His amber eyes shifted from where I was touching him to my own and I saw a lifetime of truth and consequences glowing down at me.
“Have you ever heard your dad tell someone that he just met that ‘like recognizes like’?”
I nodded absently. It was one of Brite’s favorite sayings. He used it a lot when he met someone and could tell instantly that they had served in any branch of the military. He also used it when he was talking about his brothers on bikes. They might not all have been to war, but men searching for something, men looking for that kind of brotherhood, drew like to like.
“I’ve heard him say it.”
Asa nodded and grabbed my elbow so he could walk me across the street towards a small strip mall that had several food trucks parked out in front. Each of the different trucks had a long line queued up in front of it, and the smells coming from them made my mouth instantly water.
Asa paused before we actually became part of the crowd and turned me to face him with a heavy hand on my shoulder. Those gold eyes of his were impossible to look away from, and even though the words he was saying were hard, his lyrical drawl made them feel like feathers when they hit me.
“We are alike, Avett, me and you. The shit you do, the shit you feel, after you do it.” He shook his head and his shaggy blond hair fell onto his face. It was easy to see why he had such a potent effect on women and why trouble was so attracted to him. He looked like the kind of man that had being bad down to a science. “I’ve been there. In fact, before Royal, before Denver, I had a permanent place on rock bottom all picked out and was planning to live the rest of my life there. I knew I was fucking up, knew I was doing shit that would haunt me forever and hold me down, but I couldn’t stop. I felt like I had to be the bad guy because I was a guy that had done so many bad things.”
I wanted to shake his hand off and tell him he didn’t know anything about me. But that was a lie. He did know, and even with that knowledge, he was still here, still trying to make me see that there was more than the next bad decision, and more than making myself feel bad because that’s what I was so sure I deserved.
“The thing about rock bottom is that it gets crowded down there because there is always someone out there screwing up worse than you are. You can’t see it because your head is so full of your own fuckups that other people’s fuckups can’t even register. We all have them, and I promise that whatever you think you’ve done that deserves the dumb shit you’ve been doing isn’t as bad as some of the things happening out there in the big bad world. No matter how long you’ve been there on what you thought was the bottom clinging to the edge, thinking you’ve sunk as low as you can, someone else is going to come crashing down and shatter what you thought the lowest point was supposed to be. They’re going to fall right past you and suddenly you’re left realizing you can either fall forever because life is tough and full of pitfalls and there is no actual bottom to hit, or you can get your ass up and start climbing towards the top because a better life is waiting for you up there.”
I cleared my throat. “When you started climbing, did you ever reach the top, Asa?” Because that seemed like an awful lot of work if the chances of pulling yourself out of the mire were slim.
He let go of my shoulder and flashed me that smile that screamed good times and trouble because he was full of both. “Not even close. Sometimes I even lose my grip and slip backwards, but Royal and the life I have with her is always waiting for me at the top, so I never stop climbing, no matter how many times I fall. Every day it feels like I get closer and closer to the top, and whatever bottom I was wasting away on is nothing more than a memory.” He lifted a blond eyebrow at me and reached out to tap the bottom of my chin with his index finger. “Start climbing, Avett. It gets tiring and your entire body and soul burns from the effort, but nothing will ever be as rewarding.”
I took a step away from him and cleared my throat so I could speak around the emotion that was practically choking me. “You were always really good with words, Opie. But words won’t fix all the things I’ve fucked up lately. That’s like sticking duct tape on the cracks in the Titanic.”
He sighed in exasperation and inclined his head towards the waiting lunch trucks. “I think you would be stunned by how much the right words can fix. Let’s grab some food. I’m starving.”
I agreed with a nod, thankful that he was going to let the heart-to-heart drop. His words were worthy of consideration because the idea of having another, more polished and proper blond head peeking at me over the edge as I stared up into what could be made a sharp shiver go down my spine.
My dad had been home and all over me since the night I called him home from Mom’s. He wouldn’t leave my side or let me go out without him, and while his concern was sweet and appreciated, we both had lives that we needed to move on with. That included me finding a job so I could actually be a productive member of society. Dad had mentioned asking Rome if he would consider taking me back at the bar, but I vetoed the idea immediately. I wasn’t ready to face down the big, marked soldier yet and I knew there was no way my mom and I could share space in the kitchen right now without killing each other.
The constant vigil also meant I hadn’t seen Quaid since the night he appeared like some kind of alternate, motorcycle riding, leather wearing, gun toting, and orgasm giving version of himself.
That orgasm though.
If I closed my eyes and concentrated really hard, I could still feel the way it felt like when he drew that response out of every single cell of my body. It was more than getting off and going about my business. It was something that lingered, that stayed with me, and blindsided me when I wasn’t prepared to remember the pleasure and the carnality of it all. I’d had plenty of sex in my twenty-two years. Some of it better than others, but after my interlude with Quaid against the front door, I was realizing that sex was a lot like anything else that someone excelled at. The more practice you had at it, the better you were, and considering all my other partners were around the same age as I was, they were lacking in the knowledge department regardless of how many other women they had been with. Needless to say, I was pretty sure that Quaid was a professional in the bedroom as well as in the courtroom, and after having his hands on me, I never wanted to mess around with an amateur or an intern again.
Quaid touched me like he did everything else, confidently, assertively, decisively, and without any question if I would like what he was doing because he knew I would like it … hell, he knew I would love it and lose my damn mind. If he hadn’t put a halt to things when he did, I would have wiggled the rest of the way out of my overalls, dropped to my knees right there in the middle of my dad’s living room, and given as good as I got. I was reckless, but there were lines I didn’t cross and having sex under my dad’s roof had always been one of them. Until the sexy lawyer showed up looking all badass and take-care-of-business in a totally different way than he normally did.