"What are you doing here, man?"
It was a rhetorical question, particularly since there was no one there to answer him. He didn't know what he was doing here. So, they'd kissed. What was the big deal? It wouldn't have been to him, but he suspected Veronica didn't go around just kissing anybody. He had to know, to find out. If nothing else he needed to know things between them weren't different, hadn't changed.
He could still taste her on his lips, feel her body pressed against his. He remembered, too, the death stare her ex had given him when they returned to the poker game after getting some food into Veronica's belly. He wasn't sure what those guys thought, but he never corrected their assumption that he and Veronica were together. Let her if she wanted to.
Lying in bed last night he'd thought about it. He wondered what he could have done differently. He came to the conclusion that he couldn't have done anything else. He didn't trust those bozos to do the right thing by a girl, so he had done the only thing he could to assure she was safe. He also realized he hadn't minded the assumption that she was with him.
He hadn't believed after Lilly that he'd want someone from this side of town again. She had hurt him bad, something no one else knew. Veronica suspected but she didn't know the truth of it. Maybe that was why he didn't mind. She wasn't Lilly that was for sure. The more he got to know her the more he wondered how the two had even been friends.
"Well, you can stand here all day and have the police called on you by a neighbor or knock and get it over with."
With that little bit of self-encouragement he released the doorframe, drew back, and knocked. He wasn't sure what he'd say if her old man answered so he hoped that wouldn't happen.
The door opened and he was surprised at how well she looked. He didn't think she drank too often and she was looking pretty good for someone who'd downed as much Jack Daniels as she had the night before. Her hair was wet so she must have just taken a shower. He tried not to think about the picture that brought to his mind.
"Good morning, Sleepy Head."
"You look like you just woke up."
"No school, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember. I came to see how you were feeling."
"I'm fine." She stepped back, opening the door. He took that as an invitation to go in, which he did.
"Have you eaten yet?"
"No. The furthest I got was the bathroom."
"I could eat."
"Why don't you finish getting dressed and I'll make you something then."
"You don't have to."
"I don't remember saying that I thought I had to, V. I'm offering to make you some breakfast."
She held her hands up defensively. "Okay, okay. Thanks. Let me know if you can't find something."
"It should be pretty straightforward."
He made his way behind the counter to the kitchen. He found a pan and enough food in the fridge to make her an omelet with some toast. He didn't see any bacon or sausage, so it would just be veggies and cheese in the omelet. He shook his head, wondering what his boys would say if they could see him all domesticated-like. Cooking breakfast for an 09er girl. She wasn't really an 09er, though, that had to count for something.
He had just slid the omelet out of the pan and onto a plate he'd found in the cupboard when she came back into the room.
"I hope so."
"Looks good, too. What did you make me?"
"An omelet. We've got some onions, green pepper, tomatoes, and cheese."
"Sounds good, too. I didn't know you could cook."
She sat at the counter as he set the plate in front of her, adding the toast once it popped up in the toaster.
"I know how to do lots of things, V. I'm only a criminal part of my time."
"Right. I forget I see you so rarely sometimes."
He cocked an eyebrow at that. "I didn't realize you cared, V."
"Well, you know, I'd think eventually you'd want to graduate and get on with your life."
"Ouch," he said with a light laugh. "Remind me not to cook breakfast for you again."
"I didn't mean it like that, Weevil."
He leaned back against the counter, watching as she ate. She was eating heartily, too, so evidently he must have made things to her liking. "So, you going to tell ol' Weevil why you took to the bottle last night?"
"Why not? A girl's got to let her hair down once in a while."
"Most girls I'd say okay and dismiss it as that. But, not you, V. You're better than that."
She looked at him then, her eyes focused on his face. He wondered what she saw there. He liked to think he was a handsome guy with a face that was nice to look at. Lilly had told him so once, but it had gotten so he wasn't sure what he could believe where she was concerned.
"Thank you. I think that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me."
He opened his mouth to say something, closing it when he decided he wasn't sure what to say to that. "You're welcome." It was lame but it would have to suffice under the circumstances.
He busied himself rinsing out the pan he'd used and wiping the counter and toaster down. That accomplished he took a seat on the couch, draping an arm over the back of it.
"So, what's on your agenda today?"
"Mine? Besides relaxing because I have no classes and no homework. Probably watch some soaps, check out what Oprah has to say, and maybe if I plan it well enough I'll catch some Tom & Jerry, too."
"Yeah, well." She shrugged and took a bite of her toast. "Seriously though, I had nothing going on today. Why?"
