Authors: Kelli McCracken
LONGING FOR YOU
Copyright © 2015 Kelli McCracken
All rights reserved.
For your unwavering friendship
The metallic taste of blood filled Theo’s mouth as he swiped his tongue across his lower lip. He didn’t need this shit today, not after the hell he and Jonah went through to get the gig at The Southern Way nightclub. The last thing he wanted was to show up sporting a swollen lip—or a black eye—which would be the case if Parker Pearson swung at him again.
What he wanted was to render Parker unconscious with one quick but powerful punch in the mouth. He would do just that if he weren’t already in a shit-ton of trouble with his old man. Getting into a fight before the gig guaranteed one thing. He wouldn’t get to go. It sucked being on the edge of eighteen, almost an adult, but still living at home and forced to abide by rules.
No way was he missing a chance to perform. If he and the guys were ever going to get discovered, it would be at The Southern Way. He owed this to Jonah. His big brother had always stuck up for him but was the first to kick his ass if he needed it, and he’d been in dire need of it lately. Jonah got his shit together. So could he.
Then again, Jonah was changing for Ally, whether she realized it or not.
Glaring at his classmate, he fought the urge to lunge at him and grab his throat. Asshole. He was just like the rest of the morons at the high school. All the jocks had a holier-than-thou attitude. Luckily, Theo had a couple more weeks before he could kiss this place a final goodbye, never to walk the halls again.
Of course, he wouldn’t get to see Cassie anymore, which may not be a bad thing considering where he was standing. In reality, he couldn’t blame his current predicament on her when he would come to the defense of any other girl at this school. God knows Parker made his rounds, using his athleticism and popularity to get what he wanted, from as many girls as he wanted.
Cassie was one of the few that rebuffed him. What a beautiful moment it had been, too. He loved every second of seeing her size up Parker before she went into a rather comical explanation of why she would rather dance in a mound of fire ants, butt naked and drenched in molasses, than go out with him.
Yet the second Parker gripped her arm and pushed her against the wall, Theo was finished watching.
This was his fault anyway. If he’d behaved last weekend, Parker wouldn’t be on the hunt for a new babe-of-the-week. They wouldn’t be standing in the hallway, near the cafeteria, arms drawn defensively near their faces.
His eyes darted toward the media center where he spotted Cassie. He hated that she was witnessing his humiliation of having another guy smash his fist into his face.
The thought was short-lived. He ducked in time as Parker swung his arm again. “Come on, you chicken shit,” he taunted. “What’s the matter? You afraid of getting your ass whipped in front of the whole school or your little girlfriend?”
When Parker tilted his head in Cassie’s direction, Theo glanced at her again. She’d left the opening to the media center and stepped into the hall. Her head swayed side to side as she looked right then the left. He didn’t doubt she was searching for a teacher or possibly Jonah. Either would stop the altercation between him and the school’s star running back.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Theo grumbled, but Parker was far from finished.
“No shit, dude. Who’d want to date your sorry, non-talented ass? Has anyone told you that you sound like a donkey braying when you sing?” The slur won him a few laughs from his friends, who hovered nearby. “I’m serious, man. You sound like something that needs to be put out of its misery.”
Theo chuckled, meeting the glare from the prick in front of him, and then the blonde, blue-eyed bombshell sitting at a table not far from where they stood. Becca Holstein was one of the many people watching the confrontation, but Parker’s ex wasn’t staring at him. She was staring at Theo. Perfect.
“Maybe I do sound like shit. Hell, maybe I don’t have any talent. It still doesn’t change facts.”
Parker’s chest puffed out further. “What facts?”
Theo grinned, even though his lip burned from the newly formed split in the center. “Say what you want about me, but it doesn’t change the fact that I wasn’t the one, uh…
Parker’s attention went to Becca and then back to Theo. “So you’re the asshole that broke us up?”
“No, you’re the asshole that caused your breakup. I was just the rebound guy. By the way, I loved hearing my name on Becca’s lips when she came.”
Theo didn’t miss the punch Parker threw this time. He didn’t miss the disbelief in Cassie’s eyes as she stood watching, mouth gaping. More importantly, he didn’t miss connecting his fist to Parker’s face once more.
The punch sent his nemesis to the ground, stealing his chance of victory. Consequently, it stole Theo’s as well…
Cassie moved through the air-conditioned antique shop, grateful to be away from the grueling July sun and its sweltering temperatures. She caught a glimpse of her disheveled appearance in a mirror not far from the entrance. The sleek, coppery locks that donned her head this morning had become casualties of war, a war that resulted from the saturated air she abandoned behind the door.
Humidity was her enemy, as were Savannah summers. Good thing she didn’t wear much makeup. It would slide off her face faster than a double scoop of ice cream in a five-year-old’s hand.
Tucking a frizzy lock behind her ear, she swept the sweat-drenched strands away from her neck, wishing like hell that she’d brought a clip to pin up her hair. Did this shop have a restroom? If so, she’d lock herself inside, yank off her stockings, and shove them in her purse.
