Come to Me Quietly (Library Edition)
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Titre : Come to Me Quietly (Library Edition)
Éditeur : Tantor Media, Inc, United States
Date d'édition : 2014
Reliure : CD-Audio
Etat du livre :New
Edition : Library ed.
A propos de ce titre
Dashed lines blur until they become a solid line. My bones vibrate from the thousands of miles I’ve spent straddling this leather seat, the muscles in my right arm screaming from the hours my hand has been locked on the throttle.
But I don’t stop. I can’t, and I don’t know why. Something in my gut spurs me forward. I plow ahead.
Hot air blasts my face and my hair thrashes in uncontrolled chaos.
I bite back a bitter laugh.
Uncontrolled chaos. That’s exactly how they described me.
The desert sky goes on forever, an ocean of the deepest blue. The city rises like a beacon in the distance. Because I am drawn.
What am I doing?
There is nothing here for me. I know it. I’ve already destroyed it all. I destroy everything I touch.
Still I can do nothing but press on.
I was propped up on my bed with my sketch pad balanced on my bent knees. Megan was doing her best not to laugh from where she sat cross-legged at the end of my bed, bouncing.
“Hold still,” I commanded, biting my bottom lip as I attempted to get her mouth just right. The shading was difficult, and I wanted it perfect. Megan had the most genuine smile of any person I’d ever met. I refused to mess it up.
“But I have to pee,” she whined. She bounced a little harder. She couldn’t hold it in any longer, and she released this hysterical laugh as she rolled off the edge of my bed. “I’ll be right back.”
With a groan, I tossed my sketch pad to the bed. “You’re such a pain in my ass, Megan,” I called after her as she ran out my door and across the hall to the bathroom. She’d gotten up to pee at least three times in the last hour. The girl could not sit still to save her life.
“That’s why you love me so much,” she yelled back.
The bathroom door slammed behind her, and I picked the pad back up to study it.
Megan’s striking face stared back at me, smiling, her normally long blond hair traced in shades of charcoal, her normally blue eyes wide and black.
She’d been my best friend since she’d moved here from Rhode Island during our sophomore year of high school almost five years ago. I loved drawing her because she was so different than the typical model who offered herself up. She was short, just shy of the five-two mark, wore her curves well, and had a unique face. It was somehow both sweet and curious, this constant expression that made me think of innocence trying to work itself out.
She still lived with her parents in the same neighborhood where I’d grown up, just two streets over from my old house where my parents and younger brother still lived. She hung out here a lot at the apartment that I’d shared with my older brother, Christopher, since I’d graduated from high school two years ago. Christopher and I both went to ASU, and our apartment was near the campus. I was going to school to be a nurse, but God, sometimes I wished I could do something with my art. I knew it was absurd, that there was little chance that anything would come of it. That didn’t mean I didn’t want it.
She was grinning when she came back less than two minutes later.
“Oh yeah.” Climbing back onto the bed, she crawled forward to steal a peek.
I hid the pad against my chest.
“Let me see.” She reached out and tried to grab it.
I shook my head and held it closer. “You know the rules.”
“I know, I know.” She sat back. No one ever got to see. No one except for me.
From the floor, Megan’s phone rang in her purse. She leaned over to dig it out. When she rose back up, excitement had transformed her expression. “It’s him,” she mouthed to me as she accepted the call and brought it to her ear. “Hello?”
Turning back to my sketch, I tried not to smile while I listened to her talk to Sam. She’d been chasing that guy for the last month, ever since she’d hung out with him at a party our friend Calista had thrown in May to celebrate the end of last semester. One kiss and she was hooked. I wasn’t so sure he felt the same.
“Yeah . . . ?we can come . . . ?okay, see you there.”
She dropped her phone to the bed and squealed.
Oh God. Megan didn’t squeal. She was in trouble.
“Sounds like you have a date tonight,” I muttered, my attention trained on the motion of my hand.
“Not me, we,” she countered. “Sam is having a party tonight, and he wants us to come. I can’t believe he actually called,” she said, obviously talking to herself. “Two weeks and no word from him. I was beginning to think he was going to ditch me.”
So maybe I was a little protective of my best friend.
I hopped off the bed and went to my closet, dug through until I found the little black skirt I’d tucked in the back. I yanked it from the hanger and tossed it to her. “Here . . . ?wear this. It’ll look a lot better on you than it does on me. You know it was those legs that tripped Sam up in the first place. I think the guy literally stumbled.” I pointed at her. “And you better make him work for it.”