"I thought maybe you'd like to go for a ride."
"Yeah, why not? You up for it? Or are you not feeling so hot yet?"
"Sure. Why not?" Her plate empty she took it to the sink and rinsed it off before joining him in the living area. "I suppose I should thank you for last night."
She shrugged and looked a little sheepish. It was a cute look on her. He wished he had a camera, though, he doubted he'd see it again anytime soon. "You were good to me."
"It was nothing, V."
"It was something. It was stupid, I shouldn't have had so much to drink. If you hadn't done what you did." She stopped talking, but he could tell that her mind hadn't shut down. She was thinking something, seeing something in her mind.
"I could have done something really stupid."
"Kissing me wasn't stupid?"
She darted her eyes from him to the floor by her feet. "You just get right to the point don't you? No. It was kind of nice actually."
"Yes, really, but I think you already know that."
"Yeah, I do."
"You were nice to me. You have no idea. I know those guys, but I learned a while ago that I can't really trust any of them anymore. I hate to think what might have happened if it weren't for you."
She was trying to tell him something, something he should know. Veronica was a pretty complex girl, so he imagined when she wanted him to know she'd say it straight out. "Just doing my thing, V."
"And your thing includes coming over to make me breakfast, too."
"I was just checking on you. Wasn't sure how upfront you'd be with Pops about what you did last night."
"He hasn't a clue and he's at the sheriff's giving his statement about what happened last night I think."
"You didn't hear?"
"Logan's dad was stabbed."
"You're kidding me?"
"Yeah, I guess it was a big mess. Dad has some suspects or something. I don't know. I usually listen to him pretty closely but this morning I wasn't in the mood."
"So when were you planning on taking this bike ride?"
"Whenever you want."
"Well, I think I'm ready now if you want to."
"Sure I'm sure."
"All right then." He couldn't deny being glad to get out of her apartment. He wasn't sure what her dad would say or do if he found Eli Navarro sitting there talking to his daughter. "Let's go."
"I just need to grab my shoes."
"You might want a jacket, too. It gets pretty chilly on a bike."
"Are we going that far?"
"We'll see where the bike takes us."
He waited by the door as she went to get her shoes and a jacket. She looked pretty good. It made him wonder how much she had really had to drink last night. Could she have been faking? He didn't think so, but she shouldn't be this happy either. Had she wanted to kiss him? Maybe, but he didn't think a sober Veronica would have threatened to take her clothes off knowing there was a house full of people nearby.
He started his bike and she climbed on, positioning herself behind him a little clumsily. He'd get her used to it in no time if she kept hanging with him. Her arms went around his waist, holding on as he drove off the parking lot. She wasn't hanging on too tight, but he felt the warmth of her touch well enough.
He took her to a place he went to sometimes when he wanted to be alone and think. It was along the beach, but far enough away from town and secluded enough that not many came here. There was no access for anyone wanting to put a boat on the water and this particular segment of the beach wasn't good for surfing or anything. So, most of the time when he came here he had the area to himself. Today was no different.
He parked his bike and helped her off. He draped his arm around her shoulders as he'd done the night before and led her toward the beach.
"You come here a lot?"
"I don't think I even knew this was here."
"Not many people do. It's kind of hidden, which is why I like it."
"I never pictured you as a solitude loving guy."
"There's a lot of things you don't know about me, V."
He led her to the edge of the beach and sat just far enough away from where the water drifted up so they wouldn't get wet. He wasn't sure what he was going to do with her now that he had her here. He hadn't been thinking that far ahead, only getting her out of her apartment so her old man wouldn't walk in.
So," she said, taking a seat next to him. He noticed that she didn't put any distance between them. When she sat their legs touched, her hand grazed his when she leaned back on the sand.
"Yeah, pretty lame, huh."
"I didn't say that. What do you normally do when you come out here?"
"Just sit and think, watch the stars."
"Not too many stars out now."
He regarded the sun and shook his head with a light laugh. "Guess not."
"What's on your mind, Eli?"
He shrugged, not sure how to bring it up. How did you tell a girl from the right side of town that you, a guy from the wrong side of town, wouldn't mind another kiss or two? Forget right and wrong side of town, they were even on opposite sides of the law.
He hadn't been paying attention to her, so missed her moving. He didn't notice the handful of sand until it was too late. She tossed it at him, a wide smile on her face matching the devious twinkle in her eyes. She laughed as it struck him on the arm, granules trickling down his arm making an odd pattern on his skin.
