I'm so sorry for being AWOL! I'm changing jobs and moving and this week just got away from me. I will make it up to you, I promise.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” she says.
She’s prettier than I expect, this girl who tore Kris to shreds. Blond hair and light eyes – next to him she must have looked like a ray of sunshine. Boots, leggings, layers, scarf, jewelry: she’s put together in that effortless way I could never hope to achieve.
But her face is hard. I register her the same time she registers me: intruders in each other’s undefined space. There’s a flash of something soft, like maybe she came here to beg forgiveness or win him back. When she sees someone else where his arms, she gets mean. “This whole time you’ve been seeing someone else. All that sad puppy dog bullshit and here you’ve got some other girl too. Jesus, Kris, I almost felt bad about you.”
I watch him decide what to do. The clenched fist wants to tell her to go fuck herself. The slumped shoulder wants to explain that he would never do cheat. The closed eyes just want this whole thing to be over.
Of course I’m already mad. Anna could meet the business end of my boot and land somewhere around the stop sign on the corner. But Kris needs to fight his own battles. I need to see if he can.
“Get out, Anna,” he says.
No explanation, no apology. Just GTFO. Good man, I think.
“I came for my stuff.”
“I dropped it at Maureen’s. All of it.” Kris’ hand is still on my arm. He squeezes down now.
Anna tilts her head, mocking. “Well I don’t live there anymore.”
“But that’s where you got the spare key, right? Because you sure as hell didn’t go to Sidney’s for the other one. Maureen couldn’t find it when I brought your stuff over; now we know why.”
Like a kid caught stealing, Anna recoils. “Fuck you, Kris. Acting like you’re better than me when you’re really just a better liar. I should have fucked your friends when they all tried to pick me up.” Then she turns to me. “Take my advice honey, and land a teammate. Unless you’re into holding hands and crying before you have to fake it.” She looks me up and down with pursed lips, judging. “They’re not picky, I’m sure one of them would fuck you.”
Kris’ hand is so tight on my arm he’s touching bone. He’s either fighting the urge to kill her or asking me not to. That perfect jaw line is locked and his teeth grind audibly. The idea of this hard, horrible girl with beautiful, gentle Kris churns bile in my stomach. There’s no instinct to defend myself – I don’t give two shits what she says about me. I wish Kris would stand up for himself but he looks so exhausted. My instinct is to protect him.
“Get out, Anna,” he repeats like it’s all he can manage. She huffs shortly, she’s not done arguing.
“Or maybe they already have.” Now she’s trying to goad me into a fight. “Is that what you were doing while he was with me, fucking your way down the food chain till you ended up here? Sid’s sloppy seconds keeping you warm at night now, Kris?”
She’s kicking him while he’s down. I can’t stop myself.
“What are you doing here if it was so bad? Did you run out of other guys to fuck? No one wants your sorry ass anymore, nowhere to go, and so you’re back to get for the best thing you ever had. Well too late, bitch. Someone smarter has taken your place.” I stand up – even in Kris’ socks I have a few inches on Anna. I get close enough to throw a punch but instead hold out my open hand.
“And now I’ll take that key.”
I am wobbly. My weight seems to double and the couch threatens to swallow me as Anna stands there spitting insults. She’s so hawkish, so brittle and festering that I wonder how I could have ever loved her. How I could ever have seen anything but ambition in her eyes.
The words she says are meaningless, so false as to be almost comical. I was loyal as a puppy to her and my teammates never liked her, would never do that to me. Max or Jordan might do it to each other, TK would take whatever he could get, Crosby could have anything he wanted. But they know I couldn’t survive such a hit. Even so they didn’t want Anna – if anything they wished I were rid of her long ago.
Riley bristles visibly, her posture straightening with each lie Anna tells like her vertebrae are clicking into place. I should throw Anna across the street, defend myself and show some self respect. But I’m so tired. Two minutes ago I felt invincible, stopping my smile only long enough to kiss Riley again. Now I feel deflated and resigned but that doesn’t mean I am defeated.
“Get out, Anna.”
