Griffin’s gaze moves down my body. It’s so familiar. He’s done it hundreds of times before. I don’t let familiarity feed any false hope.
“Why Salt Lake City?”
I shrug. “It felt good. The mountains. The energy. I only signed a six-month lease, just to try it on—the city.”
He drops his head into a slow nod, wearing a contemplative look on his face.
These pauses of silence are painful.
“My mom is coming to visit next month. Have your parents and sisters been here to visit you?”
He shakes his head.
Words, Griff. Give me words or leave, but I’m dying here.
“Are you working at the Harley dealership?” I cringe. Why did I ask that? Oh yeah … because he’s just standing there saying nothing. I shake my head. “Sorry. You don’t have to answer that. I’m just … at a loss for words because you’re standing in my doorway, not talking, not leaving, and not coming inside. It’s just …”
“Sorry.” He takes a step back.
No. I don’t want him to leave. But I can’t ask him to stay.
This is goodbye. I feel it in my gut. Because if we would just make the choice, we could have this. But it’s too late. I can see it in his eyes, the eyes that shift to my chest. That’s when I realize I’m rubbing the heel of my hand over my heart.
Yes. It hurts.
“Take care.” He gives me a tight-lipped smile.
Take care. Not, see you later. Not, I’ll call you. Nope. Take care is a permanent goodbye.
He pivots on his black boots and makes his way toward the stairs.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
My heart crashes into my ribs.
He stops without turning.
After a few statuesque seconds, his legs shift into motion.
Goodbye, Grocery Store Guy.
I jump, shoving my tank top back down over my stomach, all sweaty from my workout.
“Caught ya.” Beth winks at me in the mirror as the gym rats file past us.
I bite back my grin, embarrassed, but no one would know since I’m so red from working out. “I have definition in my abs.” I giggle. “Don’t make fun of me. I’ve just never had it before. I kinda can’t stop staring at those little bumps.”
Beth slings her bag over her shoulder. “I think I have twenty more pounds to go before I can properly identify anything bumpy-looking on my stomach as actual muscle.”
I giggle some more. It feels good.
She sighs as we walk outside. “Whoa … hello!”
I follow her gaze down the street. About five parking spots south, there are two motorcycles. A guy and a girl slipping off their helmets.
No. NO. NO!
Before I can duck or make a run for it, Griffin spies me.
“Can you say holy hotness?” Beth fans herself.
“What’s the population of Salt Lake City?” I mumble.
“Why do you ask?”
I give Griffin a sheepish smile. He knows I saw him. I can’t look away and pretend I didn’t, especially with Beth’s eyeballs rolling down the sidewalk to rest at his feet. “No reason. It just felt bigger when I got here. But lately it’s felt quite small.”
“Oh damn … his holy hotness is walking this way.”
Yes, he is and so is his female friend. Dang it … why does she remind me of Apple? Only her hair is blond.
Blonder than mine.
Longer than mine.
Thicker than mine.
She’s close to my height, but maybe an inch taller.
She’s basically me, but more.
And she rides a motorcycle.
“I’m out of here. I can’t get close to a hot guy when I smell like this. Later.”
She’s ten yards in the opposite direction before I can stop her. Great. It’s two on one.
“Hi,” he says.
Damn, her hair looks like something from a shampoo commercial, even after wearing a helmet.
I know I look just as good as I smell right now—amazingly awful. “Hey. Small world.”
Way too small.
“It would seem. Samantha, this is Ginny. Gin, this is Samantha.” He winks at me.
I narrow my eyes just for a brief second before shooting his female friend my best smile.
“Hi.” She smiles. It’s shy and sweet. The opposite of a shampoo commercial woman.
I was shy and sweet like her when I met Griffin.
And she has a great name. It could be longer or short. So many possibilities.
“Nice to meet you,” I say without sounding catty. I’m not catty. Okay, I was a little catty with Apple, but she’s not Apple.
