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Never been loved, p.11
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       Never Been Loved, p.11

           C.M. Kars
 

  “Good night, Hunter. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Sera’s cheeks are pink, and she’s chewing on her lip.

  Can she want me?

  “Good night, Sera.”

  And she walks out of my apartment, leaving me and Matty behind. I get Matty to bed without much fuss, maybe ’cause I actually spent time with him instead of passing out or being spaced out.

  We wrestle him into his Iron Man pajamas, and I get a sloppy kiss on my cheek goodnight. I ruffle his hair and kiss the top of his head.

  I clean up my place, do a quick run through of the apartment, picking up toys and bills and putting them into some weak semblance of organization. Hey, I tried. I close the TV, the lights and head into my room, guts twisting, heart thumping because I’m taking Sera to breakfast tomorrow, and I need to get my head in the game. I need to be nice. I need to be courteous. I need to be respectful.

  She’s already seen the ugliest part of me, and now I get to show her some of the good.

  My fingers twitch, and I look for my sketching pad by the side of my bed. I ignore the wall where I’ve put artwork from the last ten years. It started as some sort of therapy to get my mind off my body.

  Diabetes has a way of making you so aware of every little nuance, every heartbeat, every pulse of blood in your veins that I found myself missing out on life. I missed out on so many conversations with Jules; she probably thought she was talking to a brick wall, that I wasn’t listening to her, when I had to listen to my body.

  It’s exhausting. So drawing helps. It takes me out of my body and into the picture I see in my head and how I can get it onto paper like I see it. I settle with my back to the headboard, pad over one knee.

  I had an image of Sera’s eyes in my brain, the colour of them, the way the light hits them, the play of her eyebrows, the sweep of her eyelashes. But I find myself drawing something else, something I don’t want to see.

  My hand follows the motions, the perfect curve of a tombstone. I add shading to make the glaze on the stone, but my hands shake when I trace in the letters of her name. I can’t finish the year that she died while a flash of pain streaks through my chest and my throat’s tight. I shade the headstone like the sun’s to my right. I draw in some stupid flowers – I never knew what kind she liked when she was alive – and spend some time detailing that.

  X marks the spot. That’s where my sister is, whatever’s left of her. Matty doesn’t remember her, and all I can do is remember and mourn. Julia MacLaine was happy once, until I fucked up her life. Until she followed me down into the depths of hell to pull me back out, only to get entangled in drugs herself.

  It’s my fault she’s dead. It’s my fault Matty doesn’t have a mom.

  What the fuck are you doing with a girl like Sera, anyway? No one can take on that much pain, least of all her. You can’t do that to her, asshole. You can’t make her take on your guilt.

  Fucking hell, what am I doing with her? She can have any guy she wants. But she said yes to breakfast. She probably feels sorry for you.

  Yeah, probably. It’s just that she makes me smile, and I want more of that. Even if it’s the world worst idea, I’m taking Sera to breakfast. But I’ll drive Matty to Mom’s first.

  And I will be nice.

  I will be NICE.

  I’m outside her door. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the faculty to keep my drool inside my mouth. Fucking shit, what is she wearing? Aly’s been known to wear skin tight clothes, and low cut shirts that tell more than show. Jesus Christ, Sera... she’s a classy broad in this get up, and that skirt.

  Fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m not getting hard. I’m NOT getting hard. The skirt is nothing special. I know this. But the way it hugs her hips, her ass, it has me picturing myself standing behind her and pulling the zipper tab down, down, down. I’m starting to sweat, thank God I wore a black t-shirt.

  Then the bright top that’s not tight, but not loose, either, like the clothes I’ve seen her wear. Sera likes to be comfortable and I dig that, but holy fucking shit, I’d down twelve donuts right now to see her in my bed with these kinds of clothes on. I’d eat twelve more to get her to strip for me.

  Dead puppies. Maggots. Tombstone, tombstone, tombstone. FUCKING TOMBSTONE.

  Well, I’ve got a semi and there’s nothing to be done for it. If dead puppies and maggots don’t work, I’m fucked.

  “Are you done? I’m starving.”

