Title: The Man Who Spoke My Name
Word Count: 5,254
Categories: contemporary, short story, erotic romance, short series free read
Again, thanks to: Melanie Tushmore for the awesome beta, and Whistle who knows K.C. in and out!!
Notes: This turned out a sweet romance with no smut...
I slouched on a bar stool, sipping hot coffee from a Styrofoam cup.
It was way too early for me to be awake. Ten o'clock. Usually, I'd sleep until noon, but this morning the gal I'd hired to open, Carly, had called in to say she wasn't going to make it. There was no one else around at nine in the morning, so I dragged my ass out of bed.
The television above the bar flashed the weather, but I was too busy warming my cold hands next to the coffee cup.
No one is going to come in at ten o'clock, why am I even here?
It had been a week since Dillon was here. I hadn't heard a word from him, just like I wanted. Melissa had asked what happened between us, and when I told her, she apologized for even getting involved.
“I'm sorry, Joey,” she had said. “When he said he wanted to see you, I didn't think why.”
“Then what was that smile and wave at me when I left that night?”
“Well, I just figured you two were going to talk. Not... anything else.”
That was that.
But what I thought was the end of Dillon, became something like a massive obsession with him. For the last week, I thought of him constantly. His awesomely sculpted body hovered over me, lips pressed into mine, and those two soft brown eyes, narrowed and wanton. He was so gorgeous, unforgettable, and I blew him off.
Well, it was supposed to happen, wasn't it? I wasn't bound to make the mistake of falling in love with my former bully. That would be just as bad as taking Tanner back.
Tanner... that man hadn't even crossed my mind since the night with Dillon. No. I'd spent three emotionally stuck weeks whining about my ex, only to have Dillon take away my pain. It was a different kind of hurt now. I fought to clear my bully from my memories, only to have him pop back up again at random.
The blaring ring of my cell phone jarred me back to reality.
“Hey, Joey. What's up?” Melissa's sweet voice on the other end made me smile.
“Not much. Just down here at the bar.”
“It's awfully early for you, isn't it?”
“Yeah, but Carly called in so I'm filling her shift.”
“I see. Well, you got the television on, right?”
I looked up at the screen. “Yeah.”
“Change to channel 9 real quick.”
“Why?” I fiddled with the remote, changed it on her request, and gasped when I saw Tanner on camera, speaking with a police officer. “What's going on?”
“He had a break-in,” Melissa said. “I guess there were a bunch of break-in's last night all in his neighborhood.”
I stilled, quietly looking at the man I hadn't seen, or heard from, in a month. He looked like hell with his sloppy, just got out of bed, blonde hair, baggy blue sweat pants and a sleeveless t-shirt. But that would be normal for him, neither of us were morning people. Still, he was unharmed, which was a good thing, since the report added that the criminal had a gun.
“Ohmigod,” I breathed.
“Yeah, insane, isn't it?”
I nodded, then realized she wouldn't see it.
The news report had changed, but I continued to stare into the T.V.
“Oh, by the way, I have a letter here for you,” Melissa said, and I jerked my attention from the television.
“A letter? Who's it from?”
She quieted a moment, rustling in the background. “Dillon,” she breathed, slow and steady.
“I told him to write. Just because you didn't want to have anything to do with him doesn't mean that I don't.”
“But why the hell would he address something to me and have it sent there?”
“I don't know, Joey. Maybe he wanted to? Anyway, are you gonna come pick it up or should I bring it to you?”
I couldn't say no, because I was curious to know what he wrote. “I guess I'll come by.”
“Great. I'll be home about two.”
I'm so sorry for that night. I shouldn't have taken advantage of you like that. It's probably why you left so suddenly, huh?
In any case, I hope you are not mad at me for it. I'd love to hear your voice again.
My phone number is...
His phone number flashed through my mind as I crumpled up the notepaper. Hell no, I wasn't going to call him. I just didn't want to drag this out any more. It was hard enough dealing with what had happened, and his letter to me made it even harder not to pick up my cell phone and dial his number.
