Unexpected Consequences, page 5
“And what about her?” Dylan asks, nodding his head toward the door, obviously implying Mary. “Is it right with her too or just a good time in a convenient place?”
“It’s too early to know for sure, but yeah. It feels right. The three of us together feels right,” I sigh, feeling a smile breaking on my face. Given the amount of shit I gave Dylan when he fell head over heels for Tasha, I brace myself for the comments that never come. I must have done something right in a past life to have this guy in my corner.
Dylan stands, satisfied that the conversation is done, at least for now. “I can’t say I understand it, and I’m still pissed that you lied to me about it. No more secrets, okay?”
Honesty is everything to Dylan. I know this. I also know he’s not the type who freely gives second chances, so I’m not taking this one lightly. “Yeah, I got it.”
He throws one arm over my shoulder, giving me a hug before opening the door. “Shoot me an email so I can reschedule any meetings you had scheduled through the end of next week. You picked up my slack when shit went down before, now it’s my turn to pick up yours.”
Being your own boss can suck at times, but right now it’s definitely a blessing. Because Dylan and I are in this together, I don’t have to worry about everything falling to shit. “Thanks, I’ll send it over after Jeff gets home. Keep me posted on the baby thing, okay?”
I know Dylan enough to know there’s no point pressing him for information on her pregnancy if he’s not sharing freely. He’ll come to me when the time is right.
“What, exactly, is your relationship with my daughter?” Loretta asks the moment I open her car door. It figures that she’s the type of person who would give me the silent treatment when we’re in relative privacy and then expect me to open up about personal matters when we’re in public. Luckily, the strip mall parking lot is nearly empty now that the lunch rush is over, so I don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing anything that might be said.
“You’ll need to ask her that, ma’am,” I respond, unwilling to step on the landmine she has put in front of me. It doesn’t take a professional to see that she’s a master manipulator and she’s trying to get me to open up to her because her daughter won’t. I got the feeling this morning that Mary was less than thrilled to find out Loretta was in town and I’m quickly figuring out why.
Her bony fingers land on my forearm and I cringe. “But I asked you. What. Is. Your. Relationship?” she asks again, each word dripping with condescension.
Carefully, I remove her hand from my arm, offering up a silent prayer that I’ll be able to get through this short time in her presence without the need for a stiff drink. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Brunner, but you really need to talk to Mary about that. She’s an intelligent, witty woman I love spending time with. I’ve only lived in Madison for about six months now and she’s one of the best friends I have up here.”
How this pretentious woman with her obsessive focus on appearances raised a daughter as giving and spirited as Mary I will never know. Being a gentleman, even when I’d much rather forget everything my parents taught me, I offer Loretta my arm, escorting her across the parking lot to one of our favorite delis. There’s no doubt in my mind that I will hear what an abysmal establishment this is as soon as we walk through the doors. If not for the fact that we need to take food back to the condo for Zeke and Mary, I probably would have selected something a bit more in line with the older woman’s obviously refined sensibilities, but this is what Mary requests any time she’s feeling under the weather. Her mother will have to cope with it.
Not a minute after I return from the counter with our soup and sandwiches, my cell phone chimes in my pocket. Loretta rolls her eyes, sending a prickle up my back. I consider ignoring it, until it starts ringing immediately after the text alert finishes.
“This is Jeff.” I excuse myself from the table, stepping outside to take the call. The day is cool and I don’t have a jacket, but even the breeze coming off the lake is welcome if it means I’m not in Loretta’s presence. I’m really starting to wish I hadn’t called her but I figured Zeke was just being Zeke when he kept insisting that Mary wouldn’t want us to call her and refused to listen to him.
“Hey, are you busy?” Things are still strained with Tommy, but he’s not as withdrawn as he had been prior to the accident. It seems that one moment has caused all of us to re-evaluate what’s important in our lives.
“I’m having lunch with Mary’s mom,” I respond, making no effort to hide my displeasure with my current company. “What’s going on?”
Tommy starts telling me how Holly is still having a hard time coping with her perceived role in the accident and the fact that she remained relatively unscathed while the other ladies both sustained injuries. She’s barely sleeping and her mood swings are getting more extreme every day. One minute she’s a sobbing mess and the next she’s screaming and throwing things. As both her friend and her former therapist, I can’t not go to her. While it will certainly complicate things for Zeke, there’s no other choice but for me to take Loretta to his place.
“Let me run Loretta over to Zeke’s and make sure Mary’s comfortable. I can be there within the hour.” It’s the best I can do.
“Sounds good, man.” There’s a long pause on the line and I look at my screen to see if the call has dropped. “Hey, I just want you to know I’m sorry if I was an ass to you the other night. I know you were just trying to help.”
“Don’t mention it. It’s been a rough patch for a lot of you. I’m honored that you all seem to think I can straighten everything out.”
I tuck my phone back into my jeans and head straight for the counter. I place a carryout order for Zeke and Mary and sit down to eat while we wait. I inform Loretta that we’re going to have to cut lunch short because a client needs me. Not exactly a lie, and I don’t trust this woman as far as I can throw her. The less she knows about the situation, the better as far as I’m concerned.
