by Amber Nation
Alright then, I guess simple conversation was off of the table. Just as well though, I might end up saying something I’d regret.
An overwhelming vanilla aroma assaulted me. Her scent had already seeped into the cab of my truck, home could not come any faster.
Taking a liberal whiff, I wanted to commit her fragrance to memory, I wanted more.
Shaking my head, trying to get rid of the nonsense that kept popping up in my thoughts. It’s because you are so close to her, just keep your distance but not enough to be considered inhospitable and things should be alright.
I had to get her intoxicating smell out of the confines of my truck. I pressed the buttons on my door panel to roll the windows down. It was a nice enough day out that hopefully she wouldn’t complain. That was definitely one thing I enjoy living without, a woman complaining.
Erin would bitch and nitpick about every little fucking thing. Just thinking about her made my blood begin to boil. This was why I kept busy, why I always had some kind of noise in the background to distract me from my thoughts running amuck.
Reaching over I pushed the radio dial to turn on some music to fill the silence in the truck and to drown out the chaos that ensued in my head. “Maneater" by Hall & Oates was playing on the airwaves and wasn’t that a downright coincidence. I bet Sheridan was a maneater, trying to come off all innocent. I looked over at Sheridan who had her arm stuck out the window, making a wave motion with her hand cutting through the wind.
Her long, unsecured black hair, so dark that it reminded me of midnight, was whipping around in the breeze. It made me wish for things I had absolutely no right wishing for. I wanted to run my fingers through her wild hair, combing through the dishevelment, to feel her silky strands go through my rough, overworked hands. I felt a tiny pang in my chest because I could never let myself have that closeness ever again, it just wasn’t a possibility and above all else, I didn’t deserve it.
I was thankful for the center console that was between us. It was a good reminder that I needed to put a halt on my desires. I deserved to live my life alone with my guilt.
But having Sheridan stay with me, sure wouldn’t make this easy.
After what felt like forever, he turned down a street that ended in a cul-de-sac aligned with different types of houses. It appealed to me that it wasn’t a cookie cutter neighborhood, each house looking the exact same. Finally, he drove around the circle drive and pulled into the last house on the left. It was a one-story gray brick ranch style home with a navy blue front door and shutters.
He sure had a thing for the color.
The lawn was mowed close in a vertically angled pattern and the landscaping looked professionally done. But if the grease and dirt stains around his cuticles and nail beds were any indication, he liked to get his hands dirty. I had no doubt in my mind that he did this job himself, and what he had created, was art.
Different types of shrubbery lined the outside of the house and beautiful, vibrant spring flowers flowed alongside his driveway and wrapped around his mailbox.
Somehow seeing such a beautiful, put together home made me breathe just a bit easier. I had no idea why I trusted Mike as much as I did, he was often rude and always seemed angry.
I was walking blindly into this whole situation. Who knew what awaited on the other side of his navy blue door, but I guaranteed it would be better than what I’d come from.
“Are you just going to sit there all day?"
Looking at the empty driver’s seat, I turned to see Mike holding open my door. I was so lost in thought that I completely missed him getting out, let alone opening my door.
I turned to where my body was facing his, I knew he was going to have to help me out, which meant his hands would be on me again.
Quickly, I tried to brace myself, but no amount of preparation could equip me in feeling his immediate heat. The electricity from his fingertips zapped straight to my core, making me want things, that given my history, I’d be crazy to want.
His hands lingered on my hips a little longer than most deemed appropriate, but I wasn’t going to complain, it wasn’t in my nature. At long last, I looked up through my lashes, recognizing the heat in his eyes. His intense hazel irises dilated and turned just a fraction more green which made them look even more beautiful than before.
He seemed to be holding his breath and dropped his hands hastily. Luckily, I was able to grab on to the door handle since I hadn’t been able to properly regain my balance.
Going about his business, he grabbed my duffle and started walking towards the house.
I honestly didn’t know how long I would be able to stay here. Hopefully, within a day or two, he would have felt like he fulfilled his volunteer duty and let me find a hotel to stay in.
I took slow, controlled steps until I made it to the base of his front porch.
I studied the concrete slabs that led to his house and had no idea how I was going to get up them. Mike had already went inside so he was of no use. I really wondered what had crawled up his ass. If he didn’t want me here, then why even volunteer? It wasn’t as if the doctor twisted his arm. Sheesh.
Looking at the steps once again, I contemplated yelling for Mike to get his ass back out here and help me, but I was a new self-sufficient woman. I could do this on my own.
Using the railing on his porch as a brace, I tried getting up each step, putting as minimal weight on my casted foot as possible and said numerous obscenities during each one. The movement heading up the stairs made my pain so severe in my ribs that they were actually burning, this entire trip wasn’t an easy one to take. At least when Mike was getting me in and out of his truck, the heat from his skin made me overlook the pain. You’d think someone as familiar to pain as I was, that I would be able to bear it a little bit better, but no such luck.
Once I cleared all three steps, I felt the need to do a little dance, but Mr. Moody probably forbade something like that taking place on his property.
