Raven’s Innocence ~ Sneak Peak to the First 3 full chapters.

Lose Your Innocence (2)

Copyright © 2014 ND White

All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without express written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 1

“Would you please put down your phone and just relax? He will text or call you as soon as he gets the chance.” Kat sarcastically rolls her eyes at me and lets out a huge sigh. “He is probably just super busy and out having fun with his brother. You said they haven’t seen each other in almost a year, they probably have a lot of catching up to do.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I’ll put my phone away.” I lean down to slip it into my bag but Kat snatches it from my hands, turns it off, and gives me an annoyed look. I choose to keep my mouth shut though, I don’t want to argue with her. Instead, I lean back in my chair and dig my toes deep into the sand. “Gosh, it feels amazing out here! I’m so glad we finally made it down here together.” I give Kat a big smile and she smiles back. I can see the irritation leaving her face.

“I just can’t believe I finally got you here! I have been begging you for the longest time to take a vacation on the beach with me. I swear, Raven, you’re the only person I know who enjoys the freezing cold air, mountains of snow, and harsh winters that we live in nine months out of the year.” Kat rolls her eyes again and laughs. “A little sun will do you some good once in a while, you know.”

“Like you’re one to talk. You are just as pasty-white as I am. Have you seen yourself lately?” I wink at her, then close my eyes. She lets out a sarcastic laugh and relaxes back in her chair as well.

Kat is right, though. I really do prefer Minnesota’s cold, crisp air and blankets of white snow instead of the hot and humid climate where I grew up in Missouri. I always enjoyed the fall and winter…I welcomed them, actually. But when spring would start to roll around, I would start to complain. By the time summer would arrive and the humidity would kick in, I’d be miserable and bitch about it straight through to October. Once I graduated from college, I wanted to get out and never look back. And through weeks of begging and bribery, I also convinced my sun-loving, winter-hating best friend to move to Minnesota with me. Now it’s my turn to listen to her complain, and since the cold weather seems to last three times as long as the hot weather there, I feel like I hear her nag at me way more than I ever did. I guess she is making up for lost time. I laugh quietly and shake my head.

“What’s so funny?” Kat turns her head and peers over her sunglasses at me.

“Oh, I was just thinking about how much I hate the heat and you hate the cold, yet I moved you 700 miles away to a frozen tundra.” I laugh again, but at her this time.

“Well, I’m glad you find it so funny,” Kat says sarcastically. “You know, though, we’ve been friends since sixth grade. I don’t think I could have handled living so far away from you for very long.” She gives me her best pouty face. “And Snowhaven is starting to grow on me. Besides, I get to drag you down here to Florida for a vacation and make you sit in the hot sun on the sandy beaches of paradise.” She playfully kicks sand in my direction.

“Don’t get too comfortable, this is just a mini-vacation. I’m doing this all for you, not me. I’m too pretty to sweat.” I reach for my sunglasses and put them on. Damn, the sun is bright out here. And it is hot. Maybe I should suggest actually getting in the water; the same body of water where creatures that can swallow you in one bite also use as their giant toilet. Maybe I’ll just admire the water from where I am. “I can’t wait to get back to the cool northern air where I don’t feel like I’m going to melt into a puddle every time I walk outside.” I playfully kick sand back in her direction and reach into my bag with the intention of turning my phone back on. Knowing it’s completely shut off is driving me crazy.

“Don’t even think about it!” Kat snaps as she grabs my bag before I can get my hands on it. “Jeesh, Raven, I can’t believe how hung up you are on this guy already! How long have you been seeing each other now?”

“About two months, and I demand that you give me back my phone right now, Katriana Joy Eriks!” I reach for it, but she moves it to the other side of her chair, out of my reach, and to be honest, I’m too lazy to get up and take it from her. The sun is draining me of all energy right now.

“Exactly, only two months, at best. Therefore, in my book, you are still technically single and so am I. We are two hot women in South Beach. We have no one to answer to, unlimited access to the beach, all the alcohol we can drink, and hot men all around us. I do believe that you will survive a full day without talking to Grant. Oh, and using my full name doesn’t scare me, you know.”

There she goes again, using that snarky tone with me. This time I roll my eyes at her and sit back in my chair with a thud.

“Fine, sit there and sulk, see if I care. But you’re not getting your phone back until we are off this beach and back at the hotel.” Kat smirks at me, pushes her sunglasses back up, leans back in her chair, and continues to sip on her Mojito.

I know this, even though I am too irritated to admit it out loud right now. But I think I really am starting to like this guy, and I think he really likes me too. Well… I thought he did. I haven’t heard from him since early yesterday evening; not a phone call or text…nothing. I called him this morning and then again after lunch before we headed to the beach. I’ve texted him too many times in between calls to count. I hope he’s okay. Maybe he met someone on his trip and I am becoming a distant memory. Get a grip, Raven. No wonder he hasn’t called you back, he probably thinks you’re some kind of crazy stalker. Kat is right, give it a rest. He will call when he can, I hope he does anyway. Listen to me, I sound so pathetic.

