Chapter Twelve

Posted: November 17, 2013 in Chapters, Love in the ZA
Tags: , ,

     It was dark by the time they reached Jessie’s apartment.

     Maddie threw her door open as soon as they stopped moving, anxious to get to her sister and get this trip over with. She hoped fervently that traffic outside of the city wouldn’t be as bad as it had been inside; they’d gotten caught up behind four accidents, the last one a pile-up so large she couldn’t even fathom how it happened. She was exhausted, she was starving, and her wrist hurt.

     Plus, she really, really had to pee.

     Leaping from the car, she took a few steps before she realized she had two more immediate problems: her ass was so sore she could barely hobble, and both of her legs were completely and utterly asleep.

     “AAHH!” Pin wheeling her arms, she tried to reach out to the car for balance, but had gone one step too far for that to work. Her body completed the lean anyway, and she was alarmed to note that she was going down.

     “For Christ’s sake.” Vinnie swept his arms around her, catching her up and spinning her away from the side of the car.

     Maddie ground her teeth, not wanting him to touch her but unable to move away. Everything below both knees was on fire, the pins-and-needles pain so intense she wanted to scream. She settled for digging her nails into Vinnie’s biceps as she leaned against him.

     “Stomp your feet,” he told her.


     “Stomp your feet, like you’re putting out a fire. It’ll help.”

     Feeling ridiculous, Maddie stomped, putting more of her weight against his chest to keep her balance. The first sharp rap of her foot sent a spike of agony all the way up her leg, so intense she thought she’d collapse again. The second, though, was better, and after a few more she was able to wiggle her toes without wanting to cry.

     “Told you,” Vinnie said, his mouth right by her ear. The warmth of his breath sent tingles across her scalp. She was suddenly conscious of the size of the muscles she was still gripping. Army, he’d said. Well. He certainly was…fit.

     “You were right,” she said, stepping back slightly so she could look up at him. His arm remained around her waist, keeping her from moving too far away.

     The corner of his mouth quirked up, the beginning of a smirk. “I usually am.”

     She caught his tone immediately, and just as quickly remembered that, muscles or not, he was a loon. Bristling, she pulled away; he released her easily, to her relief.

     “You should wait here,” she told him. “I’ll run up and get Jess.”

     He shook his head. “I promised your mom I’d take care of this.” He held up a hand when she started to protest. “I know what you think. And I know, if you go up there, you won’t come back out.”

     She sighed. “We can just wait, for the trains to go again. You don’t need to drive us.”

     “Yes, I do.” He put his hands in his pockets, a casual gesture at odds with the tension coming off him in waves. “I made a promise. And besides, you owe me. For this morning. Crazy or not, I saved your ass.”

     “Because you thought he was a zombie.”

     “Does it matter? You saw what he did. How he was. He would have hurt you. Probably worse.”

     Maddie knew that was true. Whatever had been wrong with Webber, he hadn’t torn down her door to borrow some sugar.

     Sighing again, she gave in. “Fine. Come up with me. But no conspiracy theories around Jessie,” she warned. “She’s…easily led. You leave her alone.”


     She waited while he gave instructions for Caleb to wait in the car and not touch his radio; as they walked toward the building she glanced back at the kid, huddled in the backseat.

     “You’re just gonna leave him with the keys and your car?” she asked. “He’s a stranger, remember?”

     He gave her a tight smile. “He won’t go anywhere. He believes me.”

     She grabbed his arm, stopping him.

     “I know I seem like a bitch,” she said. “But I’m not. I didn’t thank you, and I’m sorry for that. So thank you. For saving me.” She bit her lip, unsure how to continue. “Everything is so messed up. Everything. And I can’t- I can’t deal with your stuff. So I’m grateful. But you scare the shit out of me.”

     He looked at her for a long while, dark eyes scanning her face.

     “I’m sorry,” he finally said. “I shouldn’t have told you. I’m sorry I scared you.” He reached for her hand and she let him take it, surprised at herself. “Let’s just worry about getting you home, okay? We’ll talk about the rest later.”

     She considered, then nodded. “Later. Okay.”

     He was opening the door to the building when she stopped him again.

