I can’t take the pained look in his eyes or the acceptance in his words. I reach behind me and unlock the door, and then I turn and leave.
I hear the door close behind me, and it becomes my least favorite sound in the whole world. I bring a fist up to my heart, because I feel exactly what he explained he feels when he misses someone. And I don’t understand it, because I just met him a few weeks ago.
“There are people you meet that you get to know, and then there are people you meet that you already know.”
I don’t care how long I’ve known him. I don’t care if he lied to me. I’m going to allow myself to be sad and feel sorry for myself, because despite whatever he’s done in the past, no one has made me feel like he made me feel today. He made me feel proud of myself as a mother. Because of that, the fact that I have to say good-bye to him is worth a few tears, and I won’t allow myself to feel guilty crying about it.
I make it halfway home, and just as I’m drying the last of the tears I’ve allowed myself to shed over this good-bye, a car pulls up beside me and comes to a slow crawl. I glance at it out of the corner of my eye and immediately see that it’s a police car. I stop walking when Trey rolls the window down and leans across the seat. “Get in, Auburn.”
I don’t argue. I open the door and climb inside, and he begins to drive in the direction of my apartment. I don’t like the vibe I’m getting from him right now. I can’t tell if he’s acting like a jealous boyfriend or an overprotective brother. Technically, he’s neither of those things.
“Were you at his studio just now?”
I stare out the window and contemplate how I should answer. He’ll know I’m lying if I say no, and I need Trey to trust me. Of all the people in the world, I need both Lydia and Trey to see that everything I do, I do for AJ.
“Yes. He owed me money.”
I can hear his heavy breaths as he inhales and exhales. He eventually pulls over to the side of the street and puts the car in park. I don’t want to look directly at him, but I can see him cover his mouth with his hand, squeezing the frustration from his jaw. “I just told you that he was dangerous, Auburn.” He looks directly at me. “Are you stupid?”
I can only take so much. I swing the car door open, get out, and slam it shut. Before I can even take three steps, he’s standing directly in front of me.
“He’s not dangerous, Trey. He has an addiction. And there’s nothing going on between us, I just went to collect my pay for working at his studio.”
Trey studies my face, more than likely in an attempt to see if I’m lying to him. I exhale and roll my eyes. “If there was anything going on, I would have been at his studio for more than five minutes.” I push past him and begin walking toward my apartment. “Jesus, Trey. You’re acting like you have a reason to be jealous.”
He’s in front of me again, forcing me to stop. He stares down at me for several quiet seconds. “I am jealous, Auburn.”
I immediately have to swallow the lump that forms in my throat. I also continue to stare up at him, waiting for him to take back what he said, but he doesn’t. He’s looking at me with nothing but sincerity.
He’s Adam’s brother. He’s AJ’s uncle.
I move around him and continue walking. We’re only a block from my apartment, so it doesn’t surprise me when I hear him fall into step behind me. I continue walking, trying to process the last two hours of my life, but it’s a little difficult when my dead boyfriend’s jealous brother is stalking after me.
When I reach my door, I unlock it and turn around to face him. Trey’s eyes are like carving knives, digging into me, hollowing me out. I’m about to tell him good night when he lifts an arm and rests his hand against the door frame next to my head. “Do you ever think about it?”
I know exactly what he’s referring to, but I play ignorant. “About what?”
His eyes fall to my lips. “Us.”
Me and Trey.
I can honestly say no, I never think about it. But I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so instead I don’t respond at all.
“It makes sense, Auburn.”
I shake my head, almost adamantly. I don’t mean to appear so resistant, but it’s exactly how I feel. “It makes no sense,” I reply. “You were Adam’s brother. You’re AJ’s uncle. It would confuse him.”
Trey takes a step forward. His closeness feels different than when Owen steps toward me. Trey’s closeness feels suffocating, like I need to punch a hole in the atmosphere just to breathe.
“I love him, Auburn. I’m the only father figure your little boy has,” he says. “He’s living in my house with Mom, and if you and I were together . . .”
I immediately stand up straighter. “I hope you aren’t about to use my son as an excuse for why I should date you.” The anger in my voice surprises me, so I know it surprises Trey.
He runs a hand through his hair and looks at a loss for what to say. His gaze shifts down the hallway as he attempts his response. “Look,” he says, meeting my stare again. “I’m not trying to use him to get closer to you. I know that’s how it sounded. I’m just saying . . . it makes sense. We make sense.”
I don’t respond, because everything he’s saying has some truth to it. Lydia trusts Trey more than anyone in the world. And if Trey and I were together . . .
“Think about it,” he says, not wanting an answer from me right now. “We can start slow. See if we fit.” He pulls his hand from the frame of the door and backs away, giving me room to breathe. “We’ll talk about it Sunday night. I need to get back to work. Promise me you’ll keep your door locked?”
I nod, and I hate that I nod, because I don’t want him to think I was agreeing to all of the other things he just said.
But . . . he makes sense. He lives in the same house as AJ and Lydia, and the one thing I want is more time with my son. I’m at the point where I don’t care what it takes to get more time with AJ; I just need it. I miss him so much.
I don’t like the fact that I’m considering his offer. I don’t feel for Trey even a fraction of what I felt for Adam. I can’t even compare it to what I feel for Owen.
But he’s right. Being with him would get me closer to AJ. And I feel more for AJ than anything or anyone in the world. I’ll do whatever it takes to get my son back.