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– An Excerpt –
When we get back to Abe’s place, he and Adam run out to pick up some takeaway for us. As soon as they leave, I pounce on Shelly and tell her my plans to meet Nigel. She’s a sweetheart and says she’ll cover for me, but only after she programs her number into my phone and mine into hers. She makes me promise to call if I feel uncomfortable at any point.
I grab my purse and hurry to wait at the pizza place a block over. When I get there, I call Nigel, and he tells me he’s on the way. Once I hang up, my phone starts ringing.
“Where are you?” It’s Adam, and he sounds pissed.
“I’m fine. You don’t have to worry.”
“Aubrey, get your ass back here right now.”
I laugh. “You’re crazy, you know that? I’m an adult. Please learn to accept it,” I say before hanging up on him.
My phone starts ringing again. This time, it’s Shelly.
“Hi, Shelly,” I answer.
“Oh my God, Aubrey. Adam is pissed. Are you sure about this?”
I look up when I see Nigel walk in. “I’m positive. He’s here. I have to go.”
“Hey, Aubrey,” he says, walking over to me.
“Hey, you.” I grin.
“As I’ll ever be.”
When we talked earlier, I asked a big favor from him.
He puts his arm around me as we walk to his car. “I made you an appointment if you still want to do it.”
I nod. “Let’s go.”
My phone rings off and on the whole time we’re out. I finally answer it when we’re on the way back to Abe’s flat.
“Where are you?” Adam thunders.
I sigh. “I’m on the way back right now. Can you please relax?”
“I called your parents. They want you to call them.”
Shit. “Way to overreact. Fine. I’ll call them as soon as Nigel drops me off. Bye.” I drop my phone into my purse and pinch the bridge of my nose.
“Everything okay?” Nigel asks sweetly.
I tilt my head, resting it against the headrest, and I smile at him. “I’m awesome. I can’t thank you enough for taking me.”
“It was a first for me too. Does it hurt?”
“I don’t plan on touching it anytime soon.”
He double-parks in front of Abe’s flat. I unhook my belt and turn to thank him once more. His face is right there, and his lips find mine. I feel a bit dazed when he pulls back.
“Don’t forget this.” He passes me a paper bag from the pharmacy. “I have to say, this was enlightening.”
He leans over to kiss me again. I jump at a sharp tap on my window. It’s a hulking, glaring Adam.
“I better go. I’ll email you,” I say to Nigel.
“You better,” he says. Only, his eyes are on Adam and not me.
I step out and am greeted with Adam losing it.
“You could have been killed.”
I raise a brow at him and wave in the direction of Nigel’s retreating car.
It’s then that Adam sees the bandage peeking out from the neck of my shirt. “What happened? You were hurt.”
His fingers are featherlight as they brush my hair to the side and ghost the edge of the bandage. I shrug away from his grasp and head up the stairs.
“Aubrey, wait. What happened to you?”
I turn and look down at him. “I got a tattoo. Happy? You acted like a lunatic and called my parents for nothing.”
I turn and keep walking, hearing his footsteps behind me.
“You can’t just take off like that. I’m responsible for you,” he says from behind me.
I turn quickly and lean back when I realize how close he is behind me. “That’s the whole issue. I’m calling my parents, so they can break it to you. I do not need a babysitter.”
I pull my phone out of my purse and call them. After a few moments of assuring them that I am fine and I only went out with a new friend, I tell them to set Adam straight.
I pass him the phone and cringe when he says, “Did she mention she got a tattoo?”
My mouth drops as he hands the phone back to me.
It’s my dad. “A tattoo?”
“Mmhmm. Are you mad?”
He laughs. “People don’t get mad.”
I finish for him. “Animals do. But for real, are you?”
There’s a pause. “You are a grown woman, and we trust your judgment.”
“Thank you. Can you please tell that to Adam?”
He agrees, and I pass the phone back to Adam. They talk for a minute, and he passes the phone back to me, so I can tell him I love them both and say good-bye.
“Was there anything you wanted to say to my dad?” I ask, offering my phone.
Our fingers brush as he takes it. He turns his face from my heated gaze.
“I’m sorry for any misunderstanding Sir.” He offers quietly to my father.
It’s not lost on me that he didn’t offer me an apology. Adam follows me quietly the rest of the way up the stairs. Shelly and Abe must have heard us coming because they’re waiting in the doorway.
“Oi! Let me see it right now.” Shelly grins, pulling me into the flat.
I’m wearing a tank top under my T-shirt. It has a built-in bra, and I wore it on purpose. I slip my T-shirt off and ease my arm through the right strap of my tank. Shelly stands behind me, pulling the back of my top down to uncover the bandage. She gently peels it off to expose my tattoo. She pulls me to the bathroom, so I can look at it in the mirror at the same time. It’s not big—maybe four inches across and six inches down.
“Did you lose someone?”
I didn’t know Adam had followed us. He’s leaning on the doorway. His gray eyes lock on mine. I nod and look at the pair of angel wings reflected in the mirror.
He takes the bandage from Shelly and delicately smooths it back on my shoulder. “I could have taken you.”
I shake my head. “I was angry at you.” I press the front of my tank top to my chest as I slip my arm back through the strap.
Adam holds the strap away from my shoulder, so it doesn’t push against my bandage. Shelly looks back and forth between us before excusing herself. I turn around to face him. He picks up my hand and sets my phone in it.
“What did my dad say?”
He looks up at the ceiling. “It appears I have been a bit overly protective.”
I touch his arm, and he looks down at me.
“I just don’t want to feel smothered.”
When he nods, I drop my hand.
“I saw him kiss you.”
I gulp and take a step back, bumping into the sink.
“Do you like him?” He steps closer to me.
I lick my lips and watch his gray eyes flick to them. “I don’t even know him.”
“But you let him kiss you.”
I can feel Adam’s breath on my cheek. I blink. “I did.”
“Did you like it?” He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear.
I feel all the tiny hairs on my earlobe stand straight up as the pad of his fingertip grazes it. My whole body is buzzing.
“I don’t know.”
His mouth twitches. “Why don’t you know, Aubrey?”
I break our gaze. “I can’t remember it.”
He lifts his hand to my chin, tilting my face back to look at his. The pad of his thumb brushes across my lower lip. “Must not have been much of a kiss.”
I’m frozen. I have no response.
I watch the tip of his tongue grace the edge of his bottom lip. My lips part when he drops his hand.
“You should always be able to remember a kiss,” he says before walking out of the bathroom.
What do you think of the new cover for Better?
The amazing Hang Le designed it. Her attention to detail has taken this cover to the next level. For those of you who have read Better, check out Aubrey’s charm bracelet!