“You came with a friend?” Shep asks.
“Well, yeah. I wouldn’t come to some crazy frat party all alone.” How dumb does he think I am? I flash a smile at Gabe and Meadow. “Nice meeting you two.”
“Great meeting you,” Gabe says, watching me carefully as I sidestep out of the room.
“This isn’t over,” Shep calls but I don’t look back at him. He’ll find me. I know he will. We’ll run into each other again and he’ll demand I owe him something and ask for his payment in the form of sexual favors, which should totally piss me off yet somehow…doesn’t.
I get what he wants from me. And for the teeniest, most fleeting moment, I wanted it too.
But as I walk away and head back outside in search of Kelli, I know I can’t give in. I can’t repay him on this stupid bet. The minute I allow myself to fall under Shep’s spell, I’m done for. He sure talks a confident game but could he really make me forget myself and fall into the moment? All that talk about making me come and me denying my feelings for him…
Fine. His words left me hot and bothered. More than once. Big deal. He’s all talk and no action. Lots of effort but zero return.
Just like all the rest.
“You need to buy your mother a gift.”
I make a face even though Dad can’t see me. I’m driving through town, bored. When all else fails I hop in my car and think. I absently answered my phone via the Bluetooth link in my car, regretting it the moment I heard my dad’s voice fill the interior. It’s like he’s the omnipresent great and powerful Oz. Sucks. “What do I get a woman who has everything?” And what she doesn’t have but wants, she runs out and buys. Immediately. Mom waits for no one.
“It’s her birthday.” Pierce Prescott is one of the richest men in the country. He came by his money the old fashioned way—an inheritance. Me? I’m the same way, since I benefit from the same inheritance and my parents are the old-fashioned types. They encourage my sisters to get married to equally wealthy men so they can leave me all of their wealth, which just bites my sisters’ asses. I will never have to work a day in my life if I don’t want to. My children probably won’t have to either.
The idea of that, of never having to work a day in my life, doesn’t always sit well, especially lately. No wonder I caused so much trouble during my younger years. I was bored out of my freaking mind.
“I’ll send her flowers,” I suggest. All women love flowers.
“That’ll be nice.” I can tell he thinks that’s a terrible idea. “But you need to do more, son. Send her something special. Thoughtful. Straight from the heart.”
Mom and I have a special relationship. As in, I’m her only son and she loves spoiling me. I’m her greatest heartache and her greatest joy. She said that to me once in the middle of a massive sobbing fest. Probably right after I got kicked out of school for that coke snorting incident in chem lab.
“I’m not sending her a Hermes bag. Isn’t there some special waiting list I need to get on before I can even buy one?” That I even know what a Hermes bag is probably takes the validity of my man card down a couple of notches. But when you’re a little kid surrounded by three older sisters and a shopaholic mother, you learn about Hermes bags. Chanel. Prada. Vuitton.
“She already bought herself a new Hermes bag for her birthday. Powder blue.” The irritated sigh Dad lets forth tells me what he thinks about that purchase. “She has way too many already.”
“Look, I’ll go to one of those quirky little stores downtown and buy her some coastal knickknack. Something you can’t find anywhere else but here,” I suggest. “How does that sound?”
Dad heaves out another, even more irritated sigh. I can’t win with this situation and he knows it. Hell, I can never win with him. The guy barely tolerates me most of the time. “Don’t forget to send her a card too.”
I end the call and head downtown, determined to get this chore done pronto. Hopefully wherever I end up finding Mom’s gift, they can ship it directly to her. Or if it’s not common store policy, I can convince the employee to do it for me. With enough charm and cash, you can convince just about anyone to do just about anything.
The weather’s nice, bright and sunny and in the mid-seventies, making me think I have the wrong idea and I need to be on a beach somewhere. Drinking a beer and catching some rays, scanning all the hot girls in string bikinis behind my shades as they walk by. I bet Gabe’s there. And maybe Tristan is with them. If they’re not, we should hang out by my pool later and invite every girl we know.
Which is a lot of girls.
There’s only one girl on my mind though.
I somehow got my sorry ass out of bed by ten, a miracle but I’d actually gone to bed early after the epic fail of last night. I’d hoped to find a sexy little redhead to get that other bitchy little redhead out of my mind and instead I found the real deal.
The real deal who left me in the dust. Again. Jade Bitch Face isn’t interested in me whatsoever. Despite how close I came to kissing her. I would’ve. I would’ve kissed the fuck out of her if that asshole Gabe hadn’t interrupted us. Some friend. His timing is for shit.
And then Jade bailed. Left me standing there like a loser with my limp dick in my hand. Not literally but man, it felt like it. I thought Gabe was gonna bust a gut laughing at me. His date for the night told him he was mean. I agreed with her.
Didn’t stop my best friend from laughing at my expense though.
I went home, jerked off—again—and fell asleep before midnight. Like I was Cinderella and my skin had an orange tinge, I rushed home, disappointed in the party. Once Jade left, I had no interest in staying.
What does that mean? I won’t be satisfied until I have her naked beneath me at least once? I hope that’ll solve this problem and I hope it happens fast because this case of blue balls I have going on sucks.
Once I find a parking space, I start toward the row of shops, surprised at how crowded it is, though I guess I shouldn’t be considering it’s a Sunday. Somewhere among all the homegrown shit they sell downtown I should be able to find something for Mom. It might be kitschy and useless, but Mom likes that sort of stuff. Sometimes.
Christ. I may as well just flush my cash down the toilet.
I find a candle store and go inside because hey, she likes candles. What woman doesn’t? My sister Victoria almost burned the house down when one of the curtains in her room caught fire, all from a lit candle that sat on a nearby table. She’d planned to seduce her boyfriend that night and lit up her entire room with a bunch of tiny votives, going for the romantic look.
Yeah. Talk about an epic fail.
The moment I enter the building, I’m assaulted by a variety of scents that makes my nose twitch. One of those table fountains that used to be so popular when I was a little kid sits near the door, the sound of running water pleasant if you like that sort of thing.
Which I guess I do. But my family always took it to the next level. I’ll see your tabletop fountain and create a rock wall water fountain that takes over the entire family room.
Slowly I move through the store, cracking a smile at the new age-y music playing in the background, the giant baskets set on a glass table at waist level, full of a variety of healing crystals. I’m starting to suspect this place is a front for a medical marijuana facility when I hear a voice ask if I need any help. A very familiar voice that makes my skin prickle and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.