Reckless Love Page 5

God, what the hell was I trying to say?

He grabbed my hand again. “MacKenzie, don’t worry about it. Don’t even think about it. If it makes you feel better, when we’re out, I’m not your boss. Anything that happens out here will not affect the way I treat you at the gym.”

I nodded. It sounded like it could work. “Okay, sure,” I said. “So, like, say I pushed you into the river right now, would I still have a job tomorrow?”

He chuckled at the ridiculousness of my being able to push him anywhere. “Of course. Your boss wouldn’t hold that against you. And if you went out with me for a drink tonight, he would still expect you to show up tomorrow morning at nine a.m. sharp.”

“Sorry, not tonight, but maybe another time?” I smiled.

“Another night, then.”

We came back to his car and the alarm chirped. I wasn’t the chivalry police, but I still couldn’t help but notice that he was in the car before I had even opened the passenger door. I tried not to let it bug me.

As Chris drove, I pulled at the hem of my dress. The bucket seats of his Mustang kept tugging the skirt up, insistent on giving him a show. The A-line black dress that came down just past my knees was cute, but modest, or so I’d thought.

He had club music playing so loudly it shook the car, but turned it down when he pulled up in front of my building.

“So, MacKenzie, are you sure you don’t want to get a drink?”

I didn’t, but I had psyched myself up to let him kiss me good night, so he’d better hurry up and do it before I ran. “Sorry. Not tonight.”

“All right,” he said. “I had a great time.”

“Me too. Thanks for dinner.”

He leaned in close. I meant to let him kiss me, I really did, but I turned my face at the last second and he planted a wet, slow peck on my cheek.

Ugh. What am I, in sixth grade?

“Thanks.” I ran from the car and let myself into the building without looking back.

Four

MacKenzie

My apartment wasn’t in the safest part of town, but I’d lived in worse when I was in foster care, so I didn’t think about it too much. The paint-chipped stairwells with loose railings and creaky steps were in a secure building, which meant that I only had to deal with the few losers who lived inside the building itself—a small trade-off to be able to live in an apartment larger than a closet. After student loan payments, a closet was about all I’d be able to afford in a nicer part of town.

Still, I sometimes got creeped out at night when I walked through the dimly lit halls alone. Tonight was one of those times. I rushed up the stairs to my door and scrambled to get the key into the lock.

“Hey, MacKenzie.”

I jumped but instantly recognized the raspy voice of Soni, the older lady who lived one door down.

“Hey, Soni,” I said.

“Early night again?” she asked through the small crack in her door.

“Yeah,” I said. “’Night.”

Inside my apartment, I kicked off my heels and flopped down on the couch. Soni’s words rang in my ears. Early night again?

What the hell did it say about me when an old woman thought I was having an early night? But she was right; I used to go out every night and stay out late. If it wasn’t an all-nighter at the hospital, it was an all-nighter at the club. Lately I’d been feeling like I wanted more. As if maybe I could find someone more permanent in my life.

Could Chris be that person? Not if I didn’t figure out how to pull it together.

And I really needed to pull it together.

Except that I couldn’t. I’d always been a bit of a wild girl, never been able to grasp the whole get-married-and-have-a-baby thing.

I blamed it on my upbringing. I’d lived in no fewer than twenty different foster homes as a kid. None of them were as crazy as the ones you read about in books. I knew I was lucky; I’d never been sexually abused, and was only hit once by a foster dad, from whose care I was promptly removed. But none of the families I stayed with ever connected with me emotionally or had time for me, so I got used to being alone.

When I started dating, I never figured out how to stay with one guy for long. A quick night or two of fun, then run before they had a chance to hurt me. That was my MO. But something about that night with Ian—I wasn’t sure exactly what, but something changed.

The night was supposed to be about Alexa and Cade. Alexa had dubbed it their coming-out party. I’d known they were going to end up together from the start. Or I was pretty sure anyway.

For me, the night was less about them and more about Cade’s hot cage-fighter friend, Ian. Alexa was sure I’d seen him before, but I knew I’d remember meeting someone that delish. By the way I caught him looking at me, I’d known the night had the potential to be one neither of us would forget.

And it was. I still remembered it like it was yesterday, though the memory was tinged with a mixture of sadness and longing.

I fell asleep thinking about it…

• • •

Ian had crowded in next to me in the booth. The club had been loud, so we’d sat close in order to hear each other over the music.

“So, are you a porn star too?” I had asked. Cade had only ever done two movies, but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Ian choked on his drink, roughly swallowing the gulp. “Um, no.”

“Don’t have the balls for it, huh?” I teased, fighting off a smile.

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