My office was quiet, despite the rowdy crowd out in the bar. It was only four in the afternoon, but the bar was slowly filling up with people getting off work.
The cell phone sat lonely on the desk. I picked it up and pretended to press in the numbers.
No. I'm not going to call him.
Maybe he had text messaging. Yes. That would be better, wouldn't it?
I began punching in my message to him, telling him that I'm not mad but with everything that had happened, I just wanted to get past it. Send.
A loud knock at the door made me leap out of my seat.
The door opened, allowing the noise of the bar to seep into the room. The man who entered had me wide-eyed and in shock. Tanner.
“Hey, Joey,” he said, closing the door behind him.
God, he looked great compared to this morning on the television. His beach blonde hair had been combed and styled with the usual gel he used. That same white sleeveless shirt he wore earlier showed off his muscular chest underneath his winter jacket, and his tight-fitted blue jeans curved around his hips and something else, I was sure.
I immediately suckled in my bottom lip. “Hey.”
“So, did you hear what happened last night?” The man stepped in and sat down at the chair in front of my desk.
“Yeah,” I hesitated, slumping down in my desk chair. “There was a break in. Right?”
Tanner nodded, a solemn look on his face.
“Did they take anything?” I knew if I had listened in to the report instead of staring at the man on screen, I would have heard the entire story.
“They got my cash from the top of the dresser and my Xbox.”
The look in his eyes was distress, something I'd never seen from Tanner before.
“But that's not why I'm here,” he said.
“This morning, I found out who was involved in the break-in's.” He rustled in his chair, head lowered, hands stuffed inside his coat pockets. “It was Brady.”
“That guy... you know. The one I left you for.”
My eyes widened. “You mean he broke into his own place?”
“He's a sick fuck, Joey. God, you don't even want to know some of the things he wanted to do after I moved in with him.”
The cell phone buzzed on the desk. I thumbed over the screen, catching the familiar number flash before turning my attention back to Tanner.
“Is it important?” He asked, motioning to the cell phone.
“No, I'll message them back later,” I lied.
Hell, yeah, it was important, it was Dillon. But, having Tanner sitting right in front of me, with that sad look was a lot more crucial.
“So, what happened to him? Brady, that is,” I asked.
“He finally got picked up.”
“You gonna bail him out?”
“God, hell no. He'll probably call is mom to come get him out.”
I chuckled. Yeah, I could see a mother helping out her son regardless of his crime. A shame, really. If the man I loved was in jail, I'd bail them out. Hell, I'd wait forever just to be back in his arms.
But there was no love in Tanner's eyes, only sorrow for what had happened.
“He was so fucked up in the head, Joey. I'm actually kinda scared to go back home, even.” Tanner pinched the bridge of his nose. “It's just, I've been a real ass to you for that... jerk.”
He was right about that. We'd fought almost non-stop for the two months before he left. After taking a moment to think, and to get rid of all the hurt, I was able to see that things weren't going right between us before he'd left.
It was a shock that I was sitting here now, letting Tanner confess his feelings for me, without pushing him back out the door and out of my life. But just looking at him, unusually solemn, and sad, made me tremble inside. Part of me wanted to cross over and capture all the hurt, relieve his tension, and mine; but I stayed put.
Are you apologizing, Tanner?
“You got that right. What the hell did you even see in him?”
“I don't even know any more. He was just different,” Tanner's voice hitched. “But, god, I'm so scared now. I don't... I just want everything to be back to normal.”
“Same here,” I whispered, unsure if I really meant it.
“I really screwed up and I'm sorry.” He stood and crossed the floor around my desk. I turned in my chair, tempted to back away as he came closer, but when I blinked, he had my face cupped in his warm palms, lips close to mine. “I still love you so much. You don't even know,” he breathed.
The phone beeped as a reminder of the message waiting for me.
I knew that I didn't exactly feel right with Tanner any more. It was urgent, like a numbing feeling as he held my face in his warm hands. But I'd loved this man for three years, I gave him everything. How could I know that he wasn't going to cheat again?
