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Dave tried to warn him and after being as brazen as he’d been, he probably should have been prepared. He just couldn’t take some farm boy from Iowa too seriously as far as threats went.
Five of them jumped him a couple of nights after seeing her in the club when he stepped outside of the club for a smoke break. He hadn’t been too concerned because it’d been years since someone had gotten a good jump on him in a street fight. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time it’d happened. He assumed incorrectly that the boyfriend would be with the group so he’d have a clue as to what he wanted.
Of course it helped that there were five of them and two of them were smart enough to disengage his arms while the other three went to work on his face and ribs. At least one had a lead pipe or a crowbar. Something. Taylor didn’t get a real good look at the weapon, just knew what it felt like busting up his insides and striking him over the head with it a couple of times.
He didn’t fall to his knees as they expected, though. If they were expecting him to roll over, give up, and die, they had come after the wrong guy. He’d gone the distance in too many fights over the years. There was no way, no matter how tough these guys thought they were they could beat him when it came to stamina. Eventually, the hitters would get tired, pipes or crowbars got heavy after you swung them more than a few times. The two holding him down would think he was spent and no longer a threat.
One of the three throwing the punches stepped just a little too close. Close enough for Taylor to get in a good head butt. It hurt him like a son of a bitch and he’d planned on doing it at the first opportunity. As Taylor assumed since the other guy hadn’t been expecting the sudden blow or the splitting pain to his head, he went down. He dropped his weapon in the process. Taylor picked it up. No intention of using it unless he had to, but no sense leaving the weapon there on the ground for one of the others to pick up and use against him.
That left four of them, and like the boyfriend none of them were very big. He had to act fast before the two holding onto him had completely processed what happened to their buddy and realized Taylor wasn’t down and out at all.
He apparently was the only one of the group smart enough to have a real weapon. Either that or they hadn’t expected much of a fight out of him to require weapons. He drew the butterfly knife out of his pocket that he’d had since grade school. It’d seen better days, but it’d never let him down and he knew it. Knew how it worked under his control, so he’d never risked getting a new one afraid bringing a new knife into a fight would put him at a disadvantage.
“Get out of here,” he called to four. His foot on the chest of the fifth, he pressed on his groin with the pipe, preventing him from moving just yet.
“I’m not repeating myself. If I’d wanted to kill any of you you’d be dead by now, so don’t worry about your friend here. I just want to have a talk with him for a bit.”
They hesitated and Taylor was impressed in a way. Someone waving a knife at him who obviously knew how to use it who he’d just gotten done trying to beat the crap out of he probably would have hauled ass.
Nah, who was he kidding, he wouldn’t. Taylor knew that not everyone was like him, though. They fled the scene, though, leaving Taylor and the one who’d hit him the most alone. Taylor noticed a couple of droplets of blood fall onto the kid’s shirt and realized he must have been bleeding harder than he realized. Time to worry about that later, there were more important things for him to take care of at the moment. Like if Claire was in any danger because of him and his cockiness. He hadn’t really thought on the possibility that the boyfriend might retaliate against her. Or him, for that matter, but the idea of her getting hurt because of him made him want to kick the shit out of this guy until he got a clear answer on the subject.
“Did he send you?”
“He who, man?”
“I don’t know his name, don’t play dumb with me. You jumped me here for a reason.”
“We didn’t know where else to find you, man.”
“So it was him.”
“Does Claire know?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
He added a little more pressure from his foot to his chest and the pipe at his groin.
“Does it seem like I’m kidding?”
“No, man, of course not. She thinks he’s a great guy.”
“Does he love her?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer, but he had to ask and it seemed unlikely he’d get the opportunity to do so directly.
“How the hell should I know? He asked us to take care of you while he took her to a movie. I didn’t ask him why.”
“So he’d be in the clear.”
“What time does the movie let out?”
“Twenty minutes, maybe thirty. Man, we thought you’d never take a break.”
Taylor chuckled a little at that, the thought of the goons waiting for him for two hours. He let up the pressure on his chest, demonstrating one last time that he was very proficient at using the knife he had. Carefully, he reached into the guy’s leather jacket. He found what he sought, pulling out a wallet and flipping it open.
He made a production of pulling his license out of the little slot it was tucked into and stared at it. The guy probably thought he would just memorize the info and give it back, at least until he saw Taylor slide it into his back jeans pocket.
