Fall From Grace

By ChristineZolendz All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Other

Chapter 7

Unfortunately, I woke up Wednesday healthy and perfectly able to go on a date with Tucker. I was so entirely against it that Lea stayed home from work to spend the day being Tucker’s cheerleader. The more I tried to explain to her that I didn’t want to go on the date, the more disappointed she seemed; she was killing me.

Lea always had this fairy-tale delusion of us marrying best friends or brothers. We would go on double dates, be each other’s maid of honor and live next door to each other. She had an extensive map laid out of her life, with everything she had planned to do etched in with permanent marker. Little did she know that when people make plans for their lives, God just laughs and makes his own.

Lea whined continuously about giving Tucker a chance as she primped and prettied me up.

She dressed me in a dangerously low cut silver blouse that hugged my body like a glove. A pair of black stretch pants, so no buttons would be broken Lea reasoned, and my over the knee black leather boots. My long black hair fell in thick shiny soft waves and my eyes were smoky and sexy; a dangerous look for someone who really didn’t want to go on a date.

At 5:45, I was presented to Conner, who had sat in the living room for the last hour conspiring with Lea in telling me all the wonderful attributes of Tucker Bevli.

“Very hot,” Conner appraised me.

I stood in front of our full-length mirror. I groaned and leaned my head on his shoulder looking away. “You aren’t helping me at all.” I playfully punched him in the stomach. “I don’t want to date Tucker.”

Lea put her arm around my waist and turned me to face the mirror again. “You are going to go on this date, whether you like it or not. And you should let that insanely, rich, jaguar driving, Gucci wearing Greek god take you out more, and then you should pull the pole from up your ass and sleep with him.” Then she smacked me on the ass. Hard.

I watched myself in the mirror jump from the slap and laugh.

Five minutes later, Tucker texted me on my cell phone to tell me he was outside. He didn’t even come in to get me. Didn’t even call, just texted. Prince Freaking Uncharming. Strike one. I shook the thought and dragged myself outside to his waiting car.

I was assaulted by cologne when I opened the passenger side door for myself. Strike two. He slid close to me and pecked me on the corner of my mouth with a kiss, wetly. I clasped my hands together to stop myself from wiping it away. Strike three.

“Are you ready for the best date of your life?” he asked; eyes sparkling, hair gelled to the sky.

“Well, aren’t we filling me with expectations,” I laughed. “Best date ever? Will I get to rate it after on a scale of 1 to 10?”

He gave me a thoughtful look and then smiled, “Nah, just a typed up report on my desk by morning.” He laughed at his own joke.

“That would mean you’d have to make it worth writing about.” I was a bit intrigued by what he might think the best date of my life would be, certain that it would be the furthest thing from the truth. “The question I have is whether you are trying to impress me, make me happy, or just make yourself immortal?”

“Immortal? What, like you’re a vampire, I let you bite my neck and I’ll get to live forever with a beautiful woman like you. I would. In a heartbeat.”

I’d never met an ass like him before. Strike four. “No, immortal because I would write about you. Theoretically, writing about someone makes them immortal, because the words live beyond them, keeping them alive.”

“That doesn’t make sense, but any who, no. It would be impressing you and making you happy. Not that I wouldn’t love to be immortal. I can think of some situations where that can be really useful.”

He just said “any who.” What strike is this?

I laughed, “Oh, really?”

He sped down the street. Within two minutes, he was pulling up to Columbus Circle, right in front of The Time Warner Center. We could have walked there.

Noticing my puzzled look he purred, “I got reservations for Masa.”

I just stared at him. Blankly.

Tucker jumped out of the jaguar, ran around to my side of the car, and waited for me to open my door. Strike twenty-something. Maybe he’d break a nail if he had opened it for me? He hooked his arm around my waist and squeezed. “Masa, Grace! It’s the most expensive place to eat in Manhattan. It’s a two hour eating experience that you’re going to love!”

Inside was simple and elegant. We were escorted to an exquisite bar and our coats were taken as if we were family visiting. Noticing me without my coat, Tucker’s eyes filled with pride. His chest visibly puffed out and he glanced around the room. I hated it, and it made me feel dirty. Why should he feel pride from me?

A bottle of champagne was brought out for his approval; the staff called him by name. The champagne was poured. Tucker sipped his and motioned for me to do the same. It went down delicious and smooth; he smiled.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“It tastes lovely, thank you.”

“It’s Gaston Chiquet Brut 1er Cru 2002. It’s $150 a bottle. Drink as much as you want,” he winked. Oh, I fucking will.

