“So you say.” Her eyes travel across my arms, my chest, my legs, and she sucks her bottom lip between her teeth. “But it’s never been proven, at least that I’ve seen.”
Fuck, what I wouldn’t give for her to look at me like that all the time.
“I’ll tell you what. If you come home with me and spend the night at my place, I’ll let you find out the real answer.”
“Aren’t we a little too old for sleepovers?”
“You just spent the night at my house last month.”
Wariness floods her eyes. “Yeah, but only because my car broke down, and I didn’t want to make you drive me home.”
“You used to stay at my house all the time to get away from this shit,” I remind her, nodding at the house. “What’s the difference now?”
She sucks in a shallow inhale. “The difference is, I’m starting to realize that this shit is just part of life, and I can’t escape it by running away for the night.”
With that, she climbs out of the car, slams the door shut, and rushes inside the apartment.
My lips part in shock. Never has Willow run away from me like that. Well, except for the time we kissed. Never mind running away into her house. It’s usually the opposite.
I rewind through everything I said, trying to figure out where I went wrong. All I can come up with is perhaps I pushed the whole flirting thing too far. I did mention her ass a lot, but seriously, it’s an incredibly hot ass.
I need to make sure she’s okay, that she’s not freaking out. Then I need to lie, lie, lie, lie and pretend I don’t like her so much it hurts.
I get out of the car, make my way up the path, and knock on the door. No one answers.
Figuring the music is too loud, I decide to walk in, but the door is locked. People laugh from inside, and the music is turned up more loudly as the front window slides shut.
Through the thin walls, I hear Willow’s mom shout at the top of her lungs, “Holy shit! Look at my daughter, everyone!” The request is followed by, “She’s turning into a little slut!”
“Just like her mama!” a male voice says.
Goddammit, I hate this place. I hate that Willow’s in there.
Fighting the urge to break down the door, I return to my car and send Willow a text.
Me: Just want to make sure you’re okay before I take off. Things sound pretty intense in there …
A couple of minutes tick by while I wait for her to respond. A few guys carrying beers and passing around a joint exit her place, a couple a few doors down are yelling at each other, and a woman is trying to sell herself to everyone who passes by. Everything about this area is sketchy, so when a brand spankin’ new Mercedes pulls into the parking lot, I have to question if perhaps it belongs to a drug lord. Then again, I’m sitting in my BMW. Perhaps the driver’s here to try to save someone they care about.
I keep throwing glances at the car, curious to see who gets out until my phone pings, distracting me.
Wills: Yep, I’m fine. It’s not as noisy in my room. And I have the door locked, so no one will bother me. Thanks for the ride, Beck. I really do appreciate everything you do.
What she doesn’t say, but I swear is written between the lines, is she feels guilty I have to help her. She wishes she didn’t have to be here while feeling obligated to because her mom is smashed.
One day, though, I’m going to get her away from this life, no matter what it takes. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I can, helping her as much as she’ll allow me to, and hope to God nothing bad ever happens to her.
I fear I’ll one day drop her off here or she’ll break down on the side of the road, and I’ll never see her again.
The disastrous night was becoming okay, even after Beck made the remark about my ass. Then he joked about me going to the dark side, and the ominous words struck a deeply embedded nerve.
God, if he only knew how right he was, he wouldn’t be here.
Guilt about my new job rose over my head, drowning me in shame, and I bolted from the car. As soon as I stepped foot into the apartment, though, I wished I never left Beck’s car.
I wished I never had to.
“Holy shit! Look at my daughter, everyone!” my mom shouts the second she spots me standing in the trashed kitchen. Her eyes are bloodshot, and she’s wearing nothing but a leather mini skirt and a red lacy bra as she stands in the middle of the room, twisting. “She’s turning into a little slut!”
I glance down at my clothes and wince. Shit! I forgot I was wearing my uniform.
I tug on the bottom of the hoodie as eyes fixate on me. Most of the people in the room are men twice as old as me, but the age difference doesn’t stop them from ogling me with their bloodshot eyes.
“Just like her mama!” a taller man with hairy as fuck arms shouts, fist-pumping the air.
They all laugh. Even my mom.
She continues laughing as she twirls and twirls around in the center of the messy kitchen. Empty whiskey and beer bottles cover the brown countertops, the linoleum floor is littered with cigarette butts, and pieces of broken glass are scattered across the table, from what I’m guessing used to be a crack pipe. Before I left for work, I cleaned the place spotless. Ten hours later, it looks like a crack house, and maybe it is. I really don’t know anymore.
I want to run away, go back to Beck, and let him take me to his house, put me in his bed, and fall asleep in the peaceful bliss of comfort and quiet. But two things stop me: One, the promise I made to myself to stop relying on him so much. And two, I don’t feel comfortable leaving my mom alone in this condition. When I was younger, I used to all the time, but now I’m older and better understand the severity of the situation.
Taking a measured breath, I squeeze past people, slapping hands away that brush against my ass, and push my way up to my mom.
“How much have you had to drink tonight?” I ask her loudly over the music.
She stops spinning, swaying tipsily from side to side. “Oh, I haven’t had anything to drink tonight.”
I watch her worriedly as she zigzags toward the fridge.
“Then what did you take?”
She shrugs, yanking the door open. “A few things … Don’t worry, though. I feel completely fine. Great, actually.” She smiles at me to prove her point. The problem is, her point is lost in the droopiness of her eyes and how big her pupils are dilated.