I’m so busy looking at Dylan’s motorbike in the middle of my mother’s driveway that I hit the curb and drive up onto it. Immediately, I correct my mistake, letting the car drop down into the gutter before I park outside my mother’s latest abode.
Mum has changed her home address more times than I can count. At first, it was Dad who was the catalyst for our gypsy-like existence. Instead of working a predictable and safe nine-to-five job, he’d renovated the houses we owned. Each time we moved, we were met with a house that was practically crumbling down around us. Then Dad would fix everything, and as soon as the place was liveable – sometimes even beautiful – we would move into another dump. I was never able to call one of those houses home.
And when Dad fell in love with the idea of studying under a guru to gain spiritual enlightenment, he moved overseas as if his wife and children were holding him back from self-realisation. Instead of being bitter and angry about it, like I was, Mum maintained she could do everything herself. And that, of course, meant continuing to move around. She insisted we continue to move because it kept her creativity fresh.
Sometimes I think my mother moved because she didn’t know how to stay in one place after so many years of moving around with her husband. Other times, I wonder if she genuinely believes that living anywhere for more than a year equals ‘stagnation’. Is it any wonder Mum and Dylan get along so well? They are two peas in a pod.
Quite frankly, I’m looking forward to a little stagnation if it means permanence and setting down roots. I eye Dylan’s bike again. Well, just as soon as I’ve had enough fun.
I didn’t expect to see him until Thursday. I was counting on the time between then and now to get a grip on the tumult of emotions I feel every time he crosses my mind. Perhaps I should have expected to see him here, but I’ve been so busy trying not to think about Dylan and our night together – and failing – that I forgot he usually visits my mother on Sundays.
Turning off the car engine, I contemplate how I’m supposed to look Dylan in the eye in front of Mum and not blush the colour of my deep red jumper. How am I supposed to pretend I’m not revisiting the memory of his hands and mouth all over me? My mother will know something is off since she rarely misses anything. People might think she has her head in the clouds, but Mum’s intuition is as close to a sixth sense as they come.
My stomach flips at the thought of seeing him again. Quickly, I place one hand over it and remind myself to breathe. It’s just Dylan.
Yeah, right. There’s no ‘just’ about Dylan James and there never has been.
Reluctantly, I pick my handbag up off the passenger seat and I’m about to push the car door open when my phone rings. Grateful for the distraction and delay, I dip into my bag and pull my mobile out. Seeing Kara’s name flash on the screen, I answer the call immediately. It’s the first time all day that I’ve actually had the opportunity to take my friend’s call.
“Where have you been, Claire?” Kara demands. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all day. I even swung by your place on the way home from Mum’s this afternoon, but you weren’t there.”
“No, I’m at my mum’s. It’s not like I didn’t try to call you back.”
Kara groans. “I know. I got into it with Mum and I didn’t hear the phone.”
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“I’m fine. I called to find out how you are. Or rather, how your night went?”
“It went,” I say, going for cryptic.
“Damn it, woman, it’s been a really sucky day so far. I need details. Don’t make me beg.”
I smile before outlining the night’s events, skimming over the more mature content since I don’t want to share those moments or memories with anyone.
When I get to the portion of the story which involves the end of my evening with Dylan, Kara makes a noise of disgust. “You’re kidding me, right? He did not just leave you like that.”
“He did,” I confirm. “And you would have been proud of me, Kar. I let him. I walked him to the front door and acted as cool as any of his one-night stands would have.”
There is so much sadness in my friend’s voice that my throat tightens and my eyes prickle from unshed tears.
“It’s fine,” I promise Kara. “I’m fine.”
Kara’s tone is so disbelieving that irritation snakes through me.
“You’re the one who told me to have fun – that I could do this. That I should do this.”
“I’m pretty sure I expressly said, ‘don’t do it with Dylan James’.”
“I don’t understand what the big deal is. He’s the perfect guy to do this kind of thing with. All he’s looking for is fun, and right now that’s all I’m looking for, too.”
Kara sighs. “Maybe he would be the perfect guy for anyone else in your position, but not you, Claire.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t do anything casually.”
