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The Pucking Wrong Number: Chapter 9


‘Oy, little bird,’ Bill’s voice called out. My head snapped up. I’d been lost in thought…Lost in lust actually, ever since Lincoln had sent me that picture. I’d never seen someone so outrageously…everything in my entire life. His chest was a perfect, sun-kissed bronze color, with tattoos everywhere, including that huge butterfly inked towards the bottom. Everything about that picture was over the top, so gorgeous it was dangerous.

‘Everything okay?’ Bill asked again. Over the past year, Bill and I had become extremely close friends. He was still homeless–and still crazy, for the most part–but still the only good man I’d ever met. He’d appointed himself as something of my protector, and on nights when I had class, he was usually hovering on my block, watching for me to come home and make it to my place safely.

I had offered many times for him to come stay on the futon in my room, but he wanted nothing to do with it. He preferred his ‘castle,’ as he called the park where I’d met him that first fateful night. I made sure to give him meals, and I tried to slip him some money when I could, but he usually refused that.

‘Sorry, I’ve got a lot on my mind,” I told him, rolling my shoulders back as I reached him. Bill always smelled pretty awful, but there was something about his toothless smile that made him a prince in my mind.

‘How’s class?’ he asked as we walked the rest of the block to my place.

I yawned, weariness stretching tight across my skin. ‘Exhausting,’ I admitted.

‘Calculus giving you trouble, lass?’

‘I think it would be easier if I wasn’t so tired when I got to class,’ I admitted to him. I knew it didn’t do any good to wish things were different. This was my life, and it was all necessary, but what I wouldn’t give for a full eight hours of sleep. Just one night.

‘Have I told you I’m proud of you, little bird?’ Bill asked suddenly.

I stopped, emotion clawing at my insides at his words.

I’d never had someone tell me they were proud of me, not in my entire life. Growing up, no matter what I’d done, it either wasn’t seen by my foster parents, or they just didn’t care. And Mama had never been around enough to know one way or the other what I was doing.

I took a deep breath, trying to get it together. ‘Thank you,’ I finally murmured. He patted my arm, a tender smile on his face, like he could see right into my head and knew what I was thinking.

We got to my front gate. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, I saved this for you.’ I pulled out a big Styrofoam box of pizza. They’d ordered some for lunch today at the office and I’d asked if I could take the leftovers.

Bill’s eyes lit up, even though it was cold pizza that had been out for at least a couple hours. We were both the same that way; we weren’t going to say no to a meal, no matter what it was.

Thunder groaned across the sky, and I winced as a drop of rain fell and hit my cheek, knowing that Bill would be out in the elements all night.

‘Why don’t you come upstairs for a while?’ I suggested, wanting to get him out of the rain.

Like always, though, he patted me on the shoulder and gave a little whistle. ‘Ole Bill will be just fine in my castle, little bird. You get in your room now, and lock that door,’ he ordered, reminding me of a similar statement that Lincoln had made a few nights before.

I nodded and waved to him, watching for a moment as he walked away, an edge of melancholy laced through my veins. It was amazing where you could find good in the world. Bill had been unexpected, but he was one of the biggest blessings I’d found in this new life of mine.

I trotted upstairs, coming to a screeching halt at the top when I saw my landlord leaning against the wall opposite my door.

He didn’t say anything. He just watched me with bloodshot eyes, smoke curling in the dim lighting from the cigarette shoved between his lips.

I jammed my key into the door and shot inside, slamming it behind me and engaging the two locks, even though I knew he obviously had a key to get in whenever he wanted. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not, but I could hear his low chuckle through the walls. Grabbing the chair and jamming it under the doorknob, I hoped that would allow me to get some rest since I would hear the door opening if he tried to get inside.

My forehead hit the door, and I leaned against it, trying to push the fear down. That was what men like him wanted, after all. My fear.

I compared the two, Bill and him. One could’ve had all the advantages in life if he wasn’t such a complete tool. The other one had nothing, but he was a million times over a better man.

I shook my head, realizing I would have to bite the bullet and take an afternoon off next week to continue my search for a new, cheap place. I’d tried a couple of days ago, but hadn’t even found anything close to the price range I needed.

Right then, my phone rang. I glanced at it, my heart skipping when I saw it was Lincoln.

‘Hi,’ I murmured, the words coming out shy and awkward.

‘I told you I couldn’t just go back to texting,’ he murmured in that gravelly, deep voice of his. He sounded sleepy, like he was calling me from bed, and my mind couldn’t help but conjure up an image of that perfect, tattooed wonderland lounged underneath silken sheets, his hand reaching down and…

‘Monroe, you with me?’ he asked, this time sounding amused, like he knew exactly how dirty my thoughts were.

Maybe he and Bill were similar like that, able to see inside of me.

‘Yes. Sorry. Got a lot on my mind,’ I squeaked out. He chuckled, the sound reverberating through me, right to my core.

‘You wouldn’t happen to be thinking of that picture, would you?’ he asked knowingly.

‘Calculus. I was definitely thinking of calculus.’

He chuckled again. ‘Okay, dream girl.’

‘Why do you keep calling me that?’ I asked, trying to ignore just how much I loved it.

‘That should be obvious. That’s what you are. A girl almost too good to be true.’

There was a blush across my cheeks, even though he couldn’t see me.

‘You wouldn’t think that if you really knew me,’ I said, the words escaping me before I even realized them.

There was a heavy silence, and I cursed myself, wondering why I’d said something so stupid. So vulnerable.

“I can one hundred percent promise you that I’ll still think you’re my dream girl when we meet,’ he finally promised.


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