Home > Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(6)

Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(6)
Author: Lucy Lennox

I stepped back until I felt the worktable behind me. “No time,” I swallowed. “I have to get these packages out before the scheduled pickup.”

It was a lie. They were going out in the mail which meant I could drop them off at the post office anytime before closing.

“You keep putting me off, Truman,” he said. “I thought we talked about this. We’ve been dating for months now.”

“No we haven’t,” I said. “I told you in the very beginning I wasn’t ready for a commitment or label, and then I told you I only wanted to be friends. I don’t want a relationship right now.”

He gave me a disappointed look. “And I told you to trust me. I know what’s best for you, don’t I? I can take care of you. Keep you out of trouble and whatnot. All I ask in return is for a little affection.”

I shook my head and tried to remember Greta’s words. “I’m not comfortable with that. I would like for us to be just friends.”

His jaw tightened for a split second before he looked at the floor and sighed before looking up at me. “What am I going to do with you? You’re scared, sweet pea. That’s all this is.” He reached out to take my shoulders in his hands. I tried not to notice how warm and damp they felt against my bare skin. “You’ve had a really bad day. I think you need a hug.” He pulled me against him, the thick fur of the bee costume thankfully creating a barricade between his body and mine. I held my breath as he squeezed me tightly.

The jangle of the shop door broke through the awkward moment like the class bell at the end of a long school day.

“Truman? Are you here?” It was Mikey’s voice, and I heard another masculine murmur as well. Probably his boyfriend, Tiller.

“Yeah,” I said, gently moving away from Barney’s grip. “Back here. Give me a minute.”

I blinked an apology at Barney and scrambled to find my clothes. If Sam was somehow with them, I didn’t want him to see my scrawny self in nothing but a pair of yellow tights.

But when I walked out to the main floor of the shop in jeans and a henley shirt, I didn’t see the big biker.

“Did you talk to Sam?” I asked a little breathlessly.

Mikey came over and gave me a big hug. It felt a million times more reassuring than the one Barney had given me just a few minutes earlier. “Yes, he sent us to check on you while they finish taking his statement.”

I closed my eyes and let Sam’s concern warm me from the inside out. That was thoughtful of him.

Mikey pulled back and searched my face. “Are you okay? He said someone was trying to bully you.”

Barney walked up and stood a little too close to me which made Tiller step closer to Mikey. Tiller Raine was a towering NFL player, who’d intimidated me when I’d first met him. But since then, I’d watched how tender and affectionate he was with Mikey. Not only had it put me at ease, it had helped me realize I needed to end things once and for all with Barney if I was ever going to have a chance at finding something like that.

Barney said, “He’s fine. Everything’s fine. It was all a misunderstanding.”

Except it wasn’t. And I could tell by the look on Mikey’s face, he knew it. He glanced at Barney before looking back and me and taking my hand. “I’m making your favorite smoked paprika shrimp tonight. Will you come for dinner?” He seemed to realize his invitation hadn’t included Barney, so he added, “Because I want to ask you some questions about the chemical effects of introducing bromelian as a pineapple-sourced protease to break down amino acids in—”

“Of course,” I blurted before he had to come up with any more excuses. I already knew that tonight was Barney’s model railroad club meeting anyway. “What time?”

It wasn’t until thirty minutes later that I realized my mistake in accepting Mikey’s invitation to dinner.

Sam was going to be there.

 

 

3

 

 

Sam

 

 

“How is he? He okay?” I asked, shrugging back into my leather jacket before grabbing my wallet and bike keys off the counter in front of me. They hadn’t actually booked me, but they’d made me leave my jacket and the contents of my pockets at the security station before being led to the little space they considered an interrogation room.

Mikey and Tiller had returned from checking on the little bumblebee who’d been bullied. This entire situation was weird, and I was looking forward to returning to their house to ask a ton of questions.

“Truman’s okay. His boyfriend was there,” Tiller said, reaching out to pat me on the shoulder. “The question is, are you okay?”

I didn’t like the idea of that young man dating the older man, not because of the age difference but because he’d looked annoyed by Truman at a time when the younger man had needed comfort and reassurance. The poor kid had been trembling. But it was none of my business, and I sure as hell didn’t need one more person’s welfare to concern myself with.

I’d had enough of that with my mom and sisters back in Houston. It was one of the reasons I’d finally convinced myself to take a vacation. I needed a break from the demands of both work and my family. And maybe it was even time to consider making some changes. Hopefully time spent on the open road would help me clear my head about some things.

But first, I needed to get my bike fixed.

“I’m fine. They’re not pressing charges. Obviously.” I shoved everything back in my pockets except the motorcycle key. “I need to stop by the Chop Shop on our way to the house. My bike’s fucked.”

I hopped in the big SUV in the lot and tried calming myself down before we got to the motorcycle shop. It wouldn’t do to go in there radiating the anger I felt after the way the law enforcement officers of this town had treated me.

Once I’d arranged for the guys at the Chop Shop to pick up the bike and give it a once-over, we made our way up the mountain to Tiller and Mikey’s home. They lived in a giant mountain lodge that they planned to convert to a bed-and-breakfast as part of opening the ski resort back up. Tiller still had several years left on his NFL contract back in Houston, so their plan was to work on it during the off-season and ramp it up slowly to fit with their own travel needs. They’d asked me to swing by to consult with them about a few construction projects.

I’d originally planned to fly in in time for a party they’d thrown last week, but at the last minute, everything had changed and I’d decided to drive it instead. Only, now my bike was out of commission.

“Sorry again about the party,” I said to Mikey from the back seat of the SUV. “You know how much I wanted to be there to help celebrate the launch of your cookbook.”

Mikey turned around and frowned at me. “Yeah. You said something happened with your sister. Which one?”

“Kira,” I said, thankful that my sister Sophie had finally settled down recently.

“Is she okay?”

I rubbed my face with my hands before letting out a breath. “Not really. She showed up at the Gillette jobsite while the project manager was there. She was high as a kite and ranting about our father and abuse and me not making it right and how she’s fucked-up because of everything and it’s all my fault. The problem is, she wasn’t making much sense, so it came out sounding like my addict sister was accusing me of abuse and neglect.”

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