Shallow Page 36

“Luckily for me, she thinks the worst of you and wouldn’t believe you or these tools you call friends if you told her what actually happened. So, take some time to reflect upon your feelings and do a little soul searching. You might find that you might have one after all.”

≈ ≈ ≈

My head was killing me and I definitely needed to take something for it, but what could I take for the pain of losing Payton? There was only one cure for that and it was unobtainable because she believed I had a baby with a stranger and I had no way of proving otherwise.

I heard a gentle knock on my door, so I knew it was Dallas. “Come in.”

She was the one they called to come get me at the pool hall last night and I knew she was checking in on me because she saw how plastered I was. She slowly opened the door and came in with two pain killers and a glass of water. “I thought you might need these this morning.”

She was always so thoughtful. Thank God she wasn’t like Jake. “Thanks, my head is pounding.”

“Do you want to talk about what happened?”

I explained about the girl and her accusation on down to how Samantha had set the whole thing up. “Dallie, I have no way of proving I didn’t get this girl pregnant because there isn’t going to be paternity papers saying I didn’t.”

“Just tell Payton the truth.”

“I tried to tell her about Samantha last night and she didn’t believe me. She knows what she saw and I can’t convince her otherwise. She’s definitely not going to believe me about that baby.”

“So, you’re just going to give up? Just like that?”

“What other choice do I have? I can’t prove anything so I should face reality. My past just put my future in a chokehold and snuffed the life out of it.”

≈ ≈ ≈

It had been a week, 7 whole days, since I saw Payton and I had never been more miserable in my life. If I had any sense, I would stop asking Dane about her when he came to see Dallas, but I guess I was a masochist in that way and I just couldn’t stop myself.

I didn’t even have to ask him anymore. He automatically had a report waiting for me each time he came to the house and tonight was no different.

She wasn’t seeing anyone and that helped my feelings minimally. Dallas was getting fed up with Dane’s reports because she thought I was being a dumb ass about the whole thing. “You’re an idiot. Stop asking him about her if you’re not going to try to get her back.”

“I can’t.”

“Which is it? You can’t stop asking him about her or you can’t try to get her back.”

“Both.” I got up and headed for the door because we had beat this dead horse enough and I had somewhere to be. “I’ve got a race in half an hour so I’ve gotta split. Ya’ll coming tonight or what?”

“Hell, yeah, we’re coming. Your sister never misses and I’ve got five hundred bucks on you, Dude. I’ll be there to get my money.”

“I’ll see you there then.”

I drove down Main Street on my way to The Strip for the race and got stopped at our red light...the one where Payton ran into the back of my car and made me fall in love with her. I smiled as I remembered the way the whole thing happened and I laughed when I thought about her asking if she could swipe her credit card up my ass crack. I missed her smart ass mouth.

I pulled up at the start line next to my opponent, some community college guy in a suped up black Mustang GT, and I was thoroughly unimpressed unless he was hiding something under that hood I didn’t know about. I got out and we did our usual sizing each other up thing. I hung with my pals and he hung with his. Yada yada.

I saw Samantha Hodges making a move on my opponent and knew it was her psychotic way of trying to make me jealous. It was really too bad that she was going to give her body to someone that cared nothing about her because she thought she would gain vengeance against another guy that cared even less about her. Not only was she a slut; she was a dumb one, too.

The GT was nothing more than a pony. I couldn’t really even get excited about the whole thing because the guy was such an amateur. I almost felt bad taking the money. Almost. Besides, he was getting Samantha so he wouldn’t be leaving completely empty handed.

I got out of the car and felt a twinge of hope when I saw Jessie and Claire in the crowd around my car. I immediately began searching every face for Payton but found no sign of her.

“She didn’t come.”

At least we weren’t gonna beat around the bush about it so I didn’t try to insult Claire’s intelligence by pretending I didn’t know what she meant. “Where is she?”

I knew it wasn’t my business, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to know. “She’s at her house waiting on Cooper to come over so they can talk.”

Oh, hell no. Say it wasn’t so. “Why is Cooper going to see Payton? He has a girlfriend.”

“Not anymore. He broke up with Allie because he said he wants Payton back.”

