Josalee pulled into her driveway, shaking her head at Niall’s car. Things weren’t going too well for the director. She hated to add to his problems, but if David was going to move back in, she needed to evict her new roommate. She sighed, averting her eyes from her reflection in the rearview mirror.
When she and Kimie were kids, her younger sister caught her waving goodnight to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. “So what?” Josalee asked, a hand on her hip.
New to Sandpaper Fidelity? Read Chapter 1 »
“You’re so weird, Jo,” Kimie said, rolling her eyes. “I’m telling Dad.”
Not much had changed in their adult years, Josalee decided, turning off her car. She bounced her keys at her side as she neared the front door, wondering whether she should give her sister a call or just let it go until the next family gathering. She turned her key in the lock, and paused at the sound of female laughter. Please don’t let him be watching porn, she prayed as she pushed open the door.
The laughter stopped and time froze as Josalee locked eyes with her best friend, who straddled the director on top of David’s couch, their clothing puddled around their feet. Josalee stared at them with parted lips.
“Care to join us?” Niall asked.
Josalee’s eyes remained on the pair a heartbeat longer, then her lips were moving, delivering some kind of excuse about needing milk. Her feet carried her out the door and back to her car, keys clutched in her hand hard enough that she would have little marks on her palm an hour later.
The refrigerators in the milk aisle chilled her despite the jacket she wore, but Josalee marched toward the lactose-free section and grabbed two half gallons of soy milk. Despite her early pregnancy and the baby’s uncertain future, she read more pre-natal articles every day. The latest debated the dangers of lactose products so early when so many children were lactose intolerant. A pregnancy without ice cream seemed dangerous, but not as scary as the idea of doing any further damage to her baby.
Cradling the cartons in her arms, Josalee headed toward the bakery section, from where a dozen mini, milk-free cupcakes called her name. As she neared the table with the treats, she spotted Victor, who saw her at the same time.
He gave her a smile, his eyes remaining heavy, and headed over. “Josalee,” he called, lilting the last syllable of her name. She loved the way her name sounded in his deep, husky voice.
She chewed on her lower lip as they neared each other. “Victor. Hi,” was all she could think of to say.
“How’re you feeling?” he asked, taking the cartons of soy milk from her. She gave him her best automatic “great,” and led him to the cupcake table. “Listen,” he said, “I know you and Ingrid are mad tight, and she probably told you to crucify me, but—”
“Ingrid’s having sex with my roommate,” she blurted, slapping a hand over her mouth. Victor’s voluptuous lips parted, and his eyes widened. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You deserve to know.” They stood in the middle of the bakery department in stunned silence.
As Ingrid dressed with her back to him, Niall buttoned the cuffs of his shirt and took a deep breath. “Why didn’t you tell me you were friends the first time I brought you here?” His best friend Brendan always said women would be the death of him. Niall wondered just how close he was.
Fully clothed again, she turned around, tears pooling in her eyes.
He held his arms out to her. “It’s all right,” he murmured as she rested her head on his shoulder, her pain soaking his shirt. He stroked her hair. “She’s not mad. She just looked flustered. It’s all right.”
“I always ruin everything,” Ingrid sobbed, her mascara streaking down her cheeks.
“Yeah, join the club,” he said, sighing and leading her back to the couch. He held her hands in his. “Truth is, I’m a dead end, love.” When she looked at him, hiccuping and waterlogged, he wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb. “Producer pulled out. I have to fly back on my own tab, and try to get something else going soon. Otherwise, I’m done for.”
She raised her eyebrows. “We’re quite a pair.” She crossed her legs and fingered the buttons of her long denim shirt, smoothed the fabric of her black leggings.
“Yes, we are,” he agreed. “Which brings me to this.” He pulled out his wallet and flashed his credit card. “I have enough plastic to take you back to Hollywood with me.”
Executing a final trick on the pole, her last song of the night fading, Ingrid caught a glimpse of an upside down Victor. Righting herself as she spun toward the ground, she watched him approach the stage. I thought Prez kicked him out, she thought as his eyes met hers. He looked like someone’s lost puppy. Not mine, she resolved. Not anymore.
As he neared the stage, she saw Niall enter the club behind him. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach as her stilettos touched the ground and she began scooping up the bills on the stage. Men waved more dollars at her, but she barely noticed. She watched as her two men approached, her shoulders tensing as Victor sensed Niall next to him. The black man’s lips moved, Niall shot something back, and the two froze like lions ready to do battle for the pride. The bass slammed into her ears, blocking out what they said, but their furtive glances at her on stage told her all she needed to know. Before she could save the situation, Victor slugged Niall in the jaw, sending the director stumbling backward into a group of Atlanta Falcons fans. The men grabbed Niall and shoved him back toward Victor, who cocked back his arm again.
To Be Continued…