“You told me to go out and have fun. You encouraged me to flirt with Sam the bartender. Why would you do that if you didn’t think I could be casual about something like sex?”
“Because I didn’t think the first man you’d jump into bed with would be the one you’re in love with!” Kara says, sounding exasperated.
I swallow and blink. “Excuse me?”
Kara gives up a long-suffering sigh. “You love Dylan. You always have.”
“Then why does he get to you more than anyone else on the planet? Why do you talk about how much you hate him all the time? Why is it that the moment you thought he might like you, you were right there ready to proposition him?”
“Okay, I’ll admit I’m attracted to him and have been all along.”
“So, you really were okay with him bailing on you right after sleeping with you?”
Of course Dylan’s disappearing act hurt me a little bit and put me off balance, but that’s only because I’m not used to saying goodbye right after sex. “I’m fine,” I say.
“And you don’t think there’s the slightest chance you’re going to find it difficult to let him go when this – whatever it is you two are doing – ends?”
“He’s leaving the country. There’s no chance I’m going to get too attached.”
“Yes. In October.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“I’m trying not to think about it,” I admit. “I’ll miss him, of course, but…it won’t be the end of my world.”
In all honesty, I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about Dylan leaving since he brought it up. It’s something I really don’t want to dwell on.
“Okay, maybe we were wrong. Maybe you aren’t in love with him.”
There’s a wealth of doubt in my friend’s voice. I notice Kara used the plural. Obviously, Tori and Danni have come to the same conclusion as her. It irks me that they’ve obviously been thinking this for some time, yet never said anything to me about it until now. Not that I would have listened or agreed with them, but still…
“How long have you thought I’m in love with Dylan?” I ask.
“Since Austin’s twenty-first.”
“Six years ago? What…?” I trail off as I remember one of the few times in the past few years Dylan stopped teasing me.
The moment only lasted a few minutes. Dylan was drinking and he insisted I dance with him, practically hauling me against him before he plunged us into the throng of dancing bodies at Austin’s birthday party. I tried to resist, tried to push him away, but he held me against him too tightly, and when the music changed to something soft and slow, he looped my arms around his neck.
When I finally looked up at him, the breath left my lungs and the world slowed to a stop. We stared into each other’s eyes as we rocked together to the music. For three entire minutes, I felt like I was in heaven, like I was the most important person in his world. It was a moment I thought I’d remember for the rest of my life.
Then he promptly let me go and started dancing with Kayla Birch before taking Kayla home with him.
When I saw him the following day, he’d returned to his usual, annoying, irritating self and I pretended that our dance never happened, and that I wasn’t absolutely devastated that I must have imagined the promises and desire I’d thought I’d seen in his eyes as we danced.
“I’ve never seen you look at another man the way you looked at Dylan when he danced with you that night, Claire.”
“I’d forgotten about that party,” I say quietly.
More like I’d pushed it out of my mind and erased it from my memory. I hadn’t really given it a second thought until now. How strange that Kara found that particular moment in time significant. Obviously, she’d seen what I felt during the dance, but that wasn’t love. It couldn’t have been.
“Well, I remember it,” Kara says. “But I guess I must have been wrong in what I saw, huh?”
I startle as I realise Mum has appeared at the window and is watching me though the netted curtain.
“I have to go, Kar. I’ll talk to you later.”
“That you will, my dear. I guess I should tell you to enjoy what you’re doing with Dylan, then.”
“Thanks,” I say, hanging up before Kara can stir up any more forgotten memories.
I dodge the rain puddles in the driveway as I make my way to my mother’s porch. Before I can knock, Mum opens the door and pulls me into a bear-hug.
“There’s my baby girl.”
Throughout my childhood, I felt like I was different to my brother and to my parents, and on more than one occasion I even wondered whether I was adopted. The fact that I’m the spitting image of my mother, however, made it difficult to believe for any real length of time.
“I thought I heard your car,” she says, “but then it took you so long to come in.”
“Sorry. Kara called.”
Mum closes the front door behind us. “As you’ve probably guessed, I have company.”
“Bit hard to miss the bike in the drive, Mum.”
