Cale (Walk of Shame #3)

by Victoria Ashley

Six years ago . . .

GRABBING RILEY BY THE WAIST I fall backward, pulling her into the freezing water with me. I feel her stiffen in my arms and squeal as the frigid water surrounds us, numbing our skin, as we slowly sink to the bottom with me still holding onto her. She’s leaving for Mexico tomorrow and this might be our last moment together. The thought causes my chest to ache as I pull her even closer while we break through the water’s surface, both of us fighting for air, and our bodies frozen.

She sucks in a deep breath before releasing it and screaming, “CALE!” Turning around in my arms, she presses her hands against my chest and shoves me, while trying to keep her teeth from chattering. “The water is free . . . eezing.”

Her body is shaking violently from the cold, so I use this as an excuse to keep her warm. I’ve had feelings for Riley for as long as I can remember, but timing has never seemed to be on our side. If I can’t have her . . . then I’ll wait. She means more to me than any woman ever could, and I have a plan to show her that—a promise that I made to myself. I just don’t know how to tell her I want her without ruining our friendship, but I’ll show her when the time is right.

Placing one arm behind her head, I pull her body against my chest and then wrap both of her legs around my waist as I back up against the wall of the pool to support her. “I’ve got you, Rile.” I brush her wet, brown hair out of her face and smile as I reach out and touch her quivering bottom lip. I have to admit, she’s so damn adorable while freezing her ass off. I should feel bad for torturing her, but I don’t. Not really. I know she loves me teasing her. “If you don’t stop shaking that lip . . . I’m going to bite it.”

I see a hint of a smile, before she punches my chest and laughs. “You can be such a dick sometimes, Cale.”

“I know,” I admit. “That’s why you love me so much, Riley Raines.”

All laughter and playfulness seems to stop as our eyes meet. It looks as if she wants to say something, but stops right as her mouth opens to speak. Her face looks guilty and I hate it. I hate that look.

“What, Riley?” I pull her chin up as she looks away. “Say it,” I whisper. “You know you can tell me anything.”

She closes her eyes for a moment before shaking her head and biting her bottom lip. She looks hurt, but I have a feeling she won’t give me the info I’m seeking. “It’s nothing,” she says softly. “It’s just that . . . I’m going to miss you. That’s all.” She forces a smile and tugs on the ends of my hair playfully. “Don’t look so sad, you big stud you. You’ll do fine without me and forget about me in no time.” She turns her head, hiding her eyes from my view.

“Not true. Don’t ever say that.” My heart is beating so damn hard against her chest that I’m surprised she hasn’t asked me if I’m about to have some kind of freak attack. She’s the only girl that makes my heart race like this and hearing those words out of her mouth causes it to ache like nothing else. How can she not realize how much I’m truly going to miss the shit out of her? “It’s kind of hard not to be sad.”

I make my best pouty face, trying to make her feel bad. This face always seems to work on her. “I have to wait for you to come home, all alone, so I can give you my virginity.”

She looks stunned for a moment before she bursts out in laughter and squirms her way out of my arms. Her laugh is so damn beautiful. “You jerk. You almost made me feel bad for you for a minute . . . and we both know you’re not a virgin. Stop kidding around.” She attempts to pull herself out of the pool, but I grab her waist, stopping her.

“Where are you going?”

She looks down at me, water dripping down her beautiful curvy body. I want so much to just take her right here and give her all of me, but time is not on my side at the moment; it never seems to be when it comes to Riley. “It’s getting late. I told my mom I’d be home early so I can finish packing.”

“Stay,” I whisper, pulling her back into the pool with me. My hands cup her face and I pull her so close that our lips are almost touching. “Don’t leave me here.”

“What?” She shakes her head and kisses me on the cheek, her lips lingering for a moment. “I can’t. My grandma needs me. I have to go, Cale. I have no choice.”

I watch as she gets out of the pool and grabs for my dry shirt, snuggling against it to keep warm, before pulling it over her head. I can’t be sure, but it looks as if she sniffed it. I love that.

“I’m keeping this by the way.” She smiles with a sad look in her eyes. “I’ll be back. I promise. Time will fly by. Just watch.” Her voice comes out sad and hesitant, because she and I both know that’s not true. Time will definitely be a bitch while she’s gone, and I’m sure it’s going to feel like a lifetime without seeing her smile or hearing her beautiful laugh.

I nod my head and turn away from her as she starts walking away. I can’t stand to watch her walk out of my life. It hurts more now that it’s actually happening, especially knowing that there’s nothing I can do to stop it, but . . . I need her to know one thing before she leaves. One thing that I hope will mean something to her in the future.

“I am still a virgin by the way,” I say, wanting her to know I wasn’t lying about that. I would never lie to Riley. I can’t.

I hear her stop walking before I hear a small, but painful laugh. “Yeah, me too,” she says. She whispers something afterwards but I miss it, too scared to look her way. I hear her footsteps in the grass as she starts walking again and it hurts so damn bad that I can’t breathe.

By the time I get the courage to turn around she’s gone . . . out of my life and soon she’ll be out of Chicago. She’s the one and only girl I have ever loved and I never even got the chance to tell her.

Life can be a bitch . . .

Present day . . .

WALK OF SHAME IS FULL of people partying and getting wasted beyond sense, but really, I just can’t seem to get my head into being here.

My mind has been on one thing and one thing only: Riley. Ever since Aspen blurted out that Riley would be home soon, my mind has been stuck on her. I’ve been replaying our last moment together, before she left, and it almost feels as if it were yesterday. The ache is still there, weighing on my chest.

James Caan | One Piece 242 | Mademoiselle de Joncquières FRENCH HDRiP 2019