I looked up at him, and then trudged to the love seat, picking up my bowl and then sitting next to my brother. “He doesn’t want me.”
“I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s a long, boring story.”
“Anything to do with the Maddoxes is never boring.” He spooned the soup into his mouth, and then waited. He was like a different person when he was clean. He cared about things. He listened.
“We’d been spending pretty much every day together.”
I sighed. “He kissed me. It freaked me out. Then he told me he loved me.”
“Both horrible, very bad things,” he said, nodding.
“They are very bad things. T.J. booked me a flight to California after I told him about the kiss.”
“Trent begged me not to go. He told me he loved me at the airport, and I walked away.” My eyes filled with tears as my mind replayed the scene, and I remembered the look on Trenton’s face. “While I was out there, T.J. and I figured out that we loved each other, but there was just no way to make it work.”
“C’mon, Camille. You’re adults. If it was implied . . .”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, rolling a diced carrot around in the broth. “Trent barely speaks to me. He hates me.”
“Have you told him what happened in California?”
“No. What am I supposed to say. ‘T.J. doesn’t want me, so you can have me, now’?”
“Is that what it is?”
“No. I mean, kind of, but Trenton’s not the next best thing. I don’t want him to feel that way. And even if he somehow forgave me, there’s always the fact that it would be completely wrong to go from one to the other.”
We finished our food in silence, and then Coby took my bowl and rinsed it in the sink. “I’ve gotta head out. I just wanted to bring you this.” He pulled a check from his wallet.
“Thanks,” I said. My eyes widened when I saw the amount. “You didn’t have to pay it back all at once.”
“I got a second job. It’s not putting me behind.”
I hugged him. “I love you. I’m so proud of you, and I’m so glad that you’re going to be okay.”
“We’re all going to be okay. You’ll see,” he said with a small grin.
The following Saturday, Trenton walked into Skin Deep an hour late, red faced and rushed. His dad’s truck had broken down and he’d tried to get it up and running. Trenton wasn’t forthcoming with the information. Like finding out everything else about Trenton since California, I had to ask Hazel.
By the end of the first week of November, T.J. had only called once to say that he was in town for work but he wouldn’t be able to say hi, and Trenton and I had barely spoken. He had come to the Red a handful of times, getting his drinks from Raegan, Blia, or Jorie, and every night, just before last call, he could be seen walking out with a different girl.
I tried not to behave differently at Skin Deep. Technically, I didn’t need the second job, but I liked working there and the extra money, and I enjoyed seeing Trenton too much to quit, even if he was ignoring me.
It was easy to fool Calvin, but Hazel knew all. She would spend time with Trenton in his room, and then wink at me when she came out. I wasn’t sure if she meant to be reassuring or she thought we shared some inside information that I wasn’t privy to.
The door chimed, and in walked Travis and Shepley.
“Are you lending your beauty to every dive in town?” Travis asked, firing off his most charming smile.
“Someone’s in a good mood,” I said. “What can we do for you today?”
“Don’t ask,” Shepley said. He was most definitely not in a good mood.
“I’m getting a couple of tats. Where is that shit-stain brother of mine?”
Trenton poked his head out of his room. “Asshat!”
I checked Travis in, and once he signed the forms, the Maddoxes walked back to Trenton’s room.
“Shut up, cocksucker, and just do it!”
Hazel walked into the hall and stood in Trenton’s doorway. Soon she was laughing, too. The tattoo machine began to buzz, and over the next hour, Trenton’s room was full of laughter and playful insults.
When they met back up at the counter, Travis had a bandage over his wrist. He was beaming. Shepley was not.
“This has f**ked me so many ways,” he grumbled.
Trenton slapped and then gripped Shepley’s shoulders. “Oh, Shep. It’s going to be okay. Travis will work his magic, and Abby will be fine with it.”
“Abby? I’m talking about America!” he said. “What if she’s pissed because I didn’t brand myself with her name? What if Abby’s not fine with it, she dumps Travis, and then it causes problems with Mare and me? I’m f**ked!”
The brothers laughed, and Shepley mocked them, clearly not amused with their lack of concern.
Trenton smiled at his baby brother. “I’m happy for ya.”
Travis couldn’t contain the broad smile that lit his entire face. “Thanks, ass**le.” A shoulder-to-shoulder bro hug commenced, and then Travis and Shepley loaded into the Charger and left.
Trenton was smiling when he turned around, but the moment his eyes fell on me, it faded, and he walked back to his room.
I sat alone at the desk, listening to his and Hazel’s whispering. I stood up and walked back to his room. He was just wiping off the chair. Hazel sat up straight, her eyes meeting Trenton’s and then looking to me to signal that I was there.
“What are you guys whispering about?” I asked, trying to smile.
“Isn’t my next client coming in soon?” Hazel asked.
I looked at the small metal clock on the wall. “Eleven minutes. Trent, you don’t have an appointment anytime soon. Barring any walk-ins, it would be a good time to start the outline for that tat we talked about a while back.”
He looked at me while he cleaned, and then shook his head. “I can’t today, Cami.”
Hazel strolled out, letting us be alone.
Trenton reached over and dug into the candy bowl sitting on the counter closest to him. He unwrapped a small sucker and popped it in his mouth. “Jason said he might come in this afternoon around now if he got out of practice on time.”
I frowned. “Just say you don’t want to, Trent. Don’t lie.” I walked off, and sat on the stool behind the front desk in a huff. Not ten minutes later, a truck pulled into the parking lot, and Jason Brazil breezed through the door. “Is Trent busy?” he asked.
I hunched over and sank back into my seat. My entire face felt like it had caught fire as the adrenaline from pure humiliation burned through my veins.