I had made it an entire week without Cage. Putting all my attention on my daddy had helped me not think about it too much. I convinced Daddy to go with me to see the new Superman movie that was playing. Then we’d drove up to his hunting camp for two nights and rode four-wheelers and gone fishing together.
Jeremy had been working long hours everyday and I was trying to step in and help. Give Daddy less to do and also I was able to keep an eye on him without him thinking that I’m hovering. Jeremy waited until Daddy went to bed each night and then we’d walk outside and sit on the swing and talk. It helped more than I think he realized. I needed to talk about it and although Cage called everyday I didn’t want to make our talks all about me and my issues. I wanted him to tell me all about his new apartment and his coach. He was spending time with his new teammates and he really seemed to like the school. I was happy for him and for those hours that we spent talking each night I was able to escape.
He always asked me about Daddy and things here but I was vague. I left those talks to Jeremy. He was here living it with me. He knew what was going on and I didn’t mind telling him my worries. Cage would hate that if he knew but I wanted him to enjoy his summer at Tennessee. I didn’t want to ruin this for him.
Tonight Jeremy wasn’t going to be around to talk to though. He’d said during dinner that he was going home to change then head out to Becca Lynn’s lake. Apparently she was having a party down there. I hadn’t been to one of those since last summer. I also hadn’t seen much of Becca Lynn since last summer. She hadn’t come around much. Jeremy said that he’d told Becca about my dad and he didn’t think she knew what to say to me. I wasn’t real surprised.
I put the last dish from dinner in the dishwasher and dried my hands off. I’d go down to the swing by myself tonight. It would give me time to cry. Daddy had thrown up again today. I’d seen him bent over down by the lake. Jeremy had seen him too and told me not to go. Daddy didn’t want me to see him like that. So, I’d stayed there helpless. I had wanted to cry but I hadn’t. Now I could.
The night breeze lifted my hair as I stepped out onto the porch. I loved the smell of the summertime on the farm. Except maybe with the breeze came from the North. Because then the smell of cow manure took over. Tonight the breeze was a south wind and I could almost smell the ocean.
Walking down to the swing my heart ached when I looked over at the barn. It reminded me of Cage. I missed him terribly. He would call tonight. He always did. We would talk for a couple of hours. Most of the time until I fell asleep on him.
The moonlight was bright tonight so sitting out here alone on the swing wasn’t that bad. The tears I’d fought all day didn’t come once I got out there alone and settled.
“Got room for one more?” I jumped startled by Jeremy’s voice. I hadn’t heard him walk up.
“Jeremy? What are you doing here?” I asked scooting over so he could sit down.
“I was headed to the lake but I couldn’t do it. I kept picturing you sitting out here on this swing alone and well my truck turned around all on its own and here I am.”
He was doing it again. He was giving up his life to hold my hand. It’s what he did when Josh died. He was starting early this time. “Go to that party. Go find a girl and skinny-dip. Don’t sit here with me. I’m fine.”
“I thought about it but well… I realized I’d really rather be here sitting with you.”
I wasn’t sure what to think about that comment. I knew Jeremy loved me. I knew he cared about me but as a friend. I wasn’t someone he held any deeper emotions for. So why did that sound so odd? Why would he want to be here with me when he could be skinny dipping with someone else?
“I don’t want you giving up everything again for me. You did that once already. Not again,” I told him in a stern voice.
He chuckled and leaned back in the swing. “Not giving up anything. I just like your company over the crowd that will be at the lake. I think I outgrew them.”
Now that I understood. I’d outgrown them too.
“Is today the first time you’ve seen Daddy get sick like that since the last time it happened. The day of his doctor’s appointment?” I had to know. I wanted to be prepared.
Jeremy nodded. “Yeah, it is and I’ve been watching him close. Momma wants y’all to come over for dinner one day next week. If you’ve forgiven her about what she said about Cage. She admits she was upset about it and that she was wrong. She’s real sorry and wants to apologize to you in person.”
Jeremy’s momma, Mrs. Elaine, had said some ugly things about Cage. She’d stepped in when it wasn’t her business. But I believed in forgiveness. Life was too short.
“I love your mother, Jeremy. Of course I forgive her. I’d love to have dinner over at your house. I know Daddy would too.”
“Good. I’ll tell her and she can stop harping on it. She’s been asking for a week now and I keep lying to her about it.”
I glanced over at him and he grinned. “I was waiting until I felt like you were ready for that.”
I started to reply when my phone dinged. I glanced down to see a text message from Cage.
I’ll be out late tonight. Talk to you tomorrow. Love you.
That was weird. No call or explanation.
“What’s wrong?” Jeremy asked.
I didn’t want him to see this. I wanted to think about it alone. It bothered me but I wasn’t sure why or if it should. Cage didn’t have to call me every night. He probably was going to spend time with his new friends. That was okay. It was what he needed to do. I didn’t want him to feel alone there. He needed people to spend time with. It was selfish of me to think otherwise.
“Yeah. He’s got plans tonight. He wanted me to know he’d be out late.” That was all he needed to know.
“He loves you, Eva.” Jeremy seemed to sense my concern even though I was trying to hide it.
“I know he does. I just miss him,” I replied.
“Just six more days until you see him.
Where the f**k was my phone? I never should have agreed to go out with these guys tonight. Ace was my new roommate and teammate and he’d been determined to get me to go out tonight. I’d been going to get an apartment on my own so that Eva could move on in when she got here. But that hadn’t happened. Coach had insisted that I live with Ace. He was supposed to help me adjust. After the winter break I was getting a place of my own. It would also save me money for all the gas money I’d need going back and forth to Alabama.