I still clearly remember every detail about that miserable day we met. That day was morphing into a total day from hell and the last thing I had on my mind was meeting Prince Charming. Besides, I had not had much luck in the dating world in a while. Neither had Kat, so we both decided that we were taking a break from all the stress and drama that dating brought us. When we packed up and moved to Snowhaven, we vowed to give ourselves at least a full year of getting on our feet, focusing on our careers, and living life the way we wanted to, and we didn’t have to answer to anyone else other than ourselves. Eight months later, Grant Alexander walked into my life after I nearly broke my ankle in a fight with a treadmill.

Looking back at that night, I can laugh at it now. I think my ego was in more pain than my ankle, but at the time, I seriously thought my ankle was broken. The pain that I felt shoot through my foot and up my leg was like nothing I had ever felt before.

*******

I’d had a very long day at the office, and when five o’clock finally rolled around, I was ready to go home, drink a glass of wine or three, and totally veg out in front of the TV. Even Kat wasn’t going to be at our apartment because of some after-dinner meeting she had to attend. It was going to just be me, myself, and I at home for a few hours. I was walking out of the office when Janie, the office secretary, told me that I had a client on the phone who was crying hysterically and said it was an emergency. She really needed to see me as soon as possible. As much I love being a Licensed Professional Counselor, nights like these, when duty unexpectedly calls, really can suck. I was already mentally exhausted.

“Janie, will you please make me an extra-rich pot of coffee before you leave?” I’d asked. “This is going to be a long night.” I’d gone back into my office and waited for my “emergency” to show up.

Two-and-a-half hours and a once-full-but-now-empty box of Kleenex later, I had finally been able to lock up and head out. By that time though, my nerves were shot, and I’d drank that full pot of coffee. I had a lot of caffeine running through my veins and really felt like I needed to burn off some of that nervous energy and clear my head. I had stopped by the apartment, changed my clothes, and headed off to the gym for a late-night run.

I usually never went to the gym that late at night. I am more of a morning person, so I had been pleasantly surprised to find only a handful of people there. I’d picked a treadmill, hopped on, turned up the music in my ears, and took off. I’m not sure how long I had been running before it happened. What happened exactly, I’m not sure, but before I knew it, I’d felt a horrific pop in my right ankle and the treadmill was throwing me off the back end of it. I had let out a horrible cry that even I did not recognize, and was suddenly giving the floor a great big hug, flat on my face.

As I had rolled over grabbing my foot, all I wanted was for the floor to open up and swallow me, especially when a man that I didn’t remember seeing when I got there came running to my side. And I swear, the moment I laid eyes on him, the pain I was feeling had suddenly become a distant memory. He had the most stunning turquoise-colored eyes I had ever seen in my life. They were blue, yet they were also green. They were beautiful, and instantly I’d felt the chemistry crackle between us. Or maybe I was actually going into shock from the pain. It could have gone either way at that moment. He’d asked me if I was okay and tried to help me up, but the pain returned with a vengeance when I tried to put weight on my foot.

“You need to have that looked at. Are you here alone? Is there someone who can take you to a hospital?” he had asked.

“Ugh, no one is here with me. My roommate is tied up tonight and I don’t want to bother her. I can call a cab and go to the hospital. I’ll manage.” I had tried to fake a smile and failed miserably. Damn, my ankle was killing me!

“Oh no, I’m not letting you crawl into a cab with some creepy stranger. I’ll drive you myself. Stay put and I’ll get my stuff.” He had flashed me a genuine smile. Oh, he had a beautiful mouth!

“How do I know you’re not some creepy stranger?” I had no idea who this guy was, I had never seen him in there before.

“My name is Grant, and you are…?”

“I’m Raven. Raven Pierce. Do you have a last name, Grant?” I’d smiled when I said his name.

“Alexander,” he’d responded.

“Well, Grant Alexander, it is a pleasure to meet you. I wish it could have been under different circumstances.”

“As do I, but I have to say, the pleasure is all mine.” And with that, he’d hurried away to gather his stuff.

Luckily, during my visit to the ER, I had learned that my ankle was not broken, only sprained. And that I was a big baby with a very low pain tolerance, and that I wasn’t going to be doing any more running anytime soon.

By the time we had left the ER, it was late enough that I knew Kat would be home, so I had Grant drop me off at the apartment. I would worry about getting my car home later. After he’d insisted on helping me to the door, I’d asked if there was anything I could do to pay him back for spending his entire evening taking care of a damsel in distress. That was when he told me I could give him my number.

