This was a deleted scene from Burn for You. This happens after Chad shows up on Scott and Tori’s doorstep in the middle of the night (my evil plot device to torture the reader a bit more with Tori’s secrets). Anyhow, I really loved this scene but I took it out because it just didn’t progress the story between Tori and Scott, it was much more Chad-centric as far as what HE was going through…and his book and self-reflection is for another time in another story that will be coming.
“Where to now tour guide?” Chad asked as they neared the Capitol reflecting pool. His feet were throbbing. Riding boots were not the best option for a day full of this much walking and he wished he would have swiped a pair of his brothers’ sneakers.
They’d started at the Washington Monument, worked their way around the entire mall, looped the entire Tidal Basin and Chad had seen each one of the monuments. He was about done, but his brother’s chick looked like she was just getting started.
“Well, we could hit up a museum, but really if you see one more thing here I think you need to go to the National Archives.” She seemed very excited about that prospect. The girl had such an abundance of energy—far more than he had.
He frowned. That sounded dull to him. “I don’t want to see a bunch of boring books and shit.”
“Oh my god you dork, it’s the Constitution and Declaration of Independence!” she exclaimed. He felt a little silly that he didn’t realize that, then again, he wasn’t book smart. Never applied himself and dropped out of high school.
“Seriously, every American needs to go see it. It’s awe inspiring and will make you all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I want to see it through your eyes and I can live vicariously through you.” She clutched her hand to her chest with passion.
His eyes clouded up with tears like a fucking baby at her words. He couldn’t say no to that, no matter how blistered his feet were.
His stomach rumbled, breaking the silence and he cleared his throat. “Do you have lunch on the agenda? I don’t know about you, chickadee, but I’m starving.” That and my damn feet hurt like a motherfucker. He guessed that entire trek was about five miles. He just needed a few moments to sit down and regroup.
“Yeah, I guess lunch would be a smart idea.” She cocked her head to the side. “What are you in the mood for?”
“You’re the one that works around here. You know this place better than I do with your eyes closed, apparently.” Tori had pointed her building out to him as they passed it a ways back. It amazed him how she knew exactly where they were the entire time. Well, for the most part. She did point way too far to the left of the Washington Monument and Chad had to move her hand to the right spot. They both got a good laugh from that one. The girl was something else.
“Well, it’s Tuesday, the deli I normally go to has this special—”
“Tori, it’s Wednesday.”
She grimaced as if something just dawned on her. “Shit! I didn’t work on Monday so I’m totally off a day.” She bit her lip and tugged on it as if she was worried. She tapped her Apple watch and it blurted the time. “We have to go, now!” She looped her arm with his, extended her cane and took off. She’d been leading him much more on this journey than him leading her.
“Woah, where’s the fire?” Chad stopped, pulling her back.
“I just…it’s just…there’s just something I do every Wednesday. I’ll explain on the way, but he’ll be waiting and I don’t want him to think I forgot about him.” She urged him forward.
“He?” Chad laughed as they walked along the sidewalk. “You have lunch with another man every Wednesday? Does my little brother know about this?”
She groaned. “No, I’ve never mentioned it to Scott—and I’d prefer it if you don’t either.”
“I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that.” He may have not been the most truthful and trustworthy person, but the thought of keeping the fact his brother’s finance had lunch with another man every Wednesday was some sketchy shit. “How would you like it if Scott was having a secret lunch meeting every Wednesday with another woman?” He grew protective of his little brother.
She laughed as if it was the dumbest thing he ever said. “It’s so not what you think Chad, I promise.”
“Well, do explain.”
“I buy lunch every Wednesday for a homeless man named Owen.”
Ok, he had to admit, that was kind of her. Also very dangerous, especially since she was blind. Knowing his brother like he did, Scott would have a shit-fit if he knew. “You sure that’s safe?” He frowned as they crossed the street.
She stayed silent until they reached the other side safely and he watched her let out a labored breath. “Owen is perfectly harmless.” She lifted her chin. “Sure, there are the crazies and the druggies around here, but mostly they are just people who took a wrong turn in life. Sometimes they just need someone who gives a shit about them.”
Kinda like me.
“I guess that’s a wise way to look at it.” Or naive. He couldn’t decide which. Regardless, the way she cared for others was pretty incredible. Scott had told him a little about what she did after his injury, how she took care of him. Hell, Tori even saved Chad’s ass and bailed him out with Jett without even thinking twice about it, and she had only known him a couple days. Instead of repaying her for what she’d done, he’d just showed up on her doorstep with more problems. Now here she was taking time off work to show him sights that she couldn’t even see herself, and not acting the least bit put off by it. The more he thought about it the shittier he felt.
Not only had Scott got arrested the past weekend, she was assaulted by a total asshole. His mother had filled him in a little bit that she also had been having seizures. He’d asked her about her health while they were walking along the monuments, and she played it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal. Chad could easily see that it was hard on her and she was putting on a tough front. He couldn’t imagine the tailspin that was sending his brother into, and how worried he must be.