Finally having made it into the house, I saw my belongings dumped on the floor, but no Mike, so I went on my search of finding him.
His living room was to the right of the entryway and was decorated with neutral colors. A black leather couch was in the middle of the floor situated in front of a big screen TV that was mounted to the wall. He had a few decorative pieces hung on the walls, such as a mirror and a giant clock, but nothing that showed who he was as a person. Not a single picture frame or family photo.
My foot was feeling quite sore and I felt fatigued, so I quickly trudged through on my search in trying to find Mike.
It almost felt as if I were snooping in Mike’s house, but someone wasn’t very hospitable, so I wasn’t really left with a choice.
His dining room was down the hall from the entryway and connected to his kitchen.
I could see stainless steel appliances in his kitchen, but that wasn’t what initially caught my attention. It was the enormous bay window that overlooked a tropical oasis. The bench was calling my name, all of the welcoming pillows drew me directly to it.
I unconsciously went and sat down on the bench and peered through the open curtain into his gorgeous backyard.
An oasis was the perfect word to describe what I was seeing. If I thought that the front yard was a work of art, then the backyard was a masterpiece.
A pleasant, peaceful, and tranquil place to unwind after the stress of the day.
The wooden pergola was what first caught my attention. The sun shining down through the wooden beams and onto his patio, which housed a furniture set, grill, and a fire pit.
My eyes continued on the journey, trying to take in every little bit of detail.
There were numerous bushes, shrubs, and flowers that were crowded in rows along his property line, and you could just faintly see his privacy fence through some of the branches of the trees.
His grass was so vibrant, the greenest I had ever seen.
I felt as if I could just take up res
idence right here, in his backyard. I would definitely never run out of beautiful things to look at. All it needed was a… Well, what do you know, he had a hammock as well.
In the very back corner of his property, nestled in between two overgrown oak trees, was a large rope hammock. I could just imagine lying in it and watching the clouds as the day passed by.
But currently, it was being occupied by Mike, who was sitting up and bent over at the waist, rubbing a dog’s head. A beautiful chocolate lab, which instantly brought a smile to my face.
Just the way they interacted together, it brought new meaning to the phrase, man’s best friend.
I felt myself drawing nearer to the window, wanting to be closer to their happy moment. I wanted to see what it would be like to be happy even if just for a few measly minutes.
I placed both of my hands on the window pane so I could continue peering at their welcome home reunion. I had stooped to an all-time low, actually wanting to be part of the happiness and camaraderie between pet and owner. I was officially pathetic.
Being engrossed in my deplorable pity party, I didn’t realize that Mike’s eyes were currently boring holes into mine.
He caught me literally red-handed gawking at him. I removed my hands from their position on the window and rubbed them on my oversized borrowed clothes.
It warmed my heart that he actually thought to bring me something to wear. Between that and him springing that joke on me, it had caught me completely off guard.
He stood from the hammock and began walking towards the backdoor, the mutt hot on his heels. I hoped to God that he wouldn’t mention my little onlooker session.
I turned to where my back was now to the window and I was able to get a good look at the kitchen since the backyard demanded my attention first.
One thing I noticed as I studied his setup was that he was unusually clean. I sincerely hoped that I wasn’t intruding on him and his girlfriend. I didn’t want to be a burden and interfere. I didn’t see a ring or an outline on his left hand, not that I looked too terribly hard. Ok, that was a lie. I looked every chance I got to see if there was a tan line marking of a ring.
The next thing I knew I was being accosted by a very cold nose and an incredibly wet tongue.
Seeing the dog’s tail wag unrelentingly back and forth, I knew the dog was happy I was here.
“Sadie, get down," Mike scolded.
I started rubbing her all over her dark brown coat and then scratching behind her ears. “It’s alright Sadie Belle," I cooed in a more soprano tone. “You are just excited to see someone different, maybe even a little more friendly. Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve been allowed to have a dog. Who’s a pretty girl?" I continued scratching her head, as she pushed her head against my hand.
“Why weren’t you allowed to have a dog?" Mike asked while leaning against his countertop with his arms folded across his chest.
“Oh, because he…" Then I stopped myself before I disclosed any more information. I wasn’t about to delve deep into my past, I already almost blew it when I talked about Pate during my nightmare. For some strange reason, I didn’t want to see pity and hatred on Mike’s face being directed towards me. So I quickly recovered, “My ex was allergic." I averted my eyes from his scrutiny and turned my attention back towards Sadie.
“Right," he said as if he saw right through my lie, “and her name is Sadie, not Sadie Belle!" he chastised me as if I were a child instead of a fully grown woman. He was definitely not a ray of sunshine by any means and I was frankly tired of his rudeness.
I stood from my position on the bench and moved a few steps in his direction where he stood in the kitchen.
My heart was slamming against my ribs because I had never been one to stand up in a confrontation, but the journey was supposed to be me turning over a new leaf, starting over, and not being anyone’s doormat any longer. It was my time to be brave.
