I snapped my teeth together and felt my blood start to heat up to the point that there wasn’t any way for the whiskey not to burn out of it.
“I have to talk to her, have to try and make it right.”
He sighed. “What do you know about making anything right?”
It was a valid question, but I wasn’t going to point out he was the one who had set in motion the events that had led me to his sister’s front door in the first place.
“I know that Dovie is right. I know that being with her changed me, and being with me changed her. I’m never going to be a great guy, Race, but I sure as shit will do everything in my power to make sure nothing bad ever happens to her.”
He gave a bitter laugh that made me want to punch him in the face through the phone.
“Aren’t you the worst thing that could happen to her, Bax?”
I growled, actually growled at him, and clenched my hand around the phone. “Help me out or don’t. I’ll track her down on my own, Race. And like it or not, I’m going to make this happen with your sister, so you can be on board, or you can get run over by it. You’ve been like a brother to me, but I have no problem taking you down if you get in my way with Dovie.”
He laughed a real laugh and it skittered across my skin. “Good, because if you hurt her again, I’ll rip your intestines out and string you up with them.”
“Where is she?”
“Where you should have been the second you got sprung from the feds. Go home, Bax. It’s about time you knew what that felt like.”
Before I could question him any more, he hung up on me and left me with blood ringing in my ears, and boiling steadily under the surface of my skin. I struggled into a pair of jeans and pulled on a long-sleeved thermal. I shoved my feet into my boots and headed out the door. When the wood thudded shut behind me, I knew I wasn’t ever coming back here. This seedy apartment in the worst part of the Point belonged to the guy I used to be. There were still large chunks of him ingrained in my being, but now there were bigger parts of the guy I wanted to be for Dovie. Sure, that guy wasn’t going to wear khakis and go to a nine-to-five job, and there was a really good chance I hadn’t seen the last of the inside of a jail cell, but the guy I was now wasn’t convinced that was all there was to my future anymore was bars or a body bag, and that gave me something I had never had before . . . hope.
I made the trip to the little house at the base of the Hill in record time, even though speeding after two weeks of steady drinking was probably an awful idea, and a DUI was the last thing I needed. I wasn’t surprised to see the lights on when I pulled the Runner into the driveway. I had tried to give this house to my mom to let her make it a home, to try and make up for the shitty hand she had been dealt in life, but she had never appreciated it, never been able to get out from under the demons and addictions that held her captive. Leave it to Dovie, to sweet, strong, unbreakable Dovie, to take this place and turn it into what it was always meant to be . . . a home.
I opened the front door and just stood there for a second. She had been busy in the months I had been locked up. Instead of just the bare-bones furniture I had left, the place was now decorated. There were pillows on the couch, a rug on the floor under the coffee table, and the walls were no longer boring beige. It looked lived in and comfortable; it looked like her.
I did a double take at the sight of the candles she had burning on one of the end tables and made my way into the kitchen to see if I could find her there. I don’t think I had ever been in a house that had candles in it. That just seemed so out of the realm of the life I lived, I was having a hard time getting my head around it.
The kitchen was empty, but stocked full. The cabinets had food, the fridge was full, and she had put place mats on the little dining room table. I let my gaze rake fondly over the kitchen counter, dirty thoughts of having her splayed out and begging dancing behind my eyes. Five years without sex was no joke; three months without sex, when you had just figured out who the person you wanted to have sex with for the rest of your life was, was flat-out torture.
I called out her name as lightly as I could. I didn’t want to scare her, and if she really didn’t want to see me, I didn’t want to give her the opportunity to run away from me. But if she did, I would chase her down and make her listen to me, make her realize I couldn’t do this anymore without her. This life was always going to be brutal and dark, and she needed to be the one bright spot in it.
I walked through the kitchen to the back of the house where the master bedroom was. When I got closer, I could hear soft music coming from the under the closed door. I knocked lightly before twisting the knob and walking in. The big king bed that had been covered in plain sheets now had a charcoal-and-black comforter on in, and pillows that looked like they had been professionally fluffed up. There were lamps on the end table that looked like they were made from chrome and metal, and she had hung dark drapes over the window. There was a bloodred rug that covered a huge section of the hardwood floor that should look gaudy and harsh, but just added an edge to the dark furnishings. It looked like a sexy and dark retreat. The rest of the house looked like her, but this space she had decorated with me in mind. It was heavier, it looked a little mean, and I loved everything about it.
Once the initial shock wore off, I heard the water running in the attached bathroom. I took a deep breath and walked over to the open doorway. I was going to freak her out just showing up out of the blue like this, especially if she was naked and vulnerable in the shower. I debated waiting for her to finish, thought about calling out to her to let her know I was there, but in the end I just walked into the bathroom, already pleading my case.
“Copper-Top? I’m so sorry I wouldn’t see you when I got locked up. It was a dick move and I was being a coward, but please hear me out.”
It was steamy and she had a radio on playing some kind of rock. The mirror was fogged over and my chest got tight when I noticed that in the steam she had written:
The glass door to the walk-in shower whipped open and I was faced with a naked and wet Dovie who didn’t look at all surprised to see me. Her bright hair was a red curtain down her back and draped over her shoulders. Her eyes were big in her face as she blinked the still-running water out of them, but all I could see was the scar arching over the top of each of her perfect br**sts. Instead of a V, it almost looked like a crudely etched bird in flight. It was still pink and looked freshly healed. It was big and not all together ugly, but there shouldn’t have ever been any situation where her perfect skin was marred with such violence and ugliness.