Grant had called me the next day to see how I was doing. I’d been so excited when I heard his voice over the phone! I wasn’t sure if he was going to actually call me or not. He’d asked if I was seeing anyone and if he could take me out to dinner. I’d accepted his invitation but wanted to wait a couple of weeks, until I could walk on my own, before going out with him. Although he insisted on seeing me before our first official date, I held him off, but only from in-person contact. We’d started texting and talking on the phone practically every day after that.

*******

“Hellooo, earth to Raven. Is anyone in there?” Kat is leaning over and waving her hand in front of my face.

“Yes, sorry, I was thinking about something.” It’s a good thing I have my sunglasses on because I’m sure I have that glazed-over look in my eyes…I have no idea what she has just said to me.

“More like someone,” Kat says sarcastically. “What were you daydreaming about? Or do I even want to know?” She giggles and shakes her head.

“Well it’s not what you are thinking! Jeesh, you are such a perv, Kat. I was just thinking about the night that Grant and I met and how that had to be one of the most embarrassing nights of my life. I bet I looked like a hot mess. Besides, he and I haven’t actually “done” anything yet anyway. But God knows I want to. I really, very badly, want to.”

It’s true. I have not slept with Grant yet. I told him I was not looking for a serious relationship and he seemed okay with that. He told me we could take things slow and see where we end up. We have definitely enjoyed some heavy make out sessions, but he hasn’t once tried to push me beyond that. Although now, I’m beginning to wish he would go ahead and start pushing. Push me right over the edge into an orgasmic world of bliss! Okay, cool your jets, Raven, before you need a cold shower. I have to say, though, he really is a true gentleman.

“I can see that. You have ‘horny’ written all over your face.” Kat arches an eyebrow at me. “Anyway, I asked if you were ready to get off this beach and head back to the hotel. We need to get ready for tonight. Looking this good is a process, you know.”

“Oh thank goodness! I am so ready to get out of this sun. Let’s go!” I’m the first one to jump up out of my chair, grab my bag and sandals, and start heading back towards the hotel. Luckily we don’t have too far to walk. Our hotel is right on the beach and our room has an amazing ocean view. It really is too bad that I’m more of a snow bunny, because this place really is beautiful.

It’s just not for me.

Chapter 2

Hot Tamale, Plum Passion, or Cherry-Bomb Red? Yes, I am truly having a hard time deciding on my lipstick color. You would think this is a life-or-death decision I’m having to make. I can be so indecisive sometimes. Or all the time. Well, part of the time. When I am given too many options, it takes me three times as long as the normal person to make one simple decision, like what color lipstick I should wear tonight. How about all three? I can mix them together and make my own color. I’ll call it Hot Cherry Passion.

I smile at myself in the mirror after all three colors are applied. Not too bad, I think to myself. My naturally curly chin-length bob is actually cooperating tonight. The light is reflecting off my dark, shiny curls. My plum eyeliner is making my hazel eyes pop. An old friend once told me that my eyes reminded her of Obsidian. They really are pretty. Often times they look more green than hazel, but I think it depends on my mood too. I can’t believe I let Kat talk me into buying this extremely tight, body-hugging, turquoise dress. If I even attempt to bend over, my breasts will fall out the front while my butt pops out the back. Since it’s something I would never normally buy for myself, it took some serious convincing on her part. And these shoes. I can already tell that I’m going to need to slip a pair of comfortable flats into my purse and change shoes before the night is over. I haven’t worn a pair of heels like these since I had that embarrassing treadmill accident. I told Kat I didn’t need the extra height either. I’m already 5’7”. These heels shoot me up to at least six feet.

“Look at you! I’d jump you myself right here and now if you’d let me.” Kat is standing in the doorway. Her sudden enthusiastic entrance makes me jump. I’d been too consumed with checking myself out in the mirror to notice her approaching the door to the bathroom. I giggle and even blush at her comment. We joke around and say things like that to each other all the time, but it really is only innocent teasing.

I turn around and I am immediately swooning over how hot she looks, as well. She’s wearing a red strappy dress that hangs just above her knees with black peep-toe heels that give her an extra couple of inches in height, which she feels she desperately needs. Kat wears heels with everything she possibly can.

She has always been downright gorgeous. She has these big eyes that are almost the color of a crystal blue sky and her eyelashes are so long and thick that she rarely uses mascara. When she does, she looks like she glued on false eyelashes. Her nose is perfectly pointed with a slight tilt, and she has a set of lips on her that I would pay to have, if I wasn’t so scared of having a needle jabbed into my face to plump them up. She is petite, yet curvy. Snow-white skin that glistens in the sun. Hair the color of gold. And she totally rocks that pixie haircut she got when we moved to Snowhaven. She and I both cut off our long locks. A new beginning, in a new place, with a fresh new look.