“What brings you to my neighborhood?” Yes. I’ve laid claim to this whole neighborhood in just under four weeks.
“Ice cream.” Griffin jerks his head toward the ice cream shop right next door to my fitness center.
I nod. When did he start eating ice cream on a whim?
“I see.” I smile again at Ginny. It’s easier to look at her than it is to look at him.
She points up the street at an angle. “And you live right over in that apartment building.” Her finger points right to my place.
“Oh, how did you know I live there?” Does he talk about me with her?
“What?” Her eyes narrow a bit. “No. I mean Griffin’s apartment is in that building.”
My eyes inch wider. He wets his lips and rubs them together.
No. Fucking. Way.
“She’s joking,” I murmur.
“Not joking.” Her eyes flit between the two of us like he hasn’t told her about me. “Why is that weird?”
Griffin looks down at her and smiles. “It’s not. Let’s get some ice cream.”
Ginny nods. “Yeah.” She gives me that innocent smile again. “Nice to meet you.”
I nod slowly. Shock has all of my words held captive.
“See ya.” Griffin gives me a quick inspection.
Yes, Griff. Don’t give me that look. I know … I know … You’ve upgraded to Swayze 2.0. Well done.
As I watch him open the door for her, I wonder if she has little muscle bumps on her abdomen. Maybe I should have told him that I have some now.
Okay. Maybe not.
It’s a tall apartment building. People park on all sides of it and down the street in both directions, as well as the parking garage just across the street.
I can’t berate myself too much for not seeing his bike or truck. And coming and going from the building is all about timing. I’ve probably only encountered maybe a dozen other tenants in the four weeks I’ve been here.
But … HOLY SHIT! Griffin lives in my apartment building.
And Swayze 2.0 knows where he lives. Has she been to his apartment? Probably. I mean … we had sex on our third official date. I bet she doesn’t vomit at the end of a blowjob. Swayze 2.0 wouldn’t do that.
Oh the irony. Griffin didn’t want to stay in Madison for so many reasons, but I’m certain the biggest reason was Nate. He didn’t want to watch me fall in love with another man.
And here I am, watching him date a better version of me. That’s very sweet of you, Fate. It really is.
After a shower, I work on a business flyer for a client, and scroll through a few photos Nate sent me of Morgan. Always just her. He’s never in any of them.
There’s a knock at my door. The first knock at my door since I moved here. I’m only a little surprised to see Griffin on the other side of the peephole, all freshly showered in a white tee and ripped jeans.
Pressing my head against the door, I take a few breaths to calm myself down.
He knocks three times again. I unlock the door and open it, greeting him with a less-than-chilled smile.
“The day I paid you back, I should have told you I lived in this building. I’m sorry.”
Free pass for the rest of his life.
“No apologies. Ever.” I manage to get my lips to do something genuine. It feels like the way I used to grin at him.
“Can I come in?”
A shiver of emotions washes along my skin, bringing tears to my eyes that I quickly blink away as I avert my gaze. “Yeah. Of course. Come in.”
The apartment is smaller than my last apartment. Everything is in one room except for a tiny closet and the bathroom.
Griffin walks around, stopping at the window. “I’m on the same side of the building. Four floors up.”
“I love the view.”
He nods, hands in his pockets, back to me. “What are the chances that I see you at the grocery store on the day I forgot my wallet? What are the chances that I see you on the day that I had my first date since you? What. Are. The. Fucking. Chances?”
He faces me, leaning up against the window ledge. I don’t react. I’m not sure what the answers are to his questions. My ass stays planted against the front door in case I need to flee for oxygen.
“Don’t even get me started on the chances of you renting an apartment in my building.”
I am the queen of what are the chances. It’s amazing that anything surprises me at this point. Pigs could fly and I don’t think I’d give them a second glance.
“Ginny moved here two months ago.”
Here we go. My hand moves to the doorknob, just in case.