Sawyer smiles back at me, but it seems a little forced. “I’m real happy for you, Cupcake.”
“Thanks.” I grab his empty plate and take his coffee cup. “Just let me put this away, and leave out left-overs for Chuckie, then we can go.”
“Chuckie?” he asks, confused.
“Yeah, the chocolate lab. I haven’t seen him since that night you scared him off, but I still leave food out for him just in case.”
“How do you know his name is Chuckie?”
I shrug, “I don’t, but he looks like a Chuckie, so that’s what I call him.” I hear him chuckle as I walk into the back.
“Um, did you maybe want to drive tonight?” Grace asks softly as we walk out the front door of the diner. Before I can answer she adds, “That way you aren’t walkin’ home by yourself so late.”
Seriously, what is with this chick always worrying about me walking by myself at night?
“It’s up to you, Cupcake. I can drive if you want, but don’t choose it because you’re worried about me. I told you, I’m badass. Walking in this town late at night is the least scariest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
She gives me one of her sweet fucking smiles that does funny shit to my chest, “If it’s all right with you I wouldn’t mind drivin’. My feet are a little sore from pullin’ a double shift.”
I look down at her scuffed-up white shoes and scowl thinking about her working so much. “That’s no problem, Cupcake, we can drive. Come on.”
I walk her over to the truck and open the door. She cranes her neck all the way back to look into the cab. “Holy Moses, what is it with you boys and high trucks? Not all of us are giants, ya know.”
I chuckle when she reaches up and does a little jump to grab on to the inside handle. My hands span her waist as I help hoist her up. Her sweet scent that smells like fucking cupcakes, or cookies, or some type of baking shit, penetrates my senses and makes my dick stand to attention. Christ, I want to run my mouth and tongue all over her soft fucking body, to see if she tastes as sweet as she smells.
“Ah, Sawyer? You can let go now.”
I realize that I still have a firm grip on her hips as she tries to sit in the cab.
I grin unapologetically at her, “Sorry, Cupcake, my thoughts were somewhere else,” I wink then shut the door, but not before I see her blush.
I want to rip off that fucking dress and see where her blush spreads. My horny mood sours quickly when I think about that little prick trying to shove his hand up her dress when I walked in. That little fucker is lucky I didn’t cut his fucking hand off.
As soon as I get into the truck I scowl at Grace. “Where was Mac tonight? Why were you alone?” It comes out a little harsher than I intend it too.
She licks those pretty pouty lips of hers nervously. “I sent him home just before you came because he was sick and needed rest. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell him what happened. He felt guilty enough when I made him leave.”
“You shouldn’t be alone there at night, Grace. What would have happened if I hadn’t shown up when I did?”
She glares at me and sits up straighter. “I knew you were comin’, Sawyer, so I knew I wasn’t gonna be alone long. And I would have called Cooper if I needed to.”
We stay in a glaring contest but soon her expression softens and turns pleading. “Please don’t tell him, Sawyer.”
Well fuck, when she talks all soft and sweet like that I’m willing to do pretty much anything she asks, which is fucking dangerous. I should just hand over my balls to her right now.
I let out a frustrated breath, “Fine, on one condition. If you’re ever going to be there alone at night you call me, so I can be there, or have someone else with you. Got it?”
She smiles and gives me a salute, “Yes, Sexy Sawyer, sir.”
I grunt, but can’t stop my lips from twitching. She is real fucking cute sometimes, and sweet, and sexy… aw fuck!
I pull away from the diner and drive real fucking slow, wanting to spend more time with her. She opened up a lot with me tonight for some reason, which makes me happy as fuck. But I still want to know more.
She surprises me when she softly asks a question that will help me lead into the one thing I want to know about her: “Tell me about your family, Sawyer.”
“Well I have two younger sisters, both a real pain in the ass, but I love them. My Mom is involved with lots of charity work, she’s a pretty amazing lady, but, of course, you already know that because she had me.”
Grace rolls her eyes and laughs, “What about your dad?”
