"SO, I NOTICED YOU have a lot of photos around here and I'm not talking about the people," Danny commented. She and Nicole sat in the kitchen, eating tuna sandwiches on toasted bread with lettuce, tomato, and fries for lunch. No complaints came from her guest, which Nicole cherished.
"Oh, they're photos by my cousin. She specializes in taking pictures of landscapes and wildlife. I think she captures them really well. So, every now and then, she sends me a picture that she assumes I'd like," Nicole explained before taking a small bite of her sandwich. A smile worked its way onto her face as she thought about her cousin and her photos.
"You obviously like them. She has a good eye. Don't know much about photography, but I've spoken to some folks that do and from what I've learned, she looks like she knows what she's doing. She do it for a living?" Danny craned an eyebrow slightly before taking a bite out of her sandwich.
"Yes, she's a professional photographer."
"Does she send them for free?"
Nicole blinked, believing that was a peculiar question before remembering Danny's family. "Yes, she sends them to me for free. We're pretty close. She knows I love her work."
"I can see why. She uses interesting angles on her photos."
Nicole nodded and smiled. "That's one of the things I like best about her work. Tyler never understood it. He used to always ask me why the hell I had photos of a rose bush from a gopher's perspective."
"Well, this is one thing he has an excuse on. He comes from a very art challenged family. Well, more like a mentally challenged family," Danny said with an amused smile.
"Well, you sound like you know a thing or two about art. I can't speak on your mental health yet," Nicole replied.
"Look who's talking. You're the one taking in stray dogs," Danny countered. "As far as art goes, I respect all types, even if I don't understand them. To me, photography isn't that hard to get. Your cousin's work is nice. I feel like just by looking at the photos I can understand her love for nature. It seems like she's trying to give you the animal's views of the world around them, which I think she does a good job of."
The vagabond Wolfe having such a profound view on her cousin's work dumbfounded Nicole. Often, Tyler dismissed her cousin's work as simple pictures and didn't even recognize photography as a true vocation. Occasionally, it seemed that he regarded her with contempt for enjoying the work. She had lost count of the number of times he berated her for wasting time going through 'inane pictures.' To him, there was no real future in photography, because he didn't think there was much money or status in it. She disagreed with him, but didn't bother arguing after a while.
Seconds ticked by before Nicole found her voice again. "You're rather perceptive. Tyler's seen dozens of the photos, but he couldn't understand any of them. Hell, he didn't even try to understand them."
Danny chuckled, shaking her head. "I ain't that little dipshit. There's plenty he doesn't understand. He probably figures they're just pointless and he shouldn't waste his time bothering to figuring them out. Can't enjoy simple pleasures in life because of that."
Nicole nodded. "Amen to that." Her eyes drifted down to her plate, settling on her half eaten lunch. "You know, I could never sit here like this with him, eating a tuna sandwich with fries. He doesn't even like going to places that sell fries. It didn't aggravate me much. But, I'm just not like that. I can enjoy something this simple. I never noticed that he couldn't. It's like he thinks the more expensive the food, the better it tastes."
"He might think that, but he's a fucking idiot to not appreciate good food like this. Even the breakfast you made was good and I ate it cold." An inkling of a scowl appeared on Danny's face.
A modest blush heated Nicole's cheeks; she wasn't used to hearing compliments on her cooking. "It's no big deal. I'm starting to see that he doesn't appreciate much. I feel like a fool for dating him, especially since I excused a lot of his behavior."
Danny waved her words off and took a sip of juice before speaking. "I'm sure he wasn't behaving like a complete ass when you met him, even though I can't see him acting as anything other than the dipshit he is. But, you said he was romantic and stuff. You probably just couldn't see through the act at first."
Nicole sighed, glancing away. "I fell right for it. He was witty and charming at first and such a gentleman. We had some fun in the beginning. It seemed like he truly believed I was special at first, but now I know that was all a fallacy. I called him on it and we had this huge fight before I threw him out. But, he's out of my life for the most part, so it's time to move on and enjoy my newfound freedom."
"I figured you ended things with Dipshit. I didn't hear anything since I sleep with my headphones on and I was pretty much dead to the world. Bet that burned him up, though. He found out he wasn't God's gift to women." An amused half smile graced Danny's features.
Nicole snorted. "Far from it. I discovered that not only did we have very little in common, but he also wasn't the man that he presented himself to be." Shaking her head again, Nicole glanced away.
