Rory had to brace a hand on the wall outside the restaurant in order to catch her breath, and reign in all of her emotions. She’d been a total wreck since sleeping with Owen. Since knowing she might be in danger, and worse, since realizing that despite his evasion, his lies, the pain he’d put her through, she still loved him.
When he’d left two days ago, Rory had felt hollow. As if he’d taken again a part of her, one she’d given to him willingly again, despite knowing she’d hate herself for it in the morning.
Thankfully, she’d had finals to occupy her mind, Terry’s pre-wedding jitters, and Kyle’s constant surveillance of her place. Though she’d decided against telling him about the man following her.
Not that she’d felt safer ever since. Once or twice she’d changed routes to get back home, and she’d once thought someone stood outside the school, watching. The problem was she couldn’t tell Kyle because there was no way she was going to let anything ruin his and Terry’s day.
Which was why she waited a couple of minutes to plaster on a happy face, let go of her current problems and step into her friend’s bachelorette party. Rory was determined to make this day one her friend would always remember. A nice distraction and final gathering before Terry’s wedding.
Almost everyone was already inside. Her friend left her seat to run in her direction and welcome her with an enthusiastic hug.
“Sorry, I’m late. I wanted to finish grading so I wouldn’t have to do it later tonight.” That, and she took a longer route to get here, in case someone followed her.
Terry rolled her eyes.
“All of my students are getting nice and shinny A’s in all of their tests. I swear, I don’t have it in me to focus on anything but Saturday.”
Rory squeezed her hand and said.
“You shouldn’t worry about anything else. And as part of my maid of honor duties, I already called the bridal shop, and they confirmed they’ll deliver the dress Friday night.”
“Ror, you’re the best! Thanks. Now, let’s get this party started!”
They played, toasted, cried, and were now halfway into opening presents, some for the bride alone, or something for the newlywed’s house, though Terry had gone crazy scanning for stuff at the store when she and Kyle had registered.
When it came to open Rory’s present for Terry and Kyle, she waited, expectantly as her friend unwrapped the small box. When she opened it, Terry’s eyes went huge, and teared up immediately. Rory’s mom squeezed her knee, knowing well what was inside that box and what had cost her daughter, emotionally, to give it to her best friend.
“Ror……….Oh sweetie, you didn’t have to.”
Terry picked up the tear shaped pearl earrings from the white velvet cushion they were on.
“They’re your something new, in a way, since I never used them. And you’re something borrowed, since they belong to my mom.”
“I can’t……..I know what this means to you.” Terry’s voice broke when she saw Rory’s face, and the huge effort she was making in not showing how much it hurt.
“Yes, you can. They gave my mother luck, and they’ll give you luck as well.”
Everyone knew what had happened two years ago, most of them having attended Rory’s bachelorette party. Thankfully, no one mentioned that those earrings hadn’t been as lucky for Rory.
“I love you so much, Ror.”
“I love you, too. I’m so happy for you.” She let the tears come for the thousandth time this week, and went to her friend. They held each other until Rory toasted Terry and they resumed the present opening.
It was almost nine when they left the restaurant, and said goodbye to each other on the sidewalk. Each woman either got into her own car or got in with whoever they had shared a ride with, until it was only Rory, Terry and Rory’s mom.
“Sure you don’t want to come back for a night cap?” Her mother rubbed her daughter’s shoulder, trying to ease some of the memories away.
“No, I really want to rest for Saturday. I will be with the bride since six a.m. I heard she’s pretty demanding.” She winked at her mother and heard Terry snort.
“Me, demanding? Hell, yes. I’m only doing this thing once. Might as well do it right.”
“Amen.” Rory replied.
They hugged each other again. Rory said.
“I’ll see you tomorrow at school, okay?”
“Yes. See you, tomorrow. Hey, would you give my guy a call, see if he’s fine? I tried calling him earlier but he was out. And your dad says no boyfriends until Saturday.”
Terry pouted, while Rory’s mom shook her head, laughing.
“Trust me child, there will be times you will wish the man was living in another planet, just for a few hours.”
Rory snorted, then joined the other two women as they laughed loudly, maybe because at least Terry was a bit tipsy from one too many shots of tequila. She thought about her dad and how despite the fact Terry and Kyle already lived together, he wanted to preserve some part of tradition for the wedding. She knew her dad was just being sweet, though she was embarrassed he was acting a bit over protective of Terry.
“I can talk to dad, if you want.”
“Nah, it’s kinda cute. He’s been great, both your parents have been. It makes not having my folks less harder.”
“I’m glad.” Rory knew her friend would’ve given anything to have her parents here with here during this important moment. Sadly, both had passed away when Terry had been fresh out of college.
She said goodbye one last time, then began to walk away in the direction of her place, which was a couple of blocks away. All the way back, she actually congratulated herself on being able to spend a normal afternoon with friends, without Owen and crazy men clouding her time, if only for a few hours. She was still basking on the effects of having had fun and having been able to let go, that she didn’t even think in doing the whole different route tactic. All she wanted to do was get home, crawl into bed and hope for a good night’s sleep. The first since the attack, especially after she had shared her bed with Owen.
With almost a spring to her step, as the summer night felt balmy and warm on her skin, she unlocked the street door and went inside.
Nathan watched her walk contentedly away from the restaurant, and turn a corner, in the direction of her apartment. He had to give it to her, all those detours she’d been taking since the park, meant to keep the location of her home away, had been clever. But women like her weren’t clever, they were just lucky. And this woman’s luck was about to run out.
He parked his car a couple of cars down where she ran up a flight of stairs, opened a door and let herself in.
Though he’d narrowed down the street she lived in, he now had an exact location, and he could have some fun before he had to head back and report to Alexander. So far, his boss knew nothing of this side project of his, and what better way to redeem himself in his eyes, than to take this bitch to him. There was something in her, this feistiness that made Nathan want to have a taste first before passing her along.
Maybe he would……..
He pulled out of his hiding place and headed to a convenience store he spotted on his scouting trips. If he was going to have fun with this one tonight, then he’d better fuel up and prepare for an interesting night.