It was a scorching hot afternoon, and I took off my t-shirt to wipe the sweat that was dripping from my forehead. I had unloaded eight trips worth of cedar into Aubrey’s backyard in the ninety-degree heat. As I closed up the rear gate to my pickup, a woman who passed by frequently stopped to speak to me.
“Hi. I’m Philomena.” She had on one of those short white tennis skirts, knee high rubber rain boots and a skin tight, low cut tank top. The sky was blue, and it hadn’t rained for days. My eyes dropped to her cleavage; you couldn’t help but notice. She had some major knockers.
“Chance.” I nodded.
She lifted her hand, which was in a cast, to gesture down the street. “I live down the block, Chance. I’ve been watching you out here for a week. I was wondering if you’d like to do me?” She was propositioning me to mow something, but it definitely wasn’t her lawn. It had been two years; looking was a given, but I had zero interest.
I caught her eye. “Thank you. But I only do Aubrey.”
“Lucky woman. You’ve really…added some curb appeal to the place.”
I looked back at the once drab bungalow. It was looking pretty good now. “Thanks. They’re princess flower bushes.”
“I wasn’t talking about the gardening.”
I tried to change the subject. “Hope you didn’t injure your hand too badly.”
“I tripped over my pig in the middle of the night. It’s just me and him. He’s the man of the house.” She winked, walking away and tossed back over her shoulder, “If you change your mind, my house is number 41. Stop by. Anytime.”
Later that night, I was recapping my day to Carla Babes when my phone vibrated on the bar. I had texted with Adele earlier and expected the text to be from her again. I was thrilled as shit to find it was from Aubrey.
Aubrey: Your photograph was removed from the website today. I also negotiated compensatory damages.
Chance: Wow. That’s great. You’re good.
Aubrey: I’m good at my job. You’ll need to sign a release. I also have some changes to suggest on the contract.
Chance: Where are you? I can come by now.
Aubrey: Come by my office tomorrow at 9:30.
Chance: I’ll bring our coffees.
The vibrating stopped, and I thought it was the end of our conversation. A minute later my phone danced on the bar, and my heart danced right along with it. It’s pretty amazing what can give you hope when you’re desperate to find some.
Aubrey: Are you building a pen for Pixy?
Chance: I am.
Aubrey: He’s going to love it.
My phone went quiet after that, but I didn’t give a shit. I had a date with Aubrey in the morning.
Green was my new favorite color. It was obvious Aubrey fancied it herself, seeing as it was the second time she’d worn a green blouse since I started my stalking routine. The dark color made her skin look creamy, and the green in her eyes reminded me of Peridot—my mum’s birthstone. It was a double hit, thinking of Mum and realizing I’d missed two of Aubrey’s birthdays.
I cleared my throat and spoke, “You look beautiful.”
“Did you hear a word I said?”
I hadn’t actually. I was too busy undressing her with my eyes to concentrate. God, what I wanted to do to her. The desk was making it impossible to focus. She was sitting behind it, but all I envisioned was her ass on top of it with my head buried between her legs. Our eyes locked, and she saw what I was thinking.
“Don’t.” Her eyes were pleading, and she held up a hand. But I needed to push today.
“We need to talk, Aubrey.”
“No. We don’t. I’m at work, and this is a business meeting. That’s why Kelly is here.” She motioned to the receptionist who was again sitting next to me. If Aubrey thought I was above spilling my guts in front of Kelly, she misjudged my level of desperation.
“So see me after work. See me for breakfast. See me at two in the morning. I don’t give a shit where or when. Just see me, Aubrey. We need to talk. We both need to set things straight.”
“I’m already straight. And I’ve decided our time together will be limited to this office.”
We stared at each other for a minute. The only one to flinch was poor Kelly. She fidgeted in her seat like she needed to go to the bathroom. Finally, I broke our standoff. “Alright, Aubrey. Then you leave me no choice.”
“What are you taking about?”
“We’re going to have our conversation right here and right now then.”
Aubrey stood and folded her hands over her chest. “We are not!”
I rose and joined her, mimicking her posture. “Yes. We are.”
Kelly’s voice was apprehensive. “Would you like me to leave?”
Aubrey and I answered at the exact same time. Only I said yes and she shouted no.
Kelly stood, then sat back down when Aubrey glared at her.
“Where shall we start then, Aubrey? Since Kelly here doesn’t know the whole story, maybe we should start with the last time we were together with a desk in the room?”
Aubrey’s eyes flared.
I turned to speak to Kelly. “Have you ever been to Las Vegas? There’s a hotel on the—”
“You can go, Kelly.” She didn’t need to be told twice. Kelly darted out of the room and closed the door behind her. I’d need to remember to thank her for that on my way out.
“Why are you doing this, Chance?” She tried to keep stern, but her voice cracked.
“I just need you to hear me out. I’ll leave you alone if you want me to after that. I give you my word.”
“Your word?” she scoffed.
“Fifteen minutes. That’s all it will take.”
That sass. I couldn’t help but smile. “Fine. Ten. Can we sit?”
Reluctantly, Aubrey sat down. I’d been waiting for more than two years for this moment, yet suddenly I didn’t know where to begin. So I started where the story did.
“Do you remember I told you about my sister, Adele?”
“I told you she went through a rough patch. But I left out just how rough things really got.”
Her face softened slightly. I blew out a rush of air and raked my fingers through my hair. There was a burn running from the pit of my stomach up through my throat. Time didn’t ease what had happened one bit. I could have been having this conversation with the detective two years ago. The words were just as hard to get out. “Adele was raped.”
Aubrey’s mouth dropped open, and her hand flew to her chest.
“I wasn’t there for her. She got mixed up with a bad crowd.”
“I’m so sorry. Is she okay?”
I smiled thinking of my sister the other day. Wearing a damn bun in her hair. “Yeah. She’s doing pretty well now.”
Aubrey nodded. “So that’s why you left?”
“Yes. But there’s more.”
“It’s a long story. But the police were having trouble finding the guy, and I did some things.”
“What kind of things?”
I held her eyes as I spoke the next part. “I beat a man until he told me where I could find the guy who’d attacked my sister.”