As soon as I pull the door open, my blood runs cold.
This seems like an appropriate reaction because there stands Cole wearing an easy smile, holding a giant bouquet of pink roses.
I’m petrified. I literally can’t move. My hands sweat. I lock my knees to stop them shaking and whisper, “Cole.”
His eyes are rueful and he sighs, “Sorry I’m late, sunshine.” He nods to the flowers. “I had to get something special for my girl.” He has the audacity to wink at me, and I suddenly want to pour hot tar over his head and throw a bucket of feathers over him.
Immediately Helena is by my side and asks cautiously, “Who are you?”
He smiles his devastatingly sexy smile, “I’m Cole. And by the looks of you, I’m going to take a stab and say you’re Nat’s sister.”
Nina comes out of nowhere, standing on my other side, flanking me and holding her extremely sharp hairdressing scissors. She shoots him a look of disbelief then spits, “The only thing that’s going to get stabbed is you if you don’t leave right this second. I can’t believe you have the nerve to come back here after what you did to my sister, carrying a bunch of flowers, no less.”
Coles smile vanishes and the cruel I saw in him last night re-emerges. The flowers he holds drop to his side, his eyes narrow at Nina and he spits, “Mind your fucking business, bitch.”
Helena takes hold of my hand and very calmly tells him, “You need to stay away from my sister. So please leave. Now.”
My throat clogs and my vision blurs with unshed tears. Just as I open my mouth to tell Cole to leave someone cuts me off.
“Girls, get in the bedroom. Now.”
Well, today just got real interesting.
Rage coils tightly in my gut like a snake ready to attack its prey.
Cole glances at me and smiles. Definitely not a how you doing smile, more like a I’m going to enjoy gutting you kind of smile. The girls haven’t moved. This is not a fucking joke. It pisses me off. I boom, “Girls, now!”
Helena gently leads Nat backwards by the hand and walks her down to her room. I walk to stand behind Nina who stares up at Cole like she would take immense pleasure in cutting off his dick. I know how she feels. I place a gentle hand on her shoulder and whisper in her ear, “She needs you.”
Thank fuck that works. After a few more seconds of staring, she backs away. Once I hear the bedroom door close, I suggest, “Maybe you should leave before someone has an accident.”
Cole, being the big tough guy he is, gloats, “Just coz I got the girl you want.” He tuts. “She don’t want you, man. Back off. Leave her to a real man.”
I step closer to him, my voice perfectly calm, “Let’s talk outside.”
He narrows his eyes at me in suspicion but backs into the hall. I follow him out and shut the door behind me. I smile the most fake, friendly smile I can and hold my hand out to him to shake. He looks confused but takes my hand.
Big. Fucking. Mistake.
Quick as a flash, I flip him onto his stomach, twisting his arm behind his back at an awkward and unnatural angle. I dig my knee into his side knowing the pressure in his kidney will be excruciating in just a moment. This guy is shorter than me but has more muscle. Muscle can be good, if you know how to use it. Cole clearly doesn’t.
I lean forward, digging my knee further into his side. He groans loudly and I hiss into his ear, “You will stay away from Nat. I won’t tell you again. Don’t fuck with me, Cole. You have no idea what I’m capable of.” Using my knee to balance myself, I use my free hand to take a piece of paper out of my back pocket. I open it up and read, “Cole Taylor Lewis. Prescription medication: Antipsychotic, antipsychotic, antidepressant, antipsychotic and more antidepressants. Five-year stint in juvenile hall for attempted rape and assault on a minor. Assault charges up the wazoo.” It’s my turn to tut. “Cole, Cole, Cole. You’ve been a busy guy, huh? Well, lucky for you, your life lost some of its busy because you’re not seeing Nat anymore. Get me?”
Cole hisses through a groan, “You don’t make decisions for her! She’s my girl!”
I nod solemnly and tell him, “No. I don’t make decisions for her. But I’m making one for you. You know what happens if I talk her into pressing charges against you. Which I can. I’m her friend and she trusts me.”
Cole barks a harsh laugh, “With what? You got no evidence, man.”
I take out my phone and open the gallery with the twenty photos I took of Nat’s swollen, bruised face after she passed out. I put it in front of his face and his body stills.
Yeah, I got you, fucker.
