She’d made my bed. Dammit. Why was she doing this? I worked hard to wash my head of her and flush her out of my system for three very long days. A lot of whiskey and women. It hadn’t worked. The only way I’d been able to perform was to close my eyes and pretend it was Eva. Calling out her name hadn’t gone over well with the girls who had been sober enough to realize I wasn’t mentally with them.
The corner of my quilt was pulled back for me and a plate of food sat on the table beside it covered in foil to keep it warm. I just had to make it until Saturday night. Then I’d be gone again for three full days. Coach had decided I needed to start working out with the team Sunday through Tuesday. I was just supposed to work here Wednesday through Saturday now. Wilson had given Coach Mack a good report and I was being rewarded for good behavior.
When Eva had pleaded with me earlier I’d almost cracked. The only thing that kept me from turning back to look at her had been the image of her with the other guy. She’d let him touch her and help her into the Jeep. He hadn’t been snubbed. He was good enough. I couldn’t do this with her. Being someone’s dirty little secret hadn’t bothered me until now. I didn’t want to be Eva’s secret. Things had been different with her. I’d felt something. It had been real. It had been more. So much more.
I took the foil off the plate and the smell from the meatloaf and corn hit me. I was ravenous. The image of Eva fixing my plate and carefully wrapping it and bringing it out here to me tugged at my chest. Damned if this wasn’t going to be hard. Luckily, I’d learned at an early age that self-preservation was the only way to survive with your soul intact.
Or maybe I’d lost my soul already. I doubted God let someone like me keep any gift from him. It was highly likely I’d been born without one.
The lake water was getting warmer with each smoldering hot day. It was still cooler than the hundred-degree heat that had gotten so thick it made it hard to take deep breaths. I ducked my head under the surface and soaked my hair, slicking it back off my face.
The sound of a car door slamming caught my attention as I surfaced. I spun around in the water to see Eva walking toward me. Shit. What was she doing now? I’d done everything I could think of to make her leave me the hell alone. Her long brown hair was flying free down her back and her flat tanned stomach was bare. The little red halter-top she was wearing with them damn cut off shorts sent my blood pumping.
I should turn my head away and ignore her but she was so damn beautiful it was hard. I hadn’t allowed myself to stare at her in over a week. She stopped at the bank and started pulling her halter top off. What the fuck? A red lacy bra was covering up her tits and although I should be relieved, it wasn’t any better than the bare things. It was f**king sexy as hell. When her hands went to the snap on her shorts I opened my mouth to stop her but she began shimming out of them. A pair of matching red lace panties with very little coverage caused me to get choked on my tongue.
“You are going to talk to me,” she demanded, stepping into the water. I wanted to argue with her but she was walking into the water with red f**king undies on. I couldn’t form words.
“Where were you?” she asked as she closed the space between us.
I couldn’t forget. I couldn’t break. She had the power to break me. No one had ever been given that power, ever. Eva could do it. If I let her in any further she could completely destroy me. I was weak where she was concerned. I couldn’t be weak. She’d rejected me already. Why was she so damned determined to talk to me now? I didn’t get rejected. I was the one who rejected. I didn’t give someone a chance to decide I wasn’t good enough.
“I don’t reckon that’s your f**king business, now is it, sweetheart?” I drawled in a bored tone.
She stiffened and stopped her approach. Good. If she got too close I was going to grab her and forget all about how she didn’t think I was good enough for her. She was ashamed of me. I held on to that thought as her plump tits played peek-a-boo with the water. Teasing me.
“Why are you being this way?” she asked. The hurt in her voice put a crack in my wall. I had to get away from her before I made a mistake.
“I’m just being me.”
She frowned, “This isn’t you. You’re not cold and mean.”
I clenched my hands into fists under the water to keep from reaching out and pulling her sweet little body up against mine and getting one more taste of her. One more memory to keep with me when I left. She’d rejected me. She would only do it again.
“What ya want, baby? You want me to take care of that hot body you’re out here advertising? ‘Cause I don’t mind making it feel good. You can come all over my fingers or are you ready for me to bury myself inside you now? You want to know what it’s like to f**k a bad boy? It’s pretty damn good or so I’ve been told. I always have ‘em keep coming back for more.”
“Cage don’t do this,” she choked out.
“Don’t do what? Tell you the truth about me? You had me figured out all along. It’s why you want to keep me your dirty little secret. I’m used to that, Eva. I’ve been lots of women’s wild thrill.”
“Stop it, that isn’t who you are.”
I took a step toward her and my heart hammered against my chest painfully. The tears that filled her eyes were all I could handle. I hated myself as the ugly shit poured out of my mouth. “Yeah, baby, it is. But don’t you worry. I’ll be fine. I got rejected by you and more came running. Several hot little sorority girls made me feel all better this weekend.”
Before I could get the hell away from her she spun around and hurried to shore. The pain in my chest became unbearable. I bent over and put my hands on my knees. FUUUUCK. This hurt.
The Jeep roared to life and I listened as she drove away. She’d run again but this time I’d sent her running.
I stood up, threw my head back and yelled, “MOTHER FUCKER” as the sun beat down on me. Mocking me. Mocking my life.
