Seven Years Ago
For the second time in less than a half an hour, the hotel TV shuts off, and I have to hold down the power button on the remote until pain shoots up my thumb to coax it into flickering back on.
“Piece of crap,” I complain, flinging the oily remote onto the bed.
Out of all the places in the country that I could have gone to get away from Atlanta, I’d driven to Livingston, Texas. And out of all the hotels where I could have spent the night, I picked the same discount inn that I stayed in a year and a half ago, when I tagged along with my brother’s band as they toured a bunch of bars in the Southwest.
Of course, deep down I know the exact reason why I altered my route and decided not to go to New Orleans. I’d taken the sentimental route. I’d come to the place where I spent some of my happiest moments just before diving blindly into a relationship—and a hastily followed marriage—to someone I barely even knew.
Liz Phair’s Extraordinary blasting at full volume startles me from my thoughts. I twist my head toward my phone, which is lying facedown beside me on the full-size bed. Scooting up into a sitting position, I grab the Motorola and groan when I see my brother’s name blinking rapidly on the display. He’s been calling for the last several hours to check up on me, ignoring all of my requests to leave me the hell alone.
“Lucas,” I answer. I jab a button on the TV remote, muting the sound of Veronica Mars, even though the damn television is probably going to give out at any moment anyway. “I’m fine. Please . . . stop.” There’s a harsh edge to my voice, and he sucks in a breath that’s just as sharp.
“I’m f**king worried. You and Brad are completely done—that’s a good thing, because I couldn’t stand that shithead—but then you leave? And you go to Texas?”
I sift my fingers through my long black hair and let it cascade over my right shoulder. Why did Lucas have to overanalyze everything? Didn’t he have his own relationship with his crazy ass wife, Samantha, to fuss over?
“I’m not a kid, you don’t need to take care of me. Don’t you have Sam and Falling Anarchy crap to deal with?” Like always, I cringe when I say his band’s name. It’s the worst I have ever heard, and I’ve been bugging them for a couple of years to change it.
“Are you f**king kidding me, Kylie? You’re barely 19. I’ll always want to take care of you—you understand that?” When I grumble that I do, he adds, “Besides, Mom and Dad are freaking out, too.”
I work the inside of my upper lip between my teeth and glower up at the water-stained ceiling. Of course, he’d bring our parents into this and make me feel worse. Lucas knows I never want to let them down, and it’s a low move on his part. But what else is new? “Tell them I love them, and that I’ll call them in the morning, okay?”
Just as I’m about to flip the phone shut and abruptly end the call, Lucas says smoothly, “Wyatt’s worried, too.”
Squeezing my eyes together, I shake my head. Why does my brother have to be such a sneaky, traitorous ass? “You told him I left?”
“He was with me when Brad called looking for you. He was—” Lucas begins, but I don’t hear the rest because there’s a piercing knock at my door. It’s rhythmic, and it takes me a second to realize that I know this beat. I know it well, in fact. It’s Send The Pain Below.
A year ago, in this same hotel, I had Chevelle playing on repeat when Wyatt McCrae snuck into my room. The CD was still spinning when he left early the next morning, well before the rest of the band woke up.
There’s another knock—the same Chevelle beat. I rub my suddenly sweaty palms on the comforter. “But apparently, you took the initiative to tell him which hotel he could find me at.”
My brother makes a frustrated noise. “Now, Kylie—”
But Lucas’s explanations and all around bullshit will do nothing but make matters worse at the moment.
“I’ll call you back.” I hang up on him before he has a chance to argue with me. There’s no winning against my brother—there never has been. Since he’s bound to call me back I hold my thumb down on the End button until the phone powers off.
My breath comes out in heavy, short bursts, but I will myself to calm down as I push myself off the bed and pad across the dingy brown carpet. The moment I open the door, Wyatt sags against the doorframe and exhales. That same magnetism that drew me to him a year ago—that made me tell and show him things about myself that make me flush— vibrates through my veins once again.
I take a hesitant step forward.
“You’ve divorced that motherfucker?” he asks, running the palm of his hand over the top of his short, dirty blonde hair. He drags his hand down his face and shakes his head to each side before training his vivid blue eyes on me. “Please tell me that Lucas wasn’t shitting me.”
Stepping aside, I silently let Wyatt in, pressing my back up against the wood to slam the door shut once he’s inside of my cramped room. Now that I’m facing him, I try to drop my gaze to the strip of carpet between us, but he tucks his finger under my chin, stopping me.
“Ky, did you really leave him?” he repeats.
“Yeah.” I force a hoarse laugh, and he lets his head fall back in relief. “Looks like I did. Turned out he was just as toxic as you.”
Wyatt’s mouth drags down into a frown. On him, even something so sour is beautiful, and it nearly yanks my heart right out of my chest. “Looks like I’m your toxic sequel then, huh?”