Teaser #7 is from Claire, Adam, and Chris’s POVs. This teaser contains MAJOR SPOILERS for those who haven’t read Relentless. This teaser also contains mild sexual content. It is not intended for readers under the age of 17.
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Today I will be giving away SEVEN digital ARCS of Pieces of You (to be delivered tonight). To enter the ARC giveaway, leave a comment on my Facebook fan page telling me whose team you are on: Adam or Chris. Please include your email address in the comment or send your email address to me via the Contact page. After you comment, you can enter a second time by sharing the link to this teaser on Facebook and tagging me in your post. If we’re not friends, feel free to add me as a friend so you can tag me.
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Now onto the teaser. This is a loooooong one.
I step onto the small stage constructed in the sand and, though I can’t stop grinning, the only thing on my mind is Claire and how I wish she were here to see this. Hank Langley hands me the third place trophy and pulls me into a sloppy one-armed hug. Hank is the promoter for the competition. We’ve stayed in touch since I quit surfing two years ago and he’s the only reason I made it onto the roster for this event.
As soon as we arrive at the hotel, the mini-bar is ransacked and champagne is ordered from room service. I grab my phone out of my backpack and sneak off to the bathroom to call Claire.
I open the bathroom door and Paul Leyva is boning some chick on the bathroom counter. The same Paul Leyva who was ranked fourth in the world on the ASP world rankings last year. The chick makes eye contact with me and I slam the door shut before I make my way into the hotel corridor. The scroll pattern on the carpet makes me think of the curtains in my dad’s study. He doesn’t know where I am this weekend. If he knew I’m competing again he’d tell me to give it up. Twenty-two is too old to start competing again. What he doesn’t know is that I’m doing this as much for Claire as I am for myself.
I sink down onto the carpet next to the ice machine and dial her number. She picks up halfway through the first ring.
Her voice is soft yet eager and fills me with relief.
“Hey, baby. What are you doing?”
I hear a rustling on the other end and I imagine she’s putting down a book or a pile of notes.
“Studying. I have a statistics test on Monday. Where are you?”
“I’m at the hotel. We just got back. I came in third.”
She pauses for a moment. “I’m so proud of you. I knew you’d do well.”
“I’ll be there in six days. You can congratulate me then.”
There are so many things I want to ask her. She told me last night that her ex would be dropping off some more pictures today. I want to know everything, but I don’t want to pry. I don’t want to push her away, but the long pause on the other end concerns me.
“I don’t know if I can wait six days,” she finally says. “I wish I was there with you to rub your sore muscles and fall asleep in your arms.”
“I wish you were here, too. I miss the fuck out of you. Are you lying down?”
She giggles because she thinks I’m trying to initiate phone sex.
“I just want to picture you,” I insist. “I’m in the middle of the hotel corridor. I’m not going to jerk off out here.”
“Yes, I’m lying down.”
“What are you wearing?”
“I’m wearing the Sugar shirt you bought for me.”
“Is that it?”
“And my panties.”
“Take them off.” She pauses, but I hear her breathing quicken. “Please.” The movement on the other end gets me excited. “Claire?”
“When was the last time I touched you?”
“Six days ago.”
“When was the last time you touched yourself?”
She giggles again and I wait for her to get over her embarrassment and answer. “When you called me this morning.”
I don’t know why I torture myself this way when there’s a roomful of girls down the hall who’d get on their knees for me in a heartbeat. Maybe I just need to prove to myself that I’ve changed.
“I love you, Claire.”
“You know I would never hurt you.”
“I know. Are you okay?”
I want to tell her how much it scares me that she’s been seeing Chris while we’re apart. I want to tell her how much it kills me that he can show up at her dorm or outside her classroom anytime he wants. But she doesn’t want to hear that shit.
“Yeah, I’m just tired. I’ll let you go so you can get your homework done, but I want you to think of me tonight… when you touch yourself.”
