I take a deep breath instead and tell myself to chill. It’s over. It’s done.
Iris and George already occupy a booth. As George is facing my way, he spots me first and raises a brow in reproach.
“Sorry,” I say as I slide in next to Iris. “I lost track of time.”
“We ordered you a vanilla milkshake, and fries are on the way,” says George. “But you choose the rest.”
Six feet to Iris’s five foot three, George towers over her, but they share similar features, their Mexican heritage showing in their dark eyes framed by thick lashes, honey-gold skin, and glossy raven black hair.
The waitress comes with our drinks and fries, her gaze lingering on George. “You know what you want?”
“Always,” he answers with cheeky confidence that makes the waitress blush, and Iris and I roll our eyes. Not that I can fault the waitress’s taste. George is incredibly good looking. And while I appreciate that on an aesthetic level, I’ve never felt a glimmer of sexual attraction to him. Which is a good thing, as I’d rather have his friendship than a brief physical release.
We order our burgers and, once alone, Iris turns in her seat to study me. “So…you gonna tell us where you got that exceptionally large hickey decorating your neck?”
Shit. As if her notice has activated it, a spot where my neck curves to meet my collarbone, starts to throb. Memories assault me, of Baylor’s mouth there, his tongue sliding over my skin just before he sucked hard. I don’t want to know how bad it looks.
George’s eyes glint as he leans forward. “That’s a beauty. Who’s the guy? Or is it a girl? God,” he puts a hand over his heart, “please say it’s a girl.”
I toss my napkin at his head.
“It’s Drew Baylor,” Iris says. “Isn’t it?”
Cringing, I occupy my mouth by drawing a deep pull of milkshake.
“Get the f**k out,” cries George with a laugh. “Seriously, ‘Ris, stop playing.”
The icy glass in my hand lands on the table with a thud. “Why is that so hilarious?” I blurt out. “Am I such a cow that the idea of me being with Drew Baylor is laughable?”
A gurgle dies in George’s throat and he straightens. “Are you kidding me? You’re gorgeous. Baylor would be lucky to get near you.”
“Well, thanks,” I say, somewhat mollified, and at the same time completely shaken. Shit, it’s happening already. The disbelief. The questioning. Why would Baylor pick me? Even I want to know. Which both stings my pride and makes me want to disappear.
George shifts in his seat, looking irritable at his sudden burst of sentiment. “He’s just not even near your type. And you aren’t exactly his.”
Tell me something I don’t know, George.
“Opposites attract,” sings Iris. Then she all but pounces on me. “So it was Baylor? Oh my God, was he as hot as I think? Do the size of the shorts match the shoes?”
George’s nose wrinkles like he scents something foul. “Can we not go there, ‘'Ris? I’m a guy.”
“Oh, are you?” She shrugs. “I must have forgotten.”
He makes a face. “Does that mean you want details of my hook ups?”
“God no,” Iris and I say as one.
George laughs, but he’s not deterred. “So was it Battle?”
I pick up a fry, stabbing it in a pool of ketchup. “Does it really matter who it was?”
“Yes,” George and Iris say as one.
“Ha! You lose, 'Ris. No talking until I say your name. Which will be in one hour.”
“I’m not playing that tired game, boy.”
“You called ‘jinx.’ That constitutes playing.”
When they get together, Iris and George act like they are still in the fourth grade. I roll my eyes and sink farther into my chair. Maybe they’ll forget all about me if I refrain from making sudden moves.
No such luck. Iris’s dark eyes hone in on me like a hunting hawk’s. “You might as well tell us. Better we know the truth than speculate.”
She has a point.
I swirl my fry.
“Spill it, Anna,” she warns.
“Say that again?” George puts his hand to his ear, but he’s grinning wide.
“You heard me.” I’m sure as hell not saying it again. I hate that I said it at all. What happened was… I don’t even know how to describe it, but I know it belongs solely to me. And to Baylor. No one else is getting details. At least not on my end. Hell, is he telling his friends? I try not to squirm in my seat.
Iris squeals. “Was it good? What am I talking about? Of course it was. You two are obviously hot for each other. Oh, this is so awesome!”
At the sound of Iris’s enthusiasm, a few eyes glance our way. Suddenly I can’t breathe properly. Iron hands of fear grip my spine, push down on my lungs. My hands go numb. “Okay, stop.” My tone is harsh, deadly serious, and both Iris and George gape. I tried to remain calm but can’t. The cold within me is making me quake. “This goes no further than this table. No one can know. No one. Ever. “
I can’t handle it if people know. I just can’t. Not that. Not the speculation that would arise. Drew Baylor banged that? It’s bad enough that I’ve been waiting for the realization to creep into his eyes, that he’s made a mistake in pursuing me.
A growl works its way up my throat. What the f**k am I talking about? I’m better than this. I’m not some hag. I shouldn’t be ashamed. Cursing myself for my panicked knee-jerk reaction, I press the hot tips of my fingers against my eyelids until stars dance in the darkness. Shit, I haven’t thought this badly of myself since I was fifteen.