When we reached the dorms, she began to shake. I didn’t know what to do to fix it. She reached in her purse but couldn’t seem to get her hands past the barrier of the half-opened zipper.
With a curse, I pulled out my card and swiped it across the access code for the elevator.
My hand naturally fell to her back as I gently pushed her in.
The elevator was big — but it may as well have been a shoebox. Every breath she took, every shudder that wracked her body destroyed my sanity.
I wanted to touch her.
Instead, I did the only thing I knew I could do that wouldn’t flag me as being disloyal to blood.
I stood as close as possible. My hand hovered near her skin, feeling like it was damn-near singeing from the heat her body was giving off.
When we finally made it into their room, Mo started yelling.
“He’s an ass! I know I shouldn’t defend him, but if he would have known they were your grandma’s shoes—”
I put my hand in the air. “I don’t get it. What’s so important about—”
“She’s dead, you asshole!”
Yeah. I’d forgotten that.
Like a complete jackass.
Traces face fell as more tears streamed across her plump lips.
And the pieces of the puzzle fell together. Yes, she was upset about what Nixon had done, but even when he shamed her in front of everyone it wasn’t the fact that he’d embarrassed her — it was the fact that he’d unintentionally ripped her heart out and stomped on it.
By the looks of her clothes on the first day, she didn’t have a lot of money or possessions, meaning only one thing. The shoes from her Grandma? Probably one of the only things she had of value.
With a curse, I stomped out of the room. Tex followed, eerily quiet for a guy who normally talked his ass off.
“So…” Tex shoved his hands in his pockets once we were in the safety of the elevator. “…that was—”
“Shut the hell up,” I barked and stormed out of the elevator so he wouldn’t follow me.
Tex barked out a laugh and went in the opposite direction. With shaking hands, I dialed the number to the closest supplier.
“I need your most expensive boots from the new spring collection.”
“I’d be happy to help you with your purchase, sir, but you need to know those are specific boots are—”
“Get them for me. Now. I need them by six.”
“In the morning,” I said slowly. “Size nine.”
“Of course, sir.”
The line went dead.
But adrenaline continued to surge through my veins. I didn’t know what else to do except sit outside the dorms and wait until the boots arrived.
So that’s exactly what I did.
I sat in the shadows and waited. By the time five-thirty rolled around, I got another phone call, and the boots were delivered into my hands by one of my associates.
I wanted to put them at her door. I wanted to be the guy to apologize, and I wasn’t doing it on Nixon’s behalf. No, I was doing it for me.
Cursing the Mafia the entire way up to her floor, I clenched the boots in my hand and went to her room.
I’d written a note.
It was lame.
Who wrote notes? It was like I’d reverted to middle school, but I wanted to do something special, something extra. Hell, after that shitty day, I should have put a bottle of wine in one of the boots with a sedative.
I raised my hand to knock. Visions of Trace opening the door filled my head. She’d, of course, give me a hug, invite me in. Maybe it would be the start of our relationship. I’d slowly slink into her life and we’d… what? What exactly would happen?
She wasn’t one of us. She didn’t belong in our world.
I put my hand down and stared at the door.
Our future was over before it had even begun.
“Chase?” A female called out my name. “Is that you?”
I turned to the left where Molly, a past booty-call stood wearing nothing but a long tight t-shirt and a smile.
“Yeah.” I looked away.
“You wanna come over for a bit?”
No. I didn’t.
I wanted to knock on the door.
But instead of knocking, and potentially ruining a girl’s life, a girl already on her road to ruination, I stepped back and shook my head.
“Maybe another time, Molly.”
As my footsteps echoed across the floor, I wondered. One day, would I look back on this moment? And wish… I would have knocked?
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers! You can follow her writing journey at www.rachelvandykenauthor.com