Danny ran her hands through her dark locks. "Hey, don't worry about it. You cut him loose and you get to move on. Plus, you know the signs to look out for in the next asshole that comes along."
"The thing is, this isn't the first time I've fallen for a person that proves to be an asshole later on. My entire dating history involves people who seem satisfactory and then turn out to be insufferable. I just can't get my personal life together. I'd sworn off dating because of it for a whole year before I gave Tyler a chance and all he did was reaffirm that I attract loathsome people. It seems as if I'm attracted to assholes, which is quite disturbing."
Danny scratched the end of her nose. "You know what? Don't even bother to think about it. Relax today and be happy that you got rid of Dipshit."
Nicole nodded. "Good plan. Hmm…would you mind watching a movie with me? It's been a while since I've seen a movie that I actually wanted to see and I wouldn't mind your company." Really, she wouldn't mind anyone's company. She couldn't be alone, mostly because she'd dwell on the fact that her relationship with Tyler failed. Relief flooded through her, of course, but a part of her doubted her actions. Things had ended so abruptly. Maybe she acted too hastily. Those thoughts would get worse if she were solitary.
Danny agreed, but insisted on doing the dishes first. While Nicole grabbed some snacks for the movie, Danny attended to the dishes. After washing one plate, she paused and flexed her left hand. The action repeated after she washed the other plate. Nicole dismissed it.
"Do you like ginger snaps or chocolate chip cookies?" Nicole asked, scanning her cabinets for either box.
"Doesn't matter to me. Grab the ones you like. I'm almost done over here." Dane glanced over at Nicole as she reached into one of the top cabinets. She almost whistled.
Suddenly, a bizarre emotion raced through Dane. Guilt. A twinge of shame raced through her for eyeing a woman who was being so considerate to her. Her reaction to her beautiful hostess somewhat astounded Dane. Up until now, she thought all of her emotions and senses were deceased and buried.
Nicole whooped in victory, locating the cookies she sought. Dane and Nicole retreated into the immense living room. Painted a soothing powder blue, it implored its inhabitants to relax. A healthy potted plant sat close to the entrance where sunlight would reach it. A framed poster-sized black and white photo of cranes in a marsh hung on the back wall over the couch. Dane flopped down onto the large, black leather couch, taking in the other framed pictures around the room, especially the ones on the obsidian coffee table in front of her. Family members, probably.
A couple of candid pictures of Tyler lay on it. Dane could almost understand what Nicole saw in him. In one shot of him reading a book, he appeared calm and at peace. Nicole smiled when she saw that picture. "He wasn't aware that I took the picture until I framed it and put on my nightstand," Nicole said, the side of her mouth twitching as if she were about to smile. But, then her eyes changed and glistened. "He disliked it a great deal. He thought he looked languid and exposed, which is actually what I like about it. I really wish that he exposed more of that side of himself. It's so cute."
Dane didn't disagree verbally, but mentally she called bullshit. It sounded like Tyler had laid it on thick of Nicole. She felt sorry for Nicole. Too trusting. Trust no one.
"I don't get why he didn't show me more of that side of him. I mean, we were supposed to be close. He claimed to care so much about me, but he didn't want to let me in." Sighing, Nicole shook her head. The way her auburn hair swayed caught Dane's eye for a moment.
"I don't think there's anything to be let in. I'm pretty sure he's two-dimensional. Like, a flat door or something," Dane said, her lip barely moving into a smile.
"There has to be something there. You can't fake that type of vulnerability in a candid photo and then suddenly lose it in the course of a few months."
Having seen her cousin in action a couple of times, Dane knew he could put on a suave act to swiftly gain favor with ladies. She could see why he'd want to be with Nicole. She had a figure that made Dane gawk more than once. A couple of times when Nicole bent over to grab something that morning, grey eyes clocked her shapely rear as if it would run away. Nicole's attractiveness probably only comprised half of what Tyler liked in a woman. If the house spoke of anything, Nicole seemed wealthy, which undoubtedly drew Tyler to her like blood in water drew in a shark.
Nicole rummaged through a large rack of DVDs by her television. On a glass stand underneath the TV was a DVD player, cable box, and a couple of remotes. There was a plethora of gaps between DVDs, showing where Tyler's discs once rested. A smile brightened Nicole's face as she grabbed a movie.