Without ordering, we were served food. Sushi. Well, at least I had $150 champagne to fill me up. I think that someone should warn you before taking you to a sushi bar, since it might be nice for a person to be able to tell you they HATED SUSHI!

Toro, uni, aoyagi, sayori...I kept drinking to make myself not think about what I was eating.

“This place is beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked, leaning against the bar; eyeing me.

“Yes.” Does he know ANY other adjectives?

“So tell me about you,” he said.

“Like what?” I asked gulping my champagne.

“Where did you grow up, where’d you go to school? Stuff like that,” he explained.

I swallowed hard, champagne going right to my head. I could tell him everything; that would send him packing. It almost made Jacob leave me and he was my brother. Tucker wouldn’t believe me though; he wouldn’t even hear me. “I grew up in Belle Harbor, a block away from the beach. Lea and I lived next door to each other.” My knees started tingling from the champagne. “I’ve been to a couple of schools and I studied everything.”

“I was thinking,” he said, proving he did not intend to get to know any more about me. Sure, you were thinking. “Why don’t I see if there’s any room for an assistant in our office? I was thinking I could help you out, since you don’t have a job right now.” He smiled so wide, I noticed where all the sushi was stuck in teeth.

“Like a secretary? I don’t think that’s for me. But, thank you for thinking of me.” Another bottle of champagne came to the table.

“Nonsense. Grace, you need a job. My firm is the best place, and when I become partner you could be my personal secretary.” His eyebrows moved up and down.

I barked out a laugh that was a little too loud. “Nope. I’m good where I’m at right now, thanks.” More sips of champagne. Does this come with an IV?

“So what are your plans then?” he demanded. Condescending jerk.

“Just plan to keep breathing for now, that’s about it. Well, until I stop, that is,” I said laughing.

“Stop breathing? Don’t be silly. God, this shit is delicious!”

I giggled. He was absurd and I was getting tipsy.

“So am I making myself immortal?” The question caught me so off guard, I sucked in my breath loudly.

“I take that as a YES!” He fist pumped. YES! I just said he fist pumped! I needed to get the hell away from this spiked haired, sushi eating, fist pumping jackass as soon as it was humanly possible.

I choked on my words laughing. “Tucker being immortal would suck, even for you.”

“Bullshit!” He was getting drunk.

“Just think of everything you love and have now, slipping away from you. People you love getting sick, getting old, dying. Again and again. You wouldn’t be able to stand the sorrow.”

“Psf. I’d fuck a lot of girls. Ha. I’ll be like Shane and Alex.”

I shrugged, and then agreed. “Okay so immortality is good for having lots of sex. That’s about it. This is a dumb conversation.”

He spoke endlessly about the sushi, making it insanely hard not to picture myself eating the sushi. However, I stomached it, because he was holding the conversation quite well all by himself and I didn’t feel like talking to him any longer. He ordered another bottle of champagne.

After an hour of the torture, Tucker’s phone began ringing continuously; for fifteen minutes straight, until he shut it off, embarrassed. “Fucking assholes. Probably Shane or Alex trying to fuck up my date with you! They both wanna tap your ass.”

“You curse a lot when you’re drunk,” I smiled. “Tap what?”

“Your ass, Grace. I wanna tap your ass in this fucking bar,” he chuckled.

“No can do, there’s way too much sushi, it would be weird.”

My phone started ringing. I pressed my screen to see who it was. Lea. Something must have happened.

“Helllooo,” I sang.

“Grace?” Shane’s voiced echoed in my ears. There’s that butterfly again. What the hell is with the butterfly? Doesn’t he know I can’t let myself feel...human?

“Shane?”

“Where’s Tucker? He’s not answering his phone? Where are you?” Shane demanded.

I heard the phone being yanked out of his hands and I flinched, accidentally pressing down on the screen. Lea’s voice screamed through the restaurant. Whoops, speakerphone.

Seemingly humiliated by my loud conversation, Tucker tried to wrestle the phone out of my hands. His face was crimson and he looked like he was about to explode.

“What is wrong with you, Tucker? Give me my phone back!” I yelled, not caring who heard me in the restaurant. Lea and Shane’s voices were still on speaker, loudly screaming profanities to the entire restaurant.

Tucker drunkenly poked the screen of my phone five times to get it off speaker. Everyone in the restaurant waited to see what would happen next. He looked around wildly; his knuckles were white from squeezing my phone so hard. “You are embarrassing me!” he snapped.

I looked him dead in the eyes. “Give me my phone or I’ll give you something to really be embarrassed about.”