However, those sad eyes and pouty lips made my thick skin crumble. “I love you too, Tanner,” I said, wrapping my arms around his waist.
“I know it will take time,” he whispered. “You wanna go out to dinner? Or maybe see a movie?”
“I'd love to go where ever you want to.”
The warmth of his breath made goosebumps tickle my skin. I'd wanted him to kiss me, right there; and on the other hand, I wanted to tell him to get away from me. I hated my indecisiveness.
I slowly backed away, rolling the desk chair until I was out of his grasp. “Where do you want to go?”
An hour later, I was sitting in a small café just blocks from my apartment with Tanner. We'd frequented this place often when we were still together, especially in the morning since they served the best breakfast in town. Evening dinner was no exception. The burger and fries the waitress brought looked absolutely scrumptious, but not as much as Tanner did.
I had brought my cell phone, jabbing the end button to stop the frequent beeping without reading the text message that was on it. Damn, I felt guilty. What if it was really important?
“So what have you been doing lately?” Tanner asked, steadying a spoonful of mashed potatoes close to his lips.
I shrugged. “Not much. Keeping the bar going, like usual.”
He didn't need to know about Dillon.
“Everything going good then?”
“I'm sorry for missing out on Melissa's party with you. I bet that was pretty fun.”
“Not without you there.”
He lowered his head. “Yeah. God, I was such an asshole.” There it was again, that somber look in his eyes.
I reached out over the table and took his hands into mine. “You weren't, okay. Maybe we just have some issues to work out.” Was that true? Our relationship had always been fine, hadn't it? “Like, how was he different? Maybe I could do something to change myself.”
I knew I shouldn't change to be with Tanner. I was who I was, but if there was anything I could do to be sure he wasn't going to leave me again, I'd do it.
“You don't need to do that,” Tanner sighed. “I mean, at first he was cool. He wanted to do all sorts of different things, you know, but for the last week, he was just... pushing it.”
I slid my hands away and went back to my plate to pop a fry in my mouth.
“Anything that we could do?” I asked.
Tanner's bright eyes caught mine. “Would you be comfortable with it?” he whispered.
I leaned in, taking note of the other customers around us. “Was it sexual?”
Hell, I couldn't be sure if I would be okay with it.
“What was it?” I asked, needing to know what exactly it was.
Please don't tell me he tied you up. I can't deal with that right now.
“You know, never mind. We'll talk about it later.”
Tanner looked around at the few people at the tables next to us. He nodded and went back to his food. “Can I come back to your place with you? It'd be better to talk there.”
My heart lodged in my throat. “Sure,” I squeaked.
The phone buzzed in my pocket again just as I stood. I fiddled with it, yanked it out, caught a look at the familiar number, and pressed End.
“Are you sure it's not important?” Tanner asked.
I shook my head. “I'm sure.”
No. I wasn't sure. What was I thinking blowing Dillon off like that? The guilt built up, my heart cried out not to ignore him.
I threw my napkin down on the empty plate, stuffed my phone back into my pocket, and led Tanner outside to the car.
“Thank you for this. I just can't stand to be back at my place, after what that asshole did and all.” Tanner ran his fingers through his hair, each blonde strand bouncing back into place.
“I understand,” I said, starting the engine.
There was a uneasy silence between us as I drove the short distance from the cafe back to my apartment. Tanner had slouched down into the seat, his sunglasses slid down his nose even though the sun had set an hour ago. He looked tired, that was expected, with creases and dark shadows under his eyes.
I reached over, ran my fingers across his arm and his hand seized mine, clenching on tight. The solitude in his eyes softened, followed by a bright smile. However, no matter how deep I stared into those handsome baby-blues, I still felt numb. It just wasn't right.
We arrived at my apartment a couple of minutes later. He lifted his head and looked at the place where we both lived at one time. A small complex, two stories high, with the entrance on the outside.