“I wouldn’t think of anyone else.”
“I can’t hide anything from you, can I?”
“Adam, I love you. I’ll wait six days or six years. Whatever it takes. Nothing and no one else matters.”
This isn’t true. There is one other person who matters as much, or more, to Claire than I do. And I can’t even be upset about it because that’s exactly as it should be. But that doesn’t change the fact that being her number two worries the hell out of me.
“Tuck yourself in tight. Goodnight, baby.”
I lean forward to slide the phone into the back pocket of my shorts then sit back against the wall and stare at the framed picture of a floral still life on the wall in front of me. If I go back to the room, I’ll probably get so drunk or high I won’t remember what I did in the morning. But I can’t stay out here. Maybe I should just take a taxi to the airport and catch the next flight to Raleigh to surprise Claire.
Fuck that. That’s a desperate move. I’m not desperate.
I trudge back to the room, resigned to lay off the booze and keep my head clear so I don’t fuck up. When I walk through the door, I’m smacked in the face with the aroma of some good smoke. I step inside the hazy hotel room and spot Yuri Takahashi, number twenty-six in the world and one of my best friends, sitting at a table near the window toking it up, smoke curling from the small pipe in his hand.
A hand clasps the back of my neck and I can tell by the size and the way it grips me softly that it’s not one of the guys. I turn around and the girl I just saw getting boned by Paul is giving me a come-fuck-me look. Her dark hair is tousled and her black eye makeup is smeared across her left temple. I’m surprised I notice these details since she’s standing before me topless, wearing only a short skirt.
“Not gonna happen,” I say as I push her hand off my neck.
She curls her lip in disgust. “What? Are you gay?”
I shake my head as I turn my back on her and make my way toward Yuri.
“Hey, it’s the fucking comeback kid,” Yuri says when he sees me.
He grins broadly as he passes me a freshly packed bowl and a lighter. I think of Claire and I almost hand it back to him, but I need to hide inside myself tonight. I bring the pipe to my lips and suck in as I hold the lighter’s flame to the bowl. It’s been more than a week since I’ve toked so the hot smoke burns my throat and stings my lungs. I hold in the smoke as I pass the pipe back to Yuri.
He shakes his head. “That’s your bowl, bro. Finish it.”
I let the smoke out of my lungs and finish off the bowl. I hand the pipe to Yuri and he taps the ash out into an ashtray before he packs it again. The music coming from the iPod clock radio on the nightstand gets inside my head. I lean back in my chair and close my eyes as I lose myself in the music.
The sounds of giggles and whispers can barely be heard over the song. I don’t know what’s going on until I feel someone’s hand in my crotch. I open my eyes and the topless girl is back and she’s trying to undo the button on my shorts.
I push her hands away and she laughs. She’s fucked up. So am I. But I’m not stupid.
I stand up and she reaches for my shorts again. “Fuck off,” I mutter as I step around her and make my way out into the corridor again.
I stand in the corridor for a minute, unsure of what the fuck I’m doing. I’m fucked up and my mind keeps circling back to the same thoughts over and over again. I think of texting Claire, but she needs to study. Then I think of going back inside, but I’m too stoned to deal with the temptation. I need to get out of this hotel. Fuck the backpack. I have my wallet and my phone. That’s all I need.
I make it down to the lobby and jump into the first taxi I find outside the hotel. “Orlando International.”
The cabbie looks at me and I wonder if I look as stoned as I feel. Something about my appearance makes him skeptical and he appears about ready to kick me out of the cab, but he relents and pulls away from the hotel entrance.
I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I’m running; that’s what I’m doing. I don’t trust myself.
The taxi pulls onto the highway and I realize I left my trophy in the hotel room. I can call the front desk and ask them to ship it to me tomorrow, if it’s still there.
When we reach the airport, I’m a bit more sober—at least, I think I am. I hand the driver a wad of cash and make my way to the first airline check-in counter I find. The girl behind the counter looks bored as she chats with a burly guy in a security uniform. I glance at her nametag: Wanda.