He immediately slid the phone across the table. I put it to my ear.

“Hello?”

“Grace, are you okay?” Shane’s voice asked.

“What’s going on, Shane?”

“We need Tucker. Alex needs a lawyer. He’s in Manhattan Central Booking.”

“Oh no, what happened. Oh, forget it, you can tell me later. But, I don’t think it’s a good idea that Tucker drives, and you might need to call his father if you want a lawyer who isn’t drunk.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Shane mumbled. “Where are you? I’ll come and get you,” he whispered.

“We’re eating sushi,” I explained as if that told him where to pick me up.

“Ew.”

“Tell me about it,” I laughed.

“So where would you be eating this sushi, exactly?” he asked.

“Just meet us at The Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle. Wait, how are you going to get us?” The phone clicked off.

I looked up at Tucker, irritation stirring in his eyes. “That was Shane. We have to pay the bill and go. He’ll be here to pick us up in a minute.”

“No fucking way. What the fuck is he picking us up for? This date isn’t over. I’m not done with you!” The irritation was now replaced with anger in his eyes.

Done with me? I was going to have to kick this boy’s ass to teach him how to treat a woman! “Alex is in Manhattan Central Booking. He needs a lawyer.”

His anger evaporated and his shoulders sunk low. “Shouldn’t have drunk so much.” He looked at me with sad eyes. “I’m sorry; this was such a great date.”

I walked to get my coat, laughing all the way. I tried to pay for half of the meal, but he wouldn’t allow me, telling me he had already prepaid for half of it and I wasn’t working, so I should be broke and coming to him for a job soon.

The cold air from standing outside sobered him up enough to call his father who agreed to meet with him and Alex. I stood on the street shivering, wondering what trouble Alex could have gotten into with two broken arms.

The squeal of the Jeep’s wheels as Shane rounded the corner woke me from my thoughts. He pulled up onto the sidewalk like a lunatic and jumped out of the car. Without saying a word, he opened the passenger side door, pulled the front seat forward and shoved Tucker in the car. He then took my hand, helped me into the front seat, and closed the door for me.

Shane climbed back into the driver’s seat and took off towards Centre Street, downtown. I stared at him while he drove. It’s completely ridiculous that someone should look so perfect or that he be allowed to drive my Jeep.

“What happened?” I asked to get my mind off of looking at him.

“Alex was out with that chick whose boyfriend jumped him. The boyfriend had roughed her up after the incident with Alex, and well, I think Alex went to the guy’s house and I guess he stood up to him.”

Tucker snapped into action in the backseat asking questions and making phone calls. I leaned my head against the cold window and sighed. On a scale of one to ten, I’d have rate the date a 0.

Traffic was light and we made it there within fifteen minutes. Tucker’s father was standing outside waiting on the steps.

Shane pulled up and opened his side of the car door to let Tucker get out. When Shane got back in and closed the door, Tucker made him open the window to talk to me. “Grace, I’m sorry. I know that this was one of the best nights of your life, so I’ll take you back to Masa whenever you’d like.”

Is he insane? One of the best nights of my life? I kept my voice calm, “Oh, we’ll have to talk about that, Tucker.”

Tucker gave me his sexiest smile. “I know, it was amazing. Grace, you’re amazing.” He tilted his head to Shane and nodded, “Thanks for taking her home for me, you’re a good friend.” He pounded his palm on the door, which made me want to scratch his eyes out. “Get her home safe, this big boy has gotta play superman!” he shouted, pointing to himself.

Shane pulled away and drove without saying a word. I kept my head against the cold glass. The tingly feeling that I had before was slipping out of my body and I found myself wanting to find a way to continue the mind-blowing numbness. Shane’s silence was making it worse.

After circling the block of my apartment five times, Shane finally found a spot and pulled in. We got out and he walked me to my apartment, but instead of going inside, I kept moving.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“I need to have a drink or few.”

“What? Now? Why?”

I looked down at my cellphone and saw that it was 8:30. I looked at him seriously. “That was just two and a half hours of my life that I will never get back. And in those two and a half hours, I have spent more time with a jerk, than all of my years on this earth.” I watched a small smile play on his face. “I am kind of hoping the rest of my night will be full of regretful behavior and irreversible decisions.” I stomped away from him, but he grabbed me by my arm, spinning me around to face him.

“What? So that wasn’t the best night of your life?” he asked with amusement in his voice.

“Shut up, Shane, go home!” I walked away.

He threw his arm around my neck and walked with me. “I think I need a night of watching you entertain me with your regretful behavior and your irreversible decisions.”

