Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 128
“He was real,” I said to Lorraine.
“As opposed to?” she asked.
I shook my head. “You know what I mean. I told you about the time after the accident that he came to me and tried to tell me how much I loved him. I guess since I couldn’t remember any of it, I’d never really believed him. But now?” I took a deep breath. “I remember him. Not a lot, but a little bit. Enough to make me think that I really did care for him and that we did have something.”
Lorraine nodded slowly. “So, what now?”
I sighed. “Now, I don’t know. A part of me wants to see him. I want to talk to him all the time. But a part of me tells me to stay away. I’m scared I’m in too deep already.”
“Okay,” she said before sucking on her spoon. “Let’s say you don’t want to see him again. Why not?”
I shrugged. “Because I can’t be that person he lost.”
“Is he asking that of you?”
I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head. “Back then, yeah, I felt like he was. But not now. Now it feels like it’s just the two of us, and we’ve started over. Well, he started over. I’m at ground zero as it is.”
Lorraine took another sip of her wine. I had almost finished mine, taking sips between my sentences. My ice cream was turning into a thick soup.
“Okay, why do you want to see him again?” she asked.
I smiled at that. “Because of how he makes me feel. When I’m around him, I feel like not knowing my past, not knowing everything I’d forgotten, is okay. It’s just about who I am now.”
Lorraine smiled at me. “So, that’s good, right?”
I shrugged with one shoulder. “But I’m remembering things, which means there is more to this. And I don’t know. God, I don’t know what I don’t know. Does that make sense?”
“Relax, Sadie,” Lorraine said. “It’s fine to freak out about it. The rest of us freak out about new relationships like this, and we don’t even have a past like yours.”
I took a deep breath. “So, what do I do?” I asked.
“Tell me what you remember.”
I told her about the memories, the ones that had slipped through my fingers, and the ones I still had.
“I don’t know how to deal with it,” I said.
“If you ask me, you really liked this guy. Judging by the things you remember and the way you look when you tell me about them.”
I put my empty wine glass on the coffee table. I didn’t bother about the ice cream. Lorraine was still working on hers.
“What do I look like when I talk about them?” I asked.
Lorraine smiled. “Happy.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that.
“But you said you were starting from scratch, right?” she asked. “If it’s just the beginning stages, see how it goes. You can always walk away.”
I breathed in and shook my head. “Not exactly,” I said.
Lorraine frowned. “He has to accept that this is like you’re meeting for the first time. If it doesn’t work, you have the right to call it off.”
“No, I know that. But I kind of slept with him.”
Lorraine’s jaw dropped. I felt my cheeks flush bright red, and I felt like a fool for blushing.
“You’re only telling me about this now? How long have I been sitting here, Sadie! Holy shit.”
I shrugged. I was suddenly shy.
“We need more wine for this,” Lorraine said and got up, bringing the bottle from the kitchen. She poured another glass for me and topped off her own.
“You have to tell me everything,” she said, sitting down again. “Now that I’ve taken a moment to wrap my mind around it.”
“We went out for drinks on Friday,” I started. I explained to her how the night had gone, how I’d ended up at his house. I didn’t go into detail about the deed itself, but I told her about everything else, the cuddling and the ride home, everything.
When I finished, Lorraine’s ice cream was done, and her wine glass was empty. Mine was halfway there.
“How did you feel when you were, you know, doing it?” she asked. “And afterwards, obviously. How did the whole thing make you feel?”
“That’s just the thing,” I said. “The whole time I was with him, I felt like it was right. I can’t explain it to you. I can’t remember anything from before, but I felt comfortable, the way you feel at home. But when I’m away from him, I get terrified.”
“Hmm,” Lorraine said, thinking out loud. “Do you want my honest opinion?”
I nodded. “Always.”
Lorraine smiled. “Well, I think that you’re in love with this guy. Everything you’re saying about him and how you feel around him, that’s love.”
“But I can’t remember him,” I said.
“So? You can fall in love with someone you just met. It doesn’t matter that you have a history. You don’t know what it is, anyway.”
The words stung a little, but she was right. And it was possible to be in love with someone new.
“I’ve just been guarding myself for so long,” I said. “I don’t know how to open up.”
“It sounds to me like you’re doing just fine, miss sex-on-the-first-date.”
I grinned. “It wasn’t exactly the first date,” I said, and I was blushing again.
“Past doesn’t count, remember?”
I shook my head, trying to get rid of my blush. Lorraine was being so nice about it, joking and laughing and being there for me when I was panicked.
“Just give him a chance,” Lorraine said. “Who knows where this can take you? Maybe more of your memories will come back, too. Whatever you have with him now should be your starting point. The rest is a bonus. See it that way.”
I nodded slowly. I was starting to see where Lorraine was coming from, and when she put it that way, it made sense.
