Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 123
I took a deep breath and looked at Hanson. He was a great friend. He’d been there for me when I’d fallen apart before. He’d even sacrificed to allow me to hold onto the life I had created for myself. He was a true friend, more loyal than any other, and I was grateful for him.
When Hanson looked at me, I turned my eyes back to the game, but he somehow understood and clapped me on the back, as if to say it would all be okay. I didn’t feel like it would be.
By the time the game was over, I had managed to pull myself back together again. Hanson got up and grabbed his phone to call home and to let Lacey know that he was on his way. She was a good woman, and I was happy for Hanson.
A pang shot through my chest, though. Fuck, I wished I had that. I wished what I had before was still in my life. I would have settled down with Sadie. Yeah, we’d been young and reckless in love, but I had wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.
I wished that she remembered me. I wished that there was a way she could get the two years back she’d lost. Then, she wouldn’t have to walk around forever, thinking of me as the stranger who tried to persuade her for three months that she was someone who just wasn’t there anymore.
“I have to head home,” Hanson said. “I don’t want to leave Lacey alone with the baby all night. Are you going to be okay?”
I nodded. “Go to your family,” I said. “I’m going to be fine.”
I was going to be more than fine. I was going to push through the crowds until I ended up at the bar, and I was going to drown my sorrows in alcohol. I had come in a cab so I didn’t have to worry about driving drunk.
I wasn’t going to keep torturing myself by being sober after I’d spoken to Sadie again. It was ironic how hard I had tried to get Sadie to remember us, when what I was always doing now was trying my best to forget.
The crowd was still thick, pulsating around me with excitement from the game, of being in the Hard Rock Stadium. A trip out with the family to watch football was fun, something different. Something purely American.
I made my way through the throngs of people, and slowly, they started to die down. I’d just about reached the entrance to the beer bar when someone caught my eye. With all the people milling around, you wouldn’t think it was possible, but it was.
I saw her. She stood to the side with another woman, talking, heads bowed together to hear each other more clearly. I walked to her. I didn’t even think about moving on, leaving her there without talking to her. She was there, and I had to go to her. It was a simple fact.
“Sadie,” I said when I was close enough for her to hear me.
She looked up, and at first she appeared confused and shocked, but then she smiled. I couldn’t remember the last time she’d smiled at me like that when I’d seen her.
“Hi,” she said.
Her friend looked at me with question marks in her eyes, seeming even more confused than Sadie. She cleared her throat.
“Oh, Lorraine,” Sadie said. “This is Brian. He’s—”
“The running back,” Lorraine finished, and I realized what the confusion in her face had been. Lorraine was star struck. I smiled at her and held out my hand.
“Brian,” I said.
Lorraine was taller than Sadie, her hair a dark brown and her eyes the same. She was beautiful in her own way, but in my eyes, she paled next to Sadie.
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
She smiled at me and looked a little faint. I didn’t really like it when women fawned over me. Even though Sadie couldn’t remember who I was before I’d become famous, she didn’t blubber when she spoke to me. She was confident, upright, and sure of herself. It was refreshing to see that part of her was still there. I didn’t think she even knew that it was there, which only added to her appeal.
“Do you want to have a drink with me?” I asked Sadie.
It was an impulsive question, and suddenly, I was terrified that she would say no. Fuck, what was I doing? I was tumbling into the one thing I’d promised myself I would stay away from. I glanced at Lorraine, whose face practically glowed with hero worship.
“Both of you,” I added.
Sadie smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. I could see the rejection forming on her lips before she spoke.
“I’m really tired, Brian,” she said. “Not tonight. It’s late.”
I nodded, forcing a smile as empty as hers.
“Alright, then.” I should have been more polite, but I couldn’t find it in me. “Well, you ladies have a good night.”
I started to turn.
“Brian,” Sadie said, and I turned to her, even though I wanted to walk away. Her voice tugged at me, and I couldn’t help but stop when she asked me to. “How about we do something in the morning?”
Was she giving me a second chance? Maybe she really was tired.
“Brunch?” I asked.
She narrowed her eyes at me, and some of the suspicion that she’d harbored just after the accident seemed to return. Like everyone was out to get her and she couldn’t tell truth from lies. Even though I understood how she could feel that way, it still hurt to see it in her eyes, when all I ever used to see when she looked at me was love and happiness.
Lorraine nudged her.
“Yeah, okay,” she finally said. “Brunch.”
I nodded. I wasn’t sure if it was a good or a bad thing that she responded only after Lorraine nudged her, but I would take my chances. In the back of my mind, a little voice warned me that it was dangerous. Again, true to form, I didn’t listen to it.
“Let me take your number, and we’ll arrange a time,” I said and pulled my phone from my pocket.
This time, Sadie didn’t hesitate before taking my phone and pushing the buttons. I watched her slim fingers dance on the screen. I got a flashback of the two of us standing in the hallway at school, next to our lockers where we once got in trouble for making out. She still had many of the same mannerisms that she had had back then.
“Call me?” she asked when she handed me my phone.
“For sure,” I said.
