Skin of the Night

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Chapter 78: Duracell Bunny

I was going to kill him.

“Come on, Cara. Five more to go,” he commanded and slapped the floor between us. Agony strained my muscles as I lowered my bum toward the floor once more while I carried the weight between my hands.

“Keep your back straight,” he scolded. “Posture, posture.”

“I’m going to kill you,” I growled and glared furiously into his light blue eyes. How a living saint like Jason Night could take the shape of the devil himself in the span of a mere second was beyond me, but I was positive they were one and the same in that moment.

A short laugh escaped him. “Not sure you’ve got the strength for that,” he teased as I ascended again. “Four more to go.”

“Just shut your bloody mouth and let me focus!” I snapped. The urge to spit in his face was barely suppressible.

“We both know Will loves your bum, Cara. If not for you, then do it for him.”

“Quiet!” I yelled as I lowered again. Oh, my God, this session was going to kill me. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d trained this hard. Ever. My legs trembled like I was made of jelly. Without a shadow of a doubt, my muscles would be sore for at least a decade after this. “Fuck William,” I grumbled under my breath upon my next descent.

That made Jason laugh again. “You know he’s worth the effort.”

The hideous grimace I wore upon my ascension wasn’t something I bothered with. All I could think of was surviving this unbearable pain. Squats really were torture when done the right way.

“Is that your cum face?” Jason enquired then, and it made me drop the weight and burst out laughing.

“Jason, what the fuck?” I exclaimed through my laughter and collapsed onto the floor.

“You nearly made it.” He sent me a rueful glance while he bent over my person on the floor of the gym. “One-hundred-and-forty-eight. I take full responsibility for the fact that you didn’t break your record. Sorry I made you laugh. I couldn’t resist.”

“You’re such a dickhead.”

He nodded and reclined onto the floor beside me, on his belly. “I’ll punish myself with an extra ten push-ups.”

“You’re supposed to help me train. Not just find incentives for working yourself harder.”

“Why not combine them?” he argued as he pushed himself up using only his right arm. The other he folded behind his back. Deadpanned, I watched at him.

“You’re like the Duracell bunny. You should be in their commercials.”

He paid me a quick, crooked smile. “Maybe I am?”

“You on cocaine? Steroids?”

Laughter flowed out of him, leaving him to struggle with continuing. That satisfied my desire for revenge.

“An eye for an eye,” I said and rubbed my sweaty face. At this point, I was robbed of all strength. It was unlikely that I’d be able to stand on my own for the next few minutes, so I resorted to restoring my strength right there on the floor beside him, spent.

Once he finished, he collapsed beside me and heaved for air.

“You and your brother aren’t human,” I alleged.

He chuckled. “Bet Will’s livid he’s not allowed to train for the time being.”

“He did voice several complaints about it the last week I spent at his. Haven’t heard much since I moved out, though.”

“Think he’s snuck in a session or two?”

I turned my head to regard him, and I was confident my stare was filled with menace. “He wouldn’t dare.”

“It’s been just over a week since you moved out. I wouldn’t put it past him to take advantage of your absence that way. So if his abs are as toned as ever next time you get to see them, it would be conspicuous,” he thought aloud. “If it comes to that, slap him for me.”

“Gladly.”

He started laughing again.

“What’s amusing?”

He rolled onto his back beside me. “Well, in a nutshell, you’ll be punishing your boyfriend for having abs.”

Since I was caught by the irony, I released a snicker. “True.”

“Anyway, I’m starving for a burger. Let’s get out of here.”

The thought of a burger with chips on the side made drool amass in my mouth. “Chips and aioli as well?”

“For certain.”

“I’m in, but you might need to carry me. I’m dead.”

In a heartbeat, he was on his legs.

“You’re definitely the Duracell bunny,” I remarked as he dragged me up from the floor. While snickering at my joke, he locked his arm around my waist and supported me the entire way to the changing rooms.

As I later headed toward the exit of the changing room to meet Jason outside, I withdrew my phone from the front pocket of my jumper to check my social media accounts. I’d just opened the door when I opened Messenger to discover a message from the last person I’d expected. All at once, my world froze, and so did my person, leaving me to block the doorway when a woman was about to enter.

“Excuse me,” she quietly said, but I barely heard her. Pale in my face, I staggered forward to make space and stared blankly at the screen of my phone. My pulse skyrocketed. I’d thought myself incapable of producing adrenaline after such a thorough session at the gym, but I was surely receiving a huge dose of it right in that moment.

It was from Robby.

I didn’t know what to feel or think. Seeing his name caused so many emotions and thoughts to collide. The first thing I experienced was profound nervousness, because I’d no idea what he wanted. Then came excitement, because he’d been one of my very best friends, and I’d missed interacting with him so much that receiving this message triggered a storm of lovely memories to march into my mind. All of the sudden, I felt closer to him than I’d had in what seemed like years, and the joy it elicited wasn’t to be ignored. It made me giddy.

But soon enough, that excitement transformed into dread. I knew full well that William had once stated that he wanted me miles away from Robby, but now that we were actually in a relationship, I wasn’t sure whether his concerns still applied. What made it worse was the fact that William had seen this coming. He’d said it several times that he reckoned it was only a question of time before Robby would reach out to me again. Now he would be proven correct, and I worried that would inspire him to trust his intuition about Robby implicitly – even when he could be wrong. However, what he’d failed to say was what he expected me to do when that happened.

A thousand questions spiralled in my head. Why was he reaching out? Had he moved on? Did he want to rekindle? Start anew? Had he found someone else? I hoped so. I truly fucking hoped so. He deserved to have his feelings reciprocated by someone precious.

But what was I supposed to do now? Should I reply? Or should I consult William before I proceeded?