"I haven't seen this one in a long time. It's one of my favorites. Do you mind?" Nicole asked her guest, showing the movie case.
The sparkle in Nicole's eyes struck Dane in places she didn't think existed. The look bordered on childish glee and innocence. It was rather adorable. She couldn't recall the last time, if ever, that she thought an adult appeared so endearing. In the past, she never noticed cute things. She noticed sexy things, like women with bewitching expressions silently begging her to take them to the highest high she could until she had her fill just because they wanted to be near her. User and used at the same time, not that she ever minded. Despite that, an amiable smile sneaked onto her face.
"I'd love to watch that with you," Dane answered honestly. If it kept that spark in Nicole's enchanting eyes, she'd watch anything. The expression made her feel a little warm. She had never felt that at all until now.
Nicole grinned and popped the movie into the DVD player. It wasn't some cheesy chick flick. It was a romantic comedy, but the comedy outweighed the romance. By the end of it, they were both laughing hard and sharing cookies; Nicole ate twice as many as Dane. Continuing their merriment, Nicole put on another movie right after.
"Is it all right to watch another?" Nicole's eyes glimmered in what looked like a plea.
Dane shrugged. "Sounds good."
Nicole smiled. She never got a chance to watch these films with Tyler. Whenever he suggested they curl on the sofa together to bond over a film, he'd put on a crime drama or a suspense thriller. Nicole didn't mind those in small doses, but she didn't want to see them every time they turned on the television.
Most of the time, when she watched a movie with Tyler, she focused on cuddling into him. He often returned the embrace and seemed to enjoy their closeness. It was one of the few constants in their relationship. Unfortunately, Tyler often thought of cuddling as a prelude to sex, so he'd ruin the moment by trying to undress her after they snuggled for some time. Still, being hugged up on the couch would be one of the few pleasant memories she kept from their relationship.
By dinnertime, the pair quoted the movies they viewed and cracked each other up with little jokes. Smiles flowed easily from Nicole, feeling comfortable thanks to the mutual appreciation they had of the films. Danny's expressions were subtler. Her eyes weren't as dull as they had been that morning, as if laughter had turned on a low wattage light bulb in the smoky orbs.
"You don't have to hang out here in the kitchen while I make dinner," Nicole informed her guest, scanning the refrigerator and pulling out items for their meal.
"I planned on helping, actually," Danny replied.
Nicole made a choking noise. "You want to help me cook?"
"Obviously. Look, I could've sworn we established I'm not my cousin. I know Dipshit never helped out in the kitchen, but I'd like to do something beyond sitting on my ass all day."
"Okay. No problem. I've actually never cooked with someone before, so…" Nicole trailed off, unsure where to go with her statement. She was uncertain as to how she felt about someone helping her cook.
"It's cool, Nick. I won't take over the kitchen or anything. I'll stay out of your way. Just give me something simple to make."
Nicole nodded and started Danny out with making a salad while she prepared chicken cutlets. Danny also worked on rice as Nicole fixed up some broccoli. They finished in no time. Nicole found team cooking to be magnificent.
"Danny, I need to get some work done when we're done with dinner. I don't want to be rude, but will you be all right on your own?" Nicole inquired.
"Sure, Nick. Thanks for worrying, but I'm a grown woman. I can figure out how to spend an evening without a babysitter," Danny replied with a teasing smirk.
"Are you sure? I really feel like I should give you a curfew, pup." Nicole smiled.
Danny rolled her eyes. "If so, you should get one, too. But, would it be okay if I did some laundry?"
"Sure, no problem. The machine's in the basement. I'll show you when we finish eating."
Dinner conversation revolved around the movies that they watched, foods that they liked, and other light topics. Nicole attempted to dig in order to learn more about the affable soul staying in her home for the day.
"So, do you cook often?" Nicole mixed her rice and vegetables before eating a forkful.
"Almost never, actually. Wasn't too sure I could do it when I volunteered to help you. Nice to see I'm not totally useless." A self-deprecating look crossed Danny's face. Her eyebrows curled up just a little.
"You've been a great help to me." Only then did Nicole realize the truth of her the statement, beyond packing Tyler's things. Danny had afforded her the best day off that she had experienced in months. Being around Danny kept her from feeling overwhelmed and despondent over yet another unsuccessful relationship. "Thank you for everything," she added in a soft tone.
Danny ran her hand through her hair and scrunched up her face. She regarded her hostess as if she were some kind of alien life form. Nicole got the idea that Dane wasn't thanked very often.
