I was on my fourth drink. The numbness and slow brain function were a godsend. I was tired of thinking. Tired of feeling.
“Hey, baby.” A blond frat boy with a goatee and popped collar placed his hand on the bar, caging me in. “Why don’t I buy you another and you can tell me if the carpet matches the drapes.”
I rolled my eyes. Like I hadn’t heard that before. “Run along.” I waved my hand, dismissing him. I didn’t need a lot of words to convey a message. Something I had picked up from Adam.
I placed my now-empty glass on the bar, pushed past the prick, and walked out front where Megan had said she’d be.
As soon as I walked into the chilly Chicago night, the fall breeze blew over me, pricking my skin. Thank God the alcohol was warming me from the inside out.
“Hey, Brian will be here to meet us in a few minutes,” Megan said as she looked down the street.
“I think I’m going to go home.”
“What? You sure?”
“Okay, just let me call Brian.” Megan pulled her cell out.
“No, you two stay out and have fun.”
“There’s no way I’m leaving you, Kate.”
“Our apartment is right there.” I pointed, because we could literally see it two blocks down the street. “I’m just going to walk back. Tell Brian I said hi.”
Megan opened her mouth to argue further, but I cut her off. “I love you, Meg. But I just…I need some time to myself. To gather my thoughts. It’s a short walk. I’ll be fine.”
She looked me over. “I understand needing space,” she sighed. “I just worry about you. I don’t mean to be smothering.”
She squeezed my hand. “I may go home with Brian and stay at his place tonight, so don’t wait up.”
“Okay. Have fun.” I smiled and turned to walk down the street. I knew Megan would stay outside and watch me the entire way. This area was well lit, and plenty of people were out. I reminded myself that I was a grown woman, and could walk two blocks by myself. I didn’t know if it was the newly found motivation or the alcohol that inspired me, but I yanked my cell out of my back pocket and did the thing I had been too afraid to do for the past four days.
I called Adam.
He answered after the first ring. “Katelyn. What’s wrong?”
My words stuck to the back of my throat. This was a bad idea. I knew it, yet I didn’t hang up. “Why do you assume something’s wrong?”
“Because it’s one o’ clock in the morning.”
I took a heavy breath. “Yes, something is wrong. You didn’t call. I’m sure that typical one-night stands don’t require a phone call, but I’ve been racking my brain as to why I care. Why this bothers me so much.”
“You’re drunk,” he stated.
“And you’re an ass**le. I’ve fought with myself for days. I’ve even convinced myself that I’m in the wrong because I knew what this was going into it. But you know what? It wasn’t just the sex or you leaving that stung the most. It was everything you did before that.”
“And what was that?”
His voice was calm, deep, and mine was starting to get louder. “You pretended to care.” I ran my free palm down the side of my face. “You messed with my emotions on purpose.”
“Damn it, Katelyn. You didn’t tell me you were a virgin!” His tone made me jump. Embarrassment flash-flooded my entire body.
“I—I didn’t know that there would be…blood. I didn’t mean to gross you out.”
“I wasn’t grossed out. I was surprised. Jesus, the way I treated you…” He exhaled loudly. “You should have told me.”
“What difference does it make?”
“A big f**king difference! I—”
My eyes went wide. Adam never stuttered. He always sounded totally confident and assured. Now, anger and frustration coated every word. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Katelyn.”
Tears stung the backs of my eyes like annoying little bees. I wouldn’t be weakened. I wouldn’t be that sad, terrified little girl who just wanted to be loved—to be wanted. I would not let him know that the last four days had been like living inside a lightless, depressing hole.
I wanted to fight. To be mad and tell him that he had no power over me—even though he did. “Well, you did hurt me, just not in the way you think.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m walking home.”
“What? You’d better not be by yourself. Tell me that Megan is with you.”
A sharp stab of rage boiled over. “I’m not a child. I can walk two blocks by myself!”
I hung up the phone. I was so sick of it all. Sick of being pitied, sick of feeling like half a person. The call with Adam hadn’t made me feel any better. Of course, the alcohol churning in my gut wasn’t helping either. I looked both ways before crossing the street.
I finally reached my building and rounded the corner toward the front entrance. I gasped in shock. “You’ve got to be joking.”
Adam paced near the front door and when he saw me, bolted toward me.
“How the hell—”
He didn’t slow down until I was against him. Breath knocked from my lungs as he wrapped those strong arms around me.
“You said you were two blocks away from your home. Which is also a couple of blocks from my office.”
“You were at your office?”
He nodded. I noticed that his five o’clock shadow looked more like ten. He must have skipped a day shaving. He was in jeans, plain black shirt, and leather jacket. It just wasn’t fair for one man to be that gorgeous and dangerous looking. His McLaren was still running and parked right in front of my complex.
“Come with me.” He motioned to his car.
“I can’t.” I used the most authoritative tone I could muster.
“We need to talk, Katelyn. Get. In.”
I pulled away from him and put a good three feet between us. Crossing my arms over my chest, I pursed my lips.
“You want to hash this out here, then?” He stepped closer, shoving all that masculine swagger into my personal space.
I glared at him.
“I can see in your eyes that you have much more you want to say to me.”
That was true. I did. I wanted to scream and yell and hit him. Then I wanted to kiss him.
“There are a few things I’d like you to hear from me as well.”