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"It's fine. I just need to put some ice on it and take some aspirin," I say, stepping around him.
"How did it happen?"
"It's either because your son is the incredible hulk or he has a thing for Harry Potter," I say over my shoulder. I laugh when I hear Asher groan.
"It's my fault," Asher says, picking me up and setting me on the counter, removing me from where I was standing in front of the fridge. "The door hit her when I shoved it open to get to her." I watch him go the drawer and grab a baggie then back to the fridge. He fills it with ice then wraps it in a kitchen towel and brings it to me and presses it to my head.
"Thanks, honey," I mumble.
"You're welcome, baby. I'm sorry your day sucks."
"Me too." He kisses my temple then looks over to his dad, but his eyes stop on the roses that are sitting on the counter.
"Some guy delivered those?" he asks. I swallow and look at Asher's dad. He hadn't told him about the card. Mr. James looked at me then at Asher. "What aren't you telling me?" Asher asks his dad.
"When I pulled up, November came outside and found a card."
"Where is it?" Asher asks and I can see his body expanding, muscles bunching under his shirt. Mr. James hands Asher the card that is now inside of a gallon zipper bag. The card is open so you can see the inside and outside of it. Asher looks at the front for the second and sees that it's a picture of New York then he flips the bag over and I can tell that he's using all of his control to not rip the thing in half. "What does this mean?" Asher grunts out. He sounds wild and nothing like himself.
I pull my phone out and Google the words that are written in the card. "The poet who wrote on my living room wall also wrote this poem," I tell Asher and Mr. James.
"We know the other poem is called November. What is this one called?" Asher asks.
"Anticipation," I tell them and get a shiver down my spine when I read them the poem.
'Coming events cast their shadow before.'
I had a vision in the summer light-
Sorrow was in it, and my inward sight
Ached with sad images. The touch of tears
Gushed down my cheeks:-the figured woes of years
Casting their shadows across sunny hours.
Oh, there was nothing sorrowful in flowers
Wooing the glances of an April sun,
Or apple blossoms opening one by one
Their crimson bosoms-or the twittered words
And warbled sentences of merry birds;-
Or the small glitter and the humming wings
Of golden flies and many colored things-
Oh, these were nothing sad-nor to see Her,
Sitting beneath the comfortable stir
Of early leaves-casting the playful grace
Of moving shadows in so fair a face-
Nor in her brow serene-nor in the love
Of her mild eyes drinking the light above
With a long thirst-nor in her gentle smile-
Nor in her hand that shone blood-red the while
She raised it in the sun. All these were dear
To heart and eye-but an invisible fear
Shook in the trees and chilled upon the air,
And if one spot was laughing brightest-there
My soul most sank and darkened in despair!-
As if the shadows of a curtained room
Haunted me in the sun-as if the bloom
Of early flow'rets had no sweets for me,
Nor apple blossoms any blush to see-
As if the hour had brought too bright a day-
And little birds were all too gay!-too gay!-
As if the beauty of that Lovely One
Were all a fable.-Full before the sun
Stood Death and cast a shadow long before,
Like a dark pall enshrouding her all o'er,
Till eyes, and lips, and smiles, were all no more!
"That sounds a lot more threatening than the last poem he left," Asher says, looking at his dad. I look toward Mr. James and notice that his face is blank. "What do we do?"
"I need November to tell me about the delivery and anything that she can remember from when she was attacked in New York. I also need to know if either of you have noticed anyone out of place or someone who made you uncomfortable." I look from Asher's dad to him and see that his body is still ready for attack. I lean forward on the counter and grab his shirt at the back and drag him toward me. Once he's close, I wrap my arms around his middle and lay my head on his back. I feel his hands rest on top of mine then he takes a deep breath and his body relaxes.
"I need to go out to the car and get my note book. When I come back in, we can talk."
Asher turns, facing me and pulls me closer to him. "I'm really sorry about this," I mumble into his chest, letting his smell relax me.
"Don't apologize about this. It isn't your fault."
"Maybe I should lea-"
The words are not even out of my mouth before he cuts me off. "Don't even fucking think about leaving me." His arms go super tight around me like he is expecting me to vanish into thin air. "I will track your ass down and drag you back here. I want you to listen to me." His hands hold my face, and his lips come closer to mine. "Dad is on this. I'm on this and now I'm putting Kenton on this. We will find out what's going on and who is doing this. And while we're doing that, you will be safe."
