Tears filled her eyes. “What happened to us?”
I refused to answer that loaded question. What happened to us, indeed? Every time I wanted something out of my reach, I had a sinking feeling I was going to get burned. And this time, I was right. But I wasn’t just burned, I was wrecked, completely destroyed. I just never expected the fire to be so hot—or the ramifications to be so life-altering. “Have fun with your little revenge plan, just leave my car alone next time.”
“I’ll try, but you know I love the soft leather seats.”
The memory of us kissing in my car slammed into me, her hungry lips as she pressed her body against mine, my obsessive need as I tasted her skin, stripping her clothes as fast as my hands would let me. It was always that way with her. The leather seats were nothing compared to the way she felt beneath my fingertips, and then she’d pressed her ass against the horn by accident, causing us to erupt in laughter just as someone shouted at us to get a room. I’d never experienced the type of relationship that held laughter, sex, and friendship—until Austin.
“We had fun,” I finally said in a detached voice.
“Tell me why we broke up, and I won’t do it,” she answered, crossing her arms.
She only thinks she wants to know.
It was on the tip of my tongue to say something.
To end her misery.
To make her smile at me again—not with the empty one reserved for banquets and ribbon cuttings, but the smile she used to give me when it was just us. God I hated the hurt in her eyes more than I hated the emptiness.
“The ‘why’ won’t make you feel better,” I said as the silence between us stretched for miles, making me feel older than my thirty-two years. Did she see the slight twitch of my hand? The intense need my body had to touch her? Did she know that my heart, stupid messed-up thing that it was, still beat for her?
And she never would.
“Fine, your funeral.” She was back to being saucy and dangerously close to making me want to kiss her again.
I barked out a laugh. “Yeah, okay.” Austin wouldn’t hurt a fly, though a small part of me was slightly worried about just how drunk Lucas had gotten. It wasn’t like I had a lot of secrets. Another part of my brain alerted me that yes, she had in fact slit my tires, but she’d been pissed; this was different.
It’s not like Lucas got drunk and confessed anything worthwhile, right?
My hand twitched at my side.
She knew about the biking and the frogs.
Did that mean he told her about my . . . phobias?
With a sigh, she dug into her purse and tossed me a key. “Locker number six, bottom floor.”
“Your clothes.” She gave me another empty smile. “They might be wrinkled, though, and before I forget—” She launched herself at me, fusing her mouth to mine. “Congratulations on the award.”
I was too stunned to do anything but lick my lips like a masochistic bastard—and let out a moan at how good she still tasted—better than I remembered.
If she hated me? Wanted revenge? Then why the hell would she kiss me?
I only had to wonder for a few seconds.
Until I opened the door to head down to the bottom floor for my clothes and felt my mouth start to itch and my throat tighten.
I covered my face with my hands and peeked through the space between my fingers as I looked at a picture of Thatch scratching his face. “Avery, you said it was a minor allergy!”
We were sitting on a park bench in downtown Seattle, enjoying the best clam chowder I’d ever had while birds flew over us, begging for scraps.
I didn’t share food.
So I was really ready to wage war against those things if need be.
I clutched my soup closer and elbowed her. “Avery?”
“Hmm?” She was busy texting Lucas, probably explaining that she was going to be late for dinner because she almost killed his best friend.
That sucked. She got a fancy dinner date, and I was scarfing down soup and trying to keep animals from taking my sloppy seconds.
She stared at her screen with a dopey grin on her face.
I grabbed her phone and sat on it. “You aren’t even listening!”
“Sure I am, minor allergy, all true.” The problem with best friends? I could be sitting on her phone or peeing in front of her and it still wouldn’t faze her. She’d just fish the phone away from my naked ass and use that same hand to grab a Pringles.
“Avery!” Oh no, his skin was going into full rash mode, and angry red bumps started appearing around his mouth. If I were a horrible human being, I’d admit it looked like herpes. Instead, I said, “It looks like his face was lit on fire.”
“It probably was—that pesky soy allergy’s a bitch.”
I threw up my hands. “I don’t want to kill him!”
I wanted revenge! Not a death on my hands!
I mean, I would be lying if I said I didn’t often dream about him getting hit by a car, but in my dream, it was almost always a really slow car, driven by a slow grandmother, and he had a few scratches and got what was coming to him.
“Oh.” She seemed disappointed at this information, like a true friend hell-bent on making you feel better about an ex. When she’d encouraged me to eat all of the sushi and soy sauce, then gargle with the rest of the bottle for good measure, I didn’t think it would even do anything to the guy!
Sighing, I leaned against the cold park bench and looked at the picture his receptionist had sent us. Thankfully, it had only taken a few bribes to get the woman to join our side—and once we told her the dirty details, she couldn’t wait to join Team Austin and stick it to her boss—even though she did admit that he was the easiest doctor to work with.
Easy my ass!
This was war.
Casualties were all part of the game.
I scrunched up my nose and looked at the picture again.
Apparently, it was possible to still look damn sexy even with an ugly face rash.
His blond hair kissed his toned and tan shoulders, and his high cheekbones just made me want to practice with my sculpting kit on his face.
The guy’s bone structure was downright irritating.
“He wouldn’t tell me why.” I slumped against the bench.
“Told ya so.” Avery was still texting.
“I even gave him an ultimatum. Tell me why you cheated, why you broke my heart when things were going so great—I mean . . . I wanted closure, an answer, anything!” I threw my hands into the air and almost chucked my phone at Avery’s face.
“Take a deep breath,” Avery instructed. “What you wanted was for him to say he was sorry.”
My stupid lower lip trembled as I croaked out, “Yeah, maybe.”
It wasn’t still supposed to hurt this bad. I was beyond that stage, right? I did the crying-and-eating-my-feelings thing, and now I was pissed. Except, I’d actually seen him today, and all those emotions surged to the surface the minute he’d walked into the room. It felt like his piercing eyes saw right through me even though I’d arrived at his office in my best armor. A pencil skirt and sexy blouse with heels. I’d been prepared. But one could never be prepared for Thatch. He was muscular, tall, model gorgeous, and smart. The smart part really burned, because it just meant he had so much in his favor. I had always been the smart one, and then Thatch came into my life—gorgeous, perfect, intelligent Thatch—and he’d stolen my heart.
Avery’s voice made me jump in my seat. “You wanted him to say he was stupid, that he messed up, that Brooke-the-bitch accidently fell across his face, and he had no choice but to kiss her because Obi-Wan Kenobi was whispering in his ear that if he didn’t return the kiss, the Force would leave planet Earth.”
“STOP USING STAR WARS REFERENCES!”
“I can’t help it.” She slumped. “Lu
cas is forcing me to watch all of them . . . He put me on sex hiatus until I’m done.”
I patted her shoulder.
“The point,” she said, thrusting her hand into the air, “is that he couldn’t give you the answers you needed or wanted. Ergo”—she held out her other hand and winked—“we make him pay.”
“But not for long,” I said quickly. “I’m not that immature.”
She gave me a knowing look.
“What?” I shook my head. “I’m not. I’m an adult, and adults don’t get even when their ex-boyfriend sticks his tongue down someone else’s throat at their best friend’s fake engagement party.” Actually they did, but I was trying to sound like a responsible adult and not a psycho who wanted to inflict pain on his man parts, no matter how good they actually looked in those stupid spandex shorts.
We were quiet, and then Avery said, “Well, when you put it that way.”
“Whatever happened to the white picket fence?” I stood. “Or the cute dog? Or getting married in college! Whatever happened to a man keeping it the hell in his pants!”
“Amen, sister,” a woman said under her breath as she breezed by me.