Josh was gone. Jeremy was gone. Cage was gone. I had no one. I couldn’t stand this. I needed to make the pain go away. I’d been so hurt that staying away from Cage the rest of the week had been the only way I could deal with it. Even then all I could manage to do was cry. He’d been with other women. I wanted to believe he was lying just to hurt me but I knew he wasn’t. I had seen the sincerity in his eyes.
The idea of someone else touching him and feeling his hands all over her body, made me nauseous. I couldn’t stand it. I needed to forget. I needed to wash that image in my head away. The pain was only getting worse. He thought I’d rejected him and in a way, I had. He was right. I deserved this. But it hurt so incredibly bad.
I pulled my Jeep into Nelly’s. It was the only honky-tonk in town. It was also the only place a twenty year old could get a drink. I needed to feel numb. Alcohol was the only thing I could come up with that would work.
Nelly wasn’t above slipping you a drink if you had the money. Because of this she managed to run a very successful business. Out here in the country no one thought to come check her out. She got away with a lot of things because she was off the radar.
I had pulled out the blue jean mini skirt that Josh had loved so much and put it on as a source of comfort. I completed my honky-tonking outfit with cowboy boots and a shiny black halter-top. I was going to dance with attractive men and drink enough tequila to make the pain go away. Cage may have thrown me aside once he got tired of me but I wasn’t undesirable. Many guys would be thrilled to have my attention.
I jerked the door open. As I stepped into the smoky bar, I searched for Becca Lynn. She’d texted me and told me to come meet her here if I was up for some fun. I noticed her dancing with a guy with a black Stetson and a pair of tight jeans. Becca Lynn was rubbing every part of her body against his as the live band played an old country song that reminded me of Daddy’s Hank Williams Jr. albums.
Nelly was at the bar and I headed over to order my first shot of the night.
“Didn’t ‘spect to see you back here after Jeremy came to peel you off the floor the last time you stopped in.” Nelly’s concerned frown bothered me. Did everyone in town stick their noses in my business?
“I need a drink, Nelly,” I told her as I sat down on the empty stool in front of her.
She sighed, “Alrighty girl, reckon you’re a woman now.” She grabbed a shot glass and poured Jose Cuervo silver into the glass then slid it over to me.
“You wanting lime and salt with that?”
“No. This is fine,” I replied and slung it back. The heat burned all the way down my throat. I put the glass back down and pushed it back to her.
“Easy now, sugar,” she chided and filled the glass again before sliding it back to me.
“I just need two to get me loosened up.”
I took the glass and downed it quickly. The burn was less intense but it was still there.
“This ‘cause Jeremy left for school?” Nelly asked, leaning her elbows on the bar and studying me. Her long black hair was peppered with gray and pulled back into a ponytail. Hard living hadn’t been good to her and although she was probably around her mid-forties she looked older. Her skin was weathered and hard looking.
“No. This time it isn’t because of a Beasley boy,” I informed her, sliding my glass to her. “Just one more,” I told her.
“Who am I gonna call with Jeremy gone if you end up trashed?”
“I won’t get drunk, I promise. I just need a buzz, Nelly.”
Her wrinkled lips puckered into a frown and she poured me one more glass.
I didn’t wait for her to give it to me. I reached over, picked it up and downed it. The numbness started to set in and Cage York seemed less important. Perfect. I smiled at Nelly and would have kissed her sagging cheek if I could reach her. She’d given me my first relief from the pain since Cage had discarded me.
Standing up, I had to stop a second to steady myself when the room shifted a little. Once I had my balance I walked out to the dance floor. I’d dance by myself. I didn’t need a man.
“Eva Brooks, I do believe you have been drinking,” a familiar voice drawled and I lifted my gaze from the floor where I’d been focused on not falling over and met the smiling brown eyes of Mark Ganner. Mark had played wide receiver in high school. Josh had often said that Mark was his ‘go to’ guy. He could catch a ball no matter how bad the throw.
“Mark.” I smiled; glad to see someone from my past.
“You look real good, Eva.”
I reached out and grabbed his arm and leaned on him some. My legs were still a little numb. “Thank you,” I replied.
“You wanna dance?” Mark asked
Mark laughed and pulled me into his arms. I was thankful for some support.
“What have you been up to?” he asked as we moved together to the music.
“Nothing. Trying to figure out what happens next.”
Mark nodded, “Yeah.”
The song changed and I had more control over my body as the tequila eased through me.
Throwing back my head I laughed and began moving my h*ps seductively against Mark. The interest in his eyes felt empty. Then again, I was empty. Might as well take what I could get.
“EVA!” Becca Lynn squealed as the cowboy twirled her around and sidled up next to me and Mark.
“Look at you already buzzing and dancing with Mark. I’m so proud I could just bust,” Becca cheered. “You be good to her Mark.”
“She’s in good hands,” Mark assured Becca. She giggled then threw him a wink before dancing off.
“You two still keeping in touch, then?” Mark asked
“Yeah, Becca Lynn still comes around. She’s about the only friend other than Jeremy that is brave enough to visit me.”
Mark frowned and I could see the pity in his eyes. I hated the pity. Cage never looked at me with the damn pity in his eyes.
“I need another shot. Would you get it for me? Nelly is being stingy tonight with me.”
Mark’s pity vanished and he gave me an excited grin, “Yeah, sure. I’ll be right back.”
“Could you make that two?” I asked as he started toward the bar.