"I would die if something happened to you because of me," I whisper my biggest fear and then do a face plant into his shirt.
"Baby," he says, running his hand down my back. "The worst thing that could happen is if you left me and I had no way of knowing that you were okay. I won't let anything happen to you and I will make sure that nothing happens to me either. Do you think that I would let something happen to myself, knowing that there are about six guys that I know waiting to take my place?"
"You know you're crazy, right?" I ask in all seriousness. Only he would say one of the reasons he was staying safe is so random, non-existing guys don't try to take me away.
"No, I'm selfish. I know what sleeps next to me every night. You are mine, November. Until the day you leave this earth, you are mine. And I take my responsibility very seriously." What could I say to that? Before I say anything, his dad comes in the front door carrying a notebook and a file.
"Alright, let's get started," Mr. James says, setting his stuff down on the island and pulling out the stool to take a seat. Asher kisses my forehead then jumps up next to me on the counter, grabbing my hand.
I tell them about the delivery then about the attack. Then I remember the roses that had been outside the apartment door when I got home from the hospital. I had never gotten flowers, and my mom would get them all the time from whatever man she was seeing, so I assumed they were for her. I took them into the apartment and left them on the counter. I never even thought about them again until that moment.
"White roses," I whisper to myself.
"Pardon?" Mr. James asks.
"White roses were left outside my apartment door after I was attacked. But I don't think they were for my mom."
"Why do you say that?" Mr. James asks, and I remember my mom's shocked face when she opened the card.
"The card said, 'I'm sorry.' We both assumed they were from the guy she was seeing, the one that took me to the hospital. That he was sorry for what happened to me. But I remember she seemed shocked by the apology. Like, I don't know, that he wouldn't do that, you know? Like he wouldn't apologize. When I was packing my car later that evening, the same boyfriend who I thought the flowers were from stopped by to drop off Beast. He had kept him while I was in the hospital. He didn't want him to end up at the shelter. He made me pinky promise him that if I was going to give Beast away, he got first dibs. I remember thinking that he was a really good guy and hoping that it would work out for him and my mom. He hugged me then got in his car and left. I thought that maybe he was busy. I left a few minutes after he did, so I'm not sure what happened with him and my mom."
"I'm gonna need your mom's number, and the contact information for the detective in New York who was working on your case," Mr. James says, and I nod my head in agreement.
"I have a friend who's been looking into things," Asher says, and I look over at Asher. I never knew this. We talked about what happened to me, but he never told me anything about someone looking into it.
"You do?" I ask, wondering when he had asked someone to look into it.
"Yeah." That was all he said while pulling me closer so he could kiss my forehead.
"Okay," I say slowly. "When were you going to tell me about that?"
"Don't you think that I should know about things like that?"
"You know now." I narrow my eyes and he brings my hand to his mouth, kissing my fingers that are wrapped around his. "Nothing has happened in the last few months. We were not even sure if the break in had anything to do with what happened in New York." That is a good point. We didn't know anything. I don't even know why I cared. I was grateful that he was looking into it.
"Have they come up with anything?" I ask, hoping that some detective was using his skills so I didn't have to live my days worried about my life being in danger, or worse, having Asher or either of our families in danger.
"Nothing new. They know it was an isolated incident."
"So, do they have any idea why this is happening?"
"Do you think someone is stalking me?" I ask, looking at Asher then his dad.
"I'm not sure what's going on. And before I jump to any conclusions, I need to talk to the florist who delivered the flowers and ask about the person who placed the order. Then I need to contact your mother and find out what she remembers from the night of your attack. I also need to contact the officer who was handling your case and see if there are any cases are similar to yours."
"Asher already found that out. They said it was isolated."
"Yes, they did, but he was talking about the attack. I'm talking about the flowers and the messages," Mr. James says.
"Smart." I smiled at him and he shook his head, chuckling.
"In the meantime, I want you to be extra cautious when you're out. I also need you to make a list of people that you have dated. There might be someone who wasn't ready for your relationship to be over."
"That's simple. I dated my ex fiancé and Asher."
"I mean anyone you went out with, even if it wasn't serious."
"I know, and it was only my ex and Asher. I never dated in high school. My mother wanted me to work, and if I wasn't working, I had to be home. I met my ex during my sophomore year of college and I dated him until I caught him with my mother. After I broke it off with him, I needed time and I was never really interested in anyone, so I didn't date. Before the attack happened, my boss made me sign up for a dating service, so I did that, but I haven't even checked the activity of that account."
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