The stairs were covered in a coating of slick frost, and I had to step lightly to prevent myself from falling. When we got to the door, I couldn't tell what my feelings were for him. Sure, I'd missed Tanner so much, I loved him, yes, but something told me to turn this all around.
The thought of Dillon swirled in the back of my mind. What was he messaging me?
“It feels good to be back. Did you change things around since I left?” Tanner asked.
I shook my head, jiggling the keys from out of my pants pocket. “No, not really.”
“Oh? I just figured you would,” he said.
I turned the door knob, the bolt clicked, and right before it opened, I felt Tanner's hand on my shoulder.
I twisted around to face him. He closed in, breath heavy on my cheek. “God, this feels so good having you with me again.”
His lips braced mine. Indifference seized me, like trying to void out any emotion, whether pain or happiness, to Tanner's touch. I opened my lips, trying to drink in his passion, but it couldn't budge that sense of dread. I knew all to well that he could leave me again. What would I do then, take him back for the second time? I really didn't want to play the roller coaster game.
Tanner ran his fingers around my neck, pinning me there against the door.
“Joey?” A familiar voice caught my attention. I flicked my eyes. Standing on the staircase was the man I'd been avoiding the entire night.
I jerked away from Tanner who stepped back in shock.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Nobody. I guess I should probably leave,” Dillon sighed, his Adam's Apple bobbing in the pale white light above my door.
“Dillon,” I breathed. “Don't go.”
The man stopped with his back turned to us.
“Dillon?” Tanner looked at me then back at the man standing just feet away from us. “You mean, Dillon the guy from high school who used to torment you?”
I nodded, turning away from them both.
“You know, Melissa told me she saw you at the grocery store a couple weeks ago.” Tanner approached the man, who had turned back around. “So what the hell, man? You here to beat on him some more or something?”
“No,” Dillon answered, voice low, determined. “Just came to talk.”
“Is that so? Well I don't think he wants anything to do with you. So just go back to where ever the hell it is you came from, dude.” Tanner stood just inches from Dillon, waving at him to leave.
“Maybe you're the one who needs to leave,” Dillon stepped up on to the metal porch, towering over Tanner.
My heart thundered in my chest. Having two men fight over me? What the hell had the world come to?
“No.” Tanner straightened his spine, staring straight into Dillon's eyes. “Why the hell would he want me to leave? We're partners, duh.”
“Stop you two,” the words whispered from my trembling lips didn't cause them any concern.
Dillon narrowed his eyes on Tanner. “Get out of my face, man.”
“Get the fuck out of here and I will.”
“No. I came to see Joey.”
“And I'm telling you that he don't want nothin to do with you. So get the fuck out of here before I call the cops.”
“You wouldn't,” Dillon said.
“You wanna bet? Try me.”
Suddenly, Dillon raised his fist in the air and swung at Tanner. He'd caught himself on the railing, but the force of the hit made him slip on the slick porch and fall on his ass. He held his jaw, staring up at Dillon.
“What the fuck, man?”
Dillon moved past him, grabbed me by the arm, and forced me in the house. I was catapulted into the living room before he turned and locked the deadbolt, keeping Tanner out.
Tanner beat on the door. “What the hell, man? Let me the fuck in.”
“What are you doing?” I hollered over the racket.
Dillon turned, brows furrowed in anger. “You never check your phone, do you?”
“Check your god damned phone!”
I fiddled in my coat pocket and retrieved my phone. My hand shook causing me to almost drop the phone as I flipped it open. Two new messages.
I understand. U left so suddenly, I wanted to make sure you're okay. I'm coming back 2 K.C. Tonight to c my grandma and would like 2cu again, if that's okay.
I just got on plane. Let me know if I can come over after my visit with my gram. Okay?
“Now I know why you never messaged me back,” Dillon said, a hint of anger still left in his voice.
“But I never gave you my ad--”
Tanner's pounding interrupted me. The racket caught the attention of a few neighbors and I heard their voices from outside the door.
“Screw this. I'm calling the damn cops!” Tanner hollered and stomped off down the stairs.
