Awkward. That's the best way I can think to describe finding yourself in a small bedroom with both your ex boyfriend and your current boyfriend. Maybe boyfriend. We hadn't really defined anything yet.
The two men ignored each other while we packed my things. Nicky ignored Ben in a way that was so casual you couldn't really accuse him of being rude. He made it look natural. Ben, however, made ignoring Nicky look like hard work. He was hostile without saying a word. He didn't even look in Nicky's direction. But the air around him... it was thick. It made my skin crawl.
Ben finished stuffing a drawer full of my socks and other more intimate articles of clothing into a garbage bag, then stomped out of the bedroom with bag in hand. Why garbage bags? Hell, they're cheap, reusable later on to put actual garbage in, and disposable. You don't have to break them down like cardboard boxes when you want to get rid of them.
Nicky and I glanced at each other when Ben left the room, each of our mouths quirking upwards into identical smiles at the release of tension in the room. I had to break eye contact before he did. That man could light me up like a Christmas tree, and this was neither the appropriate time or place.
"Eryn," Ben called from the other room.
I groaned. The man was helpless. If he had to ask me who was getting what again, I was going to break whatever "it" was over his head. I didn't want much more than my clothes. As far as I was concerned, he could have everything else in the apartment. Or throw everything out. I didn't care.
Nicky scooped an armload of clothes from the closet, all still attached to their hangers, then dumped them unceremoniously into a bag on the floor. I winced, but didn't say anything. The wrinkles could be ironed out later. Ask a guy to help you pack your clothes up and you got what you deserved.
I left Nicky to it and went to find Ben. He was in the living room, tying up the bag he'd carried out. I couldn't help but wonder if he'd chosen that particular drawer to pack just to prevent Nicky from doing so. God forbid another man touch my obnoxious Christmas socks with the purple and orange snowflakes... or my panties. Ben had gotten seriously territorial since I'd broken things off with him and now he'd made sure his scent was all over my bras and such. It was not only immature, but it was pointless. Nicky was human, so he wouldn't smell Ben on me. I would, but I didn't care enough for it to affect me. I stopped behind the couch, using it to keep a safe distance between the two of us.
"That guy," Ben said while putting a great deal of effort into tying a simple knot in the drawstrings of the garbage bag, "You seeing him now?"
"Sort of," I said, and even I could hear the suspicion in the tone of my voice.
Ben and I had called things quits three weeks earlier and I'd moved out. Or at least I'd ended things, and I'd left. I was only just now getting around to actually moving out. I hadn't wanted to return and had put off doing so for as long as I could. I couldn't afford to keep buying new clothes just because I was too chickenshit to face Ben and pack my stuff up. I was out of work and my savings was quickly diminishing, not to mention what I was going to do to my credit if I couldn't pay off my growing debt. At least living in the master vampire's house, which wasn't entirely voluntary, meant I didn't have to pay rent. Anyway, Nicky had insisted I take someone with me to empty the apartment. He didn't trust Ben. I didn't either, really. So I'd dragged Nicky along, taking his insistence as volunteering.
"I don't like it," Ben said, looking up at me.
I snorted. "You don't have to like it."
"He's too old for you."
I rolled my eyes. "Ten years. But one of us is dead, so... kind of trumps the age thing."
"Are you sleeping with him?"
Okay, that was inappropriate. I narrowed my gaze. "How is that your business?"
The fact was, Nicky and I had not slept together yet. Oh, we'd come close. More than once. The attraction we felt, the pull, was hard to deny. But I hadn't wanted to be the girl who jumps into bed with a guy immediately after jumping out of one with someone else. I'd first kissed Nicky only hours after ending it with Ben. And, well, I'd been busy over the past few weeks. You could say we were seeing each other now, but barely. It was the rare night I got any free time to spend with him. Being newly dead and all, my nights were monopolized learning how to be a proper blood sucking fiend. Mostly that involved getting kicked around by a 5'2" teenaged girl who barely weighed 90 pounds, while my vampire mentor watched. Sometimes he took a turn kicking my ass too, which was preferable to the teenaged girl. Yeah, she was that scary. But I wasn't going to encourage Ben by telling him I wasn't screwing someone else.
