Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2) (11 page)

BOOK: Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2)
7.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Ace turns on me. “What did you think?”

“I think I'm slightly deaf,” I say truthfully.

He barks out a laugh and shakes his head. “Give it time, and you'll be fine.”

I smile and finish off my soda.

Ace glances at his watch. “I have to have the bike back by eleven. We can either stay here or we can take the motorcycle for a ride before I have to take you back.”

“Let's take it for a ride,” I say promptly.

“I figured you'd say as much.”

We leave the bar and spend the next forty-five minutes cruising around downtown and then out on some back roads. The faster Ace pushes the motorcycle, the more exhilarated I feel. It’s amazing having the wind tear at my hair and to know that I'm free of everything that's ever held me back. While we hurtle down the roads, I feel like
is living life.

When Ace pulls up at the complex and cuts the engine, I'm disappointed. I very reluctantly climb off the motorcycle, and my eyes linger on it.

Ace sighs as he climbs off the bike. “You're supposed to be happy, Angel, not looking like someone's kicked your puppy.”

“I don't look

“Sure you do.”

“Nuh-uh. If someone kicked my puppy, I'd kick them right back. I'd be angry.”

“If you had a puppy and someone kicked it, I'd do more than kick them for you.”

I shake my head and laugh as I brush my windblown hair out of my face. “Thanks for the evening, Ace. I had a good time.”

“I'll walk you in before I take the bike back.”

We're both quiet as we take the elevator back to my apartment. Ace watches as I take out my keys and unlock the door. I turn and smile up at him. “I'm glad you're my friend, Ace.”

I swear I see him wince slightly, but then I wonder if it was my imagination when I see he's grinning easily at me. “Back at you, Angel. Sleep well.”

“You too.”

He nods at the door, motioning that I should go inside.

Chapter Thirteen


As the next few weeks pass, I fall into a comfortable routine between working at the café and spending time with Ace. His schedule during the week is pretty tight, but he manages to make it over for dinner a couple times during the week. He can't resist my home cooked meals. I guess it's true what they say about the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. We've seen each other a couple of times on the weekends with the group, and once he took me to Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. I've grown comfortable enough around him to playfully hit him when he teases me, and I find it easy to tell him off when he gets too cocky. I think he does it though to challenge me.

As I exit a salon with much shorter hair, I grin and pull out my cell phone. I'd finally worked up enough courage to cut it. I text to Ace,
I just got my hair cut.

Yeah? How short?

I quickly text back as I walk down the sidewalk.
It's a little past my shoulders.

I can't wait to see it.

Dinner tonight?
I text back boldly. It's Friday, so I'm hoping he'll be available.

Sorry, Angel. Tonight's a guys’ night. I already told Jeremy I'd go out with him.

Disappointment sweeps through me, but I quickly text back,
Don't be sorry. Have fun!
I press send and sigh as I pocket my phone. I'm a little jealous he's going out with Jeremy since I know Jeremy will be scouting for women.

I'm realizing I am growing too attached to Ace, and that's a bad thing. Ace is not the type of guy to safely crush on. I have no idea how many women he still takes to his bed, and unfortunately, it's a thought that crosses my mind entirely way too often. I think I need to take a step back from him and try to keep my wits before I do something stupid. Like fall in love with a man that I can't have.

The hairs on the back of my arms suddenly stand on end, and I get the eerie feeling I'm being watched. A shiver treks up my spine, and I look around the sidewalk and busy street, my eyes on full alert. I can feel someone watching me. I've had this feeling before, back in Harrison. My heart speeds up as I look for anyone suspicious, but most of the people walking past me are oblivious to my sudden uncertainty. Has Oliver found me? No, that's not possible. He has no idea where I am, and as far as I know, he hasn't left town.

I stand in the center of the sidewalk feeling foolish when a woman passes by and gives me a strange look.

I'm being paranoid.

With a shake of my head, I walk away from the salon and the feeling of being watched soon fades.

* * *

I'm annoyed with myself the following afternoon. Even though I know I need to stop feeling jealous, I still can't help but wonder where Ace and Jeremy went last night. Had Ace taken a woman home with him? Was he still thinking of her?

I try to shake him from my thoughts as I scrub at a tough stain on one of the tables near the windows. The last thing I need is to have some school girl crush on a guy who's quickly becoming my best friend. I really need someone like Ace in my life. He doesn't tip-toe around me. What you see is what you get. He swears, he gets cocky, he's crude sometimes about sex, but yet he
to me when I talk. He always gets this soft look in his gray eyes when we have a serious conversation. And I never have to repeat myself with him, and if something is brought up that we've already discussed, he
my comments from the earlier conversation. When I'm with Ace, I know I have his full attention. It's amazing having someone like that in my life.

