Not in Her Wildest Dreams(5)

By: Dani Collins

No wonder the woman in question was drinking herself into a blackout.

As Sterling settled Rosie, Paige said, “I can handle it from here,” and began removing Rosie’s shoes.

He was sure she could, but now that they were alone, he would steal a word.

He straightened away from Rosie’s musky perfume and gin breath. Then, because he’d spent his adolescence longing to penetrate these walls, among other things, took in Paige’s bare yellow room.

It didn’t look like he had always imagined it. No stuffed animals or rock posters, no lacy bras and flowery undies dangling from drawer pulls. The closet doors were cheap, hollow panels with chipped paint, the blue curtains were discolored to pale green at the edges. The gold carpet was worn thin in front of the dresser.

Nothing suggested a girl had grown up here—except that crooked heart carved into the footboard of the Canopied Princess Twin. Little vandal. In his house, defacing a Roy Collectible had been a hanging offense. He tried and failed to make out the initials gouged away beneath Paige’s.

Paige covered Rosie and started texting someone. Her husband maybe.

A gust of rain hit the window, drawing his glance to it and through to his grandmother’s old house in the yard that backed onto this one. At one time, a picket fence had separated the two yards, but it had disintegrated into a line of pick-up-sticks that was now just another contributor to the greater eyesore. The tiny bungalow was pushing seventy years old and showing it. The plugged gutters had caused water stains down the siding and the lawn hadn’t been mowed this year. The house looked worse than this one, which was saying something.

“I said you can go,” Paige prodded, unzipping the hoodie she wore and shrugging out of it.

“I heard you.” He reluctantly gave Paige his attention. He’d been putting off looking at her because, well, he might not stop. She was fifteen years older but still sleek as a mink in yoga pants and a clingy, long sleeved black shirt under a fitted purple T. It was a practical outfit on an intensely female woman who possessed thick lashes, elegant cheekbones, and a carnality-inspiring mouth. He didn’t like the bruise coming up under her pale cheek, or the fatigued slant to her shoulders though. It made her look like she needed someone to worry about her.

“I need to talk to you about something. You should ice that.”

She winced and touched her cheek. “Yeah, it hurts.” She moved to the dresser and tucked her straight, chin length hair behind her ear as she leaned into the mirror.

He had wondered, all the way from the Carolinas, what had made him lust from afar all those years ago, then make such a fool of himself. Whatever it was, he had convinced himself it wouldn’t happen again, but as he watched her bend just enough to push her round ass out, accenting her supple thighs and the shallow dip of her lower back, he felt a kick of desire right in his groin. It was a purely physical, animalistic want that emptied his mind so all he could think about was petting that ruthlessly feminine line.

She straightened abruptly, turning with a look that said, Hey pervert. Eyes up here.

Mirror. Shit. She’d seen where he’d been looking. The back of his neck grew hot and her bruised cheek grew darker.

“What do you want to talk about?” She slanted a dour look as she passed him on the way to the door.

Good work, Roy. He ran his hand over his rain damp hair, then dried it on his thigh as he followed her down the hall to the kitchen.

The house was one of those raised bungalow floor plans that had been all the rage about forty years ago, with two bedrooms and the rest of the living space upstairs and a full basement that savvy owners, over the years, had turned into rental suites.

She dug a resealable bag from a drawer and opened the freezer side of the refrigerator, filling the bag with ice. As she wrapped the bag in a tea towel, she prompted him with a look to answer her question.

“Dad was leaving some paperwork with Grady.” He pushed his fists into his pants pockets, feeling overdressed, which was strange for him. Power suits were always a comfortable uniform for him.

But there were so many shadows of suspicion in the one eye Paige showed him, as she covered her cheek and leaned on the counter to face him, he felt at a disadvantage.

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