly for me to follow. “Oh darling, we’re sorry. We should never have imposed,” she said, taking me into her arms. Her body was so cold it seemed to suck the warmth from me. She couldn’t let go fast enough for me.
“Are you all sending me threatening letters?” I demanded, glancing back at Jeremie. I wasn’t going to be put off by my mom’s large, sweet eyes.
Jeremie blinked and shared a confused look with Angelina and Damon. “My girl, we would not stoop so low as to threaten someone we are trying to protect,” he said simply.
“What are you protecting me from?” I demanded. “And why does this freaky stalker talk about me having a brother?”
I thought my mother was going to faint. She put a hand to her face and teetered a bit, so I reached out, ready to steady her. “What is it?” I asked forcefully. “What is everyone hiding?”
“Angelina,” Jeremie growled. “This is not wise.”
“She deserves to know!” she argued. Her glassy eyes met mine, her hand furling a bit. “I had twins, Layla. You had a brother; Derek. I took Derek and your grandmother took you.”
I don’t know if it was because of all of the shocks today or if the news really, really angered me. Whatever it was, I stood there gaping for a while. Then I clenched my fists. And then I threw my hands to the sides. “Get out.”
“Layla,” my mother pleaded. “If you would just listen to us-“
“I wasn’t even good enough for you to keep around?!” I demanded. “Why am I suddenly worth something?”
“You’ve always been worth something!” Jeremie exclaimed. “That’s why she had to leave-“
“I don’t want to hear any more of your bullshit! Get the fuck out of my house!”
The doors flew open and an unnatural wind whipped through the house. The three practically ran out of the back entrance, the door slamming as they passed through. The wind, however, stayed, pulling my hair out of its bindings, whipping it around my face.
I made my way upstairs. I ignored the phone vibrating in my pocket. I ignored the tumult of wind wreaking havoc on the pictures on the walls. I went straight to bed and, the moment I felt myself lose consciousness, the wind died out.
I was awoken by a thunderous pounding on my front door around 6 am. I was none too happy to find a woman in a uniform standing in my front yard, trying to play fetch with Jasper while waiting for me.
More annoyingly, Jasper wasn’t doing his duty as a guard dog very well. He was wagging his damn tail, for heaven’s sake.
“Can I help you?” I asked coldly.
She smiled at me, looking uneasy. “Hi Miss Derelict. Our Sheriff has been trying to contact you regarding your protective detail?”
I shrugged. “Tell him he can come out if he wants to talk to me. I guess I’m probably not worth the thirty minute boat ride, though. Not for the Sheriff.” That was unkind and petty – he was watching me constantly for a while. Even so, I started walking back up to my front door.
The woman seemed to be thinking the same thing. “Look, I don’t care what issues you two have. I’ve been asked to bring you down to the precinct.”
“Oh really?” I chuckled. “You got a warrant for my arrest?”
She shook her head. “No, Miss, but we do have someone at the station who we thought you might like to speak to.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Aric Stacy. He says he has information about the photographs we received at the precinct the other day.”
My heart froze. Aric Stacy. My ex. The guy in the photos.