“Then we definitely need to call Lea to tell her and Conner to meet us at Boozer’s,” I said.

Shane looked down into my eyes. He was so close to me like this that it was hard to think straight. His whole body vibrated with sex appeal, or maybe that was me. Either way, I didn’t want to have any sexy thoughts about me and New York City’s Most Popular Man-whore and I wanted my best friend with me.

He must have read something on my face. “Grace, are you afraid of being alone with me?” He eyes widened and he took his arm off my shoulders. “Grace, I get it. You aren’t interested in anything with me. I’m not going to try anything, I promise.” He looked around and back to my eyes, running his hand through his hair. He took his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll tell them to meet us there.”

Boozer’s was crowded for a weeknight, as Shane and I meandered our way to the bar.

Shane introduced me to Ryan, the bartender, and told him whatever I wanted was limitless and he was paying. I eyed him suspiciously and took off my coat. When he saw me with my coat off, his mouth dropped open and he froze. His eyes smoldered, giving me a slow long once over from my eyes to my toes and back up again. He sucked his breath in, but said nothing. He looked awestruck, and I had no doubt that if I were any other girl in the world other than me, that look would have made me let him take me home.

“What would you like, Grace?” Shane asked me. I hesitated. I wanted to say to be someone else, at least just for tonight; but I couldn’t. I still had to find someone, someone who I’d been half a person without. “Tequila, please,” I whispered.

Shane tore his eyes off me, “Ryan, the woman wants Tequila. Line up the shot glasses, salt and limes, sir,” and he turned back to me with a wicked smile, “And let the regretful behavior begin!”

Everything was placed on the bar in front of me.

My eyes never left Shane’s as I slowly licked the back of my hand, salted it and licked it again. Lifting the shot, I tilted my head back and emptied the glass, and then sucked on the lime.

“My God,” he whispered.

I narrowed my eyes at him, “Why am I drinking alone?” I could feel a heat burn inside me.

A sexy playful smile crept across his face, “Oh, don’t worry, Grace, you’re not alone,” he said, as he slowly licked the back of his salted hand and devoured his drink.

I wanted to ask him if he could do that to me next. Please, Lea, get here fast before I do something I will regret.

“Holy Shots!” Lea screamed when she and Conner walked up to us, eyeing all the Tequila that was lined up. Oh, thank you God, she’s here!

“Lea!” I yelled, and hugged her tight. When I pulled her away, I said, “That, my friend, will be the last time that you will ever talk me into going on a date!”

Lea held up her finger, about to make a point and I grabbed it with my mouth and bit her. “Ouch!”

“Last time, Lea. It’s my messed up life and if I want to waste it, I will!” I ended the sentence with another shot that Shane had handed to me; his fingers brushing mine. My breath caught, his eyes noticed, and my cheeks flushed with heat. Crap!

Lea grabbed a shot off the bar, “Come on, Conner. Worst thing to do is let a friend drink alone, looks like I’ll be taking off again tomorrow!” She emptied her glass.

Four shots in, Shane grabbed my hand and nodded toward the dance floor. I smiled back; butterflies bursting in my stomach. I motioned for Lea and Conner to follow us.

Shane spun me around, facing me away from him, and grabbed hold of my waist. His fingers dug into the material of my shirt, pulling me closer to him. His touch made me lose my train of logical thought. All my coordination; out the window. I fell back against his body, he swayed my hips to the music; fire erupting deep inside me.

I tried to pull away from him. I wanted to run away from the heat; too afraid to get burned by the fire pulsating in my veins. My entire body ignored my thoughts; it just melted into him.

I glanced over to Lea and Conner for help, but received nothing but an impish grin from both of them.

Shane spun me back around to face him. A rush of exhilarated fear seared through me. I felt the heat of his hands through the thin material of my shirt. I wonder how it would feel with his hands on my bare skin. Oh, shut up, Grace, do not think about Shane like that! “Shane,” I gasped shaking my head at him.

His eyes were so intense. My God, he is sexy. Exquisitely tempting, but too dark and dangerous, just barely out of sight beneath the surface.

He tightened his grip around my waist, pulling me in closer. Burying his face in my hair, he whispered, “You’re killing me, Grace.”

I leaned away from him and frowned up at him.

“I know. I know, Grace!” His hands flew up into the air. “I have absolutely no chance at a night with you. I’m not trying to sleep with you. I’m just having fun, you smell awesome, you are inhumanly beautiful, and you’re making my heart beat overtime. Shots?”

I threw my head back laughing. “Shots!” I agreed.