“Can I help you, sir?” Wanda asks.
I blink a few times thinking this might sober me up a little more. “When’s the next flight to Raleigh?”
I never wanted to be like my mother. And for a brief moment in time I thought I had escaped that fate. But life has a lovely way of reminding you that you are no better than anyone else—even a dead heroin addict.
It wasn’t until three weeks ago I finally understood that being like my mother isn’t such a bad thing. She may have brutally removed herself from my life when I was only seven years old, but she left behind a foundation for me to have a better life than her own. She taught me how to keep myself safe, which really came in handy as I was shuffled from one foster home to the next for eight years after her death. And, of course, there’s the enormous trust fund she left me—though I have no interest in ever claiming a dime of that money.
So I guess things could be worse, but it’s hard to imagine how as I lie here on the twin bed in my dorm doing statistics homework on a Saturday evening while my boyfriend is surfing in Florida. Of course, judging by the tone of the conversation we just had, it doesn’t seem like Adam is really enjoying his trip. Just remembering his words and the sound of voice makes my stomach stir.
“I’ll be there in six days. You can congratulate me then.”
His voice was husky with exhaustion and it only makes me miss him more. I want to be there with him in Florida. Instead, I’m stuck in my dorm playing catch-up. This is the price I pay for taking my sophomore year off from UNC.
I glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand between my and Senia’s beds. She should be back from hanging out with Eddie in a couple of hours. The site of the stack of photos on the nightstand makes my chest ache.
Chris came over this morning to drop off some pictures of Abigail on his way to the airport. He could have emailed them to me, but he insisted on bringing the actual photos in case I wanted to put them in a frame or an album. That’s bullshit. He’s trying to get under my skin. He wants me to feel comfortable around him again.
When he left, I laid the photos facedown on the nightstand so I wouldn’t feel that longing every time I glance at my alarm clock and see my daughter’s face. But seeing the pictures turned facedown is just as jarring. It fills me with a stinging guilt that I’m certain has become part of my DNA by now.
Against my better judgment, I lift the stack of photos off the nightstand and lie back on my pillow. The first photo is of Abigail—I don’t even know her last name yet—lying on someone’s bed and smiling at something above her; something out of frame. I can’t help but refer to her as Abigail Knight in my mind. She’s a piece of Chris, and one look at her soft blonde hair and pouty lips and it’s apparent that she’s a piece of me. But neither of those pieces belongs to us.
The process of an open adoption is much less complicated than I thought it would be. The only thing that needs to be hashed out is the actual agreement. Abigail’s adoptive parents have verbally agreed to send us pictures and emails occasionally. We get to know her. They’re just not sure whether they want Abigail to know us.
The second photo is a close-up and she has Chris’s dark eyes. I trace the curve of her eyelid and I can see the way it turns down slightly at the corner, just like Chris.
My phone buzzes as it vibrates on the nightstand. I lay the photos on the nightstand and pick up the phone, hoping it’s Adam with a joke text to pull me out of this funk. It’s Chris.
Chris: Just landed in London. I got a voicemail from Tasha. They want to meet us on Tuesday. I’ll be back by then.
Tasha Singer is the lawyer Chris hired to handle the adoption. I think it’s funny that her last name is Singer. Chris thinks I’ll find her name less funny when I finally meet her. He claims she’s the hottest thirty-two-year-old he’s ever met. He thinks this stuff makes me jealous, but it doesn’t.
I love Chris. Nothing will ever change that. But it’s not the same love we shared a year ago. It’s the kind of love shared between friends who know each other’s deepest secrets. The kind of love shared between friends who’ve forgiven each other’s worst sins.
Me: OK. I have class from 7-2. Will be in my dorm by 3.
Chris: I’ll pick you up outside your class at 2.