Not that Zoey and Caleb aren't great, because they are. Zoey's bold and fun to be around. Once in a while we have a serious conversation, and I feel comfortable enough around her to delve into topics that a month ago I would have rather not spoken of.

Caleb still watches me closely when he's around, but I think that has to do with his major. He wants to be a high school counselor and currently works at a crisis center part-time. It's natural for him to watch a person's reaction and see the little mannerisms that most people don't notice. Sometimes, I feel like I'm a bug under a microscope when I'm around him, but he doesn't push. If he sees anything that concerns him, he doesn't approach me about it. Since arriving here, I've really started to open up to them, and I'm growing into my own person. I'm finding who I am, so I guess Caleb's probably not seeing anything that would trigger his concern.

I realize the stain is gone, and I blink wondering how long I've been cleaning the now spotless area. With a soft sigh, I walk away from the table to toss the rag in the little bin behind the counter.

Flynn looks up from where he's restocking cookies. “It's slow. You want to go reorganize the books?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I step into the small bookstore and see that there are a couple of people standing around, leafing through books. The room is about half the size of the café, and there are tall bookshelves all along the outer walls and three rows of shelves in the center of the room. A couple of comfy chairs are scattered here and there along with small, round end tables with potted plants. There is only one door in and out of the room, and it leads back into the café. Everyone has to use the main entrance, which allows employees to concentrate on the café without worrying that someone in the bookstore will walk off with books.

I see that there are two discarded books on one of the brown chairs, and I walk over and pick them up, scanning them. They are fictional romance. I make my way towards the very back where the romance section is located. As I'm scanning the shelves to find the first book's correct slot, the back pocket of my shorts vibrates, startling me.

I peek around the shelving unit to see that the two customers are engrossed in their books. It seems safe to check my phone. I slip it out of my pocket, and my heart skips a beat when I see it's a text message from Ace.
What are your plans for this evening?

I love it when he goes out of his way to text me rather than waiting for me to text him. I don't want to sound too eager, so I reply with,
Not sure yet.

His response is almost immediate.
Mind if I drop by around seven? I have someone I want you to meet.

My heart drops all the way down to my feet. He wants me to meet someone? What if he's met a special woman and he wants me to meet her?
, I reluctantly send back. I tell myself to get over it. Sooner or later, Ace is going to find someone he wants to date, and like it or not, I'll have to watch him with her.

* * *

I wait on pins and needles that evening for Ace to arrive. He said around seven, and usually that can be anywhere between seven and seven-thirty. For what feels like the millionth time, I self-consciously run a hand through my much shorter hair. Whether he has a woman with him or not, I hope he likes my new look. I feel a bit more sophisticated. I know the light sprinkling of freckles below my eyes probably ruins the look, but I could cover them with foundation if I really wanted to.

“I need to buy a TV or something,” I mutter out loud in the silence of my apartment. I'm sitting on one of the stools, patiently waiting for Ace. Although I'm lost in my thoughts, sitting here is only making me more nervous.

A light knock sounds on my door, startling me. I draw in a deep breath and walk across the room. I can't resist peering out the peephole to check out who he's with. Ace is standing there, and from what I can see, he isn't with anyone. This bewilders me and pleases me at the same time.

I quickly open the door, smiling. “Hi.”

His eyes flicker over my hair slowly, and he nods approvingly with a smile. “I like it.”

“Thanks.” My eyes drop to the large, brown cardboard box he holds in his hands. There's a lid on it, and it sounds like something is moving around inside. I jump back and stare at it suspiciously. “What's in it?”

He grins and steps inside, kicking the door gently shut with his foot. “I picked up a little something for you tonight.”

I hear claws on cardboard, and I back away further. “Please tell me you didn't get me a hamster or something that resembles a rat.”

He gives me a wicked grin. “Only one way to find out. Open the box,” he teases as he moves away and carefully sets it in the center of the kitchen floor.

I wouldn't put it past Ace to buy me a rat as a prank since wanting a pet is on my bucket list. The complex doesn't allow animals, I already checked. I'm sure a hamster or gerbil would be allowed, but I don't want anything like that. I stare at the box warily.

“Chicken,” Ace taunts.

With a roll of my eyes, I walk over and bend down slightly, my hand tentatively reaching for the corner of the box. I'm preparing to scramble away if this is a prank. I jerk the lid off quickly, bracing myself. My mouth falls open when I see the small, orange, tiger-striped kitten inside. It meows at me, it's big, green eyes imploring me to pick it up.

