Authors: Shane Morgan
However, when I arrived at my apartment,
I felt like puking. There was a blue note on the coffee table next to a large
bouquet of red roses.
“No!” I yelled.
My alarm hadn’t gone off—I would have
been notified if it had—so he must have found a way to sneak in again.
What the hell!
Defeated, I dropped my purse on the
floor and walked like a zombie around the couch, collapsing on it. I yanked up
the note; I didn’t know why, but I just had to read it.
I was going to show you who I was today,
but you seemed so afraid. So aggravated.
My love, how are we going to be together if you won’t
I crushed the note in my fist and tossed
it to the floor. There was a card with the bouquet. It read:
roses for my one and only. Love, X.
Air rushed from my lungs. Anxiety
swelled in me.
Is this guy for real
Rage propelled me from the couch, and I
lost it. I started swishing the roses furiously, beating them on the back of
the couch and then on the kitchen counter. By the time I finished, there were
petals all over the place.
Angry wasn’t the word for this. I hated
anyone making me feel as if I wasn’t in control and had no privacy.
No freedom—the thing I’d yearned for so
much when I left my mother’s house. Now it was like I was losing grasp on my
Tears flooded my vision. I tried to blink
them away but my efforts were futile. They poured down my cheeks like a heavy
I needed someone. I didn’t want to be
alone, yet I didn’t want to worry Julian and Amber or interrupt their lives
with my problem. Strangely, my mind drifted to Mason.
I searched for my cellphone inside my
purse, dropping it back on the floor when I found my phone.
Mason answered on the first ring.
“This is Daniels.”
“Hi, um…it’s…” My voice cracked.
“Bristol?” he said, concerned. “Are you
okay? You sound off.”
off,” I whimpered. “He was
at the office today, and I found another note and flowers inside my apartment.”
“Seriously?” Mason sounded frightened.
A cold sensation engulfed me as I spoke
again. “Mason, I changed my locks and installed an alarm like you suggested,
and still this guy came in. I-I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m sorry, Bristol. Listen, I’m off
duty right now, but I’ll request a—”
come?” I blurted.
“Please, I don’t want to be alone. I’ll feel safer if you’re here.” I had no
idea how that sounded to him, and I didn’t care.
Without hesitating, Mason said, “Okay,
I’m on my way.”
“Thank you.” I sighed in relief.
Not wanting him to see how I’d broken
down, I quickly cleaned up the mess and tossed everything into the trash. Then
I went to the bathroom to wash my tear-stained cheeks and smeared makeup. This
admirer was seriously getting under my skin. I couldn’t lose it like that
again. I had to stay in control.
I had to stay strong.
“How do you think
he slipped by the security alarm?” Mason asked as he sat on the couch and
smoothed out the crumpled note.
I brought over coffee and sank down
beside him. “I don’t know, can’t figure that out.”
He read what my admirer had written. “So
he wanted to reveal himself? Sounds like he’s becoming brave.”
“Yeah,” I said in a low tone. “I should
have looked at him.”
“No.” He glanced at me. “Who knows what
would have happened if you did.”
I rubbed my thumb around the edge of my
“Think, Bristol,” Mason urged. “Maybe
you’ve met him before but didn’t pay him any attention—someone from the
university or that café?”
Looking at him, I said, “I can’t think
of anyone who seemed suspicious.”
Mason leaned forward and placed the note
on the coffee table, then clasped his hands. “Bristol, I have to be straight
with you, unless he becomes hands on, the police can’t do anything.”
Setting the mug down on the coffee
table, I tucked my fallen strands behind my ears and fought back tears. “What
about a restraining order?”
“Against who?” he scoffed. “We have no
face. No name. Nothing.”
I spun back to him, frustrated. “You
know, Mason, you don’t sound very encouraging right now.”
A razor-sharp breath expelled from his
lips. “It’s just that…these cases are tough.”
Picking up the mug again with my
unsteady hands, I sipped my coffee and considered what he’d said.