While she hated the dress code at work, she didn’t mind being Tom Gerald’s personal assistant. Despite the fact that he resembled a Greek god and had an ass from out of this world, he was fun to work with. He treated her like his equal, not his assistant. She wouldn’t even count all the perks that came with the job. Getting to see any concert that came to town, as well as going to after-parties, were two of her favorite incentives.
Of course, there were days like today, when they had to deal with cranky musicians and overpaid managers. Getting bitched at by a manager wasn’t the highlight of her day. But hearing Tom come to her defense, as well as prove the error was on the manager’s assistant’s end, made up for the embarrassment.
Yet her boss went a step further and gave her the rest of the day off. Accepting his offer wasn’t easy, especially knowing they were getting a new client next week, but now she wouldn’t be rushed this afternoon. In fact, as soon as she left the antique shop, she’d head home, do some laundry, and find something to wear before meeting Ally tonight.
The thought of her best friend brought a smile to Cassie’s face. As she passed by a grandfather clock, she noticed an old armoire against the wall. It resembled the one in her parents’ attic, the same one she and Ally loved to play around when they were kids.
It was hard to believe that Ally had moved back after six years in New York. If they hadn’t kept in touch through phone calls, Internet, and a few girls’ weekends, this evening would have been awkward. But it wasn’t the case.
Ally was back, single, and ready to have fun. Cassie couldn’t wait to show her around town. Maybe they’d go to one of the local nightclubs after the comedy show. She could use a few drinks after today, and if they went to the club where Mike worked, her favorite bartender would make their Manhattans extra potent.
Better wash those low-rise jeans that hug my ass. They’re Mike’s favorite pair, and… Oh, damn it, Paula, where are you?
She released a sigh, but it did little to remove the tension spreading over the back of her neck. How much longer would Ally’s mom be? Cassie didn’t have time for this, despite getting the afternoon off. She had stuff to do and waiting in an old, musty-scented antique store wasn’t one of them. If she wasted too much time, she’d have to borrow something from Cori again.
As much as she loved her little sister, Cori’s wardrobe was a little too revealing, which was saying something considering Cassie liked showing a little skin… Okay, she liked showing a
An internal laugh had her smashing her lips together to stifle the noise. The last thing she needed was the shopkeeper to think she was some nut job who’d wandered in from the street. Then he or she would call the cops and Cassie would end up spending her free time convincing the police she wasn’t insane.
No more awkward confrontations today
Step by step, she moved further into the store, eyeing all the items spread about the room. The dusty objects caused a tickle in her throat, but she cleared it and proceeded down the center aisle.
Near the back of the shop, a soft light illuminated the walls. It drew her attention away from the rack full of knickknacks to what appeared to be a jewelry case. Standing behind it was an older woman with silver strands of hair. She’d twisted and pinned most of it away from her neck, but a few strands hung around her face.
Cassie wondered if the woman would be interested in selling the pin holding her hair in place. She’d pay top dollar for a few bobby pins at this point.
A smile warmed the woman’s lips as she waved in Cassie’s direction. “Good afternoon, darlin’. Is there anything I can help you find?”
The sweet sound of her voice reminded Cassie of her manners. She curled her lips upward and continued toward the counter. “No, ma’am. I’m sorta waiting on someone.”
Curiosity weighed heavily in the woman’s words as she leaned against the counter. She looked as though she were waiting for the rest of the explanation, and rightly so. It was her shop, after all. She had a right to know if Cassie was there to make a purchase or if she was up to no good. Lord knows the crime rate in Savannah had been on the rise. Besides, it would be rude not to explain her presence.
“I’m supposed to be meeting my friend’s mother here. She’s searching for a birthday gift and wanted my help, but I think she’s running behind.”
“Well, no rush, sugar. Take a gander. Maybe you’ll see something you like as well.”
“Me?” Cassie felt her cheeks heat. “No, ma’am. I’m here for my friend.”
“Of course you are, honey, but it’s nice to treat ourselves to something once in a while.” She scanned Cassie from her frizzed hair to her high heels. “Call it a hunch, but something tells me that you haven’t done anything for yourself in quite some time.”
Cassie couldn’t hide how much the woman’s words bothered her. Not when she could feel her cheeks warming from embarrassment. At least she didn’t embarrass easily. She shouldn’t be now, but something about the older woman said she knew things other people didn’t. Almost like a sixth sense.
Had it really been that long since she’d… Hell, Cassie couldn’t remember the last time she did something just for her. It wasn’t the way she was raised. There was only one reason she was in this shop—to help Paula, who was running late.
Was it possible that she changed her mind and went elsewhere, or did she forget that they were meeting today? Her best friend’s mother never had a great memory. Paula accused herself of being a ditz, but in reality, Cassie knew it resulted from all the years she spent in a drunken stupor.
Hopefully, she hadn’t taken up the habit again.
Her attention returned to the grandfather clock she’d passed a moment prior. Roman numerals and black hands revealed the time. Twelve forty-five. If she counted the minutes she’d spent standing outside the store, she’d wasted a grand total of forty on Paula’s arrival.
Ah, screw it
No matter how much she wanted to walk out the door, she couldn’t. She’d give Ally’s mom five more minutes before she left. In the meantime, she might as well do something to occupy her thoughts.