“You got me a kitten!” I quickly move closer to the box and put my hand in for the kitten to sniff “Hi there, baby,” I croon as the kitten gives my finger one sniff and then proceeds to rub itself all over my hand. Now that I know I won't scare it, I pick it up carefully and snuggle it to my chest. A claw sinks into my left breast, and I wince slightly but continue cuddling it close.

“She's still got all her claws. I guess you can't declaw 'em until they're at least four months. The woman I got her from says she's five weeks old,” Ace explains.

My eyes shift to him, and I can't help but grin. “You got me a kitten,” I repeat, knowing I probably sound goofy.

Ace chuckles. “Yes, I got you a kitten, Angel.”

Just as quick as my excitement perked up, it fades. My expression turns crestfallen as I gaze at him. “We can't have pets.”

“No one will ever know unless you need maintenance to fix something. If that happens, you can keep her at my place for the day,” Ace assures.

“She's adorable.” I pull her away from my chest, and she dangles between my hands as I peer at her. Her big eyes stare into mine, and I gently press my nose against hers. Hers is slightly damp, and her tiny tongue peeks out and licks my nose. I can't resist giggling like a little girl.

“I take it she's a keeper?” Ace asks, and I can tell he's pleased that I'm so happy.

“For sure,” I agree. When the kitten starts wiggling anxiously, I carefully set her on the floor. I watch as she looks around curiously, then darts off to investigate. I turn back to Ace and fling myself in his arms, hugging him tightly. “Thank you! I love her already,” I say as I look up at him, grinning from ear to ear.

He looks down at me, his eyes softening as he lifts a hand and brushes a strand of hair away from my cheek. “I'm glad. You deserve everything on your list, Faith.”

I reach up and touch his cheek. “You are so sweet,” I say, knowing it'll likely rile him up. Ace is your typical alpha male. He wants to be called manly stuff, not cutesy stuff.

He captures my hand and bites my thumb—hard. I let out a squeak of surprise and jerk my hand away from his mouth. “Hey!” I exclaim, backing away from him.

He lifts an eyebrow. “Was that sweet?”

“No. That hurt,” I grumble.

“I think I've made my point. Anyway, I picked up a few things you'll need for the kitten. I'll go grab them from my place real quick.”

“Okay, I better go see where she is.” As Ace leaves, I hurry to the bedroom where I saw her scurry into last. I find her up on the soft comforter, and she's running around like she's high on catnip or something. Every time she skids to a stop near the edge, I can hear her claws tearing the fabric before she darts to the opposite side. I can't help but smile. A shredded comforter is worth having such a cutie to cuddle with.

I sit down on the bed, and the kitten quits playing to walk over and investigate me some more. I pet her soft fur and she purrs slightly. “Looks like it's just us girls against the world,” I murmur with a smile.

She grows bored with me and goes back to running back and forth on the bed. Going by her antics, she must be envisioning chasing something since she's doing a little bit of pouncing.

I hear footsteps, and Ace enters my bedroom carrying two large bags. He sets them on the carpet and frowns at the kitten playing on my bed. “She's going to shred this place up until you get her declawed.”

“Anything she ruins can be replaced,” I say with a shrug as I stand up to let the kitten have more space.

“I got you a litter box, kitty litter, cat food, and here's a little bed she might like to sleep on,” he says, holding up a small, round, cushy pet bed. It's yellow.

I want to tell him what a big softie he is on the inside, but I refrain from it. “Thank you,” I say sincerely as I squat down and inspect everything.

“She should be seen by a veterinarian, make sure she's not carrying any diseases. And she'll need vaccinations. I'll pay for it since she's my gift to you.”

“Oh, you don't have to do that, I can pay,” I insist as I rise to my feet.

“It's fine, Faith,” he says easily before he directs his attention to the kitten. As if she knows she's being watched, she does an impressive jump off the bed that has her tumbling head over tail before she finds her feet. Then she’s racing down the hallway and out of sight. Ace looks slightly pained as he turns to me. “I sure as hell hope she's not always this hyper.”

“She's amusing. I'd rather have a playful kitten than a lazy one that lays around all day getting fat.”

“True,” he concedes.

We leave the bedroom and enter the living room to find that the kitten is now wiggling underneath the couch.

Ace watches my newest roommate with a grimace. “I didn't think to pick up anything for her to play with. I'm thinking we should go do that before she destroys something.”

“Yeah, that might be a good idea,” I agree. “Let me go lock her in the bathroom.”

BOOK: Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2)
7.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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