"Danny, all you have to do is say you're welcome," Nicole supplied with a smile.
"Didn't do anything, so I don't see why you're thanking me."
"Still, just say you're welcome," Nicole coached the younger woman.
A light blush colored Danny's cheeks. "You're welcome," she muttered.
The sudden urge to declare Danny adorable shot through Nicole and she had to bite her bottom lip to prevent her from doing so. She also resisted the impulse to grab her guest into a hug. The effect didn't fade when the blush did.
After dinner, Nicole showed Danny the washing machine and dryer in the basement. Because of the state of the art appliances, Danny needed a minor tutorial on how to use them. Danny ran her hand through her hair.
"Never have I ever felt so stupid about laundry," the younger woman said.
Nicole chuckled. "Don't feel bad. I had to read the manual a few times when I first tried to use them." Nicole explained everything and was set to leave, but Danny held her back.
"Do you want me to wash any of your clothes since I'm down here?" Danny offered. "It's a fair trade, right?"
Nicole blinked, still flabbergasted by a Wolfe offering to help. "Uh…no, that's all right. I did my laundry a couple of days ago."
Nicole worked in the living room, going through documents spread out on her obsidian coffee table. The humming of the washing machine flowed through the house. Nicole almost forgot someone else was in the house until Danny entered the living room. She didn't say anything, sitting down. The action stunned Nicole. Tyler used to beg to be acknowledged when he entered the room, whether she was working or not. He'd say whatever came to mind or sit close enough to her for it to border on uncomfortable, forcing her to say something.
At first his need for attention seemed cute. It reminded her of a small child and she enjoyed giving into him. The appeal quickly wore off. She used to ignore him, but more often than not, she'd give in and just promise herself to try to break him of the habit later on.
"Are you done with your laundry?" Nicole asked.
"Yeah, it wasn't that much stuff. Thanks for letting me do it. You mind if I take a shower? Got all sweaty, you know."
Nicole nodded. Moving those boxes had worked up a sweat, but she didn't think it warranted a shower yet. Danny might just want to luxuriate in hot water. "Oh, no, feel free. You know where everything is. Should I show you to one of the guestrooms beforehand?"
Danny shook her head. "If it's okay with you, I'll just stay in the den again. I don't mind sleeping on the floor."
"Well, I mind you sleeping on the floor."
"It's okay, really. You don't need to go through a bunch of trouble for me."
Nicole nodded, as if she understood, but she really didn't. When Dane disappeared upstairs to take a shower, Nicole went to get pillows and a sleeping bag for the younger woman to use if she insisted on staying in the den. Dane made it hard for her to be a good hostess, but an amused smile still played across her lips.
Dane wasn't surprised to see bedding things waited for her in the den. She decided to make use of them. Before going to sleep, she went to thank her hostess and bid her goodnight. The sight of Nicole curled up on the sofa, documents in front of her, a mug in her hand, and an intense look in her eyes caused Dane to pause. The waves of auburn hair falling halfway over her face took Danny's breath away. Shaking her head, she managed to pull her thoughts away from the exhibition and remembered why she ventured into the living room in the first place.
"Hey, Nick, I just wanted to say thanks for everything."
Nicole glanced up. Her auburn mane partially covered her face and Dane had to quietly exhale.
A small smile adorned Nicole's face. "No problem, Danny."
Dane nodded. "Well, I'm going to bed."
"All right. Goodnight," Nicole replied with a small smile and a wave.
Danny nodded again, her gaze lingering on Nicole for a moment longer, taking in the image of her. She fought against categorizing the sight as sexy, leaving before the thought settled in her mind and took up residence as Nicole went back to work.
Sunlight shone into the bedroom and woke Nicole before her alarm clock. She found herself looking forward to the day. She could go downstairs and didn't have to hear Tyler pestering her for breakfast or to make him that gourmet coffee she detested. She hoped Danny was awake. It would be nice to share some light conversation before going off to the office. The deep silence that greeted her as she descended the stairs led her to believe that her guest still slept. She decided not to disturb Danny, figuring the younger woman could use the rest.
Once breakfast was made, Nicole marched to the den, knocking on the sidewall because there was no door. Deathly quiet greeted her. Nicole poked her head inside, discovering it was empty. The sleeping bag lay folded on the short couch and the pillow topped the bedding.
