I did have one lucky thing happen, though. During the trial, Aubrie’s dad showed up and asked the judge to let me off lightly. In the end, I got probation for breaking and entering, and part of that probation was living under Cliff’s supervision. But at least I wasn’t going back to prison.
I brushed my teeth, took a quick shower, and got dressed. It took me way longer than it should have, since walking was a chore, but I had no regrets. I would rather break my legs a hundred more times than live like everyone else, floating through the days, practically still asleep.
I was alive up there, in the air.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I was dressed and clean and ready for the day. I checked the clock as I headed downstairs and inwardly groaned when I realized that I only had an hour before PT and the camera crew. I gimped my way downstairs, wincing at every slow step, and made my way into the kitchen.
Sitting at the counter, eating a bowl of cereal and looking like she just woke up, was Aubrie. She glanced up as I entered, and I gave her a big grin, a strange feeling welling its way up through my chest.
I hadn’t seen her in years. Not since our parents got married, not since that aborted attempt at whatever it was that went on between us that night. We hadn’t so much as kept in touch, which was probably because she was too busy being a huge dork at Notre Dame, and I was too busy being a badass that jumped off buildings. Or at least, so I told myself.
The truth was, I hadn’t stopped thinking about her over the years. I hadn’t stopped imagining her perfect, pale-smooth skin, her beautiful body, and that pouty look she gave me whenever I teased her too much. We had danced for hours that night at the wedding, our bodies close and sweating, despite the fact that we were suddenly related.
And then there was the balcony back at her dad’s big house, after the reception, after everyone had gone home.
Her skin in the moonlight. Her lips, the way they parted when I got close.
I had jumped off some of the most intense and terrifying places in the world. I had spent months in jail. But none of that compared to the feeling I had for those brief moments. And there she was, suddenly back in my life, looking exactly as gorgeous as she used to look back then.
“’Morning, Brie baby,” I said.
She looked up at me, surprised for a second, and then her eyes narrowed.
“Good morning, gramps. Nice cane.”
I laughed and shuffled over to her, sitting down on a stool on the other side the island.
“Okay then, nerd. Nice glasses.”
“These aren’t nerdy.” She reached up and touched them unconsciously.
“Yeah, and this isn’t a cane. It’s an assisted walking device.”
“Looks a lot like a cane to me.”
“You’re way mistaken. How’s Indiana?”
“Fine. How’s jumping off buildings and breaking both your legs?”
I laughed again. Most people danced around that particular subject, but Brie was not the type to avoid something.
“Pretty damn good, actually.”
“That’s right. You’re ‘based’ now, aren’t you?”
I nodded. Based was a lifestyle. It was a frame of mind. Some rapper named Lil B made it famous. Based meant you did whatever you wanted and didn’t give a shit what people thought. You were cool because you felt like it.
“Based” was also my nickname, given to me early on in my career. Over time it had morphed into my brand, or whatever my managers were calling it, and it encompassed a whole bunch of shit, from clothing to gear.
“Guess so. Has to be better than being a nerdy little school girl.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s so great seeing you again.”
“Ditto. Why are you here, anyway?”
“Well, it is my house. I grew up here, remember?”
“So you spend your summers at home?”
She paused and then shook her head. “No, not usually. This is my first summer back, actually.”
“Look at that. We have something in common.”
“What about you? Just spending your time getting stretched out by cute girls?”
I laughed and shook my head. “No, not always. Sometimes the cute girls are gorgeous instead.”
She snorted and shook her head. “You haven’t changed one bit.”
“Are you a little jealous?”
“Not in the least. How long will the cameras be around?”
I smirked. She was changing the subject.
“Not sure. Depends on how long it takes before I can jump again.”
She paused and raised her eyebrows. “You’re planning on jumping again?”
“Of course. It’s what I do.”
“Didn’t you smash your legs? Like, a barely able to walk kind of injury?”