Taking hold of Lea and Conner, we shoved through the dancing crowd to our waiting drinks. Four more shots. Numbness; the world was perfect, pure, and my life had meaning. I hadn’t died a thousand times over and my heart had not been ripped from my chest.

“Hey, you okay? I have to go pee, come with,” Lea demanded slurring.

I can’t even remember walking to the bathroom.

Standing in front of the faucet, I held my hands under the icy cold stream until they burned. Lea had gone into a stall and she was silent, very unlike her.

She walked out of the stall; slamming the door accidentally and giggled. She came over to the faucet beside me and washed her hands.

Noticing my hands were still under the stream, she shut off my faucet and handed me a clump of paper towels. She looked at me intently in the mirror. “What’s going on? What really happened with Tucker, besides Alex and his stupidity cutting your date short?”

I gave her a look, which I hoped said it all, but just to clarify, I added, “Let’s just say it was the worst date of my entire life. End of story.”

“And, what is going on with Shane out there? The way you guys were dancing, I thought, maybe...well, it just looked intense,” she said.

I cringed. It felt intense. It felt good, but there’s no way I could say that. “Lea, ever since I got here, there’s been so many intense moments that I feel like a rubber band about to snap.”

Lea grabbed my frozen hands and stared down wide-eyed at them. “Why do you do these things?” She rubbed my hands in hers to warm them. “You know, Grace, I haven’t really known Shane for long, but I can tell you he would be great for a one night thing and that’s it, he’s hollow when it comes to girls. But, damn is he sexy. Sometimes, I secretly wish I met him first, let him have his way with me, and then met Conner!”

We burst out into a fit of giggles, “Lea, I can’t.” Okay, so I was really trying to believe that.

“So what do you want?”

“Right now, I just want Jacob to be here to give me big hug and say, ‘I’m sorry that the entire male gender of our species sucks.’ But, more than that, I need another drink so I can forgot about everything for a little while.”

When we returned, Shane was sitting at the bar with a stunning blonde. A twinge of envy coursed through my body, but I washed it away with another drink. I watched as he leaned in, brushing her long golden hair off her shoulder and whispered into her ear. She ran her fingers though his hair and giggled, sliding closer against him.

I could be steadfast in the things I wanted for myself, but I would be lying to say that the passion and lust that Shane had in his eyes for me before wasn’t so very tempting. Although seeing him with this other women just proved the fact that I was nothing special. I knew down deep in my soul that I was special to the person I was looking for. Lea slid on the barstool next to me and laughed, “Do you see that? Girl, that could have been you! Just think, you gave up a night of ride ’em cowboy with Hottie McShane, for...” she looked at the empty barstool on the other side of me, “Oh, right. No one that I can see.”

The blonde stood up, taking Shane by the hand and she led him to the dance floor. She was all legs and cleavage.

They danced like they were the only two people in the room and I had to look away, wondering if I had looked like that just a few minutes before her.

Lea and I slammed down two more shots. We spun our stools around and scanned the dance floor. Shane was still dry humping the porn star, but his eyes were on me.

Another shot. I didn’t want to feel this. I had no right to feel this way. I didn’t want to think of myself as slighted, I didn’t want to wish to be someone else every second of every day. Right now, most of all, I didn’t want to have such a strong desire to be that blonde dancing with Shane. Not just for the fact of getting to spend a night with him, but also wanting to run away from my past. Just to spend even a small amount of time pretending I was normal.

I strolled past them, smiling and shaking my head. I needed to run some icy water over the back of my neck, the bar was spinning and I needed to try to ground myself. Then, I’m getting some fresh air. I walked into the back hallway, alone.

“Don’t fucking move and don’t fucking yell,” a man’s voice hissed into my ear, “Or I swear to God I will slit your fucking throat.”

I froze as I watched Shane and his new friend get lost in the dance crowd behind me from the corner of my eye. Did he see what was happening to me? “Okay,” I replied, feeling the sharpness of the knife at the nape of my neck. The fingers of his other hand dug into my arm. That’s going to leave a bruise.

“Move back, let’s go, just turn around.” He waved the knife in the air and pointed to a door near the bathroom.

He shoved me hard against the door; the hallway was spinning around me. I definitely should not have drunk so much. And, really why does stuff like this have to happen to nice girls when they hardly ever drink? Not fair.

He came up behind me, eased the door open and pushed me through.