“I invited Dylan to stay for dinner. He has some news he wants to share with you, and I convinced him not to drive down to your place when he could stay for dinner and talk to you here. I’m asking the two of you to be on your best behaviour.”
“I’ll do my best to behave,” I tell her, absently pulling away so I can wipe my suddenly sweaty palms on my jeans. “Of course, I can’t speak for Dylan, since he’s such an…enigma.”
I pray the comment is close enough to what I’d usually say when Mum studies me. I shrug and try to hide my nervous swallow. Thankfully, she releases me and heads for the kitchen.
I follow her, only to come to an abrupt stop as I spot Dylan lounging against the bench in the kitchen. For a moment I stand there dumbly, taking in his big black boots, tattered blue jeans, light blue t-shirt underneath a flannel shirt with the sleeves pushed up. With his arms crossed, I can see the outline of his bulging biceps. He looks big, imposing, and sexy as hell.
My belly quivers as a rush of memories hit me; the kiss he gave me as he brought me to orgasm against the wall outside the bar, his head buried between my thighs so he could bring me more pleasure, and the way he looked into my eyes as he joined us together.
Desire cracks its whip, making my body feel hot and my underwear damp. I draw a breath, but there isn’t enough air in the room to stop me from feeling dizzy.
His head is bent, staring at the floor, but as he lifts his eyes to meet mine, Kara’s shocking comment races through my head.
“Because I didn’t think the first man you’d jump into bed with would be the one you’re in love with!”
Right now, I want to kill Kara for even suggesting it. The idea is laughable. Ridiculous. Absolutely outrageous! He is so far from Mr Perfect it isn’t funny, and I’m far too practical to fall in love with someone who can’t give me what I need. Loving Dylan is heartbreak waiting to happen and I want none of it.
“So, I’m an enigma, huh?”
It takes a second for me to remember I referred to him as that a moment ago.
“I could have used a number of other words, but enigma seemed the most…polite at the time.”
Amusement shines in his eyes and his lips twitch. “I’m happy to see you too, Claire.”
“As long as one of us is happy…”
“You don’t have to hide behind sarcasm,” he says reproachfully. “I know you missed me.”
I put a hand on my hip. “You know, I never realised you were delusional as well as egotistical, and-”
“All right, all right,” Mum says. “If you two can stop your bickering for a minute, I need help. Claire, I need you to stir the sauce. Dylan, would you mind slicing the sourdough loaf on the counter over there, please?”
Satisfaction curves the corners of my mouth. I’m doing it. I’m standing in Mum’s kitchen, taking pot shots at Dylan as if he didn’t rock my world last night – as if he wasn’t inside me less than 24 hours ago.
Once Mum’s back is turned, I watch as Dylan’s lips curve into a wry smile before there’s a flash of regret in his eyes. Does he regret last night? I quickly turn around and start stirring my mother’s sauce, praying he doesn’t. Last night was…everything I’d hoped sleeping with Dylan would be. Well, except for the part where he got up and left straight after.
I keep my eyes on the sauce I’m stirring and say as casually as I can, “Mum said you wanted to talk to me?”
“Yeah, I wanted to come by and tell you that I finally did it.”
“I booked my ticket. You know, for my round-the-world trip.”
I look up from the sauce to remind him that he already told me about it in great detail last night, but he shakes his head ever so slightly, reminding me that I’m not supposed to know yet. As far as Mum knows, I haven’t seen Dylan recently.
I clear my throat before speaking. “Well, I suppose congratulations are in order.”
I wish I had something pithy or flippant to say about him leaving the country. Before we slept together, I might have said that I wouldn’t have to put up with ‘two’ big brothers anymore, or good riddance, or something like that. Tonight, I’ve got nothing.
“How long will you be gone?” I ask, despite the fact that his words from yesterday still echo in my mind. “Hell, I might even find a place I love so much that I can’t bear to leave it.”
“Ah, I’ve no idea when I’ll be back.” I honestly can’t imagine Dylan not being here, let alone him living somewhere else instead of Melbourne, keeping an eye on me and driving me crazy. So, I’m not even going to try.
A/N: Thanks for reading! 🙂 Please like, share or leave a comment if you enjoyed the chapter, or please just keep reading.