     “Shit. What time is it?”

     He glanced at his watch. “After 8. Why? Is she at work?”

     Maddie laughed. “You could say that.”

     “Why don’t you call her?”

     “She never pays her bill.” She tugged on his hand, heading back toward the car. “I know where she is. There’s a bar, down the street. Ray’s, or Roy’s, something like that.”

     “It’s a Monday night!” Vinnie said, sounding appalled.

     “You met my sister, didn’t you?”

     “I brought her back, after the wedding.”

     “And you’re surprised she’s at a bar at 8 on a Monday?”

     Vinnie nodded. “Good point. How far is this place?”

     “It should be right down the block. Jessie doesn’t drive when she’s drinking; she’s lucky if she can walk.”

     Vinnie nodded again and went to the car, motioning for Caleb to roll down the window. “She thinks we need to go down the street. We’ll be right back.”

     “Should I go with you?” Caleb asked. He seemed loathe to get out, Maddie thought; just having the window open was clearly making him nervous.

     “They won’t let you in, it’s a bar,” Vinnie told him. “Just wait here. We won’t be long.”

     “Okay. Just, uh, be careful.”

     Maddie gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. She still wasn’t thrilled with him, after the day they’d had together, but she felt bad that he was so irrationally frightened. Just a kid, she reminded herself. Everything is messed up for him too.

     “We’ll be fine.” Vinnie reached through the window and clapped him on the shoulder. “Roll it up, keep it locked. We’ll be back.”

     As they headed off down the street, Maddie hoped he was right, that they would be right back. She prayed that Jessie was still genially drunk, and hadn’t entered the horny or angry stages yet. Either one would be a pain in the ass to deal with.

     “So, what did you think?” she asked Vinnie.

     “What’s that?”

     “Of my sister,” she clarified. “At the wedding? I heard you were her date.”

     “Oh. Well, we didn’t talk much. She passed out in the car and slept most of the drive.” He glanced at her quickly, smirking again. “She looked nice, though.”

     Maddie snorted. “I was so worried about that dress. It didn’t matter, in the end.” She frowned. “Chrissy…”

     “I’m sorry,” Vinnie said quietly.

     She shook her head, angry at herself. “I keep forgetting. With everything else, I keep forgetting that she’s-” She stopped, not wanting to say it.

     “It happens,” Vinnie said. “You can’t process too much; your mind doesn’t let you. Prevents overload.”

     She looked at him, intrigued by his tone. “You learn that in your job? My mom said you were overseas.”

     He didn’t answer; instead, he pointed to a sign further down the street. “I think that says Roy’s,” he said. “Bit more than a block.”

     “That’s probably it then.” She drew a little away, put off by his colder tone. No war talk. Noted.

     He did, however, hold the door when they reached the bar, and gave her a small smile when she entered ahead of him. A smile that faded when they were fully inside, surveying their surroundings.

     Maddie had expected Roy’s to be a dark little place, a watering hole for local drunks like her sister. It was indeed dark, and surprisingly small, but she was pretty sure not everyone crammed into the place was a local. Loud music pulsed out of the speakers; a thick haze hung over the crowded dance floor. Maddie hadn’t smelled cigarettes in a long time. She held her breath, hoping like hell she didn’t start to cough from the smoke; she feared Vinnie would clock her and run.

     “Where’s your sister?” Vinnie shouted, his voice barely registering over the din.

     Maddie scanned the crowd, not seeing Jessie. She was about to muscle her way to the bathroom when the dancers parted, and she got a good look at the back of the room. She groaned.

     “Do you see her?” Vinnie grabbed her arm, pulling her close; his lips touched her ear, setting off tingles again. “Are you sure she’s here?”

     She nodded, miserable, and pointed. He followed her gaze, and as the crowd parted again, they both gaped. A woman stood astride the bar, teetering slightly in sky-high heeled boots. A heavily tattooed guy supported her, pouring liquor down her throat. Her skirt was hitched up, revealing pale skin above the tops of her stockings. Her shirt was off.

     “That,” Maddie shouted, “Is not good.”

     So much for the genial stage.

  1. mxcoot says:

    Pretty good chapter, sex is coming!

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