Belly full and hangover a mere buzz, Chelsea opened the door to the warehouse apartment she shared with Amber. Considering the bout of temper the woman had displayed last night, Chelsea had half expected the place to be trashed. She’d stayed at Keegan’s apartment out of a sense of self-preservation.
Yet, in the warm afternoon sun, the place looked the same as when they had left the night before. The high windows were still intact, illuminating the single, huge room.
One beam focused on Chelsea’s unfinished portrait of Jackson Hawk. She wondered, for the hundredth time since breakfast, if Keegan was right, and Amber really was jealous of the relationship between Chelsea and Jackson.
What relationship? I pushed him away until he left for good.
Sighing, she pulled herself over to the wrought iron, spiral staircase and the bedroom she shared with Amber.
Her roommate lay face down on the bed, covered by a sheet, her ample ass in the air as she snored. Chelsea smiled, biting back a laugh. Amber denied that she snored.
One of these days, I will have to get it on tape.
Still smiling, Chelsea headed into the bathroom. A long soak in the old-fashioned, clawed bathtub would put her right. Unfortunately, Amber’s clothes were in there, and judging by the smell, she had thrown them there after puking up several bottle’s worth of booze.
The irritation and frustration of the previous night came flooding back. “Goddamn it, Amber!”
“What?” Amber’s raspy voice limped out from the pillow.
Chelsea rolled her eyes as she spun around. “I am not cleaning up your nasty, puked on clothes. So hurry up. I want a bath.”
A snore answered her. Chelsea’s heart hammered in her chest and hot angry breath scorched her throat. She whirled around, grabbed the stinking clothes out of the tub, and chucked them at her roommate’s head.
The wet smacking sound they made was only slightly less satisfying than Amber’s shriek of indignation. The demon hunter shot to her feet, throwing the clothes to the floor as she did. “What is your problem?”
“Funny, I was wondering the same thing.” Chelsea’s curled her hands into fists. “I’m not the one who picked a fight, ran off home, got sloppy drunk, and left God damned puke-covered clothes in the bathtub.”
Amber’s round cheeks went from their normal golden beige to brick red. “No, you’re just the one picking the fight now.”
“I wouldn’t be picking a fight if you just cleaned up after yourself.”
“Fine.” Amber’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll leave first thing in the morning. Then you’ll only have to clean up after you.”
“Amber…” Anger drained out of Chelsea. “C’mon.”
The other hunter looked away, arms crossed tightly over her stomach before she stumbled back to the low mattress. Tears filled Chelsea’s eyes. She’d never seen Amber look so vulnerable. Even when the nightling had captured her, Amber had had some fight. Sure she had suggested retreat, it had only been to survive and fight another day.
Chelsea took a chance and edged closer to her friend. “Please, tell me what’s actually wrong.”
Amber pressed her full lips together and shook her head. Chelsea reached out to tuck a hank of Amber’s straight, black hair behind her ear. Her fingertips grazed Amber’s warm cheek, and the hunter gasped.
Chelsea froze, her fingers still touching Amber. The skin under them pebbled, and Amber swallowed. They stood frozen in that position for several unending seconds, before Amber leaned back, averting her eyes.
“Shut up, Chelsea.” Amber ran a hand through her messy hair. “I’ll leave tonight.”
“Why?” Chelsea’s voice shook.
A bitter laugh escaped Amber. “Because you’re still in love with Jackson Hawk. And he’s still in love with you.”
Chelsea sucked in a deep breath. “He’s the one who left me, remember? He’s the one who changed his number and won’t call me.” Her sputtering anger roared back to life. “Seriously, fuck him. He’s all caught up in his stupid little game of hot and cold. He can stay fucked off forever.”
Amber looked over, obvious anger filtering through her misery. “And you weren’t all jealous and pissy about Judith last night?”
Chelsea shrugged. “Yeah, I was pissed about, once again, running into one of Jack’s fuck buddies. It’s kind of what set this-” She waved at herself. “–off. I’m so sick of feeling inadequate and jealous. I’m fucking tired of being down on myself because he’s been with every woman I run across.”
“I was one of his fuck buddies.” Amber’s raspy voice turned harsh.
“Yeah, believe me, I know.” Chelsea glared down at her. “You’ve never been shy about reminding me, especially not when he and I were together.”
The brick red came back to Amber’s face, and she squeezed her eyes shut. “Like I said, I’ll leave tonight.”
“Don’t.” Chelsea knelt beside the other woman. “You left me once, and it hurt almost as much as Jackson.”
“Almost?” The thick, quavering voice sounded nothing like Amber.
Chelsea, once more, reached out to tuck the hank of hair behind Amber’s ear. “You made a point of keeping me at an arm’s length and being as abrasive as possible. So yeah, almost.”
Amber shook her head. “No, no. I… you needed me almost as much as Jack, despite me being… me?”
Chelsea took her time answering. She focused on the silky black hair between her finger and the soft shell of Amber’s ear. The other woman shivered lightly, and gooseflesh crawled up Chelsea’s arm.
Finally, Chelsea licked her lips and answered. “Yes, it hurt. And maybe not in the same way, but just as much. I was really pissed at you for a long time. But, that pretty much vanished the moment you called me.”
Amber pulled in great, heaving breaths and Chelsea wondered what to do. While she’s never been attracted to a woman before, she did recognize the electricity in the room at the moment.
I already admitted that I care about her, and at least to myself, that I find her attractive.
Praying that she hadn’t completely misread the situation, Chelsea leaned over and gently brushed her lips against Amber’s. Amber grew stiff, except for the trembling.
Chelsea pulled back, concerned more for her friend than for a potential lover. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t—”
Amber’s hand grabbed at Chelsea’s waist, greedy and strong. She found herself falling up and over into the sleep tossed blankets. Warm lips traveled up her neck, and Chelsea giggled.
This wasn’t how she had expected this conversation to end. And that wasn’t a bad thing.
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