I raised my index finger and thrust it towards his face and tried my hardest to sound stern, “Why do you have to be so rude?" I yelled in his face. “I didn’t ask to come here! I have been told what to do basically for the last eight years of my life. Now, we can both forget about all of this and you can just take me to the nearest hotel. Or, if you are too busy to take me, please just point me in the direction of my room and I will call a cab in the morning. My pain medicine is wearing off and my foot is throbbing so I wouldn’t be in your way." I let out an exasperated sigh, I was just tired of being treated like shit from someone who knew me all of five minutes.
“Oh my God!" talk about a delayed reaction, you would think my spidey senses would be on hyper alert after my past situations, but I felt so safe with Mike. How could I be so stupid?
I’m sure I had a horrified expression on my face, because Mike pushed himself off the counter and began advancing on me.
“What’s wrong, Sheridan? Is it your foot?" He genuinely sounded concerned, which was a pleasant change from him being a pompous asshole.
“Well, my foot is aching, but I’ve dealt with much worse. I just realized why you are being such a fucking douche to me!"
His brows pierced together as if he were challenging me to confront him.
“You are going to murder me in my sleep!" His jaw dropped open and he looked like he had a million and one things to say, but it seemed as if I had stunned him speechless. I continued on, placing a hand on my hip. “No, seriously, that’s why you were so adamant about me coming with you."
Finally, he seemed to come unglued as he threw his head back and let out a barreling laugh that came from deep within his gut.
Seeing him release such a hearty belly laugh at my concern should have royally pissed me off, but instead it did the complete opposite, it turned me on. A rush of wetness flooded from my core, instantly soaking my panties.
It had been so long since a man had invoked such a positive and sexual reaction from me.
I had to tamp down my lust and remember that he was a cocky jerk and things would be just dandy.
“You actually think that I brought you here to kill you in your sleep? Chop you up into tiny little pieces and shove you down my garbage disposal? You are delusional, maybe your concussion is affecting you more than you initially thought."
My hand was still placed on my hip while my other was balled tightly into a fist and I tapped my good foot mercilessly on the floor. He technically hadn’t answered me and I wasn’t going to stand down until I was thoroughly convinced. His explanation seemed a little too well thought out if it was just a spur of the moment.
“That’s not the reason I brought you here, Sheridan. And besides, my house doesn’t even have a garbage disposal, which, therefore, makes my plan void." He shrugged as if I was the absurd one.
I relaxed just a fraction, but that didn’t answer my question of why. “Then why did you volunteer to bring me here?" I crossed my arms in front of my chest, which showcased a white bandage taped on my forearm, covering the biggest abrasion from the flying shards of glass.
He came a beat closer, quickly closing in the bit of distance between us. I instinctively took a step back, trying to widen that gap. I couldn’t risk him getting closer to me, if I were to get a better whiff of his spicy scent, I would sure be a goner, and I needed to stand my ground.
“Sweetheart, I haven’t a clue, but when you’ve hatched another ridiculous theory, be sure to fill me in." He said in a low, cocky and condescending tone.
I really thought he liked provoking me. He wanted to see fire, well he was about to get a taste of his own rudeness and go up in flames.
“The name is Sheridan, not sweetheart. I’m not now, nor will I ever be your sweetheart. Now, please do me a solid and point me in the direction of my room for the night. I’ll be out of your way first thing in the morning." I may have looked strong on the outside, but on the inside I was shaking like a flimsy leaf getting ready to be blown into the wind. I would never be able to hold my own in a fight, it was too scary and intimidating. No wonder wh
y I always submitted to Pate... Stop thinking about him.
He said not a word as he shuffled past me and led me back through the hallway towards the entryway to retrieve my duffle. He went through the living room and down another hallway that had two doors on the right and one on the left. Opening one of the doors on the right, he brought my duffle and sat it down on the bed and walked around me and was out of sight.
This was an extremely bad idea to come here, in leaving my parents’ house altogether, but if I was going to make a new life, I needed a new place to call home. It was just my luck that I would be blindsided in a wreck and stuck here for God knows how long.
After I went to a hotel in the morning, I needed to find a replacement mode of transportation. My mom wasn’t happy to hear that I had broken yet another bone, stuck in a strange town, and wanted me home immediately. I couldn’t though, go home, it wasn’t safe.
I closed the door then sat my keyboard on top of the white painted dresser. Taking a look around the room it was just like the rest of the house, clean. I very much liked that he didn’t feel the need to be the normal statistic for a man, having a cluttered house with dishes piled high in the kitchen and empty beer bottles littering the coffee table. The guest bedroom was done in all white furniture. I was surprised to see that the comforter didn’t reflect his love of the color navy blue as it was crisply made with a red and white checkered gingham print bedspread. I couldn’t wait another minute, I flung myself down on the bed and sunk my toes of my unbooted foot into the fibers of the carpet below me.
Enjoying the luxury of a soft mattress for the night would be the highlight of my week. Then I would have to settle into some hard ass hotel bed for a few days until everything got situated. At least the accommodations at the hotel would be better than what I was used to. I just needed to keep thinking positive thoughts; things were headed in the right direction. Everyone hit a few bumps on the way to their happy ever after, even though I’ve encountered some rather large pot holes, the kind that would pop your tire, good things were bound to come.