I'm. In. Love.
(Don'\t Trust the Cut out 7/2)
Dar Albert nailed it! Feels so real now! Only 3 more wks! Now I give you...
“It’s cold. That’s exactly what I was hoping for.” And it was cold. One of those days where the cold made the smog hang in the air, giving the foggy morning a light tint of brown. Such a simple thing made Tucker Grey feel so free. He knew it was silly to look out the car window and be pleased to see polluted winter air, but who could judge after the last few weeks?
Everyone. He sighed at the thought.
“You country boys don’t even know what cold is,” Alison griped as she sniffed arrogantly, throwing her chestnut hair over her shoulder with two fingers. She was still in a short-sleeved shirt, Tucker noticed. Being raised by an Irish family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she was all hard talk and attitude, but she had soft features and fair skin, so she looked more like a modern porcelain doll.
“Well, you just answered many Southern boys’ questions about why you Yankees are so damn cold inside.”
Alison cut her eyes to him. It was a lame one, but he was trying to lighten the mood. It obviously worked, because her eyes sparkled with fondness while she tried to make an annoyed expression. She failed miserably.
They rode a few miles in complete silence. Tucker loved watching the neighborhoods change as Alison drove them closer and closer to their town house in one of the hippie neighborhoods of Baltimore. Occasionally, Tucker noticed a shifty glance coming from Alison. Here we go, he thought.
“Go ahead and ask your damn questions, woman.” He couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes at her. She at least had the decency to look abashed, earning another sideways glance from Tucker, who had otherwise kept his stare out his window as they passed the world around them. This was the world he had missed and feared so much, and he was still clueless what to do with it.
“All I need to know is that you’re okay,” she stated softly. Soft was not something Alison did very often, so Tucker knew she was more worried than she was letting on. He put a comforting hand over hers, which she had reached out to place beside him.
“Well, I got you, don’t I?”
Alison had been in his life long enough to understand it was just as awkward for him to express what he felt as it was for her to be soft and nurturing, but he knew he had to at least show he appreciated her concern. Good friends are all you’ve got, Grey. He patted her hand and returned his stare out the passenger window.
“That’s not exactly an answer, Mr. Emotionally Impaired. We live together, and your friends are counting on you. We all love you. I need to know this has stopped and that you think you’ll be okay. Last time you came back, you said you were better, I kept your secret, and two weeks later you were in that place again. Now, no bullshit! Are you feeling better or just biding your time?” Alison’s voice held some heat, but there it was again, that eerie softness that got under his skin and filled him with a different kind of guilt than he’d ever known.
He kept his eyes on the outside world as he spoke. He didn’t want to see any reaction to his answer. “This program was different. I feel different. Stable. That’s something I haven’t had in a long time. It’s not gonna be easy, but I can tell I’m different.” He snapped his head to give her a fierce glare. The steel he put into his gaze served as a warning they would never speak of this again one he’d said his peace. “I’m gonna make it different, dammit. I’m scared of myself, but in time I’ll be better than fine.” He smiled warmly for the first time in nearly two months.
Alison nodded with resignation and returned his smile.
Tucker sighed in contentment as she pulled up to their town house. It wasn’t anything special, but it was theirs. They’d lived there for four years. Four years of bad boyfriends, drunk horror movie marathons, crying over lost loved ones, parties that got the cops called… Tucker couldn’t help but think that he’d ruined that. He’d somehow ruined the good energy or karma—or whatever you wanted to call it—of this shitty little piece of heaven.
They walked into the apartment, Alison first, and he looked around awkwardly at four years of photographed memories on the walls and furniture collected impulsively at consignment stores. None of it matched, but they always were proud of their eccentric taste.
Tucker made for the stairs but didn’t take a step before Alison tugged his hand carefully. “Um. I had a hard time trying to convince everyone not to throw a welcome-home party for your ‘trip to Canada.’ They wouldn’t listen. So tomorrow night they are combining your homecoming with Nate’s birthday. It’s also going to be a celebration for some marine buddy of his who’s recently been discharged, so you best prepare some stories about trekking in the wilderness and wrestling with polar bears.” She smirked at what he would not call a very witty comment, but she didn’t really care that her jokes were dumd. Then she prodded, as usual. “Unless you want to just tell the truth.”
He schooled his face into a blank expression, which made Alison shudder visibly. “We’ll go.” He turned to go up the stairs, emotionless mask still firmly in place. He felt bad giving her the all too common facade, but it wasn’t in his best interest for all of his friends to know how defective he was. No. Tucker and Alison go to the party and be happy.
He threw his bag on the floor and fell into his bed, reveling in the softness of it and the smell of his own space. He really did feel content. This was a new day. I’m gonna make it different this time, dammit.
I hope y'all love it! I'm so stoked. I'll be announcing giveaways and blog tour dates soon so stay tuned!