Dealing with Pilar yesterday afternoon had been nothing short of exhausting. Like a chicken shit, I’d made Levi stay at my office so I wouldn’t have to face her alone. Not that I’m particularly scared of the woman—though Levi reaffirmed after she stormed out that she was indeed mean as hell—I wanted a witness to the madness that was Pilar Vasquez.
When I told her I didn’t have the laptop after all, she’d ranted, she’d threatened me, she waved her fist in my face, and she tried to grab hold of my shirt. That’s where I drew the line, telling her she’d better keep her hands off me because though I didn’t hit women, she was pushing her luck.
My threat barely fazed her. The woman is out-and-out nuts. And hell bent on taking all of her rage out on Lily.
I didn’t reveal I knew what was on that laptop, the incriminating evidence. I kept my lips shut about that and told her I’d grabbed Lily’s bag, mistakenly thinking the laptop was inside. I only discovered the laptop was missing once I was mid-flight.
The skeptical look she gave me called a silent bullshit and she accused me of being a total moron. Wanted her money back, so I told her I would credit her fees immediately. I’d rather take the loss than be responsible for whatever trauma she inflicts on the Fowler family.
I yank my cell out of my sweatshirt pocket and check the time. Almost eleven. Where the hell is Lily? I saw her leave earlier, practically running out of the building with her hair wet and up in a bun on top of her head, wearing jeans and an oversized black sweater, a giant purse hanging off her arm.
My mouth went dry at first sight of her.
I’ve seen her in a skimpy bikini, in a sexy dress, in shorts and a tank top, naked … many, many times naked, but nothing beats seeing Lily for the first time after not seeing her for days. I felt like a starving man who just caught sight of his first meal. I didn’t realize how much I missed her until she passed right by me, not paying attention to her surroundings, the sound of her heeled boots as she went striding by loud on the sidewalk.
It was easy to fall into step behind her. The sidewalks were crowded, and she was so intent on getting to her destination she never looked back once. Never seemed to feel my presence, which left me strangely disappointed.
Stupid but true.
She entered a bakery a few blocks away from her building, a pregnant woman who had similar features hugging her close when she walked inside.
Her sister. Rose.
They sat a table in the front of the bakery, right by a window. Dangerous as hell. What if Pilar already had someone on the case, spying on her? She was a sitting target, and I yearned to go inside and protect her.
I didn’t. I didn’t move from my spot. Oddly fascinated with watching her talk to her sister, though the usual spark that lit Lily from within was gone. Rose devoured a cupcake while Lily picked at her muffin. My girl looked sad, distracted, worried, upset. My heart ached to go to her and offer her comfort.
But I’d guess she’d rather smash my face in than let me near her.
The sisters remained in the bakery for more than an hour, until the place was pretty much empty save for the occasional person walking in for a cup of coffee to go or picking up a bag of pastries. I loitered outside the entire time, pacing back and forth, going across the street, trying my best to be unobtrusive. I didn’t want Lily to notice me.
I decided to hightail my ass back to her building when I saw them gather up their trash. It was time for me to talk to Lily but from within the confines of her apartment, no matter how apprehensive I was over how she’d handle seeing me again. Does she realize I stole her laptop? She has to. And will she listen to me when I want to talk to her?
Probably not. But I have to at least give it a shot. I need to tell her she’s in danger.
I need to tell her that I’m sorry. That I miss her. That I hate myself for what I did. I need to beg for her forgiveness and ask for another chance. I want to tell her that I need her in my life, that I can’t give up on her, on us, though I know she probably hates me.
Closing my eyes, I shake my head and breathe deep, her scent invading my senses and making my head spin. I hope to God she listens to me. Don’t know what I’ll do if she doesn’t.
Within minutes I hear the key in the lock turning and then the door opens, her boots clicking on the smooth wood floor. She closes the door and locks it, and I’m thankful. My need to take care of her, watch over her, grows every time I so much as catch a glimpse of her. If she hadn’t locked the door right then and there, I might have blown my cover.
I hear the clank of her keys landing on a table or in a dish, I can’t tell which, and she sighs as she yanks off her boots. I hear them land on the floor with a plop. I glance around her bedroom and peek into her closet, thinking I could hide inside it, rearing back when I see the interior.
It’s fucking huge. Majestic. As big as my living room and kitchen combined in my tiny apartment, maybe even bigger. Clothes and shoes everywhere, and there are shelves for her purses, scarves, jewelry …
Holy hell, this woman has a lot of stuff.
I shut the closet door, deciding it’s best I wait for her in her bedroom, out in the open. I don’t want to scare her. But I don’t want her to throw something when she first sees me, either.
She’s moving about the apartment; I can hear her. I wait for her to come to her bedroom and then she’s here, inside her room. Standing in front of her dresser and taking off her hoop earrings, setting them carefully in a small dish.