“I got it from Melissa. I knew you wouldn't want that letter sent here so I had it sent to her house instead.” Dillon turned and moved for the door. He gripped the door knob. “Just tell me right now that you never want to see me again, Joey, and I'll leave.”
A dead silence filled the room. Guilt washed over me, my eyes teared up, and my entire body shivered in the cold.
“I can't,” I whispered.
“Why? Because you're boyfriend--”
“This has nothing to do with Tanner. It's because...” the words lost their way and I fell silent.
“You know, you're really confusing the hell out of me right now.”
“I know.” I stepped forward, reaching out for his hand. “I don't know what the hell I want. I mean, one day I can't stop thinking about Tanner and the next, I can't stop thinking about you.”
What a confession. My mind reeled in those words, remembering just how broken I felt after Tanner left, and now, just how confused I was when I saw Dillon. I wanted him so much, he'd taken my pain away that one single New Years Eve, but I really never thought I'd see him again.
Dillon turned at my confession, eyes like two soft, brown orbs just like I remembered them from that night. His face softened. “Really?”
I nodded, tears soaking down my cheeks. I couldn't recall a time that I'd felt any more frustrated. Tanner and I had started dating after I graduated from high school. He heard every confession, every secret of mine. He was the only one I'd ever loved, that is, until he was gone and Dillon came into the picture.
Dillon wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me close. I buried my head into his chest, the scratchy brown sweater he wore pricked at my skin. He ran his palm across the top of my head, soothing me. “I can't stop thinking of you either.”
I lifted my head, wiping the tears away from my eyes. “This is fucked up,” I said with a chuckle. “I usually don't cry.”
He cupped the back of my neck, bringing me close to him again. “It's okay to cry, you know.”
His heart beat deep in his chest, low and steady. That intoxicating cologne of his made me weak in the knees. I craved him tonight, like I needed him before, but not as a temporary fix to my broken heart. I wanted to stay with him.
“Joey.” A warm finger traced down my cheek and thumbed my chin. He leaned into me, lips close and my heart thumped up into my chest when his lips embraced mine. I snaked my arms around him, pressing into him, needing his kiss more than ever.
A pounding knock on the door broke us from our embrace.
“This is the Kansas City police, open the door.”
“Shit!” Dillon spouted and pulled away.
That son-of-a-bitch, he did call the cops.
I hurried to the door and cracked it open. “Yes, sir?”
The officer stood tall and lean in his black suit, badges and pins sparkling in the light above my door.
“We've had a report of an assault at this address. Mind if you step out for a minute?”
Dillon hovered over me, reached above my head, and opened the door wide.
Standing behind the officer was Tanner, with a sly smile on his lips. He pointed at Dillon. “That's him right there.”
The officer motioned for Dillon to step outside, and he obliged, seemingly knowing the drill first hand. He'd put his hands above his head, stepped out onto the slick porch, and leaned against the railing for the police officer to pat him down.
“I'll have to place you under arrest for third degree assault,” the police officer said as he slipped the cuffs around Dillon's wrists.
“Tanner, don't do this,” I begged. “If you hadn't been--”
Tanner caught the distress in my eye and narrowed his brow. “Joey, don't tell me you have something going on with this guy.”
“I...” my breath hitched.
“Go ahead, tell him everything,” Dillon said, being guided across the porch. “Tell him about New Years, Joey.”
“I...” I couldn't get out the words. Everything happened so fast that I hardly had time to react.
“New Years?” Tanner's eyes sparked in curiosity. “What the hell happened on New Years?”
Dillon was lead down the stairs, the officer had him at the police car, and was probably reading him his rights by now. I stood stock-still, faced with Tanner's inquiring mind, and my own frustration. I couldn't take it anymore.
“Just get the fuck out of here,” I yelled at him and dashed into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind me.
“Joey? Shit!” Tanner spouted and walked off.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I leaned my back against the door. Dillon was gone. Tanner was gone. It was too lonely here. My heart hurt worse than before. I slumped down to my ass, face buried in the palms of my hands. What was I going to do now?
