Page 11

I cut him off. I walk over to him and kiss his cheek before saying, "Peter, shhhhh. I'm your friend at the very least. At the very most, why don't we just wait and see?"

He looks at me like I'm a mirage. His eyes are so wide, so vulnerable. "I'm not the man I was before. I'm not Pete Ferro anymore." His eyes dip to the scar that wraps around his side. "You don't understand—she changed me in a way I'd never thought possible. I stopped fighting, I stopped doing all the shit that I was known for. Finding the right person is the kind of thing that you only get one shot at, and I fucked it up. I lost her.

"My life changed that night and no matter what I do, I can't get things back the way they were. Then I met you, and I thought I was wrong." He looks up at me, looking completely lost. "When I saw Dean, something snapped. If the old guy hadn't pulled out his gun, Sidney, I don't know what I would have done. I can't tell if I was justified or not, but every time I see that guy it's like…" He squeezes his hands tightly and swallows whatever he was going to say.

I watch him because I can't look away. This feels like a moment where everything is bending to the point that it's going to snap. I know what he means; I know it too well. I'm afraid to touch him, afraid to step forward, but I manage. My hand slips onto his forearm. The muscles are corded tight as if they'll break at any moment. Peter twitches when my skin touches his. He gazes down at my hand and then up into my face. "You're not Pete Ferro anymore. I get it. I'm not the same Sidney that walked around Jersey all those years ago, either. What was taken from us, we don't get back, Peter. It's just gone. It's like the land after a fire, charred to pitch black and barren."

He shakes his head. "No, not for you. Somehow you pulled out of that for the most part. I see it in your eyes."

"I'm wearing a towel to bed, Peter." I give him a sad smile. "I know I'm mental. I accepted it. I trust you and I still can't drop this thing." I tug the towel tighter around my shoulders.

"You did before."

"That was different." I look away. Emotions run through me with an intensity that makes me want to run into the woods and live with my turkey. I step away from him, but Peter takes my hand. The connection doesn't break. As long as he's touching me, it feels like he can see inside my head, and that scares me more than anything. There are monsters in there, memories I don't want to remember.

"Why?" His voice is so soft and kind. It's like cashmere, delicate and enticing. If I answer him, that voice promises too many things that I thought I'd never have. My lower lip quivers involuntarily. Peter's gaze fixates on the tiny twitch and he lifts his hand and presses a finger to my lips. His eyes flick between his finger and my eyes.

"Tell me." His finger slides away, leaving my mouth open and gasping like there's no air.

"I…" I can't say it.

I want to tell him, but I can't. I close my eyes and look down, but Peter doesn't let me stay that way. His hand slips under my chin, and he tilts my head back. Our eyes meet and the rest of the world melts away.

I want to be brave for once. I want to say it and see what happens. I've treated him so badly and he was so mad at me. Fear keeps shoving the words down my throat, but they rise up again, rebelling like they have a mind of their own. I feel the sentence on my tongue and then on my lips. "It was different before—I could drop the towel—because I was thinking about something, something I shouldn't." My lips part as I stand there trying to find the right words. "I got lost in the moment."

Someone sucked all the air out of the room, because I can't breathe. I feel like a fish on a hook with Peter's hand holding my chin up. He doesn't free me; he doesn't take the words and throw me back. Instead he leans in kissably close, and breathes, "Oh? What were you thinking that would make this feel safe enough to trust me like that?"

There's a knot in my throat that I can't swallow down. He has me reeling, dangling from the end of the pretty pink string, and it's all I can do to not back away. This conversation terrifies me, but it excites me, too. His hand is warm, gentle but firm. It moves from my chin to my cheek. I lean into his touch and close my eyes. "For a moment everything felt right, like things never happened. You seemed to latch on to the girl I was and pull her back. She's not afraid of you, and she's still in here wanting things I don't normally want."

"Tell me what you wanted, Sidney." Peter's eyes search mine, looking, hoping beyond hope.

My jaw hangs open, but no noise comes out. It sounded so different in my head. Saying it out loud solidifies the thought and makes it real. Peter brushes his lips over my cheek and pulls back. His eyes drift to my lips like he's thinking about kissing me again. I want to be brave, so I say it and tell him, "I wanted you."

A shy smile drifts across his lips. "Like wanted me, wanted me?"

