His deep stare travelled down my body, and his breathing got heavier by the second.
Yes! Exactly the reaction I was hoping for.
Taking the top of the box and fitting it underneath the bottom, I slipped both high heels onto my bare feet one at a time. Jared kept his eyes on me, following every movement.
“So, is the dress for him? Or me?” Jared teased, crossing to my yard.
“For you?” I arched an eyebrow. “Why would this dress be for you?” My snarky attitude was meant to play with him. Something I’d gotten very good at.
Jared wrapped his arms around my lower back and picked me up, bringing his lips to mine in a hard “take that” kiss.
“You taste like a Starburst,” he groaned against my lips. “And you look like the sun.”
Elation swept over me at his words. “You look great, too.”
The distant hum of Madoc’s GTO echoed through the neighborhood, and I squirmed out of Jared’s arms. I was sure my dress had ridden up a little when he grabbed me and that was not a sight for his friend.
Madoc pulled up alongside my house and climbed out of the car in nearly the same black suit and shirt as Jared’s, but Madoc had added a purple tie. With his blonde hair and handsome face, he looked cavalier and gorgeous. The bruises from his fight a couple of weeks ago were pretty much gone.
Whereas Jared had the movie star look, Madoc was pretty like a model. Too pretty for my taste but pretty all the same. Walking in with these two tonight, I’d be the talk of the town tomorrow.
Madoc slowed when he looked up and noticed Jared in front of me. Whatever Madoc saw in Jared’s eyes gave him pause. Any trace of a grin he was wearing had now vanished.
“I’m not going to get hit again, am I?” Madoc asked, half-timid and half-joking.
“Go f**k yourself. You’re lucky you’re getting her at all tonight.” Jared sighed and walked back over to his house. “I’ll get my keys. We’re taking my car.”
Madoc smiled after Jared as he watched his friend disappear inside his house and slam the front door.
I registered a low whistle and brought my eyes back to Madoc. “You look….edible.” He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe I could clean up nice. I rolled my eyes and fixed him with an impatient stare.
“Relax.” He smiled and held up his hands. “I’ll mind my manners…tonight,” he added the last with a threatening smirk.
Shaking my head, I turned towards the house. “I’ll grab my bag.”
After I slid my clutch purse off the entry way table, checked myself in the mirror, and locked up the house, I twisted to see Madoc holding a corsage in his hand.
Feeling slightly uneasy, since I thought Jared would be the one getting me a flower, I looked at him suspiciously.
He approached me, a thoughtful expression on his face. “If you don’t mind, I asked Jared if I could get this for you.” He widened the wristlet, and I slipped my hand through. “I’m sorry for being an ass**le all these years. I did have a plan, though.”
Puzzled, I asked, “Which was?”
He smiled to himself. “Jared’s my best friend. I’ve known for a while that he cared about you. The first time I came over to his house Freshman year, I found a stash of pictures of the two of you. He keeps them in his nightstand.”
My heart beat faster, but I was relieved. I hated that I didn’t see any pictures of us among his box of photos the night I snooped. Now I know that he kept them somewhere else. Somewhere close to him.
“Anyway,” Madoc continued, “I never understood why he treated you the way he did, and Jared is about as revealing as a hermit crab. He’s like one of those piggy banks that you have to break to get anything out of. You can’t just shake him and he’ll give up the goods. You have to get the hammer.” He looked straight at me. “You were the hammer.”
“I still don’t follow.”
He pursed his lips like he was annoyed he had to explain it further. “I messed with you more than he asked me to, because I wanted him to react. He’s never been a particularly happy guy, and I was sick of his brooding. He went ballistic after you left for France, and I figured out that his destructive behavior had something to do with you. Like he was lost without you or something. So, I decided to try to make him jealous when you got back and see what happened.”
“And you think that makes you a good friend?” Why would Madoc want to rile Jared up? Why not just talk to him?
“I don’t know,” he said sarcastically. “You two seem pretty damn happy.”
We were very happy. But I doubt it was Madoc asking me to Homecoming that got Jared to act. I guess it didn’t matter, though. Jared and I had come together again, stronger I hope, and Madoc got to entertain himself.
“So you wanted to see him happy. Why do you care about Jared so much?” I asked.
Madoc stuck his hands in his pocket and tried to hide a grin. “Did you ever hear about the time Freshman year that I got stuffed na**d into my locker by some Seniors?”
Madoc got bullied? “Uh, no,” I laughed, not believing a word of it.
“No one knows. And that’s why Jared is my best friend.” His voice was even, and I could tell he was serious. Jared had helped him.
I didn’t know what to say, but we both turned our attention to Jared as he came walking out of his house. Taking my hand, he kissed me under my ear.