"I see how you are."
"You do, huh?"
"Beating up on a defenseless guy."
She stood quickly and took off running down the beach before he could retaliate with his own fist full of sand. He was quick to give chase, though. She'd run out of beach soon enough where it gave way to a wooded area.
She found that fact out for herself. "No fair," she called out. He could see the laughter in her eyes and he couldn't help but laugh with her.
"All's fair, Chica, all's fair."
"Oh come on, Eli. You don't want to throw it at me."
"I don't. Why's is that exactly?"
She strode up to him, sashaying her hips, lifting her hair as her arms went up and over her head as she walked. She was trying too hard to look sexy, but damn if it wasn't working. "Because if you do that, then I won't do this," she whispered in his ear, standing on her tiptoes. She kissed him there. It was barely a kiss really, but it hit him hard like a sucker punch to the gut. She draped her arms around him then. "What's the matter, Eli?" She must have heard his sharp intake of breath.
"Nothing." He stood stock-still, not sure he could move just then anyway. The handful of sand he held slid between his fingertips to the beach at his feet.
She took a few steps, positioning herself behind him. Her hands clenched his biceps as she leaned into him. "You thought last night was because I was drunk?"
He glanced at her over his shoulder. "The thought had crossed my mind."
"Then you don't know me very well."
"I think I do. And I know what Jack does to most people."
She squeezed his arms and kissed the back of his neck.
"I didn't bring you here for this."
"Why did you bring me here?"
"I don't know. I thought it would make you feel better. Some fresh air. To talk."
"Talk about what."
"You kissed me last night, V. Now, maybe in your world that doesn't mean anything."
"See, and you're going to be at school again after break is over and take up with some guy."
"Logan thinks you're my boyfriend."
"Logan's an idiot."
He exhaled sharply and sighed. "No, I know he's not."
"Why'd he think that I wonder?"
"Because you were all over me. And a girl like you wouldn't be all over someone like me unless we were together."
"Mm, I wouldn't be all over anyone unless we were together. Or maybe he just saw something."
"Come on, V. I'm not the right guy for you."
"You were good enough for Lilly."
"That was different. I don't know what to believe I was to her anymore. I don't think I could do it again."
"Lilly hid you, though."
He felt the rise and fall of her chest against his back and bit back a groan as she shrugged. "I wouldn't hide. I didn't last night."
"They saw us kiss."
"Sure. They're seventeen year old boys; you don't think I know they were hoping we'd give them a show."
Weevil smiled at that. She was right.
"But you're such an upstanding guy you wouldn't hear of it."
"Now that's not exactly true. I just knew you'd had a bit too much to drink. I take kissing somebody pretty seriously."
"So do I." She stepped in front of him again, her fingers lingering against his shoulders and neck while she did. He could get used to Veronica being touchy-feely. It was kind of nice. "You know, I've only kissed three guys, including you."
"Really?" His eyes widened at the confession. It surprised him for some reason. Not that he thought she was easy or anything, but he had just assumed. A girl that looked like she did and hung with the crowd she did, or used to anyway.
His arms went around her almost as if they had a mind of their own. She settled against him, though, so she must be okay with it. "How do I rate?"
"Hmm. I'm not sure I can honestly compare. There's not enough data."
"Is that right? Well, insufficient data seems an awfully lame way to lose out of top bidding."
"You think so?"
"I know so," he said, drawing her closer. He kissed her then, his lips slanting over hers. She stepped closer, her hands skimming from his forearms where they had been to his chest. She felt good against him, in his arms, kissing him. And, man, did she kiss him.
Last night had been little more than an appetizer compared to this. Lips parted, tongues met, teeth nipped, breathing became erratic. And if Eli didn't know better the sand underneath them was catching on fire they were so hot. The back of his mind was telling him to get out of there, get away from this girl, but he couldn't do it now. It was too late for thoughts of self-preservation.
She broke the kiss, but she didn't stop entirely. She placed light kisses against the corners of his mouth, his chin, his jaw. "We can pretend that didn't happen if you want. Or we can see if maybe there was a reason Jack sent me into your lap."
"That Jack is pretty smart."
"So I've heard."
She didn't say anything, just kissed him again.
"Thanks for showing me your beach, Eli." She slid her hand into his and together they walked back to where they'd come from.
"My pleasure, Chica. I'll bring you here any time."
"It might be the only place we can come to get away from my dad."
Weevil winced at that, but didn't know what to say. "Then I guess it'll be our beach."
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