“Oh, he’s definitely going to have to work for it. You know me better than that.” Megan held up the skirt to inspect it. “This is really cute.” She looked up with a grin. “Maybe you should wear it. You know Gabe’s gonna be there.” The last she said in that singsong voice that she only used because she knew it annoyed the hell out of me.
“Pssh,” I huffed under my breath, and she laughed because she of all people knew Gabe wasn’t really that much of a draw. Gabe was my kind-of boyfriend. By kind of, I meant he was a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone or take no for an answer. But he was unbearably cute and sweet in a boy-next-door kind of way and I didn’t really know how to cut him loose without hurting his feelings.
And he was safe.
She lowered the skirt to her lap. “You should really quit stringing that guy along. It’s kind of sad.” Her tease turned serious, her blue eyes sober as she looked up at me from the bed.
I tossed a pair of shorts to change into on my bed. “I’m not stringing him along, Megan. He’s the one who’s strung himself to me.”
“Whatever, Aly. You just keep telling yourself that. You always do.”
I could see the concern pass over her eyes, could almost hear the argument pass through her lips, the lecture.
“Just don’t, okay?” I said.
She blinked a couple of times, as if doing that would clear whatever picture she saw in her mind. “I just don’t get you sometimes, Aly.”
The party was mellow, just a few people hanging out on a Thursday at the house Sam shared with a couple of other guys.
Most of us were out back, sitting around the pool drinking beer. The yard lights were off, the area cast in a muted glow from the lights shining through the bank of windows inside Sam’s house. Megan was curled up with him on a lounger at the far end of the pool, their voices hushed and relaxed. Behind me flames rose and crackled from an in-ground fire pit, and a few people sat around in the chairs that circled it.
Leaning back on my hands, I dipped my feet into the pool. Water rippled out over the surface, the ridges illuminated above the shadows as they lapped across the pool. Even at eleven o’clock at night, it was still hot. Summer in Phoenix was my favorite. It always had been. Heat saturated everything, radiated from the concrete and pavement, pressed down from the sky. Bugs trilled and birds rustled through the trees. I loved that I could be in the middle of the sprawling city and still feel like I was out in the wilderness. Peaceful. There was no other way to describe it.
I wasn’t surprised when Gabe settled down beside me. We’d chatted a little throughout the evening, but for the most part, I’d avoided him. He was shirtless and only wore a pair of white swim trunks. “You want to join me?” he asked, inclining his head toward the pool in invitation.
“Nah. I’m good,” I said, even though the thought of the cool water was incredibly appealing.
Tilting his head back to get a better view of me, he almost smiled. Strands of his light brown hair flopped to the side, and his dark brown eyes swam with something I wished I didn’t see. “You’re missing out,” he said.
I laughed quietly and shook my head. He was so obvious.
“I am, huh?”
One side of his mouth twitched. “Yeah, you are.”
“Fine,” I said.
What can it hurt?
Or I guessed the more appropriate question would be, why did it hurt? It was stupid. Childish. But I didn’t know how to let it go.
Forcing myself to my feet, I pulled off my tank top and slipped out of the little shorts I’d worn over my green bikini.
Gabe’s expression lifted with slow appreciation.
Embarrassed, I turned away and jumped in. My body sank to the bottom of the pool. I floated, weightless, the length of my black hair spreading out and drifting away. It was cool, invigorating. The water blocked out the voices and the noise of everyone else, and for a few seconds, I reveled in the solitude. When my lungs grew tight, I propelled myself up to the surface. I sucked in a huge breath of air as I flung my hair back from my face.
Gabe was already waist deep in the pool, smiling at me. “You have to be the most gorgeous girl I’ve ever seen, Aly,” he murmured as he edged forward.
Lights from inside cast his face in shadows, but I could see the beauty in his silhouette. And I wanted to want him, wanted to somehow get back the part of me that I’d given away that night so long ago.
I didn’t say anything, just stared at Gabe as he inched forward. I didn’t stop him when his hands found my hips and didn’t stop his kiss.
It felt nice.
But there would always be something missing.
Everything had changed even while everything seemed to remain the same. I rode the streets, searching. For what, I didn’t know. In the six years I’d been gone, the city had crawled out past its boundaries, but the old neighborhood appeared as if it’d been frozen in time, like a snapshot I looked at from afar. A picture I’d been erased from.