Once he shut the door, he flicked on the light switch and turned the lock on the knob. I glared straight into his eyes. He stood tall and broad with short-cropped hair, his eyes so blue and bloodshot they looked almost purple. I vaguely remembered seeing him at the bar, somewhere in the background. He had a gold ring on his left hand finger, a tattoo of the name Sarah across his inner wrist. I could have belted out detail after detail, and illustrated every single inch of the man who was going to attempt to hurt me. A sliver of a thought flashed through my mind. Should I let this be the end? Isn’t this what I’ve wanted since the day I woke up in that hospital bed after the accident? An easy out of this life?

No. I wanted to see him again. Gabriel said to live this life of mine. If this were the end of it, it would mean that I’d have already found him and not known it. No. I decided to live this life.

“I like the way you dance, now I’m going to dance with you, I want to see what’s so hot about you,” he said. He bared his teeth back and tried to slam into me with all his weight. “I’m gonna break you in half, bitch.”

I chambered my open palm and thrust it straight up into his nose as he flew towards me. I heard a sickening crunch and smiled at myself. After hundreds upon hundreds of years, I definitely knew how to protect myself.

Blood poured out of his nose. “Oh yeah, bitch. You know I like it rough.”

His bloody hands tried to grab me, but they were too slippery. He threw himself at me instead, trying to wrestle me to the ground. I laughed at him.

I slammed my knee into his groin and clipped him in the nose again with my elbow.

“Grace!” I could hear Lea’s muffled screams in the hallway as she banged on the door. I could hear other screams along with hers and the sounds of someone slamming themselves up against the outside of the door. I kept my focus on my attacker, though. I didn’t want him to catch me off my guard. He was big; a lot bigger than me. If I hadn’t had so many centuries on this earth of learning how to protect myself, I would have definitely suffered the fate of so many young women today. As I sidestepped his attacks, I thanked God that I was the one who this brutal man had chosen to victimize. Any other girl at this bar would have probably gotten killed, but tonight this man would be surprised; there are girls who can fight back. Especially ones that have lived since the dawn of time.

“Get the hell off her!” Shane yelled after kicking through the door. Wooden splinters burst from the doorframe.

Before I could take my next breath, Shane ripped the guy away from me; pounding him in the face over and over. His eyes were wild.

The second Shane looked at me with concern, the guy leapt at him; stabbing the knife into Shane’s shoulder and pulling it back out. Shane shook his head stunned, steadied himself and moved in as the guy lunged to cut him again. Shane dexterously blocked the knife with his right hand and hammered the guy square in the chest with his other fist. The bloody knife splattered and bounced. The man crumbled to the floor like a rag doll.

Shane grabbed my face with his hands, pulling my eyes away from watching the blood flowing from his shoulder, to his eyes. “Grace, you okay? Did he hurt you? He had blood all over him when I came in. Where are you hurt?”

I grabbed Shane’s shoulder and applied pressure to it. I smiled up at him, “It was his blood, Shane. He didn’t hurt me.” Shane looked from the limp body slumped on the floor and back to me, his expression a mixture of relief and awe.

A dark look settled on his face. “Did he touch you? I swear to God, Grace, I’ll kill him right now.”

I placed my hand up to his face, laying it softly on his cheek. Even through my numbing drunkenness, I still felt the slow burning heat of him washing over me like crashing waves. “He never got the chance, you came.”

He looked down across his shoulder, smiling. “Grace, I just got stabbed to save you. Can I at least have a kiss as a reward?” He wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

I leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead.

His eyes met mine, laughing, “Wow. A peck on the forehead is the equivalent to being stabbed to you? No way! I’m going to milk this one! You owe me, big time!”

I slapped him in his arm, making him wince. “Shane, you could take your blonde bimbo home or me, and you wouldn’t know the difference. But, I do owe you,” I said, smiling. “I’ll think of something where I get to keep my clothes on.”

Everyone in the bar seemed to pile into the back room at that moment. The bouncers came in, the police were called and Shane was driven to Lenox Hill Hospital a few blocks away.

I sat in the waiting area of the emergency room being questioned by two uniformed police officers. They were kind and compassionate, so different from what you always heard was the clichéd stereotypical NYPD officer. They reiterated over and over how very fortunate I had been that Shane had come in when he did. They had been on many calls where it had been too late.

The blonde Shane had been dancing with, Brianna, sat across from me, biting her fake nails. She had ridden in the ambulance with him. The two police officers in a squad car escorted me, as if I was the criminal.

I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as her. I bet Shane didn’t even know her name. I couldn’t stop myself from the thoughts flooding through me as I watched her. Why would anyone let themselves be used by someone for one night, fully knowing that there wouldn’t be another? How low could this girl feel about herself that she still waited for Shane to take her home? Was it for the sole reason to elevate her status with her friends?

