I was glad to give Olivia a stepping-stone to start the next chapter in her life, but she’d only been in town a couple weeks and already she was driving me half mad. Between that and the recent string of sleepless nights, I could hardly see straight.
The door swung open and Darren walked in. “What’s up, man?”
“Not much. Paperwork, I guess.”
“Need any help?”
I contemplated his offer, but my thoughts were too scattered right now. “Nah, I’m going to hit the shower and take care of some of this in the morning. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sure thing. Everything okay?”
He shrugged. “You seem a little off. You hormonal again?”
“F**k you,” I muttered.
He laughed and shoved his jacket in a locker, replacing the fire department shirt he wore in favor of one with the gym logo on it. I’d asked him to come onto the team to help with training shifts so I could have some downtime. I paid the price with tolerating his daily dose of crude sarcasm. I often wondered how we shared a bloodline.
“Hey, do you want to grab some beers this weekend? You haven’t been out in a while.”
I hesitated, my thoughts drifting to Maya. Her name was like an old song, and I was struggling to remember the lyrics. Why was I doing that to myself? Like I needed another memory to haunt me.
“Come on, man, you haven’t been out in forever. You act like you’re the old man. Have a few, meet some women, kick back a little.”
Darren was the oldest. He was pushing thirty with a social life that easily surpassed Olivia’s or mine. Women flocked to the gym for a chance to train with him. We both knew what else they wanted, but so far he’d done a good job of not creating drama at work.
“I’ll think about it, all right?”
He gave me a twisted smile. “Just say yes, man.”
“Yeah, fine. We’ll grab a beer.”
I relaxed a little, glad he’d finished prying. I hesitated, contemplating what I was about to ask. “Hey, can you cover me for a few hours tomorrow? I might have to run some errands.”
“Sure, I’m off all day.”
I took a long shower, ready for the day to end. My wet hair froze in a few seconds after I stepped outside. It was still snowing, but I walked anyway. You never knew what might happen on the streets of New York, who or what you’d see. Every day was an opportunity, and today was certainly living up to that.
After an extended layover in the city on the way back from a tour overseas, I’d decided this is where I’d come when I got out. Turned out, four years and three tours were enough. Olivia was worried. Our parents were freaking out. I’d made a solid effort to crush out the memory of Maya in the desert, and when the time came to move on, I took it.
Maya. I did a double take at every long-haired blonde I saw. Olivia said she seemed different. How? Would I even recognize her if I saw her? Maybe we’d already crossed paths in some random place, and I’d been too lost in my own world to even see her.
No. I couldn’t miss her face.
I still couldn’t believe Olivia had run into her after all this time. Proof that not only did she still exist somewhere out there in the world, but she was close.
Close enough to find.
MAYA. I nearly slipped on the wood floors as I stepped into the apartment. A light snow had started not long before I came back to the office and my Manolos did not agree with the accumulation on my brief walk home from the metro.
I steadied myself and kicked them off, grateful to be home and warm at last.
“Home sweet home!” Eli sang from the living room, which was only two feet away, separated from the entryway by a partial wall. “You want some wine, hon?”
I stepped farther inside as he rose from his perch on the couch. He was wearing his usual uniform, faded black skinny jeans and a T-shirt from one of the many concerts he’d attended in his illustrious and excruciatingly low-paying career as a freelance music journalist. He disappeared into the small closet that our landlord claimed was a kitchen.
I carried on to my bedroom—entirely mine and, unlike the rest of the apartment, a decent size. We lived modestly, but I refused to sleep like a sardine. I had a queen-sized bed, and I could walk all the way around it. I stripped off my suit and found my oldest pair of blue jeans. They were faded and ripped in several spots. They felt like home. I pulled on a hoodie and padded out to the living room where Eli had just returned with two generously filled glasses of our favorite red.