That son of a bitch probably knows Payton and I were sleeping together so he thinks he’ll have a better chance at getting in her panties now. “Is she gonna take him back?”

Claire shrugged and gave me her idunno face. “She doesn’t have a reason not to.”

Wrong. “Uh...yeah, she does. How ‘bout cause he’s a total dickhead?”

“Well, he wouldn’t be the only one now, would he?” I couldn’t argue with her on that. “You know what, Nick? I liked you a lot better when you were messing up her lip gloss instead of her mascara.”

God, it killed me to know I was the reason for her tears, even if I was completely innocent of the things she thought I did.

“And you know what else? Right now, that dickhead is telling her everything she should be hearing from you.”

I should have tried again to tell her the truth. I shouldn’t have given up so easily. “I screwed up big time.”

“Ya’ think? You more than screwed up, Bro. She’s been devastated.” Claire hit me in the arm with her fist as hard as she could. “I told you to be the right guy and you hurt her. I should jerk your balls up over your ears.”

Jessie died out laughing. “Be careful, Dude. I’m pretty sure she could do it.”

That’s probably exactly what I deserved. “Can I fix this?”

“I don’t know, but how will you know if you don’t try?”

I turned and ran for my car. “Hey, what’s the plan, Stan?” I heard Claire call out behind me.

I turned and ran backwards as I answered so I wouldn’t lose more precious time with Payton. “I’m going to get my girl.”

I raced down the highway toward Franklin praying the whole way that Payton hadn’t decided to comply with Cooper’s previous ultimatum or any new ones he might have come up with. My mind raced, imagining every possible scenario. Would she give in to him? Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have thought so but I had hurt her and she could potentially be looking for a way to ease that pain. I knew all too well what it was like to look for comfort in anyone willing to offer a little to you.

I parked my car on the street in front of her house and ran across the lawn even though the sprinklers were on. I rang the doorbell with one hand while I beat against the glass part of the door with my other hand. “Payton!”

Vivian answered the door with a smirk on her face. “You’re too late. She left with Cooper five minutes ago and they didn’t look like they’d be coming back any time soon. Sorry.”

29 Tangible Thoughts


3 Weeks Later

It was Friday night in a college town and I sat alone in the apartment I shared with Claire while she and Jessie were out celebrating their one year anniversary. He told me he had something special planned for her, but wouldn’t tell me what it was because he didn’t trust me to keep it to myself. Imagine that. He thought I had a big mouth.

I totally expected her to come home with an engagement ring on her finger.

I settled into my now hollowed out spot on the sofa with a half gallon of rocky road to watch some stupid reality show about finding love. Really? If you couldn’t find love in the real world, were you really expecting to find it on some stupid television show? Apparently these 24 people thought so.

I was only a few bites of ice cream in when there was a knock on the door. Great. I hoped it wasn’t that weirdo from next door again. Too many freaks and not enough circuses.

I eased over to the window and slowly pulled up on the blind’s slat to see who my guest was because I wasn’t opening the door up to that weirdo. It was Dallas Hawke.

Fear was the first emotion I felt when I saw Nick’s sister at my door. Something had to be wrong and my mind raced with the possibilities. He must have had a wreck during a race. That had to be it, or he had shot himself with one of those stupid guns or those guys had jumped him again because he wouldn’t throw a race.

I quickly swung the door open and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as I felt the sensation of pulsating blood in my face. My stomach became fluttery like I was going to be sick. “What’s wrong, Dallas? What’s happened to him?”

She smiled when I opened the door and I felt a small amount of relief. “Nothing has happened, at least nothing new. I’m just here to talk about him.”

I felt relief wash over me. “Please, come in.”

She walked through my door and we hugged each other as though we hadn’t seen each other in years. She squeezed me hard and groaned. “It’s good to see you. I’ve missed having you in the kitchen with me and Ginny. She’s a slave driver without you there to help me.”

I’d love to be back in the kitchen with the Hawke women. “I’ve missed you and Ginny, too.”

I had missed them, but I wanted to skip the courtesies and get straight to what brought her here. Something had to be wrong with Nick. She wasn’t here out of the clear blue without calling for no good reason.

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