And then I pace. I pace all four levels of the house, thinking it’s probably not a good idea to drink coffee when I’m feeling this jittery, but it’s morning and the sun is rising, so I talk myself into it. I start it up and watch it drip into the carafe in slow motion while drumming my fingertips on the counter, gnawing on the inside of my cheek until it’s nearly raw. Needing a different distraction, I decide to get my phone from upstairs. I’ll call Ivy.
Yeah, it’s assholish to call this early, but I need a familiar voice. I need something… I don’t know what. Or I suspect I do know what I need, but he’s not here.
So, another distraction it is. If I can’t get ahold of her, I’ll try Mom. Mom always answers, no matter what time it is. Though… is Mom even alone? Is she back home or in her new apartment? Did she spend the night with Lorenzo?
I hurry upstairs to fetch my new phone from my bag, which is on the nightstand.
I pull out both phones, but before I give in to the urge to turn on the old phone to see if there are any texts from Gloria, I hear the front door open, so I spin and rush down to the top of the final flight of stairs and watch him stroll into the kitchen, nude. He’s looking damp and out of breath when his eyes meet mine.
“Good morning, wildberry.” He smiles, then turns the tap on and puts his mouth under it and drinks like he’s parched.
I grip the railing, feeling like the light, the life is back in my body at the sight of this man. Relief, sweet relief. But then I feel something else, and before I can stop myself, I’m asking in an accusing tone, “Where were you?”
I sound angry.
He lifts his head, turns the tap off and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Went on a run. Met my pack brothers. Do it every day around dawn if I can. You were asleep, so –”
“I was freaked,” I snap.
He hurries up the stairs toward me.
“Why’s your heart racing so hard?” He looks me over with concern as he approaches. I back up, holding a hand up, as if to ward him off.
“I woke up and… and… I was freaked,” I repeat.
I’m trembling now. I’m feeling fear mixed with anger. But, why?
“Not nice to wake up alone when you’re expecting to find someone beside you, is it?” he teases.
“Oh, so tit for tat?” I ask, incredulous.
“No baby, not at all.” His eyes change and now he looks confused. “Sorry you were worried, but… wait. Were you worried? Did you miss me?”
“What happened to leaving a note? You said you’d leave a note if you had to go somewhere, told me to do that, too, and no note!”
“I did write you a note. Come on.” He tags my hand and we walk up to the third floor.
My hands are shaking, my knees are wobbly, and I don’t know why. And even worse, it feels like my throat is closing.
Mason squats to reach to the rug between his bed and nightstand, then rises holding a yellow Post-It.
“Oh,” I whisper, heart stuttering in my chest.
“Must’ve fallen off.” He flashes it at me.
Gone for a quick run. I’ll make you crepes when I get home.
“Oh,” I whisper again and then fold my arms over my chest angrily. Not sure why I’m angry, but I am.
“How long you been up?”
“Half an hour,” I mutter.
“You made the bed,” he says.
“It needed it,” I reply.
A smile tugs at the corners of my mouth. I let it win.
Mason moves in for a kiss, capturing my face between both hands. I moan as our mouths touch. I feel like I’m sinking, falling into the sweetest bliss when three consecutive beeps sound off from downstairs.
He takes a deep inhale at my throat, backing away a little bit still holding my face. “You made coffee. I want some of that. But first, some of this.” He reaches for me.
I lift my hands up to block him. And I’m not sure why.
“What’s the matter, baby? You mad you can’t be mad at me?” His face is alight with mischief. “I haven’t had a chance to make you mad yet. Give me a couple minutes, though…”
“I was freaked out,” I repeat, unsure why I keep saying that and not explaining myself. It’s like I can’t articulate myself right now. It’s not rational, is it? Why was I was having a panic attack? And now that the panic is gone, why am I angry?
I guess I’ve been hanging onto my futile fight for so long, I’m not sure what I am this morning. Smiling one second, shaking the next, wanting to jump his bones throughout.