Chapter 2. Dangerous
The DJ’s lights bounced off the walls and danced across people’s faces. Chelsea and I danced close together. Our hips swayed to the music. We ran into several girls that we went to high school with. Some of them we were friends with, and some were downright horrible.
When we first got to the club, it wasn’t very busy. However, it became crowded within an hour. My eyes moved around the club. The club had a loft, a VIP section. My eyes flickered up. Several men stood at the railing of the loft with a drink in their hand. I stopped on a familiar pair of blue eyes.
His gaze pierced mine, and his lips were slightly parted. I stopped dancing. I couldn’t move under his gaze. I wasn’t the type to daze out, but it felt like I was under a trance. His blue eyes swept over me and met my gaze again. Something about the way he held himself screamed dangerous. He wore a black leather jacket that matched his hair. Everything he wore was black. The way his eyes held mine gave me goosebumps and made me self-conscious, and I wasn’t the self-conscious type.
“Hello, Abigail? What’s your problem?” Chelsea’s hand moved in front of my eyes, and it broke the spell.
My eyes flickered to Chelsea. “S-sorry,” I stuttered. “Who is he? He looks familiar.”
Chelsea followed my gesture. “Who?” she asked, confused.
I looked back up to the VIP section almost unwillingly, afraid of the trance I had been put into moments ago, but he wasn’t there. My eyebrows knitted together. My eyes only left him for a couple of seconds. How can he already be gone?
“Abigail, I think you had too much to drink,” Chelsea snickered.
“No,” I said and shook my head. I staggered slightly. My head felt fuzzy from the alcohol I had consumed. Okay, maybe I’m a little drunk. “I know what I saw.”
Chelsea giggled. “It is late. Are you ready to get a taxi?”
The song stopped, and I gazed around the bar, looking for him. “Um. . .” I trailed off.
Chelsea didn’t give me a chance to finish. She pulled me off the dance floor. We grabbed our things and headed for the door.
We flagged down a taxi and gave him my brother’s address.
“So, what did he look like?” Chelsea wondered.
Hot—I thought to myself. I shook the thought out of my head. “Um, black hair and blue eyes. I ran into him the other day. I spilled hot coffee on him.” I grimaced at the memory.
Chelsea snorted. “That’s bound to turn on any man. Besides, what happened to steering clear of men?”
“Trust me, I am. That doesn’t mean I can’t look. . .” I trailed off and shrugged. “From afar.”
Chelsea and I bursted into giggles.
The taxi stopped at my brother’s apartment complex. We got out and went inside.
My brother answered the door after a few knocks. “Shh,” he hushed us. “She’s sleeping on the couch.”
We staggered into the apartment and giggled. Sean caught both of us before we could fall over. “Well, I see you two had a nice time,” he muttered.
Chelsea went to bed with Sean, and I curled up on the couch beside Stormy. Stormy took the death of her dad pretty hard. We spent hours last night talking about it. I didn’t tell her exactly how he died. I told her he was sick in a way that couldn’t be fixed. I ran my fingers through her hair and stared at her little face. How could something so innocent go through something so horrific at such a young age?
Stormy stirred, and her eyes fluttered open. “Mommy?”
“How are you feeling, baby?”
Stormy thought about it for a moment. “Okay, I guess. Uncle Sean is fun to play with. We watched movies and drew pictures.”
“I’m glad you had fun,” I murmured. “Go back to sleep.” I kissed her forehead.
Stormy cuddled into my chest and closed her eyes.
A few days passed since Stormy learned the truth about Jason. To my surprise, I got the job at the coffee shop. The interview went well. A middle-aged couple, Todd and Joan Wilder, owned it.
Mom helped me find a babysitter. Shelby, a friend of my mom, agreed to watch Stormy for a low price. I couldn’t afford a daycare.
After I dropped Stormy off at Shelby’s house, I drove toward the coffee shop, which wasn’t far. The coffee shop appeared to be popular. Every time I came here, there were a lot of customers.
A young guy approached me. He had blond hair and green eyes. He looked to be about my age or a little younger. He stood a foot taller than me, and I stood about five feet and three inches. “Hey, Abigail, isn’t it?” he asked politely.
“Yes, and you are?” I arched a brow.
“My name is Ryan,” he introduced and put a hand out for me to shake it.
I shook his hand. He wore an apron, so it was apparent that he worked in the coffee shop. “You must work here?”
Ryan sighed and nodded.
“Is it that bad?” I teased.
He smiled and shrugged. “No, not really. I’m the boss’s kid, though. Most people in here walk on eggshells around me because of it. I’m pretty laid back. It’s my mom you have to watch out for. My dad is in the office,” he said and gestured to the office door. “Are you starting tonight?”
“You seem surprised, but yes, I am.” I took in his worried expression.
Ryan grimaced. “Really?” Ryan shook his head in disbelief. “Come on.”
