Home > Cross (The Gibson Boys #2.5)(8)

Cross (The Gibson Boys #2.5)(8)
Author: Adriana Locke

Damn hopes, anyway.

“He’s all grown up now,” Nora says, like she needs to point that out. She laughs when I give her a blank stare. “Maybe things could work out.”

“I don’t want them to. Not with Cross, not with anyone.” My feet hit the floor and I scamper across the room. “I want to breathe, Nora. I want to not worry about someone else and their life and how their decisions might impact me. I want to just do what I want to do for once.”

“So … do Cross.”

“Nora!”

She giggles in response. “Sometimes I hate they all feel like family to me. Except Lance,” she says, referring to Machlan’s other brother. “I’d do Lance but now he has Mariah so that’s out.”

“You need a man.”

“Oh no.” She laughs, getting to her feet too. “We’re not turning this around on me. We’re talking about you here.”

Hands on my hips, I take in Nora’s amused grin. She finds this entertaining; all she can see is the happy at the end. I know better. I know the feeling, quite vividly, of the doldrums of a relationship, with Cross specifically, and that happy is a hard-fought battle to win—if it can be won at all.

That’s what really scares me. What if you have to settle in life? What if you can’t really ever be totally satisfied in a relationship? What if you never have the confidence in yourself, or them, or you together to not go to sleep with a nagging in your gut?

What if the stars never align like you hope as a little girl?

“What is it, Kallie?” she asks, her grin faltering.

“Is it fair to just be … scared?”

“Of what?”

“Of … life? Of falling in love.” I gulp. “Of trying and not getting the things I want out of life?”

“Where’s all this coming from?” she whispers. “What’s going on?”

I plop into the chair next to me and take in a long, deep breath. “I’ve been thinking a lot about things. Life, I guess. Think about it,” I tell her. “What are the odds you’ll find someone that has the same goals as you? The same dreams? Enough love for you to want to see you do the things you want to do? It’s not good, Nora.”

“People do it every day,” she says, sitting on the arm of the chair.

“No, people settle every day. Look around at the people you know. Most of them settle. They take what’s available out of fear they won’t have what they really want and they’re halfway miserable their whole life. That was me with my ex. I realized that too late and wasted way too long.”

“Okay,” she says like I’ve lost my mind. “What makes you happy? Let’s start there.”

“I don’t know.”

Her hands go in the air as she laughs. “I quit.”

“Good,” I say, partially relieved and partially wishing she’d press the issue for once.

“Let’s go get milkshakes.”

“Fine. But you’re buying.”

Cross

I add a scoop of protein powder to the blender, put the cap back on, and press the button. It whirls, the contents of the glass container smashing around with no fucks given, kind of like my brain. It’s like a box full of noisy items in the hands of a toddler. Everything is banging around.

Busying myself with pouring the drink into a cup, I whistle as I work. The house seems so quiet. Too quiet, even, to do the usual bookkeeping for the gyms or research exercises as I usually do. It’s too quiet for anything.

I lean against the counter and take a gulp of my drink. The glass leaves a dampness on my palm, the remaining ice chunks rattling around in the mixture. I hold it to the light and laugh. It’s light grayish in color just like my favorite set of eyes.

Damn it.

The cup hits the counter with a thud.

“What are you gonna do now?” I ask myself. “’Cause you’re gonna have to do something.”

Rolling my shoulders around, trying to work out the stress captured at the base of my neck, I head into the living room toward the sound of my ringing cell phone. “Hello?” I ask.

“Hey, big brother,” Hadley chirps through the line. “How are you?”

“All right. What are you up to?”

She sighs. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Why?” I ask. I watch as the neighbor’s kids kick a ball back and forth on the other side of the road.

“I hear it in your voice. You’re … blah.”

“I’ve never been described as blah.” I laugh.

“You have now.” She giggles. “So, what’s up?”

The ball goes back and forth. The little girl rockets it across the lawn and the boy misses, his leg sweeping right over the top before he falls to the ground.