She smiled, and then she disappeared in the thinning crowd with Lorraine. I stared at the phone, at the digits on my screen, at her name, and suddenly, I didn’t feel the urge to drink anymore.
We were at High Rock. The sea was stormy in the background, waves pounding the beach like it held a grudge, and the sky was a deep gray.
“It looks just like your eyes,” Brian said to me, his hand on my cheek. I huddled closer to him, our bodies shielding each other from the wind that whipped my hair around my face and tugged at his clothes.
We were the few teenagers out at High Rock today. Usually, when the weather turned ugly like this, everyone fled. But I didn’t want to go, not yet. I wanted to spend a little more time with Brian. Lately, I hadn’t been able to get enough of him. He’d been the guy I wanted to spend all my time with. I knew it was cliché, the football player and the cheerleader. It was like everyone expected us to be together. But this was for me and for him. It had nothing to do with what everyone said. It was what we wanted.
Brian’s hand was still on my cheeks, those blue eyes boring into mine, and I couldn’t think anymore. The first kiss was something every girl thinks about. I had been dreaming about mine for a long time, but until now, I didn’t know who I wanted it to be with.
Now, I knew. Brian seemed to get what I wanted. He wasn’t behind the way I was. He’d kissed before. But he seemed nervous around me, like this kiss really mattered.
He moved toward me, closing the small distance that was left, and his eyes slid to my lips. I was barely breathing. I closed my eyes at the last moment and when his lips touched mine, everything fell into place. The boy I liked was kissing me. My first kiss! And it was perfect.
Brian was perfect.
When I woke up, it took a moment for the world around me to slip into focus. The dream had been so vivid. It hadn’t felt like
I closed my eyes and tried to conjure it back up again, and it was still there. Not a dream at all. I clutched onto the feelings that had come with the memory, infatuation, warmth, acceptance. Protection. Brian had been all of that for me, then. On that rock, the one I hadn’t visited since the accident, the boy of my dreams had kissed me.
I opened my eyes again. I lay on my back, the covers cocooned around my body, and I tried to hold onto the feelings that swirled inside me. It was hard not being able to remember what had happened. It was also hard to know what was real and what wasn’t.
It happened so often that my mind made up stories of its own to fill in the blanks where memories had been ripped away. I didn’t always know how to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
But this? This was real. It didn’t feel like the others. It felt right .
I closed my eyes again and thought about the Brian I knew now. Muscular, fit. He was as broad as he was tall, and his presence was breathtaking. When he was around me, I felt delicate. When he’d run into me at the stadium, his body had been rock solid. I could just imagine what it would be like to sleep with him.
I knew it was wrong to think like that about him, but my body responded. I was turned on immediately. I arched my back, felt the sheets across my body, and I became wet. What was I doing? I didn’t know Brian, not really, but the memory that I’d just had suggested otherwise. And my body wanted what it wanted. Which, right now, seemed to be Brian.
I slid my hand over my breasts and my stomach, moving my hips. I pushed my hands into my pajama shorts and slid them over my pussy. I was getting wetter, and Brian was on my mind.
When I pushed a finger into my slit and slid it toward my entrance, I gasped softly. I dipped a finger into my wetness and slid it back up to my clit. I drew circles around my clit. With two fingers, I skated around my clit, my fingers splitting to finger along the folds.
The orgasm built hard and fast because I knew what I wanted and where it felt good. The memory of our first kiss came to mind again, his tongue slipping into my mouth, gentle, testing, and his lips hot on mine. His arms had pulled me tight against his body, and it had been taut, if not as muscular as it was now.
I moved my hips, mimicking sex, fingering myself, and I gasped, breathing hard. The orgasm came in a wave of pleasure that rushed over my body, and I squeezed my eyes shut, opening my mouth in a silent scream. My toes curled, and I rolled onto my side.
When the orgasm passed, I lay gasping on the bed in a pool of bliss.
The dream, the memory, had been so vivid and so real, I knew it was what had happened. I had remembered another thing about my past. Things were changing. Was it because I’d seen him and spoken to him? Would that happen again?
I hoped so. At the same time, I was terrified of it. I had started to accept myself as a person who had missing pieces, blanks where everyone else had indicators of who they were. I had gotten used to it. I was scared that changing it would feel like someone who had starved for a long time and was fed a rich diet again.
I was scared I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Whatever happened, I’d said I would meet him for brunch. It was a giant step for me.
When he’d asked me out to dinner, I had originally hesitated, telling myself not to go on a date with this guy who knew he had been my boyfriend when I didn’t even know that— not really, not in my memories or my consciousness or my experience— not to open my heart up to the risk that it could be broken. Or his heart either, for that matter.
One of my first thoughts when he had invited me out was that he didn’t even know what he was getting himself into, but I did. I knew myself— the “new me,” anyway— and it wouldn’t be fair to invite him back into the madhouse that is me.
But his face was so damn cute and hopeful. How could I have let him down? And I had to admit, I wanted to see where this would lead despite my very strong reservations. So I had suggested brunch, and it was too late to back out now, even if I wanted to, which, I wasn’t so sure I did.