I followed him to the office. I didn’t understand his concern or why he felt the need to walk me to his dad’s office, considering that it wasn’t a far walk.
Ryan gestured for me to go inside and followed me in.
Todd said goodbye to whoever he had on the phone and put the phone down on the receiver. “Ah, Abigail. You’re early. I like it,” Todd said. He gestured for me to have a seat and looked up at Ryan. “Did you need something?”
“You’re starting her off on the night shift?” Ryan asked in disbelief. “Dad, what the hell is the matter with you? That’s just insane. Especially, after what happened—”
“I investigated that incident,” Todd said in a stern voice. He narrowed his eyes at Ryan. “Watch who you’re talking to.”
“You never should have hired him,” Ryan spat. “Maybe you should at least tell her—”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupted. “Tell me what?”
Todd sighed and stared across his desk at me. “Ryan, leave,” Todd said without looking at Ryan. The door closed before Todd could say another word. “Ryan is right. Perhaps, I should have said something. I didn’t think that it mattered, though. This is a work environment and what goes on in our personal lives isn’t anyone’s business. Don’t you agree?”
“Of course, sir. I just don’t understand what has him so worried or upset.” I swallowed hard and knitted my eyebrows together. The curiosity would explode from me if he didn’t tell me what Ryan meant.
“We recently lost a girl on the night shift. It was a misunderstanding. She was new, and she quit because she couldn’t handle working with him. Most people don’t like to work with him due to his past. . .” Todd trailed. “He is a good worker, though. We haven’t had any complaints or problems with him. He’s just very reserved.”
“Who is he?” I asked, confused.
“His name is Hayden Crowley,” Todd murmured. He waited for my reaction.
The name hit me, and I froze. Everyone in Jacksonville, Florida, knew the name, including me, but I hadn’t heard the name in years. “I’m sorry,” I choked. “Hayden Crowley as in thee Hayden Crowley?” My throat suddenly felt parched. I realized the boy I spilled coffee on and saw at the club was, in fact, Hayden, but I hadn’t seen or heard of him in years. He made the news on every news channel and newspaper in Florida six years earlier. The memories that I had of him washed over me.
“Yes, I take it you have heard of him,” Todd said.
“Um. . .” I trailed off and grimaced. “Sir, I think everyone in Florida has.”
“Will it be a problem?” Todd tilted his head. Concern filled his expression.
I need this job—I reminded myself. “No problem, sir. I can handle it.”
“We can switch you around if it doesn’t work out,” he said apologetically.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” I said.
“Great. He will train you. As I said, he is just very reserved. He doesn’t socialize much.”
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see Hayden again, let alone work with him. I stood up and headed for the door. I grabbed an apron and headed for the counter.
Ryan looked at me worriedly. “Did he tell you?”
“Yes, it’s fine,” I said.
“It is? You do realize who he is, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” I said simply. “It’s fine. I’m not worried about it.” Not yet. Not unless he gives me a reason to be.
“You’re brave,” Ryan said and chuckled. He turned and walked away.
The bell on the door of the coffee shop rang. I gazed up automatically.
Hayden Crowley walked into the shop. He looked tired as if he suffered from a lack of sleep. His gaze caught mine and his eyes clouded with surprise and confusion. He came behind the counter and grabbed an apron.
“Hello, my name is Abigail. I’m training today,” I said to him. My stomach twisted into knots. I dumped hot coffee on Hayden Crowley. I couldn’t get over it. It felt like someone dumped a bucket of ice-cold water on me. However, if I was going to work with him, I had to give him the benefit of the doubt.
His expression stayed neutral, controlled even as if he didn’t want anyone to see any type of emotion come from him. “I know who you are,” he murmured. “And I’m guessing you know who I am too.”
I bit down on my lip and dropped my gaze. His words sent a shiver down my spine. Hayden walked around me and went to help a customer. I stood frozen as if he had chewed me up and spit me out. Well, he is blunt.
Throughout the shift, I watched Hayden do things and tried to memorize them. He didn’t speak much, but if I asked a question, he gave me the shortest answer he could. People didn’t seem to be bothered by him. He wasn’t at all rude with customers, but he didn’t go out of his way to make conversation with them.
Everything seemed straightforward. I tried to keep myself busy, but at times it wasn’t easy. During the day, the coffee shop was chaotic. However, it wasn’t nearly as busy at night. We didn’t close until eleven o’clock.
Hayden showed me how to clean things up and close up the shop. We walked out the back door.
“See you tomorrow,” I murmured and started for my car.
“Goodnight,” Hayden said.
I stopped and looked back at him. I wasn’t expecting to get a response out of him. His response took me by surprise.
Hayden gave me a small smile and turned for his car.
