Lucas stood and looked over my shoulder. “It could be worse.”
I clenched my jaw as my anxiety tripled. “It. Could. Be. Worse.” I clenched the edge of my desk so hard, my knuckles turned white. “This list goes to thirty.”
“Right.” Lucas drew out the word slowly, then pointed. “But frogs are on there twice, so it’s really only twenty-nine, you know?”
“I’m going to kill you.”
“In your Benadryl-induced state?” He snorted. “Hardly. It would be like a turtle chasing a sprinter.” He slapped me on the back. “Just in case you weren’t aware, you’re the turtle in this scenario.”
“Thanks,” I snapped.
“Turtle power.” He threw his fist in the air. “Alright then, my work here is done. You can finish nap time while I keep myself far away from tequila lest I tell Avery you accidently kissed your grandma on the lips once—and still can’t stand cherry ChapStick.”
“Lucas!” I yelled. “Damn it, man, you aren’t even drunk! You can’t just run around saying shit like that! Austin hates me, like literally hates me so much, she slit my tires. To my car.”
Lucas whistled. “Of course it was your car—it’s not like you have a bike.” He grinned and then laughed while I flipped him off. “Sorry, too soon?”
“You’re dead to me.”
“Drinks later?” He put on his sunglasses, completely ignoring my nervous breakdown, and opened the door. “Say, seven?” Right, because that was smart, drinks after Benadryl.
“Fine,” I grumbled. “But you’re paying.”
He turned around.
“And this doesn’t mean I’m not still pissed.”
“It’s Austin,” he said plainly. “Do you really think she’s capable of destroying your life?”
Too late, I wanted to say.
She destroyed my life the minute she walked into it.
Because I knew we were on borrowed time.
And the idea of that—left me without the ability to breathe.
“Yes. I do,” I managed to croak out.
“She’s a woman scorned—she’ll get over it. Besides, I’m setting her up with one of my colleagues. It may help her get over you.”
I saw red.
“The hell?” I roared, gaining attention from people in the hall.
Lucas shut the door behind him, blanketing me in a tense silence where the only sound was my heart as it slammed against my chest.
A part of me recognized that if she wasn’t with me, she was going to end up with someone else—but I’d completely rejected the idea that she’d actually date so soon after our breakup.
And why the hell did it bother me so much that I’d successfully pushed her into another fucker’s waiting arms?
Because I loved her.
Life was cruel.
And one thing was certain.
My hate for the situation matched that love I had for her—pushing me into a territory where the only option was the desperate one.
I was going to have to just let her go.
I glanced back at the list.
Well, that, and try to survive the hurricane that was Austin Rogers.
Yeah. I definitely needed to invest in a cup.
And a helmet.
“So?” I twisted my hands in my lap while Lucas took a painfully long time to pull off his sunglasses, shrug out of his jacket, and lift his coffee to his lips.
By the time he took a sip, I felt like I was at the sloth DMV from Zootopia. My eye was starting to twitch, and I’d bitten my tongue twice to keep from yelling at him or launching myself across the table and demanding answers.
“Easy.” Lucas shrugged. “He’s a coldhearted bastard, who’s going to most likely die alone—or with a prescription of Viagra in his bedside table and a girl thirty years his junior telling him to go harder.” He leaned forward, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “I gave him the list.”
I exhaled while Avery busted out laughing. “Oh, this is classic, you’ve even managed to turn his best friend against him. Well done, Austin.”
Had I not been focusing on Lucas, I wouldn’t have seen the horrified look on his face. Was he really on our side? Or Thatch’s?
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Lucas held out his hands. “It’s not like I wanted to undermine him.” He coughed. “Again. But he was being so—”
“Thatch,” we said in unison. There wasn’t really a way to explain the guy. He wasn’t arrogant, not necessarily, but he was the type of guy that once he let you in, you realized you never really knew him in the first place. He had layers, and he only showed as much as he wanted. Basically the guy had pretty severe trust issues, thus our remark.
“Right.” Lucas breathed out. “Plus he lied to me and then tried to blame me for his own cheating behavior.”
The table fell silent.
Lucas cursed. “Fine, so I wasn’t exactly the best influence.”
“You had a calendar,” Avery pointed out.
“For women,” I added. “Multiple women.”
“Scores of women.” Avery nodded. “Who you dated at the same time.”
“And slept with.” We shared a look.
“Whoa!” Lucas scooted his chair back and held his hands up. “I just joined Team Austin! I’m on your side! And yes,” he said, shifting uncomfortably in his chair and tugging at his black tie, “I wasn’t a good influence, but I’m happily living on the other side of that leaf, whereas Thatch set up camp on the dark side, alright?”
“Man has a point.” Avery sighed happily and kissed Lucas on the cheek. “Thanks for handing him the list—it will make things so much easier for Austin.”
Lucas shook his head. “It’s cruel what you’re doing—you know that, right?”
“But, Lucas”—I batted my eyelashes—“I’m not doing anything—that’s the best part.”
He snorted. “Exactly, you’re just making him paranoid as hell until he goes insane. Trust me, he’s going to lose sleep at night and give someone a third tit. The poor guy is already stressed enough as it is. Do you even realize how many breast augmentations he does in a day?”
“Malpractice lawsuit.” Avery nodded, completely ignoring Lucas. “We could work with that.”
“We aren’t getting him fired,” Lucas said in a steely voice. “He needs his job. He loves his job, he likes cracking bone on people’s noses and injecting them with God knows what, plus he’s good at it. Just . . .” He stood and reached for Avery’s hand. “Torture him for a few weeks so he feels a bit of pain, then drop it.”
I gulped. He was right.
And hurting him wasn’t going to make me hurt any less.
But revenge—it did feel good.
But so did kissing him.
That meant his mouth was a very dangerous and addicting thing.
Like his hair.
“Austin,” Lucas called. “I may have also mentioned to him that I’m setting you up on a blind date. That seemed to make our friend Thatch want to rip the wallpaper from the wall and scream in caveman-like fashion.” He lifted one shoulder in a half-assed shrug. “Thought you might want to know.”
“Don’t,” I whispered. “That just gives a girl like me hope that he’ll pull his head out of his ass and see what he lost, and I’m pretty sure my only chance of that is if Santa gives Thatch a soul for Christmas, or at least a heart.”
“Ouch.” Lucas winced. “Alright, whatever you say. I have to get back to work, so try not to get arrested.” He paused and then shared a look with Avery. “But if you do? Try to keep the cuffs, yeah?”
With a laugh, she gave him a quick kiss before walking him to the door.
I lay back in my chair and sulked.
were at the same coffee shop where Avery had told me she’d been confused over Lucas. I had been blissed out over my relationship with Thatch at the time and told her how real it was, how honest, how wonderful.
Now she and Lucas were in love.
And I was in hate.
I checked my phone for any texts from Thatch. See! I needed to nip that right in the bud!
“Crap.” I stood and grabbed my bag. I was going to be late for class. Again.
“Avery!” I elbowed her and Lucas on my way out. “I lost track of time. Gotta go, my social media class starts in ten.”
“Yup!” I ran toward my waiting Mercedes. As I drove, I cranked the music.
At least I had something to distract me from heartache.
A professor who hated my guts.
I hit the accelerator harder—I couldn’t be late. Not again.
Come on, come on!
I prayed for time to slow and for my car to gain speed as I finally made it to campus.
Only to see the old parking lot under construction.
Yeah. I was going to be late.