My eyes fill with tears.

I’m terrified.

An arm wraps around my waist and I yelp. Just as I’m about to scratch the robber’s eyes out, lips come to my ear and he whispers, “Calm down, pretty girl. It’s just me.”

My body becomes limp with relief and I choke on a sob. I dip my chin and burst into tears.

He turns me, and I lean my forehead onto his chest as he holds me tight. He rocks my body from side to side and coos, “It’s okay, babe. It’s just me.”

When I finally manage to calm down, I lean back and look into Ghost’s face. He looks concerned as he wipes away my tears. I sniffle and he puts on a small smile. Just as he opens his mouth to speak, I punch him.

Right on the nose.

He stumbles back holding his nose and moaning. I screech, “Don’t you ever, ever do that again!”

Then I turn on my heel and storm back into my apartment. I lock the door behind me, run to my room and face plant into my bed. Within seconds, I hear the front door open. I sigh. A few seconds later, I feel the bed sink next to me.

“Who taught you to punch like that?”

I reply a muffled, “My dad.” After a few moments of silence, I lift my face and tell him, “I have two sisters. Dad wanted us be to be able to defend ourselves. All it really did was make us short-fused and dangerous. There were more cat fights in our house than you could count. Nina once stabbed me with a fork because I ruined her sweater. Helena ripped a chunk of hair out of my head when I was in high school, and I had to wear a hat for a year.”

Ghost’s eyes widen. “That’s fucked up.”

I sigh and smile wistfully. “Yeah. It is.”

“So you don’t get on with your family?”

I scrunch my face and state, “My family is awesome. We’re just a bit hot-headed is all.”

After a moment’s silence, I ask, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Ghost replies without emotion, “Nik, Max and Trick are my brothers.”

That’s really sweet, but I’ll never admit it to him. I find myself curious to know about his family. More importantly, to find out about what makes Ghost the way he is.

I roll my eyes and ask, “For real brothers and sisters?”

He sighs. “No. Don’t have a family either, so can you drop it?”

My eyes narrow. “What the feck were you doing in my kitchen this morning? You scared the shit out of me.”

Ghost rubs his nose. “Yeah, sorry about that. I ran out of milk so I came to borrow some. Isn’t that what friends do?”

Only now do I notice we’re both in pajamas. Ghost wears a tight white tee and blue pajama pants. I wear my Minnie Mouse pants and tank combo.

I chuckle softly and clarify, “You broke into my apartment to steal my milk?”

Ghost smiles, runs a hand through his longish sandy hair and bites his tongue.

Oh, geez. He looks like a little boy when he does that.

Adorable.

He says apologetically, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

My stomach rumbles. I glance over at the clock. 8:57am.

I ask slowly, “Want some French Toast?” Ghost looks stunned. I rush to continue, “I can’t make it just for one person. The recipe I know is for two people. I always make too much for myself, so if you want some, I’ll make it for both of us otherwise the rest will go to waste.”

And pause for air.

He grins. “Uh, yeah. Sure. As long as you have bacon too.”

I roll my eyes and mutter, “Who on earth makes French toast without bacon or syrup? ”

We both stand and walk to the kitchen. I start removing things from the fridge and cupboards. I ask Ghost to get some plates and just as I’m about to tell him where to get them, he goes to the exact place my plates are kept, removes two and places them on the counter.

My eyes narrow. “Ghost, have you been in my apartment before last night?”

His back is to me but he visibly stiffens.

Oh my God!

I lean closer to him and whisper-hiss, “Oh my God! You have! When?”

He turns, holds up his hands in surrender and explains, “The day after that first night. I came home while you were still at work and cased the place. I was just checking how secure it was. That’s all.”

My fists ball and I close my eyes. “How thorough were you?”

He replies immediately. “Pretty damn thorough.”

Eyes still closed, I ask a hushed, “Did you go into my room?”

He doesn’t say a word. So there’s my answer.