I couldn’t help how confused I felt, though.
“And what do I do about how lost I feel, and how confused I am? It never goes away. Not really. Not unless I’m with him.”
“That’s a sign, you know,” Lorraine said.
“Besides, just take it day by day,” Lorraine said. “If it’s meant to be, it will be. There’s a reason he’s back in your life again. I mean, what are the odds that he became a pro player that trains at the same place you coach now? It’s a hell of a coincidence.”
I nodded. She was right.
She smiled. “And just between you and me, he’s fucking hot.”
“Lorraine!” I cried out, but I was laughing. She was right. He was hot. And rich and famous. And funny and interesting and clever and everything I might have wanted in a man. And he seemed to stick around.
Maybe Lorraine was right. I had to give it some time. After all, I wanted to see him again. More time was a great idea.
When Lorraine finally left, I felt better. Much better. I was positive again. Yes, I was still terrified, but that was okay. I could be scared. Who wasn’t with a new relationship when they had a past?
I just had to take it day by day.
Starting with today. I really wanted to see Brian again. I walked to the bedroom and found my phone. I had no missed calls or texts. I opened a new text.
I know it’s short notice, but do you want to come to dinner at my place tonight? My treat.
My heart beat in my throat while I waited for a reply. I was being forward. I was putting myself out there. I was doing things I hadn’t done in the last couple of years.
My phone beeped with a text from Brian.
Can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday night. I’ll bring dessert.
I smiled at the phone before I threw it on the bed and hurried to the bathroom for a quick shower.
I got dressed into jeans and a collared shirt just after Sadie phoned me. Then, I mussed up my hair with some gel and got in my car. I stopped off for dessert from a deli on the corne
She wanted to see me again. Since I ran into her again, she’d been pushing me away more than anything else, but there were times like now that she came back to me. Those were the times I was waiting for.
When she messaged me, I had expected to spend my Monday evening alone. I was more than happy with the change of plan. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my evening than with the woman I was in love with. Even if she didn’t feel the same about me.
I wasn’t going there with any intentions of winning her over. Once upon a time, that had been my mission, but now, I just wanted to get to know her. The more time we spent together, the more I realized the old Sadie was still in there somewhere. And the side of her I didn’t know now? Well, she was just as interesting as she’d ever been.
I looked in my rearview mirror to change lanes. A blue Jeep had been behind me for a while now, taking turns whenever I did. I crossed an intersection, and the light turned yellow. Instead of stopping, the Jeep raced across the intersection. It looked a hell of a lot like he was trying not to lose me.
Who was after me? Who was trying to track me?
I was a famous football player, and I was in the news often. My address wasn’t a secret. It could really have been anyone. Usually, that didn’t bother me. Tonight, I was irritated with it.
When I tested if I was being followed, the car turned in the same direction I did twice more, but before I turned into Sadie’s road, it suddenly took another turn. I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.
Maybe I was being paranoid. Not everyone was after me all the time. I was just another resident of Miami, after all.
Being famous came with its downsides. Sometimes people just didn’t leave us alone. When they were die-hard fans and they knew all the statistics, they were under the illusion they knew us, even though they knew nothing at all. It was a serious invasion of privacy.
Some people just didn’t understand that. They thought they were our friends. They thought because they knew everything about us, we would know who they were and care about them. Television creates a weird illusion of intimacy that doesn’t exist outside the screen.
And then there was the paparazzi, who had no idea what privacy meant. They followed us around, making life hard for us. Sometimes, they just wanted to know what I was wearing or where I was going to get my groceries from. If there was a scandal to be had, even better.
The Jeep didn’t reappear again. Maybe the driver was on his way home, and it happened to be in the same direction I had been going. Maybe I had to stop thinking about it.
I parked in front of Sadie’s apartment building and checked my reflection in the rearview mirror. I was confident about my body and my looks, but this wasn’t just any woman. It was Sadie. The woman. I got out with the dessert and buzzed her apartment number.
When I knocked on the door, she took a moment to open it for me, and I realized how nervous I was. I didn’t know what to expect from Sadie this time. Every time was different with her. I understood why. Living with amnesia had to be hard, but it made it difficult for me to gauge where she was at. I assumed tonight, she would be in a good place. She asked me over after all. But I was careful. I had to guard my heart.
A moment later, the door opened, and she stood in front of me, looking like a vision. Her dark hair hung over her shoulders, thick and shiny. She wore a red blouse with a neckline just low enough to reveal the swell of her breasts, but it was modest enough to leave a lot to the imagination. Dark jeans and ballet flats finished her outfit, and she looked fantastic.
Her gray eyes were dark. She smiled at me and stepped back so I could walk into the apartment.
“You look amazing,” I said, kissing her on the cheek before walking farther into the apartment. She took the dessert from me and disappeared. I looked around.
