“Seriously, Avett. You told me you never do the right thing even when it’s the only thing to do, so this is me not giving you a choice. Call your dad and keep your head down until we know what in the hell is going on.”
She frowned at my harsh tone but relented and gave me a little nod. “All right. I’ll call him and stay away from the windows and the doors.” Her timid tone halted me when I reached the bottom of the steps. “Quaid.” I turned to look up at her and almost ran back up the front steps of the house when I saw how adorable and rumpled she looked propped up in the doorway. To hell with respect and rationale.
“Thank you for giving me your number. Thank you for answering my call. Thank you for showing up to make sure I was all right.” She paused to catch her breath as the words tumbled out each faster than the other. “Thank you for being here and staying even after I gave you my story. Now you know exactly who I am, and you are so much more than nobody to me, Quaid.”
I opened my mouth and let it close. I hefted the helmet up and fitted it over my tousled hair. Before I pulled it down to cover the rest of my face, I told her, matter-of-factly, “I wouldn’t have done any of those things if you were anyone else, Avett. Your story doesn’t change who you are or how I feel about you. Now, go inside and call your dad.”
She gave a jerky nod and then disappeared back inside the house. I walked to where I left the bike parked in front of the house and waited for a few minutes to make sure none of the curtains or blinds twitched. I wanted to make sure that she was doing as she was told. When I was satisfied she had hunkered down and would indeed call Brite, I swung my leg over the bike and cranked the engine on. I decided I would cruise by the closest station house and ask them to send a cruiser through the neighborhood.
It was much harder to deny me what I wanted when I was there to argue my case in person.
I don’t need a babysitter. It’s almost been a week and the creepy guys in the car haven’t been back. I’m starting to think they were there to take out the bitchy neighbor across the street that won’t lay off her poor boyfriend. If I was him, I wouldn’t hesitate to order a hit on her mouthy ass. That seems like it would be way less painful than actually marrying someone like her.”
I cut a look at the tall blond man next to me and was rewarded by his lips twitching slightly. He looked down at me with glimmering golden eyes and a smirk that I had seen break hearts and then repair them within the span of mere seconds. “I’m sure you have better things to do with your day than chauffeur me around while I look for a job.” I was sick of being cooped up in the house, and frankly, I was sick of my own company. I decided it was time to do something, to do anything, to get my life back on track and that meant I needed to get a job. Doing nothing wasn’t working for me anymore, and after the purge of all my deepest, darkest secrets and fears I laid at Quaid’s feet, I felt a thousand times lighter and not as weighed down by the past. The fog of recrimination and accusation that I lived in hadn’t exactly lifted off of me, but I was seeing through the density more clearly than I ever had before.
Doing something meant looking for a job, which I knew would be nearly impossible with a big, bearded biker in tow. After an hour or so of grouching and explaining how important it was to me to get out and be productive, Dad had relented and agreed to let me go on the job hunt, but only if I took one of his boys with me to watch my back should anything happen. In desperation, I acquiesced to his request, and as a result had been gifted with Asa’s presence as my formal keeper and résumé holder all morning and afternoon.
The smirk on his ridiculously handsome face turned into a full-fledged smile and I heard the woman I had just handed my application to at the small coffee shop near my dad’s house gasp. I was surprised she didn’t use the stack of papers to fan herself. Asa Cross was hot enough to warrant that kind of reaction and she didn’t seem all that interested in using the application and résumé I’d handed over to offer me a job, so she might as well get some use out of it.
“Believe me, watching you try to be charming and polite to people that you clearly want to strangle is way more fun than anything else that was on my agenda. Besides, your dad asked me to stick with you.”
I rolled my eyes and pushed open the glass door that led back out to the sidewalk. “And when Brite asks his boys for something …”
Asa chuckled. “We show up and see it through.”
I grumbled under my breath and scanned the small neighborhood to see if there was any other kind of shop or café I could stop in and plead my case with, but unfortunately it seemed like I had already made the rounds. I’d dropped my résumé and filled out repetitive applications at every place that had a help-wanted sign or that served some kind of food, with little luck or interest. I was getting frustrated and annoyed and Asa’s obvious amusement at the situation made me want to kick him in the shin. I hadn’t told him that the reason I was so desperate to find a job, or possibly two, was so that I could start to pay my dad back for bailing me out, and also, so I could work towards paying Asa back the money he ponied up to pay Quaid to represent me.
“I’m surprised he asked the charmer and not the soldier. You come armed with a smile, Rome comes armed—period.” I tugged at the end of my braid and looked down at my dark skinny jeans tucked into well-worn combat boots and the long-sleeved flannel I had on with a lacy cami peeking out of the open collar. It was hipster chic and pretty standard wear for fall in Colorado, but I was wondering if I should have dressed a little more to impress. I wanted to groan. I sucked at impressing.
“Rome had a business meeting and an appointment with Cora, for the baby. She’s ready to pop. Plus, as much as Rome admires and respects your dad, he’s still working on getting over the robbery … both of them.”
I cringed involuntarily and blew out a breath that turned into a sigh. “Yeah. I can’t say I blame him for that.” Hesitantly, I reached out and touched the back of his hand where it was wrapped around a to-go coffee. “So, why are you here, Asa? And why did you call Quaid the night I got arrested? You have as much, if not more, reason to hate me than Rome Archer does. Jared could have killed you and Royal that night.” My voice cracked a little and I bit the inside of my cheek to keep more jumbled words and useless apologies from falling out. I couldn’t even begin to express how devastated I would have been if something had happened to him and his pretty cop girlfriend. Asa had been on my case since our very first encounter at the bar. I played it off like I hated him, resented him for being the boss in the bar my family had always owned, mocked his troubled past and self-sacrificing ways, but the truth of it was, I admired him. I appreciated that he never judged me, never belittled me for finding myself in mess after mess. I’d never had any siblings, but if I did, I would want my big brother to be exactly like Asa Cross, flaws and all.