Own the Wind (Chaos, #1)(7)

Written By: Kristen Ashley



“Yeah,” she agreed. “I need to get back to it.”

“What?” he asked.

She looked down at her books, turned her pencil in her hand and tapped the eraser end to her notepad before repeating, “I need to get back to it.”

“You don’t want company,” he surmised.

“Um… I have two tests. I have a lot of work to do.”

Shy nodded then asked, “You come here a lot?”

That sweet, pink tongue came out to touch her upper lip, the burn in his chest magnified before her tongue disappeared and she answered, “No, just trying out places where I can get my studying groove on. It gets a little insane at home.”

“The boys,” Shy guessed. She had two new brothers: Rider, who just turned three, and Cutter, who was one, meant home was not where she could get that particular groove on.

“Yeah, they’re little kids but they’re also Allens, so things can get rowdy,” she muttered.

He heard Tex banging on the espresso machine, and he knew Fortnum’s could get a little insane too.

Thinking that, thinking that it was cool Tabby was finally focused on the right things, and trying not to think about how much or why he’d like her at his place, he offered, “You need space, babe, I got an apartment. I’m never in it. Can’t say it’s clean but it is quiet.”

“Thanks, but I’m good.”

He pushed up from the chair, righting it at the table, saying, “Anytime, Tab, you need it, it’s yours. Just give me a call.”

She nodded, swallowed then mumbled, “Later,” to his shoulder before she looked back down to her books, curling in her chair, slouching back to her elbow, hand back in her hair.

It was the swallow, the mumbling, and the talking to his shoulder that drove Shy to round the table, lift a hand, and pull her hair away from her face.

Her head jerked back as her eyes shot to him.

“We good?” he asked.

“Sure,” she answered, too quickly.

“You sure about that?” he pressed.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked back, too casually.

“Babe, the last time I saw you was extreme.” His eyes went to the table then back to her. “I see you got my point but it’d be cool to know we’re good.”

“We’re good,” she assured him, again, quickly.

He studied her face. It was carefully vacant.

He didn’t know her all that well, but he’d been around her often enough to know Tabitha Allen was never expressionless.

Fuck.

He let it go and reiterated, “You need my place, babe, just yell.”

“I’ll do that, Shy,” she replied quietly.

He jerked up his chin.

She turned so her back was to him and slouched back over her books.

Shy walked out of Fortnum’s feeling that familiar burn. Except it wasn’t in his gut this time.

It was around his heart.

She never called to use his space.

She never called at all.

And he never again saw her at Fortnum’s.

*

Six months later…

Shy sat outside the Compound on top of one of the picnic tables, feet on the seat, legs spread, elbows to his thighs, bottle of beer held loosely in his hands, watching.

Tabby was on Chaos for the first time in nearly a year. She was walking out of the office and down the steps, Rider’s hand in hers as she steadied him while he struggled to get his little legs to negotiate the stairs. She had Cut on her hip, and Shy could see Cut was slamming his little fist into her cheek as she walked.

She got them safely to the bottom of the stairs but stopped, and Shy watched as she turned her head, jerked it forward, and captured Cut’s fist in her mouth.

He squealed. Tabby let his little fist go, and her peel of musical laughter shot across the forecourt and hit him straight in the gut so hard it was a fucking miracle he didn’t grunt.

Then it happened.

Rider tripped and Tabby bent to right him and on her way up, her eyes moved through the forecourt, across the Compound, straight through him.

Through him.

Like he was fucking invisible.

Jesus.

Fuck.

Jesus.

There was a time, he caught sight of her, her eyes would shift away quickly and he knew she was watching him. Anytime she’d been around before he did what he did that night, if he saw her, her eyes were on him.

Now he was invisible. It was like he didn’t exist.

She moved the kids to her car and strapped them in the car seats in the back, and Shy kept watching, his gut tight, that burn searing his heart.

She had a great ride. Her dad gave it to her when she was sixteen, and she took care of it like it was one of her little brothers. Its electric blue paint gleamed, clean and pristine, in the August sun.

Sweet ride but Tabby, wearing one of those flowy, flowery, loose dresses that went all the way to her feet, so much fucking material, you couldn’t begin to guess what lay underneath it, didn’t look like she belonged to that car. The dress was saved by being strapless, the top essentially an elasticized tube top covering her tits, but still.

It wasn’t cutoff short-shorts and rocker shirts like she used to wear.

And her hair wasn’t down and wild. It was braided in thick plaits close to her skull on either side to flare out in a mass of hair at her nape that only hinted at the dense, glossy mane Tack’s good genes had bestowed on her.