But don’t let her 5’3” frame fool you into thinking she is sweet and petite. Kat is a pretty powerful woman and a force to be reckoned with if you get in her way. She and I are a lot alike and we understand each other. I think that’s why we stay so close and can actually live as roommates without killing one another. We know how to pick our battles, and we’re always there for each other to pick up the pieces when life tears us apart.

Kat’s eyes are glistening as she grins and says, “You look stunning, as always.”

I smile. “I’m almost ready to go. I just need to grab a couple of things and shove them in the clutch you bought me for my birthday, which I love, by the way.” I really do love it. It’s red and black and screams “sassy.” Kat has great taste. She can look at clothing and accessories and throw them together to create a masterpiece. I, on the other hand, am lucky if my socks match. When it comes to fashion, my style is lacking…and very simple. I rarely go shopping without Kat by my side.

I grab a few things from my purse and locate my cute little fold-up flats. Whoever invented these shoes was a genius. Hmmm, I feel like I am missing something. I stand in the middle of the hotel room looking around. “Have you seen my phone?” I call out to Kat.

“It’s probably still in your bag.”

I dig my phone out of my bag and realize that it’s still shut off. Great. I hope I didn’t miss anything important, like Grant calling me. I haven’t talked to him since before Kat and I hit the strip to go shopping and he was heading out to have a few drinks with his brother last night. At least I don’t have to worry about it not being charged. I turn it on and impatiently wait for it to power up.

“Shit!” Five missed calls, two voicemails, and three text messages, all from Grant. “Kaaat! No thanks to you, I missed all these calls and messages from Grant! It looks like he has been trying to get in touch with me all afternoon!” Un-freaking-believable!

“That’s what voicemail is for…chill!” she snaps back at me. I love her to death, but right now I want to slap the snarky right out of her. I look at the text messages first. ‘I’m trying to call you, please call me as soon as you get this.’ ‘Have you gotten any of my messages?’ ‘Raven, where the fuck are you?’ Okay, that last text message was a little uncalled for. Grant could have omitted the f-word. I get it, he needs to talk to me. Jeesh! So unlike him…I don’t think I’ve ever heard him swear once. I decide to skip the voicemails and just call him. I’m glaring at Kat while I wait for Grant to pick up on his end.

“Grant Alexander,” he snaps when he finally answers the phone.

Why is he answering his phone like that? He should know it’s me.

“Grant, it’s Raven,” I say softly.

“It’s about damn time you called me back…I’ve been trying to reach you all damn day! You have a mobile phone. Why didn’t you have it on you? Hence the word MOBILE.”

Wow, I can’t believe he is actually yelling at me right now. I am still glaring at Kat through clouded vision. This is all her fault that he is this angry. I can’t believe she took my phone and shut it off. She is looking at me with sincere confusion. I have to turn around because I don’t want her to see the tears starting to pool in my eyes. I have yet to see Grant angry, and I have never heard him talk like this. Ever. Now I’m on the receiving end of an asshole attack and I am a few seconds short of jumping off this ride.

“Well, hello to you, too.” I hope he doesn’t detect the quivering in my voice. “Look, I don’t know what has suddenly crawled up your ass and died, but I don’t deserve you barking at me like that! So until you can stop throwing your mantrum and talk to me like an adult with the respect I deserve, this conversation is over.” I barely spit out those words through gritted teeth before the floodgates open. Damn it, there goes my makeup.

I go to hit the End button on my phone when I hear Grant call out “Raven, wait! Please don’t hang up.”

“Oh, you’re hanging up all right! I don’t know what’s going on but that asshole is going to have to answer to me.” Kat’s on my heels, trying to take the phone. I shouldn’t be surprised that she could hear him yelling from across the room. I shoo her away and ask her to please wait because I want to hear what he has to say. After that outburst, I should have hung up the phone, but I can hear the desperation in his voice. This behavior is so out of character for him.

“What do you want, Grant? What is so horrible that will justify your adolescent behavior towards me?”

Kat approaches me with a box of Kleenex.

“Thank you,” I whisper to her.

“It’s my brother. He’s dead.” Grant’s voice is barely a whisper. Then, silence.

All I can hear is his breathing. I have to sit down, and slowly lower myself onto the bed. Kat sees my face fall and instantly knows something is very wrong. She rushes over and sits down by me and takes my hand.

“Oh my gosh, Grant….I….what happened?” I am at a total loss for words.

“It was suicide. He fucking killed himself.” Grant’s voice cracks, and my heart starts to break for him.

I don’t even know what to say. Nothing I can say will take away the hurt he is feeling right now. What I wouldn’t give to be able to wrap my arms around him and hold him together in this moment! He needs me. I need to get to him.

“Suicide? Grant, tell me where you are, exactly, and I’ll take the first available flight to get to you.”

Kat gets a panicked look on her face as she searches mine for answers.

