“We were about to figure out something for dinner. Do you wanna join us?” I ask and then flash him an innocent but suggestive smile that says I’ll make it up to him later.
“Do I? I’m offended you even had to ask! It’s a good thing I’m dressed to go out.” She winks before grabbing my hand and pulling me toward the house. “I’m gonna help your woman get ready and then you’re taking us to High Road so I can hand you your ass at darts…again.”
Tate laughs as he trails behind us. As much as I’m looking forward to an evening with Tate and Briella, I can’t help but feel uneasy. Time is running out and being seen with Tate again is poking the sleeping bear. I want nothing more than to shout to the world Tate is my man, but when your ex is an abusive stalker, you have to be careful with what you share.
We’ve been at High Road Bar for an hour. We’ve eaten and played several rounds of darts and true to her word, Briella handed Tate his ass. But now we’re playing pool and I have a feeling the tables will turn…Tate is good. I sit on my bar stool against the wall, tucked in the corner, but close enough to their pool table I’m still part of the conversation. I gingerly sip on my mineral water when I suddenly feel the hair on my neck and arms prickle.
I search the bar and find his eyes on me, blazing with deadly fury. I stiffen but I don’t back down from his angry stare. Tate notices and follows my line of sight, and his face hardens. He starts toward him, but I rush to him before he can make it more than a few steps and gently push on his chest willing him to look at me instead of him. Briella moves closer to us, brows furrowed in concern.
“Tate, don’t. It’s not worth it.” He still doesn’t look at me until I take his face in my hands. He relents then, finally dropping his eyes to me. I pull his lips to mine. “I’m yours. We can’t let him ruin our night because he’s in the same bar. It’s a small town, we’re going to see him.”
Briella sends him her own glare and then her eyes fix on something…or someone else and her posture changes. I turn and find Dean walking our way. When he makes it to where we’re standing, he stops right in front of Briella, his tall, muscular frame towering over her. He smirks before speaking, “Hey there, super star. What are you doing home?”
She clenches her teeth. “You know why I’m home. As if you’re not aware of the surprise party your best friend has planned tomorrow night. And I’m not a super star, Dean. Why do you insist on calling me that?” her eyes shoot daggers at him as he laughs.
“You’ll always be a super star to me.” He shrugs his wide shoulders. Dean was fit in high school but now he’s the definition of perfectly toned and he definitely aged well.
“Better watch out or she might whack you over the head with that pool stick.” Tate laughs a little as he relaxes. He grabs my hand and leads me back to the tables where Dean and Briella are about to square off in their own game of pool. I glance back to where Taylor was, and it appears he’s gone. But I can still feel the weight of his presence.
Tate kisses my head and whispers in my ear, “Hey, he can’t touch you anymore. I won’t let him. When you’re ready, I think we should talk to Sterling about it.” I simply smile and nod.
He finds a chair big enough for both of us and we sit together watching Briella and Dean battle to win this game. I smile on the outside, but on the inside I’m anything but calm knowing things are about to change.
When we make it home a couple hours later and fall into bed after making love, I lie awake listening to Tate breathing. I hope he’ll forgive me for what I’m about to do. I squeeze my eyes shut against my doubts.
Then I hear my phone. I knew tonight wouldn’t go unanswered.
I swallow before I read the text. It’s only one word—one that could be filled with promise or danger. It could mean many things, but in this instance, a chill runs down my spine as I stare at it.
I simply lock the screen back on my phone and let out a cleansing breath before snuggling a little closer to the man I love…the man I hope to have a future with, and one way or another, tomorrow will either be the beginning…or the end. The truth will finally come out.
“Let me see, dude.” I’m waiting on Sterling to come out of his and Ivie’s bedroom and I’m grinning like a love-sick fool. I’m beyond happy for Sterling and Ivie, but truth be told, I’m much keener on love now that my own love story is being written. How did I get so lucky?
“You’re acting like a girl.” Sterling snickers.
“I resent that. I just want to see if you have good taste.” He grins, reaching in his pocket and produces a black velvet ring box and pops it open. “I mean, that’s pretty impressive, Sterling. She’ll love it.”
“I hope so. If she says yes, will you stand up with me and be my best man?”
I stand and hug him, smiling impossibly bigger. “You know it, brother.”
“Okay, now get out of here. I have to do this before we leave, so we can meet everyone for the surprise engagement party at The Silver Note and be on time. Thanks for helping set the stage while she was getting ready.”
I wink and head to the door. “Anytime. Good luck—not that you need it.”
I close the door quietly behind me and get in my truck. When I pull back up to my house, my heart beats faster. Lucy’s car is missing. I instantly pull out my phone and call her.
“Tate, I’m okay. I’m on my way to Mom’s to grab something and then I’ll be headed to The Silver Note.”
I let out the breath I was holding as I try to calm my heart. “I wish you’d waited on me, Lucy. You know how I feel about you being out alone right now.” She sniffles a little.
I shake my head at how I sound. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be controlling but I know that’s how I’m coming off. I just want to make sure you’re safe. I love you so much. I can’t imagine you being hurt, ever.”
I can hear the emotion in her voice. “I love you too, Tate. I know you only have the best intentions. So do I.”
“Okay, love. If you’re sure you’re good, I’m going to head on to The Silver Note. Can you please text me to let me know you’re on your way?” Part of me hates sounding this needy but somehow, I could care less. I am needy…I need Lucy.