“You tell him we talked. Warn him I know,” he said, pointing to the scar on his own cheek. He’d gotten it from a beer bottle and hadn’t bothered to see a doctor for it so the scar was pretty wide when it didn’t need to be. “And I will make this look like a grain of sand by the time I’m done with you. I know your name, I will find you. Feel me, man?”
He tossed the wallet onto his chest.
“Now get out of here.”
Assured they were all gone, he went to the back entrance and reported sick for the rest of his shift. He’d been beaten badly enough that his request was granted without much preamble.
He didn’t head home, though, or to a hospital. Instead, he headed to her place. Parking not down the block as he had on previous visits but right in front of the house. There were a few things the boyfriend didn’t know about Taylor. He didn’t back down from a fight. And most importantly, someone called war on him; Taylor came out all guns a blazing. He wasn’t his old man’s son, best friend to Benny Demaret’s son, for nothing. Never mind he had to know she was okay. A phone call wouldn’t do it; she could fake being okay over the phone.
He took a chance they weren’t at her house yet. The car he’d come to realize was hers was on the driveway, but the boyfriend’s car was not. He didn’t strike Taylor as the type to make her drive herself to a date, especially if he was using that date as an alibi against any wrongdoing.
Fortunately, he had a gym towel in his car. He used it to clean himself up a little bit. The ribs. Well, there wasn’t anything he could do for them. Sparring would be out of the question for a while, and that pissed Taylor off something fierce.
Sure enough, about thirty minutes later the boyfriend’s sissy muscle car wannabe pulled up. He waited until they were on their way up the sidewalk that led to her house before getting out. It took every ounce of strength and perseverance he had to move like that. His body rebelled at the movement, wanting nothing more than to remain seated so he could heal. He’d have time to do that later.
Neither seemed to notice him, they were talking about the movie they’d seen it sounded like while she pulled her keys out of her purse. He certainly wasn’t trying to be discreet or subtle about being there. She lived on a street full of rental houses, though, so strange cars and people getting out of them probably wasn’t anything new.
“Claire,” he said finally, stopping in his tracks on the patch of grass street side of the sidewalk.
She turned, obviously irritated by his presence there. Until she actually took the time to look at him. He must have looked worse than he pictured because she dropped her purse and keys and was by his side in a matter of seconds. She no longer looked irritated but concerned instead.
“What happened? And why are you here and not at a hospital?”
“Had to be sure you were all right. Not going to the hospital.”
“I’ll be fine in a day or two.”
“Okay, if you want to be stubborn. Why come here?”
“I told you, I had to be sure you were all right. And, all right, you know how to take care of me when I’m hurt like this,” he said honestly.
“Taylor. I don’t have anything to clean you up with. I’m not stocked for bodyguards or fighters.”
“I do at my place.”
“I can’t go with you. Justin’s here.”
“Yeah, Justin. Prince Charming, right? At least I didn’t pretend to be something I’m not with you. Why don’t you ask him about his friend,” he said, stopping to remember the kid’s name.
“Yeah, reach into my pocket,” he said.
“Taylor,” she protested.
“I’d do it, but I can’t at the moment. I’m sure you’ll recognize him.”
She did as he asked, finding the license and squinting at it in the darkness. There was a streetlight nearby, but it wasn’t that bright. She was able to see the picture well enough, though, because her eyes went from the license to Justin.
“There were four others,” he said. “I didn’t catch their names.”
“Justin?” she said.
“Oh come on, Claire, I didn’t do anything. I may have mentioned to my friends that some guy who clearly thought he is all that was putting moves on you right in front of me.”
“I am all that,” Taylor said.
“That’s not going to help,” she hissed, but Taylor noticed she was touching him. A hand at his abdomen, gentle pressure to keep him from going after Justin. If she thought he could go another round or two looking as he did she must have thought he was all that, too.
“So your friends decided to fight him?”
“Jumped me was more like it. Back behind the club. They knew exactly where to find me, too.”
“Why?” she asked Justin.
“Some guy kisses you right in front of me and you think I’m just going to sit back and let that happen?”
“And you think beating him up is going to do anything for you?”
“How the hell was I supposed to know he’d come here? Why does he know where you live anyway?” Justin started sizing him up now, as if until now he hadn’t really given Taylor much thought beyond a guy honing in on his woman. “You seeing him behind my back?”
Taylor scoffed. As if.
“As if I have time. I barely have time to see one of you let alone two. I told you he’s someone I know from New York.”
