"With a few conditions," I say, my hands trembling.
"Long sleeves. It has to cover my shoulders and back. I don't do the skimpy dress thing. Got it?"
"Yeah." He nods his head.
I stand and place my coffee mug in the sink and walk past him toward my room. I need some distance. Saturday is going to suck major ass.
"Yes?" I stop at the bottom of the stairs and turn to face him.
"Why does it have to cover everything?"
I shake my head. "It just does."
"Put her on the phone." Blake's voice travels into the hallway as I pass his office. "Hey, Nina. What's going on, sweetheart?" His voice is soft and coaxing, as if he's talking to a wounded animal or something.
I step quietly into his office, standing against the door frame. He's looking more like his usual self this afternoon— white button down shirt, hair in purposeful disarray. I'm certain he's wearing dress slacks. I look around his office.
It's not what I expected. On the left wall he's got a very large and detailed world map with red, blue, and orange pins stuck in various locations. Next to the map are two freestanding cork boards, each one littered with pictures of girls— all ages and races, scraps with different information scrawled on them.
Missing persons' boards.
I glance over, meeting his deep eyes. I'm rooted in place, unable to look away.
"Nina, listen to me. You’re none of those things . . . No, just because you have scars doesn't mean— Listen to me, Nina. You're beautiful; do you understand me? Scars or not. You need to heal, both inside and out. This isn't going to be a one-day thing."
My hands shake and I tear my eyes away from his.
"Nina, don't be afraid to call me when you need to talk, hon, that's why I'm here."
I stare at the cork boards, scanning the faces of all the missing girls. He'll never find most of them. It's noble he's trying, but the sad truth is most of these girls will die and their bodies will never be recovered. Their families will never know. They'll never have peace.
"Many of these girls have been missing for years," he says.
He steps next to me, too close. I shift to the left, putting more distance between us. He shakes his head slightly.
"You realize you'll never find most of them."
"That doesn't mean I'll stop trying. No one should be given up on regardless of the odds."
I nod, glancing to his face. He's staring at me, eyes darkening with a slight glint in them."What?"
His eyebrows shoot up. "You don't like being looked at do you?"
"I'm not used to it. In my world, when men stare at you . . . they aren't usually thinking nice things."
"Well, you shouldn't assume you know what I'm thinking."
"What are you thinking?" I turn toward him fully, slipping my fingers into my pockets.
"I was wondering why you're so . . . closed off."
I grin, remembering one of our earlier conversations. "Unhappy circumstances."