It was really a good thing that Frankie Newman had never needed a knight in shining armor, because she’d only ever come across complete idiots wrapped in tinfoil. The guy in front of her was no exception.
Vance studied her appearance, taking in her protective clothes and the goggles she’d pushed onto her forehead. “I, um, guess you were busy.”
“Good guess.” But he hadn’t had to guess. The sound of rock music blasting would have told him she was working. But then, Vance didn’t see her job as “work.” He saw it as more of a cute hobby that she should have grown out of by now. It didn’t matter that her sculptures were displayed in galleries or that she had an established reputation. Much like her grandparents, he didn’t take her profession seriously.
Ordinarily she’d have ignored the incessant knocking, but she’d thought he was her agent, who was due to arrive any moment now.
He patted the cardboard box he was holding. “I found some of your stuff lying around. I thought you might want it back.”
“Thanks,” she said, tone flat. He stepped forward, clearly expecting her to move aside and let him pass. Not gonna happen. She grabbed the box and set it beside her on the hardwood floor.
He cleared his throat. “How are you?”
“Fine.” She’d be a hell of a lot better when he left. The wolf within her stirred, raring to swipe her claws at the human to warn him away. She wasn’t a forgiving animal.
He scrubbed a hand down his face. “Shit, Frankie, I . . .” He sighed. “You have every right to be mad at me for getting back together with Layla, and I don’t—”
“I’m not mad that you went back to her.” She’d liked Vance’s company, and he was certainly good in bed, but Frankie didn’t love him. And it wasn’t like she hadn’t guessed that he still cared for Layla—a guy didn’t constantly trash-talk his ex unless she was on his mind a little too much. But Frankie hadn’t been mad about it back then; she knew that getting over someone wasn’t a simple thing and that feelings couldn’t be switched on and off.
While Layla had messed with his head by sending bitchy texts, posting pics of herself on Facebook kissing other guys, and even sleeping with one of his friends, Frankie had been there for him. The moment he’d “healed,” he’d gone right on back to Layla. It seemed that they both got off on the drama or something.
His brow creased a little. “You’re not?”
“No. But I am pissed that you led me to believe that you wouldn’t go back to her. I’m pissed that I spent time out of my life being there for you, worrying about you, supporting you while she hurt you, when you ultimately planned to go back to her.”
He held up a hand. “I swear, Frankie, I didn’t plan it. I didn’t want to hurt you, and I hate that I did.”
“If you want to prove it, tell her to stop stalking me online. Tell her to stop leaving stupid comments on my Facebook fan page. Every time I block her, she creates another profile and does it again.”
He winced. “I know. I told her to stop. She . . . obsesses about you. She refuses to believe that I’m over you. The more I deny it, the more she seems to believe that she’s right. I can’t win here.”
“Well, maybe if you stopped texting and calling me when you’re hammered and explained to Layla that you and I aren’t all that well suited, she’d simmer down.”
He bristled. “We suited each other just fine.” The sexual implication in his voice was clear.
“In bed, sure. Out of it? Not so much.” Which had disappointed her grandparents, because they’d loved the idea of her and the attorney—particularly her grandmother, who was close friends with his mother. “But that doesn’t matter now. Really, Vance, you should just go. I hope things work out for you and Layla, and I hope you’ll make her see reason and stop bothering me.” She tried to close the door, but his hand shot out to hold it open.
“I was hoping we could go back to being friends again. We were friends before we started dating, remember.”
Frankie wouldn’t have described them as “friends.” Acquaintances who’d met through her grandparents? Yes. Actual friends? Nah. “Look, I have no intention of bad-mouthing you to my grandmother, if that’s your worry, so the full story isn’t going to reach your mother unless you tell her.”
“I already told her, and she’s pissed at me. Not that she said as much. My mother’s a big believer of ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’ ‘Silence is golden’ is one of her favorite phrases.”
The unnecessary use of a proverb made Frankie’s frown deepen. She just didn’t get the need for proverbs. Like “All good things come to those who wait.” Really? Weird, because she hadn’t won the lottery yet. Like “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Well, why not? She wasn’t going to buy a cake for no good reason; it was stupid to think differently. Like “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Um, no it wasn’t—and never had—rained cats and dogs.
Why use a proverb when you could just use a phrase that made sense?
Well, Frankie had news for Vance’s mother: silence was silence. It was nothing—couldn’t be heard, seen, or touched. It therefore did not physically exist, and couldn’t be any color whatsoever, let alone golden.
But she didn’t want to prolong her conversation with Vance, so she simply said, “I have to go. I hope things work out for you and Layla this time around.” Just then a familiar Mercedes convertible parked behind Vance’s car. Frankie smiled as a middle-aged redhead dressed in a tailored blouse and skirt hopped out of the car.
“Who’s that?” asked Vance.
His brow creased. “You have an agent?”
“You don’t need to sound so surprised. You may not approve of my job, but others do.”
“It’s not that I don’t approve. It’s that you could be so much more.”
Like sculpting was easy and something to sniff haughtily at. “You take care now, Vance.” The dismissal clearly rankled, and his jaw hardened. Yeah, well, his dismissal of her career rankled too.
Striding up the path, Abigail took in Frankie’s appearance and said, “You’ve been working. Good.”
Frankie smiled. “Well, hello to you too.” She counted Abigail as a friend, which Frankie didn’t have many of. She’d never been a particularly social person and often buried herself in her work.
“You know I’m not one for pleasantries.” Abigail eyed Vance curiously. “And who might you be?”
“Oh, the attorney who crawled back to his ex.” Yeah, that was Abigail—she didn’t spare anyone’s feelings.
His eyes hardened. “I didn’t crawl anywhere.”
“He has fabulous cheekbones, Frankie. You should sculpt his face. Then we can shatter the nose, break the jaw. Maybe even scalp it.”
Frankie saw some appeal in the idea, but . . . “It would be a waste of clay.”
Frankie stepped aside to let Abigail pass. “See you around, Vance. Give Layla my best.” She closed the door, headed down the hallway, turned right, and walked into the studio attached to the house. She’d had it built a few years ago to her specifications. The high ceiling, spotlights, large windows, and good ventilation system made it a perfect work space.