First Comes Love(6)By: Emily Goodwin
I don’t leave the clinic until nearly eight PM. The early March air is past chilly and back to cold. Frost glistens on the windows of my Jeep. Every spring, I wonder why the hell I still live in Michigan. I’m sick of the cold by now. I dig into my pockets for gloves, start the SUV, then start scraping away at the ice. We had a random few days of warm weather last week.
What a tease.
But that’s the weather near Lake Michigan for you. I check my phone while I wait for the car to warm up. I have a text from Jenny, my sister-in-law, asking if we are still on for a wine and canvas art event tomorrow. Katie, Jenny, and I try to do stuff monthly, and it’s actually really nice to have “sister night” every now and then, even more so now since Rachel, my childhood friend, moved to Dallas with her fiancé last summer. I have no one else to hang out with.
I reply “yes” to my sisters, test the heat in the Jeep to make sure it’s not blasting cold air, and head home. I live in an old, small house in quiet part of town. I have a living room, an eat-in kitchen, one bathroom, and two bedrooms. It’s tiny, but it’s all I need.
“Hey, guys!” I say when I unlock the backdoor and the dogs come running over, tails wagging so hard their whole bodies shake. “Sorry I got home so late. We had an emergency that I couldn’t leave.”
I drop to my knees, petting Vader and Sasha, the rescue. She’s not good around people, hence the fostering. I’ve had many dogs come in and out of the house over the last year, but there is something different about the stubborn mutt that made me keep her.
I let the dogs out into my small, fenced-in yard and start my after-work routine. I eat dinner, and take the dogs for a walk. We make it one block before I’m too cold so we turn around. Then I come in, shower, make a lunch for tomorrow, and watch my recorded shows until it’s time for bed.
Yeah, okay, my life isn’t super exciting. But it’s steady, and I like knowing what to expect. It’s safe that way.
“Just to warn you, you won’t have a brother much longer.” Jenny pours wine into three plastic cups and gives one to me and another to Katie. We are sitting in an art studio, waiting for the Wine and Canvas event to start.
“What did he do now?” Katie asks, bringing her cup to her lips.
Jenny reaches up, twisting her red hair into a bun, then secures with a clip. “He wants to get a motorcycle again.” She rolls her eyes. “It took me two years to get him to sell his old one. If he thinks he’s getting a new one, he’s got another thing coming.”
“Sounds more like someone has been hanging around with Noah,” Katie says with a smirk.
“Ugh, don’t get me started on him.” Jenny lets out a breath.
I arrange my paint brushes in a row in front of me, mind flashing to my brother’s best friend. They met sometime in high school and Noah was trouble from the start. After getting expelled at his old high school, he came to ours and hit the ground running, quickly earning the reputation of the bad boy your mother warned you about, a reputation he still carries with him today.
And my mother did warn me about him. She warned me to stay far, far away from boys like Noah. And even farther away from men like him.
He spent high school in and out of trouble, getting more detentions than anyone I knew, yet somehow remained the star of the football team. His track record isn’t as spotted now, but I don’t think it’s from learning his lesson, but instead by learning how to not get caught.
I haven’t seen him in a while, but he hasn’t changed much over the years. Except he gets better looking every damn time I lay eyes on him. Tall, with thick brown hair, sky-blue eyes, a stubble-covered face, tattoos, muscles, and a motorcycle … Men like him should come with a warning label.
Men like Noah Wilson are nothing but trouble.
I may or may not have had a secret crush on Noah since I was fifteen and saw his gorgeous face for the first time. Between my father outright forbidding Katie or me to so much as flirt with a boy like Noah, and Colin promising to make my life hell if I crushed on his friends—and do the same to them if they crushed on me—I watched Noah from the sidelines, dreaming about a day when the popular boy would take notice of the shy underclassman. Obviously that never happened, and I’ve let go of the idea of Noah wanting me.
“They’ve been going to the gym together every morning,” Jenny says. “Which is fine, Colin can stand to get in better shape, but why does it have to be with him, ya know?”
I smile and shake my head. “Good luck with that. I never knew what Colin saw in him. Well, other than being friends with the popular kid.”