Chris: Don’t take that tone with me. Don’t forget I still remember all your most ticklish spots.
Me: Stop being a jerk. And stop texting me. I’m trying to study.
Chris: Goodnight, Claire-bear.
I don’t respond. Why would I respond to that? He’s baiting me.
I finish my statistics homework and start reading the text for my Family and Society class. This has got to be the worst class I can possibly be taking right now, but it’s pretty much required if I have any hope of being a superstar social worker.
I open Public and Private Families by Andrew Cherlin and I’ve only read three pages when the dormitory door flies open and Senia charges inside, her dark waves flying. She tosses her purse onto the desk and collapses facedown onto her bed. Her skirt flies up and her panties are showing, but she doesn’t seem to care as she buries her face in the pillow.
“What’s wrong?” I ask as I set down the textbook and sit up.
“Ugh!” she groans. “I’m so stupid!”
Even though the pillow muffles her voice, I can still hear the strangled sound in her scream. She’s crying.
I get up from my bed and take a seat on the edge of her mattress. I rub her back and she mashes her face even harder into the pillow.
She shakes her head then flips over onto her back. “He’s been fucking someone else, that’s what happened.”
“Don’t say his name. He disgusts me.”
Senia and Eddie have been together for almost seven months now, but I never would have suspected Eddie for a cheater. He’s always been insanely jealous and possessive. I always assumed Senia would be the one to dump Eddie once she got bored of his clinginess.
“How do you know he’s been…?”
“I found the fucking text messages. They’re already exchanging I love yous!”
She covers her face with her hands and my heart breaks for her. Senia has never cried over a guy since I’ve known her. Even when she was a shy freshman two years ago, she’s always kept her head about her when it came to relationships. I’ve always admired her ability to compartmentalize her emotional life. Her relationships never affect her studies and school never affects her social life. I’m the one who quit school when my personal life became too much for me to handle. She’s always kept it together. It’s not like her to fall apart like this.
Then I think of what she just said. “What text messages?”
“I was trying to look up times for that new Jack Black movie and a text came in. I can’t even tell you what it said. It’s gross. He’s a fucking pig.”
My mind instantly flashes to the text Chris just sent me. Goodnight, Claire-bear. Or the text about knowing my ticklish spots. Would Adam flip out if he saw those?
I spring up from the mattress and grab my phone off my bed. It takes a while to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list of texts I’ve been exchanging with Chris, mostly about adoption stuff, but there are some texts from him that could be construed as flirty.
“What are you doing?” Senia mutters.
“Trying not to be a fucking pig.”
“Are you cheating on Adam?”
“What? Hell no. I just want to make sure there’s nothing remotely incriminating on my phone. Chris is trying to get under my skin.”
Senia sits up and cocks one of her perfect eyebrows. “Are you really that afraid of Adam’s jealousy?”
“I’m not afraid. I’m trying to avoid misunderstandings.”
She shakes her head before she lies back down on her stomach with her head at the foot of the bed. “I need to get drunk tonight.”
I look up from the screen of my iPhone, which I will probably have to trade in soon because I can’t afford the data plan without my job at the café.
“I’ll be your designated driver.”
“We don’t have to drive. We can take a cab. Please drink with me tonight.” I stare at her for a moment until her shoulders slump. “I was only kidding. You can drive.”
We decide to go to an Irish pub near campus. Eddie never wanted to take Senia to this pub, so we’re certain we won’t run into him here. She’s lucky she and Eddie don’t have any classes together this year, especially considering they’re both chemistry majors.
Not sharing any classes together was a major selling point when Senia was considering whether to take their relationship to the next level after the first few dates. But Eddie’s intensity was also a huge turn-on for her. He matched her intensity and wits, ounce for ounce. I was so certain that Eddie and Senia would one day get married. They fought a lot, but it seemed he couldn’t get enough of her feisty attitude or five-foot-ten Amazon body.
But appearances can be deceiving.