“No!” he quickly snaps.

“But why? You need someone to help you right now.”

“Just don’t, Raven. I don’t need you here right now.”

Ouch, that was yet another unexpected reaction from ‘Prince Charming.’

“Okay….” I pause. What do I even say to that? Wow. A long, awkward silence fills the space between us. Kat is still looking at me, her eyes full of questions.

Grant lets out a huge sigh. “Raven… look, it’s not that I don’t need you here. That came out the wrong way.”

Another long pause, but I don’t say anything. I am waiting for him to explain what the hell is going on.

“It’s a long story, and I honestly don’t know all the details yet. I’m still processing this whole thing myself. I need some time to think, and to figure all this out. Maddy is flying in from Boston. She will be here tomorrow morning. I’ll be okay, I’ll have her here with me. You need to stay put.”

I’m glad he’ll have his sister there, even though I don’t really know how close he and Madelyn are. I hope she is enough support for him.

I don’t understand this. If the tables were turned, I would be devastated, and begging for him to get to me as soon as he could.

“I don’t understand.” That’s the only thing I can think to say, and it’s honest. I really don’t understand why he’s rejecting me and why he doesn’t want me to be with him right now.

“Raven, I know that you think coming up here will help me, but it won’t. There is a lot to this that I don’t even understand yet. I need to work through this with my sister and I’m sure other family and friends will be here with us, as well.” Grant is speaking slowly, and sounds like he is on the verge of losing it. “Besides, I don’t want to ruin your trip with Kat. You two have had this planned for months and you were really looking forward to your vacation. You two need this.”

“But….” I interrupt him.

“No buts, Raven. Do what I say and let it go.”

This time I let out a huge sigh. I can tell that this is an argument I am not going to win, not without having a huge fight with him. He doesn’t need the added stress.

“Now what? Are you planning a funeral? When will you be back?” I really want to ask him why he’s shutting me out.

“I don’t know the answers to any of that right now. Look, I need to go. I have a lot to take care of. Try not to worry about me. I’ll be okay. I’ll call you tomorrow after Maddy gets here.”

“Fine,” I sharply reply. I should be more sensitive, but I admit, my feelings are hurt, knowing he doesn’t need me.

“When I get back, I’ll explain everything. Right now, please respect my wishes. I’ll be in touch. Good-bye, Raven.” And with that, he hangs up.

I slowly let my phone slide out of my hand and onto floor, while tears slide down my cheeks.

“What in the hell happened, Raven? His brother committed suicide?” Kat’s eyes are wide with fear and concern and she looks like she is about to spring a leak.

All I can do is look at her and nod my head.

“Oh honey…” She wraps her arms around me, hugging me tight.

I grab more Kleenex and start dabbing at my cheeks and eyes. I really have to pull myself together. “He didn’t even really tell me what all happened,” I sniffle.

Kat gives me a puzzled look.

“And he was so hateful. He takes my head off for not getting back to him earlier, then when he does tell me something, he tells me he doesn’t need me. He is completely shutting me out.” Oh great, the floodgates are re-opening. Here I go again. I recap the short conversation between heavy sobs.

Kat looks at me with sympathetic eyes. “Well, my first reaction is to tell you what an asshole he is, but he just experienced a huge tragedy and is feeling a lot of different emotions right now. He really probably doesn’t know how to process all this, and he was projecting his anger out on you. If he’s as great as you have been saying he is, then you have to know he probably didn’t mean what he said.” She squeezes my shoulders and smiles.

“You’re probably right.” I just sit there and stare at the floor.

“Hey, if you want to just stay in tonight, we can order room service, maybe soak in the hot tub later, and watch some sappy chick flicks on TV.”

I snap my head up. “Oh no, not a chance! I didn’t make myself look this good to just stay here and not show off my assets tonight. We are going out.” I get up off the bed.

Kat and I only have a couple of days left before we have to fly back home. I’m not letting this ruin one night of my vacation. If he doesn’t need me, then fine, I don’t need him… and yes, I know I sound petty. We are going to make the best of this night. However, I am afraid to look in the mirror. I really hope I don’t have to start my makeup routine completely over.

“I’m all for staying in and you showing off your assets to me,” Kat responds, winking at me.

“Maybe you’ll get your own special viewing later tonight.” I wink back and giggle.

“That’s what I’m talking about.” Kat jumps off the bed, grabs my hand and drags me towards the bathroom. “Now, we just have to do a quick face-fix. The smoky eye is totally in right now, so we may be able to make this work.” She waves her hand in a circle in front of my face for emphasis.

I look in the mirror and whine, “Oh look at me, I’m a mess!”

“I’ve got this. You’ll be a hot mess soon enough.” Kat grins at me and bites her lower lip. She knows how to make everything better. She’s right, she’s got this. I hand her my makeup bag and she gets to work.