There was one thing I remembered feeling when I was with Tanner. When he told me that man he left me for was in jail. I'd wait for someone I love. I'd wait until the day he was back in my arms. I'd hold him tight, kiss him gently, and never let him go.
A fresh dusting of snow across the ground sparkled in the bright morning sunlight. I sat in my car outside the nearest police station. There was a glimmer of hope that maybe he would get released at nine, if he didn't have any warrants or anything.
It had occurred to me that I didn't know a damn thing about the man. I had my chance to find out on New Years when he wanted to talk, but I really didn't want to hear about it then. Now, I was kicking myself for laughing at him.
Frustrated, I leaned my head into the steering wheel with a light thunk. The time on the dashboard clock read 9:05. Shit. He's not getting out, is he?
I'm so stupid. I should have called.
Just as my fingers grasped the keys to turn on the car, Dillon's silhouette moved out from the entrance. He weaved through the piles of snow across the walkway and as soon as he spotted the car, his brows furrowed, a gloomy look on his lips.
“What are you doing here?” he scowled as I opened the passenger's side window.
“I'm picking you up. Get in.” I moved this morning's paper from the seat and he hopped inside.
He was paled with creases around his eyes like a raccoon. He fidgeted a moment, settling in as I started the engine and pulled out of the drive.
I hated the silence that followed. There had to be something I could say to help the mood.
“Didn't get any sleep?”
That wasn't the best thing to say.
He turned, dark, beady eyes focused in on me. “Not really. Kinda hard to sleep in an overcrowded holding cell.”
I nodded and turned my attention back on the road.
“Just take me back to your house. I'll leave,” he sighed.
“Because I still need to see my gram, that's why I came here ya know.”
“So you didn't come to see me?” The swelling in my throat at his comment warned that all this drama was getting to me.
Dillon ran his fingers through his hair, combing back a stray stand. “Well, I did. Just didn't think that would happen.”
“I wasn't expecting it either--”
“I know. But now I have to come back for fuckin' court in a week.”
“What are you going to do until then?”
He shrugged. “Go back to L.A. Get my shit together.”
A red light. I reached out for him and folded his hands in mine. “Don't go, Dillon.”
His eyes caught mine. His features softened. “What am I going to do here?” his voice hitched when he saw the look in my eyes and he turned away. “I don't know, Joey. All this shit... it's just too much for me. What about Tanner? You two decided to get back together--”
“We didn't,” I said. “I thought I wanted to get back with him, but he's nothing but a fucking jerk.”
“You gotta tell him then. Don't be playing this game with me, Joey.”
I nodded, pulling away from him to drive.
The silence invaded between us again, and I hoped that Dillon would agree to stay. I'd wanted to talk to him, the way he wanted to that night. I wanted to find out everything about the man. This would be a great chance, if he agreed to it.
“If you want me to stay, I will,” he whispered. “I didn't exactly pack enough for another week but it would be easier to get to court that way.”
A lump formed in my throat. “Really?” I squeaked. “I mean, we can get you some more clothes if--”
“As long as you tell Tanner you're done. You are, right?”
“God, yes.” I nodded.
Of course I was done with him. He was a fucking jerk this whole time. There was no way in hell I was going to deal with more of that from him.
“Good.” Dillon lowered his head, closing his sleepy eyes for a moment as I parked the car next to his rental.
The man, my former bully, slouched with hands crossed over his chest. His brown hair needed combing, and the perfectly bronzed color in his face seemingly gone from a night of restlessness in the jail. He looked cold, wearing only his scratchy brown sweater and designer jeans with little rips across the thighs.
I scooted close to him and cupped his face in the palm of my hand. His soft brown eyes peered at me. A bright smile spread on his lips seconds before I kissed them.
I felt warm and alive in my former bully's caress. No. He wasn't a bully. He was Dillon. The man who once tormented me had now stolen my pain and loved me. The gentle way he kissed me told me so.