He smiled at me. He has a nice smile. I wanted to tell him to smile more often, but I thought better of it. If I said something like that, he’d probably never smile again. He would probably get upset with me, and I didn’t want that. I climbed into my car and pulled behind Hayden’s car to exit the parking lot.
He drove a black Dodge Challenger.
“Nice car for a coffee shop worker,” I muttered.
Hayden turned left and peeled out of the parking lot.
I stared after his car in bewilderment. He’s in a hurry. I turned my right blinker on and pulled away.
The weekend rolled around. I worked Monday through Friday with Hayden without any issues. Hayden didn’t open up at all. He remained quiet all week. By the end of the week, I got the hang of things—mostly by watching him.
Sean and I sat the table for dinner. Chelsea joined us for dinner, as well. We passed the food around the table and started to eat.
“How’s work going?” Mom asked.
“Fine,” I said casually.
“Meet anyone new? You mentioned you worked with the same person every night. Are you getting the hang of things?” Mom wondered.
“I’m getting the hang of it. I met the owner’s son. His name is Ryan. He looks to be around my age, but I’ve never met him. I think they moved here a few years ago from Georgia or something,” I said.
“Is Ryan the one you’re working with?” Mom asked.
“No,” I murmured. I cleared my throat and met her gaze. “I’m working with Hayden Crowley.”
Mom dropped her fork and choked on the mashed potatoes in her mouth. She put a hand to her chest and grabbed her glass of water with her other hand.
Chelsea dropped her fork and stared at me in shock. Her mouth opened as if she wanted to speak, but no words came out.
Stormy tilted her head, confused by Mom’s reaction.
The only one that held no surprise and had no reaction was Sean. Sean stared down at his plate and continued to shovel food into his mouth.
Mom cleared her throat and stared at me. The table remained silent for an immeasurable moment. “Hayden. . .” Mom trailed off. “As in thee Hayden Crowley?”
“Yes, Mom,” I said simply.
“Oh my god. Honey, you can’t work with that boy. He’s crazy!” Mom shouted.
“I work with him too,” Sean said. “During the morning to the afternoon, he works at the mechanic shop.”
That explains the car. He must have two jobs—I thought to myself. Go figure, a motorcycle gang. I opened my mouth to speak, but Sean beat me to it.
“He’s not a gang member, so don’t even go there. He just works on vehicles and bikes. He does night shifts at the shop on the weekends. He really isn’t that bad,” Sean said.
“I didn’t know you worked with him,” Chelsea said to Sean.
“I didn’t say anything because it’s not a big deal. He’s just one of the many guys that I work with. I’ve never had any problems with him. He keeps to himself. I’ve never seen him act out in any way. I’ve hung out with him after work,” Sean said.
“God, you befriended him?” Mom asked in disbelief.
Mom looked at me. “You need to find a new job, Abigail. That boy is dangerous.”
“I haven’t had any problems with him, just like Sean said. He’s very quiet—”
“The crazy ones usually are,” Chelsea said.
I narrowed my eyes at Chelsea.
“Sorry,” Chelsea murmured and looked back down at her plate.
“I’m not quitting my job. I like it there. If I have problems with him, Todd promised to switch me shifts,” I said. “I’m a little surprised, though. Did he really only serve six years for what he did?”
“He didn’t go to prison,” Sean said. “Hayden pleaded insanity, and after he underwent some testing by a few doctors or whatever, they agreed to send him to an insane asylum. He spent five years in there. He got released a year ago. Doctors deemed him rehabilitated. He hasn’t done anything wrong since he got out.”
“To anyone’s knowledge,” Mom scoffed. “Do you realize how many people go missing or die mysteriously in Jacksonville?”
“Come on, Mom. That shit was happening long before Hayden was released,” Sean said and rolled his eyes.
We finished our dinner in silence. After we were finished, Sean put Stormy to bed for me. Mom went to the living room. Chelsea and I cleared the table and started the dishes.
“So, what is he like?” Chelsea wondered.
“He’s just very quiet. He is the one I saw at the club, and I spilled coffee on him,” I said and grimaced. Not to mention, I found him attractive.
Chelsea chuckled and stopped suddenly. “Wait, are you sure he was at the club?”
“I’m pretty sure it was him.”
“That’s strange. . .” she trailed off. “He’s only nineteen, isn’t he?”
I snorted. “Do you know how many underage people get into those clubs?”
“And he was in the VIP section,” Chelsea added.
“He must know someone,” I said and shrugged.
“So, he really doesn’t say much to you?”
“No,” I sighed. “If he does, it’s work-related.”
“He sounds creepy,” Chelsea muttered.
I chuckled and shook my head. “I remember being in school with him, but he never spoke much back then either.” And he was attractive back then too.
Chelsea nodded. “I remember.” Chelsea dried the last pan and put it away. Chelsea looked like she could be thinking the same thing as me. Hayden had many girls looking at him, including older girls.
