Growing and Kissing
As the summer heat rises, I’ll have to juggle my normal life and my new life as a criminal while cops, dealers and gangs threaten us on all sides…but the hardest thing of all might be keeping Sean and me apart. I’m a good girl…but I think he’s about to turn me really, really bad.
I suspected it hadn’t ended well for them.
No response from inside. Was he out? I put my ear to the door. Holding my breath, I could just pick out a sound: a faint, rhythmic creaking. I knocked again, louder, and the creaking paused…then continued.
“Sean?” I called out. My voice sounded awkward in the silent hallway. “It’s me.”
The creaking stopped. I thought I heard footsteps and waited, but the door stayed closed. “Sean?”
I thought of Kayley. I was due to visit that afternoon and I needed some shred of hope to carry with me or I was going to lose it and break down in front of her. That gave me the courage to knock again, hard. “Sean?”
The door suddenly swung open. He must have been standing right up against it, watching me through the door viewer. “What?” he growled, exasperated.
I swallowed. He was stripped to the waist and his whole upper body glistened with sweat. His chest and biceps were pumped and rock hard, even larger and more intimidating than normal. He looked…primed, loaded with adrenalin and ready to pounce. He’d been working out, I realized. That’s what the creaking had been. He was glaring at me, those postcard-blue eyes harder than diamond, and I took an instinctive half-step back. “Sorry,” I mumbled.
“Stop saying you’re sorry!” That Irish accent again, like silver blades flashing. Then his tone softened a little. “What is it?”
He’d braced one arm against the wall and I couldn’t drag my eyes away from it-the veins standing out hard, the solid thickness of it, like a tree branch big enough to climb on. “I need your help,” I said. “I’ll pay you.”
He was breathing hard. He ran a hand over his forehead and I saw the little jewels of sweat fall. His hair was damp with it. “Help with what?”
I swallowed and then raised my chin bravely. “I want to grow dope.”
For a second, he just stared at me. Then his hand shot forward and grabbed the front of my t-shirt, bunching it. Just like in my fantasy.
I felt my whole body go weak.
He tugged me forward, almost lifting me off my feet, and hauled me inside his apartment, kicking the door shut behind me. For a second, I thought he was going to push me up against the wall. I grabbed for his hand with both of mine, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do: break his grip or pull myself in tighter. Desperate fear and heady arousal slammed together in my chest—
He spun us around and pushed me away from him, sending me staggering into the middle of the room. “What?!” he spat.
I almost ran. His eyes were so brutally hard, so angry…but then I saw the flicker in his expression. Just for an instant, there’d been something else there. Concern.
It was almost as if he was trying to be angry with me.
I glanced around. The place was so masculine, all gray and silver and white, with nothing but hard edges. He’d torn down the walls and made it one big room, except for a door that I assumed led to the bathroom. I saw a weights bench, the iron plates chipped and worn from use. His guitar and amp rested up against a wall, his hammer next to them. I could smell the heady tang of leather and saw a black jacket thrown across the back of a chair.
There wasn’t a single living thing in the apartment apart from us. No pets, no plants.
I swallowed and looked him in the eye, trying to ignore the gleaming nakedness of his chest. “I want to grow weed,” I said. “I mean…a lot of weed. A crop.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “You?”
For a second, it felt as if he’d punched me in the stomach. I mean, I knew I didn’t amount to much, a college dropout with a job going nowhere and close to zero in the bank. But I hadn’t expected him to put me down like that.
And then I saw the way he was looking at me. He wasn’t sneering at me. He was shocked, but he looked more…horrified. As if he thought I was better than that. The pain disappeared and was replaced by a warm flush, radiating outward.
“It’s not crazy,” I said. “At least…not as crazy as it sounds. I know this stuff. I have a degree in botany—well, nearly. I know about indoor, intensive growing—that was my specialty. I read up on marijuana this morning—compared to a lot of plants it’s really not that hard.” I took a deep breath. “One crop—one bigcrop—that’s all we’d need. It’s April now. We could have it grown by September, sell it and net half a million in profit.”
“Half a million dollars?” His face turned stern. “What kind of trouble are you in?”
It had been hard with Stacey. It should have been even harder with Sean because I barely knew him. But when I closed my eyes and started to speak, it felt…right. I didn’t feel as if I was in a stranger’s apartment. I felt a warm, dark, comforting presence, as if was really listening instead of just hearing me.
“My sister is sick,” I said. “Really sick. Half a million is how much money I need to save her. I’ve got six months to raise it.” I swallowed. “Her name’s Kayley. She’s only fourteen. She doesn’t deserve—”
I opened my eyes, surprised.
“I’ve seen her around the building with you,” he said. “The blonde kid.”
I blinked. He’d been watching us? Watching me? Why would he—
He looked away, as if embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s…it’s fuckin’ awful. But you need to find another way.”
I shook my head. “There is no other way.”
“You’ll get killed! You’ve got no idea—literally no idea—what you’re getting into. You’re too…good.”
“I know! That’s why I need you! You’re—” I cut myself off, but it was too late.
He raised one dark eyebrow. “A complete bastard?” he finished for me. I went to protest, but he shook his head. “No, it’s okay. That’s fair.” He gave a wry little smile, but it didn’t completely hide the flicker of pain in his eyes.
I put my hands out towards him as if trying to calm a wounded animal. “Look, I know plants. I can do that part of it. But you’re right, I don’t know anything about being a criminal.”
He shook his head. “You are so far from being a criminal this would be funny, if you weren’t going to wind up dead in a ditch.”
“Then help me! We can be partners! I’ll cut you in. I swear to God, it’ll be the best damn crop of weed you’ve ever seen. I’ll grow it; you sell it and protect me.”
I stared up at him, eyes pleading, and waited for his reply.