“Didn’t want to go home,” he said, his eyes closed. “Sorry.”
Antiseptic cream went on everything, an ice pack over his eye, and a Band-Aid over the cut on his cheek. His split lip had stopped bleeding, so I just left it alone. Next I moved on to his bloody hands.
“What were you fighting about?” I asked, tending carefully to his split knuckles. “Who were you fighting?”
He groaned. “Nothing. Doesn’t matter.”
“All right. What do you want to talk about?”
“Don’t wanna talk,” he said, shivering. “Cold.”
Since he lay on top of my bedding, I fetched my old spare blanket out of the closet and covered him up to the neck.
“Better?” I asked.
He nodded. “Dillon, we argued. He’s the one that messed with my car. Went to talk to him.”
“Your brother? Shit. And I take it the visit didn’t go so well?”
“No. It didn’t.” He yawned, groaning in pain. “Business is fucked. He wants me to start selling again.”
“What?” I hissed.
“’s all right. I told him no. That’s how we got to fighting.”
Holy hell, what a bastard.
Soon enough, John’s breathing evened out and his body relaxed. I sat there, staring at him, unsure of what to do. God, the swelling on his face looked horrible. Due to my recent adventures in insomnia, I knew Mom had been getting home later recently. More odd behavior from her, though I had enough on my hands to worry about right now. Also, I knew she didn’t check on me when she got home. Not if my door had been closed. We both knew me getting some decent sleep happened rarely enough not to risk making a noise. The boy in my bed was safe from maternal drama.
I waited until his clothes were finished in the washer then transferred them into the dryer. At that point, I’d done about everything I could. No way would I sleep after all this excitement. And with my brain buzzing, concentrating on my book would be equally unlikely. So I lay down beside him, watching his chest rise and fall.
Next thing I knew, morning light blinded my eyes.
“Edie? Hey, wake up.”
“Hmm?” Squinting, I slowly woke.
Gentle fingers pushed the hair from my face, dreamy blue eyes gazing down. “Hey.”
“’Morning,” I said, not quite believing. But it really was. I’d slept. For hours and hours, with no waking up in a panic from freaky nightmares or bad dreams. Wow. I hadn’t felt this rested in forever.
“I need my clothes,” he said.
“Um. Okay. We’d better be quiet—don’t want to wake Mom.” I swallowed. “You don’t look so good.”
“No. Probably not.” He half attempted a smile.
I rolled out of bed, needing to put some space between me and the evidence of just how much the morning light adored John’s skin. Last night, I’d undressed him. I’d put him in his current state of near nakedness. But last night, I’d been too upset by how hurt he was to appreciate the scenery. To feel the hot thrill of lust running through my veins.
All was quiet. I crept through the house on tippy-toes, grabbing his clothes before dashing back to my room. The near-naked boy had started flipping through my current book.
“Be careful,” I said, exchanging his clothes for my book. “I don’t like the pages getting creased.”
“Sorry.” He smiled, amused.
Jerk. “Where’d you park your car?”
“I walked here.”
“You what?” I exclaimed, then slapped a hand over my too-loud mouth. “How long did that take?”
I removed the hand and repeated the question.
He just shrugged, dragging his jeans on and doing up the zipper and button. Sweet baby Jesus. Over and over, like some soft-porn GIF, my mind replayed those ten seconds. I couldn’t help it. Or didn’t want to. Honestly, it was hard to tell exactly which. Forget bacon on pancakes covered in maple syrup; he made me drool.
For shame. There had to be a special level of hell for people who coveted their beat-up best friend. Though, how could I not have a crush on him? That was the question. Best for all involved if he hurried up and put his shirt on. Put me out of my misery.
Head cocked, he asked, “What’s that look? What are you thinking about?”
He blinked. “I’ll buy you breakfast.”
“Pancakes at Awful Annie’s?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Okay, give me five to thirty minutes to quickly get ready.”
I got busy rifling through my closet. Clean, neutral, happy thoughts. Not dwelling upon John’s pants or what was in them or anything. Not wondering if besides drinking and getting into fights, he’d also used one of his willing naked-fun-time female acquaintances as a distraction from his brother’s crap.
Actually, I didn’t want to know.
Definitely a ripped black jeans sort of day. Doc sandals, black-and-white-striped tank, underwear, and we were all good. Clothes selected, I turned back to find him checking out my bookshelves.
“I’m not touching anything,” he said, holding up his busted hands. “Promise.”
“You can touch. Just be gentle.”
Another of those secretly amused smiles. Just because he couldn’t comprehend my true and enduring love of books. Douche canoe of a boy.
I rushed through a shower, dry-shampooing the crap out of my hair before chucking it up in a bun. Meh, whatever. Given the time constraints, basic makeup would do.
“You’d better go out the window, meet me down the block,” I said, shoving the last of my necessary things into a bag. “Be careful. Don’t hurt yourself further.”
“I’ll be fine.” He crawled across my bed, careful to keep his still-dirty Converse off the quilt. Once he sat on the windowsill, he stopped, turning back. “Thanks for letting me in last night. For looking after me.”
“Of course.” Compliments always weirded me out. I couldn’t meet his eyes, so I studied my feet. Yep, still ten toes, nails neatly painted black. Amazing. “You’d do it for me.”
Because of the split lip, his grin was limited. “See you down the street.”
The warmth in my heart lingering after he left, it went well beyond friendship. It felt dangerous.