My face flushes and I whisper, “Did you go through my underwear drawer?”

He doesn’t answer this either.

OH MY GOD! That means he saw…

“Oh my God!” I shout and cover my face with my hands.

Ghost sputters, “I- I- I only looked for a second. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s normal. Lots of women use vibrators…”

My face turns beet red and I yell, “Stop talking!”

“…I know quite a few women who pleasure themselves…”

I screech, “Shut up, Ghost!”

“…I mean, I was surprised at first. You don’t seem like the kind of woman who needs a vibrator…”

I walk over to him and cover his mouth with both my hands. He closes his eyes. I whisper, “We will never speak of this again. Ever.” He stays quiet for a long moment but nods once.

I let go of his mouth, turn around and go about making our breakfast.

***

My eyes close in bliss as I bite into another piece of syrup-covered bacon.

Not only is she sexy, but she cooks too.

Nice.

We’ve been fairly silent over breakfast. Ever since the vibrator conversation, she hasn’t said much.

I don’t know what the big deal is.

It’s hot.

I’d bet at least fifty percent of women own one. I like a woman who isn’t afraid to please herself.

I clear my throat. “This is great. I didn’t know you cooked.”

Nat looks up and smiles. “Well you never asked, did you? Not much of a conversationalist, are you Ash?”

I love when she says my name.

Poking at my bacon, I admit quietly, “No. Not much. No.”

“Why is that? You’re clearly intelligent. You wouldn’t be able to do all that fancy security stuff if you were dumb. Why don’t you talk much?”

I shrug and explain, “I prefer to listen. You can find out a lot about a person if they think you aren’t interested in what they’re saying. It helps me figure out the type of person they are.”

She plays with her food and asks quietly, “Do you listen to me when I talk?” I nod and she asks, “What have you learnt about me?”

I lean back on my chair. “I’ve learnt looks can be deceiving.”

Her brow furrows. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I shake my head and accuse, “Hell, no. If I tell you, you’ll just punch me again!”

She rolls her eyes and vows, “I promise not to punch you again. Today.”

I utter, “Okay. You asked for it, pretty girl.” I exhale loudly and rest my forearms on the small dining table leaning closer to her. “You act like a tough girl, but the things that hurt other people hurt you just as much. You just don’t say anything about it. You never show your true emotions and are very guarded with people you meet. You use sarcasm to deflect truth and you don’t trust easily. You sometimes use your looks to get what you want. You hide behind bright red hair, pretty dresses and sexy lips. You’re also unpredictable. Basically, you are a guy’s wet dream and worst nightmare all rolled into one. You’re the woman a guy falls in love with but doesn’t really know. He falls in love with one version of you. You’ll only show the real you when you feel safe in the relationship and it might not be what that man wants in the end.”

Her eyes have lost focus. She stares vacantly into my chest.

Shit.

This is why I don’t talk to people. I usually say shit that makes people angry or upset. It’s not that I don’t have manners, I just don’t really understand emotions.

I run a hand through my hair and start, “Nat, I’m sorry-”

But she cuts me off with a shake of the head and quietly states, “You’re good at that. You should become a police profiler or something. That’s pretty much right. All of it.” She ends on a whisper.

I clear my throat. “I don’t mean any offence. I just call it like I see it. I don’t really know how to lie. I’d prefer to just get the truth out there. No beating around bushes, ya know?”

She smiles a small smile. “You’re the kind of friend I need, Ghost. Lying doesn’t fly with me. I hate it.”

Quick save.

Great.

I have no idea why I’m so relieved. When Nat told me we should avoid each other all those months ago, I was pissed.

And a little hurt.

That one passionate time with her was enough for me to think we had potential to be casual, but she obviously thought I was only worth a one-time thing. So when she demanded we stop talking, I thought screw her. But seeing her at the club and not being able to even sit close enough to hear her voice was wearing on me. I won’t ever admit it to her, but somehow, she soothes me. I used to sit next to her in the booth only to sit back, close my eyes and let the sound of her voice penetrate me. The sweet, smooth sound would banish any memories of my dad. So when she started dodging me, I was up at night a lot more than I used to be, and the only other thing that would help would be finding a random girl and screwing her til my mind was so exhausted all I could do was sleep, if only for a few hours.

