Lick (Stage Dive #1)(6)


by Kylie Scott

Because of course some asshat reporter had asked my mother how she felt about the tattoo, so that secret was out. Apparently now no decent boy from a good family would ever marry me. Previously, I’d been unlikely to land a man due to my various lumps and bumps. But now it was all on the tattoo. I’d decided to forego pointing out to her that I was already married.

More banging on the front door. Dad just looked at me. I shrugged.

“Ms Thomas?” a big voice boomed. “David sent me.”

Yeah, right. “I’m calling the cops.”

“Wait. Please,” the big voice said. “I’ve got him on the phone. Just open the door enough so I can hand it in to you.”

“No.”

Muffled noises. “He said to ask you about his T-shirt.”

The one he’d left behind in Vegas. It was in my bag, still damp. Huh. Maybe. But I still wasn’t convinced. “What else?”

More talking. “He said he still didn’t want the … excuse me, miss … ‘fucking ring’ back.”

I opened the door, but kept the chain on. A man who resembled a bulldog in a black suit handed me a cell phone.

“Hello?”

Loud music played in the background and there were lots of voices. Apparently this marriage incident hadn’t slowed down David at all.

“Ev?”

“Yes.”

He paused. “Listen, you probably want to lie low for a while until this all dies down, okay? Sam will get you out of there. He’s part of my security team.”

Sam gave me a polite smile. I’d seen mountains smaller than this guy.

“Where would I go?” I asked.

“He’ll, ah … he’ll bring you to me. We’ll sort something out.”

“To you?”

“Yeah, there’ll be the divorce papers and shit to sign, so you may as well come here.”

I wanted to say no. But taking this away from my parents’ front doorstep was wildly tempting. Ditto with getting out of there before Mom woke up and heard about the internship. Still, with good reason or not, I couldn’t forget the way David had slammed his way out of my life that morning. I had a vague back-up plan taking shape. With the internship gone, I could return to work at the café. Ruby would be delighted to have me full-time for the summer and I loved being there. Turning up with this horde on my heels, however, would be a disaster.

My options were few and none of them appealed, but still I hedged. “I don’t know …”

He gave a particularly pained sounding sigh. “What else are you gonna do? Huh?”

Good question.

Out past Sam the insanity continued. Lights flashed and people yelled. It didn’t seem real. If this was what David’s everyday life was like, I had no idea how he handled it.

“Look. You need to get the f**k out of there,” he said, words brisk, brittle. “It’ll calm down in a while.”

My dad stood beside me, wringing his hands. David was right. Whatever happened, I had to get this away from the people I loved. I could do that much at least.

“Ev?”

“Sorry. Yes, I’d like to take you up on that offer,” I said. “Thank you.”

“Hand the phone back to Sam.”

I did as asked, also opening the door fully so the big man could come inside. He wasn’t overly tall, but he was built. The guy took up serious space. Sam nodded and said some ‘yes, sir’s. Then he hung up. “Ms Thomas, the car is waiting.”

“No,” said Dad.

“Dad—”

“You cannot trust that man. Look at everything that’s happened.”

“It’s hardly all his fault. I played my part in this.” The whole situation embarrassed me. But running and hiding was not the answer. “I need to fix it.”

“No,” he repeated, laying down the law.

The problem was, I wasn’t a little girl anymore. And this wasn’t about me not believing that our back yard was too small for a pony. “I’m sorry, Dad. But I’ve made my decision.”

His face pinked, eyes incredulous. Previously, on the rare occasions he’d taken a hard stance, I’d buckled. (Or quietly gone about my business behind his back.) But this time … I was not convinced. For once my father seemed old to me, unsure. More than that, this problem was mine, all mine.

“Please, trust me,” I said.

“Ev, honey, you don’t have to do this,” said Dad, trying a different tack. “We can figure something out on our own.”

“I know we could. But, he’s got lawyers on the job already. This is for the best.”

“Won’t you need your own lawyer?” he asked. There were new lines on his face, as if just this one day had aged him. Guilt slunk through me.

“I’ll ask around, find someone suitable for you. I don’t want you being taken advantage of here,” he continued. “Someone must know a decent divorce lawyer.”

“Dad, it’s not like I have any money to protect. We’re going to make this as straightforward as possible,” I said with a forced smile. “It’s okay. We’ll take care of it and then I’ll be back.”

“We? Honey, you barely know this guy. You cannot trust him.”

“The whole world is apparently watching. What’s the worst that can happen?” I sent a silent prayer to the heavens that I’d never find out the answer to that.

“This is a mistake …” Dad sighed. “I know you’re as disappointed over the internship as I am. But we need to stop and think here.”

“I have thought about it. I need to get this circus away from you and Mom.”

Dad’s gaze went to the darkened hallway heading toward where Mom lay in her drug-induced slumber. The last thing I wanted was for my father to feel torn between the two of us.

“It’ll be okay,” I said, willing it to be true. “Really.”

He hung his head at last. “I think you’re doing the wrong thing. But call me if you need anything. If you want to come home, I’ll organize a flight for you straight away.”

I nodded.

“I’m serious. You call me if you need anything.”

“Yes. I will.” I wouldn’t.

I picked up my backpack, still fresh from Vegas. No chance to refresh my wardrobe. All of my clothes were at the apartment. I smoothed back my hair, tucking it neatly behind my ears, trying to make myself look a little less like a train wreck.