Mason went on, “All I can tell you to do
is stay with a friend and set up a camera here. We’ll catch him if he sneaks in
again. That’ll be good enough to put him behind bars.”
“I’m not leaving my apartment,” I said,
holding on to defiance. “But I’ll get the camera.”
He stood to leave. I didn’t want him to.
I also didn’t want to seem desperate.
Oh, what the hell. I am desperate
“Can’t you stay?” I asked, standing up.
Mason took me in, stirring up a fiery
feeling in the pit of my stomach. The hairs on my hands shot up, and I feared
that if he touched me then, I’d be electrocuted.
He massaged the back of his neck. “I’ll
call it in. The precinct will send someone over to keep an eye on the place.”
“You’re a cop,” I reminded him.
“Yeah, but this is…” he trailed as he
refocused on me.
“What?” I urged. “Conflict of interest?”
Mason smirked. “Something like that.”
“You said it yourself: there’s nothing
the police can do right now, but I feel like
care enough to try for
After a long pause, he said, “Okay. I’ll
stay for a while.”
“Thank you,” I breathed, faking
nonchalance when inside I was bungee jumping with excitement.
Mason sat back on the couch. I absorbed
his appearance once more: his thick brows, long dark lashes, chiseled jawline,
. I looked past them, and a low moan escaped me as I
noticed the way his chest bulged beneath his fitted shirt.
My hands tingled as if they were eager
to touch him, to feel that warm sensation again like when our fingers grazed on
Carrying my gaze back to his, Mason had
a brow raised, intrigued. I cleared my throat and snapped out of it. “More
He smiled. “No, I’m good. How about
Chinese instead? I’m starving.”
“Okay.” I smiled back.
After takeout arrived, we stayed on the
couch and talked over noodles and fried dumplings.
“So what is it you’re studying at URI?”
he asked before slurping a noodle.
I finished what was in my mouth then
answered, “Event planning.”
“That’s cool. When will you finish?”
“This fall. I have three more classes
I’ll be taking online and then I’ll be done with college. For now.”
“I see.” He put the rest of his noodles
down on the coffee table and picked up the bottle of water I’d given him. “Then
what?” he asked after taking a sip.
“Well, I just received a full-time
position at Vanderson Publishing due to a merger, so looks like I’ll be with
the company for a while.”
“Good for you.” A sincere smile curled
his lips and my whole body felt as if it would melt at any moment.
I had to stare at something else to
speak again. “Yeah, it’s awesome. I like working there. The atmosphere is
When the onset of shyness faded, I
peered back at Mason, only to wince, disconcerted by the intense way he was
staring at me. He quickly glanced at his food and sliced into a dumpling after
dipping it in sauce.
“Um…” I mumbled, feeling a little too
excited by the way he licked the sauce off his bottom lip. “Uh, did I pull you
away from anything important?” I stuck my hair behind my ears, something I only
did when I was with him.
Mason turned to me, his Adam’s apple
bobbing as he swallowed before answering me. “Not at all. I do little when I’m
“Oh,” I muttered. “I see. So, um, are
your parents still in New Hampshire?”
His shoulders drooped, as if he’d been
struck by a sudden feeling of sadness. “Yeah.” His voice came out low.
I wanted to ask what was wrong, but it
wasn’t my place so I changed the topic instead. “Any regrets about being a
An infectious grin resurfaced as he
said, “None. I was meant to do it.”
“Good for you.”
We talked some more until I started to
feel sleepy. I looked at the time on the TV: it was after eleven. I didn’t want
Mason to leave. It was so normal with him, as if we’d been hanging out for
years. Whatever this feeling was, it helped me to relax.
Uncontrollably, I yawned a few times
within minutes. Mason pushed to his feet. “I’ll take off so you can get some
rest,” he said.
“No…” I whined like a clingy girlfriend.
“I mean…” I stood and got a hold of myself. “Thank you so much for staying. I
really appreciate it.”
He raised his shoulders in a shrug.
“Just doing my job.”
