Rough Hard Fierce (Chicago Underground Boxed Set)(8)By: Skye Warren
He got up and offered me his hand. In the bedroom he handed me my clothes in between putting on his own. I averted my eyes, not because I didn’t want to see, but because there was a formality between us now that we’d had sex but weren’t going to see each other again.
“I’ll drop the key off at the front,” he said. “You can finish up in here.”
He turned back at the door. “Listen, I own the Oasis Grill down on Kirby, okay? In case you change your mind. Just ask for me.”
He paused and then added, “Colin.”
I hadn’t forgotten.
“Maybe,” I said with a noncommittal smile.
“Bye, Allie. Take care.”
I peered through the blinds and watched his truck leave the parking lot. So, that was that. Why did I feel a lingering sense of loss? He was a stranger to me. He had to stay that way. That’s what this night was for—dirty, emotionless sex. Though this night had been distinctly less dirty and far less emotionless than I liked.
I left the motel room, my mind blissfully blank as I drove through the sleepy Chicago streets. My apartment building loomed up ahead, its gray stucco walls and barred windows making it look more like a jail than a home. In Stone Park, that was an amenity. Don’t bother breaking in, it said. You won’t find anything valuable.
Within the white walls of my apartment, I took a quick shower to rid myself of the smoky stench of the clubs and the musky smell of sex. I didn’t mind them, at least not tonight, but I didn’t allow any remnants of my monthly date nights to seep into my regular life. Colin included.
I changed into my standard uniform, sweatpants and a tee. My flip-flops slapped the concrete stairs as I ran up to the identical apartment above mine.
Shelly answered the door. Her hair and makeup were done, though she wore jeans and a tank top. She had an appointment after this.
“So. How was your date?” The lilt in her voice made everything sound ironic, though in this case, the word date certainly was.
I hummed in response as I followed her into the living room and flopped down beside her on the couch. I accepted the ice-cream pint and spoon she offered.
“Uh-oh,” she said. “What happened this time?”
“I didn’t say anything happened.” I took a bite. “This is chocolate. How can you eat chocolate this late? It’ll keep you up.”
“Don’t change the subject. Spill.”
I sighed and took another bite. “This guy. He wasn’t like the others.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, he was…gentle.”
“Oh,” she said, knowing. “You should let me hook you up.”
I shot her a dark look over the spoon.
“I’m just saying. If you’re only in it for the sex, you might as well get paid. You can even charge extra to get roughed up.”
“Right, so I can get put in jail for solicitation. No, thank you.”
She rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t happen. Hardly ever.”
“We’re not having this conversation.” I didn’t judge Shelly for what she did. I admired her strength. But I had to draw the line somewhere. Right now I was just a regular single mom with her rare date nights. If things got a little heated, who was to know? But accepting payment would change the score. Right now I was in control.
Or I usually was.
I passed the carton of ice cream back to her. “Besides, it wasn’t exactly…”
It wasn’t exactly bad. It had been amazing. Real, my mind whispered. That was what real sex was supposed to be like. It had been anything but bad.
I looked up and found her watching me.
I smiled briefly. “Sorry. I’m a little distracted.”
“I can see that. Curiouser and curiouser.” Shelly liked to quote Alice in Wonderland to me. It was our secret joke, one I never quite appreciated.
“Don’t be dramatic. It wasn’t completely lame. That’s all.”
“I see.” The teasing light extinguished from her eyes. “Allison, we have to talk.”
Nothing good ever came from hearing my full name. “Bailey?”
“No, she’s fine. But…it’s related.”