The apartment was modest. It was a good size for someone living alone, and it was decorated with ornaments, pictures, and plants. It was a mixture of nostalgia and hippy furniture that made it look unique. Like Sadie.
The couch had a multicolored throw over it. The television stood in the middle of the room. There were plants in most of the corners, next to end tables and book cases.
I had never seen this side of her before. When we’d dated, we were still in school, and her room had been decorated with posters of her favorite bands and movie stars.
This was different. This was a glimpse into the life of Sadie as an adult, as someone who could choose her own décor.
The apartment was a lot smaller than my mansion, but it was homey, personal. I would prefer something like this over a large house filled with loneliness anytime.
And I fully planned to make it so that Sadie and I could christen it.
“We’re having dinner on the patio,” Sadie said and led the way through a sliding door.
Wow, she had cooked for me.
I would follow this girl to the ends of the earth, but I was even happier to follow her right here, to a home-cooked meal.
Her apartment was on the bottom floor. While the owners above her had balconies, she had a patio and a small garden like the other ground floor units.
She’d made up a small square table with a colorful tablecloth, two plates, and cutlery. The table was set up so that we sat across the corner from each other, not on opposite sides of the table. It was intimate. A lamp against the wall cast a dim light over everything, and the setting was romantic. I wasn’t sure if that was what she was going for, but I was happy with it.
“This looks really nice,” I said and sat down.
She smiled and disappeared back into the apartment. A moment later, she brought out two plates with spaghetti bolognaise.
“It’s nothing fancy,” she said, putting my plate down in front of me. “It’s the one thing I can make with my eyes closed. My mom used to make it all the time.”
I nodded, looking at the food. It was spaghetti with meatballs and a marinara sauce that I could still taste even before taking a bite. I remembered her mom serving this most of the time when I was invited over for dinner.
A wave of nostalgia hit me when I smelled the steam that rose from the food.
“This smells great,” I said, trying not to choke on the memories.
She produced a bottle of red wine. “It’s a cheap one,” she said. “But I like to have this with the spaghetti.”
I took the bottle from her and smiled. When we’d been kids, we hadn’t had this with the meal, but I could see how this would work now.
“What are you smiling about?” she asked.
I shook my head. “I’m just enjoying this,” I said. I didn’t want to discuss memories with her. It was a touchy topic, and I wanted the night to be relaxed and easy. I opened the wine and poured a glass for each of us.
We talked about everything and nothing while we ate. She asked me what it was like to be famous. Most of the time it was hard work, I told her. And you didn’t have a lot of time for yourself.
I asked her what she’d done after school. I wasn’t in the picture anymore by then, and it was a part of her life that I didn’t know about.
She told me about her business studies again and how that didn’t work out for her, how she started cheerleading because she was good at it, even though she wasn’t sure why.
I knew why. She’d been the best cheerleader on the team since she’d tried out. She had natural talent, and no amount of brain damage could take that away from her.
“What do you want to do with your life now?” I asked.
She shrugged, taking a sip of wine. “I don’t know. I love what I’m doing now, but it’s not the kind of thing you do for the rest of your life, you know? I think I would like to open a fitness place. Like a gym or something. The business degree will help with that, too, I guess.”
I nodded. “It would. And that’s a great idea. If you make it something different t
She smiled. I couldn’t tell in the dim light, but it seemed like she was blushing. I loved it when she blushed, when her cheeks went rosy.
I didn’t say anything about her dreams, about how similar they were to what she wanted in school. She used to talk about opening a gym as long as we had been dating. She didn’t remember that part, but she was still the same person. Every time we spent time together, I was struck by how much of the old Sadie was still there beneath everything else.
“What about you?” she asked. “What do you want to do with your life? I’m guessing that you wanted to go pro, and now, you’ve done that. Just more of the same?”
I shook my head. “I am on track with my career, for sure,” I said. “But I want to settle down and start a family. I want to be with someone that I can come home to. Having a career is great, but having a family is everything. Riches don’t define me the way family and friends do.”
Sadie looked down at her plate.
“I’m in no rush, though,” I said.
I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable, like I was here to find a life partner in her. Of course, that would be the ideal outcome. It had been on my mind when we were still at school, part of my plans for the future. I still loved her. But I just wanted her in my life, no matter how I could have her.
And I did want someone eventually. For now, I was happy where I was.
When I told her I was in no hurry, she looked like she relaxed a little. She looked up at me, and her eyes were dark. The atmosphere changed, charged with that feeling that I always got when I was with her.
She looked at me, and her eyes slid down to my lips. I didn’t want to scare her off, but I wanted to kiss her. Judging by her look, she wanted it, too. She was thinking about it, and it didn’t look like the thought scared her. I moved slowly toward her, leaning forward. She didn’t move away. I brushed my hand down her cheek, and her breath hitched in her throat. It was a soft sound.