| 10 | Respect the Dead ||

After a much-needed day with Rita, Lacey found herself kneeling in front of Jacob’s grave the following day. She placed a single lily on the patch of grass in front of his tombstone, and one on the small tombstone next to his. The tears had stopped a long time ago. In fact, she felt little to nothing when she was there. It was more out of routine, out of guilt, that she showed up there every week almost at the same time.

She arranged the flowers on Jake’s grave and shivered, pulling her sweater tighter around her to no avail. It was windy, and she should have brought a coat, not the flimsy sweater. She smiled at the simple white flowers that his sister put on there every week. Lacey tried to reach out to the woman, but she never took to Lacey, even when Jake was alive. Jake said she had a painful past which caused many issues in her present.

He was Lacey’s prince on a white horse. If she was looking for perfect, he was as close as she’d have gotten. Seeing Devlin again reminded her, however, that there was something missing with Jake: passion. They got along just fine, enjoyed each other’s company enough, had similar goals and interests, but everything was too serene. She didn’t understand herself because it was exactly what she wanted. A nice partnership that made sense, that was agreeable and peaceful. It sounded crazy to want anything but peace, but she missed the grit, the tension, the excitement.

She pulled her thin sweater tighter around her shoulders and shielded her face from her wild strands as they whipped in the wind. She could feel yesterday’s promise of rain heavy in the air. She knew better to be out in that weather wearing what she was, but she didn’t think she’d be there long.

When she woke up that morning, something was missing. It wasn’t just Devlin’s physical absence that felt off. She felt like something else was missing. Something else was missing with him. That something was exactly what Jacob gave her every day; Love and affection. Companionship. Coffee and lazy mornings walking around in robes and sipping tea. She chuckled a little bit. She couldn’t imagine Devlin doing that. He would probably sneer at her for suggesting he use a robe. Hell, she wouldn’t want him to. She rather liked seeing him naked.

She frowned and scolded herself. That was part of the problem. When she was around the man, he just turned her common sense off, and all was left was her raw physical and growing emotional tether to him. She didn’t need anyone to tell her she was being a fool. Her rational mind was efficient at that already.

Sadness took her. If she couldn’t imagine something so simple with him, why would she take it further? She was mentally palming her forehead because she knew all this about Devlin, and for some stupid reason, she thought he would come to his senses and see eternity with her when he would probably never see eternity with anyone.

“That him?” Lacey’s heart caught in her throat, and she stood up too fast. Strong hands stabilized her. She felt guilty like she’d been caught red-handed stealing someone’s wallet. Instead, she was stealing thoughts, stealing thoughts about the man, and there he popped up. She glanced up at Devlin standing to her right, his arms crossed.

“Is that the dick that stood you up at the coffee shop? Jacob Grier?” He said, reading the headstone with a snarl.

She choked on her spit. “Devlin!”

“A valid question. At least I’d know not to get on your bad side.” The rogue smiled, forcing various feelings through her.

“He was my husband.” She shrieked, trying to mask the humor she found in his jest. “Seriously, is nothing sacred to you?” She frowned up at the man, and her breath caught at his shock, and the mix of emotions that radiated through his dark features, especially those abys-like eyes. She brought her attention back to the tombstone in front of her, but her thoughts were so far away from Jacob.

“Husband.” He took a couple steps closer to her, his voice melancholic.

After a long moment of silence, she broke it. “What are you doing here?”

He frowned over at her. “You’re not the only person who’s lost someone.”

“Oh.” Lacey found her feet and shivered when the wind blew through. Duh, they were in a cemetery. “Sorry.”  

There was a long pause. “I visit my mom when I need to think.” He shrugged out of the leather jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders, then stuffed his hands in his front pockets.

“Thanks.” She whispered, the heat from his coat warming her instantly. She appreciated the gesture, but she wanted to be in his arms. His focus dropped back to the tombstone in front of them. That was a strange thing to share, visiting graves to clear your head. Though, she supposed it was kind of a perfect, peaceful atmosphere.

“Think about what?” She interjected in the silence.

“Just,” he shrugged and scratched his chin. “Stuff.”

After a long silence, she nodded, understanding he wasn’t going to elaborate. He wasn’t going to share any part of him with her unless it was his penis. Never anything meaningful, never anything that meant something.

“Why didn’t you keep his last name?” She frowned, meeting dark eyes. His attention was still on the headstone.

He was so handsome with his ebony eyebrows that framed those bottomless eyes so dark. His arms flexed under the fabric of his shirt. Her lips parted as her mind took her to a night in her life that held more significance than she ever wanted to admit.

He turned to face her, the corner of his mouth slowly pulling up until his white teeth were revealed. She frowned for a second, lost in the past that she forgot he asked her a question. A question she hadn’t answered. Hadn’t answered because she was too busy ogling the man next to her.

She brought her eyes back to the cold stone slab in front of her and cleared her throat. “I never changed my last name.”

He harrumphed.

She frowned looking at him. “What is up with men thinking a woman should take their name. This isn’t the seventeenth century, you know.”

His dark eyes swallowed her whole when he gazed upon her. “You’d be mine.” Lacey’s body felt elevated, her skin tingling at his proclamation. She almost believed him, he said it with such conviction. “If we ever married, you’d take all of me or nothing at all.”

She frowned over at the man whose look of distaste was focused on the grave in front of him. Was he? Surely, he couldn’t be― she let the thought fade. She couldn’t even get him to stay a night. What the hell made her think he was, dare she think it, jealous. She tried to hold firm to his actions and not let his wordplay distract her.  “He was my husband.”

He grunted. “Was being the only word I give two fucks about.” They met each other face on. “He’s gone.”

