I breathe a sigh of relief as the train pulls out of the station. He didn’t come after me. I didn’t really expect him to, considering I kind of just dropped that bomb on him and walked away. Typical me. Still, there was a slim chance he’d chase me, but he didn’t.
No one is chasing me now.
I lean back against the seat and watch through the window as New Haven, Connecticut fades away. It occurs to me that I don’t really have a reason to run. Ravage thought it might be best until things cool off, but I could’ve told him to go fuck himself. Instead, I took his money and let his Prospect collect me and drop me off.
It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to figure out why I keep running from this state.
By now I should be tired of running. The truth is, I find it thrilling. Leaving not only gives me a clean slate, but also an opportunity. There are fifty states in this country and millions of people—ample places and faces to get to know.
I always end up back here.
Not this time.
This time will be different.
This time, I’ll stay away.
* * *
The train rolls into Norfolk, Virginia thirteen hours later. The conductor on the loudspeaker pronounces it “No Fuck,” informing us that this is the last stop. I peer out the window, scanning the dusty parking lot for my ride and new roommate. There are too many people milling around, so I grab my bag and get off the train.
I step to the side so I’m not blocking the other passengers getting off and shield my eyes with a hand. I wish I’d thought to grab his sunglasses. They were some silly designer frames, but they’d come in handy right about now.
I’ve got no idea what this woman is supposed to look like, and I don’t have a cell phone, either. If she doesn’t show, I’ll have to figure something else out. I don’t panic because I always do.
I wrinkle my nose at the woman in front of me. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I never kid around.” She winks.
Same old Claudine, with the word “cunt” tattooed down between her tits, her dark hair streaked through with red. “I must’ve got off the wrong stop,” I mutter, turning back toward the train.
Somewhere in Connecticut, Ravage is laughing his ass off.
“Oh, come on, Bree. It’s all water under the bridge.” She grabs my bag, spinning me around. “Besides, you look beat. And hungry. You always got bitchy when you haven’t eaten.”
“I’m even more bitchy when you’re around.” I smooth my paisley skirt across my thighs. It’s threadbare, but I’ll wear it ’til it dies.
“So let’s even you out, then. You look like you could use a burger. Three, maybe.” She eyes the way my skirt hangs on my hips, how my ankles barely fill my boots.
I sigh. I am hungry. There’s nowhere else for me to go, anyway, at least not right now. “Fine,” I relent, “but you’re buying.”
I follow her to a beat up Subaru, watching her bony ass in that tight little skirt. I can’t believe Ravage shacked me up with her. I’d just as soon be on the streets again. Which is probably where I’ll go, the second my stomach is full.
I expect her to take me to a restaurant, somewhere I can just slip out when we’re done. Instead, she drives the half hour to Hampton, where she pulls into a cute condo complex.
“Home sweet home,” she sings.
I flinch. This can’t possibly be her place. It looks so normal. I glare at the townhouse, crossing my arms.
“Oh, stop. Some of us get our lives together. Even a backwarmer like me.” She pushes open the driver’s side door and gets out, grabbing my bag from the backseat. Without another word, she marches inside, leaving the front door open.
Backwarmer. I sniff. More like homewrecker.
My stomach growls, reminding me what I came here for. As soon as I finish eating, I’m out of here. I follow her in, closing the door behind me out of habit. Immediately I wish I’d left it open. It’s too loud in here, the walls painted an angry red. Blue armchairs, accent tables, and a coffee table try to anchor it, but the red and purple throw rugs only amplify it. Scarves in reds, blues, and purples cover the wall behind the blue couch.
I rub my temples.
The outside might look normal, but the interior looks like Claudine threw up everywhere.
I wrap my arms around myself, longing for the eggshell walls of state housing.
The kitchen isn’t much better. The walls are still red, accented with more blue and a little golden yellow along the backsplash. I climb onto a stool at the counter dividing the kitchen from the dining area, and wrap my legs around its rungs.
Claudine dances around the kitchen, singing Bon Jovi while cooking. Another reason I hate her, but not the reason. She puts a plate of three cheeseburgers down in front of me, then sits across from me, her placemat empty. She folds her hands.
I pick up a burger, and grease drips between my fingers. The sensation makes me want to wipe my hands, but there’s no napkin holder on the table. I sink my teeth into the bun. Spices flood my senses, my mouth watering around the food. It’s good.
Of course she can cook.
While I’m chewing my second bite, she leans forward.
“What?” I ask with my mouth full. She doesn’t deserve manners, even if this might be the best burger I’ve ever had.
“I thought you’d wanna know,” she begins, her eyes intent on mine.
I take another bite, mostly so I don’t have to answer her. Almost one burger down. Two to go. Then I can go, too.
“Mercy’s getting out,” she says, and just like that, my day is ruined.
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Runaway Bree shatters veteran Mercy’s peace when she shows up on his MC’s doorstep, then his heart when she runs away again. Can he find her and make up for twenty years lost?
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