********

Kat and I really did have a lot of fun that night, despite what had happened. I really did not want to put a damper on her fun. She was so elated that I agreed to come down here in the first place, and things had been going so well. I was not going to let Grant ruin this for us.

We started our evening out eating Cuban cuisine, and we were not disappointed. I ate way more than I should have. Our next stop was a pub, just down the street. Both of us partook in alcoholic beverages, which really helped us loosen up, and my mood was getting better with each drink. We finally ended the night at a club. It only took two winks and a tight squeeze of my ass, courtesy of Kat, of course, to get us moved up to the head of the line and right through the doors. We danced and drank and then danced some more.

A couple of extremely cute guys kept hitting on us and buying drinks for us. Kat was having way more fun soaking up the attention and turning up her flirtatious heat than I was. Even though I was enjoying myself very much, I couldn’t get Grant out of my head. The moment the hot blond who had eyes the color of emeralds tried to cup his hand on my breast, my fun quickly started to come to an end. I was hit right in the gut with a huge feeling of guilt. This was a man, as I watched him approach me the first time tonight, who had women practically tripping over their own tongues as he passed them by without a second look, because his eyes were set on me. What is wrong with me? I’ll tell you what is wrong me… Grant Alexander is what is wrong with me.

I politely asked Blake, I think that was his name…I was too drunk to care to remember… to excuse me while I pulled Kat off the dance floor. I told her all the alcohol was starting to make me feel a little crummy and I was ready to call it a night. She was totally cool with it, although I’m pretty sure she saw the exchange between me and Blake and knew the real reason why I wanted to leave. We thanked the boys for a very entertaining evening, said our goodbyes, and went back to the hotel.

Kat and I spent more time on the beach just relaxing over the next couple of days. We did a little shopping and enjoyed the seafood that we would never get to eat in Snowhaven…not fresh like this, anyway.

I didn’t speak to Grant on the phone during that time either. I sent him a text the day after we spoke to see how he was and if he had time to talk. He replied back that he was fine but busy, for me not to worry about him, and that he would call me when he could. He never did call. Kat tried to reassure me that everything would be okay, that we all grieve in our own way and to not take Grant’s behavior too personally. I couldn’t help it, though. I felt like he was completely shutting me out and it really did hurt.

The morning Kat and I got up to head to airport, I sent Grant a text telling him we were flying back to Snowhaven and asked if he knew when he would be back. He texted me back and told me to let him know when I had arrived home safely and that we would talk soon. I guess his wanting to know I made it home safely made me feel a teeny tiny bit better. He didn’t answer my question as to when he would be home, though…maybe he just didn’t know that yet.

*********

Kat and I do a last check of our room to make sure we are not leaving anything behind, and head to the airport, which, fortunately, is a short trip. We locate our terminal and get in line.

“I had so much fun, Raven. Thank you for you coming here with me. I know you’re not Florida’s biggest fan, but I’m really glad we got to spend our vacation here together.” Kat wraps her arms around me and hugs me tight.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else with anyone else, Kat. I had a lot of fun too. I’m glad we came.” I smile at her. “We’ll have to come back here again soon.”

“Ooh Ooh! How about we spend some time here for the holidays? Wouldn’t that be amazing?” Kat is beaming with excitement.

“Okay, not that soon. And no, spending any part of the holidays on a warm sandy beach in Florida is just not right. Talk about sucking the spirit of Christmas right out of you.” I sarcastically roll my eyes but end up grinning at her anyway.

“Flight 177, service to Minneapolis, is now boarding,” we hear announced over the intercom.

“Come on, snow bunny. Let’s get you back home before you melt,” Kat says, and we laugh like school girls as we board the plane.

I can’t wait to get back home.


Chapter 3

I collapse onto my bed the minute Kat and I arrive home. I feel so jet-lagged right now. I look at my suitcase, which is in the middle of my bedroom floor exactly where I dropped it. I really should start unpacking now and get it over with. I have so much crap to put away. I think I came back with twice as many clothes as I took with me. Well, a couple of adorable new sundresses, three necklaces, five bracelets, and a pair of strappy sandals that were just way too cute to pass up.

Oh, I almost forgot, I need to let Grant know we are home safely. Should I text him or call him? I really would like to talk to him, but I’m really not in the mood to hear his hateful tone of voice again. I haven’t talked to him in four days, not since he told me his brother died. Maybe he has had some time to process some of this and not act like such a jerk. I really should let that go. His brother died, for Pete’s sake! If I were in his shoes, I probably would have gone bat-shit crazy myself.

It takes a great deal of effort to drag myself off the bed. I swear my big, soft, purple comforter is beckoning me to wrap myself up, and let sleep take hold. But if I do that, I’ll never get anything done and it’s already 3:00 in the afternoon. I think I’ll just send Grant a text, let him know I’m home, and ask him to call me when he has a chance to talk. Besides, I need to unpack and start doing all this laundry.

