We rode down most of the eight thousand feet from Pikes to the Springs in silence. Taylor turned onto Tejon Street before parking his black behemoth directly in front of Bucksaw’s entrance.
He climbed out, waiting for me to do the same. Just as my feet touched the asphalt, the sky opened up, and rain began to pour. We ran inside, laughing from exhaustion, surprise, and the embarrassment that had come from Corinne.
Our chuckling died down, an awkward silence becoming the uninvited third presence in the room.
“I’m not bullshitting you,” Taylor said. “Is that what your deal is?”
“I don’t have a deal. What are you talking about?”
“Thank you, Taylor. You’re my best day, too, Taylor. I’m hopelessly in love with your preciously sculpted abs, Taylor,” he said, pulling up his shirt to reveal the best thing I’d seen in a while.
I pressed my lips together, stifling a smile. “Are you really still stuck on that? Are you going to cry? Do you need a hug?” I batted my eyelashes and jutted out my bottom lip. He didn’t offer any reaction, so I gave in with a sigh. “It was a good day. I sincerely enjoyed every second of it.”
I rolled my eyes and headed for the stairs.
He followed me, and by the time he had closed the loft door behind him, I was closing the bathroom door behind me.
“I’m going to wash the mountain off of me,” I called.
Before my hair was fully wet, Taylor was pounding on the door. “Falyn?”
“My brother just texted me. He’s in town.”
“Which one?” I asked, ducking my head under the water.
“Tyler, third oldest,” he said.
I could almost hear him smiling.
“Did you not know he was coming?”
“No. We drop in on each other, unannounced, frequently. Wanna come?”
“Aw, c’mon. You had fun last time, didn’t you?”
The door creaked as it opened, and I immediately grabbed the shower curtain, peeking out from behind it.
Taylor crossed his arms over his chest, his inked biceps looking even bigger from lying on top of his fists. “Can I come in? I hate talking to you through the door.”
He slumped his shoulders as he let his arms fall to his sides. “I want you to come. I want you to meet my brother.”
He frowned. “What is the big deal? You’re going to meet him eventually.”
“So … nothing,” he growled, exasperated. “Never mind.” He opened the door, but he didn’t leave. He slammed it shut and flipped around, a scowl on his face. “Quit it.”
“Quit what? I’m just trying to take a shower!”
“Fuck off.” He opened the door and slammed it behind him.
Not two seconds later, it opened again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“Get out of my bathroom.”
“Okay,” he said. He was comically overwhelmed, looking back at me and at the same time reaching for the knob, missing a few times.
“I’m … going.” He finally opened the door and closed it behind him.
I touched my fingers to my mouth, suppressing the giggle that was desperately attempting to bubble to the surface. I hadn’t giggled in a very long time.
The hair dryer made a high-pitched whine loud enough to cover the sounds of Kirby letting herself in. When I saw her standing in the bathroom doorway, I yelped.
She lifted her leg and cowered, her hair and hands covering her face. Once she recovered, she stood up, her fingers balled into fists at her sides. “Why are you screaming at me?”
I switched off the hair dryer. “Why are you sneaking into my bathroom?”
She rolled her eyes, smoothing her hair back. “I knocked.”
“What are you doing here?” I said, exasperated.
She pointed to her apron. “I just got off work. I came to check on you.”
“Phaedra checked on me half an hour ago. I’m fine,” I said, turning to brush out the tangles in my hair. From the mirror, I watched her cross her arms, pouting.
“Gunnar’s late again. You don’t think he’s messing around, do you?”
I turned to her, the brush still in my hand. “No. No way. He worships you.”
She leaned against the doorjamb. “I know, but we all have our moments. And he’s a guy.” Her eyes widened with her last word.
“That’s no excuse. But Gunnar doesn’t need one. He’s not cheating.”
She looked at me from under her brow, accepting what she already knew. “Then why doesn’t he call? Why doesn’t he answer his phone?”
“No! Do you want him to come home, alive? You’re being ridiculous,” I said, turning back to the mirror. “When does he get his truck back?”
“I don’t know. Taylor’s brother is in town, and he wants me to go to Cowboys to meet them.”
Her eyes lit up. “That’s a good sign! I guess today went well then?”
“Mostly. We saw your mom at the top. She was picking up Kostas.”
Kirby made a face. “He is obsessed with that trail. He thinks he’s going to Macho Pikachu or whatever in Peru.”
“He needs to climb something bigger than Pikes Peak.”
“Machu Picchu is almost half the size of Pikes Peak, Kirby.”
“Stop acting like Phaedra! Did Mom give you a lift into town?”
“To the trail head. Taylor’s truck was there. She doesn’t like him.”
“Oh. She must have really not liked him.”
“Why do you like him?” I asked.
Kirby shrugged. “Just because he’s a hotshot doesn’t mean he’s like my father. Besides, it’s hard to dislike someone because he chose a job to save things.”
Kirby wrinkled her nose. “He’s, like, in his mid-twenties. You think he hasn’t come across a damsel in distress before? That’s not it. He just likes you.”
I opened the cosmetic bag but only stared at the contents.
Blurring lines with Taylor was dangerous. He’d agreed to take me to Illinois. But when? So many things could go wrong between his promise and Eakins. He didn’t want my truth now, but what if he required it later? What if there were more conditions?