My contact with Dax was few and far between. Knowing my schedule so well, he’d call about information on my case while I was at work or during my busy times of the day. He was playing phone tag and winning. But ever since Riley had become aware of my situation with the escaped convict that I shared a link to, he’d spent all of his free time with me. I loved that he cared so much about my safety, but part of me felt like I couldn’t breathe.
“Do you want anything to eat?” Riley called from the kitchen of his inner-city apartment that he shared with his two roommates.
“I’m okay, thanks.” I said, flipping a page in the romance novel I had started.
There was no other woman for me. She was everything. The wind, the soil, the sun. Her voice was like liquid gold against my eardrum. But alas, as the closer to loving me she grew, the more she would grow further. I tried to love her slowly, I tried to love her fast. But she never loved me to the end - her heart belonged to another.
Riley popped something into the microwave before plopping down on the couch cushion beside me. I smiled gently before my eyes returned to the words on the pages in front of me.
“I know I’ve been a little overbearing...” Riley chuckled, biting his lip softly.
“No...” I said, a little too unconvincingly as I watched him grimace.
“I just really care about you, Janie. We’ve been going out for two months now and I feel sure enough of myself, of us, to say this and mean it-”
“I love you, Janie.” He took my hand in his. “You don’t have to say it back yet, I just thought you should know, especially when so much is going on in your life right now.” My stomach twisted and turned at his words. We sat in silence for awhile. “Say something. Please.” He fiddled with his fingers in his lap. My heart clenched.
“I really care about you Riley, that means so much to me.” I pulled him into a tight hug, burying my face in the crook of his neck. His arms slowly wrapped around me, his thumb rubbing softly against the exposed skin below my lifted shirt. Riley pulled me into his lap, my legs now cradling his waist as he continued to rub my back. Closing my eyes, I sighed in comfort, feeling almost sleepy. Suddenly his hand lifted, trailing up the length of my spine until it landed on my baby blue Nike sports bra. His fingers first smoothed over the fabric before attempting to slip inside. Something inside me snapped and I jumped to the other side of the couch.
“Um, Riley-” I breathed, my hands shaking. “I can’t.” Riley’s jaw clenched for a moment before he nodded.
“Okay,” He mumbled, looking at the clock suddenly. “I’ll take you home.” The car ride was silent; neither of us speaking until he pulled up in front of my house. “I’ll call you later.” He said, staring straight ahead at the road. I nodded and silently left the vehicle. His car sped away and I felt relieved with his absence. Without realizing, my head automatically turned to my neighbor’s home. Dax came into view as he stepped out of his car. Black hair slicked back, tattoo covered muscles showing from the grey v-neck tee he was wearing, lips in a furrowed straight line. A woman followed suit, silky black hair falling down the length of her back, long jean clad legs and a white blouse fitted to every curve of her body. She was breathtaking. My heart seemed to plummet as I watched the pair turn to the sight of me.
“U-Uh, hey.” I waved awkwardly, biting my lip. Dax looked between the girl and me, obviously unsure of what to do. The woman’s eyes were dark brown and warm, her tanned skin glowing in the sunlight of the afternoon.
“Hola, mi nombre es-” The girl began to speak.
“Jane, this is-” Dax put his hand on the woman’s shoulder and I flinched.
“It’s fine, I get it.” I smiled halfheartedly. Dax shook his head and took another step forward.
“Jane, this is my sister; my twin sister.”
“Dalila.” She smiled from behind Dax, waving shyly. I blinked between the two of them, just now recognizing the similarities.
“Oh, wow.” I breathed out, feeling stupidly embarrassed. “I’m Jane.”
“Jane.” Dalila looked at Dax and then back to me. “I’ve heard about you.” My cheeks flushed as she looked over me. “You were right Dax, she’s gorgeous.” Dax scratched the back of his head and smiled softly.
“Dalila... prefers women.” He chuckled as she craned her neck to the side, looking at my butt.