I grab my suitcase, toss it onto my bed and unzip it as Kat comes bursting into my room. I jump…I startle easily. “Jeez Kat, you scared the crap outta me!”

“Sorry. I heard your phone go off, it’s a text message. Thought you’d want to know.” Kat hands me my phone and turns around to leave my room. She stops in the doorway and looks at me. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starved. I was thinking we should grab an early dinner as soon as we are unpacked.”

“Yeah, sure. I’m getting pretty hungry too,” I agree.

“Great, have fun with that.” Kat heads back to her own bedroom, to unpack, I assume.

I check the text message on my phone. It’s from Grant. ‘Have u made it home ok? It’s getting late in the day and I haven’t heard from u. I didn’t know when your flight was, exactly.’

“Well that’s because you didn’t ask,” I say under my breath. At least he is texting me first. He really is worried or he wouldn’t have sent me that, right?

I respond back, ‘Yeah, just got home a little bit ago. Getting ready to unpack. So glad to be home.’

After I hit Send, I wonder if I should have asked him how he was doing or if he knew when he was coming home. I text him again. ‘How are you doing? I miss u & have been worried about u.’ I feel uncertainty brewing in my stomach as I hit Send. I wonder how long it will take for him to respond to that, if he even does. I’m almost afraid to ask how he is, but I want to know. I really do care about him. I can’t imagine what he is going through right now. I need to stay distracted, so I drop my phone onto my bed beside my suitcase and start unpacking.

My phone rings, I pick it up. It’s Grant. He is actually calling me. My stomach starts to knot up again while I stare at his name flashing across the screen. “Hello…” I finally answer.

“Raven…hi, it’s Grant.” His voice is so soft, almost a whisper.

“I know who it is.” I sound annoyed, and that was probably a little too obvious.

“So, how was your flight home?” He sounds as if he’s afraid to ask.

“It was good. I slept part of the way. You know how much I hate flying.” I laugh nervously.

“Yeah…” is all he says. Here comes the awkward silence between us. I want to ask him how he is doing when he starts this very uncomfortable conversation back up again. “Raven, look, I uh, I owe you an apology for the way I acted the other day on the phone…”

“Grant, don’t. You don’t have to apologize. I just—”

“—didn’t deserve that,” he interrupts me and finishes my sentence. The sincerity in his voice makes me relax a little and I feel some of my hurt feelings evaporate. I inhale a deep breath and sigh.

“I was such a wreck when I finally got you on the phone,” he continues. “So much was happening and it was happening so fast. I think I went into shock or something, and I just didn’t call you the night it happened.”

Good, he’s finally talking to me, telling me what happened. I don’t interrupt him, I just let him keep talking.

“Then my phone died after being on it all night talking to family. The next morning I was so consumed with trying to make flight plans for everyone, but was also upset that I couldn’t just take the time to sit down and talk to you when you were trying to reach me.”

Well, that doesn’t make me feel too good, I think to myself.

“I had already told the story over and over again to the coroner, to the hospital, to the family, and to the police. I was sick of talking about it.”

My turn to interrupt him. “Wait, the police? Why did you have to talk to the police? What exactly happened?”

Grant doesn’t say anything.

“What happened to your brother? Why did he commit suicide?” I hate having to repeat myself and I am growing impatient now.

“It’s a really long story, Raven. Not one that I want to get into right now.”

“Well when then? Why are you shutting me out, Grant?”

“I don’t mean to be doing that. This is just really painful to talk about. I’ll tell you everything when I get home, I promise.”

“Which is when?” I ask.

“I’ll be back tomorrow. My flight leaves at 8:30am. I’ll call you as soon as my plane lands. Once I get home and settled, I can come see you, or you can come to my place.”

The thought of seeing him tomorrow makes me smile. “Okay. Good. I guess I can wait until tomorrow. I’ve really missed you. And I’m just really sorry I couldn’t be there for you during all of this.”

“I missed you too,” he responds. “I need to go. I’m having dinner with Maddy, and then seeing her off at the airport. She has a late flight back to Boston.”

“Okay, I understand.” I pause. “Thank you for calling me. I feel so much better after hearing your voice. I can’t wait to see you.” I’m smiling again.

“Same here,” he says. “Try not to be mad at me. I’m sorry I handled it the way that I did. I should not have been so hateful to you when I finally got hold of you.”

“Well, that was Kat’s fault. She shut my phone off after she took it from me,” I say through gritted teeth.

“Why did she take your phone from you?”

“Because I had been trying to reach you and I was worried and about to lose my mind because you weren’t calling me or texting back. I wouldn’t put my phone down, so she took it from me.” I’m still just slightly irritated at her for that. “Then, when I called you back after you had been trying to reach me, you lashed out at me and I was completely caught off-guard by your reaction.” I think I might cry again, just thinking about it.