We enter the pub and I’m hit with the stench of beer and testosterone. Social Distortion is blaring and people are yelling to be heard over the music and each other. Apparently, the hostesses don’t work Friday nights. People just come in and sit or stand wherever they choose. The booths and tables are all full. There’s a small area near the back of the pub, about the size of my twin bed, where people are thrashing to the music. It’s way too bright in here for this place to have a nightclub feel, but the atmosphere is total chaos.
I’ve been to plenty of clubs and parties with Senia, but I have a bad feeling about this place.
Senia leans over the bar to order her first drink—a gin and tonic with a lime twist—and I roll my eyes as some neck-beard ogles her ass. Senia has never had a problem attracting guys. Her model-perfect features and athletic body that she spends hours sculpting at the gym are really just bonuses. She oozes sexuality while I probably ooze “too much subtextuality”.
With her drink in hand, her eyes scan the crowded bar. “Eddie said this pub was on the corner of Drunk and Loser. I’d say it’s on the corner of Getting Over and Your Ex.”
“I think your jokes are becoming as bad as Adam’s.”
“That’s impossible. Adam’s cheese-level is off the charts.” She grimaces as if she’s in pain. “You have such a cool boyfriend. Why did I get the cheating douche-nozzle? Do I deserve this?”
Oh, no. She hasn’t even taken her first sip and I already sense a drunken meltdown coming.
“Don’t even think something like that. You always said there was something a little off about Eddie. Remember the time he asked you to do that thing in the shower?”
I can’t even say it aloud. It’s too gross.
“All guys have at least one weird fetish,” she says, looking a bit hurt that I’ve insulted Eddie.
I want to tell her that Adam doesn’t have any weird fetishes, that I know of, but it seems I’m going to be standing on the corner of Eddie is a Douche-nozzle and Eddie is a God tonight. I lean my back against the bar and consider ordering a water, when a hand waving in the distance catches my attention. It’s Tristan, Chris’s bass player, best friend, and an even bigger douche-nozzle than Eddie. He’s sitting at a booth with his arm around a blonde that looks somewhat familiar, like I’ve had her in a class or something.
“Is that Tristan?” Senia asks.
Tristan tried to hook up with Senia at a Memorial Day barbecue last year. Tristan, who can drink more than anyone I know without getting drunk, didn’t hesitate to challenge Senia to a game of Quarters. And they almost had sloppy sex on the bathroom counter until Senia threw up on his shoulder.
“Let’s go say hi,” Senia says as she grabs my arm and hauls me through the crowd.
As we approach, Tristan’s gray eyes are locked on my face. Tristan has always made me uncomfortable. When Chris and I were together, I would often catch him staring at me when Chris wasn’t around. The problem with Tristan is that he doesn’t stare at girls when he wants to fuck them. He’s only been in one serious relationship since I’ve known him. When we were seventeen, Ashley and Tristan were together for over a year until she crushed his heart. I used to catch him staring at her the way I’ve often caught him staring at me. Chris once noticed it and nearly beat the shit out of him. I guess Chris isn’t around tonight.
“Hello, Claire,” Tristan says in a smooth voice that’s just barely tinged with a New England accent from the first twelve years of his life spent in Maine. He removes his arm from around the blonde’s shoulders and runs his hand through his light-brown shoulder-length hair before he turns to Senia. “I remember you. How many of those have you had tonight?” he asks, glancing at the drink in Senia’s hand.
“First one, but I’m willing to let you buy me another,” Senia responds.
The blonde glares at Senia and the bad feeling I had about this bar just keeps growing.
“Hey, Tristan, why don’t you introduce us to your friends,” I say.
Tristan cocks an eyebrow as he stares at me and I try not to make a rude comment. As hot as Tristan is, I’ve never seen him as anything more than Chris’s friend, someone that I have to put up with.
“Claire, this is Julie,” he says, nodding at the blonde on his left. “And these two sexy beasts are Ben and Abby.”