“You will not attempt to see Nat again. If you do, I’m coming after you, and only one of us will come out of it alive.” Cole sniggers, and I smile an acid smile that I know he can’t see. Reaching into my back pocket, I take out my beautiful sterling silver handled switch blade hunting knife. I lean forward and open it right in his face.
He stills and chokes out, “What are you doing?”
Without stopping, I reply clinically, “Showing you how fuckin’ serious I am, you rodent.” With the blade opened, I move my knee into the center of his back, pushing his arm back so far it should pop out of its socket any moment. He huffs, puffs and groans an almost scream and it makes me happy.
A little too happy.
Yeah, I’m a monster. But at least I know it.
Endorphins rush through my brain, making my body feel warm and light as a feather. Knowing I have him immobilized, I put the sharp blade to his temple, apply some pressure and slowly, and most definitely painfully, run the blade down his cheek opening the flesh deeply for approximately four inches. He shrieks like the pussy he is and my eyes roll back in ecstasy.
God, that feels good.
The scar that comes from that should be a good reminder to him to watch who he fucks with.
Cole’s stopped screaming, but his body shakes in silent sobs. I ask him, “So, tell me what your plans are, Cole?”
He chokes out between sobs, “Stay away from Nat!”
I pat his bloody cheek and say, “Good boy. Old dogs learning new tricks and all that shit. Good for you.” Looking down at my bloody hand, I cringe and wipe the blood onto the back of his shirt.
I stand and help him up. The only word I could use to describe Cole’s facial expression would be horrified. Still sobbing, he cradles his gaping wound with shaking hands and I tell him pleasantly, “Take care now, Cole. Always a pleasure.”
Taking the hint, he takes off down the hall and into the elevator. I snicker. If he took off any faster, he would have flown. I sigh when I look down to the floor at the large pool of smeared blood. Luckily, the floor is tiled.
Clean up time.
Heading back into Nat’s apartment, I hear the bedroom door open. Music blasts as Helena pokes her head out and looks down at my bloody hands. She looks back into the room, says something I can’t hear then comes to join me, closing the door behind her.
I’m surprised as fuck when she doesn’t ask questions. She just goes under the kitchen sink to get some disinfectant and paper towels, then walks into the outer hall to clean up Cole’s blood.
I clean my hands over and over with dish soap. Blood is hard to clean and the smell of it is rank.
Once I’m certain there isn’t any more blood on me, I join Helena in the hall. Leaning against the wall, I open my mouth to explain but she cuts me off. Mopping up the red mess, she softly says, “Thank you.”
My brow bunches in confusion. I don’t answer. She mops up more blood before looking up at me. “For caring about her so much you would do this.” She opens her arms out to the blood-stained floor. Without looking back at me, she says softly, “She needs someone like you, Ghost.”
That pisses me off. I spit, “No one needs someone like me.”
She looks saddened by my admission. She stands and walks over to me. We stand almost face to chest and she states firmly, “Nat does.”
Neither of us speaks for a moment. She tugs my collar and looks unsure as she says, “You just need to let her in here.” She puts a hand over my heart. “And here.” She places her fingertips on my forehead. “Don’t believe the things your brain tells you about yourself. Your worth is judged by what others think of you, not what you think of you. Just give her a chance. She’ll surprise you,” she finishes quietly. Then she takes the blood-stained towels inside and shuts the door behind her.
Sighing deeply, I head back to my place. Once the door clicks shut, I place my forehead on the back of the door.
I need a drink.
Lying in bed twiddling my thumbs, I am this close to losing my shit. It’s almost midnight and I’m still a little shaken by Cole’s unexpected appearance.
I mean, c’mon! Is the guy freakin’ serious?
Did he think I would pretend the whole I slapped you so hard you fell off the counter thing didn’t happen?
Once Helena ushered me to my room, she made me put in my mp3 player. So there I was, devastated and frightened, listening to Hall and Oates sing ‘I can’t go for that (No can do)’.
Not exactly fitting music for the situation, but once Helena realized what I was listening to, she enthusiastically burst into song and I couldn’t contain my laughter. We love Adam Sandler and The Wedding Singer is one of our favorite movies. When she finally joined us, Nina decided to back us up with the singing.
And, as expected, we totally rocked that shit.
So there we were, singing crazy assed eighties music, doing some crazy assed eighties dance moves and two stepping. I almost forgot about Cole til I heard him yell out a blood curdling scream.
