“We love you, too, baby girl,” Erik said.
They rang off. “Okay, I’m back. How are you?”
“Good. You were talking to all your brothers?”
“Yeah. They still act like I’m a kid. Justin, my oldest brother, is trying to get them to back off. What’s up?”
“I wanted to thank you for the painting. You shouldn’t have.”
“Why not? You seemed to really like it.”
“I love it. But you already gave me one. Since it’s smaller, I think I’ll hang it in my office.”
“That sounds nice. Terrence? You still there?” she asked when he fell silent.
“I’m still here. I’m just thinking that I’ve never met anyone like you.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Well, I’m glad. How was your day?”
“Long, but productive. What about your day?”
“Had a boring staff meeting to attend after school, but other than that, not too bad.”
“Try three meetings back-to-back.”
“No, thank you. I’ll let you have all that. When are you leaving for your next set of concerts?”
“Next Wednesday. Wanna come?”
“I don’t think so. I have work, but thanks for the offer.”
“Never hurts to ask. When’s school out?”
“Two weeks, thank goodness. And I’m not teaching this summer.”
“So you’ll be a lady of leisure.”
“Something like that. I’m going to visit my oldest brother and his family in Nevada for a weekend. I haven’t seen my niece in a while. Then I’ll go to New Mexico to see my parents. Are you going to be traveling more in the summer?”
“I have a few dates scheduled and two cruises, late summer and early fall.”
“Sounds exciting, especially the cruises.”
“They’re a blast. You should try one sometime.”
“Maybe I will. Well, I know you’re probably just getting home and need to eat. I’m glad you like the painting.”
“I’ve been home about half an hour, and I did start dinner.”
“Go finish. We’ll talk again.”
“Okay. Thank you again...very much, Janae.”
“You’re welcome. Night.” Janae disconnected, then held the phone against her. I’m getting in too deep with this man.
* * *
Terrence reheated his food and finished his dinner. Then he remembered he was supposed to call Janae’s brother Devin. He rinsed the dishes, put them in the dishwasher and went to his room. Picking up his cell, he scrolled through and found the number he’d gotten from Janae’s cell when she left it on the kitchen table.
“Devin, this is Terrence.”
“Terrence? How did you get my number?”
“From your sister’s phone.”
“What can I do for you?”
“Do you know anything about a guy named Lawrence?”
“Piece of trash. Why?”
“Had a run-in with him on Saturday.”
“What the hell happened?”
“I’m not sure. I went back to the car for something. When I walked up, I heard Janae yell and saw her snatch her arm away and...”
“You let him grab my sister?”
“Then what happened?”
“She told him to leave her alone, and I told him he’d have to deal with me if he didn’t. I took exception to his response and clocked his punk ass.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing worth repeating.”
“Did he say anything else?”
“Can’t talk when you’re unconscious.”
Devin chuckled softly, then turned serious. “Thanks for taking care of my sister.”
“I called you because I knew she wouldn’t. I travel a lot with my job, and I don’t want her to be unprotected.”
“So I take it she has no idea you’re calling me.”
“Correct. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention it. I don’t think she’d be too happy.”
“Only because you protected her. And what kind of traveling? You do have a real job?”
“I assure you I have a real job that pays decently.”
“Okay. You get a pass this time, but if you hurt my sister...”
“Understood. Later.” He tossed the phone on his bed and scrubbed his hand over his face.
No, he wouldn’t intentionally hurt Janae, but he couldn’t see it ending any other way. Again, his best bet would be to stay away from her, but that was like asking him to stop breathing.
* * *
“I’m glad you decided to go shopping and to dinner with me tonight, Janae,” Karen said as they walked across the school parking lot toward the office the next morning.