My eyes widen at the mention of the name Abby. It’s a common name, but just hearing it makes me long for Abigail even more.
Ben is sweet looking but sort of scrawny with messy brown bedhead hair and Abby is beautiful with her understated makeup and glossy brown curls pulled up into a perfectly tousled ponytail. They both smile and nod their heads.
Tristan asks Julie to scoot over so I can sit next to him, but I quickly take the seat next to Ben and Abby so Senia can sit next to Tristan. Tristan casts a knowing glare in my direction and I roll my eyes so he knows I’m not impressed. Chris and I may not be together, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to jump on Tristan’s bandwagon.
“Chris didn’t want to come out with us tonight,” Tristan says, a slightly bitter tone in his voice as if I’m responsible. “He had other plans.”
He’s trying to make me jealous, like I care if Chris is out with another girl right now. “That’s too bad. Sounds as if he went solo tonight,” I reply. I’m not sure if Tristan has gotten over Chris going solo last year, but judging by the unimpressed look on his face, I hit a nerve.
He quickly recovers and smiles at me, the same smile he uses on stage to make the girls swoon. Chris has his own smile he uses on stage. He calls it his “crowd smile”. Chris’s crowd smile is a warm grin that tugs the left side of his mouth up just a bit further than the right. Tristan’s version is a bit more subtle, but just as sexy.
I manage to ignore his stares and taunts for the next hour as everyone on his side of the booth gets shitfaced drunk. Ben, Abby, and I watch in a combination of amusement and horror as Tristan alternates between sloppily making out with Julie to whispering in Senia’s ear. Senia smiles in response and slides out of the booth.
It’s time for me to intervene.
I grab her wrist as Tristan slides out of the booth after her. “You cannot go anywhere with him.”
“Chill out. He’s just escorting me to the restroom.”
“I can do that,” I say as I slide out of the booth.
Senia throws me a look like I’m being a total buzzkill. I don’t want to let her go anywhere with him. The last thing she needs right now is another heartbreak. But maybe she just needs to get this out of her system. Having meaningless sex after a breakup seems to be a ritual we’ve all come to accept as normal.
I sit back down and Julie’s head is resting on top of the table. She’s passed out. I would sit next to her so that Abby and Ben aren’t squished together, but I’m afraid of what will happen if she wakes up and finds Tristan gone.
About fifteen minutes later, Tristan returns without Senia. He slides into the booth as if nothing happened.
“Is that her name?” Tristan replies, looking completely bored. “She’s still in the restroom.”
“You’re such an asshole,” I mutter as I leave and barrel through the crowd toward the restroom sign in the corner.
I make it to the door with the gold handle and shove it open. Four girls are standing in front of the mirror washing their hands and fixing their makeup and all the stalls are occupied.
“What?” she calls back, and I can tell she’s crying.
I knock on the door of the stall and she fumbles with the latch before it opens. She’s sitting on the toilet, fully-clothed, with a giant wad of toilet paper in her hands. Almost all her makeup is gone and caked on the toilet paper as tears stream continuously down her face.
I lock the door behind me and kneel down in front of her. “What happened? Did Tristan do something to you?”
She laughs then blows her nose. “I was so ready to do it,” she slurs, “but I just kept thinking, ‘That’s not how Eddie would kiss me. That’s not how Eddie would touch me.’ Then I started crying and he left. Totally pathetic.”
“It’s not pathetic,” I say as I grab a clean bunch of toilet paper off the roll and exchange it for the filthy wad in her hands. “You and Eddie loved each other. Even if he did turn out to be a royal asshole, I know he loved you in his own way. It’s okay to feel lost right now, but you’re beautiful and smart and you will find someone else. And not Tristan, who’s an even bigger asshole than Eddie.”
“Ugh. He is. But I must admit that he has a bigger… bass than Eddie.”