I pushed through the crowd looking for Ace. I had had my damn phone when we left the apartment. I’d stuck it in my pocket. Where the hell was it now? I needed to go check Ace’s car. I also needed to get he hell out of here. This is not what I had agreed to come to. They said a small get together. Not a party with a bunch of strippers walking around topless. Fuck. If Eva knew I was here she’d be furious.
Another topless female pressed her tits against my arm and ran her hand over my chest. “Are those nipple rings? Holy fuck, yes they are!”
I grabbed her hand and threw it off me as I moved away from her. I’d call a cab to come get me if I could find my phone. Tits were everywhere. This was a disaster.
“York! My man, York! Come here and meet Jasmine. She’s wanting an introduction and I promise you dude you want what she’s got.” I glanced over at Jim Cooper. I worked out with him everyday.
“No thanks. You know where Ace is?” I asked as more tits touched my arms. Once upon a time I’d have loved this place. Right now I felt like I was going to go apeshit if I didn’t get out of here.
“No, thanks? Have you seen this rack? It’s perfect melon-sized titties. Melons, dude! And she is all about a titty fuck. Come try these out. Just let me watch.”
Shit. I was that screwed up once. I gave up and kept walking. I had to find Ace and my phone. Two topless girls stepped in front of me with wicked smiles that meant I was in deep shit. The red head put her hands on her h*ps and shook her tits at me while holding a lime wedge in her mouth.
“Salts already on her n**ples. Lick it off then here’s your shot,” the brunette said with a saucy grin holding up the shot of tequila. The girl had nice tits. I wasn’t blind but they weren’t Eva’s. Those were the only n**ples I was interested in licking.
“I’m taken. Not interested,” I said stepping to the side to keep from touching them. They both moved to block me.
“Nothing sexier than a man who’s taken. Now I really want you to lick them. Come on,” she said holding up her tits until her n**ples were pointing straight up. “Just take a lick,” she pleaded, leaning toward me.
That wasn’t hot. It was pathetic. I shook my head. “Go put some clothes on,” I replied and reached out to move them aside. Unfortunately, the red head moved quickly and turned her chest to connect with my hand. Instead of a shoulder I could push away, I got a handful of tit. I jerked my hand back like it was on fire. “Motherfucker. What part of I’m not f**king interested don’t you understand. Take your tits somewhere else.”
I turned to walk the other way when my eyes met Ace’s. He was sitting to the right of me on a sofa with two girls curled up on each side of him. He grinned at me like he had a secret I didn’t know about.
I headed for him and ignored the offers thrown my way.
“I got two of them. They’re interested in going back to our place and showing us a good time. Ace reached up and pinched the nipple on a blonde with short curly hair. “This one’s been eyeing you all night long. You make her n**ples hard. She told me so,” he said before taking a bite of her boob that was closest to his mouth.
“I can’t find my phone and I need to go. I’m supposed to call Eva in ten minutes. I thought we’d be back at the apartment by then.”
“Eva?” he asked looking around the room “Dude, have you seen these girls? Pick one. Call her Eva all damn night.”
“That’s not funny. I need to leave. Now. I think my phone’s in your car. It had to fall out in there. Just give me your keys I’ll bring them back.”
Ace rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket and pulled out my phone. “You dropped it earlier. I saw it. Here,” he threw it at me. “If you gotta leave then go but you’re seriously crazy for passing this up. If you hear us later know that you’re welcome to join in if you change your mind.”
I wasn’t going to change my mind. I was leaving and I was locking my damn door. These girls didn’t understand the word no. I managed to get outside without another female offering her body. Coming here was a bad idea. This life wasn’t like it was at home. I knew girls liked baseball players. I’d used that to my advantage for years but this place. . . It was bigger. Things were more intense.
I pressed the button on my phone but my screen didn’t light up. What the hell? It was dead? I’d just f**king charged it before we left. I looked back at the party and knew I couldn’t go back in there. It would take me an hour to get a phone I could use to call a taxi. We were at someone’s house. I wasn’t sure whose. I was miles from a store. Shit!
“You need a ride?” I turned to see a female that I recognized from inside. She’d been as topless as the rest of them but she hadn’t hit on me. She’d been straddling and grinding in Dink’s lap. I’d seen that much and he’d been sucking her tits. I wasn’t about to get in the car with her.
“Listen, sugar, I’m done for the night. Not interested in coming onto a guy who isn’t interested. I enjoyed myself and now I’m going home. If you want a ride I’ll give you one. Or you can sit here all night.”
I needed a ride. I could fight off a female if I had to. Leaving with her was better than sitting her and having to get in the car with possibly two wild topless females when Ace was ready to leave.
“Yeah. I need a ride,” I said walking over to her car.
She nodded and opened her door. I opened the passenger side and climbed in. I needed to talk to Eva. Now. I wanted to hear her voice.
“You must be one of the good guys. The ones that actually fall in love,” the girl said as we pulled out onto the road.
“You could say I was damn lucky,” I replied keeping my eyes on the road. I wasn’t going to look at her. Even though she was dressed her top was showing everything but her n**ples.
“Yep. One of the few,” she replied. She reached forward and turned on the music. Hinder filled the car and we listened to music. The only time we spoke was when I told her when we needed to turn.
Ten minutes later she was pulling into the parking lot of our apartment. “You can let me out here,” I said as she drove over to a parking spot and parked her car.
“I could but just so happens, I live in the same building. You must be Ace’s new roommate,” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“I’m Hayden Step. Your next-door neighbor.”
“Thanks for the ride,” I said, opening my door and getting out. I was thankful for the ride, but I wasn’t making friends.