Home > Cross (The Gibson Boys #2.5)(9)

Cross (The Gibson Boys #2.5)(9)
Author: Adriana Locke

Cross

It’s a gamble, a big risk, one I’m not entirely sure is going to pay off, but one I feel absolutely certain about making. My conversation with Hadley last night put a few things in perspective and, although I’d never tell her she might be right, she might really be. It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Taking the steps two at a time, I press my finger on the doorbell. Footsteps fall against the hardwood floors on the other side before the door pulls open.

My chest fills like it does every time I see Kallie. I fight the stupid smile that plays on my lips, but it’s no use—I’m grinning like a fucking loon.

“Hey,” she says, her fingers playing at the hem of her shirt. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I was driving by Carlson’s a bit ago and saw they had Cobb salad on the sign. I thought maybe we could grab a bite to eat.”

“You remember that I like Cobb salad?”

“With extra avocado and bacon, no egg, right?”

Her eyes light up as she grins. “Yeah.” She laughs. “That’s right.”

“So, wanna go?”

She looks over her shoulder before turning her attention back to me. “Um, sure. Let me get my shoes and purse and I’ll meet you outside, okay?”

“Sounds good.”

In a few minutes, we’re sitting in the cab of my pickup and heading down the road.

“My shoulders are sore,” she says, working her arm in a circle. “How do you punch all day and still have use of your extremities?”

“You get used to it. Do it long enough and your muscles get built up.”

“That explains a lot.”

I look at her quickly before turning my attention back to the road. “That explains what?”

“Your arms,” she gushes, wrapping a hand around my bicep. “They’re ridiculous, Cross, and your back. Is that from boxing?”

“Been checking me out?” I love that she’s looked hard enough to take notice.

“No. Well, yeah.” She smirks. “It’s kind of hard not to. You look good.”

“And here I thought it was my charm drawing you in.”

She smacks my arm before pulling her hand away. “Your charm is better, but it’s still not your forte.”

“So you only want me for my body? That’s what you’re saying?” I joke.

“No!”

“I mean, it’s okay. I have no problem being wanted for my body—none. I’ll strip right now if it’ll help.”

“You’re too much.”

Chuckling, I pull the truck into the parking lot of Carlson’s. We climb out and meet at the front then, without thinking, I take her hand in mine. Her small palm is delicate and fits inside mine like it was designed for this purpose alone. I expect her to pull it away, but much to my surprise, she just looks up at me and smiles.

Once inside, we take a seat next to the front windows. Before I can get a word out, Veronica is halfway across the building. “Kallie Welch!” she squeals. “I haven’t seen you in ages!”

“Hi, Veronica.” Kallie gets to her feet and greets Veronica with a hug. “How are you?”

“Better now that I’ve seen you,” she says as Kallie settles back in. “Where have you been? Are you home now?”

“Yeah, I’m home now. Cross saw you had Cobb salad on the menu for today and picked me up.”

Veronica raises a brow. “I see. You and Cross back together, huh?”

“Oh, no,” Kallie replies quickly, shaking her head. “No, not like that.”

“And why not? Have you seen this boy lately? He’s a catch, Kal. Every girl in town has tried their hand with this one.”

“Should I walk away for a while? Because this is a little awkward with me sitting right here.” I chuckle.

“Every girl, huh?” Kallie puts her face in her hands and watches me. “Do tell.”

Shaking my head, I grab a menu out of the holder and flip my attention to the words on the plastic. “I’ll have a ham and Swiss on sourdough, cheddar and sour cream chips, and a pop. Kallie?”

“Cobb salad, extra avocado and bacon, no egg, and a water.”

Veronica disappears into the back after whispering into Kallie’s ear. Once she’s gone, I breathe a sigh of relief. “So…”

“So…” she says, taking my menu and sliding it back in its spot. “Did you have a lot of clients today?”

“None as fun as you,” I say with a wink.

“Oh, I bet. I was a barrel of fun.”

“What did you do today?” I ask, watching the sun stream onto her face. It creates a halo effect around her blonde hair, which seems fitting.

“I had breakfast with Nora. Ran into Peck at Goodman’s—he hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Nope. He’s the same thirteen-year-old boy he always was.”

