The phone went dead in her hand.
NOTHING ELSE EVER HAD
Liz crashed back heavily into her seat.
What had she done? Brady couldn’t come here. Over a year had passed since they had last been together like that. She felt as if she was losing her mind even considering it.
Her head snapped to the still-closed newspaper door. Hayden was inside. He had acted like a total ass**le and pushed her away. The way he had treated her was completely unacceptable and it just set her off. How could he act like that after the last year? She was clearly motivated, independent, hardworking, and a dozen or so other power adjectives. The thought of him saying otherwise to her just infuriated her further.
She ground her teeth together. She had to make up her mind. If she decided to go with Brady, then she needed to move her car. Hayden would know something was wrong if it was still parked in the lot after she had told him she was leaving. And at the moment the last thing she wanted to do was talk to him.
Liz turned over the engine without thinking more about the consequences of her actions and drove her car into the parking deck. It was located behind a row of dorms off the back of the Union, which was good, because Hayden would never think to check there. The only problem was that she couldn’t see the main newspaper parking lot from her new location.
That was where she had told Brady she would be, so unfortunately it looked as if she would have to suffer through the cold again. Liz didn’t understand how it felt like a winter storm was about to rip through North Carolina any second when it was only October. It didn’t help that she had mistakenly left her jacket in the office. Rummaging through her backseat, she found a Patagonia pullover, threw that over her button-down, and added a pair of gloves out of the glove compartment.
As she eased the door open, the wind whistled through the opening, stinging her eyes. It was too damn cold.
Grunting, Liz shoved the door open all the way and locked her car up tight. She walked briskly across the pavement and took a seat on the damp hill that led to the Union. From her vantage point she could see everything—the main parking lot, the newspaper entrance, the entrance where she would anticipate Brady . . . if he actually showed.
Light streamed out of the back entrance to the Union and Liz’s eyes darted to the brick building partially obscured by century-old trees. Hayden walked out and into a circle of light from overhead. He ran his hands back through his hair and looked disgruntled . . . maybe even pissed off. She had never quite seen him look like that. It was sexy, and that made her angry. They wouldn’t even be in this position if he wasn’t acting like such an idiot.
She didn’t want to watch him, but at the same time she couldn’t tear her eyes away. It was like watching someone else. A stranger. Her Hayden was always calm and collected.
He held the door propped open, clearly lost in deep thought. Liz narrowed her eyes as he reached into his pocket. She watched him pull something out, but he had turned partially away from her, so she couldn’t see what it was. As she tried to figure it out, her phone buzzed next to her. She jumped and grabbed at her cell phone, not wanting him to notice the light in the distance.
Liz debated answering it, but after a second she silenced it. She didn’t really want to talk to Hayden right now.
The call ended. She watched him hang up the phone and place it back into his pocket.
After a second he dug something out of his other pocket. In shock, she watched the Zippo lighter from across the parking lot as the cigarette flared to life in his hand. Her mouth was hanging open as he took a long drag from the cigarette, breathing in deeply. His chest expanded and his head dipped back ever so slightly, as if he had just tasted a piece of heaven.
Her mouth went dry. This wasn’t Hayden. He would never smoke. He abhorred the dirty habit. Christ, he was a runner! How the hell could he run for miles if he had cigarette smoke clogging his lungs?
She watched, completely astonished, as he drew another long drag on the cigarette before almost viciously throwing it off to the side. His hands visibly shook before fisting angrily into his hair. She could have sworn he cursed, but she couldn’t hear him against the howling wind.
His hands fell out of his hair, but stayed in fists and slammed uselessly against the metal door. Violent. Not a word that she would have ever used to describe Hayden. He shook out his fists, seeming only to grow angrier.
Clearly debating with himself, he pushed the newspaper door closed before storming across the parking lot to his car. The lights to his Audi came to life right before he recklessly peeled out of the parking lot.
His car disappeared, and she felt as numb as the cold surrounding her.
Their argument was spiraling further and further out of control. She could see the pieces of the puzzle laid out before her as to how to fix this situation, but instead of moving them into place she tossed them off to the side. She stood up. Today she was bereft of the willingness to make it right.
And she was strangely okay with it all. Of course, she was shaken by Hayden’s reaction. What was he doing with cigarettes in his pocket? That wasn’t some freak accident. He’d had them with him. How long had he been hiding it from her? It made her wonder what else he was lying about, and made her sick to think about what had transpired between them. Yet, despite that, she couldn’t help but want him to suffer for how he had treated her. Her heart contracted, but she couldn’t shake the feeling.
Headlights blazed across the now empty parking lot, and Liz scrambled to her feet, brushing the crumpled leaves from the dark denim of her jeans. Her feet carried her down the hill, across the street, and out into the open lot. Her body was warming for a reason that had nothing to do with the cold and everything to do with the anticipation of seeing Brady, being alone with Brady.
Brady. What the hell was she going to say when she saw him? So much time had passed. How would he even react? The last time she had seen him, he had told her to just stay out of his life. The last time they had talked, he had said that he would fly from D.C. to see her. She didn’t know which Brady she would see tonight. It made her stomach knot in anticipation.
His black Lexus slid evenly across the black pavement straight toward her, the bright lights the indication of his approach. She didn’t even notice until it glided right up to her that her hands were shaking.
The tinted window slowly rolled down, revealing the all-black leather interior that she had spent a good deal of time in. She glanced around anxiously even though she knew that the only other person nearby had left in a rage minutes beforehand.