"She left? Already? But, she didn't even give me a chance to pay back her kindness," Nicole muttered, shaking her head. Her shoulders slumped. She hadn't realized how much she wanted a repeat of yesterday's laughter.
Attempting to shake off unanticipated distress, she ate breakfast. The silence she would have welcomed just two days ago felt crushing. She ate quickly and hurried out of the house, trying to flee the bizarre emotion. Getting to work, she rushed to her office to avoid Tyler. She dived into her work with her usual zeal. The only interruption came at lunch when her best friend showed up at her door to drag her out of the firm. She suspected the forced lunch date had to do with Tyler. She attempted to wiggle out of it, but Mina James wasn't the type to abandon her to her desk.
"Mina, I have all of this work to do…" Nicole protested. She made a show of going through a pile of folders on her desk, most of which had nothing to do with what she was working on.
Mina stood in the doorway and rolled her deep chocolate brown eyes. A striking woman of Nicole's height, her mocha skin gleamed and her flowing ebony hair was pulled back because of her flat twists. Her arms folded across her chest. She stared down at her friend. Nicole made sure to keep her eyes on her work. Mina's full lips settled in a scowl.
"Sweetie, when the hell don't you have a ton of work to do? That doesn't mean you're not coming out for lunch. Now, get up and let's go. You know if we have this fight, you're just going to lose eventually."
Hopeless, Nicole sighed and conceded. She packed up her things, leaving her desk immaculate, and walked outside with Mina. On the way, they were met by their other friend and coworker, Clara Ramos. Clara prided herself on being a curvy, petite woman with gorgeous, honey skin, hazel eyes and short, wavy brown hair. They marched to a nearby café.
"So, are you going to tell us why Tyler came into work alone looking like someone kicked his dog? Not to mention, you came in alone, even though you and he left together on Friday?" Mina asked, sipping her coffee.
"Is everything all right between the two of you?" Clara asked in a gentle voice, touching Nicole's forearm.
"Everything's fine now. I broke up with Tyler yesterday," Nicole replied with a shrug.
"You don't sound too broken up about it." Clara glanced at Mina, who didn't seem too surprised by the lack of feeling. Of course Mina wouldn't be shocked considering she had known Nicole since freshman year in college and seen her through enough relationship woes.
"I'm not, honestly. Whatever feelings I had for him withered a couple of months ago. I don't think I had many to start with. What I did have didn't get a chance to grow into more. It was clear yesterday that he wasn't going to try to make things better. He exhausted me. I actually felt good after I got it all out and he left." Nicole stabbed a grape tomato in her salad before chewing it, probably a little harder than necessary.
"It was the same thing that you did before I convinced you to swear off dating last year," Mina said, not even glancing at her lentil soup. "You're too nice. You give people way too many chances. Also, being the person you are, someone who has to do everything right and make everything right, you always stick with losers longer than necessary. You think you can fix them or something. Most people just want shit to go their way. You'll keep wasting your time and energy with losers if you continue to think that you'll both work equally and eventually everything will work out. It never happens that way with the people you date."
"Mina," Clara scolded the other woman, giving her a hard look. "Nicole doesn't need you playing Mom for her. She has a good mother already."
Mina sighed and turned her large eyes to her friend. "I know. I'm sorry, Nicole. Look, sweetie, I just want to see you settle down with someone good for you. Not someone with a cute smile and plays interested in you for a little while, but is in essence an asshole. You attract these people because of your kind heart. They take advantage of that. They don't change or try to work on things because they think you're pliable since you give them so many chances. I'm tired of watching you ignoring things and trying to work with losers until they turn into what you need, which never happens. They need to want to be what you need. You can't wait it out or turn it into a project to save them. They're not worth saving. So, personally, I'm happy you dumped Tyler. I hate him."
Clara and Nicole chuckled. Mina's feelings concerning Tyler hadn't been a secret. Mina felt people out, and it seemed like she always trusted her instincts much more on personal issues than Nicole. Mina always eyed him suspiciously and ignored him as best as she could, but always expressed disdain for him whenever he did something. She should've listened to Mina all those months ago when she decided to date Tyler.
"You deserve the best, Nicole. Not someone that's going to jerk you around and waste six months of your life," Mina stated.
"It wasn't a total waste. The first couple of months were good," Nicole argued.
"Those first months were a lie, Nicole. You started dating again for him and then he turned into another asshole on your list of asshole partners. Don't defend the lie," Mina said, clasping her hands to beg.