Despite everything, Anna knows when my mind is made up. I hope this will be enough but she turns on Riley. If she can’t make me take her back, maybe she can make Riley leave. I’m no good at being alone – if she can separate us, I’ll be an easier victim to hunt.
I almost laugh. Anna wouldn’t stand a chance against Riley. A part of me wants to tell her I’ve only known Riley a few days. To say that Riley has gotten in deeper, has given me more, has been a better person in a week than Anna ever was. I want Anna to know she’s been bested by the new girl. But Riley does that herself.
“Someone smarter has taken your place.”
Anna looks back to me once more, unable to believe she’s actually losing a fight in this house. She was the undisputed heavyweight champion for a long time. But she sees no mercy in me and a seasoned boxer knows when they cannot win.
“And now I’ll take that key.” Riley’s voice is cold as ice.
It may be only favor Anna has ever done for me: she drops the silver key into Riley’s hand and slams the door hard enough to knock a picture off the wall. I should have known Anna wasn’t done with me, that she’d never go quietly. It was just luck she showed up when I wasn’t alone.
“Sorry,” I tell Riley. “You shouldn’t have had to be part of that.”
She presses her lips together in a tight smile. I can still feel them against mine, taste the ice cream we shared. Minutes ago I was kissing her and all she got for it was slandered and shouted at.
Riley looks down at the silver in her hand then turns the key until it’s between her thumb and forefinger. She holds it out to me. I take her wrist and pull her and the key into my lap. With a surprised squeak she lands on me, right where I wanted her to be before Anna barged in. My arms fall around her waist and hold her close.
“I’m sorry,” I repeat softly. “She tries to ruin everything.”
Riley rubs the tip of her nose against mine like we’re Eskimos. “All she ruined was our ice cream.”
“There’s more in the kitchen.” I’d get her a scoopful from the North Pole if she asked, but she just smiles.
“I don’t think we need it.”
Riley slides her hands into my hair and kisses me deeply, the way she was about to before the door opened. Her lips scrub away the angry words I didn’t say to Anna. I didn’t need them; only this can really help.
At some point in the evening I was being gentlemanly but it’s a distant memory as I tip Riley backward onto the couch and she goes down willingly beneath me. Her legs twist in mine, allowing me the deep comfort of full-body contact that has been reserved for our hugs. She fits against me just as perfectly this way. I get my arms under her shoulders so I can squeeze her at the same time.
The reserve Kris has shown is gone. Whatever part was tentative and maybe a little scared has clocked out early and he is kissing me for all he’s worth. He still tastes of ice cream and fudge. The scent of clean, strong boy and the weight of his thick, broad body overwhelm me until I’m melting faster than dessert. There’s no sense of time as we kiss for what seems like a week.
When we finally come up for air, Kris can’t keep the smile off his face. We’re twined together and I couldn’t move if I wanted to. Which I don’t.
“Thank you,” he says.
This isn’t the same gratitude that made me uncomfortable before. I have actually done something this time and feel proud of it. I kiss my answer onto his soft lips and that sets us off again. Within minutes I’m fighting back a whimper. He’s shifting his weight like maybe his lap is getting uncomfortable. We come apart panting.
“We don’t have to rush this,” I say before he can. His gorgeous brown eyes flicker. There’s no mistaking the way my body arches up to meet his, the heat we’re generating or the fact that his knee is firmly planted between my thighs. It’s obvious we want each other but it doesn’t have to be right now. The encounter with Anna and the sudden increase in our speed has probably taken a lot out of him.
He frees one arm to gently brush the hair behind my ear. Then he leans down and whispers something in French – I don’t understand, but it is the single sexiest thing I have ever heard. His breath tickles my skin and he follows it with his lips against my neck.
A swarm of butterflies dive through my stomach. I actually shudder. Kris waits for the moment I quiver and strongly, deliberately rolls his hips firmly down into mine. I gasp at the thrust and an elfin smile crosses his face.
“Do you know what I said?” His lips are inches from mine as I shake my head no. He tips his head down and whispers again. “That last time you left here I made myself a promise: if I got you here again, I’d make you want to stay.”
3 years ago