Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes. Lying on his side, he waited for the world to fall into place. Monochromatic color scheme. Austere furniture. Steam-cleaned upholstery. He must have fallen asleep at Cam’s place again.
He took stock of his person. Every bone in his body ached in tandem with his head. His mouth tasted as if he’d been sucking on pennies all night. But a throbbing pain sliced through the rest.
He raised his bandaged hand. Memories of the night were slow to replay. The party. Knocking back drink after drink Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes. Showing up on Cam’s doorstep completely wrecked.
Spilling his guts to Tess.
What he’d done should have infuriated him; should have launched him into a fit of rage so violent it would’ve leveled the townhouse.
But it didn’t.
He was ashamed, bitter even, to admit that talking to her had come as a respite. Fearing the inevitable downward tailspin, he’d clung to her presence.
Even now he felt it dampening his mood. Black and cumbersome, the unending gloom carpeted the floors of his mind.
An upper would remedy that problem.
His gaze returned to the Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes bandage. It was the first time he’d told anyone about the diagnosis. Not even Cameron knew. Maybe he’d been mistaken in keeping it to himself. Loosened from his chest, it felt good to air out the secret after burying it for so long.
Any normal person would’ve hightailed it out of there or called the authorities. Instead, she stayed.
He cradled his hand to his chest. It’d been a long time since someone cared for him. It disoriented him.
She was toppling his defenses one at a time and he couldn’t act fast enough Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes to stop it.
If only things were different. If only he was different. If only he’d met her first. Under better circumstances, naturally.
Not for the first time he wished to be normal; to be free from the ghosts of his past and the baggage with its eternal shelf life.
Adonis pressed his face into the pillow to find some solace. For a fragment of an instant, he caught the faintest trace of her scent. Sweet and balm-like, for a moment it hoisted his spirits above the surface.
A part of him wished she’d hadn’t left Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes. With her, his emotions had been clearer, lucid. The indescribable sadness hadn’t seemed so infinite.
The pop and sizzle of frying bacon broke him from thought.
Fatigue carved through the will to keep his eyes open. He could sleep until next week if given the chance. For now, he owed Cameron an explanation.
Mustering his strength, Adonis swung into a sitting position. His skull split with the endeavor. He hauled himself up and shuffled past the demolished bar. Someone had cleared the broken glass, mopped up spilled liquor, and removed the bloody, jagged remains of the mirror.
Guilt Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes gnawed at him.
Adonis dragged his feet into the kitchen like a disobedient dog with its tail tucked between its legs. Cameron stood by the stovetop, spatula in hand. “Hey,” he mumbled.
The silence stretched on for one agonizing minute before he responded with, “Rough night?”
“You could say that.” Adonis couldn’t marshal the energy to sound as sorry as he felt. “I’ll replace everything.”
“I don’t care about the money," he said icily. “Did you know Lydia and I searched half the city looking for you, thinking that you were lying dead Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes in an alley somewhere? Instead I come home, find my house half smashed to pieces, and my girlfriend cleaning up your shit.”
Somehow the word girlfriend belted him harder than the rest. The pulsing in his head intensified. “Cam-”
“You need to stop pulling this shit, Adonis. It’s getting really old, really fucking fast.” Finally, Cameron turned around. His eyes were flinty chips of blue. “Don’t ever disrespect me or my house like that again.”
“Sorry,” he murmured.
“What’d you take this time? Adderall? Codeine?” His features flattened. “Don’t tell me you went back to coke.”
Adonis’s Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes teeth clamped shut as a belated swell of anger trundled through him. It was his own damn fault for using so many years. How could he explain that for once drugs hadn’t been the culprits? How could he describe the energy it had taken to control and subdue the thoughts flashing through his mind so fast he couldn’t grasp one without plowing into the next?
He’d begun drinking to dilute its effects, but all it’d done was swing him higher, faster, harder, until nothing made sense except for an inexplicable rage. “I got Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes drunk.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Cameron cut off the stove and tossing the pancake on top of a stack of its brethren.
“I’m going to see someone. A shrink.” The confession left a foul, vinegar-like aftertaste.
“Yeah. No point in pretending I won’t end up like them.” His gaze flicked up. “My family.”
“What changed your mind?”
Adonis bit his tongue before he said ‘your girlfriend’. “A lot of things. I didn’t take anything last night, besides the booze,” he admitted lowly. “It was just…me.”
Cameron withdrew another plate from the cabinet. Adonis waited Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes, expecting additional questions, concerns, and comments.
But then he had never been overly concerned with the particulars of his mental state. In typical Cameron fashion, he kept his head buried in clouds, coming down from his self-appointed pedestal only to right his wrongs before returning to his ennobled dais.
Adonis accepted the plate of pancakes and side of bacon.
Cameron drizzled syrup across his stack. “What happened to your head?”
The rest of break elapsed somewhat uneventfully. Tess managed to avoid Maia for the rest of the weekend. It helped that Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes her mother, in all likelihood, went to great lengths to do the same. By Sunday afternoon, she was more than ready to leave.
“Where’s the fire?” Cameron asked as she speedily tossed her things into the trunk and slid into the passenger’s seat.
“Let’s just go.”
He left it alone. “About the other night, I’m sorry.”
He scowled. “For Adonis. “
“It fine, Cam. Really.”
“No, it’s not.” The muscle in his jaw twitched. “I’ve been making excuses for his behavior long enough. He’d try to get away with murder if he knew Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes I’d cover for him.”
