Trashed / Page 8

Page 8


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“The Chargers.”

“You mean the NFL?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

“You played pro football?”

I shrug. “For one season, yeah.”

“What position?”

“Fullback.”

“I don’t know anything about football, so I don’t know what that means.”

“A fullback can be either a blocker or a running back, depending on the team’s playing style. I was more of a blocker.” I wave my hand. “It’s not important. Not anymore.”

“Do you miss football?”

I shake my head. “Not really,” I say immediately, but then have to backtrack and try again. “Well, that’s not entirely true, actually. There are some things I do miss, I suppose. Practice with the guys. Working out with ten or fifteen guys is a lot more fun than spending four to six hours every day in the gym with just one hard ass trainer. I miss the rush of competition, too. That most of all. The all-out exertion, pushing yourself past your max. Making the block, being out there on the field with these massive guys coming at you, and just being as fucking dominant as humanly possible, stopping them and making the block to get the ball down the field. It’s a rush, you know? I miss that part.”

“What don’t you miss?”

“The pressure to perform at your peak every single game, every single practice. You can’t slip, not once. There are so many guys itching to come up, all these huge, talented guys that are just hungry to take your place on the starting line-up. And I also don’t miss getting hit. Even with the pads, when a guy that stands six foot six and weighs three hundred and twenty pounds of solid muscle drills into you, it fucking hurts. I don’t really miss that at all.” I notice she’s turned the conversation back to me again. “Enough about me. Tell me something about yourself.”

She shuts down immediately. Until I asked the question, she was facing me, knees apart, one foot propped on my stool, sipping her drink and nodding and watching me intently. As soon as the question leaves my mouth, she turns away, returns her foot to the rail of the bar, ducks her head, stares down into her drink.

“Not much to tell.” She lifts a shoulder in a small, dismissive gesture. “Grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit. Went to Southfield-Lathrup High School. Just graduated from Wayne State University with my bachelor’s in social work, starting on my master’s in the fall. I’m a janitor at U of D Jesuit, and I live in downtown Detroit.”

I sigh. “Des. That’s like…the abbreviated Cliff’s Notes version. There’s got to be more to tell than that.”

She shrugs, shakes her head, and drains her drink. “Not really.” She glances out the window. “Looks like the rain has slowed down a bit. Guess I’ll head home. Thanks for dinner. And, you know…stalking me.”

Before I can register her words, she’s slapping a ten-dollar bill onto the bar and is out the front door, jogging back up the hill. I growl in frustration. She’s the most closed-off person I’ve ever met. It’s ridiculous. Clearly, she has something to hide, or something she just really doesn’t like talking about.

I leave a one hundred-dollar bill on the bar and slide her ten into my wallet, and then jog out into the rain after her.

She’s not getting off the hook that easily.

Chapter 3

I run out of the bar and into the wet streets. I have to escape him. I have to get away from his piercing, knowing eyes, from the heat of his body that seems to just suck me in, draw me closer. Something about Adam is just…magnetic. Hypnotic. He makes me want to talk to him. Trust him.

But…I don’t trust. Not anyone. Not ever. Not even Ruth knows much about me, or about my past. We both went through the foster care system, so she understands that part. She doesn’t ask, and I don’t tell. We’re friends because we get the need to let the past stay in the past, to forget and move on and pretend none of it ever happened.

I can’t trust Adam. It’d be beyond idiotic. He’s a famous movie star here for the weekend. I’ll never see him again, no matter what happens. Or would have happened, now that I’ve made my escape. He had expectations. When someone like him shows interest in a random girl when he’s on a weekend trip, he’s only interested in one thing. I am most definitely not the type of girl to go back to some movie star’s hotel room for a night of debauchery. Nope, nope, nope. Not me. For a lot of reasons, that’s just not me. And he doesn’t need to know any of the reasons.

I’m soaked. I was already wet, but within half a block, I’m even more thoroughly drenched. Every inch of me is dripping with rain. My shoes squish with each step, my hair is a heavy, sopping wet mass of tangles on my back, and my jeans are pasted to my legs. I slow to a walk and keep trying to convince myself that I made the right choice in leaving Adam at The ’Stang.

I did make the right choice, though. The more he asked me about myself, the more I felt myself just shrinking in, closing off. Not fair to him, I suppose, since he was asking normal questions, but I just can’t start answering those questions. How do you explain to someone you just met what it’s like growing up in the foster system? Being bounced from house to house, family to family? How do you explain that not all the families were stable, or…safe? Or that you never bothered making friends or getting close to anyone because you knew it wouldn’t last? You don’t. I learned that the hard way. People don’t want to know. People don’t care.

I’m rounding the corner and approaching my dorm when I hear footsteps on the pavement behind me. I turn, and there he is. Huge, bulky with muscles upon muscles, yet quick and quiet on his feet. He’s lit by the street lamps, passing through the circle of dull yellow light, and his T-shirt is clinging to his torso, pretty much sheer now. I can see every ripple and ridge of his abs, the deep grooves at his sides, the heavy slabs of his pecs…his shoulders are so broad he could be Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on his back. His arms are nearly as thick around as my waist, toned to perfection and solid as granite. He’s jogging after me in a lithe, easy stride that belies his enormous size, his body shifting and rippling. He looks like a predator, like a lion stalking through the shadows, all muscle and grace and power.

I stop and wait for him, heedless of the rain now. I’m so wet at this point it doesn’t even matter.

Lightning stabs the blackness, a quick flicker of brilliance, followed by a roar of thunder so loud my eardrums hurt and my bones rattle.


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