"Mina," Clara warned.
Mina sighed. "All right, all right. I'll stop now. Could I make a toast to our dear friend's wake up and liberation, though?"
The friends accepted that, even though Nicole wasn't in the mood to celebrate. She was jubilant to be rid of Tyler, yes, but her mind drifted to Danny. It still disconcerted her that Danny left her house without a word.
After a light lunch, the trio of friends returned to the firm. Nicole bustled to her office. She normally stayed later than most people at the firm, but she did it that day to make sure she didn't have a run in with Tyler. She also avoided her empty house in the process. It wasn't so much that she wasn't accustomed to being there alone, even though it had been a while. But, it felt like a weird sensation would be waiting for her since Danny left. For the first time in a long time, she got along with someone without worrying about burying her feelings to the point of them festering into a tumor.
When she arrived home, she found herself wondering where Danny went. The younger woman might've gone on to stay with Tyler, not that she understood that. Danny didn't think very highly of her cousin, so Nicole couldn't see Danny rooming with him, even for a few days. But, then again, Danny didn't seem to have many choices. It was probably a toss-up between living with Tyler or living on the streets.
"Well, she could've stayed here. Surely I'm more tolerable than Tyler and I have a much better taste in movies," Nicole muttered. Danny seemed ashamed of being at the house, though. It might be best if Danny left rather than remain and be uncomfortable. Despite those thoughts, it troubled her that Danny would rather beg Tyler for a place to stay—after all, there was no way that selfish bastard would help someone without them begging for it—than to gather herself at Nicole's house. Let it go, Nicole. You gave her a place to stay for a day and gave her some food. That should be enough. She's not your cousin, after all. With that in mind, Nicole went on living her life. Or so she told herself, anyway. She worked while eating dinner, mostly to keep her mind off of the silence. It was pure rapture that Tyler had gone, but she found herself missing his cousin.
She watched a movie, but didn't pay too much attention to it, focusing on the work that she brought home instead. It wasn't as fun, watching the movie alone. Danny had so many jokes before and that brought out the humor in Nicole, causing her to join in. Laughter had reigned over the now quiet house barely twenty-four hours ago.
The following day, Nicole evaded Tyler in the firm. She forgot to bring his belongings, too busy wondering if Danny had found shelter. She ended up staying late again, since she got a new client. The new client required even more time than she was accustomed to.
"I can't believe I let them give me this guy. Not that I had much choice in the matter," Nicole whispered to the still air. She rubbed her eyes, trying to stay focused. Glancing at the clock, she found out why she had such trouble keeping her eyes open. Oh my. I've been here for more than twelve hours. Even I don't usually burn the candle this long, but then again, this guy needs it. I don't have a lot of time to get familiar with the company or the circumstances.
That little pep talk kept her behind her desk for almost an hour more. Her eyes won out then. Tearing away from her desk, she retreated from the office. A breeze cut through her when she exited the building and, shivering, she secured her pea coat, closing it with the belt rather than using the buttons. Once she was in her car, she turned on the heat and headed home.
Her mind drifted as she drove the lonely, winding journey home. She took the main streets through the city, even though there were a plethora of lights. There weren't many vehicles out at this time. A stretch on the highway blurred to her weary eyes, but she made it to her exit and took solace in the notion that her bed lay only fifteen minutes away. A tired smile graced her features as she eased into a halt at a light. But, something caught her attention.
Glancing to her left, Nicole blinked hard at the sight that greeted her. A body lay prostrate on a bench. There was a knapsack tucked under the figure's head, acting as a rough pillow. A tarnished, trashy bike poked out from behind the bench. The guitar case gave away who the form was.
"Danny? She's sleeping on the streets?" Nicole shook her head, but her eyes weren't lying. Before she realized it, Nicole turned her car and pulled up next to the bench. She rolled the window down. "Danny? Danny!"
Dane groaned, turning her head to the noise. It sounded like someone calling another person. She scanned the street for the commotion, but didn't see anyone. A car lingered beside her.
"Danny, get your ass over here. What're you doing sleeping outside like this?" Nicole hollered, her head sticking out the window.
"Nick?" Dane rubbed her eyes, trying to fully wake up. "I didn't have crazy dreams like this when I used to get high as hell. Being sober is weird."