“Seems like he’s more than that. Sending you flowers. Kissing you. Saw the way he touched you, too. And the way you’re touching him now. You never touch me like that. How do you know my friends picked the fight and he didn’t?”
“Because I know him, and he wouldn’t do that.”
“Doesn’t look like he’s walked away from too many fights.”
“I never said he did, I just know that he wouldn’t pick a fight here.”
“It’s not important,” she said after an obvious moment of consideration. It would seem she understood why he was there then. To get her back. “I just know.”
“Claire,” he risked interrupting.
“What?” she snapped.
“Hey, I’m the injured one here. I need to get somewhere where I can be horizontal for a while.”
“Fine,” she said and he thought for a minute she was going to make him go home alone. Not that he’d blame her. “Keys?” she asked, holding her hand out in front of him.
“In the car,” he said with a low hiss as he took too deep of a breath.
“You’re going with him?”
“Well, someone has to look after the damage and I presume you’re not even though you caused it.”
“I didn’t do anything. I was with you all night.”
“Right. Funny how that worked, too. You’ve never asked me to go out twice in the same week before. We both have classes tomorrow.”
“Claire,” he said.
“Just go home, Justin. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She helped Taylor to his car, opening the passenger side door for him. His body wasn’t too keen on going back to the seated position now that he’d been upright for a while now, but he made it.
“I swear to God, if you planned this somehow to get me to come back to your room.”
“You think I’d plan getting my ass kicked and want you to see me like this?”
She regarded him as she put the car in gear.
“Good point,” she said.
He’d never want her to see him look like this after a fight, because that would indicate he was human, beatable, and he wouldn’t want her to have that impression of him. Ever. In the ring was one thing, but a street fight. No way in hell.
Evidently, she remembered where he said he was staying because she drove there without him having to say anything until they got there and he had to lead the way to his room.
“Wow,” she said, checking it out as he collapsed on the couch. “This is pretty nice.”
“Yeah, it’s all right,” he said, eyes closing despite whatever effort he made to keep them open. He wanted to watch her, memorize her being here not knowing if he would get the chance to see her here again. “Not as nice as an actual apartment, but at least I can cook my own food and stuff.”
She went to the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a makeshift icepack. It was a little late for one, but he took it and applied it over his head.
“Where’s your stuff?” she asked.
“Bathroom,” he said, pointing to the only real door in the place besides the one leading to the hallway anyway.
“Why didn’t you hurt them?” she asked from the bathroom.
“How do you know I didn’t?”
“Taylor, come on, I’ve seen you fight. Granted it was sparring and controlled, but I also know what you look like when you’ve gotten done. I’ve never seen you this bad.”
“Maybe there was too many of them.”
She returned to the main area, hands full. It seemed she remembered how to doctor him well enough. At least what she’d need to do it.
“I don’t buy that.”
“Because I wasn’t going to have you hold that against me, turn what should have been against him into something I somehow did wrong.”
“He has a name.”
“He’s not really.”
“Could have fooled me,” he said as she sat on the coffee table much the way she had the night at Nathan’s house.
“He’s just jealous.”
“Just jealous people don’t get their friends to do their dirty work for them, Claire.”
“You would know.”
He slid the ice pack from his head and looked at her evenly. “Yeah, I would know. He wanted me out of the picture.”
“Well, it’s a dumb way to go about it. Is that what you’d do for friends?”
He chuckled slightly. “My friends usually had more important things to worry about than their chick hooking up with other guys. And not very many needed me to do their dirty work, they had their own way of handling situations.”
“I suppose they did,” she said.
Both grew quiet as she worked on his face. He didn’t need a mirror to know there was a lot of blood. He was lucky she had the stomach for this.
“Thank you,” he said, realizing he probably should say that.
“Why are you here, Taylor?”
“To see you,” he said. He’d had plenty of time to ponder over the explanation he’d give to that question. He knew it would be one of the first she asked. He’d decided to go with honesty.
“Your grandmother paid me a visit.”
“Yeah,” he said, sensing the surprise in her voice was sincere. So, Claire didn’t know about her plan. “Seems she wanted me to find you again.”
“Maybe she believes we deserve a real chance.”
“Angela wouldn’t do anything like that without some sort of return for her.”
“Does it matter? I mean, really? I came.”
“Because she sent you here.”
“How the hell was I supposed to find you otherwise,” he said with a wince when she brushed over a particular spot on his head.
“You still had my number.”
“And you had mine.”
Their gazes met, neither willing to back down on that point. The communication lines had been open to both of them.