“And if my brother weren’t so smitten with you, love, I’d take you-”
“That’s enough, Dal!” Dax yelled, grabbing his sister by the wrist and pulling her toward his house.
“I would like to invite you over for dinner this evening! Let’s say seven?” She winked as Dax successfully pulled her through his front door. Trying to suppress my smile, I bit my lip and walked inside my house, throwing my bag on the bed.
“Viv, I have dinner plans tonight!”
At six-thirty, Viv and I looked at ourselves in the mirror. She looked gorgeous in her soft pink mini dress and curled, fire red hair. She styled me in a red wine colored dress that came up mid-thigh and a pair of beat up, black converse - which we had to compromise on - instead of the six inch heels she threw to me in the beginning. I had to admit though, I looked good; more than good, I looked awesome.
“I had no idea that when I’ve been invited somewhere, it meant both of us will be in attendance.” I jabbed her ribs lightly with my elbow, a bright smile resonating on my face.
“Oh shut up,” She rolled her eyes and giggled, “Just admit you’re excited to see Dax.”
“I just miss my friend.” I shrugged, walking out of her bedroom as I slipped a pair of pearl earrings on. Viv rolled her eyes again.
“Please,” She scoffed. “You couldn’t want each other more unless you both had magnets in your pants.” I gasped and swatted her arm, which only caused her to laugh. “I wished you’d just break it off with Riley already and get with the guy you actually want. I don’t understand what’s stopping you.”
“Riley is who I should be with.” I sighed, handing her the house keys.
“But you want Dax. No, you need Dax.” She shook me softly. “Open your eyes.” I bit my lip, looking at the clock for an escape.
“We’re going to be late.” I grabbed her wrist and pulled her out the door. It was one of those rare cold nights in California, I thought about going in to grab a jacket up opted against it. The door swung open before we had the chance to knock, Dalila standing in the doorway to greet us.
“Hola, hola, hola!” She squealed, pulling me into a tight hug. “And who do we have here?” She sidestepped me to get to Vivian, a sheepish smile now plastered on my best friends mouth. Shy and Vivian rarely ever mixed. Vivian’s freckled cheeks were bright red as Dax’s sister approached her.
“This is my best friend, Vivian.” I said, unsure if Dalila had even heard me, being that she was so intoxicated by the sight of the woman in front of her.
“Vivian.” The name fell from Dalila’s lips the way mine had from Dax’s. And for some reason, I knew Vivian was a goner. Vivian swallowed, hard.
“Let’s all come inside, dinner is ready.” Dax appeared at the door and I smiled softly, hoping that tonight would help the tension in our relationship. Dalila escorted Vivian inside, leaving Dax and me to ourselves.
“Weird to think I’ve never been inside your house.” I said, glancing at him from the side. A smirk lifted on his lips slightly as he nodded.
“The only view you’ve had is from your bedroom.” He joked and for a moment, I felt like nothing had changed between us. I yearned to hug him, but I refrained. “I guess we should go inside before my sister devours Vivian.” I chuckled and followed behind him. The entrance of Dax’s home was extravagant. The walls were made up of dark paneled wood, littered with frames of art. As we entered the dining room, I took in the sight of a crystal chandelier that hung from the middle of the ceiling; just below was a long mahogany table set with four chairs face across from each other. Vivian and Dalila were already sitting across from each other, in the middle of hushed, deep conversation.
“Dalila.” Dax call as he walked to the kitchen. His sister didn’t even look up as she whispered things to my best friend, who was giggling like a little school girl. “Dalila.” He called again, a little louder. Again, the women stayed infatuated by each other. “Dalila Maria Guadalupe Rivera!” He yelled and Dalila sprang up, hustling to the kitchen.
“Wow.” I mouthed, sitting adjacent to Vivian. “What have you two been talking about?” Vivian blushed and shook her head just before the two siblings reemerged with dishes of food. In one pan was cut up steak; a stone mortar held crushed avocado, tomato, and cilantro; a covered bowl held warm tortillas, and two ceramic bowls were filled to the brim with fried rice and re-fried black beans.