Tori lost her father at a young age, had a drug addict mom, lost her vision and now had epilepsy. Scott fought bravely for his country and came back a wounded man, missing his leg and he still found time to volunteer and help other veterans get back on their feet. Life had hit them with blow after blow, yet they somehow rose above all the bullshit they were dealt. Chad was raised right, by a good, loving family and he’d fucked his life up royally. He had no excuse for his behavior.
Chad Harris, you really are a selfish prick.
She lifted her chin slightly, almost like she was taking a whiff in the air. He could smell the food, so she sure as hell must have. “The food truck should be right around here if I have my bearings right.” She pointed to her left.
“Close.” Chad laughed and grabbed her hand and moved it thirty degrees to the left, just like he’d done at the Washington Monument.
“You turd.” She snickered.
“Sweet Victoria! I thought you forgot about me.” An older, thin, African American man with an unkempt, grey beard limped over in their direction. He wore a hat that said POW MIA on it, a raggedy old shirt with an American flag on it and a threadbare jacket. The old man screamed Vietnam Vet if Chad had ever seen one.
“I couldn’t forget about our lunch date, Owen.” Tori grinned at him. He returned the smile and hugged her. The stench coming off him was unbelievable, but his brother’s girl didn’t even shy away from the man.
“You brought a bodyguard today?” Owen teased.
“This is my brother, Chad.” Tori rubbed his arm as she said that. It warmed Chad’s heart that she called him her brother, even though her and Scott were not married yet.
Chad nodded to the man and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Owen.”
“Would you like the usual?” she asked, propping her cane against her chest, digging into her purse.
“Yes please.” The man nodded and grinned. He was missing several teeth but had a kind smile with soulful eyes that had seen far too much pain in his lifetime.
“My treat. I insist.” Chad pushed her hand down as she pulled out her wallet.
“Alright.” She nodded. “Owen likes a hot dog with everything but onions, with a Coke.”
“Yes, no onions.” The homeless man patted his stomach. “They don’t agree with me.”
“I’ll take one with the works, with a Diet Coke,” Tori added.
“I think the hot dog negates the diet in the soda, Tori.” Chad laughed at the absurdity of girl-logic.
“That’s why I drink the diet.” She shrugged. “You gotta level the evil with some good now and again.”
Chad paid for their order and the three of them sat on a nearby bench. Tori chatted with Owen like they were old friends or something. She could adapt to whatever social group she was around it seemed. Chad had seen her hang now with what some would consider the lowest in society, himself included, but also knew she worked in that fancy circular building he could see in the distance. The girl was a chameleon.
Chad’s phone chimed in his jacket pocket and he pulled it out.
Scott: Has my girl worn you out yet?
Chad: God yes. Heading to some archive place next. Just finishing up lunch.
Scott: Ah, it’s Wednesday. You must be having lunch with Tori’s homeless buddy, Owen.
Chad snickered. Tori turned his direction and a curious look washed over her face. “What’s so funny?” she asked.
“Nothin, just something my brother said.” He wasn’t going to give away that Scott knew exactly what she was up to. He also wasn’t going to spill the beans on Tori either. Those two were too funny with their stupid little secrets from each other.
Chad: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Scott: Surrrre ya don’t. Don’t tell Tori I know. Let her have her little secret. I’ll catch up with you all later.
He glanced up from his phone and saw the man walking away. He offered him a friendly wave and the man smiled and waved back.
“Does he look warm enough? Does he have a coat?” She leaned and whispered.
Chad’s heart squeezed at her caring enough to ask that. “Yeah, he’s got a coat on, some layers.”
“Good.” She nodded in satisfaction.
“Why do you care so much anyway?” Did Tori feel like she had some debt to repay to society? That’s how things worked in his world. “I mean, there are thousands of homeless people, why him?”
“Because it matters to him. Hell, I know I can’t feed a thousand homeless people, but if everyone took the time to reach out to one person in need, how much better of a place would this world be?”
Chad cocked his head to the side. She was a better person than he was. She didn’t deserve the shaft that she got in life by losing her vision. “Tori, you’re a damn good person in this fucked up world, you know that? Sometimes things don’t make a damn bit of sense.” He slung his arm around her and gave her a squeeze. “I’m sorry I said you weren’t no angel. I guess you have wings after all.”
“Those and a very dented, tarnished halo.” She chuckled nervously and sucked in a deep breath. “I’ve done a lot of devilish things.” An awkward silence hung for a moment as she shifted and cleared her throat. “Well, are you ready to go?” She placed her hand on Chad’s thigh.
“Yeah, I think my feet have recovered.” He groaned.
“You Texans and your big trucks are spoiled driving everywhere.” She gave him a playful nudge. “Stop being a sissy boy. It’s not too far, just half a mile.” She nodded and gripped the handle of her cane that was draped over her shoulder.
A half mile? He died a little inside.
“You east coast people really hate your feet.” Chad nudged her back. “Fine, let’s roll.”