“Don’t count on it. I love having my space.”
“You can have your space. You can have whatever you want.”
I rose up on the balls of my feet, wrapped my arms around his neck, and kissed Trenton’s soft lips. “I already have what I want.”
He squeezed me tighter. “Come on. You know you want to.”
“No, thank you. Not anytime soon.”
Trenton’s face fell for just a second, and then he winked and grabbed my keys. “I’m going to start the Jeep. Be right back.”
He slipped on his coat and jogged outside.
Hazel came to the front and shook her head. “Trenton loves you, kaibigan. Like, the deep, forever kind. I’ve never seen him like this, doing this shit for girls.” She was nearly cooing every word.
I turned to her. “What did you just call me?”
She smiled. “I called you ‘friend,’ bitch. In Tagalog. You have a problem with that?”
I laughed and pushed her, barely hard enough to budge her tiny frame. “No. I have a problem with the fact that I’m almost out of cigarettes, and I don’t want to spend the money for another pack.”
“You don’t smoke?” I asked. Everyone else at the shop did, so I just assumed she would, too.
Hazel made a face. “No. And I would never date you, based on that alone. It’s disgusting. No one likes tonguing an ashtray.”
I popped a cigarette in my mouth. Trenton ran in, shivering. “Heat’s on high, baby!” He pulled the cigarette out of my mouth and kissed me, leaning me back a bit.
When he released me, I turned to Hazel. “Someone does.”
Hazel stuck her tongue out at me. “Come in early tomorrow. I’m going to start your gauges.”
“Yes, I am,” she lilted, walking to her room.
“You want me to drive you to the Red? I don’t want your shit head brothers showing up at your apartment. And it’s nasty out.”
“Brazil’s there, and I can handle a little snow.” There was a foot of dirty, melting mess on the ground, and the wind was brutal, but it was better than ice, and our little town was good about keeping most of the roads clear.
Trenton’s cheeks and nose were bright red, and he was still shivering. “Brazil can’t handle your brothers,” he said, frowning.
I giggled, and grabbed my heavy black coat and purse. “Thank you for starting the Jeep. Stay in here where it’s warm.”
He handed me back my cigarette, but not before giving me one last kiss. “Valentine’s is in a week.”
“Yes. In exactly one week from today. So it’s on a Saturday. Good for everyone else, bad for us.”
Trenton stood at the door while I backed out of the parking lot. I drove home without a problem. I shut the door behind me, tossed the keys onto the counter, and walked straight to the bathroom. Standing under a hot shower felt glorious, but the second I turned off the water, I could hear Brazil and Raegan bickering. By the time I brushed my teeth, wrapped myself in my white, fuzzy robe, and stepped out into the hallway, they had taken their argument to the front door.
Brazil saw me, and sighed. “I’m going, Ray. I told them I’d be there, and I’m going.”
“But we had plans. It’s not okay to cancel plans with me to go drinking with your frat brothers! Why don’t you get that?”
Brazil pulled his hat down low over his eyes, zipped up his coat, and left.
Raegan walked straight into my room and sat on my bed. I sat on the floor in front of a full-size mirror, and unzipped my makeup bag.
“He’s such a dick!” she said, pounding the mattress with her fists.
“He’s not ready for a relationship. He wants the benefits of a girlfriend without the commitment.”
She shook her head. “Then he’d just pull a Travis Maddox and f**k everything with a vag until he found the one, instead of trying so hard to make things work with me.”
I raised an eyebrow. “He doesn’t want you to be happy with anyone else.”
Raegan’s angry expression turned sad. “Kody called me today. He’s worried about the roads and wants to pick me up for work. We had our stupid fights, but I miss him.”
I painted my eyes and lips, and then plugged in my hair dryer and turned it on. “What are you waiting for, Ray?” I said loudly, above the noise.
She didn’t answer, instead she just watched me blow my hair all over the place. When I was finished, she shrugged. “Brazil dumped me right about this time before last year’s date party. I bought a dress, I told everyone he asked me. I’m going to that f**king party.”
I glared into the mirror, staring at her reflection in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? You are putting up with this frat boy nonsense to go to a party?”
The doorbell rang, and Raegan and I stared at each other.
“Colin and Chase came by Skin Deep today. Almost got in a fight with Trenton . . . and everyone else.”
“Shit, you think it’s them?” she asked.
I stood up, crept over to the door, and looked through the peephole. I rolled my eyes and pulled off the chain, opening the door. Kody was standing there, bundled in a wool coat, scarf, gloves, and cap.
“What are you doing here?” Reagan asked, stepping out into the living room.
“It’s getting worse, Ray. I don’t think it’s a good idea that you drive. Either of you.”
She looked down. “I’m not ready for work, yet.”
Kody fell onto the love seat. “I’ll wait. I’ll leave the truck running so it’s warm when you get in.”
Raegan stifled a smile, and then she rushed to her room and shut the door.
“I just got home less than twenty minutes ago. It’s not that bad,” I said with a smirk.
“Ssh,” Kody said. “She doesn’t need to know that.”
“You’re good,” I said, walking back to my room.
SATURDAY NIGHT AFTER A GRUELING NIGHT AT THE RED, I dragged my ass into the apartment, and flipped on my bedroom light. Trenton was lying on top of my covers in a pair of navy-blue boxer briefs . . . and socks.
I peeled off my clothes, flipped off the light, and then crawled in bed next to him. He fought with the blankets as he tried to get beneath them with me, and then grabbed at me until I was close enough. He buried his head into my neck, and we lay there for the longest time, still and warm. I’d never come home to anyone before, but it wasn’t a wretched feeling. Just the opposite: I was in a warm bed with the warm, incredibly-hard-to-resist body of the man who loved me more than anyone ever had. It could be worse. Way worse.
“Olive. Is she doing okay?”
“She misses you. I promised to bring her here to see you tomorrow.”
I squeezed his arm that was across my chest even tighter against me. “I see you found the key.”