Something about Nat makes me crazy. I can’t quite put my finger on what that is.

She’s something else.

I’ll tell you one thing, since we fucked, all I’ve wanted to do is get another shot at her. After losing that chance, I promised myself if I ever got the opportunity again, I would take it nice and slow. I’d savor the experience. The last time was rushed, explosive and fierce. I wouldn’t change it for anything though. She came twice just from my cock. That’s never happened before.

It was phenomenal.

Just thinking about it makes me hard.

And… you’re getting hard.

Fuck. That’s just great.

Now that I think about it, there is one thing I’d change about that night.

I’d kiss her.

***

Ghost shuffles around on his chair.

“You okay there?” I ask.

He replies a choked, “Yeah. Fine.” He looks kind of flushed.

“You need some water or juice?”

He looks grateful as he splutters, “Water! Yes, water. Perfect. Thanks.” I place the water on his side of the table and finish up my breakfast. I pop the last piece of French toast into my mouth and moan.

How great is food?!

I look up just as Ghost swallows hard and gets up and walks stiffly to the bathroom.

What a strange man!

I love food. There’s a type of food to deal with any emotion.

Depressed?

Fried food.

Happy?

Baked goods.

Content?

Ice cream.

I could make a whole chart up.

Ghost exits the bathroom and trying to make conversation, I ask, “What are you doing today, friend?”

He grins. “I don’t really know. It’s the only day off I get, so I try to cram a whole lotta crap into it.”

I nod in agreement. “Me too. I need to go grocery shopping though. You would’ve noticed this morning when you broke into my apartment to steal milk that I only had a drop left.”

He chuckles. “Yeah. You need more milk.”

“You need anything from the store?” I ask cautiously.

He looks shocked at my offer. I mean, I am pretty shocked at my offer. Ghost has been back in my life for about twelve hours, but in that time, he’s revealed more about himself to me than what he had in a year. And I want to know about him.

That’s my reasoning and I’m sticking to it.

He finally responds, “Yeah, I do have to get groceries.” He looks unsure but asks, “Can we just go together? I normally browse around because I don’t write a list.”

He doesn’t write a list?

Sacrilege!

I’m kind of excited about going grocery shopping with Ghost. “Sure. No problem.” I shrug and respond in a bored tone.

He says to meet in the hall in a half hour. In that time, I shower and dress.

Then we’re off.

***

Nat tries to get us to drive to the store in her car.

Not happening.

No offence to women, but when I’m in a car with any woman, it could even be her car, I’m driving.

Might have something to do with the fact that my car is my baby. I worked my ass off and saved any spare cash I had to put towards doing her up. My 68 Chevy Impala. Black exterior with matching black custom interior. Leather sent over from Italy. Some would say I’m stupid to have spent so much on it, but fuck. She makes me happy.

After arguing for ten minutes, I stroll over to my car, start it and drive over to her. I have to hide my smile.

She looks so damn cute.

She wears a scowl. Her body is stiff. She has her arms crossed over her chest and she’s wearing a huge pout.

I beep the horn and she jumps in fright. I can’t help but chuckle. Finally, she rolls her eyes, gives in and we’re off.

She doesn’t talk to me til we get to the grocery store, and even then she only asks, “Want to share a cart?” I nod.

She takes us straight to the fruit and vegetable section and puts random items in the cart: strawberries, half a cantaloupe, carrots, tomatoes, celery, apples and avocado. She looks over to me. “What produce do you need?”

I’m confused.

I need produce?

I’m pretty sure I’ve been living just fine without them. I take the cart and steer it into the meat section. I hear Nat mutter, “Okay, no fruit and veg. Check.”

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