“I made the first move. I know I hurt you, so it had to be me no matter what the proud part of me said. So, does it matter how I got here?”
“Do you know what she wants?”
“I do. Well, sort of,” he said with a shrug.
“She wants me to protect you.”
“What? She hired you?”
“No, nothing like that. She was hoping that I’d do it out of the goodness of my heart.”
“Is that why you came here?”
“Claire,” he said, taking hold of her hand to stop her from tending to him for a minute. “We never got a chance to talk after that night. Your father, both of them, made sure of that. I said things.”
“Yeah, you did.”
“Can you at all see why I was upset?”
“Yes,” she admitted after a moment’s hesitation.
“And then your old man was there, looking as if he thought hanging me by my toenails was too kind of a punishment. What the fuck was I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“And I didn’t exactly see you fighting for me.”
“What was I supposed to say? I went away with you for the weekend.”
“I don’t mean then. You were close enough to being eighteen.”
“You said that it wouldn’t matter!”
“That night, no.”
“How was I to know you’d change your mind? You were pretty clear that you wanted to forget.”
“Sweetheart, if you think I could forget about you, you have no idea how hard I’d fallen for you.”
“Fallen for me?”
“You think I introduce just anyone to Matty? I could have met him and Buffy for dinner or something, didn’t have to include you.”
“I know,” she said. She went back to tending to his face.
Her reaction wasn’t what he’d expected. It was the closest he’d ever gotten to telling anyone but his mother he loved them. What the hell more else could he say? He quietly contemplated his options while she capably doctored him up.
“I should have told you how old I was.”
“I should have asked. I’m not dumb, I’ve been around the block more than once; know there are fake IDs out there.”
“Would it have mattered that first night?”
“At the club?”
She blushed. “No, obviously I wasn’t going to tell you that night!”
“Ah. Well, yeah, you’d have had to be pretty quick about telling me you weren’t legal, but yeah, I would have stopped.”
“I missed this,” he said softly.
“Getting beat up?”
“No, having you to help me after.”
“You have other people to do it for you, I’m sure.”
“They’re not you.”
“You’ll need to take your shirt off for the rest.”
“I can manage.”
“You asked me to help you; I’m going to do that. You can’t tape your ribs yourself.”
“You going to stay here to unwrap and rewrap them?”
“I’m sorry,” he said softly.
“For being a baby?”
“No, for the other stuff. Everything I said to you that night.”
“If I could take it back, I would. I was mad. When I get mad, feel like I’m backed into a corner I fight my way out. That’s what I have always done.”
“That’s what I will always do.”
“I know,” she said.
“Yes,” she said. “Except it seems when my boyfriend sends people to beat you up.”
“I couldn’t hurt them. They had no idea what they were getting into picking a fight with me.”
“You’re a big guy, Taylor, I’m pretty sure they had a clue when they saw you.”
“Being a big guy and knowing how to kill someone with my bare hands do not always go together.”
“Why does Angela want you here?”
“Back to that.”
“She has to have a reason.”
“I told you.”
“To protect me from what?”
“Gold diggers, latchers-on, I think.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how her mind works. She told me where you were, gave me the means to find you. Granted, there were a couple of incentives she threw in I couldn’t resist.”
“My own trainer. A top-notch trainer that used to work for Boom Boom Bartucci.”
“So, she wants me back in New York?”
“Well, you’re not going to wait three years for a trainer.”
“No, here. The trainer is here.”
“Oh,” she said. “Shirt off.”
“Okay, okay, though you never answered my question,” he said, standing slowly. He was even slower about getting the shirt off. She helped the last little bit because he couldn’t lift his arms as high as removing it required.
“You going to stay here to unwrap and wrap?”
“I can stay for a while.”
“You have class tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” she said.
“I don’t want you to be too tired.”
She regarded him for a moment before focusing her attention back on his ribs. She must have known they were bad because she had a couple rolls of his boxing glove tape. He exhaled deeply as she began wrapping.
“I’m a big girl, Taylor.”
“You didn’t ask to be my nurse tonight.”
“I kind of owe it to you.”
He grabbed her hand, stopping her from taping any further.
“Is that why you’re here? Because you think you owe me?”
“I didn’t mean it like that, but it is my boyfriend who caused this.”
“Is he still?”
“How are Buffy and Matty?”
“What?” he asked.
“They had a boy, right?”
“Yes. How did you?”
She gave a soft laugh. “Like it wasn’t plastered all over every New York and LA newspaper.”