"Danny, get your ass in this car before I drag you in here." Nicole roared, putting the car in park. She tried to get out, but her seatbelt yanked her back. She released her seat belt and climbed out so she could yell at Dane face to face.
"Nick, what're you causing such a ruckus about?" Dane sat up. Nicole stood before her with her hands on her hips.
"And you're out here with no coat on in those damned shorts. You must be out of your right mind. Get in the car right now before the cops come by and arrest you." Nicole pointed to her automobile.
"Why should I get in the car with you?" Dane scooted away. Why the hell does she care?
"Because you're out here sleeping on the street. I will not let a friend sleep on a public bench and risk arrest, illness, or worse when I can offer her a perfectly good place to sleep."
"Friend? We just met a few days ago and we knew each other for a day. For all you know, I can be some psychotic killer or something." Dane had a feeling that would have more of an impact if only her teeth weren't chattering slightly and she wasn't bouncing to keep warm.
"Would a psychotic killer fight a potential victim so hard? And, yes, I do consider us friends. You supported me through a tough time and helped me to see that I made the right decision. A friend does that. You helped me throughout the day, now let me help you." Nicole's eyes flashed, cautioning Dane against quarreling.
"Don't need your help," Dane murmured in a childish tone.
Nicole's help put her on that bench in the first place. After having a total stranger show her kindness, she couldn't force herself on relatives and deal with their open resentment of her existence. She'd rather freeze to death than be forsaken by her damned family anymore. Staying with Nicole had brought back the dignity she lost. Dignity made it difficult to sponge off people who boasted of despising her and told her she'd never amount to anything. For the first time in a long time, she'd wished she had friends and with no place to go, she settled for a bench.
"Danny…" Nicole whispered the name, before taking a step closer. Nicole reached out and took one of Dane's hand in her own. Dane pulled back, but Nicole held fast. "I'm not offering because you need it. I'm offering because I can. I won't hold it over your head or anything, just like you didn't hold anything over me when you helped me. My friend is in trouble, and I'm trying to help her."
Dane stared down at the lawyer, utterly baffled by the creature before her. Friends were people who pretended to like her and then used her, but Dane couldn't see any dissemblance in Nicole's eyes. Nicole wasn't pretending. It wasn't like Dane could do anything for her. There was nothing about Dane for Nicole to use.
"Hey, is there a problem here?" a voice asked, causing both women to jump. They turned to see a police officer standing by his cruiser.
"No, sir, there's no problem. I was just picking up my friend and we're trying to figure out if her bike will fit in the car," Nicole lied smoothly, motioning to the bicycle to add credibility to her words.
The officer glanced at it. "I'm sure it'll fit in the backseat. You ladies should get off the street. It's late and sometimes there are people even around here looking for trouble."
"Yes, sir, we'll do that. Right, Danny?" Nicole asked, turning her attention back to Dane. Green eyes implored, but the tiny smile sealed the deal.
"Yes, sir, we will," Dane answered with an exasperated sigh, moving away to grab her backpack and guitar case.
The officer remained, watching as they laid the bicycle in the backseat. They discovered he was quite right about the bike. It was a tight fit and they had to be mindful of the tan, leather interior. Both offered a polite wave to the officer as they drove off.
"Thank you for giving me a chance, Danny."
Dane shook her head, almost admitting that the damn smile made her do it. "Well, I'd rather stay with you than Dipshit any day. You're so much easier to get along with."
Nicole laughed. "I'm a step above Tyler. That's good to know."
A smile ghosted across Dane's lips. Nicole would be a step above plenty of people, but she didn't tell Nicole that. She didn't trust the woman enough to tell her that. There was no way that she'd hand out something as precious and priceless as trust to a woman she only met for a day, even if the woman had kind eyes and an enchanting smile. She wanted to see what Nicole was about, though. After all, she didn't have much choice - go with Nicole or sleep on park benches, tunnels, or abandoned buildings. Dignity and curiosity made the former much more attractive than the latter.
Well, people, that's the preview. If you want to see the rest of Scarred for Life you can find it here (you have to write change the first part into a proper web address and then copy and paste the rest): amazon dot com backslash Scarred-Life-S-L-Kassidy-ebook/dp/B00GP4236E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384630247&sr=8-1&keywords=scarred+for+life+by+s.l.+kassidy.
If you don't want to do all of that, just go onto my profile and click the link.
Thank you all for the love and support. I hope you enjoy the book.