Thursday night, Lexie and Jordyn show up at my house. Despite my objections, they are determined to drag me out. They select an outfit from my closet and shove it into my hands. A pair of black stretch jeans unforgiving of my round hips and a shimmery V-neck top that reveals more cleavage than it should. Both garments I bought on some ridiculous impulse, thinking that after I lost twenty pounds or so I might actually develop the nerve to wear them. Of course, that never happened—the weight loss or the nerve. But arguing with my friends when they’re on a mission is useless.
I dress on autopilot and let Lexie have her way with my hair and makeup. She’s better at it than I am, anyway. It takes her less than ten minutes to style my curls into an artful side-swept ponytail, add smoky shadow to my lids, and paint my lips fire-engine red. Clapping her hands with excitement, she stands back to survey her handiwork and declares me a bombshell. I roll my eyes. I don’t even bother to check the mirror.
When the cab arrives, I slump against the backseat as we head to the Glam Bar in downtown Brockville. A new hot spot for the singles crowd.
“Come on, girl!” Jordyn says, snapping her fingers in front of my face. “You are going to forget about this case and Mick for tonight and have a good time.”
How can I forget about something that will reunite me with every damn thing I ran away from? I let my guilt do the talking when Isabelle Torres called. My every intention was to stick to the “I have a full caseload” excuse, but turning down the man who gutted my heart proved far easier than turning down the woman afraid of losing her foster son. I understand loss and I just couldn’t bring myself to refuse. No matter the cost.
Now I’m regretting it. I just want to crawl under the blankets and go to sleep. Right after I eat until I’m numb.
That’s why my friends are dragging my sorry butt out—to save me from myself.
“I’ll try,” I say. It’s all I can promise.
There’s a good musical groove going on inside the packed Glam Bar. The three of us are standing around a black and chrome pub table, sipping our drinks. Well, my friends are sipping their drinks. I’m pretty much chugging mine. The bass percussion of the techno music resounds in my chest and vibrates beneath my feet. Having downed enough cranberry martinis to loosen me up, I move to the rhythm and soak up more alcohol.
After nearly two years of therapy, I know better than to trade one binge for another. But by the time our server with the Angelina Jolie lips delivers my fourth drink, I’m past rational thought. But not numb.
I still want numb.
Lexie and Jordyn urge me to the crowded dance floor. And for the next hour, I paste on a smile, I drink, I pretend to laugh, I drink, I dance, I drink. Before long, my smile and laugh aren’t fake anymore. The alcohol surging through my bloodstream makes me feel bold and confident, even in my fat-hugging jeans. I find myself flirting back with men I don’t know. That’s not my usual MO, but the attention feels good…better than good. It feels fanfuckingtastic. But once I stop dodging grabby hands positioned on my butt, Jordyn plucks the glass from my fingers and separates me from Ted or Ed.
“Come on,” she says, placing an arm around my waist and leading my wobbly form to a cab. “Your chariot awaits, Princess.”
“No…no…no…” I wave my finger at her. “DontsyoucallsmePrincess.”
“Ookay.” She’s humoring me.
But I know what I mean.
The cab drops me off first, and Lexie and Jordyn watch from the vehicle until I get inside. I stumble to my bedroom. I’ve got just enough strength to change into a T-shirt and crawl into bed. Blissfully numb, I’m dozing off when the shrill of the phone pierces through my partial slumber. I debate letting it go to voice mail. But if it’s one of my friends calling to check up on me, she’ll be worried.
I get out of bed and sway. Whoa. With no idea where I’ve left the cordless, I attempt to steady myself by bracing my hands on the walls as I follow the incessant sound through the darkened house.
The flashing light in between the potted plants catches my bleary gaze, and I stagger over to the ledge that divides the living room from the kitchen nook. Without checking Caller ID, I jab my index finger at the speaker button, apparently with a little too much gusto, and send it crashing to the floor.
“Damn it!” I kneel down and pat the hardwood until my hand closes around the upended plastic. Fully expecting to hear Jordyn’s or Lexie’s voice on the other end, I climb shakily to my feet and answer, “Don’t worry, that wasn’t me. I’m still standing.”
My head spins. But it’s not from the alcohol. Mick’s deep whiskey voice further inebriates my weakened system, and I grab the ledge for support. “What do you want?”
He doesn’t answer immediately. Makes me wonder if he’s pondering that question himself. Then he says, “I wanted to thank you.”
“Oh, I suppose I scored some brownie points for taking the case,” I reply, the liquor freeing my tongue. “Well, before you go applauding yourself for my reform, just know you weren’t a factor in my reasoning.”
“Whatever your reasoning, Dee, I’m still grateful.”
“No, you’re nots,” I say, slurring the last word. “You’re an arrogant ass.”
“And you’re drunk.”
His tone rubs me the wrong way. I’m tired of Mick flip-flopping between insults and apology, between thanks and judgment. I’m just tired.
“So what?” I retort. “I needed to unwind from a miserable couple of days.” Let Mick read into that anything he damn well chooses.
“Have I made you miserable, Dee?”
I say nothing. I’ve already given him more than enough ammunition.
“Have I made you face things you had hoped to run away from? Have I made you think about us? About our nights at the lake?”
I inhale sharply, shocked at his reference to our sexual past. And yet the memory incites an erotic need in me that won’t stand down. “That’s ancient history.”
“History has a way of repeating itself.”
“Not this time.”
“Oh, we’re going to happen again, Dee.” His velvety rasp licks across my heated skin. “And soon.”
“See? Arrogant! You assume because you’re Micah Peters, I’ll fall into bed with you on command.”
“I don’t assume it. I know it. And not because of my fame—that wouldn’t matter to you. I know you will because of how your body has always responded to me.”
My thighs squeeze together against an achy wetness. “You’re delusional.”
“I’m right and my memory’s long,” he counters in a low, sexy timbre. “I haven’t forgotten I was the first man to touch you. The first man to be buried deep inside you. The first man to make you come.”
A moan snakes up my throat.
“And you haven’t forgotten either. Sleep well, Dee.”