I was past making sane and rational decisions. I was past making any sense of my life the moment that I first laid eyes on Collins. Standing on her doorstep-uninvited-was just further proof that I was losing my goddamn mind.
After I’d left the store without any real answers, I had gone to Holden’s and had proceeded to drink my weight in liquor. Since it’d been a Monday night and workday, Holden and Max had been wise enough to let me have at it and not judge.
Now, while running a multi-million-dollar company hungover as shit didn’t make for an ideal day, my unwise alcohol choices hadn’t deterred me from showing up here to work things out with Collins. Armed with her work schedules and address, ambushing her on a Tuesday evening had been easy.
Knocking on the front door, waiting for someone to answer, I hated how I was secretly judging how Collins didn’t belong in this neighborhood. Though her house and property looked clean, it was obvious that Collins had a shitty landlord. The place needed a lot of new this and that, but I highly doubted that her landlord cared.
When the door finally swung open, a petite woman in her golden years stared back at me, and it was easy to see that she and Collins could be related. Her hair was mostly silver, but it still had a few patches of black littered throughout. She was shorter than Collins, and that was saying something. Collins was only about five-foot-three, so this woman had to be around five-foot-one, five-foot-even maybe. She also had the same blue eyes that Collins drove me crazy with, so it was easy to see that this must be her grandmother.
“Can I help you?”
I smiled down at the woman. “Hello, yes. Is Collins home?”
“And who are you?” she asked shrewdly, her blue eyes narrowing a bit.
“Evander Kendrick,” I answered. “I know-”
“The strip club guy?” she asked, her eyes no longer narrowed, but wide with curiosity.
“Uhm…the strip club guy?” I prayed that she didn’t know what I was sure that she did know. However, praying never hurt anyone, so I was definitely praying here.
“Yeah,” she said, grinning. “The guy with the ten-thousand dollars to throw around.”
I dropped my head back and looked up towards the sky.
What in the actual fuck?
I knew that Collins was close enough to sacrifice her life for the woman, but I never would have guess that they were close enough that Collins would tell her the details of our first night together.
When I heard a slight chuckle, I looked down, and the woman was smiling at me. She was also definitely laughing at me under that smile of hers. “Oh, relax,” she grinned.
“Ma’am, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible at the moment.”
Her smile widened. “Call me Mavie,” she graciously allowed. “After all, according to Collins, you seem like a rather determined young man. So, I imagine I’ll be seeing you around quite a bit if that’s true.”
Oh, fuck it.
“I’m in love with your granddaughter,” I told her. “I’m hoping to convince her that she needs me around.”
“Oh, darling, Collins needs no man,” she said mercilessly. “That girl is as independent as they come.”
“Any advice, then?”
“Don’t be a dick,” she replied, and that had me barking out a laugh, all the tension in my body lessening the more that I spoke with Collins’ grandmother.
When I finally got myself under control, I told her, “I’m the CEO of my own company. I’m not sure that I know how not to be a dick.”
“That’s fair,” she said, giving me an understanding nod.
“So, what else do you have for me?”
Her lips twitched with a grin. “Show her that having you in her life will make her life easier, not harder,” she advised. “Make Collins want to have you around. Make sure that when she looks at you, she sees possibilities and not a burden.”
“How can I do that if she can’t even bother to give me a chance?”
Mavie arched a brow. “I’m pretty sure that she gave you one a week ago.”
I did my best not to blush underneath what she knew. I was a man, for fuck’s sakes. We didn’t blush at petite, little, old grandmothers.
Taking mercy on me, she said. “Look, I’m pretty sure that my granddaughter has a thing for you, but she’s just so damn used to the iron control that she has on her life. If you treat her with kid gloves, you aren’t going to get anywhere, Evander.”
“The caveman route?” I asked, surprised that she was telling me this much.
Mavie nodded. “The caveman route.”
“Nan, who are you talking to-” Collins stopped talking, shock in her eyes at seeing me on her doorstep. “Evander?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to talk to you.”
Clearing her throat, Mavie said, “Well, I’ll just leave you two kids to it.”
“It was nice meeting you, Mavie,” I told her.
“Likewise, Evander Kendrick,” she replied, chuckling as she scurried off to give me and Collins some privacy.
Collins didn’t say anything until her grandmother was safely back in their house. However, after finally shutting the door behind her, she repeated herself. “What are you doing here?”
“What do you think, Collins?” I countered because she knew exactly what I was doing here.
“I told you that I’d call-”
“Yeah, well, call me impatient,” I interrupted.
I watched as Collins took a deep breath. “Evander, you can’t just keep showing up at my work or home-”
“Then tell me that you don’t want me, Collins,” I challenged. “Tell me that you don’t care for me, and I’ll find a way to leave you alone.”
“That’s not fair,” she fired back. “Just because I’m not asking how high when you say jump does not mean that I don’t care about you.”
“Then what’s the fucking problem?” I asked, frustrated beyond what I was used to. “Why are you making the idea of dating me seem so damn difficult?”
“I just don’t think that we have anything in common, Evander,” she said, using the oldest excuse in the book as her reasoning.
“So, because I own my own business, but you work three jobs, we can just forget that Saturday night ever happened?” I bit out. “Because I’m dedicated to my job, but you’re dedicated to your grandmother, then who gives a fuck about what we feel for each other? Because I offered you money for our first night together, then let’s just forget that I love you? Is that what this is?”
“It’s not that easy-”
“Bullshit,” I spat. “It’s the simplest thing ever, Collins.”
“No, it’s not-”
“Fine,” I growled like an injured tiger. “If you want to let your pride and fear stand in the way of something that I think could be the greatest thing to happen to either of us, then I can’t stop you.” Her blue eyes widened, but I was past that. “You know, I came here determined to make you hear me out and do this thing with me, but I’m quickly realizing that I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me just as badly as I want to be with her.”
“Evander, it’s not that-”
“That’s worse,” I chuckled darkly. “That just means that you’re a coward, and I’m not sure that I want to be with one of those, either.”
“Fuck you,” she hissed, offended, and rightfully so. It was beyond the pale to show up on a woman’s doorstep to insult her.
“Yeah, fuck me,” I agreed. “You know, that night is probably going to haunt me for the rest of my life, but as long as you’re good with never taking chances, what does it matter, right? I hope those three jobs of yours are a great substitute for what you’re throwing away.”
Before she could slap the shit out of me for being an asshole, I turned and made my way back towards my car. I knew that I was going to regret this shitstorm tonight, but right now, I was pissed.
Still, who in the fuck cared anyway?