I caught his wrist and forced him to look at me. I wanted him to stop. “Why are we leaving?” I knew why, but I had to pretend, and that was so hard to do. As I stood in front of him, I wanted to desperately console him. Instead, I had to lie. I felt sick to my stomach for pretending. I had never had to pretend with him before, and I felt disgusted with myself.
“I just need a break. I’m fuckin’ stressed, Mia.”
I reached up and grazed the side of his face with my fingertips. “What are you stressed about, Marcus?”
He shut his eyes and leaned into the palm of my hand. His face relaxed for a few seconds. Then he shot his eyes open. “With work and the jobs, I just want to go away with you and forget about it all. Just for a few days, I need to clear my mind, before I fuckin’ lose it.”
My thumb caressed his face as I stared into his worn out chocolate eyes. My stomach tugged with guilt, and I had an urge to break down and tell him everything I knew, but I couldn’t. “Okay.” I nodded. “Okay. We can go away. Megan, Jeremy, and my mother are leaving Friday for Philadelphia. They invited us to go with them. I know that’s two days away, but if you want, we can leave for Philly now and have some time to ourselves before they arrive.”
“Yeah, that sounds good. Okay, let’s finish getting you packed.” I grabbed his arm to stop him again.
“Marcus, how about you take a shower while I finish packing. Okay?”
He stared at me with furrowed brows. “Do I stink?” He lifted the collar of his shirt to his nose and sniffed.
Laughing, I reached up and smoothed the collar. “No, you just seem worn out and a hot shower will soothe you.”
“I don’t have any clothes to change into.”
“I have a few boxer briefs and t-shirts you’ve left here before. They’re clean. Just toss on the same pair of jeans.” I went toward my drawer, pulled out his things, turned, and handed them to him.
Marcus looked down at the few things in his hands and then back at me. He nodded and then headed toward the shower. Letting out a long breath, I quickly texted Theresa and told her that we were going away for a few days and that I’d keep her updated. I quickly gathered my suitcase and sat patiently on the bed for Marcus to finish.
After twenty minutes, Marcus came out of the steamy bathroom with his hair damp. I thought the hot shower would relax him, but with his brows creased and his lips kept in a thin line, I knew it didn’t work. I wished I knew what was running through his mind at that moment. “You ready?” he asked.
As I stood from the bed, I gave a curt nod and reached for my suitcase. He was faster than me and grabbed it before I could. “Do we need to stop by your house to pack a bag for you as well?”
He grabbed my arm. “No, whatever I need, I’ll grab in Philly.” I didn’t question him on it. I knew him well enough that I was sure he thought his mother was at his home and he wanted to stay away from her.
Before we left, I explained to Jeremy and Megan that we were going to Philly early and that would meet them on Friday. Megan was excited that we were going. I asked her to let my mother know. After our good-byes, Marcus and I hopped in his car and hit the road.
We pulled up to a hotel in downtown Philadelphia a little past ten that evening. I had Mia contact them on our drive down and reserve a stay for us in the Presidential suite, which was the best room available. After we exited the car, I removed Mia’s suitcase from the backseat, and then I handed the keys and tip over to the valet. He gave us a ticket before we entered the building.
Mia’s eyes spread wide open as she gasped when we entered the hotel. I was sure she was admiring the historic structure of the lobby with its oversize marble pillars and the simple touches that were elegant and modern. “It’s beautiful.” She whispered as she leaned into me.
I smiled at her as we made our way toward the front desk. “Hello, how may I help you?” a brunette asked, with a name tag that read “Sydney” pinned to her vest.
“We called a few hours ago and made reservations under the name Marcus DeLuca.”
Sydney tapped her fingers along the keyboard. “Ah, yes.” She placed the room key cards in a small brochure and handed it over to me. “Here you go. Your room number is right here. The elevators are just over there.” She pointed to my right. “Enjoy your stay.” She smiled. I simply nodded.
“Thank you so much.” Mia chirped. I grabbed Mia’s hand and we headed toward the elevator. I was drained from the long fucking drive. I wasn’t sure why we didn’t fly in, but I was so pissed off at that moment I couldn’t even think of anything else. Mia and I had driven in silence for the last five hours while music filled the space in the car. As much as I needed her, I also needed that time to think on my own.
She hadn’t questioned my behavior since we had left her apartment, and I was grateful for that. She was usually pushy when she wanted information. I was glad she had resisted those impulses at that moment. I just wanted a fucking bed, and just in time, the elevator doors opened. We exited and made our way toward our room. Mia entered first, and from her expression, I could tell she was impressed. I was too drained to look around and admire the room or even give a shit. I placed Mia’s suitcase on the ground, stripped down to my briefs, and tossed myself in the bed.
I could hear Mia brushing her teeth in the bathroom. After a few minutes, she joined me in bed after she shut off the lamp. I pulled her to me as I pressed my forehead into the crease of her neck. Her sweet scent eased me into a soothing trance. It was all I wanted at that moment: a different place, a bed, and my girl.
I was in such a deep sleep that, when I woke the next day, I had forgotten where I was. Until I took note of the hotel room, it didn’t dawn on me that we were still in Philly. Mia wasn’t in bed, nor could I hear her in the bathroom or the living room area. Looking around, I searched for my phone. When I remembered it was in my jeans, I grudgingly rolled out of bed and grabbed them. As I was about to dial Mia’s number, she waltzed through the door. “Good morning, sleepyhead,” she sang as she approached me with a few bags in her hands. “I’ve never heard you snore before. You were pretty out of it, so I decided to grab some clothes for you. I hope you don’t mind?”
Still grumpy, I leaned down, kissed her forehead, and then headed toward the bathroom. After I had finished and had returned to the bedroom, I glanced over at Mia. She was on the bed, texting on her phone. Her eyes flashed up at my presence. “I was just texting Megan to let her know that we made it here safely.” She shrugged.