Fallen Too Far (Chapter Seventeen)

I jerked open my truck door glad to be done with the day. My eyes went to a small black box lying on my seat with a note attached. I reached over and picked it up.


It's a phone.  You need one. I spoke with your dad and he said to get it for you. It's from him. Talk and text are unlimited so use it as you wish.


My dad had told Rush to get me a phone? Really? I opened the box and a white iPhone complete with a durable case was tucked safely inside. I pulled it out and studied it a moment. I pressed the small round button on the bottom and the screen lit up. My dad hadn't given me a gift since the birthday before he'd left. Before Valerie had died. He'd given us matching electric scooters and helmets.

I climbed into the truck and held my phone in my hand. Could I call my dad on this? It would be nice if he explained to me why he wasn't here. Why he'd sent me to a place where I was unwanted? Had he met Nan? Surely, he would have known that she wouldn't accept me. Besides, if she was Rush's sister then she was my stepsister. Was that why she was so mad? I had grown up with less money than her? God, she was cruel.

I tapped on contacts and saw that I only had three numbers saved in my phone. The first one was Bethy, then Darla, and then Rush. He'd put his number in here. That surprised me.

The phone started playing a Slacker Demon song I'd heard on the radio before and Rush's name flashed on the screen. He was calling me.

"Hello," I said, still not sure what to think of this.

"I see you got the phone. Do you like it?" Rush asked.

"Yes, it's really nice. But why did Dad want me to have it?" He hadn't cared much about anything else I'd needed over the years. This seemed trivial.

"Safety measure. All females need a phone. Especially ones that drive vehicles older than they are. You could break down at any moment."

"I have a gun," I reminded him.

He chuckled. "Yeah, you do, badass. But a gun can't tow your truck."

Point made.

"Are you coming home?" he asked. The way he said "home" like his house was my home too made me feel warm inside. Even if he hadn't meant it that way.

"Yes, if that's okay. I can go do something else if you need me to stay away."

"No. I want you here. I cooked."

He'd cooked? For me? "Oh. Okay. Well, I'll be there in a few minutes."

"See you soon," he said and the line went dead.

Here he went being incredibly strange again.

When I walked into the house the distinct smell of taco seasoning met my nose. I closed the door and headed for the kitchen. If this was actual homemade Mexican food then I was going to be seriously impressed.

Rush's back was to me as I entered the kitchen.  He was humming along to a song I didn't recognize playing over the sound system. It was smoother and slower than what he normally listened to. A bottle of Corona was opened on the bar with a slice of lime on the rim. I'd fixed many just like that while working on the course.

"Smells good," I said. Rush glanced back over his shoulder and a slow smile spread across his face.

"It is," he replied, wiping his hands on the hand towel beside him. He picked up the Corona and handed it to me. "Here, drink up. The enchiladas are almost finished. I need to flip the quesadillas and they need a few more minutes. We should be ready to eat soon."

I put the Corona to my lips and took a small sip. Mostly for courage. This was not how I expected our next encounter to go. Rush was a puzzle that I might never figure out.

"I'm hoping you eat Mexican," he said as he pulled the enchiladas out of the oven. Rush Finlay did not look like someone who belonged in the kitchen cooking.  But dang, if he wasn't sexy doing it.

"I love Mexican food," I assured him. "I will admit I'm really impressed that you can cook it."

Rush looked up at me and winked. "I got all kinds of talents that would blow your mind."

I had no doubt. I swallowed a larger gulp of the Corona.

"Easy girl. You gotta eat something too. When I said drink up I didn't mean for you to gulp it down."

I nodded and wiped off the small drop that was clinging to my bottom lip. Rush watched me intently. It made my hand shake a little.

He turned his eyes away quickly and started taking the quesadillas off the skillet. He put them on a platter full of hard and soft tacos. There were even burritos. He'd made some of everything.

"Everything else is on the table already. Grab me a Corona out of the fridge and follow me."

I quickly did as I was told and hurried after Rush. He didn't stop in the dining room. Instead, he stepped outside onto the large back porch overlooking the ocean. Two hurricane lamps stood in the middle of the table so that we could have candlelight without it blowing out.

"Sit. I'll fix your plate," he said, motioning for me to take a seat at the first seat we came to. There were only two out here.