  Caught staring like a pervy teenager. Good job. I don’t even fight the smile this time around. She doesn’t even know what she’s doing to me, and I like it.

  Aly always knew what she was doing to my body. Sera has no freaking idea what’s going on, how she makes my body react with the words she says, the way she moves, Christ, the way she saved my fucking life, twice.

  I want her. I want her bad.

  She turns to lock her door, and I’m treated with a full view of her delectable ass that I want to pet.

  Jesus Christ, she’s going to work like that? What?!

  You’re not even her friend, MacLaine. Cool it.

  She turns around and looks at me. With tight movements, she pats her head and the strands of hair settled on her shoulders. “Do I have something in my hair? What is it?”

  Is this a game? How can someone be totally unaware of their appeal? She’s playing me. She has to be.

  I shake my head, and circle her wrist with my fingers, feeling her pulse tap-dance under my skin. That’s a sign of lust, asshole, and nothing more. Sera shivers in my grip, and shrugs at me when I catch her little dance, making every inch of her body sway and make me think things that’ll get me in the danger zone.

  Dead puppies. Maggots. Tombstone, tombstone, TOMBSTONE.

  “Where’s Matty?” she asks, and the questions falls on me like a ton of bricks.

  “I took him to my mom’s. She’s going to watch him today. I ruined her plans, but I wanted to take you out this morning.” So far, so good.

  She’s not wearing her glasses so when she looks at me she squints a little. “He’s with your mom? I feel like she would have a therapist, a nutritionist and a nanny with a master’s degree in parenting on hand. How far off am I?”

  Hide your fucking smile. Don’t let her know she has you in her palm. I can’t help the grin on my face, and when I look up, I know she’s caught it, too. I swipe my thumb against the skin of her inner wrist and nearly die at the softness.

  “You’re not wrong.” I tug her closer and my chest goes up in fireworks that she comes closer without putting up a fight. We get into the elevator and it looks like we’re both ignoring that corner where I was kissing another girl and I wanted it to be her.

  “Remember what happened last time when you got in my space? If you respect your boys, I suggest you let go of me,” she says, voice full of promise. I remember the pain, so no thanks.

  I drop her wrist but stay close. She can move away if she’s uncomfortable, plus I get to smell her shampoo and that bakery smell that has my mouth watering.

  I remember my manners when we get down to the basement – I open the car door for her, and watch her cheeks go pink as she settles in the passenger seat, putting on her glasses. As I’m driving, I’m uncomfortable with the silence.

  “Are you always this quiet, or is just me?” She’s going to say it’s just me. Damn it.

  Out of the corner of my eye, I watch her shrug. “I don’t talk if I’ve got nothing to say.”

  “Rare for a female. You guys like to talk and talk.” What the fuck, man?! What is coming out of your mouth?

  “Don’t be a dick. I’ve met guys who like to prattle on about themselves and how awesome they are, and how much they get paid, and on it goes. Now, if we were talking about last week’s episode of Supernatural or how excited I am for Sherlock, then you’d might have a hard time shutting me up. You can’t generalize, Hunter. You’re always gonna find that one person who doesn’t fit in your box, and then where will you be?”

  I fidget in my seat, especially after hearing the
word ‘dick’ come out of Sera’s mouth. My dick’s twitching and all I hear in my head is that word in her voice, over and over again.

  I drive of us to the same diner we went to on Saturday morning. I figure I need to make this place a good memory for her, not the kind where she stormed out and I let her pay for her food. Sera chooses the booth and settles opposite me, her ass squeaking along the vinyl, and there I go, smiling again.

  “What are you going to have?” Sera asks, looking over the menu, not looking at me.

  “Eggs and steak. I need the protein.” Way to kill the mood, diabetes.

  “Makes sense,” is all she says, laying the menu flat on the table. Her hair shines golden with the sun streaming through our window. “If you stay as this-Hunter, I might give you a slice of my French toast. Only if you’re nice, though. One asshole comment and I’m eating all of it myself.”

  I lift an eyebrow. Is she teasing me? All right, time to remember how to flirt. “This is how you treat all your dates, by keeping ’em on a short leash?”

