Against my better judgment, I stand and head for the kitchen under the guise of getting a drink. I open the fridge, surreptitiously trying to get her attention.
I close the door with a bit more force than necessary. Nothing. So, I walk up to the sink next to her and look out the window, too.
God, she smells good.
So damn good.
And she’s absolutely stunning. Her golden hair comes past her shoulders and falls in waves that make me think she’s been at the beach all day, though I know she hasn’t. Her slightly rounded nose and perfect pink lips are precisely how I remember them. But her dark-blue eyes always have a way of rooting out people’s bullshit, which is what I’m certain will happen if she ever looks up at me.
I’ve done my best to keep a physical distance from her. I don’t want to be too close, for fear that I will reach out and touch her, like old times. She was always so close to me when we were kids.
I brush her arm as I lift the pop to my mouth and take a drink. This startles her, but it only takes a second to regain her composure.
“What ya looking at?” I ask, not taking my eyes off the apartment building across the street.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking, I guess,” she sighs as she moves the bowl in her hands back under the running water.
“You guess? How do you not know?” I ask, using my same words from earlier, but in a gentler tone.
She looks at me this time, which is what I wanted. “Stop asking me questions if you always hate my answers.” She says it with a ghost of a smile.
Acting on its own, my shoulder bumps hers.
We’ve danced around each other for months. I haven’t touched her since that first night we met again as adults. I shook her hand because I was caught off guard. But today, we’ve touched twice. Where are the walls I’ve built?
She looks up at me with a hint of something in her eyes that I can’t quite figure out. Interest? Need? Maybe longing.
“I’m just kidding, G.” I smile at her. Something I haven’t done toward her in a very long time. Yeah, that look in her eyes is definitely longing.
She gives me a sad smile before turning to put the bowl on the drying rack. It isn’t lost on me that she’s hand-washing the dishes instead of letting the dishwasher take care of them.
“I really do want to know what’s got you staring out the window.”
She eyes me. “Why?”
I give this some thought. Why do I want to know so bad? Why do I care?
“Because I care?” Maybe I shouldn’t have asked. Yeah, I can see that was the wrong thing to say when she snorts and tosses an eye roll my way. A laugh escapes her lips but there’s no humor in it.
“Yeah, you care. Since when Simon? You can’t even look me in the eye. You don’t care. So, don’t waste your breath,” she spits out and starts shoving dishes in the dishwasher now, throwing all kinds of temper around with the task.
“Jeesh. Chill, alright? I guess old habits die hard. I can still tell when something is wrong. We do have a history. That won’t ever change,” I say, defending myself.
At this, she goes rigid. Ah-ha. Either bringing up the fact that we have a history or my telling her to chill—which she hates—has stopped her in her tracks; I’m guessing it’s a little bit of both.
“Just leave me alone, Simon,” she mutters.
“Is it your brother? Does he live here in Chicago? Are things better between the two of you or is he still an asshole with problems?” I can’t hold it in, I’ve got to know.
She puts the last cup in the washer and closes the door uncharacteristically slowly. She then wipes her hands on the towel, lays it down, and slowly turns to me.
If looks could kill, I’d be six feet under. She steps a tad closer to me.
“You … do not get to ask about him. You do not get to bring him up. Ever. Do not ever speak about him, or the past, to me or anyone.” Her voice is so low it makes my skin prickle.
“Uh, OK.” I gulp. This evil clone Gia is scary as shit.
She takes a step back, then turns to leave the kitchen.
Then as her words register, I realize.
“They don’t know, do they?”
She stops. Looks over her shoulder at me. Instead of anger, guilt clouds her eyes.
“No,” she says, and walks away.
Lauren Helms has forever been an avid reader from the beginning. After starting a book review website, that catapulted her fully into the book world, she knew that something was missing. Lauren decided to take the plunge and write her first novel. While working for a video game strategy guide publisher, she decided to mix what she knew best–video games and romance. She decided to take the plunge and joined NaNoWrimo and a month later, she had her first draft.