“So what are you afraid of? She asked, leaning her forearms on the bar.
“I don’t want to hurt her.”
“Sounds like you already did.”
She had a point.
“You wanna know what I think?”
“Why else would I be here this evening?”
Carla chuckled. “I think you’re afraid you’ll get hurt.”
The next morning, I woke with a wicked hangover. Even though I had a screaming headache and it felt like the desert had taken over my mouth, I hoisted my dragging body out of bed at the ass crack of dawn. Aubrey had left with some suit, looking too comfy for my liking; I needed to see if they arrived together, too.
There was a Starbucks three doors down from her office, and I thought it was a distinct possibility she’d make a pit stop before work. So I parked with a view of the entire block and slumped into position. Three hours passed. I was in desperate need for a second cup of coffee, and there was no sign of Aubrey.
I reached into the glove compartment, pulled out a baseball hat, and slipped on my sunglasses. It wasn’t a great disguise, but the chance of running into her by now had to be slim. The moment my feet touched concrete, I saw her turn the corner. Fuck. I froze for a moment and then, luckily, instinct took over.
I hopped back into the cab of my pickup and slouched down. She was busy texting on her phone and didn’t look up until she hit the door to Starbucks. That was close.
A few minutes later, she emerged with her white venti coffee cup and never looked in my direction. Damn. She looked just as good going as she did coming. And she was alone.
I did the same thing that afternoon. The five minute glimpses of her were enough to make the whole day worthwhile. So I did it again the next day…and the day after that. Aubrey had a definite routine. I wasn’t surprised. She arrived at nine-thirty and left at seven. Two out of three of my evening stalkings, the asshat was with her when she called it a day.
I’d even settled into a routine of sorts. I reported for morning stalking at dawn and ended my day at dusk. In between, I took off for a few hours and went to a gym two towns over. The evenings, I spent drowning my sorrows with Carla Babes.
This particular morning, the hotel hadn’t set up the coffee urn by the time I was ready to leave, and I was itching for some caffeine. Seeing as I had Aubrey’s routine pretty much down pat, I snuck out of my truck and slipped into her Starbucks. It gave me a thrill to be inside, even though I was certain she wasn’t arriving for hours.
I ordered my plain old black coffee, and the young girl behind the counter smiled. “Can I get you anything else?”
“No. I’m good. Thanks.” Then a thought escaped my mouth. “Actually. Do you know a woman who comes in every morning about nine twenty? Auburn hair, probably orders a nonfat three-pump vanilla latte, low foam and extra hot?”
I dug a twenty out of my pocket and held it out to the girl. “Her coffee is on me today.”
She looked confused.
“Keep the change. And don’t give her a description of the guy who wanted to buy her coffee, okay?”
She shrugged and stuck the twenty in the front pocket of her jeans. “Sure thing.”
A few hours later, I watched Aubrey go inside, right on schedule. She was texting away as she walked in. But when she came out with a huge smile on her face while carrying her complimentary extra hot, low foam, nonfat three-pump vanilla latte, I knew it wasn’t the last time I wanted to be the one to put it there.
After a few days, I decided to change up my stalking itinerary. I hadn’t yet ventured to Aubrey’s house. Heading there while she was at work would give me some clues about her life, namely whether she was shacking up with Clark Kent’s dorky twin. I’d decided that I needed as much information as possible before confronting her, even if some of it was going to make me ill.
When I pulled up to the small brown bungalow, the exterior looked like typical Aubrey: quirky, a little messy but unconventionally and stunningly beautiful at the same time. The first thing that caught my eye, though, was the grass out front. It looked like it hadn’t been cut for months. What the fuck kind of man lets his woman’s grass get to nearly a foot high?
With my baseball cap and sunglasses, I looked around me to make sure there were no nosy neighbors. Peeking in the window, I saw that the inside was much tidier than the outside. Her living room had cream-colored furniture, and there were some silk flowers on the coffee table. There was nothing to indicate one way or the other whether a man was living there.
I nearly fell back into the bushes when I saw the shadow of something moving. It couldn’t have been Aubrey because I’d waited until she safely disappeared into the office building before coming here.
Who the fuck was in her house?
Adrenaline pumped through me. Deciding to walk to the window at the other side of the house, I trudged through the overgrown grass, swearing under my breath again about it.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the face plastered against the glass pane. Not just any face.
“No fucking way!” I yelled.
My voice must have scared him, and he went down for the count.
Mutton. Holy shit. Mutton!
Through the window, I watched as the goat lay on the ground. He’d fainted. Of course. Shit. I kept tapping on the glass to try to wake him.
“Come on, little guy. Wake up.”
After a few minutes, he eventually wriggled his body and stood upright. He kept moving around in circles and seemed discombobulated. I needed to get to him and decided to try to break open the window. I’d replace it if I had to. To my surprise, it slid right up on the first nudge.
What was she nuts leaving her window open? She probably slept that way at night, too, making it easy for any crazy lunatics to enter her bedroom whenever they wanted.
I’d have to remember that for the future.
I was halfway through the window. Waving my hands for a blind goat to come toward me, I said, “Bugger! It’s me. Come here, Mate.”
The animal came right to me and placed his face in my palm. Gently scratching his head like I used to, I said, “You’re a good boy. I can’t believe you’re still here.” I muttered to myself, “You’re nuts, Princess. Royally nuts. But I’m glad you kept him.”
Call me crazy, but he seemed to remember me. He let out a long, “Baaaaa.” The second time, I could’ve sworn it sounded like “Daaaad.”
“What’s been going on here, huh? You’re my spy. Is she happy? Does she hate me? Tell me.”
I scratched his head harder. “Eh, you’re no help.” He started to lick my face. “Oh, God. I never thought your putrid breath would be a welcome scent.”
Mutton wouldn’t let me go. It occurred to me that one of the neighbors could suspect I was a burglar. Getting arrested was the last thing I needed at this stage of my life. My eyes wandered around the room and caught a glimpse of a man’s suit hanging over the closet door. My heart sank.
I kissed his forehead. “I’ve got to go. I’ll come back and see you again. I promise.”
“I know. You don’t trust me anymore. You have no reason to right now. I have to earn that back.”