I feel for him. I have half a notion to head over there and help him up and give him some advice on being ready for the hardest shot. To always protect yourself. To never let your guard down.

Especially with girls.

“Kallie is in town.” I say it as easily as I can, as if it’s no big deal that the girl I’ve been torn up over for years has reappeared. My sister, though, doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to signal an issue. She knew Kallie. She knows me.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting that,” she mutters.

“That would make two of us.”

“Have you seen her? Like, just the two of you?”

“Yeah.”

“And? How’d it go?”

As the little boy gets back to his feet by way of a proffered hand from the little girl, I turn away from the window. “It went better than I expected in some ways and a little worse in others.”

Hadley pauses. “How is she?”

“Good. Beautiful. What else can I say?” I sigh. “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

“It’s never easy to see someone you love—or loved,” she adds quickly. “There’s always that feeling of what could’ve been.”

“Talking about Machlan?” I tease.

“No, I’m not talking about Machlan,” she mocks … and lies. “I know what that would’ve been. A big, ridiculous mess.”

“Sure about that?”

“Absolutely.”

With a snort at how confident she doesn’t sound, I head back toward the kitchen. My stomach rolls the protein shake over. It has nothing to do with the ingredients, though, and everything to do with the topic of conversation.

I’ve been with a number of women since Kallie left. A lot of them, really. And at the end of the night when they’d leave my house or I’d pull on my jeans and leave theirs, I’d do one thing immediately: take a shower. The smell of a woman on my skin drove me insane. It didn’t matter how hot she was or how much I did or didn’t like her, she didn’t belong on me. It was like my skin itched with the scent of her until I sent it down the shower drain.

I’d kill for Kallie’s shampoo to be on my shirt. Her perfume mixed with my body oils, her kisses lingering on my skin.

The more I think about it, the more panicked I get. I want it too much. Hell, I’ve always wanted it. I’ve always wanted her. And now that she’s here and I realize nothing has changed in that regard, it’s scary as fuck.

“Hadley? Let me ask you a question.”

“Shoot.”

“Let’s pretend for one second that Machlan’s not Machlan.”

“Yeah right.” She laughs.

“No, really. Play along.”

She groans. “Fine.”

“What if you were the problem between you and a guy—”

“It’s Machlan’s fault,” she interrupts immediately.

“But this isn’t Machlan …”

“Oh, yeah. Continue.”

Laughing, I wipe my hand over my face. “Okay. This guy, not Machlan, and you were together. And it was your fault. And now he’s back and he’s giving you the time of day, which you didn’t expect, and all you can think about is getting him back. But you—”

“Go get her,” she interrupts again. “Just go see her. No expectations because you were the problem in that relationship.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You know it. I’m not going to lie to you.”

Blowing out a breath, I look at the ceiling. “What if it’s just that she’s so familiar to me, Had? What if we broke up for a reason and I’m an idiot to want something again? I mean, I don’t even know her these days. What if I’m relying on this idea I’ve had in my head all these years?”

“Then you go get her, like I told you. Take her to lunch. Take her for a walk,” she says. “Just spend some time with her. If it’s some stupid crush from back in the day, you’ll toss her out like you do the rest of the whores from the bar.”

“Be nice,” I tease.

“I’m not about to be nice,” she states. “Crave is the worst thing to happen to you and Machlan Gibson ever.”

A smile tickles my lips. “I thought we weren’t talking about Machlan.”

“We aren’t. I gotta go. I have a date with a guy that isn’t an egotistical bar owner.”

“Oh, the pudfucker I met? The one that looks like he has a corncob stuck up his ass?”

“He’s nice, Cross. You should be happy I met a nice guy.”

“You met a pussy, that’s what you did. He’s your version of a bar whore.”

“I met him in a library,” she deadpans.

“Okay. Book whore.”

“That’s not how you use that term.” She laughs.

“It’s a term? I thought I made it up.” I shrug.

“You didn’t. And I gotta go. Have a good night, brother.”

“You, too, Had.”

“Night.”

“Night.”

Eight

   
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