I pulled onto the dirt off the main street, directly across the street from where I’d grown up. Every memory that ever mattered I’d experienced here. They were only that. Memories. I propped my booted foot on the ground to hold my bike up while I just stared. Cars flew by, my vision blurred in the flashes of metal.
What the fuck was I thinking? That this was a good idea? Because it was most assuredly not a fucking good idea.
I’d been back in town for almost a week. It’d taken me that
long to even build up the nerve to get this close to the old neighborhood. Maybe I just wanted to torture myself, to make myself pay a little more, although no amends could ever be made. I’d already tried to pay the price, but fate wouldn’t even allow me that.
As if I were anchored to the past, I couldn’t force myself to leave. I could almost see us playing in the middle of the quiet street, hiding, chasing, laughing, running through the vacant land that backed the neighborhood. If I strained hard enough, I could hear my mom’s voice as she leaned out the front door and called me to dinner, could see my father pulling in to the driveway at the end of the workday, could picture my little sister’s face pressed against the window as she waited for me to return home.
All of it was an echo of what I had destroyed.
My chest tightened, and I fisted the grips on the handlebars as the anger raged. Aggression curled and coiled my muscles and I squeezed my eyes closed. A twisted snarl rose in my throat, and I bit it back and held it in. My eyes flew open as I gunned the throttle and shot down the street. I wound through cars and pushed myself forward. I had no idea where I’d end up because there was no place I belonged.
I just rode.
Hours later, I sat with my elbows propped up on the bar, my boots hooked over the footrest on the stool. I took a long drag from my bottle of beer, eyeing Lily from where she watched me with a coy smile from behind the bar. The girl’d had the nerve to card me, and we’d been fast friends since.
At least I hoped we were. A mild grin lifted just one side of her mouth before she shook her head and turned away to lean
over and restock some beers, giving me the perfect view of her tight little ass.
Ice-cold liquid slid down my throat, and I breathed out a satisfied sigh. I’d forgotten how fucking hot the summers were in Phoenix.
When it felt as if I traveled every street in the city, I’d pulled in to the parking lot of this little bar. I was starving and in dire need of a beer. The place was pretty packed, filled with guys who appeared to be looking for a reprieve after a long day at work, there to unwind and catch the game, mixed in with some groups who were probably college students, dotted with a few like me.
Lily disappeared into the kitchen and reemerged with my burger. She set it down in front of me. She leaned across the bar on her forearms. Pieces of her chunky blond hair fell to one side as she tipped her head. “So, are you going to ask me for my number or just stare at me all night?”
I raised my brow as I took another drink of beer. “I figured I’d just wait here until you get off.” I wasn’t one to go through the motions or humor girls with pretenses.
She laughed with a hint of disbelief. “Pretty sure of yourself there, huh?”
I shrugged as I polished off my beer. I wasn’t, really. I just didn’t care. If she asked me back to her place, cool. But I wasn’t going to be all torn up if she didn’t. I’d find someone else. I always did.
Lines dented her forehead as she turned her attention to my hands, and she reached out in an attempt to trace my knuckles.
My heart sped, my hands fisting as I drew them back, my jaw tightening in warning as I lifted my chin.
She frowned when she looked up and found the expression on my face. She rocked back before she appeared to shake off the jolt of confusion she felt at my reaction. “You want another beer?”
“That’d be good,” I said, my tone hard. It was always the same. They always fucking wanted to touch, to know, to dig. I didn’t go there. Ever.
She nodded and turned away.
With an elbow on either side of my plate, I wrapped my hands around the huge burger and leaned in to take a bite. It tasted like heaven. I suppressed a groan. It’d been way too many hours since I’d had something to eat. I popped a fry in my mouth and went in to take another bite when in my periphery I sensed someone come to a standstill. He started to pass, but hesitated again before he stopped. Out of the corner of my eye, I kept a watch on him. All I could see were his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides, like he was trying to make a decision about something. I didn’t acknowledge him, just focused on this fucking delicious burger and hoped the dude got some common sense and walked away before he got his ass beat.
He came in closer to the bar and cocked his head around to look at me. “Jared?”
My head snapped up to take in this guy who was really fucking tall, and even though he was lankier than shit, it was pretty clear...
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