“Thanks for the help,” I said.
“Are you ready, Chelsea?” Sean asked.
“Yeah,” Chelsea said to Sean. Chelsea looked back at me and smiled. “See you later.”
“See you,” I said.
Chelsea and Sean said goodnight to Mom before they left.
I went upstairs and into my bedroom. I stripped down and climbed into the shower. The hot water spilled over my back. Thoughts of Hayden clouded my mind. I was deadly curious about the mysterious boy. I knew that you couldn’t believe everything you read about someone, but everyone knew that what Hayden did was true. Some of the details could have been rumors. What I wondered the most was his reason for doing what he did.
The wind blew my long curly brown hair in different directions. My sunglasses hid my brown eyes. Stormy sprinted across the grass to the park equipment. The slide always held most of Stormy’s interest.
I sat down at a picnic table not far from the sidewalk and opened up my book. Stormy had been begging me for days to go to the park, and I promised her on Sunday, and she didn’t let me forget my promise. Tomorrow I had to return to work.
“Is that book any good?” a deep voice murmured.
I gasped and dropped the book. I hadn’t noticed anyone approach me, and the voice took me by surprise. My eyes locked with blue ones.
He sat across from me at the picnic table. He pursed his lips, and his eyes danced in amusement. “Well, it must be. You were very tuned into it. I’m sorry for frightening you.”
“Oh, um, you didn’t,” I stammered and grimaced. My blood thumped unsteadily but not out of fear, and that left me feeling unsettled.
Hayden looked down at the book and back to me. “He’s one of my favorite authors, but I haven’t read that one.”
I cleared my throat. “You should. It’s a good book. He’s one of my favorites too.” I took in Hayden’s outfit. He wore a white muscle shirt and a pair of red silk shorts. It was the first time I saw him not wearing all black. “Wow, so you do own more than just black clothes, huh?”
Hayden smiled and rolled his eyes. “Black is my preference.”
“Were you running?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I try to run every day, but sometimes I can’t find the time. Why are you sitting at a playground?” Hayden arched an eyebrow.
I gestured behind him.
Hayden looked back for a moment and turned back to me. “Your daughter? She was with you that day at the coffee shop.”
“Yes. I’m really sorry—” I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to apologize again, but Hayden wasn’t going to let me regardless.
Hayden raised a hand to stop me. “No blood, no foul, right? How old is she?”
“She’s pretty,” he said as he watched her. “She looks like you.”
“Thanks.” He thinks I’m pretty? The comment left me disoriented. I closed the book and handed it to him with the backside up.
He read it to himself for a brief moment. I wasn’t even sure if he read everything that was on the back, but if he did, he was an incredibly fast reader. He handed it back to me. “Sounds intriguing.”
“It’s a really good book. They made a movie on it too,” I said.
“They did that with a lot of his stories,” Hayden said.
I smiled at him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said. As he stood up, he put his earbuds back in and broke into a sprint.
I looked up at Stormy.
Stormy stared after him and looked back at me. She came down the steps of the playground equipment and dashed toward me. “Hey, Mommy, was that the coffee guy?”
I threw my head back and laughed. “It is. I work with him now.”
“Is he still mad at you?”
“No, baby, he isn’t. He just stopped to talk for a second,” I said and shrugged. After I smiled at him, he got in a hurry to leave. I reveled in the conversation that I had with Hayden. It’s the most he ever said to me and the most emotion I had ever seen on his face, including when we were younger—not that I interacted with him much.
Stormy played for a couple of hours, and it gave me time to read. I started the book a few weeks ago. Usually, I got through books rather quickly, but I hadn’t had much time to read lately. By the time we left the park, I had only two chapters left to read, and then I needed to visit a bookstore because I had officially read every book I owned—some of them more than once.
Stormy and I made it back home. The smell of lasagna filled the house.
“Damn, that smells good,” Stormy said and sniffed appreciatively.
“Stormy Marie, watch that mouth,” I warned.
Stormy giggled. “I’m sorry, Mommy.”
We walked into the kitchen.
Mom stood over the stove as she cut up the Lasagna. “You’re just in time,” she said. Mom dished out the food and brought it to us. We thanked her, and she went back for her plate.
“How was the park?” Mom asked.
“Good,” we both said.
I thought for sure that Stormy would mention who was there, but she stayed silent as she ate. It could have been the fantastic lasagna or perhaps tiredness, but I was thankful she didn’t raise the subject regardless of the reason. Stormy tended to tell people about her day in detail, and the fact that she didn’t mention my visitor surprised me.
I bathed Stormy and put her to bed.
I laid in my room wide awake and stared at the ceiling as I repeated the things Hayden said to me earlier that day in my head. He didn’t seem unkind or strange like he usually did. Maybe working with him won’t be that bad after all.
A/N: Half of this book is in Abigail’s POV, You will be warned when it changes!