All his message said was ‘Hey’, and yet my heart thundered like I’d just completed a marathon.

“Cara,” Jason called, and I realised from his tone that this wasn’t the first time he was addressing me.

My eyes darted to his approaching figure, and the only thing I could think to do was shove my screen in his face.

His brows furrowed before he grabbed my phone to investigate my screen. After a few seconds, he lifted his gaze to mine, and I could tell he was uncertain about what to say.

“What should I do? Should I open it?” I asked, desperate for his counsel.

His shoulders sank with his sigh. “I...” he paused, eyes flickering around while he pondered. Finally, he directed his eyes to mine again. “Do you want to open it? I think that’s most important.”

My immediate thought was, “Yes.”

His eyes were inspecting me now. “Just out of curiosity, or is it more complicated than that?”

I snatched my phone back. “He’s my best friend, Jason. I miss him. What if he’s moved on? If he has, there shouldn’t be a problem with us staying friends, should there?”

“Remind me what he said last you spoke.”

I held my breath for a second before I recounted aloud, “He told me that while he moved on, we shouldn’t stay in touch. Since he’s reaching out now, I reckon it means he’s moved on.”

He arched a brow. “Cara, the lad’s been in love with you for the past three years, give or take. That’s not very likely. It’s going to take a while to move on from something like that. I speak from experience. How long has it been since you cut contact, anyway?”

I despised what he was saying, because I truly wanted for Robby to have moved on so that we could rekindle. Now that he had reached out to me again, I was made acutely aware of how much I’d missed him. He felt so close, and I absolutely relished it.

“About five weeks?”

He looked underwhelmed. “Yeah, he’s not moved on.”

Irritated, I shoved my phone back into my front pocket and scowled up at him. “You can’t know that. Perhaps his feelings for me weren’t that profound.”

His eyes rolled into his skull. “Cara, you’re thick as mince if you think he’s moved on that fast. You’re not being realistic.”

My scowl transformed into a pout when his words sank in. “But–”

“Listen,” he watched me with evident pity in his comely features, “I don’t mean to be harsh, but this is your hope speaking right now. And it’s false hope, Cara. I’m sorry, but it is. Why he’s reaching out to you, I don’t know, but it’s not because he’s moved on. That’s for certain.”

Since I didn’t know what to say or think, I just stood there, paralysed. Eventually, Jason sighed again.

“Listen, I think it’s most important what you want,” he declared. “If you want to open it, do it. It’s a harmless message. Find out what he wants. Robby’s an honest guy. He’ll tell you what’s on his mind if you ask him. From there, you can decide how to proceed.”

I hesitated. “But I’m not sure Will would appreciate it.”

“To hell with that,” he groaned and rolled his eyes yet again. “Will’s ridiculous sometimes. I love him, I do, but honestly, his level of jealousy is off the charts. As his girlfriend, yeah, you’ll have to take it into account and respect his boundaries, but if he throws a fit because you opened a harmless message, he’s wrong in the head and needs to see a therapist. I seriously mean that. It’s just a message.”

While I appreciated his take on the matter, I wasn’t sure I was willing to risk facing a fuming William over something this small; especially when he was still recovering from trauma. Adding weight to his burden wasn’t something I was willing to do without being sure that it was necessary. “I get what you mean, but the lawyer in me doesn’t think it’s the best course of action. It’s better to take precaution. All I’ve got to do is inform Will, let him be heard, and then I can proceed.”

His shocked expression surprised me. “Cara, what the fuck? You don’t need Will’s permission to open a bloody message. What’s going on?”

I frowned back at him, appalled. “What? No, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, Jason. I’m not saying I’m going to ask his permission. I specifically said I’d inform him.”

He expression turned to puzzled. “Elaborate.”

“Well, I reckon he’s more likely to have difficulty trusting me if I go behind his back with this. He deserves to know, even if I won’t agree with him. I’ve got to think long-term. William’s got trust-issues when it comes to Robby and I. I’m not about to enable them. I’m going to open it anyway, but I’ve decided that I’ll tell him about it before I do.”

His lips tucked up into a soft smile while his eyes portrayed wonder. For an extended moment, he merely stared at me. It got weird after a while, so I frowned.

“What’s wrong with your face?”

He chuckled. “You tell me. Is there anything wrong with it?”

Amused, I shook my head. “No. It’s perfect.”

“Only you and Mum tell me that. Too bad that essentially filters down to my mother and my sister, so I reckon I’m truly a ghastly sight.”

I snickered. “Don’t be silly.”

“Only joking. I get by.”

“To say the least. You had several women ogling you just a moment ago, while we were training.”

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “I don’t get how you pick up on things like that. I never do.”

“That’s why you’re single.”

“Ha-ha.”

“On a serious note though, I mainly do because I find it amusing that you’re so oblivious.”

“Bet they thought you were my girlfriend.”

“Bet.”

“Foul.”

“Obscene.”

Laughter engulfed us both.

“Really, though,” he said, “I was just thinking that you’re a wonderful human being. You couldn’t be more perfect for him. I was just a bit amazed with it for a second, as well as grateful. You’re going to make him into a better man, and I wish that sort of woman for him.”

My laughter ceased at his heartfelt compliment. “Wow, Jason. Thank you.”

“Only speaking my mind. Now, let’s get that burger before you’ll have a diva on your hands.”

“Make that two. We’d both be divas if we don’t eat soon.”

“Deadly combination.”

“Truly.”

“Let’s spare humanity from having to endure it.”

“Let’s.”

“Hangry people should not be underestimated.”

“They really shouldn’t.”

With a huge grin on his face, he brought his arm over my shoulders and guided the way as we exited the building.

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