She laughs, relaxing back in her seat. “I hope he never changes. He’s so sweet and kind and handsome.”

“Do I have competition?”

She doesn’t answer, just rolls her eyes.

Plates of food are set down in front of us, Veronica making small talk with Kallie about her mother and once upon a time when Kallie worked at Carlson’s. I don’t touch my sandwich. Instead, I watch the girl in front of me act like she hasn’t been gone a day. On the other hand, it seems like she’s a completely different person.

Her old soul is still there; that hasn’t changed. It’s one of the first things I fell in love with. Her ability to think clearly and make good, solid choices was something I couldn’t do, and it drew me in like a magnet. It didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous, made straight As, and was the captain of the cheerleading team.

She was also too sweet, too forgiving. I took that for granted like a young, dumb motherfucker.

“What?” she asks, catching me staring.

“I was just thinking about you.”

She stabs a chunk of avocado and pops it in her mouth. “What about me?”

“Wondering why you really came home.”

She chews slowly, as if biding her time. The lines around her eyes crease as she considers her response. “I told you,” she says, pausing to take a drink of water. “My job got a little crazy and Sky moved. It was the right time.”

“That’s not true.”

“How do you know?”

Setting my fork down on the side of my plate, I rest my elbows on the table. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. I don’t care, as long as you’re safe and you’re here. That’s all that really matters.”

“I’m fine, Cross. Safe and here,” she says, extending her arms to the side as if to say, Look! Here we are! “Maybe I just…” Her arms fall to her sides and she takes a gulp of air. “Maybe I got tired.”

My heart twists in my chest and I reach for her hand. She allows me to take it. I turn it over, palm up, and press my thumb in the middle.

“I’m not complaining,” she says quietly. “I don’t want it to come across as a pity party, but I’m just tired. I’ve worked my ass off since I was fifteen years old.”

“I know. No one can ever say you’re a slacker.”

“Not with a straight face.” She sighs. “I loved my job in Indy. It was exciting and challenging and something different every day. When my boss was indicted, it shook me to the core. I had no idea he was doing anything wrong,” she insists. “All of a sudden, what little time I did have was spent with investigators, telling them everything I knew so I didn’t get in trouble too.” She takes a napkin off the table and dots the corner of her eye. “I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. My stomach was in knots. I remember sitting on my bed one night at three AM and just thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’”

Squeezing her hand, it takes everything I have in me not to bolt around the table and sweep her up in my arms.

Her chin dips down as she removes her hand from beneath mine. I want to snatch it back up, pull her over the table and onto my lap, and kiss the hell out of her.

As I watch her mind go elsewhere, mine goes back to the original question. “That all makes total sense,” I say carefully. “But it’s not enough to make you uproot your life.”

She lifts a brow.

“It’s not,” I insist. “I know you. Something else happened. What was it?”

Leaning back in her seat, she shakes her head. “Everyone else just took the story and ran with it. Why can’t you?”

“Because I know you?” I offer, suppressing a chuckle. “Because that look in your eyes wasn’t put there by some boss who did something stupid and caused all these problems.”

She watches me for a long moment, the internal war she fighting plain as day on her face. Finally, she rushes out a breath and leans forward. “My boyfriend cheated on me, okay?”

“Boyfriend?” I ask, lifting a brow.

“Ex-boyfriend,” she corrects. “Look, it’s not a big deal. Yeah, it bruised my ego a little but—”

“I’d love to see the girl he cheated on you with.” I laugh, not even trying to hide my amusement. “Or maybe it was a guy—that would make more sense.”

“Cross!”

“I mean it. There’s not a woman better than you in the entire world. Maybe there’s a guy.” I shrug. “I wouldn’t know because I’m not looking over there.”

“But you’re looking at women?”

“Don’t distract me,” I admonish, wagging a finger in the air. “That’s not what we’re discussing.”

“Maybe it’s what I want to discuss.”

“Too fucking bad.” I grin. “So, some asshole broke your heart?”

A shadow drifts across her face as her features soften. “That was a few years ago,” she almost whispers. “This guy just hurt my feelings.”

   
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