Lucas dropped his sister at the apartment. He picked up Zach and they drove to Fremont to run up Mission Peak. He called Maryanne on the way, but she did not answer.
He tried again on the way back and got her voice mail. “Hey, I miss you already. I’ll be at your place by five. See ya, sweetie.”
“Sweetie?” Zach punched his arm. “Did you get lucky?”
“Not in the way you think, but yes, I’m real lucky. She agreed to a relationship.”
Zach launched a long whistle. “She’s a hottie. So’s her friend, the Filipino one. Too bad she’s seeing someone.”
“Captain of the church basketball team. You want to join?”
Lucas turned onto Zach’s street. “No time for activities. Any free time I have, I want to spend with Maryanne.”
“She coming to the picnic?”
“Yes, you’ll like her. She’s witty and smart.” He dropped Zach off at his apartment. “See ya!”
Zach waved. “Can’t wait to meet her in person.”
Whistling, Lucas drove toward home. He parked his car and checked his phone, but Maryanne still hadn’t returned his call. After a quick shower, Lucas shaved carefully, splashed on aftershave and brushed his teeth a second time.
On the way to Maryanne’s, he stopped by a grocery store and bought a bag of Lindor Extra Dark Truffles. He called to let her know he was on his way and got her voice mail.
Adrenaline seeped into his blood stream. Had he offended her or missed something? He stomped the accelerator and tore to her apartment. Her car was in the carport, so he ran up the stairs and knocked on her door.
“Maryanne, you in there?”
She could be hurt. Maybe she had hit her head this morning. He ran to the manager’s office.
The portly man wiped his forehead. “I can’t be opening a tenant’s door because you’re worried. Have you tried calling her?”
“She doesn’t answer and her car’s in the carport.”
“Maybe she went out with someone. Leave me your number and the next time I see her, I’ll tell her to call you.”
“Never mind.” His phone rang and he answered without looking.
“Hey, it’s Zach. I’m not sure you want to come to the picnic.”
“I think I see her.”
Lucas’ heartbeat jumped to the red line zone. “Maryanne?”
“Yeah, sorry to break it to you, but she’s here with Ryan, the pastor’s son.”
“Are you sure?” Fiery heat blazed over his torso.
“Pretty sure. I mean, we both checked her out with the other nurse. She’s here, too, with Frank.”
“I’m heading over.”
“I don’t know.” Zach’s voice lowered. “They seem to be pretty cozy.”
“It can’t be Maryanne. You’ve mistaken her for someone else.”
“Maybe,” Zach drawled, seemingly unconvinced. “You know, now that I think about it, she’s usually not dressed so slutty.”
“Maryanne’s probably sick. I’m in front of her apartment. She might have passed out, but the manager won’t open the door. Can you ask Vera to speak to the manager?”
“Wait, I’ve an idea. I’ll take a picture of them and send it to your phone.”
Seconds later, Lucas’ phone jingled with an incoming text. He opened the message, and his head expanded hot. Maryanne and a blond man sat next to each other at a picnic table. If she was using him to make the man jealous, she had another thing coming to her. He’d confront her and end it. Let that man know exactly what was going on. That she’d spent the weekend with him alone in a tent.
He sped down the highway and ran two red lights, then swerved into the parking lot, barely missing a minivan. He double-parked and tore through the church grounds to the social area where Zach met him.
“They’re over there.” Zach pointed to a group sitting in a circle around a guy with a guitar.
Lucas barged into the circle and spied Maryanne sitting between Ryan and Vera. Vera elbowed her and Maryanne looked in his direction, then quickly averted her eyes. She stood from the bench and walked toward the building.
Lucas marched up to her and grabbed her arm. “Why aren’t you answering my calls?”
Vera tugged her other arm. “Don’t talk to him. He’s crazy.”
“No, wait. I want to know what’s going on.” Lucas glared at Maryanne who pouted with her arms crossed.
Ryan walked up. “Is there a problem here? The lady doesn’t want to talk to you.” Ryan put a hand on Lucas’ shoulder. “Let her go.”
“Get your hands off me.” Lucas shoved him.
“You’re out of line here.” Ryan shielded Maryanne, who walked off with Vera. “If you’re not here to join the young adults group, you should leave.”
“I’m here with Zach.” Lucas shrugged and straightened his shirt.
“Yeah, he’s with me,” Zach parroted.
Ryan nodded at a burly security guard. “Behave yourself.”
“I will.” Lucas seethed, but he had to speak to Maryanne. It wasn’t right for her to cut him off without an explanation. Ryan walked back to the guitar group and shook hands with some newcomers.
Zach pointed toward the sanctuary. “They’re in the ladies’ room.”
“They can’t stay there all night.” Lucas parked himself on a bench.
“Good luck, buddy,” Zach said. “I see a chick I want to talk to.”
Lucas held his throbbing head in his hands. When he’d left Maryanne, she was all kissy sweet, glowing and lovely. Now she looked like hell warmed over, sick and angry at him. This was exactly why he didn’t want a relationship, just a friendship. He never understood women. Maybe she was ashamed of him and wanted to be seen with the pastor’s son. He hadn’t thought she was that way. Damn. Everything was so unfair. He never got a break. A bastard, an unwanted child. His Olympic dreams dashed by a broken wrist, and now, a woman he trusted doing him wrong.
The picnic was over, and people gathered chairs and picked up trash. Maryanne and Vera hadn’t emerged from the ladies’ room. The lights in the foyer dimmed. They couldn’t stay all night. He hunkered down.
Finally, the security guard tapped his shoulder. “Sir, you’re going to have to leave. Party’s over. We’re shutting down.”
“There are two women in there. I’m waiting for them.”
“Okay, I’ll warn them.” The guard knocked on the door. “Party’s over. Locking up.”
Lucas walked out of the sanctuary and situated himself behind a stand of Italian cypress. Sure enough, Maryanne and Vera glanced around before coming out. The guard shut the doors after them, and they walked his direction, talking with low voices.
“Maryanne,” he called as she came toward him.
She jumped and gasped. Her makeup was smeared, and she clutched a tissue.
“No, no, shhh… It’s me.” Lucas drew closer. “Don’t be scared.”
Vera glared at him and put her hand on Maryanne’s back. “You have some nerve.”
“I don’t even know what I did.” He faced Maryanne. “Sweetheart, tell me what’s wrong.”
“You’re a cheat,” Vera said. “Can’t you see what damage you’ve done?”
Maryanne trembled. “I saw her, Lucas. You were going to take a shower with her.”
“Who? What are you talking about?”
“Don’t lie to me. I went to your apartment and saw her through the window. You were wearing a towel and telling her to get in the shower.”
“Oh, Sandra.” Lucas wiped his forehead. “She’s my sister. I’d just come out of the shower. We were running late to lunch with Pastor Stone.”
Maryanne hiccupped. “How can I believe you? Men are always lying to me. I thought you were different.”
“I am different. But you can’t act like this and expect a real relationship. I think we should go back to your place and talk this out.”
Seeing her so sad tugged at his heart. But she was too much, too intense and overwhelming. He led the way to his car. What had he gotten himself into?
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