  Fuck, I’ve said the wrong thing. Sera’s body tenses up, shoulders hiking up to her ears as she turns her head and looks around with a paled out face. I know that look. A look thinking that just when you’re safe, life comes to bite you in the ass. When she doesn’t see who she’s afraid of, she reaches for her water with a shaky hand and slurps it back.

  “This isn’t a date. Who the frak said anything about a date?” Sera whisper-shrieks. Her eyes are wide, the look somehow curdling in my belly. What just happened? “I’m hungry, you’re hungry. We’re mutually hungry together and so we’re sharing a meal.”

  She looks around again. Jesus, who the fuck put that look on her face, and where is he? A look like that, it has to be someone she cared about who hurt her. I’m pretty sure it’s the look I had on my face when my doctor told me I had diabetes.

  Bring her back, MacLaine. Make her believe you.

  “Sera, I’m going to be straight with you.” Against all odds, I want to be with her. “I want to take you out to dinner.”

  “Dinner?” Sera’s giving me that look like I have that radioactive spider in my pocket.

  I nod slowly. “Dinner. You and me. Together. Wherever you want to go.”

  She shakes her head, mouth open in that way that make me want to kiss her. “Like on a date?”

  “Yeah, baby. A date.” Pull out the big guns, MacLaine. Don’t smile, whatever you do, even if she’s being cute.

  “Do you want me to babysit Matty, is that it? You don’t have to date me for that, Hunt.”

  Her nickname for me’s gone straight to my dick. I shift in my seat, trying to ease the pressure in my pants. “I like that. Your nickname for me.” Her eyes are big and a little lost. Her knuckles flash white as she’s laced them in front of her. “I’m not fucking around. I want to take you out, show you I’m more.”

  Sera tilts her head to the side, frowning. “More than what?”

  “More than what you saw last night. More than what you left at the hospital.” Please.

  “I already know that. There’s no need to for us to go to dinner.”

  It’s like someone’s hit me with a sledgehammer. My body hits the back of the booth. “Are you saying no to me?”

  “I’m saying no.”

  “Can I ask why?”

  “You don’t need another girl in your life right now.”

  “Says who?” Says the fuck who?

  “Hunt, listen to me. I won’t go out with you. Will I help you out with Matty, yeah, sure. That leaves you to screw around with anyone you want.”

  “You don’t want me.” Fuck, the one girl I want, and this is what it gets me.

  She squints at me like I’m crazy. “What are you, new? Ever watch Boy Meets World? Cory Matthews said it.”

  “So you want me.”

  “It’s rude to point out that you’re good looking and anyone with ovaries would notice. I don’t know what you’ve been told, but there’s more to a person than blue eyes, and stubble, and...”

  What? What were you going to say?

  We get our food and all conversation stops.

  “I still want to take you out,” I venture, waiting for her to tell me yes.

  “And I’m going to say no.”

  She said no, asshole. Stop asking her again. You’re creeping her out. “Is it because I’m sick? I can eat anything, anywhere. I can still take you out.”

  Sera scowls at me. The pressure in my chest dissipates a little. “I don’t care about that. Frak, every hero ever created in the known universe has something wrong with them. I’m just not what you need right now.”

  “What do I need, Sera? Tell me what I need.”

  “You know what you need. You need to take care of yourself. You need help with Matty. I’m offering that help, and you’re gonna take it. You need to regulate your sugars, Hunt.” Jesus, she sounds like Doc Saunders.

  “What if you’re what I need?” I snarl, acting like an asshole again. Why are you ruining her breakfast?

  She doesn’t want you. Fucking deal with it.

  “Prove it to me, then. Prove it to me that I’m undeniably who you want.”

  Perfect. “You’ve got a deal, baby.”

  Chapter 11

  My hands are shaking, the kind that twitches your fingertips even as you try to hold them still. I shake off the last bit of water and palm my face, digging my fingers into my scalp where I lock my hands behind my neck and stare at myself in the mirror.

  I’ve got those bruises under my eyes again, and my face is starting to look haggard. On a good day, I don’t think anyone would guess my age to be twenty-eight. Hell, add some white hair and I have the look of an eighty-year-old too sick of living, too stubborn to die.