“At least he has someone in his corner,” she said without thinking.
His eyebrow arced into his hairline. “When did you become his champion?”
She shrugged, albeit uncomfortably. “Is that a crime now?”
“No, but last I checked, you’d both rather eat glass than say one nice word about one another.”
“He was in a bad way. Who am I to judge? Especially after everything that went down with his family.”
Cameron’s knuckles tightened on the steering wheel. “He told you that?”
A twinge of nervousness needled through her. “He was pretty Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes wrecked.”
“You haven’t told anyone, have you?”
“Told anyone?” Irritation chomped at the bit. “What’d you think I’m going to do? Out him on Facebook?”
“After everything he put you through, I wouldn’t blame you.”
She stared at him in open-mouthed surprise. And hurt. “Well, you’re wrong.”
He grimaced. “Tess, I didn’t mean anything by it. Forget I asked.”
“Forgotten,” she said, although the subject was anything but.
Neither spoke for the duration of the drive.
The less than joyous return to school set a precedent for the next few days. Tess tried Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes to get back into the swing of things, but it was like trying to squeeze into clothes she’d outgrown.
Lectures and labs she’d handpicked at the beginning of the semester lost their luster. It wasn’t the best of times to fade out, but she couldn’t help it.
She wanted to do something else. Something more.
She started. “Sorry, Diane. What?”
“Excuse me if I’m boring you,” her supervisor grumped.
“You’re not. I just have a lot of things on my mind.” Tess stretched back in the booth. “Why Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes is it so dead in here?”
“Post-Thanksgiving lag,” her supervisor said, her drooping jowls especially ruddy under the restaurant’s unforgiving florescent light.
“Don’t stress. They’ll run out of leftovers soon.”
“It’s your loss, not mine. I’m salaried. You done with the silverware?”
Tess pointed to the pyramid of rolled cutlery to her left.
“You sure? I still have an hour left on the clock.”
“Fine. You can help Harry do inventory.”
Tess bolted out of the vinyl booth. “I’m gone.” After claiming her coat and purse from the employee lounge Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes, Tess clocked out.
The night was unnaturally dark, its murk deepened by the absence of the moon. Precipitation, fluctuating between drizzle and a dense mist, hazed the sleepy town.
What a perfectly glorious night to walk home alone.
Tess briefly debated calling Cameron for a ride and subsequently dismissed the idea. By the time he arrived, she’d be halfway up the hill. And there was no way in hell she was waiting inside so Diane could put her back to work. The extra $2.13 wasn’t worth it.
Feeling exposed beneath the lampposts’ ghoulish glare, Tess hunkered down in her peacoat Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes. A few blocks away, a coach bus wheezed outside an empty depot, its massive, yawning windows blackened.
Her hearing sharpened as the slap of footfalls echoed behind her. Tess tucked her hands inside her pockets. Her fingers glanced off the polished finish of her switchblade. In all of her nineteen years, she’d gotten robbed only once. That was the first and last time she traveled without protection. Granted all she had was a measly thirty bucks accrued over a five hour period, so it wouldn’t be some great loss. But it was her hard-earned thirty bucks, damn Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes it.
Gradually, the footsteps petered out, leaving her with nothing but the sound of her own irregular breathing and the soft-soled crunch of gravel beneath her sneakers.
Not knowing if she was being unduly paranoid or justifiably cautious, Tess stuck with gut instinct and kept up her unrelenting pace. Apparently she’d gotten too used to the luxury of Cameron taking her home.
The purr of a familiar engine steered her attention across the street. A black Ferrari idled outside of a mom-and-pop diner.
Cresting on a surge of turbulence, her stomach canted Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes, unbalancing her.
There was only one person in a hundred mile radius with that vehicle’s make and model. What was he doing down here at this hour?
Tess hustled across the wet pavement. She didn’t know what a wealthy pretty boy could do against a mugger, but he was better than nothing. If push came to shove, she could always use him as a decoy while she went after their assailant.
Tess waved at the driver’s side window, but there was no response. Frowning, she stooped down and peered inside.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
With a Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes startled yelp, Tess whirled around to the figure cloaked beneath the unlit awning. “Don’t you know it’s rude to sneak up on someone!” she exclaimed brusquely, more embarrassed than anything else.
He ashed the cigarette. “Says the woman trying to break into my car.”
“No one wants your stupid car.” She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
Veiled by a satiny screen of smoke and mist, he was breathtaking. Tousled hair, inked a darker shade of obsidian by wetness, shone in the dim light. Wearing a long-sleeved rugby shirt and wrinkled chinos, he Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes looked as though he’d just rolled out of bed. Other than drowsy eyes, he seemed stable.
“What are you doing down here?” she asked.
The diner’s metal door flung open and cracked into the metal railing. “See, I told you I could finish pissing in 10 seconds.” The buxom brunette glided down the stairs, sauntered up to Adonis, and latched on to his arm.
“T-M-fucking-I.” Visibly annoyed, he flicked the filter into the gutter.
The brunette opened her mouth for rebuttal when she glimpsed Tess. “Oh, is this the one you wanted to have Chapter 12. Adonis awoke to a splitting migraine and the aroma of pancakes a threesome with?” the woman cooed as her sultry gaze boldly appraised her body. “She looks absolutely delectable.”
Alex, I’ll take that mugger for two hundred.