She crossed her arms when anger muscled its way through her. “Gone like you yesterday. Slipping out while I’m asleep is a bit juvenile. Don’t you think?”

“I didn’t want to wake you.” He didn’t seem to have any remorse in his voice at all. No emotions whatsoever; yet, he kept his gaze focused on the granite slab in front of them. His arms were crossed and his lips pierced. What the hell was going on inside the whirlwind of a man?

“Convenient excuse.” She said, sticking with the topic at hand. She didn’t want to get distracted by her desire to know him deeper. She saw and felt the storm brewing within him. Whatever he was harboring was deep-seeded and near as dark at his eyes.

He grumbled and rubbed the back of his neck. “Or the truth. You want some pipe dream. Some marble statue that you can carve pretty words in when they die. Something you can ignore all the flaws. Ignore that they’d rather die for themselves than live for you.”

She gasped, feeling the emotional blow deep in her gut. She looked at him, fighting the hot tears welling up behind her eyes. “That was beneath even you.” She wiped away angry tears, her chest burning from the hot liquid splashing around her insides. “Jacob has nothing to do with any of this. With your actions.”

“Doesn’t he? No one’s ever going to live up to your romanticized visions based off of a dead man.”

Silence hung there for a long bit of time while she wiped angry tears that spilled over her lids. It was ridiculous to think this man-child could be anything but what he was: good for sex. It was obvious he had no awareness of other people’s feelings or when he was crossing the line.  

Her body stiffened when he pulled her into his heat. She didn’t even notice she was cold, because the man was stirring her blood, enraging her, and exciting her. She shivered when the wind whipped through again.

She frowned and investigated the man’s set facial features in shadow above her.

Maybe she expected too much. She saw truth in that, but maybe he was incapable of even the smallest measure of being a man. “I left because I had to.”  There was always more with him. More that he would never share with her because she didn’t mean enough to him. He wouldn’t trust her to know those deep, dark things. He would say whatever he had to, in order to get between her legs again. Despite that, she still wanted him. She wanted, more than anything, to be the man’s weakness.

She relaxed into him a little, falling prey to her own feebleness. “Right, what did you have to do that was so urgent?” She looked up at the handsome man looming above her, all dark and tempting.

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Heavy are the shoulders of the strong.”

She frowned. “Devlin―”

He pulled her to him and rested his head in her hair. She pulled him closer in her arms too, trying to figure out what the hell he just told her. All her mind could figure was it was more bullshit to―

That unmistakable heat laced through her at the proximity of his body, and the feel of his fingers running along her spine under his coat.

She frowned when he kissed her hair. That was, was, different. She didn’t know what to do with it. It was unexpected. It whispered to the hopeless wretch inside her. The dumb one that wanted him, even if it meant her own demise. She barely knew that woman, though she’d seen a glimpse of her five years before. It seemed easy, wrapped in his arms, to squelch her absurd pipe dreams for what she really wanted.

“Someone, someone robbed my father’s grave.”

She frowned, finding his face, but he was averting her gaze. “W-who would do such a terrible thing?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

“I’m sorry.” She said, and wrapped her arms tighter around his middle. More because she had no idea what the hell else to do with his news. A long silence filled the space, and she was content, but her restless mind was not. “Devlin, is this the same thing as five years ago?”

His eyes met hers with mischief in their deep, dark depths. “From what I remember, you enjoyed five years ago.”

Her frown deepened. “I did, five years ago.” She refused to give in to his bullshit charm, even if it was in the mask of light-hearted humor. “Things change. They’re meant to evolve.”

She moved away from him enough so he couldn’t touch her. He was her kryptonite. “Lacey.”

“If more isn’t what you want, I get it. Just say that, and we can part ways right now.”

His eyebrows knit together. “Is that what you want? To part ways?” Figured he would turn things around. She frowned up at him and crossed her arms over her chest. She shivered. Her body yearned for his heat, and it was hardly because of the crisp air.

“When it comes to you, it hardly matters what I want.” She was determined to stand her ground.

He frowned this time and crossed his arms. “That’s a fuckin’ lie.”

“Isn’t it though?”

He growled, pulling his vibrating phone out his pocket. “I have to go.” He said after looking at the screen with a frown.

“Of course.”

He answered the call, moving toward the parking lot. “I have to.”

“Go ahead. Leave!” She shouted after his retreating form. “It’s what you’re good at.” She mumbled the last bit under her breath and removed another stray tear from her cheek as she stared down at Jacob’s tombstone.

Moments later, she heard the roar of his motorcycle fade into the distance. She fell to her knees and sobbed into her palms. Maybe she was being dramatic, but it seemed easier than facing the fact that it was a mistake letting Devlin back into her world.

Kneeling at the grave, someone passing would think she was mourning the loss of Jacob. Her mourning for him was a short, couple months, despite what she told her friends.

This was the second time she let Devlin Sinn walk out of her life. Then, she was able to talk herself into believing it was for the best. It was quite clear what he was after, her, naked. She thought this time was different. He was different.

His energy was different, almost like he was searching for something that he couldn’t quite lay his finger on.

She wiped her tears on the sleeve of his leather coat and paused, inhaling the cloth. His smell clung to the fabric, making her chest tighten in yearning for him, his nearness.

She pushed herself to her feet when the first drop of rain splashed on her head. She made her way out of the graveyard, paused at the gate and glanced back toward Jacob’s grave. She hadn’t missed Jacob for a long while, and perhaps she didn’t really miss him then. She just wished Devlin had some of Jacob in him.

She was torn between the idea that you can’t change someone, which she knew she couldn’t, especially not Devlin. There were moments, glimpses where she saw Devlin trying to connect beyond just the primitive urge to copulate. Or was she just imagining what she wanted to see?

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