My smile slips a bit. “My dad owns a construction business. We used to be real close when I was growing up, but we don’t see eye to eye anymore. He wasn’t all that happy when I joined the Navy.”
“Because he was worried about you?”
I grunt, “You would think, but no that’s not why. It’s because I was a real good hockey player. I had scouts coming out to my games by the time I was thirteen years old; my dad had big dreams of me making it in the NHL. When he found out I picked the Navy instead he really wasn’t all that happy.”
“I’m sorry,” she replies softly.
I shrug, not really wanting to discuss it anymore.
“I thought a lot about my Dad when I was growin’ up,” she tells me quietly, “and I always felt guilty when I did, so I never told Mama. I didn’t want to hurt her feelins’, or have her think she wasn’t enough, because she was the best in the whole world, but some things just aren’t the same. Like this one time, when I was a little girl about six years old, Mama and I were invited to this weddin’. There was another girl my age there that I played with that night. Well her and her daddy were real close, a lot like Mama and I. That night, he had propped her up on his feet and danced with her all night long. I was very envious of them. Even though I had danced with Mama it wasn’t the same, ya know?”
Well fuck, if that doesn’t start a sharp fucking ache in my chest. She becomes quiet now and when I glance over at her I see her turn red with embarrassment, as if she didn’t mean to share that.
I clear my throat, hoping I don’t over-step my bounds. “Can I ask you something, Cupcake?”
“Sure,” her easy answer contradicts her sudden tense form.
“How did your mom die?” I hold in a breath waiting for the answer.
When she doesn’t answer right away I look over at her again. There’s a raw pain in her pretty eyes, which makes me feel like a fucking asshole. “Never mind, I shouldn’t have asked. You don’t have to tell me.”
She looks away, “She was raped and murdered.” It comes out so quietly I’m surprised I heard the admission.
“Holy fuck!” I curse out before I can stop myself. A serious rage begins to pump through my veins. I know Julia said it was bad, but jesus…
“Mama and I were supposed to be headin’ to a state fair for a pie contest. When I got home, from my cheer practice, I found two men had broken into our home and were hurtin’ her… I almost suffered the same fate, but I managed to escape for a few brief minutes and call 911.”
“They hurt you too,” I state through clenched teeth, my rage spiking to a whole new level.
She keeps her gaze out the window but shrugs her shoulders as if it doesn’t matter. “Not as bad as my Mama.”
“Where are they now? The men who hurt you.” I need to know, because if they’re still alive I’m going to hunt them down and fucking kill them.
“One is still in prison, the other was murdered in prison while awaiting trial. Turns out my Mama’s death was part of an initiation into a gang for them. We were just the random house that got chosen, no rhyme or reason. If it wouldn’t have been for the tattoo I saw, on the inside of the guys’ wrist when he hit me, they probably would have never been caught.”
I’m quiet for a minute before I can say anything. “I’m real sorry, Grace.” I feel like a fucking idiot for saying that because I know it means shit.
She looks over at me sadly. “She was my best friend. We had plans to conquer the world with our pies. When they took her life they took mine too, in more ways than one. But as hard and painful as it is I know that life goes on, and there are a lot of people out there who have probably suffered more than I have. So I try to be grateful for what I do have, which was nothin’ till I came here. Now I have friends to be thankful for, and Mac… I’m not sure where I would be if it weren’t for him.”
I realize my knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel so tight. I try to relax but my heart squeezes so fucking painfully in my chest I’m surprised I can still breath.
Too soon I’m pulling into her driveway. I clear my throat, and I’m surprised at how tight it feels. “You have a right to feel hurt, Grace, no matter what anyone else has gone through, it makes your suffering no less painful. You have earned your right to feel sad.”
Turning, she looks at me seriously. “If I let myself feel the full strength of my pain, Sawyer, it may just kill me.”
I swallow thickly, but before I can say anything she gives me a fake smile. “Thank you for the ride. Text me when you get home so I know you made it safely.”