"You are my business." He said, voice dropping to a whisper. But it was whispered fiercely…possessively.
I was going to have to get a new bag. Ben was doing a number on the one he was slowly shredding.
"Not anymore, I'm not." I told him.
He gritted his teeth.
When I'd been attacked and turned into a vampire, Ben hadn't handled it well. At all. He'd barely been able to look at me, and he'd made vague threats about killing me. One of his friends had done worse. That friend was dead now, and not the vampire kind of dead either. He was just dead.
Ben stepped torturing the plastic bag and stepped around the couch. I should have walked away right then, gone back into the bedroom, and finished helping Nicky pack my things. But I held my ground. Maybe part of me was looking for a fight. Ben didn't stop until he stood very close to me. Close enough that I could feel the heat of his body. It was a heat my own body no longer produced. Not unless I expended a lot of energy to warm it. Or unless I fed.
I turned my back to him, as much to see down the hallway and into the bedroom as to turn away from Ben. I couldn't see Nicky, which meant he couldn't see us. When Ben put an arm around me, fingers splayed across my stomach, and buried his nose in my hair at the back of my neck, I was grateful for that. Awkward wasn't strong enough a word to describe it.
"Don't," I growled in warning.
He brushed my hair aside and pressed his lips against my neck. When I made to squirm away, his arm tightened around me.
"I miss you," he said, very quietly. "I want you to come home. You belong here, with me."
My body flashed warm for the quickest fraction of a second before I felt like I'd been plunged into ice water. With inhuman speed, I jerked my elbow back into his gut and the air whooshed out of his lungs. His arm tightened around me again before it loosened, but when it did I didn't hesitate to push him away. I hadn't hurt him though. Not really.
"Eryn," he grunted.
"No." I glared at him.
"I love you."
"Yeah," I said coldly. "A little too late for you to figure that out."
I retreated back down the hall and he didn't follow.
Nicky was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, but more in a comfortably casual way than anything else.
"Ready to get out of here?" He asked me.
"God, yes." I picked up two of the overstuffed garbage bags from the floor. "How much of that did you hear?"
"Some," he said. He sounded unconcerned; not the slightest bit jealous. That was good though. I'd had enough of possessive, insecure, jealous men. A little bit was flattering. A little bit more was suffocating.
Between the two of us, we managed to carry everything in only two trips to Nicky's borrowed Crown Victoria. His other means of transportation was a Buell motorcycle, which would have made moving a little tricky. My own car wouldn't have been much better.
Ben came out of the apartment to watch us as we headed downstairs with our last load. When I glanced up at him, I saw he was actually watching Nicky, not me. I didn't like the look on his face. It was calculating, like he was taking the measure of the man who'd taken what was his, and he was weighing his odds of getting it back. He looked like he thought the odds were clearly in his favor. If that was the case, he was wrong. Ben was a werewolf, and he could take Nicky in a fight if it came to physical blows. But he wouldn't win me back.
We got the last of my bags in the trunk and I took Nicky's hand in mine as he walked me to the passenger side to open the door for me. It was such a gentlemanly thing to do, and to look at Nicky, you wouldn't expect it. He was working the bad boy, street tough image with worn, baggy clothes and a jacket even though it was hotter than Hades outside. Of course, the jacket concealed the shoulder holster he wore, and the .45 caliber handgun he always carried with him. He wore his blonde hair a little longer than I usually liked on a guy, though he was clean shaven. All in all, he didn't look like a guy you'd want to run into in the dark, and if you did, you probably checked to make sure you still had your wallet afterward. He was a good guy though, and the look was just camouflage.
I stole a kiss while he held the door open, and then lingered because one little kiss was like getting a small taste of chocolate when you were craving the whole bar. He left me hungry for more though, because after one more quick kiss he swatted me on the ass to get me moving. I could see Ben in the rear view mirror. He didn't look happy. I, on the other hand, grinned like mad and couldn't wipe the smile off my face.