Not Meant To Be Broken

By: Cora Reilly

Without hesitation the cat jumped onto the table and began to lick up the spilled milk, watching me all the while dubiously. Its amber eye was fixed on me, and its body coiled tight as if it was prepared to run in case I tried to catch it.

“Pumpkin! Go down!” Amber's indignant exclamation didn’t impress the cat. It simply lifted its head for a moment before it continued lapping up the milk. It wasn’t a very pretty cat with its missing eye and the crooked tail but it had character.

Amber took a hesitant step forward, watching me cautiously as if she expected me to attack her any second. I knew I looked intimidating because of my height and muscles, and I worked hard to keep it that way, but I wasn’t violent. I'd never even think about hitting a woman, much less doing what Amber probably feared the most.

Then something changed on her face. Resolve took over. She took another step. When I didn't move, she walked toward the table and grabbed her cat. She put it down and gave it an affectionate pat on the head.

“Sorry,” she said with an even deeper blush. The table was between us, and her face made it clear that she was glad about it.

“Don't worry,” I assured her with a grin. “But don’t let Brian see it. He’s a neat freak. Without him the apartment would be slob central.”

“I know. His room was always much cleaner than mine when he still lived at home.” Her lips curled up into an adorable smile. I couldn’t quite explain why the sight made me so happy. “Are you hungry?” I asked, ignoring my strange feelings.

She shrugged but her gaze moved to the fruit bowl that was behind me on the counter. I leaned back on my chair and reached for the bowl before I put it on the table between us and gave her a wink. She blushed and averted her eyes with a mumbled 'thanks'. She grabbed an apple and bit into it. I really wished she would sit down.

“Have you decided yet how you're going to spend your days?” My attempt at conversation startled her slightly and she stopped the apple an inch from her lips. Fuck, her lips were pink and perfect. Wrong thought.

“I’m not sure. Since it’s too late to start college and it wouldn't be a good idea with all the people anyway,” she said in an apologetic tone. “I guess I’ll just try to get used to everything and then maybe I’ll apply for the spring semester.”

“I get it. You should take all the time you need. There’s really no reason to rush into things. Hell, most days I wish I hadn’t started college right after high school and instead traveled the world for a year or two.”

“You’re in law school like Brian now, right?”

“Yeah, it was either that or business school.”

“You make it sound as if you didn’t have a choice.”

“My father wants me to take over the family business in a few years, so he thought law or business would be the best preparation.” Shit, I sounded like a wimp, having my father tell me what to do. But it was the truth even though it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

She frowned. “But you don’t want to?”

I gave a one-shoulder-shrug. “It’s good money. And maybe if I’m lucky and don’t turn into a workaholic like my father, I’ll even have time to do the things I love once or twice a month.” Whoa, way to sound like an idiot, Zach. “Sorry.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “You don’t need to apologize.” She bit her. “There is a support group twice a week for women who...for women like me...I think I'm going to give it a try.”

I stared at her. “Have you never been in a support group before?”

“No. There wasn't one in my hometown. And I didn’t really –”

My mobile vibrated in the back pocket of my jeans and I rose to yank it out. I shouldn't have moved so quickly.

Amber's eyes widened and she stumbled backward, her back bumping against the counter. I froze, my hand half way to my pocket and my eyes fixed on the girl in front of me. “My phone,” I said, pulled it out slowly and turned it off. I wasn’t in the mood to talk with whoever was calling. “I didn't mean to frighten you.”

A deep blush spread across Amber's cheeks. Her gaze dropped and she stared at the apple that had fallen to the ground. Slowly she bent down and picked it up before she chucked it into the trashcan. “I'm so sorry,” she whispered and lifted her gaze to watch me with huge, brown eyes.

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