  Then there’s Sera. She’s got full cheeks and bright eyes and glossy hair. She looks alive, healthy, strong. I know a part of me thinks that if I can make her my girl, I might be able to somehow suck some of that energy into me. Stupid as fuck, yeah, but you don’t know how badly you miss your health until it’s gone.

  It’s ten to six in the morning and I feel like I’ve been hit with an eighteen-wheeler and that fucking bastard of a driver backed up and rolled me over a second time. My sugar dropped this morning, real bad. My heart’s still trying to adjust to a normal rhythm and my chest and abs are slicked with sweat, like I’ve been in the gym for a couple of hours.

  No, just been tossed headlong into a sugar drop that had me so nauseous I needed to choke down toasted white bread with margarine and honey, right after chugging down orange juice with a couple of tablespoons of sugar mixed in.

  It all seems so…pointless. I’m just going to spike my sugars up again with all the sugar I just scarfed down, then I’m going to inject insulin – I never get the goddamn dosage right, and end up fucking crashing. Over and over again. That’s my life.

  “You look like shit,” I tell the tired-assed guy in the mirror. His grimace is ugly enough that I turn away and go back to bed. Matty’s there, snuggled into my warm spot. I want to tell him to go back to his room and leave me alone, but I can’t even open my mouth right now once the cold sets in.

  I pull on fuzzy socks, tag my sweats off the floor and put them on, then I put on my thermal. At least the little guy’s body heat will make me feel a bit warmer. I really need to get a robe, a goddamn fuzzy one, too. I half-wish my whole apartment was made from fleece. And that I had a fireplace. And lived on the inside of a volcano.

  “Move over, kid,” I tell Matty, and he squirms with worm-like motions to move over. I watch him shiver in the cooler spots of the sheets.

  Matty attaches himself to my chest, his sharp knees digging into my abs, his nose burying into my thermal. I get a whiff of baby shampoo as he gets his head right under my chin.

  I have to ask. Come on, asshole. It’s not that hard. “Matty, are you tired?” Please say no. Say no so I can sleep.

  He shakes his head against my chest, and I pull in a deep breath. “So
, what’s the matter?”

  Shit, now I’m going to get his whole life story.

  “Nothing.”

  Matty breathes in ten breaths and I know I’m not going to sleep. The little conman knows how to keep me awake with curiosity, and the parent-kid obligation.

  “Why are you sleeping in my bed, kid?”

  “’Cause I like it.” He yawns and snuggles closer to me. Huh. This isn’t so bad.

  “Why all of a sudden?”

  I shouldn’t’ve asked. I knew his answer even as the question was coming out of my mouth.

  “Sera let me sleep on the couch with her last time. She read to me, too, and let me pick whatever movie I wanted.”

  Anger burns the inside of my rib cage, but I swallow it down. Matty has no malice. He’s not Aly, or his grandmother. He’s a con-artist in the making sure, and he knows what to say or do to get things he wants, but he doesn’t hurt anybody with intention.

  “Sera read to you, huh? What book?” I keep my eyes closed, and move my arms around his body in a hug. The kid snuggles in even closer, like he wants to be part of my skin, even when he has to twist his neck to get his little body even closer to mine. I don’t hug the kid enough. All the asshole points go to me.

  “Peter Pan,” he mutters into my chest. “It’s my favourite book in the whole world.” The corners of my lips skip up.

  “Have you read every single book in the whole world?”

  “I can’t read yet, Daddy. They’re just scribbles on the paper.”

  “Wait ’til you go to kindergarten. You’ll learn your alphabet and you’ll learn to read real soon.”

  He’s quiet for a time. “You mean I could read Peter Pan by myself?” He sounds… off.

  “Wouldn’t that be good?” I ask. My nephew is going to be a bookworm. I don’t think I mind so much. If it’s going to turn him to be a person like Sera, then hell yeah, I don’t mind at all.

  “Sure. But… I liked it when Sera read to me.”

  “She reads well?”

  He nods against my chest. “She reads like magic.”

  Those words when strung together shouldn’t make much sense. Hell, my heart’s sped up and I’m holding my breath.

 
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