I sat down and Rush began to dish one of everything onto my plate. Then he put the tray of food down and placed the napkin from beside my plate on my lap. His mouth was so close to my ear that his warm breath made me shiver.

"Can I get you another drink?" he whispered in my ear before standing back up.

I shook my head. I wouldn't be able to drink if he was going to do things like that. My heart was racing like crazy already. I couldn't swallow a thing like this.

Rush picked up his drink and took the seat across from me. I watched as he fixed his plate then his eyes lifted to mine. "If you hate it, don't tell me. My ego can't handle it."

I was sure nothing he made would taste bad. I grinned and picked up my fork and knife to cut off a small piece of the enchilada he'd placed on my plate. There was no way I could eat all this but I could taste some of everything.

The minute it touched my tongue it surprised me. It was as good as any I'd eaten at a Mexican restaurant. Smiling, I looked at him. "It's delicious and I can't say I'm surprised."

Rush put a forkful in his mouth and smirked. His ego could never be crushed. It might even need to be brought down a few pegs. I started to taste the other things and found myself hungrier than I'd first thought. Everything was so good I didn't want to waste anything.

After my fourth taste of everything on the plate, I knew I had to stop. I sipped my Corona and settled back in my seat. Rush was washing down his food as well. Once he finished he set the bottle down and his eyes went serious. Uh-oh. We were about to talk about last night. I had wanted to forget last night. Especially since tonight had been so nice.

"I'm sorry about how Nan treated you today," he said with a pained sincere voice.

"How did you know about that?" I asked suddenly feeling uncomfortable.

"Woods called me. He was warning me that Nan would be asked to leave the next time she was rude to an employee.

Woods was a nice guy. He could be a little too much at times but he was a good boss. I nodded.

"She shouldn't have spoken to you that way. I've had a talk with her. She promised me it wouldn't happen again. But if it does, somewhere else, then please come tell me."

This had been an apology meal for his younger sisters bad behavior, not a mending of fences between us. I wasn't on a romantic date like my imagination had managed to concoct in my head. This was just Rush apologizing for Nan.

I pushed my chair back and picked up my plate. "Thank you. I appreciate the gesture. It was very nice of you. I assure you that I don't intend to tattle to Woods if Nan is rude to me in the future. He just happened to witness it first-hand today." I picked up my drink. "Dinner was lovely. Nice to have after a long day at work. Thank you so much." I didn't make eye contact with him. I just wanted to get away from him.

Hurrying inside, I rinsed off my plate and placed it in the dishwasher before rinsing out my bottle and putting it in the recycle container.

"Blaire," Rush said from behind me and his body was suddenly right there caging me in. His hands were on each side of the counter and all I could do was stand there and look down at the sink in front of me. His hard warm body brushed against my back and I bit my tongue to keep from making a whimper. I would not let him see how he affected me.

"This wasn't an attempt to apologize for Nan. It was an attempt to apologize for me. I'm sorry about last night. I lay in bed all night wishing you were there with me. Wishing I hadn't pushed you away. I push people away Blaire. It's a protective mechanism for me. But I don't want to push you away."

Walking away from him and keeping him at a distance was the smart thing to do. Rush wasn't and never would be anyone's Prince Charming. I couldn't ever let myself think he was the one who would love me and cherish me. He would never be that guy for me. But my heart had grown a little attached to him. It didn't mean forever but for right now I wanted Rush to be my first. He wouldn't be my last. He'd just be a stop along the path of life. A stop I might never forget or get over. That was what scared me the most. Not being able to move on.

He reached up and brushing my hair from the side of my neck and then pressed a kiss to the curve of my shoulder. "Please. Forgive me. One more chance, Blaire. I want this. I want you."

Rush would be my first. It just felt right. Inside I knew he was meant to be the guy that taught me about life. Even if he broke my heart eventually. I turned in his arms and slipped my hands around his neck.

"I'll forgive you on one condition," I said, gazing up into his emotion-filled eyes that made me hope for so much more.

"Okay," he said cautiously.

"I want to be with you tonight. No more flirting. No more waiting."

The worried expression was instantly gone and replaced with a hungry gleam.

"Hell, yes," he growled and pulled me against him.