Mary’s sleeping peacefully in the living room when we walk into Zeke’s place. I can feel her mother’s disapproving eyes watching my every move as I make my way through the condo.
Poking my head into Zeke’s office, I let him know what’s going on. I can almost feel a chill coming down the hall as Loretta steps into view, her beady eyes narrowed on me before I disappear behind the closed door.
“Hey, you’re going to have to entertain her for a while,” I say apologetically, setting his lunch on the corner of the desk. Zeke pauses his music to give me his full attention. “The good news is that she’s been fed, so maybe she’ll be bearable for an hour or two.”
“Wow, lunch when that well?” Zeke laughs. “You sure you want to leave her with me if you think so highly of the woman? You know I have no filter on my mouth. One wrong comment out of her and I’m likely to piss her off beyond repair.”
It’s true, Zeke often has about as much tact as Stewie from Family Guy, but I don’t see as there’s any other option at the moment. Not only that, but my issues with Loretta don’t end with her holier-than-thou attitude. I’m not the best when it comes to dealing with mothers in personal situations. I haven’t been for a long time and being forced to spend time with Mary’s has me thinking about my own mother. If I was in Mary’s position, no one would even know how to find her to tell her that I was hurt. Hell, I’m not even sure if she’s still out there somewhere.
“You’ll have to be on your best behavior,” I warn him. “If you can manage to keep your snide comments to yourself, there will be a reward for you tonight.”
Zeke visibly shivers at the promise. With Mary out of commission for the time being, I want to see how far I can push the man’s limits without breaking him. Unless I’m seriously mistaken, and I’m certain I’m not in this case, he’s been holding back on me. Tonight, that will change.
I round his desk, curling my fingers around his neck, pulling with just enough force that he stands, leaning against the desk for support. I miss the messy mop of hair
His legs part, inviting me closer to him. I take advantage of the situation, pressing hard against his cock, making sure he feels how much I would rather be staying here with him, stripping every piece of clothing from his body than do anything else right now.
“If you want this later, you’ll be on your best behavior while I’m gone,” I whisper, grinding against him as I bite his neck. “Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes,” he sighs, grabbing my ass, his thick erection torturing me as he meets each movement of my hips.
“Yes what?” I ask, tightening my grip on his neck. His head falls back, no doubt equally loving and hating the feeling of my fingertips biting into his skin. Seeing his throat on display this way, I am unable to resist the urge to bite him. If it’s possible, I feel the bulge in my pants grow even harder at the responsive moan that passes his lips.
“Yes, Sir,” he bites out, his eyes pleading with me to continue.
Reluctantly, I back away from him. If I let this go on another second, neither of us is leaving the room for a while. And knowing my luck, Loretta will come looking for us just about the time I’m buried balls deep in Zeke’s sweet ass.
“That’s better,” I praise him. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Remember what I said.”
It’s a damn good thing I have an incentive to keep my mouth shut. By the time Jeff gets back, I’m pretty sure I’ll have bitten the tip right off my tongue with as hard as it is to not tell Mary’s mother exactly what I think of her. The vile woman has done nothing but criticize my home since the moment I walked out of the office. It’s not the style you would see gracing the pages of Better Homes & Gardens any time soon, but it’s not frat boy chic either.
Mary wakes up shortly after four when her pain meds wear off. Seeing her struggle to get comfortable on the couch, I rush to her side. “Is she here?” Mary whispers as I adjust the pillows behind her. Not wanting to call attention to our conversation, I simply nod. Mary’s responding groan echoes my sentiment.
She looks miserable as she settles into her seat. The part of me that can’t stand to see the pain in her eyes wants to push her to take her medicine, but she’s made it abundantly clear that she wants to go without as much as possible so she doesn’t become reliant on them to function.
“Oh honey, you’re awake,” Loretta coos, suddenly aware of the movement across the room from her. “Let me get your dinner. It’s nothing like what you could get back home, but it’s what there is to work with here.”
She scampers off to my kitchen as if this is completely normal behavior. The astonished look in Mary’s big eyes tells me otherwise. “Body snatchers?” she asks with a raised eyebrow, causing both of us to laugh. “Dammit, that hurts,” she groans, reaching for her left side.
It’s good to see that her sense of humor hasn’t been affected by the accident. The way Mary takes everything in stride is one of the first things that drew me to her. During the day, she has this ultra-serious job, showing up to court in her neatly pressed suits, but the moment she is done for the day, she turns into this goofy girl who goes out of her way to make others smile.
“Zeke?” Mary calls out when I start to walk away. I look back and see her glance down at the floor in front of her. “Will you sit with me? You cannot leave me alone with her.”
There’s no way I’m going to be able to sit on the couch without jostling Mary, so I push the coffee table away and settle myself on the floor. She reaches down, draping her arm over my shoulder and I lean my head back, allowing her touch to calm my nerves. This time, there’s no way to stave off the exhaustion and I quickly fall asleep as her fingers swirl along my skin.
