Edge of Chaos(Love on the Edge #1)(2)

By: Molly E. Lee

I sighed and racked my brain. He’d been quiet on the drive out here, sure, but nothing indicated he was angry. Only two months until my freshman year of college and this apartment was one of the most popular among Tulsa students. We jumped at the opportunity to snag a place so near campus―well, I jumped, Justin kind of strolled.

Two things in my life were certain.

One, I would attend the University of Tulsa. My mother had attended, and all my friends had been accepted and were picking out dorm rooms or apartments, too. I hadn’t even applied anywhere else because it just wasn’t an option.

And two, Justin.

We’d met when I was ten and he was thirteen during a neighborhood kickball game. He was my first everything. First childhood boyfriend. First real date. First long-term boyfriend. First lover.

“Will you put the deposit down today?” The leasing agent, a blonde woman in a black skirt and blue blouse, asked, and grounded me to the present.

My eyes shot to Justin. He was a statue except for his clenching jaw. My heart plummeted into my stomach, stirring up the two Dunkin Donuts I’d eaten for breakfast.

I swallowed. “Could we have a minute to talk, please?”

“Of course.” The agent walked toward the front door. “I’ll just leave this folder here for you. It includes the floor plan, estimated water and electric, and the rent is listed at the bottom.”

“Thank you,” I said as she shut the front door.

The tension in the air mounted. I was so familiar with the sensation. A rough texture, like choking down a Brillo pad. A signature Justin blowup would occur in the next five minutes―he merely waited for me to initiate it, as was his pattern. After years of these, I’d almost rather eat the Brillo pad.

Oh well, fuck it.

“What’s up, Justin?” I decided to mirror him and took up my own firm lean against the opposite wall, but opted to put my hands on my hips as opposed to crossing them over my chest.

He finally looked at me, the fuse lit. His brown eyes were sharp enough to cut me as he shrugged, the motion rippling the muscles in his arms.

My heart rate kicked up. A silent start was way worse than an instant outburst.

“Seriously, what is it?” I kept my voice even, not wanting to fan the flames.

He clenched his jaw again, and I almost lost it. I’d been tiring of these blowups for a while now, but I assumed once we lived together they would stop. He’d be happier.

Justin uncrossed his arms and took two strides to the kitchen, flipping open the folder the leasing agent had left on the counter. He scanned the papers and shook his head before meeting my gaze again.

“This is ridiculous,” he said.

“What is? The rent? It’s very reasonable considering how close it is to campus, and you know it’ll be good for me to be able to walk to class.”

“Me, me, me,” he said, mocking my voice. “What the hell am I supposed to do, Blake?”

I opened my mouth to respond, but the air caught in my lungs. He had a stack of job applications in my car. We’d picked them up while waiting for the apartment office to open. There were over ten mechanic positions available in town, and two of the managers had even said they were interested in seeing what he could do.

“I thought...” He’d been excited about the prospect of getting our own place. Finally living together after all these years. He’d said he was looking forward to the move, a fresh start.

“Yeah, you thought. Why’d you have to pick a college that is so far away, huh? Why should I have to leave my friends because you suck at picking schools?”

“Are you serious? It’s only two hours away! It’s not like I’m asking you to move to Canada.” I rolled my eyes.

Huge mistake.

Justin slammed his fist against the countertop, making me jump.

Tears formed behind my eyes, but I didn’t let them drop. I’d seen him more pissed off than this―at least he wasn’t drunk. Something would’ve already been broken if he was.

He shook his head. “I’m not doing this. I’ve got a good job back home. There is no point in me moving here.”

A knife slipped into my chest, his words searing.

He absolutely hated his job. Complained about it on almost an hourly basis―called it mindless factory work. “I thought your dream was to work on cars? There is plenty of opportunity for that here.”

He walked across the living room, and his six-foot-three frame towered over me. “I will do that, someday. But never here.”

I looked up, searching for the man I thought he was, the man I knew he could be if he wanted to. He didn’t reach out to me even though he stood only inches away.