Violet was stunned by the rage in Jay’s voice as well as in his words.
Grady just nodded, wiping his bloody hand on his jeans. He looked like he wanted to say something more but couldn’t quite find the words.
Jay didn’t wait for him. “There’s no way you’re driving tonight, Grady. Give me your keys,” he demanded then, holding out his hand impatiently.
Grady started to dig in his pockets and then had second thoughts. “How’m I supposed to get—?” he started to ask, but Jay cut him off.
“I don’t give a shit; you’ll find a ride. Now give them to me.”
Jay’s voice left little room for argument, and Grady decided not to test his luck. “Violet has them,” he finally admitted before stumbling away from them, back toward the party.
Violet jumped when she heard her name. She felt like she’d been eavesdropping on the two of them. “Oh…yeah…” she seemed to be saying to herself as she held up the keys and then dropped them into Jay’s outstretched hand.
For a moment, she wasn’t sure what to say to him. Finally she opted for the obvious. “Thank you.” It kind of said it all.
Jay pocketed Grady’s keys and walked over to his mom’s car. It was the car she must have heard pulling up while Grady was trying to attack her with his disgusting tongue. He opened the passenger-side door, and without so much as a glance in her direction, he turned that same commanding voice on her. “Get in the car, Violet.”
And that was it…the end of her brief thrill at seeing Jay tonight.
His demanding tone, which she had appreciated when it was directed at Grady, felt like sandpaper rubbing against her already frayed nerves when he used it with her. All of the gratitude that she’d felt just moments before fragmented like shards of irreparable glass, and Violet narrowed her eyes at him. The entire week without him, missing him and craving his company, seemed to melt away…and now she was the one who was furious.
“Are you kidding me? You don’t give me the time of day for the past week and then you want to come around and start giving me orders?” She put her hands on her hips, daring him to argue with her. Her cheeks seared as her temper burned fiercely. “I don’t think so, Jay. That’s not how it works.”
Suddenly she wanted to go back to the party…to go back to her real friends, the ones that hadn’t given her the silent treatment all week or disregarded her very existence. She turned on her heel and started back toward the house, following the trail of loud music that reached all the way down the street.
Jay didn’t follow her. He didn’t try to talk her into staying. It hurt her feelings that he didn’t pursue her, begging her forgiveness for behaving like such a jerk.
But on the other hand, she decided, she’d made herself pretty clear, and Jay had certainly proven that he was capable of stubbornly standing his ground. And despite her wounded ego, no matter how relieved she’d been that he’d shown up when he had, there was no way in hell that she was going to let him start telling her what to do now.
She didn’t look back to see if he was watching her leave.
She was too afraid of what she might see if she did….
That Jay wasn’t coming after her.
WHEN HE FIRST SAW THE GIRL WALKING ALONE down the narrow, darkened street, he nearly overlooked her.
It was too soon, he told himself. He had just buried one, and not enough time had passed to create the frenzied desire he usually craved.
But there was something about her…she looked lost…in need.
He slowed his car, way… way down, watching her progress as she made her way through the night, tripping as if she were incapable of watching her own steps. She never looked back. It was as if she was oblivious to his very presence, despite the unnatural beam of his headlights filtering away the darkness from her path.
And then he realized it, like the dawning of the first morning’s light, clearing the way for the day. She needed him.
Almost as much as he needed her.
He moved his car closer, easing up behind her, careful to keep her in his sights should she become alarmed…frightened by his proximity.
The silhouette she created in his headlamps was the very essence of youth. Her movements, clumsy with inattention, were graceless and inelegant in a way that was lost in womanhood. Her body was still supple; her skin would be soft.
He cast sideways glances at the parked cars around him, watching for anyone who might be watching his approach.
There was no one.
He reached her, still without notice on her part, and he pulled his car silently alongside her.
She looked up then; her innocent, tear-filled eyes stared at him hauntingly, stirring his desire into a scorching frenzy. Recognition cleared them as she stopped walking then, and the tears were replaced by supplication.
He exited the car, moving fluidly now as the dance began again.
Few words were exchanged, mostly from him, and within the span of a heartbeat, he had slipped a comforting arm around her shoulder and led her to the passenger’s side….
All while she gazed up at him with unguarded gratitude.
VIOLET HATED THE ANGRY TEARS THAT BURNED her eyes as she stumbled over an unseen rock on the ground in front of her.
She wished that she could just go back in time, to that moment. She wished that she had just gotten in his car when he’d commanded her. Even as angry as she’d been at him, she couldn’t help thinking it would have been better than this…this lonely walk through the chilly darkness, berating herself with second thoughts and what-ifs. Better than the rejection that seeped like venom through her every pore.