That stung like a direct prick to the
heart. Was he only doing his job, and it meant nothing else? What did it matter
anyway? Until a week before, I’d been in a relationship that I’d once believed
Mason motioned for the door. I ambled
over with him. He opened it and waited in the hallway. “Remember that security
camera. Call me if you—”
A car alarm blared, followed by
terrifying sounds of glass smashing. We both jumped.
The cop in Mason became alerted. “Stay
here!” He spun and ran for the stairs.
I stepped into the hallway. The note
from Sunday popped up in my head—what if it was my admirer making a point?
Why hadn’t I
Afraid that he might get hurt, I closed
the door to my apartment and rushed down the stairs. When I reached the entry,
I pushed the doors open and dashed out of the building.
I instantly froze in my tracks. My mouth
fell open. The damage to Mason’s car was so clear under the bright light coming
from the post in front of it.
“Oh no!” I gasped, covering my mouth.
Mason was pacing back and forth on his
cellphone, reporting what had occurred. There was yellow and blue paint all
over his Corolla, the tires were punctured, and the windshield was shattered. I
looked at the other cars in the parking lot.
They were all fine.
People started coming out of the
apartment building to see what had happened.
“Yeah, I’ll be here,” Mason said
angrily, ending the call.
I hurried up to him. “I’m so sorry.”
He squinted at me, puzzled. “What? Why?”
He nodded to his car. “Looks like the work of some punk.”
“No, he—” I hesitated.
“What?” Mason pressed. “What is it,
Releasing a long breath, I told him,
“When I got back from our walk on Sunday, I found another note.”
“What did it say?” he asked, inching
I cleared the tightness in my throat.
“To stay away from you or he’d…get upset.”
A frustrated sigh spewed from his lips.
His hands flared. “That’s a threat. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because…” I reminded him, “What
we do? No face, no name, remember?”
Mason looked at his car again. He kicked
at the gravel and cursed furiously. We didn’t say another word to each other
until the cops showed up.
They questioned me about the break-ins
and the weird stuff I’d been receiving. Some of the people in the apartment
building were questioned too. None of them had seen anything or anyone
suspicious. It was late, so it had been easy for my admirer to sneak into the
parking lot and damage Mason’s car without being caught.
As expected, the cops didn’t tell me
anything different from what I’d already heard from Mason.
He talked with one officer while another
asked the residents to go back inside. Soon after, the tow truck showed up to
take away his car. We went up to my apartment to retrieve any notes I still
had. They’d need everything for evidence in case they found the guy.
Mason knitted his brows at the sight of
the bashed roses in the trash. He glanced at me then, but said nothing. I felt
like an idiot for snapping. He probably thought I was weak.
The cops left soon after. One stayed
behind to give Mason a ride. Before leaving, he stressed the need for a security
camera again. “Make sure you get that installed. Bristol, there’s no—”
“Not much you can do?” I finished.
“Yeah, you’ve said that.”
His jaw tightened. He massaged his
temple, frustrated. “I hope this bastard slips up soon and we catch him.”
I said in a sincere voice, “I’m sorry
about your car, Mason.”
“It’s not your fault,” he replied, his
tone softer now. “But please, don’t keep anything that you’ve received from
Feeling guilty, I glanced at my fingers
and flicked my nails. Mason lifted his hand as if he wanted to touch me. I
peered up, eager for him to do it. Disappointment hit me like a boulder when he
stuck it inside his pocket instead.
“I’m heading to the station to fill out
a report. I requested an officer to stay outside for the night, so try to get
some rest, okay?”
I nodded and murmured a dry “thanks”.
“Bristol.” He gestured to the trash bin
that held the remnants of my break down. “Stay strong.”
Mason turned and walked away. I
immediately locked the door, fastened the chain, and activated the alarm.
I didn’t feel safe in my apartment
without Mason, but after what had just occurred, maybe it was best if we kept
It was a clear warning: my admirer
didn’t want me hanging around other guys. But I’d been with Tyler for more than
a year, why hadn’t he shown up then? Why had he waited?