Only You (Red Hook 5) - Page 12

She heard him say a few curses under his breath. “I am an old soldier with good days and bad days. My body and my mind have about a hundred years on you, baby girl. I wanted only the best for you and I figured a broken-down warrior was not it.”

Her throat felt thick with emotion and she couldn’t find her voice.

“I love everything about you. The way you enjoy life. The way you always have something to say. The way you genuinely smile and it reaches your eyes. You’re beautiful, Alicia. You keep me awake at night.” His voice was deep and throaty and it sent shivers all over her body. Holy hell, the man could turn her on just by talking.

“That was beautiful, Tony. I’m touched by your view of me. I don’t see myself that way.” She sighed. “I have been told that I can talk too much and can be too emotional. I have never had luck in the romance department and thought maybe I was lacking something. I’m not sweet as sugar like Alana and Holly. Jasmine is so strong and goes her own way. I act before I think.”

“I like listening to you talk, Alicia. Your impulsiveness brings me joy. Your happiness with life shows, and I am sorry if I took that away from you even for a moment,” he replied seriously. “The sound of your voice holds the loneliness at bay. Some nights I feel so alone, I want to scream. I hate being in crowds and you are like a social butterfly. I felt like I was holding you back. I saw you look at what your friends and sister have, and I wanted that for you. I didn’t want you being alone with a broken-down soldier as your only friend.”

Alicia felt the tears running down her cheek. He cared. He saw her like no one else did, not even her friends. She resisted the urge to break down and cry. “That is true. I envy them. What if I wanted you, Tony? What if I see a strong man who has big shoulders and a bigger heart? A man who took care of his brother even though he was probably scared as shit, too? A man who does what needs to be done for those around him, someone who is loyal and deserves love? Someone with scars because he fought for something bigger then himself. a need to protect and serve his country, no matter the cost to himself?

“That is who I see when I look at you. I see your loneliness and I understand it. I thought we clicked on a deep level. When I saw Dee all over you, all I saw was red. When I saw your hands on her skin, I felt violent and that scared the hell out of me. When I found out John cheated on me, my pride was bruised, but I did not feel the need to kill the girl.”

She heard nothing but silence for a minute. When he spoke, she could hear the tremble in his voice. “Damn, baby, you know how to make a grown man cry.”

She smiled. It would take time, but they would be okay eventually, hopefully as more than friends, but she wasn’t getting her hopes up. Hope was dangerous. After John, she had promised herself she would be cautious. “I think I can sleep now, Tony. I got a lot off my chest. Maybe we can be friends again after all this chaos dies down.”

“I’ve been wanting to come by and see you. I want to start over with a clean slate,” he told her. “We have been working around the clock trying to find out who did this to you and Janice. We have our suspicion, but we need proof.”

“You think it’s Novak?” She’d heard the name all summer, but she had never met him. Why would he want to hurt her? It didn’t make sense, but Alana had already confessed. Noah was sure it was him.

He stayed quiet and that gave her the answer.

“Night, Tony.” She pulled the cover over her neck, wondering if this Novak was the mystery man in her dreams.

“Sweet dreams,” he whispered. “I’ll see you soon.”

Alicia fell asleep dreaming of him. Thinking of her strong soldier kept the nightmares at bay.

Chapter Ten

Alicia sat with Jasmine at Second Hand Treasures. Jasmine’s aunt Kate had opened the store years ago. It was on the main strip, and only a block and a half from her family restaurant. Jasmine had helped her aunt make it popular when she moved to Red Hook.

Alicia sipped on water and sat on a stool. Light instrumental music played over the speakers. She was glad to be around her friends.

“Thanks for letting me hang with you today, Jazz,” Alicia said. “I didn’t want to be at the restaurant yet. I know I will be bombarded with questions I can’t answer. People are going to stare and want to hear the gory details. I know Mrs. Sands wants to know what happened to her daughter, but I just don’t know.”

“No problem. We’re happy to have the company.” Jasmine smiled from the window at the front of the store. She was dusting the objects in the huge display window that people saw when they walked by. It was a nice, cool autumn day. Halloween was around the corner and Jasmine had placed pumpkins and cheerful-looking scarecrows all over the store.

“I am so glad to see you on the mend, Alicia,” Kate added gently. Her gold-colored dress complimented her short brown hair. “What a terrible tragedy for the Sands family. I don’t know them well, but loss is never easy to deal with.”

“I barely knew Janice myself. She was fun to hang with, but we never had any meaningful conversations,” Alicia said sadly. Talking with Mrs. Sands had been hard. Alicia had been at a loss as to what to say for the first time in her life. She couldn’t even tell the grieving woman what happened to her daughter.

“Oh boy, the nerve of some people,” Jasmine muttered angrily.

Alicia looked up to see what was the matter with Jasmine. She spotted John Daniels heading toward the front door. His wavy brown hair was neatly combed back away from his face. He looked serious as he got closer. Her heart stopped for a moment and she waited for the pain or humiliation to come. Instead, she felt nothing looking at him. He was still handsome, but now she knew he had no substance inside. He was immature, despite being older than her, and he was self-centered. She sure had been blinded by his smooth lines. Now, her eyes were wide opened and all that was left was regret. He didn’t notice Jasmine standing in the window. He greeted Kate politely and then looked at Alicia. She saw his eyes check her out but she no longer felt giddy inside. She was tempted to roll her eyes.

“I wanted to see if you were okay.” He put his hands in his pockets as if he was nervous. He usually had a bold, confident manner about himself. “I went to the restaurant but Alana kicked me out. She can be scary.”

Alicia nodded at that statement. Her sister was a pit bull when it came to protecting her. “I’m getting better. Thanks for asking.”

She was proud of herself for sounding polite. The last time they spoke, she had been crying over the pain of finding out he had spent the night with another woman after he promised her he would not cheat on her again. She had felt like such a stupid idiot for giving him her virginity.

Jasmine got out of the front display window. She dusted off the emerald-green dress she was wearing. Her arm tattoo peeked from beneath her sleeve. Alicia loved that Jasmine was so willing to do what she liked, despite people’s opinions. She sported a silver piercing over her eyebrow, too, and wore it proudly.

John turned toward her with surprise. “Hey, Jasmine. I didn’t see you back there.”

Jasmine didn’t smile at him. She went and stood by Alicia with her arms folded across her chest. Alicia wanted to smile. Jasmine would throw his ass out in a heartbeat. She hated John for what he did to Alicia.

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