MONDAY OCTOBER 3, 2005
MAIN STREET | MERIDIA FALLS
I watch Steve through the side mirror as he makes his way back to the truck. His jacket clings to his muscles. He’s got the physique of a top football star, and he’s all mine. I still can’t believe he chose me over all the others… over Candy.
He carefully carries a coffee tray in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. His hot breath blows through the icy air like smoke from a chimney. It’s so cold outside tonight it makes me crave something sweet, something to warm me up inside. Coffee just won’t cut it. I should have asked him to get me a hot chocolate instead.
Logan’s red truck is parked three cars up, opposite the Meridian Cinema Restaurant. I glance up at the windows above the glowing cinema sign. I wonder what Penny wants with Logan. That note, and the photo were like bait to a hungry fish. I hope you’re okay, Newb.
Steve pulls open the door and throws the bag he was carrying onto my lap. It’s warm, and the contents smell gorgeous. “To make up for last night.” He flashes the smile that brought me to my senses, what seems like years ago. The smile that opened my eyes. “What?” he asks, the smile turning more playful.
The warm bag on my lap snaps my mind back into focus. “I’m just basking in your warm smile.”
“Not as warm as yours, Babe,” he says, rubbing his hands together as he slides back into the driver’s seat.
I pull open the bag, and the sweet smell of hot donuts drifts out. Grabbing the one on top, I take a bite. “Maple glazed! My favorite,” I say, with my mouth full of delicious donut.
“Anything for my girl… And we need food for a proper stakeout.” Steve laughs and reaches across to the bag, but I teasingly yank it away, before relenting and letting him grab a donut. He holds the donut between his lips as he passes me a cup. Not coffee… hot chocolate.
The smile returns to his face as he munches on the donut. “Just for you,” he says.
“Hot chocolate. No way!” I take a sip. Not too hot, extra sweet. “You know me too well.”
Steve smiles and finishes his donut. Then he brings his coffee cup to his lips and takes a slow, tentative sip, like he’s checking out the heat, or he’s lost in a thought. He takes another sip, quicker this time, and then points at the Meridian Cinema; the unlit “A” in the sign flickers orange for a second, as if his pointing turned it off. “So, why are we stalking this new guy?”
“We’re not stalking,” I say, as I take a long sip of hot chocolate. “The school asked me to be his chaperone… so I’m chaperoning.”
Steve stirs his coffee. “Well, ten out of ten for commitment, Babe.” His lip curls into a grin. “What kind of extra credit are you getting for it?”
I jab him in the ribs with my elbow. His coffee spills on his jeans. “Jesus Christ, Maz.”
“Aw, poor baby,” I say, stifling a laugh.
“It’s not funny; it’s freakin’ boiling.” He rubs at the hot stain with a tissue. “You can kiss me better later.”
“In your dreams,” I say, as he leans in for a kiss.
I turn to meet his lips, and a sudden jab of pain rips through my neck. Mom pops into my head like a gatecrasher at a party. I pull away and open my coat, exposing my neck. The skin feels sore where she dug her nails in. “Are there any cuts or bruises on my neck?”
Steve sighs at the loss of the kiss, then he leans in close. “Nope, there’s nothing there…” He lifts my chin with his hand. “Why? Did Candy do something… again?”
The prom picture flashes in my mind. I shelve the thought for another time and shake my head. “No, it was Mom,” I say, pausing for a second. “She went freakin’ ballistic on me this afternoon. Grade A nut job. She almost choked me to death.”
Steve slots his coffee into the drink holder between our seats, then does the same with my hot chocolate. Then he gently takes my hand. “Because of me.” He pauses, biting his lip. “Because of last night.”
“No. Don’t worry,” I say, shaking my head. “It wasn’t you. She was being her normal bitch self… and I told her I knew about the farmhand. It just slipped out.”
Steve drags his fingers through his soft brown hair. “Shit! I thought you were keeping that one for something special.”
I roll my neck, trying to force away the stinging pain. “I couldn’t help it. Still, it won’t do any harm for her to sweat for a while.”
“Do you want me to tell my dad?” Steve asks, narrowing his eyes. He strokes his fingers down my neck. “She shouldn’t have hurt you.”
I gently grab his chin. “Thanks, but I’ll be fine,” I say. “It’s Isaac the Bastard we need to worry about. He was mental last night.”
“You don’t need to tell me.” Steve rubs his elbow. “My dad would love a reason to go after him.”
“You should have told him about last night.”
Steve frowns and glances at my neck “Dad’s got enough on his plate at the moment.”
He suddenly lunges forward, taking me by surprise. Pressing his warm lips to my neck, the pain fades, replaced by tingles. Every inch of me shivers with pleasure from his touch. I arch my back and we kiss. As my eyes close, the cinema door opens. Logan and Penny stroll out.
“Jesus,” Steve says, as I pull away. “Am I ever going to get a kiss tonight?”
I smile. “Later. You’ll get all the kisses you want.”
He smiles and then reaches for the truck keys. “So, what’s the plan, Babe.”
“Wait!” I grab his arm. “Your work truck sticks out like a turd in a swimming pool. Let’s keep our distance.”
Steve smiles as he fires up the engine. “Remind me again why we’re stalking… chaperoning him.”
The truck’s headlights shine through the freezing mist outside as we keep our distance from Logan’s truck. I take a deep breath. “I haven’t exactly told you everything about Logan.”
“Am I going to regret getting involved in this?”.
I ignore the question. “You remember that child killer that was all over the news a few years back… Patrick Collins?”
“Yeah, the sick bastard,” Steve says. “Why?”
“Patrick Collins is Logan’s dad.”
Steve slams on the brakes, and we jolt forward. He turns to face me, his eyes opening wide. “His dad… killed his sister?”
“Yep… Poor Newbie,” I say, as I rub my shoulder where the seat belt just dug in. “But that’s not the half of it. I need to tell you something else… something weird about a strange white door.”