The dark look he gives me makes the cool night feel like hot July. I can’t tell if he wants to devour me with his lips or his teeth. Flint is the fine line between lust and hate. I’m not ready to walk it—yet.
“I’m going to miss tidying you up, Mr. Hopkins. I like to think of myself as an expert on suits, and I can say with one hundred percent certainty that no man has ever looked this good in a suit.”
His jaw clenches once and his lips part. I could lift onto my toes and taste them. But seriously, I think he would bite me. “You’re out of line,” he whispers with a deep tone of warning.
I slide his tie through my fingers, holding just the tip of it for a few seconds before letting it fall back to his chest. “Well, you know what they say—rules are made to be broken and lines are drawn to be crossed.” I step back.
His gaze follows me—my breasts, my lips—before landing on my eyes. He’s a beautiful, dark man. So dark. Why? I’ll probably never know.
“See you tomorrow. We’ll start planning my going-away party.” I wink before turning and grabbing my bag and Mozart. “For my party…” I walk toward my car without another glance back “…think about wearing a three-piece suit. I love what you have on today.” I whistle a cat call. “Mmm mmm … but the addition of a vest like you wore the day we met could make my panties fall right off.”
I watch her ass wave goodbye, and I imagine her panties falling right off.
“You need to get laid,” I grumble, climbing into my seat and slamming the door shut.
It’s not that I’ve been celibate since I lost Heidi; I just haven’t brought a woman to my house since I got custody of Harrison again. Simon’s dad divorced his cheating wife. I killed Heidi because I was an alcoholic. Maybe in terms of sex, that shouldn’t matter, but it does.
I hook up with women for one night. Hotels. Their place. But never mine. I don’t introduce them to Harrison. I don’t make any connections beyond the sex. And I don’t have sex that often. It’s only when he’s at a friend’s house, Heidi’s mom’s place, or when my parents come to visit. Yes, I have parents who understand my needs.
It’s been a while since I’ve been with a woman. Ellen Rodgers traipsing into my life is not good. Ellen Rodgers all but flat out asking me to fuck her is disastrous.
As if my father knows I need him, his name pops up on my dash screen. I hit the answer button on my steering wheel.
“How’s my boy?”
“Hard to say. Are you referring to me or Harrison?”
He chuckles. “Who do you think?”
“Harrison is fine.”
“And my other boy?”
“I’ll sugarcoat it when your mom asks.”
“Good plan. I’m on my way home now. When are you and Mom coming for a visit?”
“Actually, your mom has a companion ticket that expires soon. She booked us flights in two weeks. That work for you boys?”
“Sure. Harrison will be thrilled. Well … his version of thrilled.”
“You going to get out while we’re there?” And by “get out” he means get laid.
My father played football in college and two years in the NFL before an injury ended his career like it ended mine. He also had a problem with addiction. There’s nothing I can’t say to him. He gets me.
“I hope so. I told you I rented out the upstairs space to that music teacher. Remember?”
I chuckle. The Hopkins men have singular thoughts.
“You think screwing your tenant is a good idea?”
“No. It’s a terrible idea. Not what I was trying to say.” It is a terrible idea, but an idea nonetheless—an idea that’s stuck in my head where it will die. “She’s irritating. Physically irritating. My neck itches when I’m around her. But she’s the reason I need to get away for a night. I’ve tried to evict her, but she’s using Harrison’s love of music to manipulate me. He’s been playing guitar with her. And today he brought home her pet rat. A pet rat. Who the fuck has a rat for a pet? Ellen Rodgers. That’s who.”
My dad laughs some more. “She’s under your skin. Maybe screwing your tenant is exactly what you need. Once she realizes you’re a one-night-stand guy, she’ll give you her notice instead of the other way around. Women don’t like facing men who reject them after one night.”
“Sage advice from the man who married his high school sweetheart and was a virgin on his wedding night.”
“Hey, I live vicariously through you.”