Conner and Lea arrived ten minutes later than we did, both mumbling about too many run-ins with the cops in one night. We all talked Brianna into calling a cab to head home, because we didn’t think Shane would be up for any more fun tonight.

After an hour, Shane strolled out into the waiting area with twenty-one stitches holding him together. He leaned his elbow onto my shoulder and smiled, “Were you worried sick about me?”

I rolled my eyes. “No, Shane. I knew your big fat ego would block the knife somehow.”

The four of us walked out of the hospital around midnight. Sharing a cab, we drove home in silence, the shadows of the city falling over us as we moved along the quiet streets. Lea and I were dropped off first and the guys would continue the cab ride to their apartment. The driver pulled in front of our building and I reached inside my jacket pocket for money, but the guys pushed the money away.

“Oh, Shane. I forgot to mention it, but Brianna wanted me to tell you to call her. We made her call a cab, sorry.” I looked to Conner and Lea, “We thought it would be longer, and well, she was annoying to stare at really.”

Shane’s eyebrows pulled together in confusion, “Who’s Brianna?”

It figures! I walked into the apartment laughing at myself for how jealous I had felt over someone Shane hadn’t cared enough about to ask her name.

Lea dropped her coat on the floor in the living room and threw herself on the couch. “Are you okay? Grace, that man almost... I mean, he stabbed Shane! That could have been you,” she whispered, rubbing the back of her neck in amazement. Her eyes welled up with tears.

I sat down next to her and put my arm around her shoulders. “It’s okay now, I’m okay and Shane’s fine.” I gave her a weak smile.

She brought her hand to her mouth, “I don’t know what’s more unbelievable, Alex getting arrested tonight, you getting attacked or Shane being a hero!” She sighed and gave me a perplexed look. “And, why in the world did you go to the bathroom solo? That’s like, completely against the girl code or something.”

I just shrugged. “I needed to get some air.”

Lea looked at me through squinted eyes. “Why do I feel like you’re not telling me something?” She sat upright on the couch and leaned forward, closer to me.

My cell vibrated and started ringing the blaring alarm sirens I programmed into it, making us both jump. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I did not want her thinking that Shane had gotten under my skin while I was drinking.

“Gray, you need to change that ringtone. It scares the crap out of me every time I hear it. Who is it, anyway?”

I grabbed my coat off the coat rack and fumbled through the pockets. Touching the screen, I saw a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer.

“Who was it?”

“I didn’t recognize the number,” I said. “Well, whoever it is, it has to be a wrong number. The only person who would call me this late is you.”

My voicemail rang. Lea looked at me expectantly. I sighed heavily. If she wasn’t standing there waiting, I would probably not even check the message and just go right to bed.

I touched the little voicemail icon on the screen and placed the volume on speakerphone so she could listen. She’s the one that wanted to hear it anyway.

Shane’s low raspy voice echoed into the room. “Grace, it’s Shane. Give me a call back, tonight. Doesn’t matter what time.” There was a few seconds of silence and then, “Call me or I swear I’ll ring this phone all night.” He chuckled and clicked the phone off.

Lea shook her head and giggled. “Gray, he’s not going to let up. He’s going to want payback for saving you. A lot more than a little peck on the forehead.”

“He is going to be relentless, isn’t he?” I asked laughing. Why was I feeling a little happy about this?

She nodded, “Gray, the entire population of women in the Tri-State Area would kill to have Shane Maxton call their cell and give them the attention he’s giving you right now. He’s not used to girls not being affected by his charming ways,” she laughed.

“I don’t get how anyone can find him charming. It’s all just about how he looks, I don’t really see too much of a personality there.”

Lea tilted her head, “Shane’s really cool when you get to know him. I’ve had a ton of heart to heart talks with him. He’s really smart and talented. I think he just got his heart broken once and he’s just protecting himself.” She yawned loudly, “There’s a lot more to Shane than meets the eye, but he’s definitely not someone who you could have more than a short fling with, it’s not in him. Unless, maybe...”

“Don’t even think another thought. I agree, Shane is um, very tempting, but I’ve been saving myself so long for something that is so much better than Shane. I will not let myself be led off my path. So stop it. Please.”

My phone exploded with sound again. I touched the screen to see Shane’s number staring back at me, again. I fingered the answer icon. “What do you want, Shane?” I asked.

“Who is Brianna?” he asked.

Lea made stupid goofy faces at me, a few obscene hand gestures, and called it a night. I listened to his breathing on the phone as he waited for my answer.

