“She doesn’t usually come by in the evenings, but even so, it’s not something to worry about. You’re welcome at the gym anytime.”
We stopped in front of the apartment. I stared at the ground, battling with my renewed doubts. Was this going to be worth it?
“Hey.” He tipped my chip up so our eyes met. “I’m not letting her scare you off, okay?”
His thumb grazed my lower lip, leaving a tingle in its wake. I exhaled slowly. Every time he’d casually or accidentally touched me tonight, my concentration scattered. Maybe he’d always have that effect on me. That scared me far more than Olivia’s scathing looks.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
He nodded, releasing me slowly. Eager to be out of his grasp so I could think clearly again, I hurried up the stairs and disappeared into the apartment.
I gave Eli a small wave on the way to my bedroom before collapsing onto my bed, letting exhaustion win.
CAMERON. Having to hold back with Maya was beyond frustrating. I hated that I needed to. She was hesitant, and rightly so. We had to take things slow and get to know each other better. I could almost hear Darren’s snarky remarks about going steady in my head. In truth, I wanted nothing more than to drag her into my bed. I had a feeling that’s what we both ultimately wanted, but rushing into a physical relationship would be reckless. We’d both been through too much.
I entered my apartment quietly, hoping by some miracle that Olivia wasn’t home. I wasn’t in the mood to have it out with her again tonight. When I didn’t see her, I went to the kitchen and pulled out some leftovers.
“Back so soon?”
I jumped back and shut the refrigerator door. Olivia was leaning against the counter, her arms crossed tightly.
“Don’t f*****g sneak up on me like that. What do you want?” I tried to ignore her persistent stare.
“Are you kicking me out?”
I paused. “Do you plan on giving me a reason to?”
She looked away, her lips pursed.
“Is making Maya uncomfortable important enough to you to go back to Mom and Dad’s?”
“Obviously not. And I’m not trying to make her uncomfortable. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again. You really should rethink what you’re doing, inviting her back into your life.”
“I’m a big boy, Liv. I appreciate the concern, but I can look out for myself.”
“Have you thought this through, or are you going to rush back into something with her? That didn’t work out so great last time, you know.”
“We’re not rushing into anything. We’re trying to get to know each other better, to be friends, before we decide if we want anything more.”
She sighed. “God.”
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
“Liv, is this going to be a problem? I can’t really see myself kicking you out, but don’t make me consider it, okay? She’s important to me.”
“You barely know her, and you’re putting her above me? Your own family?”
“I’m not ranking anyone here. I know her better than you ever will, and this is the last time we’re going to discuss whether I decide to have her in my life. Understand? This is it.”
She glared at me from under her lashes. I walked past her and went upstairs.
MAYA. It was past midnight on Tuesday night when Eli walked in. He had raccoon eyes and a stupid smile on his face. I sat cross-legged in front of our small coffee table, sheets of paper scattered around me as I scribbled. I stopped when he walked in.
“What are you still doing up?” His voice was high and slurred slightly.
“Can’t sleep. I’ve replaced wine with caffeine,” I joked. If I was telling the truth, I would admit that Cameron was right. His regimen seemed to be giving me more energy while simultaneously wiping me out at regular intervals.
“How was your workout with Cameron?”
“Good actually.” Except my abs were f*****g killing me.
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re being super positive about this.”
I shrugged. “I don’t mind it as much as I thought it would.”
Somehow I’d resisted the urge to cheat on our bargain. Without a nightcap to look forward to, I had to fill my nights with something other than the slippery descent into inebriated bliss. My thoughts were sharper and my feelings more acute. That meant facing my emotional demons—many of them inspired by Cameron’s reemergence in my life—was more of a challenge lately. When I couldn’t shut them up with a glass of wine, I simply gave them a voice. I’d written more in the past week than I had over the past few months.