Just before I pressed the buttons on the microwave, a knock sounded on the door. “Raegan! Stop forgetting your damn keys!” My bare feet padded around the breakfast bar and across the beige carpet. After twisting the bolt lock, I yanked on the heavy metal door, and I instantly crossed my arms over my br**sts. I was only in a white tank top and boxer shorts, no bra. Trenton Maddox stood in the doorway, holding two white paper sacks.
“Lunch,” he said with a smile.
For half a second, my mouth mirrored his, but then it quickly disappeared. “How did you know where I live?”
“I asked around,” he said, walking past me. He sat the sacks on the breakfast bar, and began pulling out containers of food. “From Golden Chick. Their mashed potatoes and gravy remind me of my mom’s. I’m not really sure why. I don’t remember her cooking.”
Dianne Maddox’s death had rocked our town. She was involved in the PTA, the Junior Welfare League, and coached Taylor’s and Tyler’s soccer team for three years before she was diagnosed with cancer. It caught me off guard that he mentioned her so casually, even though I suppose it shouldn’t have.
“Do you always surprise attack a girl’s apartment with food?”
“No, but it was time.”
He looked at me, blank faced. “For lunch.” He walked into the kitchen and began opening cabinets.
“What are you doing now?”
I pointed to the correct cabinet, and he pulled out two, sat them on the bar, and then began spooning out potatoes, gravy, corn, and dividing up the chicken. And then he left.
I stood next to the bar, in my small, quiet apartment, with the smells of chicken and gravy wafting through the air. This had never happened to me before, and I wasn’t sure how to react.
Suddenly the door blew open, and Trenton walked back in, kicking the door shut behind him. He was holding two large styrofoam cups with straws sticking out the top.
“I hope you like Cherry Coke, baby doll, or we can’t be friends.” He placed the drinks beside each plate, and then sat down. He looked up at me. “Well? Are you going to sit down or what?”
Trenton shoveled the first piece of food into his mouth, and, after some hesitation, I did the same. It was like a little ball of paradise on my tongue, and once I started, the food on my plate just sort of disappeared.
Trenton held up a Spaceballs DVD. “I know you said you were studying, so if you can’t, you can’t, but I borrowed this from Thomas the last time he was in town, and I still haven’t watched it.”
“Spaceballs?” I asked, pushing up one of my eyebrows. I’d seen it with T.J. a million times. It was kind of our thing. I wasn’t watching it with Trenton.
“No. It was really nice of you to bring over lunch, but I have to study.”
Trenton wasn’t fazed. “Then he’s not much of one. I’ve never seen him around.”
“He doesn’t live here. He’s . . . he goes to school in California.”
“He never comes home to visit?”
“Also none of your business.”
“Fine,” he said, picking up our trash and tossing it into the garbage can in the kitchen. He grabbed my plate and then his, and rinsed them off in the sink. “You have an imaginary boyfriend. I understand.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but he motioned to the dishwasher. “These dirty?”
“Are you working tonight?” he asked, loading the dishwasher, and then looking for soap. When he found it, he poured some in the small container and then shut the door, pressing the start button. The room was filled with a low, soothing purring sound.
“Awesome, me too. I’ll swing by later to get you.”
“See you at seven!” The door closed, and once again the apartment was quiet.
What just happened? I rushed into my room and grabbed my cell phone.
Not going anywhere w u. I told u, I have a bf.
My mouth fell open. He really wasn’t going to take no for an answer. What was I going to do? Let him stand at my door, knocking until he gave up? That was rude. But so was he! I said no!
There was no reason to get riled up. Raegan would be home, likely with Kody, and she could tell him I went out. With someone else. That would explain why my car was still in its parking spot.
I was pretty damn smart. Smart enough to have kept my distance from Trenton all these years. I’d seen him flirt, seduce, and evade since we were kids. There was absolutely no trick Trenton Maddox could play that I wouldn’t be ready for.
AT SEVEN O’CLOCK, I WAS BENT AT THE WAIST, BLOW-DRYING my wet hair. The steam that filled our tiny shared bathroom had fogged the mirror, so there was no point in trying to see my reflection. The thin, tattered towel twisted around my chest barely covered everything. We needed new towels. We needed new everything.
Raegan didn’t get home until after six, so I had to hurry through explaining my plan to her so she would know exactly how to turn Trenton away. At 7:05, I put on my favorite Eastern State hoodie and matching gray sweats. At 7:10, Raegan fell onto the couch with her bowl of popcorn, sinking into the blue cushions, wearing her navy yoga pants and floral tank top.
“I think you talked him out of it.”
“Good,” I said, sitting on a barely cushioned arm of the couch.
“You say good, but there is a tiny bit of disappointment on your face.”
“You’re a dirty liar,” I said, grabbing a handful of popcorn, and shoving it all into my mouth.
I was just beginning to relax as the obnoxious voice of Family Guy prattled on when the doorbell rang. Raegan scrambled to the door, dropping popcorn everywhere, and I scurried to my bedroom. Raegan turned the bolt lock and the knob, and then I heard her muffled voice. After a short pause, another voice that was much deeper hummed through the apartment. Trenton’s.
After a short conversation, Raegan called my name. I stiffened, not sure what to do. Was she trying to prove to him that I wasn’t there? My bedroom door swung open. Instinctively, I jumped back before the wood smacked me in the face.
Raegan stood before me, with a frown on her face. “He fights dirty.”
I shook my head, not sure if I should speak.
She jerked her head to the side, gesturing to the front door. “Go see for yourself.”
I walked around her and then across the hall to see Trenton standing in the living room, holding a miniature, fluffy pink coat, and standing next to a little girl. She was breathtaking. Her enormous green eyes were like telescopes, disappearing behind her long, dark lashes every time she blinked. Long, platinum hair cascaded down her back and shoulders. She was pinching and pulling at the threads of her mint-green sweater but didn’t take her curious eyes off of me.
Trenton nodded to the tiny, perfect person next to him. “This is Olive. Her parents bought the house next door to my dad’s two years ago. She’s my buddy.”
Olive turned to fasten herself casually to Trenton’s leg. She didn’t seem scared or intimidated, just comfortable enough to latch onto him.