“I know, I know. I was way out of line. And practically out of my own mind, too. When I finally had the chance to breathe and call you to tell you what happened, you weren’t answering me, and I just snapped. I was overwhelmed, and shouldn’t have talked to you like that.”

“You’re forgiven,” I interrupt him. Yes, it still stings, but I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. “I won’t keep you any longer, I know you need to get to dinner with Maddy.”

“Yes I do. I’ll see you tomorrow, Raven.” I love how he says my name. I’ve heard him say it a bazillion times before, but something about the way he said it just now…

“Tomorrow. Safe travels,” I say.

“Yes, safe travels,” he repeats, and then hangs up.

“Was that who I think it was?” Kat is peeking around my bedroom door at me.

“Were you eavesdropping?” I try to sound irritated and scowl at her, but it doesn’t work because I really don’t mind that she was standing outside my bedroom door, listening.

“Of course I was. I’m not even going to try and deny it.” Her devious grin is adorable. “Well, how did it go? From what I could hear, things sounded a lot less tense.”

I fill her in on our whole conversation. By the time I’m done, I can’t help but smile. I really can’t wait to see him again. I’m not exactly looking forward to hearing about his brother’s suicide, mainly because I am going to hate seeing Grant in that kind of pain. However, I am hoping I can help him forget about some of his pain, even if it’s just for a short time. I grin at the thought. I really need to get my mind out of the gutter. No…I need to get laid. That is what I need. I need Grant to sweep me off my feet and take me in a way I have never been taken. Soon. I hope it’s sooner than later. But with his brother’s suicide, I figure sex with me is the last thing on his mind right now.

“I don’t know about you, but I am starving, and we have nothing in this place to eat. Do you want to go grab something, then we can finish unpacking later and start our laundry?” Kat asks, giving me a pleading look. That girl is always thinking about food. I wish I could eat like she does and still look that good. Even thinking about food makes a fat deposit right on my thighs.

“Might as well. I’m pretty hungry too, and after talking to Grant, I’ve lost my motivation to unpack right now. In the morning, we can get up early and run to the store and re-stock our kitchen. I want to try and get as much done as we can before I see him tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Kat says. “And then back to work Monday. So not looking forward to that.”

“Me either.” I roll my eyes. I’m going to need a vacation to recover from my vacation. “So what sounds good?” I ask.

Kat taps her finger on her chin while looking at the ceiling….her “deep thought” look.

“I could really go for a greasy cheeseburger, curly fries, and a shake right now,” I say.

“Raven, you read my mind.”

“The Sizzler,” we both say practically in unison.

“I’ll call it in and we can just pick it up and bring it home, if that’s okay,” I offer.

“Fine by me,” Kat says. “While you’re calling it in, I’ll go start a load of laundry, and then we’ll go pick it up.”

I grab my phone. My mouth is watering just thinking about that greasy cheeseburger. I can’t dial the phone fast enough.

*******

I don’t want to even think about how many miles I will have to put in on a treadmill to burn off that meal. Guess it doesn’t really matter though, because I don’t have the all-clear to take up running again anyway. It will be salad all day tomorrow for me. And probably every meal after that for the next month. I really did over-indulge while we were in Florida. I’m afraid to step on a scale right now.

Kat and I spend the rest of our evening unpacking, doing laundry, and lounging around on the sofa talking about our favorite parts of our trip. We had such a great time. Florida is not a destination vacation hot spot for me in any way, but spending it with Kat made it so worth almost every minute of it. Yes, I did say almost. There were some parts of it that sucked, like the heat. We end our evening with a glass of wine around 10:00pm.

I lie in bed under the cool breeze of my fan, staring at the ceiling. I was so exhausted, but now that I’m in bed, my mind won’t shut off. I am feeling overwhelmed with a combination of excitement and anxiety. I can’t wait to see Grant tomorrow! I have missed him so much.

I know we haven’t known each other for very long, but there was something that drew me to him from the moment we met. Well, other than the fact that I couldn’t walk and literally needed him to get me from the gym to the hospital and then back home. But even after he dropped me back at my apartment that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I couldn’t stop talking about him. Kat said she thought it was the painkillers talking, especially since I was also glassy-eyed and practically drooling all over myself; but when I woke up the next morning, he was the first thing I thought about.

And when he called me the next day to see how I was doing, I remember the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach all day after that.

And they have continued to flutter ever since.

 

~~~ What drew Raven Pierce to Grant Alexander? What exactly happened to Grant’s brother? Will they be able to survive such a tragedy? Is this the beginning of the end?

If you want to keep reading, Raven’s Innocence is available here:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L9I45N0 Kindle
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0990389103 Paperback

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s