He let out a single angry laugh. “Amazing, eh?”
“And tell me, Aubrey, what exactly is so amazing about working practically your entire life for one single moment and seeing it all go up in flames on the very first try? What is so amazing about being more famous for your failure than your success? You know what was so nice about this trip with you up until now? You didn’t see me as that guy that everyone thinks they know, and now you do.”
Shit. I’d really upset him.
“I’m sorry, but I wasn’t thinking those things at all.”
“What were you thinking then?”
“I was thinking about how wonderful it was that you could stand up proudly in the face of adversity and still make a name for yourself on your image alone. I was also thinking about how striking you are, if you really want to know. And I was wondering who that girl Piper was. I was curious about everything, yes, but not in a bad way. Not once did I think anything negative.”
Chance let out a long, deep breath and muttered, “Let’s just go.”
I felt so horrible for upsetting him and even though the internet was public, it somehow felt like I had invaded his privacy. More than anything, I felt like I had hurt him, and that hurt me, because whether or not I wanted to admit it, there was an unwanted ache in my chest. I could feel myself falling for him, and that scared me.
An uncomfortable silence clouded the air for the better part of an hour. The only time he’d move his hands from the wheel was to feed Esmerelda Snowflake pieces of hash brown patty dipped in cock sauce. Even the goat liked cock sauce.
At one point, he finally looked over at me. “I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“It’s okay. I’m sorry that I made you uncomfortable.”
“I probably would have done the same thing if I were you. It’s just…all the stuff online, it’s all bullshit. That’s not the way to get to know me. If you want to know something, just ask me. Those people that post shit don’t really know me.”
“I do feel like I know the real you.”
“You probably know more than most people. I’ve been nothing but myself with you from the moment we met. Even though I give you shit, I feel comfortable around you, and that’s rare for me.”
There was that feeling in my chest again.
“I feel the same about you, and I don’t really understand it. I just know I’m really glad that we crossed paths.”
He tapped the bobblehead. “Just think…if you’d never picked up Mr. Obama here, who knows where we’d both be right now?” He pointed to the backseat. “Where would this beast be right now?”
“Probably passed out on the side of the road.”
Chance glanced back at the goat. “Instead, he’s eating our food and sleeping with both of us. No thanks to me. It was all you.” He flashed a sexy side glance and startled me when he put his hand on my knee, triggering a sudden rush of desire. “You’re sweet. You have a good heart. That prick, Harrison, is gonna be sorry someday.” When he took his hand away, I longed for its return. What he’d said also sent shivers throughout my body. An indescribable feeling overwhelmed me. I didn’t know how to respond, so I turned on the radio. Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys happened to be on.
Chance turned up the volume. “Look at that! They’re singing about you and your magic wand, Princess.”
I covered my mouth in laughter, and we both cracked up. We’d finally broken through the earlier tension, and that gave me a sense of relief.
After we stopped for lunch and had driven for several more hours, Chance turned to me. “Are you in a rush to get to Temecula by a certain time?”
“I don’t start my new position for another week, and the house I’m renting is fully furnished, so not really. Why?”
“Care to take a little detour before darkness falls?”
“Sure. I’d be up for that. What do you have in mind?”
“Somewhere rock hard and deep.” He winked.
Well, that piqued my curiosity.
We parked the car near the perfect spot overlooking the steep rocky walls of the Grand Canyon. Its beauty was overwhelming.
“Oh my God, Chance. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of stopping here myself. I’ve always wanted to see it in person. It hadn’t dawned on me that it was right on our way. It’s so breathtaking.”
I looked over at him and saw that he’d been staring at me instead of out toward the majestic peaks.
“Yeah. It’s very beautiful,” he said in a low voice.
“Let’s take a picture.”
With the Canyon as the backdrop, Chance snapped a selfie of us with his phone. He then texted it to me so I’d have it. The snapshot came out so good. The sun was shining into the blue of his eyes, and we both looked so happy and at peace. It made me wish this moment could go on forever, that we never had to leave this place.
As we sat looking out into a blaze of red colors while the sun set over the panoramic scenery, Chance suddenly said, “Tell me about your family.”
“My mother lives back in Chicago. She wasn’t happy about me moving at all. I’m her only child. But ever since she remarried, I’ve felt like she hasn’t needed me as much. My father died a year after I graduated from law school, so at least he got to see me live out his dream, which was that I become a lawyer like him.”
“It was his dream, but not yours…” he said in understanding.
“No. It’s really not what I wanted.”
“What is your dream?”
“I just want to be happy and fulfilled, but I have no clue what that even means anymore or how to get there. So much is up in the air right now for me. I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my life.”
“That’s not the worst thing in the world. Sounds like a good time to find yourself, especially since no one is tying you down.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“Speaking of which, I think we definitely scared off Harry Balls for good.”
Our laughter at his comment caused an echo.
I stretched my arms and stared up at the sky. “You know what? I’m definitely happy right now. This—our little adventure—has been good for my soul.”
He flashed a sincere smile. “You have a good soul. I could see that about you straight away despite your little bitch façade. You know why you’re happy?”
“Because you’re finally loosening up.”
“I guess you took the stick out of my ass while I was sleeping in the tent last night then?”
“Yup. Burned it in the campfire.” He nudged me with his shoulder.
I smiled and changed the subject off of me. “What about your family? Where are they?”
Chance paused and scratched his chin. “Like you, I also lost my father. He died of pancreatic cancer a few years after my injury.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I just have one sister, Adele. She’s two years younger. With Dad gone, my mother and she decided to move back to the states, but I stayed back in Melbourne. I never planned to move back here with them, but Adele got into some really bad shit. She needed me. I had no choice but to leave everything there behind to come handle things here.”