Fucking Cole. He ruined my eighties dance party.
So Nina did the only thing she could do. Docked my mp3 player and put the music on full volume. I didn’t know what Ghost was doing to him and, frankly, I didn’t give a damn. All I knew is that Cole’s screams could be heard over the music, and the music was pretty damn loud.
It almost sickens me that I felt satisfaction bloom in the pit of my stomach.
Ghost isn’t a half-in kind of guy. I know whatever punishment he dealt to Cole would’ve been bad. So bad that I don’t actually want to know any of the details. I’d probably ralph. You see, blood and I don’t mix well together.
Helena excused herself from the bedroom making our trio a duet. She was gone for around ten minutes. When she came back, I asked her where Ghost was and she said he went home. I obviously didn’t hide my disappointment very well because both my sisters jumped to his defense saying he was tired from work and mentally exhausted from having to deal with Cole, and it was probably best that he didn’t see me right then. Around ten, I excused myself claiming exhaustion and went to bed.
Which brings us to now. Normally, sleep and I are best buddies, but I’ve been counting sheep for the past two hours. My brain just won’t quit.
This ticks me off.
An idea crosses my mind and like a freakin’ compulsion, I can’t let it go. Huffing out an annoyed breath, I toss the covers off me. Slipping on my Minnie Mouse head slippers, I creep to my bedroom door and sneak down the hall. I open the front door and walk over to Ghost’s door. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and knock quietly.
Realizing all too quickly that this is a very stupid idea, I turn on my heel and swiftly head back to my apartment. I know I’m too late when I hear his door open. “Nat? Everything okay?”
I turn to face him and utter, “Yeah. Sorry. I didn’t realize what time it was, and by the time I did, I figured you’d be asleep.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
He leans his body against the doorframe and crosses one leg over the other. He’s dressed in his regular sleepwear of his blue pants and white tee. He makes it all too easy to make plain pajamas look sexy. His eyes search me long and hard as if he doesn’t believe me. I play with the ring on my finger and shift nervously, looking around for an escape when he slowly asks, “Wanna come in?”
Bad idea. Don’t go in. It’s a trap!
But my mouth decides for me. “Sure.”
What the feck, mouth?
Once I step into his apartment, I realize it’s the first time I’ve been in his place. The lights are off, but through the illumination coming from the side of the room, I can see it clearly enough to notice it’s exactly as I thought it would be.
Bare as the day it was made.
No sofa, no dining table, no TV. A wide bookshelf full to the brim of books sits in the place where the sofa should be and the wall closest to the patio has a long table with, I mentally count, one, two, three, four computers and one laptop. They’re all up and running. Some flashing while others beep. His apartment is like a freakin’ control room. The only thing that our places seem to have in common is that we both have a refrigerator.
I look at him and utter out of the corner of my mouth, “Not a lot going on in here.”
He glares through furrowed brows. “I like it just fine.”
Wide eyed and nodding slowly, I respond, “And that’s all that matters, friend.”
Rolling his eyes, he asks shortly, “Was there something you needed?”
Okay. Be quick. Get to the point. Then run like hell.
Nodding once more, I step forward, closing the distance between us. By the time I reach him, his face has turned questioning. I explain in a rush, “You know I kind of realized that you’ve not come to my rescue just once, but twice now, and I haven’t said a damn thing to you about it.” I turn and pace, running my hand down my chin to stroke my imaginary beard. Scoffing, I tell him, “My mom would be so disappointed in me and I hate to say it, but I know I was really selfish today and just thinking about myself. And what shit taste I have in men. And how much I miss Tina and the girls. And how much I wish I could tell them what happened without sounding like a weak person or victim.” My eyes start to sting. I breathe in a shuddering breath and go on, “I just don’t know how this happened. I should’ve seen it from the start, but I think I was so desperate to connect with someone that I settled for anyone.” I turn to him and point at his chest. “You saw it. You called him the, quote, angry man, end quote, and all I did was get defensive. I should’ve known, but I didn’t and now I feel stupid about it.” My feet still suddenly, stopping me in my pacing tracks. My eyes shut and placing my fingertips to my forehead, I laugh a humorless laugh. “So stupid. Anyways, I just wanted to come over here and thank you for being my hero. Twice. And I don’t know what you did to Cole, but I gotta say, I was as happy as a pig in shit hearing him scream like a sissy girl.”