Well. A dude with long blonde hair and his tits in my face. Meaning she’s not like a dude at all.
I need to get the hell out of here stat. “Listen, I gotta—”
“Want to come to a party tonight? It’s at my house.” She smiles prettily, her eyes wide and full of hope.
I slowly shake my head. I’m getting together with Shep and Tristan this evening along with our small staff to go over the grand reopening of the gambling house. “Sorry, I’ve got plans.”
She purses her lips into a mock pout. “Aw, that’s too bad. I really wanted you to come. I’d love to spend time with you, considering we’re here together and all.”
“Maybe some other time,” I say, not wanting to be rude. But not really wanting to encourage her either.
“Yeah?” She brightens. “That would be great. Maybe we can go out this weekend. What do you think?”
“I have plans this weekend too.” I don’t have to bother with an excuse. My plans are for real. The first weekend we’re open when school is back in session is always insane. I’ll be at the house the entire time, supervising everything.
Audrey’s face falls and I swear I catch a flash of anger in her eyes. “Sounds like you’re trying to avoid me.”
Nothing like getting right to the point—she’s got balls, I’ll give it to her. “I’m serious. I have plans. It has nothing to do with avoiding you or not.” I’m not about to divulge what my plans are either. In fact, I never considered this before. Audrey finding out I’m running a gambling business in my house is bad. She could run right to my parents and tell them what I’m doing.
Or use that information against me as blackmail.
A sigh escapes her. “Whatever. You should remember that our moms think we make a perfect match. I happen to agree with them. Don’t you want to make them happy?”
I couldn’t give a shit about either of them at this particular moment but I’m not about to tell Audrey that. And she really believes we make a perfect match? I think that’s stretching it. “Do you really believe we’re compatible?”
Her mouth drops open and she feigns shock. “You don’t think so?”
I don’t feel like being mean but she’s not making this too easy. “Listen, I didn’t really feel a connection with you over the summer, and I know you felt the same way. And besides…I met someone, okay? Someone who means a lot to me and I don’t want to lead you on.”
Now her entire face tightens. Man, this girl is expressive. I can read her moods with every shift of her features. She’d be a terrible blackjack or poker player. “Someone better than me?”
Seriously? “Audrey, I don’t even really know you. But yeah. She’s…I consider her my girlfriend.” Did I really just fucking say that?
Yeah. I really fucking did.
“You’re in a committed relationship?” Audrey asks incredulously. She raises a brow and crosses her arms in front of her. “You should bring her to my party tonight. Let me meet your girlfriend.”
“I already told you, I have plans.” I start to walk away, offering her up a little wave. “See ya around Audrey.”
“Hope to meet your girlfriend soon, Gabe!” Audrey shouts after me.
There’s no reply on my end. Hell, I can’t get away from her fast enough. I practically trip over my own feet as I walk away from her, refusing to look back. She’d probably still be watching me, hope and contempt written all over her face. I don’t need her shit. Fuck, I can’t believe she’s here. She could ruin everything if she finds out what I’m doing.
I’m concentrating so hard about my newfound Audrey predicament, I end up halfway home before I realize…
I never did find Lucy.
“Damn, that was a lot to talk about.” Tristan rubs the back of his neck and stands. “Let’s have a drink. A toast to a new semester and new beginnings.”
Jade sets down her notepad and pen and stands as well. “I’ll get the champagne.”
I raise a brow and look from Tristan to Shep. “Who brought champagne?”
“I did. Good stuff, too,” Shep says, giving Jade a slap on the ass as she walks past him and heads for the kitchen. We met at their house to discuss our plans for the grand opening of the casino Wednesday night. Jade has taken it upon herself to become our secretary, for lack of a better term. She took notes as we discussed our plans, offered to go shopping tomorrow for decorations and was going to round up a few of her friends to put them on an actual decorating committee.
The last three years on opening day, we’ve thrown open the doors, had a free keg of lukewarm beer that we didn’t replenish and welcomed everyone back. Now we’ve got decorating committees and finger foods planned. Next thing I know Jade will stand at the front door and greet everyone warmly as we lie in wait inside, ready to take all their money.
“Why the expensive bubbly?” I glance around the living room, watching our staff of four guys talk among themselves along with Tristan, who just ambled over there. We have a new guy on staff this year, someone Tristan met in class last spring who seems smart and ambitious. I figure he’ll be a good asset but we never know until they’re neck deep in crap and having to deal with a bunch of pissed off customers accusing him of stealing their money. We’ll see how he works out then, or if he cracks under the pressure.
“It’s our last year together running this place. Figured that was enough cause for celebration.” Shep claps me on the back, his gaze assessing. Too assessing. The guy is intuitive which is annoying as fuck because I can feel the question hanging from his lips. “You all right, dude? You look tense.”
That’s because I am tense. My shoulders ache. I texted Lucy when I got home and she hasn’t answered. Not even one word from her and that was hours ago. Why the hell is she avoiding me? We locked eyes. We saw each other yet she ran anyway. Is she mad at me? Disgusted with me? Disgusted with herself for being with me?
Christ, I don’t know. That’s what’s making me the most crazy over all of this. I’m completely in the dark when it comes to what she’s doing.
“My classes were bullshit,” I say, trying to brush off his concern, though my excuse sounds lame. “I’ll be fine.”
“Only one more year and I know your load is light this semester.” He peers at me, like he can see right through me and I school my expression, going for neutral. “You sure you telling me the truth?”
“Hey, you know me. I don’t have a care in the world.” I’m trying to play it off, something I’m real good at doing. It’s a crock of shit and Shep knows it but I wish he’d just let it go.
“Bullshit.” He pauses, studying me. “Is it your parents? They giving you shit?”
“They always give me shit,” I mutter.
“Yeah, I know. But I mean extra shit. They always seem to pressure you over the summer with whatever various familial duties they can come up with to torture you.” Shep just nailed that one. That’s exactly what they do to me every summer. “Was it extra bad this year or what?”
I decide to run with his suggestion. “You know how it is. Same old shit, different year. I guess I’m freaking out because it’s getting down to the wire. As in, it really is my last year of freedom and they’ve got me so twisted up I don’t even know how to celebrate it.”