I had to get ready. I got up and climbed into the shower, letting the hot water run over my body. I felt warm, the effects of the dream still clinging to me.
When I got out of the shower and dried myself off, I had a missed call on my phone and a message from Brian asking me to meet him at Blue Collar at eleven-thirty. I had heard of the place but never been. I typed a reply and got dressed in beige capris and a white blouse. I put on cork wedges and gold jewelry, and I was ready to go.
And nervous. How did you have breakfast with a man who had known you for so long and you couldn’t remember it? How was I going to spend time with him when he knew me so much better than I knew myself?
I wasn’t sure. But I knew I was about to find out.
When I arrived at the restaurant, Brian waited for me outside. Everyone was staring at him, including those who walked past us and those who could see him through the window. It wasn’t every day you saw a professional football player in the streets, and Brian was the star player. I doubted there was anyone who wouldn’t recognize him.
It wasn’t only that he was a star, of course. It was also that he was sexy, sure of himself, and any woman would be more than happy to be on his arm. So why was I so nervous?
I was ready to see him as a man that I knew, someone familiar. When he hugged me, his body didn’t feel familiar. There was something I wanted to remember, but it had slipped away from me again, and suddenly, I couldn’t remember the dream. I knew it had been about him, but I didn’t know what it was anymore.
“You doing okay?” he asked.
I nodded, forcing a smile. I wasn’t okay. I was beginning to realize that the worst part about getting flashes of the past was the way they floated away again. Brian smiled at me, and he was handsome, but he was a stranger.
We walked into the restaurant, and I felt uncomfortable and out of place. The doctor had said that this would happen. That if my memories ever came back at all, that I shouldn’t be surprised if they flew away again because it wasn’t impossible for memories to come and go. He didn’t mention that it would be jarring, or that it would feel like someone gave me a gift, only to take it back again.
He didn’t mention that it would make me feel like crying.
Blue Collar was a nice place. The walls were partially painted a deep aqua. The rest of it was beige with a dark wooden trim dividing the colors. Light brown tables with white bucket chairs stood in neat rows with a chalkboard over the counter at the back, displaying the day’s specials.
Brian was perfectly nice. He made polite conversation and didn’t push for anything about the past. He stuck to the present, asked me what I did for a living, who I was. It was like he was trying to get to know me. Not who he expected to know from back then, but like he was genuinely interested in who I was now.
The nicer he was, the more it upset me. My head hurt, and it felt like the past was nagging at me, begging me to revisit it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe, the walls closed in on me, and he was too close. Not physically, but emotionally.
I needed to get out of the restaurant, but I couldn’t look like a crazy person and run out as if something was wrong.
Brian had paid for everything like a perfect gentleman. By the time we were done, though, I was about ready to scream. I couldn’t deal with this.
“Brian,” I said when we stepped out onto the curb again. “I can’t do this.”
He looked at me, and the smile drained from his face. Those sky-blue eyes turned serious when he looked at me.
“I’m not expecting you to do anything,” he said.
I nodded. “I know that. But this thing that happened. It’s too hard for me to deal with. I don’t know who to be, and you’re being so nice about everything. I just can’t.”
I wanted to tell him I was sorry. I couldn’t be the person he needed me to be. The person I once was, whom he had
But I couldn’t say I was sorry because I didn’t know him. I didn’t owe this stranger anything, and I was the one who was lost, not him. I was the one who didn’t know who I used to be. He knew exactly. And that was part of what was freaking me out— to be standing here with someone who knew the old me when I didn’t even know the old me.
“I’m sorry,” I said, not for all the million things in the past, but because I didn’t have what it took to try again.
Brian nodded. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. His face was carefully expressionless.
“All I wanted was to spend some time with you,” he said. “I appreciate the fact that you were willing to try. Thank you for coming to see me.”
I nodded. He leaned in and gave me a hug again. I breathed in deeply, smelling his cologne, trying to find something trapped in my mind.
“Thank you for brunch,” I said.
Brian nodded and turned his back on me, walking away. I watched him go, with his confident swagger still intact, his wide shoulders swinging slightly. Even at his weakest point, since my cancellation of our brunch had obviously affected him, he still looked strong. How could I turn away such a strong and kind man? I had the inexplicable urge to cry.
I wished I had written down my memory. I wished I could remember. I had masturbated to it, for God’s sake.
I wished I had told Lorraine about the other memory. I couldn’t remember that, either. At least Lorraine would have been able to tell me what it was about, or she probably would have had some amazing tips to remember it or draw it back out. But now, I had nothing and no way to retrieve anything.
I felt awful for not holding onto the few flashes of memory I had been able to get back. I had known they could leave just as quickly as they had come, and had failed to preserve them.
Another thing bothering me was how unsure I felt about everything now. In a world of uncertainty about everything—including who I even was—I had managed to power through what had happened to me by being resolute and focused. I was not an indecisive person. Not the “new me,” anyway. And yet, I had let myself get swayed by one simple request from Brian for dinner.