“Oh my.” Vivian said, taking in the glory of the meal in front of us.
“Let’s eat, yeah?” Dax smiled, grabbing my plate from in front of me and placing three pieces of the steak on my plate as well as a generous spoonful of each of the side dishes. Saying a silent thank you, my mouth began to water with hunger, but I waited until everyone had been plated before I dug in. Dax glanced at me from across the table, a smirk on his face as I stuffed mine. Realizing I was being watched, I swallowed the contents of my mouth and felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment.
“It’s delicious, thank you both so much.” Vivian smiled, crossing her fork and knife over her plate.
“Yeah.” Dax scoffed. “Dalila can’t cook.”
“You made this?” I cocked an eyebrow in surprise. Dax feigned offense, placing his hand against his chest in mock hurt.
“Do I not look the type to be a Master Chef?” He questioned, a coy smile on his face.
“I just assumed you were the type to want a woman in your kitchen.” I rebutted, crossing my arms over my chest. Dax stood and grabbed my plate from me, adding more food.
“I’m a big boy, I can cook and clean for myself. Why should it be the responsibility of the woman I love to care for me like I am a child?” He handed the plate back to me and picked up his own, walking back to the kitchen. When I turned to talk to Vivian, I realized both she and Dalila were gone. Suddenly alone, I watched as Dax came in and stopped abruptly.
“Where’s Vivian and my sister?” His eyes were trained on me and I immediately felt squeamish.
“Gone?” I suggested with a halfhearted shrug. Dax rolled his eyes, smirking slightly.
“Really?” He remarked sarcastically, “Viv probably already has her dress ripped off.”
“Oh?” I said, feeling at ease with Dax’s playful side emerging. He shrugged and took a drink from his scotch glass, sitting down across from me once again. Silence enveloped us. Minutes went by, maybe seconds but it was hard to tell. I wished for our old relationship back, but it seemed hardly attainable.
“So-” We managed to interrupted each other with the same word.
“How’ve you been?” I bit my lip, trying to conceal my nerves.
“Good.” He replied, his finger drifting across the rim of his glass. “You?”
“Good.” I said quickly, nodding. “Your sister is lovely.”
“Yeah,” He chuckled. “Lovely.” Silence. I wanted so badly to reach for him, the words I couldn’t say brought to life by action. But I went against my judgement and stayed still.
“I miss you.” I mumbled, looking out the circular window that looked over his backyard. Dax was quiet for a long time.
“I miss you, too.” My heart warmed at the thought. “You look... great.” After all the times I had pushed him away, he was holding back now, I could feel it. Without allowing myself to think, I stood and walked over to his chair, tugging on his large arm. He silently stood, watching me closely as I wrapped my arms around him. He didn’t move and for a fleeting moment I was overwhelmed by embarrassment, and debated on running away, selling the house, and moving several states away. But his arms slowly encased around me and his warmth surrounded my body. For the first time in over a week, I felt safe.
“Dax! Jane!” Vivian and Dalila called from the hallway, running toward the dining room. Dax and I quickly pulled away from each other, just as the two girls appeared.
“We’re going clubbing, join us.” Dalila said, catching Vivian’s chin between her thumb and index finger in a sweet gesture.
“Okay.” Dax shrugged, grabbing his keys from the counter. I shook my head.
“Count me out.” Viv frowned at me, grabbing me by the shoulders and pushing me toward the door.
“You’re coming, it doesn’t matter what you say.” She continued to push.
“Dax, you’re a cop, you can stop this!” I called out to him for help. He smirked, following behind my best friend and his sister.
“You said yourself you’ve never been to a club. Tonight seems to be full of unexpected things, I suppose clubbing will be added to that list.” And before I knew it, I was in the back seat of Dax’s muscle car, on the way to go clubbing for the first time with my best friend, a cop, and his sister.