“See? You’re still cracking jokes. You’re gonna be just fine.”
She chuckles as she wipes off the rest of her eye makeup then looks up at me. “He said something horrible to me.”
“Who said something horrible?”
“Tristan. He said, ‘I guess you’ll do.’”
“He said that to you?!” I stand up, ready to storm out of the stall and give that douche a piece of my mind, but Senia grabs my arm.
“No, you can’t say anything.”
She grimaces as she replies, “I think he was talking about you.”
“I don’t get it.”
“It doesn’t matter. Let’s get out of here before I make an even bigger fool of myself.”
This is my second time in London, and I never travel with a bodyguard overseas, but I think that policy has officially changed.
As soon as I step out of the cab in front of the hotel on Warwick, I’m swarmed by five girls who are waiting for me at 7:30 a.m. Tristan and Jake didn’t come with me to play this gig in London. I booked this show for one reason and it has nothing to do with the current tour or my UK fans.
I sign autographs for them while a girl with teased hair and too much eye shadow gently squeezes my bicep. Why do girls wear so much fucking makeup? I wonder if she put all that shit on her face before she came here thinking it would impress me. Another girl with auburn hair gazes at me with a dazed expression as I sign a picture of me she obviously ripped out of a magazine. I hand the picture back to her and she smiles.
“I love you so much,” she says in a breathy English accent. “Relentless is my favorite song of all time.”
This shit gets old. How do you pretend to be excited to hear the same phrase you’ve heard a million times before? I’m a musician, not a fucking actor.
“Thanks. It’s really close to my heart, too. Have a great day, ladies.”
I take off quickly before they can start jabbering. I make it to the room and pull my phone out of my pocket before I collapse onto the bed. The curtains are pulled tight so the room is nice and dark even though the morning sun is shining bright outside. I glance at my screen and scroll through the six new texts I’ve received since I left the airport. Nothing from Claire.
If she wants me to stop texting her that’s exactly what I’ll do. And not because I know it will drive her nuts. I’ll do it because I’m willing to do pretty much anything to get her back.
But also because it’ll drive her nuts.
I text Tasha to let her know that Claire is okay with Tuesday for the meeting then ignore Tasha’s smiley response as I dial the number of a local tattoo artist I met during my last visit to London. Arthur is the only reason I’m here, so I’m super stoked when he picks up on the third ring.
“Chris ‘Fucking’ Knight. Why the fuck are you calling me at this bloody hour?”
“Hey, Art. You think you can squeeze me in today. Just a quickie. A name.”
Claire doesn’t know I covered up the tattoo of her name I got on my shoulder blade three years ago. I can’t do much about that, but I can do something else even better. Not sure how or when I’ll get to show her this new one, but I’ll find a way.
“It’s Sunday, mate. The shops closed. Stop by at eleven.”
I should take a quick nap, but I’m too wired from the flight and the excitement of some new ink. I open the photo app on my phone and scroll to the bottom of the list of folders. I touch the folder labeled ‘CB’.
The first photo is of Claire and me sitting on a piano bench. She’s smiling as I kiss her forehead. This was taken at a show in Toronto; one of the last shows she attended with me before we broke up. The next picture is of her sleeping on the sofa at our house. Her mouth is hanging open and she’s clutching the throw pillow in her fist. I close my eyes and lay the phone next to me on the bed because I’m finally starting to feel tired.
Maybe I’m just exhausted from everything that’s happened the past three weeks. I had resigned myself to a life without Claire. I was certain she wanted nothing more to do with me. But nothing she says to me now can erase that kiss.
I felt it in the curve of her mouth, the way we fit together, the way she leaned into me, seeking me. She still loves me and, despite the fact that she majorly fucked me over, she’s still the one and only future I’m certain of. Claire and I were made for each other. I’m determined to make her remember that.
- Pieces of You: Cover Reveal, Teaser #5, and ARC Giveaway (cassialeo.com)