“You poor guy.” I grunt a laugh.
“You know…” his tone turns more serious “…it’s been ten years. I think a decade is long enough. Heidi would want you to move on.”
“Heidi would want me to burn in Hell for killing her—taking away Harrison’s mother. I think that every fucking time I feel any sort of happiness or pleasure. I gotta go.” I can’t have this conversation. The day may never come that I can have this conversation. A decade … that’s nothing. I killed her. I got away with murder. I should have rotted in a prison cell for the rest of my life.
“I love you, Flint. Your mom does too. And so does Harrison. And we forgive you.”
I pull into the garage and shift into Park, leaning my head back and closing my eyes. I don’t deserve forgiveness. I did the unforgivable. I’m here for Harrison. That’s it. Raising him is the debt I owe. I don’t deserve a day past his eighteenth birthday. And he only loves me because he doesn’t know the truth.
“I’ll see you in two weeks. Message me your flight info, and I’ll make sure there’s someone at the airport if I can’t be there.”
I make dinner.
I do laundry.
I pull weeds in the yard and tend to the garden.
I stay up late going over my case that goes to court next week.
And then I wake up and prepare to do it all over again because people like me don’t deserve anything more than monotony.
As a music enthusiast it would seem natural for hearing to be my most cherished sense. But Beethoven continued to compose, and in some ways hear the music, long after he went deaf. I will forever cherish music and live in awe of the lives that it saves, but I know without a single shred of uncertainty that touch is the one sense I cannot live without. And I know this because I tried for two years to let that need—the feeling that comes only from another human—die. At the most basic level, humans need physical touch to thrive.
“Will you be available this afternoon?” Dr. Hamilton asks as I grab a coffee from the hospital cafeteria. “I have a patient I’d like you to meet. She’s a rape victim.”
“I can see her if it’s before two. I’ll be at my office after that.” I frown, dumping sugar into my coffee. “If I still have one. My landlord is trying to evict me.”
She slips her phone into her lab coat and smirks. “I’ve known you for almost a year. You can charm the pants off a snake. Everyone loves you. How are you getting evicted? Rent issues?”
I put the lid on my cup and shake my head. “Noise issues.” I smirk over the steam seeping from the hole in my lid. “My landlord didn’t understand what my profession entails.”
“Sounds like an idiot. You should hire an attorney to fight it. I know a really good one.”
I laugh. “Funny thing … my landlord is an attorney.”
“Oh …” She cringes, taking a sip of her coffee. “Well, all the more reason to have your own attorney.”
“It’s complicated. I’ve been teaching his son to play the guitar. This boy is amazing. I show him something once and he gets it and builds on it without my guidance. He’s gifted—as in really gifted. And I like him and I think he likes me.”
“So the dad hired you to teach his son guitar lessons, yet he’s evicting you?”
I shake my head as we step onto the elevator. “I offered to teach him for free—sort of. Sex in a Suit was not happy about it.”
“Sex in a Suit?” Dr. Hamilton grins.
Sipping my coffee, I shrug. “Yeah. Sex in a Suit. Tall, dark, and handsome. Every woman’s fantasy. Check. Check. Check. The hot ones are always jerks or gay.”
“Maybe he’s gay.”
The doors open to my floor. “His eyes wander too much. He’s not gay, just a jerk.”
“Bummer. Hey …”
I turn as she pushes the button to hold open the elevator doors.
“Did you get my invite to the wine tasting at my house tonight?”
“Yes. Sorry, I forgot to respond.”
“No big deal. Just stop by if you can.”
“Good afternoon, Amanda.” I pop my head in Flint’s office on my way to the elevator.
“Elle, don’t you look cute.” She grins.
I glance down at my sheer black leggings, ankle boots, mini skirt, and white boyfriend shirt. “Oh … thanks. I have a wine tasting after work, so I stopped by home on my way here to change into something less boring than my usual pants and sweater.”