Home > Only Him (One and Only #2)(5)

Only Him (One and Only #2)(5)
Author: Melanie Harlow

But it wasn’t just the memories getting to me—it was the thought of her now. I wasn’t on social media, because fuck that shit, but I’d been drunk and curious enough times late at night to look her up. I knew she still lived outside Detroit not far from where we grew up, I knew she had quit ballet and opened up a yoga studio, and I knew she grew more beautiful every single year, so beautiful it hurt.

You should go see her.

My stomach muscles tightened. The truth was, I’d been thinking about it. Ever since the test results came back.

On my way out of the studio, I stopped to talk to Beatriz, the owner of the shop, who was wiping down the glass case of body piercing jewelry in the lobby. Her long, blue-tipped braids swayed in front of her shoulders as she worked.

“Hey,” I said, “got a second?”

She looked up at me and smiled. “Sure thing. How did it go with Tweety Bird?”

“I talked her out of it.”

“Good man.” She straightened up and set her rag aside. “What can I do for you?”

I rubbed the back of my neck with one hand, wondering how to approach this. I hadn’t told her about my head yet. “Remember when I said I might need some time off for a family thing?”

Beatriz nodded. “Yeah.”

“Looks like I might have to go back east for a few weeks. Maybe even a couple months.”

Her dark eyes were concerned. “Everything okay?”

“I’m not sure yet. I hope so. I know that’s a long time, and I don’t expect you to keep my position open—”

She held her hand out to silence me. “Your position is here whenever you get back. I won’t say we won’t miss you since you’re so damn popular, but your job is safe, Dallas. You’re wickedly talented and professional as fuck.”

That made me smile. “Thanks.”

“When do you need to take off?”

“I have to call my brother back tonight. I’ll know more after I talk to him.”

“Okay. Just let me know. You’ve got appointments on the books but I’m happy to call them and reschedule for when you get back, or suggest another artist.”

I nodded. I hated to lose business to another artist because I had worked hard to build up a clientele over the last few years, but the truth was, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to work again anyway. And it wasn’t like I needed the money. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Are you okay? I know you said this thing with your family is stressing you out, but I feel like there’s something else. Some kind of inner turmoil.”

Beatriz was good at reading people. In fact, she claimed to be a little psychic. “Maybe you can tell me,” I said. “Did you bring your crystal ball today?”

She reached over the counter and gave me a shove in the chest. “Crystals are not the same as a crystal ball, asshole. And it’s not my psychic powers telling me something is off with you, it’s your face.”

I looked down at my reflection in the mirror standing on the counter. Same dark hair with a cowlick that wouldn’t behave. Same stubbly jaw that could probably use a razor. Same scars above my eyebrow and beneath my chin. And if I smiled, I’d see the tiny chip in one front tooth my mother always wished I would get fixed. “What’s wrong with my face? I don’t see any turmoil. Looks the same as always to me.”

Beatriz sighed heavily. “There’s nothing wrong with your face, Dallas. You’re gorgeous. You know that. If I liked men and I wasn’t your boss, I would totally want to bang you. It’s your expression, the vibe you’re putting out there, your soul. It’s full of inner turmoil.”

“Hm. Well, maybe it’s just been a long day, and my soul needs a beer.”

She shrugged. “There’s that.”

“On that note”—I turned and headed for the door—“I’m out. See you tomorrow.”

Widmer Brothers was just a couple blocks away from the shop. As I walked over, I debated calling my brother and getting it out of the way. While it would be nice to have the buzz a couple of beers would give me to dull the edges of what was sure to be a tense conversation, I knew I’d feel even less like making the call once I’d knocked them back. Knowing me, I’d blow it off again. It’s not like I had made a decision yet.

Finn wouldn’t get that. He thought he knew best, just like always, and he was going to pressure me to do what he said. Well, it was my fucking life and I’d make my own damn decision when I was good and ready. Maybe he needed to hear that, and maybe provoking a fight would let me blow off a little steam. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I stood on the sidewalk in front of the brewery and made the call.

It was nearly eight here, which meant it was just before eleven p.m. in Boston. Maybe he was already sleeping because he had to get up early, although I had no idea what a neurology professor’s schedule was like during the summer.

Yes, my older brother is a neurologist as well as an associate professor at fucking Harvard Medical School.

That’s right, Harvard.

As you can imagine, Finn was the pride and joy of my family, always had been. Excelled at everything he’d ever done, from academics to music to running track. When he graduated from high school, class president and valedictorian (naturally), and proud holder of not one but two state records in track and field, he had already accepted his full ride to study chemistry at Harvard, although it had been very difficult to turn down his scholarship to study piano at the San Francisco Conservatory. My mother practically cried every time she told the story.

I was the other son.

When I entered high school two years after he left, teachers were expecting another Finn Shepherd, Wonder Boy. What they got was me. I didn’t blame them for being disappointed—plus I was used to it. I’d been disappointing my parents for fourteen years. What was another four years being a disappointment to strangers?

“Hello? Dallas?” Finn sounded anxious.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Why didn’t you call me back yesterday?”

I’m fine, thanks. How are you? “Sorry. I was busy.”

“I fail to see how anything could take priority over this.”

Of course you do. We’ve never understood each other. “I told you I needed time to think.”

“And you haven’t called Mom yet. Do you know how uncomfortable it makes me to have to hide this from her?”

“Again. Sorry.”

“I got you an appointment with Dr. Acharya at Mass General. He’s the surgeon I told you about. The best.”

“I haven’t made my decision yet.”

“It’s just a consultation. But Dallas.” He paused. “You don’t have a lot of time to waste. Please take this seriously.”

I exhaled, looking at the darkening eastern sky. “When’s the appointment?”

“Tuesday. Eight a.m.”

Today was Wednesday. I had to work tomorrow, so that gave me only five days to get from Portland to Boston. “That’s not really enough time for the drive.”

“For Christ’s sake, Dallas, you can’t drive that distance. Get on a plane. You shouldn’t be behind the wheel at all.”

My doctor here had said the same thing, but I’d ignored him. And I actually hated flying. I didn’t like any situation where I wasn’t in control.

But I wouldn’t admit that to Finn. And I wouldn’t let him tell me what to do. “I want to drive. I need the time alone to think about all this.”

Finn sighed heavily. “Whatever. You do it your way, like you always have. But I cannot stress enough how important it is that you are here for that appointment. I had to call in a lot of favors to get it. And for God’s sake, be careful.”

“I will.” Evan approached on his bike and I lifted a hand in greeting, then held up one finger to let him know I’d only be another minute. He nodded and began locking up his bike.

“Are you taking the Depakote?”

“Yes.” But I wasn’t, not regularly. It made me feel dizzy and tired, and I wasn’t convinced I needed it.

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