I don’t answer her straight away. I could give her a hundred ways to change how the story she’s involved in can play out, but I get the feeling at least ninety-nine of them would result in her punching me. So, instead, I smile at her then turn my head to watch the guy … Sam … cross the street, and head in our direction. I reckon we have less than two minutes before he’s going to reach us.
“Are you going to stay in your place or do you have somewhere else to go?” I ask her.
“I can stay at my sister’s,” she replies. She’s also watching Sam’s rapid approach. “I need to get some stuff from the apartment first though.”
“How far from here is it?”
“It’s right there,” she points to the row of windows above the grocery store. “I live above the store.”
“Okay. I’ll come up with you while you pack and take you to your sister’s,” I decide on the course of action even as I speak. “What are you going to do about him?” I incline my head toward Sam, who’s almost at the car.
“I’m going to ignore him.”
The prim tone in her voice makes me laugh as I unbuckle my seatbelt and hop out of the car. In a few quick strides, I’m at the passenger door and have it open before she’s even untangled herself from her own belt.
Reaching into the car I unclip the belt for her and hold out a hand, offering to help her out. When she looks up at me, a question in her eyes, I smile.
“It’s all about changing the narrative, remember.” Her look changes to one of determination and she grasps my hand and exits the car.
“Cassie!” The guy – Sam – calls from behind us. At least I know her name now, something I probably should have found out earlier, but never mind.
Cassie ignores him, continuing on a steady path toward the door just to the left of the grocery store’s entrance. I keep myself between her and Sam, angling my stance so that when she pauses to unlock the door, he can’t get to her. We go inside and I kick the door shut behind me, hopefully in his face.
I follow Cassie up a flight of stairs, then another pause while she unlocks the second door and we enter the apartment.
“Make yourself at home,” she tells me, waving a hand toward a couch that has definitely seen better days. It’s clean enough and covered with a bright yellow throw but it looks like if I sat on it it’d break under my weight, so I follow her and lean against the doorframe of what, I assume, is her bedroom.
Her bedroom is an explosion of colour. I honestly have no way to describe it other than to say it looks like someone grabbed the brightest paint they could find and just threw it at the walls. There are yellows, greens, reds and blues everywhere.
My eyes shift to Cassie who is standing in front of the dresser. The drab outfit she’s wearing doesn’t match the insanity of her bedroom.
“Were you high when you decorated?” I ask, and she jumps.
“I thought you were in the living room,” she says, spinning round and I shrug.
“You were in my bedroom, only thought it was fair I get to see yours.”
“I said I was sorry!”
I hear the front door open and turn my head slightly to see another woman enter. This one’s a brunette, probably the roommate. From the look on Cassie’s face, she heard her too.
“Goldilocks,” I raise my voice to make sure the newcomer hears me. “You were standing there eyefucking me, there’s no way you’re sorry.” Yeah, I’m an asshole, but if it works it works.
“I was looking at your tattoos!” She gapes at me.
“Sure … sure … that’s what they all say. Do you have any tattoos? Think it’s only fair you show me.” I wink and her eyes slide over my shoulder. I’m pretty sure her roommate is standing behind me.
“I only saw them because you came out of the bathroom naked, not even a towel around your waist,” she chides me, and I grin at her.
“Oh my god, get out!” She slings a pillow at me and I laugh, catching it.
“Fine, I’ll wait out here. But I want to see those tattoos! Don’t think I didn’t notice you didn’t answer me.” I back out of the room and close the door, then turn to face the roommate.
She’s standing in the centre of the living room, her lips turned down and eyes narrowed at me. She’s pretty enough, but there’s a pinched look around her mouth that I don’t like.
“Hi,” I keep my voice casual and head over to the danger-couch, easing down onto it gingerly.
“I know you.”
Well, okay then. Gonna be like that, is it?
“I get that a lot,” I tell her.
She turns to the coffee table, rummages around amongst the magazines, then opens one and throws it onto my lap.
“Like I said, I know you.”
I look down at the picture of me and DJ. The photo had caught us as we were both leaving the hospital. I actually look sober, so that’s something. DJ looks tired and his arm is thrown across my shoulders. I remember the day that picture was taken. It was two months into rehab, after my collapse. DJ had got the nurses to agree to let me out for the day.
“What would the papers say if I told them you were in town?”
Her voice drags me out of my memories and I glance up at her with a smile. “Not as much as they’d say when I told them how I was helping out a friend whose roommate had fucked her boyfriend on the kitchen table while she was at work.” I make a point of tapping the picture of me in the magazine. “These things love a ‘bad boy does good’ story.” I lean back, draping my arms across the back of the couch. “And, more to the point, these magazines love me. So, if you want to contact them, be my guest. Just remember when the shit hits the fan, you started it.”
We’re trading glares in silence when Cassie returns. She glances at me, then at her roommate, then back at me.
“I’m ready,” she tells me.
“Cassie,” her roommate moves to block her path. “We need to talk.”
“There’s nothing you can say to me that will fix what you did,” Cassie responds. Her eyes catch mine. “Are you coming?”
“Not yet,” I remark, “but the day’s not over yet.”
The roommate glares at me again but Cassie… man, she just shakes her head at me and laughs and that’s when I notice she’s changed her clothes. She no longer looks like a librarian. Now she looks like a girl who wouldn’t be out of place at one of my concerts. Skin-tight jeans and a t-shirt that moulds itself to her curves … and, oh boy, those curves are a wet dream just waiting to happen.
I’m suddenly really glad she broke into my home. Does that make me shallow? So shoot me, I don’t give a fuck.Read