Surrender Your Love

By: J.C. Reed

Chapter 2

Mystery Guy didn’t follow me out of the kitchen. I felt a hint of remorse as I grabbed the first shirt and jeans I found in the closet and barricaded myself in the tiny bathroom cubicle to take a quick shower before heading for work. I inspected myself in the mirror. Dark circles rimmed my hazel eyes. My brown hair looked a mess, just like his disheveled mop had, only it didn’t quite suit me as much as it did him. My skin looked pale, but it had a dewy glow that comes only from lots of sleep or post-coital hormones. No need to ask myself where it came from, because I sure as hell didn’t have a good night’s sleep, so the glow only managed to enrage me more.

Seriously, what had I been thinking—bringing a guy back home with me? And what had Sylvie been thinking, letting me make any sort of decision in my drunken stupor? Now I was facing another dilemma. Did Sean, my so-called boyfriend who wouldn’t quite DTR (define the relationship), expect me to tell him? Would he be honest with me about a possible conquest?

Furiously I rubbed shower gel into my skin and shampooed my hair. The hot water cleansed my body, but it didn’t quite manage to wash away my shame. When I came out again, I had made a decision. Sean’s promotion party was only a few days away, and I wouldn’t spoil it. But I vowed to tell him right after the party, ask him for forgiveness, and do my best to work through our issues. I liked him and wanted to see where it might lead in the future, so I wouldn’t let a one-night stand come between us. What happened last night was nothing but a bad decision made under the influence of booze and raging hormones. Mystery Guy would not mess with my life, head, or panties ever again.

Bracing myself for more heated glances from those penetrating green eyes, I took a deep breath and left the safety of my bathroom.

“He’s gone,” Sylvie said as soon as I entered the kitchen. She shot me a disapproving look, as though his leaving was my fault, and turned away to wash her coffee cup. I should have been relieved and yet, for some inexplicable reason, I sort of felt empty. Betrayed. Probably just another notch in his bedpost.

“Did he say anything?” My voice came out all squeaky. She looked at me from under thick, mascaraed lashes.

“He asked a few questions.”

“Oh? Like what?” I brushed a trembling hand through my hair and moistened my lips. “Not that I care,” I mumbled, in case Sylvie got the wrong idea.

She shrugged. “Since you don’t care, it doesn’t really matter. Shouldn’t you be at work?”

I hated when she changed the subject like that. Or when she sided with a guy, which she often did, and in particular when said guy was good-looking. If I pressed the issue, she’d get instantly suspicious and think I might have fallen for Mystery Guy, which wasn’t true because I didn’t even know him and had no intention of ever seeing him again. Besides, what could he have possibly asked? Maybe he wanted to know who won last night’s Lakers game. Or he had asked her for a favor like calling a taxi. Whatever it was, I didn’t need to know. He belonged to a past I was ready to forget.

I heaved a silent sigh and grabbed my purse from where I must have tossed it on the floor last night. “See ya,” I grumbled, heading out the door.

“Wait,” Sylvie called, running after me. “When are you coming back home? I’m making dinner.”

Which, in Sylvie’s dictionary, was the equivalent of sifting through hundreds of takeaway menu pamphlets and ordering in. She was unemployed for less than a day, and already she sounded like a bored housewife. I needed to get rid of her, and pronto, before I decided I might just have to get a divorce—metaphorically speaking.

“Sorry, Sylvie. I’m at my mother’s tonight.” I couldn’t help the feeling of complacency washing over me at her lost expression. Punishing anybody wasn’t usually my style, but she should have just told me what Mystery Guy said before he left. It would have made me more inclined to invite her over to Mom’s, even though their icy silence and disapproving looks made me want to run as fast as I could. Mom thought Sylvie was a pretentious bitch who was friends with me because I was a pushover. And Sylvie thought Mom was a bitch for not settling down with one guy for the sake of her only daughter. In other words, Sylvie thought Mom should have provided a stable home rather than move from town to town and man to man throughout my vulnerable adolescent years. While they both had a point, I preferred staying on neutral ground, and keeping out of their love/hate relationship, which is why I avoided throwing the two of them in the same room at the same time.

“Is she still with—” Sylvie snapped her fingers in thought. “What’s his name? You know, the guy from last week.”

“It was last month, and his name’s Gregg,” I said.

“Uh-huh. Not worth my brain cells remembering his name when he’ll be old news by next week.” She waved her hand as though she couldn’t care less.

I hated to admit Sylvie was right. “He’s old news already.”

“No. Already?” She laughed. “What was wrong with him? Too nice? Too cute? Had a snoring problem?”

I shook my head signaling that I had no idea.

“There’ll be a new one soon,” Sylvie said. I raised my brows meaningfully. She laughed, getting my hint. “Already?”

I nodded. “Apparently I’m meeting him tonight.”

“Can I come? Pretty please. You know how much I love to meet Tina’s boyfriends. They’re like squeezing your hand into a Halloween candy bag. You never know what you’ll get.” Her lips curled into a smile, and she cocked her head to the side the way she always did when she was about to start a major persuasion campaign.

“Hell, no.” I blinked and took a step back. “You’re not coming.” She opened her mouth to protest so I cut her off. “Don’t even pretend to like her, when you’re at each other’s throat all the time.”

“That’s not true…okay, maybe a little, but you know what I like even less? Being forgotten by my best friend on a Tuesday night. Come on, Brooke.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “Do you have any idea what might happen if I spent a night all alone?” She paused for dramatic effect. “Someone could break in. Or I could get so bored that I might end up finishing all the booze and make out with our neighbor from number 4.”

Gross. The guy from number 4 was a major creep who walked around in a bathrobe. Every time we stepped out of the building, he was in the hallway, as though he knew we’d be leaving.

“Oh, come on, Brooke. Pretty please, I don’t want to be all alone on Tuesday the 13th.”

I rolled my eyes. Sylvie loved melodrama and, in particular, if it helped her get what she wanted. Soon bargaining would follow, and if that didn’t do the trick she’d revert to good old blackmail. She had followed the same patterns for the last twenty years, or ever since I refused to give her my lunch box in kindergarten. I wasn’t going to stick around for that.

“I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine,” she whispered. “You want to know what Jett said?”

“Who’s Jett?” And that’s when it dawned on me. Mystery Guy. He had introduced himself the evening we met, but the name was so unusual I didn’t really catch it. I thought it was something like Jack, or Jake, or Jeremiah, and the strange pronunciation was the result of his Southern accent.

Even his name sounded sexy and forbidden. I couldn’t help but picture me moaning it while he kissed me all over my body. My face grew hot and hotter. Dammit. This was all Sylvie’s fault. She knew more than I did. If she wasn’t so openly ready to trade in her information, I wouldn’t be literally panting at the sound of a guy’s name.

“Jett...I mean, Sylvie, I don’t have time for this.”

Crap. I was under his spell. I needed to get him out of my system. And quick before I ended up making a complete fool out of myself. I clutched my handbag to my chest and walked out the door, ignoring Sylvie’s incredulous gawking.

“Wait, Brooke! Don’t leave me hanging,” she shouted after me.

Throwing glances over my shoulder to make sure she wasn’t following, I dashed for the parking spot around the block and jumped into my car, ready to head out for a day of hard work, or what was left of it now that it was almost lunchtime.

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