“I didn’t realize you followed gossip about gangsters.”
“Ex-gangsters who are friends with you I guess I do. I was there, in California, when he was born. I thought about calling to congratulate them, but decided it was best not to.”
“I wish you would have, but they’re all right.”
“Because I would have known you still cared.”
“And the baby?”
“Fine. Healthy. Getting big. They’re talking about trying for another.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“About what?” he asked, noticing she had very successfully changed the topic.
“Babies. I assume you see them.”
“Well, sure I’m his godfather. I see them whenever I get the chance.”
“It doesn’t make you want them?”
“Hell, no,” he said, confused. “I told you before I don’t know what kind of father I’d make, so I’d rather not find out I’m a bad one.”
He grabbed her by the forearms and drew her to him when she was done taping him up.
“Are you trying to tell me something? Is that why Angela sent me here?”
“Did I? Did you? Shit. Are you trying to tell me I’m a dad?”
“No. What gave you that idea?”
“I don’t know. You start asking me how I feel about babies. That’s kind of an odd topic to bring up right now.”
“I think I told you I don’t know if I can have them.”
“Well, you’re here for me. I remember what you said about your own kids, but I thought maybe after seeing Matty’s son that you may have changed your mind.”
“Then I’d what? Bail on you because you may not be able to have them?”
“Well, you are Italian.”
“What the hell has that got to do with anything?”
“I know it’s kind of important to you. Babies. Boy babies. I sometimes wonder and I know I shouldn’t, but if I was a boy would Angela still have done what she did?”
“I’m sure she would have. I mean, I have no way of knowing, but it sounded like a baby didn’t fit into her plans for Nathan at that point, boy or girl. And, don’t compare me to her. Like I even have a name to give a son.”
“I just don’t know, you know? Adam’s had kids, but he’s a man. That’s sperm not an egg implanting itself in him. I’m not sure how this whole healing thing works. I mean, one would think pregnancy is normal, but it’d be something foreign in my body. How would it be any different than anything else foreign that my body pushes out?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“And you’re sure.”
“Are you concerned about it with Justin?”
“Why not? Why would it make a difference who you end up with? And don’t tell me it’s because I’m Italian. My mother would welcome and love a grandchild if it came from me or some other means.”
“And yet you don’t know if you want them.”
“Nuh uh, no changing the subject this time. I let you do it earlier, but not now. Why doesn’t this concern you with him but it does with me?”
“Because I don’t love him,” she said softly.
“So you’d contemplate marriage to someone you don’t love?”
“I wasn’t contemplating anything with him.”
“Does he know that?”
“Of course not!”
“So, does that mean you do love me?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “You left.”
“You let me leave! The way you kissed me, I thought maybe you’d say something. Do something to fight for me. Us. But you didn’t.”
“You said mean things to me.”
He let go of her arms, reaching for her face. He winced, not at all comfortable reaching with his arms like he was but he’d do it for her.
“I told you I’m sorry, Claire. I am. You have to understand the idea of going to prison is a scary concept for a guy like me. I’m out and I know a lot of things. Not saying Benny would arrange my demise, but someone could without telling or asking his permission.”
“I know. I mean, I didn’t think about it at the time, no.”
“I can’t promise I won’t say mean things again. I told you back when we started I’d never hurt you. Physically. I can’t do that, but I’m a fighter, that’s what I do. Feels like someone’s out to threaten me somehow, I’m going to fight back.”
“I didn’t mean to, Taylor. I honestly had no idea it was such a big deal. How would I know cops might still be watching you?”
“You couldn’t, I didn’t tell you. It’s not something I like to talk about much less think about, but it’s the way of my life. You’re never completely out, not without looking over your shoulder. My pop’s gone, so the only thing keeping me honest – in their opinion – is that I’m still friends with Matty.”
“You can let go of me,” she said.
She smiled a little, reaching for his face. “I know it hurts, you’re trying not to show it but I still know your eyes. And they’re telling me you’re in pain.”
“Then let go of me. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Not back to him?”
“No. We aren’t as serious as you – or he – may like to think.”
“I don’t want to think about you being serious with anybody.”
“Yeah, well, I’d place a wager on the fact you’ve had sex since me.”
“Well,” he stammered. “Not that meant anything.”
“I haven’t. When I started dating Justin it was right before summer break. I was going to spend my summer split between California and New York, I didn’t want that hanging over my head.”
“And since you’ve been back?”
“Still getting to know him, not entirely sure I like what I’m learning.”