“STOP TELLING ME IT’S NOT MY FAULT! YOU CAN SAY IT ALL YOU FUCKING WANT, THAT DOESN’T CHANGE THE FACTS!!”
Stepping onto Tommy’s front porch, I suck in a deep breath, steeling myself for what’s waiting for me on the other side of the door. I was barely out of my Yukon before I heard Holly shrieking what I’ve learned is one version of a nearly constant self-deprecating rant.
I don’t bother ringing the doorbell, certain I wouldn’t be heard over her shrill voice. Closing the door behind me, I flinch at the sound of a plate hitting the kitchen floor.
“Holly,” I say firmly as I enter the room. The petite woman freezes when she realizes they’re no longer alone. Standing before me is a face I’m sad to admit I recognize. The hollow eyes glaring at me are the same ones that haunted her features when I first treated her after Nick’s attack. Back when she was the one healing.
Despite the fact that I’ve never considered myself a violent man, my mind races with the things I would love to see happen to Nick Romero. He’s stolen something much more valuable from this group of people who have become my family since I moved here. He tore Tasha apart day in and day out until her self-esteem was in the toilet, from what I’ve been told. He beat Holly to within an inch of her life after using her as a pawn to scare Tasha into reuniting with him. And just when the two of them were starting to heal the emotional, as well as physical, damage he caused, he took another strike at them, this time leaving Mary broken and bloody in the street. Another plate breaking jars me back into the present, away from my thoughts of a slow painful death for such a miserable excuse for a man.
“Holly, stop!” I make my way across the kitchen in long strides, wrapping my arms around her from behind. “You’re not achieving anything by lashing out this way.”
She fights me, flailing her arms trying to make contact with my body, struggling to free herself from my grasp, but I hold firm. Realizing her arms aren’t going to help her, she starts kicking. I bite down hard on my lip, stifling the curse that threatens to spill out when she makes contact with my shin. Eventually, I feel her sag into my chest, sobbing.
“That’s it, Holly,” I soothe her. Slowly, I lead her into the living room so we can sit.
It’s difficult for me to see Holly this way. If I put my personal feelings aside, I would insist that she return to the unit because she’s obviously not well. Having become friends with her since she was discharged from my care, I know it would crush her to go back there. That leaves me in a very precarious position.
“Tommy, can you give us a little bit?” I look up at Zeke’s cousin, noticing his sunken eyes. I thought Zeke looked like hell earlier, but he’s got nothing on the bags on Tommy’s face. “Why don’t you get a shower and some sleep? I can sit with her for a while.”
“Thanks,” he sighs, obviously relieved to have a break from the nightmare he’s currently living with. It’s not her fault that she’s had this break. I admire Tommy for sticking by her, knowing that a lesser man would have decided long ago that she has too many issues for him to deal with. Instead, Tommy has been there since the beginning, even when Holly tried to push him away.
After the bedroom door closes behind him, I turn my attention to Holly. We sit there for almost two hours, me listening to her criticizing herself for every wrong decision she has made in her life. Trying to convince me that she’s a toxin, slowly killing everyone foolish enough to give a damn about her. I don’t interrupt her or tell her she’s wrong, knowing that getting this out of her system is the first step to healing.
“Aren’t you going to say something?” Holly asks, stretching out of the protective ball she’s been curled into since we sat down. “Tell me I’m fucked up. Tell me I’m beyond helping. Something!”
“Is that what you want me to tell you?” I respond, unwilling to give her the satisfaction of anything other than a calm retort.
“UGH!” she shrieks, lurching off the couch to begin pacing. “This is why I hate you! You always do that shrink thing where you answer questions with questions!”
Compared to our first encounters where it seemed to take forever for me t
“I don’t think you need me to tell you any of those things. You’re doing a damn good job of it on your own,” I say confidently, leaning back on the couch to get more comfortable.
“God, you’re fucking impossible!” She storms into the other room and I can’t help but laugh. Holly is a fucked up mess, as she puts it, but anyone in her position would be. The trick now is getting her past that view of herself.
“Never said I was here to make your life easy, Holly. So, let’s talk about what needs to happen next.” I hope we don’t wake Tommy, but I refuse to follow her down the hall. She needs to learn how to talk to people about what she’s feeling like the adult that she is, not like a child.
Surprisingly, Holly returns to the living room and sits down next to me, actually paying attention. I make a few phone calls, trying to find a therapist that will be able to assist her. Once that is lined up, I contact a colleague and ask him to write her a prescription for something to help her sleep at night. I won’t do this myself only because there could be questions asked given the fact that we have a personal connection and she is a recovering addict. I signed off on her care months ago and it’s one of those gray areas in life I try to avoid stepping in.
By the time Tommy wakes up, it’s late afternoon and Holly is looking more like the girl who is getting her life together. She has showered and is sitting on the floor trying to get caught up on a term paper. I have a feeling the swing is a bit too far to the opposite end of the spectrum to last, but it’s progress.
“How in the fuck did you do that?” Tommy whispers to me as we sit down at the dining room table with a couple of beers. “When I woke up and didn’t hear anything, I figured you had taken her to the psych ward or some shit.”
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