“Um, the stunning blonde you picked up at the bar and danced with,” I replied, walking into my room. “She went in the ambulance with you, Shane. How could you not know who I’m talking about? Anyway, why are you calling me and asking about it. More importantly, who gave you my number so I can plot their slow death?”

“Oh, man. I thought her name was Lori,” he laughed. He seemed to hesitate for a few moments, as if he was trying to formulate his next sentence carefully. “Did you get upset when I was dancing with her?”

I leaned the phone on my neck and started undressing. Rummaging through my drawers, I found the only clean sleepwear, a tiny tank top and matching panties. Thank God, Conner wasn’t staying over tonight, I desperately needed to do laundry. “Shane, why in the world would I care if you danced with someone? Is that why you called me?”

He chuckled which irritated me to no end. “No,” he sighed the word. “I just wanted to see how you were doing. It’s not every night that someone attacks you, right?” Not in this lifetime, anyway. Hold on. Is this his attempt at being sincere?

“I’m absolutely fine, exhausted, but fine.”

He suddenly sounded remorseful, “I programed your number into my phone when I called you on Lea’s phone looking for Tucker. I didn’t think you’d mind.” His tone lifted immediately, “I was about to grab something to eat and then go to bed, what are you doing?”

I exhaled slowly. I didn’t want him to think I was about to jump and get something to eat with him if I said I was hungry and about to get something to eat myself. “I’m climbing into bed right now,” I yawned and sank into my cool cotton sheets.

“Oh.” I could hear him smiling at me through the phone. He never lets up, does he? “That’s a thought that’s going to last me all night.”

“God, Shane! Shut up! Why does everything have to be sexual with you? Have you seriously never had a platonic friendship with a female before?”

He laughed his low raspy laugh. “No, not really. Lea maybe, but she doesn’t count. She belongs to Conner and he’s my buddy. Before that, it’s been a long time.”

“Shane, I went on a date with Tucker and you still flirt like crazy with me!” I said exasperated.

“Grace. Don’t you get it? I’m really trying to do this platonic thing here.” He sighed, “I just called to see if you were okay about what happened before.”

Yeah, sure and I’ll buy that bridge you’re selling me right now, do you take credit or cash? “I’m okay, Shane. Thank you very much for helping me to kick that guy’s butt. Oh yeah, and getting in the way of the knife.”

“Yeah, when I think back on it now, it looked like you were doing fine by yourself. I just saw all the blood on the guy and I thought he hurt you. I went crazy. How did you fight that guy back? He was like five times your size.”

I giggled. Yes, I giggled like a schoolgirl. I’m such an idiot. “I had an older brother who taught me how to protect myself.”

“You had a great older brother.”

I smiled. “One of the best.”

There was a hesitation again. Then he took a deep breath and asked, “Why didn’t you have a good time with Tucker? I figured you didn’t like him, but I don’t understand why you went on a date with him.”

I yawned again. “Lea forced me to go on the date. She has this warped vision of us marrying best friends or brothers or something.” I sighed heavily, “Tucker is nice enough, but he’s just not my type.” I did not want to get into this with Shane.

“And you type is?”

“Not Tucker.”

We stayed on the phone until six the next morning, talking about everything and anything. Nothing got too personal, and nothing even remotely provocative. He spoke to me about his music, his songs, and his words. I could have listened to him for another lifetime and then some more. We stayed talking until my phone’s battery was beeping that it was about to die. I appreciated the effort he was making to try to be a friend, I accepted the fact that it was a leap for him, but I was not caving in anytime soon and I hoped he realized that. He never again mentioned that I owed him anything for saving me, but I think that it was unusual for him to lift a finger for anyone else besides his friends. He was more shocked than anyone that he’d done it. I knew in my heart at the end of our conversation that I did need to repay him in some way.

When I sat up groggy the next day at three in the afternoon from the most exquisite dream I’d ever had; I knew exactly what I needed to do. My unconscious mind had conjured up a sleep filled with me playing music, alone in never ending rapture. I was going to audition for Shane’s band. It would only be six weeks until Alex’s casts would come off and then I could go about my own way. I wasn’t sure if there would be more trouble in store for Alex after his arrest, but I figured on the court system in the city to draw out any trials for years to come. Alex most likely spent the night in jail and would be out the next day with only a desk appearance to show up to. I guessed that in six weeks when his casts were off, he wouldn’t still be in jail or anything and he could just jump back in the band again.

The truth was that after listening to Shane play and listening to him on the phone, I wanted to play with him. Besides, this would be my way of thanking him for what he had done and I would be fully clothed while I did it!

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