“Even before tonight?”
She smiled. “Yeah, even before tonight.”
“Yet you claim he’s a nice guy.”
“He is! To me, but I’ve come to realize he’s not to everyone.”
“You should talk.”
“Hey, I’m nice to everyone who deserves my kindness.”
“You’ve never started a fight in your life, right?”
“Sure I have, but only against someone who deserved to get his ass kicked.”
“Good to know.”
“How did you know I didn’t start it tonight?”
“Beating up my boyfriend’s friends would not be a good way to get me to talk to you let alone get me back. You came here, to Iowa, I know what that means.”
“I’m glad you do.”
“I’m not entirely sure your grandmother does.”
“What is her deal anyway?”
“Honey, I haven’t a clue. I don’t know her to know how she thinks, but she seems to want me in your life.”
“And if she hadn’t sent you here?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t. I had no idea where you were going to school. I probably would have waited until you should have been done with college and then talked to some of Nathan’s staff.”
“You were going to wait longer than I was.”
“I didn’t go to your house this past summer because I didn’t want to use you as an excuse somehow to sabotage things with Justin.”
“I probably would have ended up going to see you next summer, though.”
“You thought about it this summer?”
“Yes. More than once I got on the subway. I had it all mapped out, which lines to take and everything, but every time I changed my mind.”
“I’m sorry you did.”
“Me, too, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to,” she shrugged. She wrapped her arm around him gently, mindful of his ribs and led him to his bed. It was a king sized bed, certainly big enough for both of them if she was of the mind. He’d already asked if she was going to stay and help him with his ribs, he wasn’t going to ask again.
“What are you doing?”
“Putting you to bed,” she said, turning down the bed and helping him sit down. “Wait a sec,” she said, walking toward his bathroom.
“Ah, you are a saint,” he said when he saw her come back with his bottle of nighttime painkillers and a glass of water.
“Only for you would I do this.”
“I should hope so.”
“Because I catch you doing this for someone else anytime soon I will kick their ass.”
“Like you could right now.”
He chuckled, taking the pills followed by a long drink of water.
“If it meant losing you again, I’d do anything.”
“Thanks,” she said, returning to the bathroom with the empty glass.
“Thank you.” He let her help him lay down. He could do it himself, but she’d taped up his ribs well enough the help was appreciated.
She sat on the edge of the bed then, reaching for his alarm clock.
“What are you doing?”
“Setting the alarm.”
“To wake you up in a couple of hours so I can unwrap you.”
“You want me to leave.”
“Then shut up.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, more than a little surprised when she moved to the other side of the bed and got in next to him. He’d hoped, wanted, but he hadn’t expected her to get into bed with him tonight.
“You do know I am really pretty hurt, right?”
“Yes,” she said as she slid closer to him. Close enough she was touching him, but mindful of the fact he was basically one big cut and bruise at the moment.
“Just making sure I wasn’t signing myself up for something I can’t quite deliver tonight.”
“Not tonight, no.”
“Get some rest, Taylor. You’re going to need it.”
“You are the one with class tomorrow. All I was going to do was head to the gym and that’s out now.”
“You still need it to heal. The sooner you heal the sooner you can get back to the gym.”
“How’d you get so smart about such things?”
“Fall in love with a boxer, you learn all sorts of things.”
“Yeah, about that.”
“I wasn’t entirely honest earlier when I said I’d fallen for you.”
She froze. Until then she’d been tracing along his thigh with a fingertip. Nothing suggestive or sexual, just a touch. She didn’t say anything, though, waiting perhaps to see just what he was going to say.
“Fallen is entirely too simple a word to describe it. I knew the second I saw you again here, you’re no passing fancy.”
“Good to know.”
He rolled onto his side with a wince, eyeing her as she looked at him just as intensely.
“You get what I’m saying, right? Matty’s the only friend I felt comfortable with you meeting because he’s out. But my mother, your friends, your family, and eventually the rest of my friends when we get to that point. I want the whole deal.”
“Okay,” she said, and he knew she wasn’t too sure about the part about her family.
“Your dad can’t say too much now. He’s not going to pull you out of college, so I think his threats are going to be pretty idle.”
“I suppose. I just.”
“I don’t mean tomorrow. We have time to figure things out before we get to that. I just want you to know where I’m at.”
“Thanks. Get some rest now,” she said.
“I will,” he said, turning back to lie on his back. Her fingers at his thigh went back to their gentle touch.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com