A blush paints my face red. I feel the burn creep across my cheeks and can't contain my smile. I try to look away, but he won't let me. Peter's finger is under my chin again, tilting my head back so our gazes meet. "Maybe."

"When you say maybe, it usually means yes."

I grin. "Maybe."


The rest of the night passes slowly. I toss and turn on the mattress, but I can't get my body to settle down. Having Peter at the foot of the bed makes me crazy. I want his arms around me, but I'm afraid I'll go nutso and tell him to get lost if he touches me wrong. I roll onto my back and pull the pillow over my face. The towel is a lump under my back, all bunched up and horribly uncomfortable. I'm smothering myself with the pillow when I feel it being pulled away.

Peter looks down at me with those gorgeous eyes. "Restless night?"

"Maybe." We both laugh softly. Damn it. I had no idea I was doing that. I make a mental note to stop saying maybe when I'm thinking yes.

Peter offers his hand. I take it, and he pulls me from the bed. I try to reach back for the towel, but Peter closes his eyes. "Leave it. I won't look." He holds his arms out, open. "Dance with me."

I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear. "Peter, I—"

"You said maybe. Maybe means yes. But you'll have to lead since I can't open my eyes." Watching Peter, I make my decision. He's bare chested and wearing a pair of gray sweatpants. I can barely see him in the darkness. The streetlight casts a yellow glow through the slit in the curtains. It illuminates his toned body and open arms.

I step into the space and take his hands. I put one on my waist and slip my palm in the other. Our fingers lace together and we start a slow rockstep. My heart is pounding even though we've done this a million times. In the past Peter was my teacher and my boss. Now he's half naked with his eyes closed. How'd we get here? I never would have thought this is where we'd end up when I first met him that night at the restaurant.

Just as I calm down, something scrapes the door. It sounds like a nail slowly dragging across the metal. Peter's eyes burst open as I cling to him. I forget about the towel and my ratty pajamas. That sound is just wrong, like a switchblade dragging across metal—or like Dean's knife. I glance up at him just as Peter looks down at me. Neither of us says anything, and then the sound comes again.

Peter releases me, leaving me at the foot of the bed. He presses his finger to his lips and waits for me to nod before moving away to look out the slit in the curtains. Peter stands there for a moment, careful not to touch the fabric. He pads back to me and whispers, "I don't see anything. Maybe they've gone." But just as he says it, the horrible sound comes again. It's louder and longer this time.

My mind is messing with me, throwing me into the past. Glints of silver flash behind my eyes. I press myself to Peter. "That knife, Dean's knife…"

Peter holds me tight. I can tell he doesn't want to let go, but the sound comes again. Maybe he's carving something into the door. Maybe he'll finish and go away. Peter whispers soothing words in my ears but never takes his eyes off the door. I chant go away over and over again in my mind as if it could actually do something.

Peter's hands firmly hold me against his chest. We watch the door, waiting for it to fly open, but silence fills our ears. Swallowing hard, I look up at him, ready to speak when something bangs into the door and at the same time the knob rattles like someone is trying to open it. Frantically, I look around the room for something to defend us with, but I don't have anything. My pulse is roaring in my ears, so when Peter lets go of me and strides toward the door, I freak out.

Peter is livid with testosterone flowing off of him in crushing waves. The scar on his side flashes pure white as he crosses the strip of light on the floor. It flashes over his body like a grocery store scanner. Before I can say anything, Peter hurls the door open. It smacks into the wall so hard that the knob smashes a gaping hole.

Peter steps outside. "Come out, you motherfucker, and settle this now!" His fists tense at his sides as he walks farther into the parking lot, barefoot. The lights in the room next to us flip on. I see the golden glow on the ground outside their window, spilling into the parking lot.

I want Peter to come back. I can't lose him. I can't. I race after him when something darts out from behind a bush next to the door. It rams straight into me, running over my bare feet with claws.

I scream and fall back, trying to get away from it before I realize what's happening. Peter rushes toward me and stops. A huge smile breaks across his face, and the worry evaporates. I'm still scooting back like I'm being attacked when I finally stop and look at the thing sitting on my legs. My turkey vulture looks back like I'm crazy before walking over me. It scrapes its beak on the metal door, making a hideous noise, and then slips into the room.

Heart pounding, I look back at Peter, "What the fuck?"

Peter has his arms folded across his broad chest. "Well, it appears that the big bird of prey doesn't want to sleep in the parking lot."