“Well, that fucking sucks. We need to make the most of this year, not let it get us down, right?” He claps me on the back again, so hard he practically pushes me forward. “So. I have a suggestion for you.”
I frown. That doesn’t sound good. “What do you mean?”
He quickly glances over his shoulder before he speaks. “Jade wants to set you up.”
“What? With who?”
“Sshh, I don’t want her to know I’m prepping you right now. It’s her old roommate, Kelli. Remember her? She just broke up with her lame ass boyfriend and she’s been feeling lonely lately. Jade thought that you two could possibly work out as a couple.”
“She really thought that?” That sounds bogus. Jade knows what I’m all about. What Shep used to be all about. I don’t want to be a couple with anyone.
Well, I used to not want to be a couple with anyone. There’s a certain someone I’m interested in but she runs from me like I have the plague.
“Fine, Kelli has a minor crush on you and thinks you’d be just the solution to her dry spell problem.” Shep steps closer, looking vaguely traumatized. “Don’t tell her I said that though, okay? Both of those girls would never forgive me.”
“You seem almost…afraid of them,” I suggest and he laughs, though it’s strained.
“They don’t scare me.”
I don’t say a word.
He heaves out a huge sigh. “Fine, they scare the shit out of me when they gang up on me together. They’re like a tag team, swear to God.” Shep pauses. “So. Are you in?”
“In for what?”
Nothing like the blatant charms of one Shepard Prescott. “No.”
Shep looks surprised. “Really? No?”
“No,” I repeat, this time with a shake of my head.
Now it’s Shep’s turn to remain quiet for a moment. “Can you tell me why your answer is no?”
“I just…I don’t have any interest in banging some random girl. Though I know Kelli, so I suppose she wouldn’t be so random, but still. I’m over that shit,” I mutter.
Shep reaches out and rests the back of his hand on my forehead. I jerk away from his touch, bat his hand away when he reaches for me again. “Are you sick?” he asks. “Seriously, are you ill? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk like that.”
“Talk like what? As in turning down the opportunity to get laid?” I shrug. “Guess I’m a changed man.”
Shep starts to laugh. Like, loud booming laughter. So loud it draws Tristan’s attention and he comes over to join us.
“What’s so funny?”
Shep can hardly speak. “It’s nothing,” I answer for him.
“Then why is he laughing so hard?” Tristan asks.
“Because he’s an idiot.” More like a major dick but I refrain from saying it.
Jade approaches, one hand clutching an open champagne bottle and four stacked red solo cups in the other hand. “Fancy schmancy cups for our fancy schmancy drink.”
Shep gets his laughter under control and helps her dole out the cups, then filling each cup generously with champagne. Jade offers Shep a kiss on the cheek and he wraps his arm around her waist, hauling her in close. Tristan mutters something about now that there are girls involved in our daily operation we’re spending too much money on a bunch of bullshit.
This earns him a slap on the back of his head from Shep, which the dick thoroughly deserves.
All the while, I can’t keep my eyes off of Jade and Shep. How easily they interact with each other. How she laughs at what he says. How his voice deepens when he talks low and just for her. How she leans into him, how he kisses her, the look in his eyes when she says something to him.
They’re in love. Like, crazy, over the top in love and I have no idea what that feels like. I think I might’ve caught a glimpse of it with Lucy but before I could explore it further, we had to end it.
I’m starting to firmly believe I want that. I deserve it. Love. Love with a girl. A girl who means something to me, who wants to please me and spend time with me as much as I want to please and spend time with her too.
Damn it, I still want Lucy. Just thinking about her hurts my stupid, what I believed was an unbreakable heart. I rub a hand across my chest to ease the pain but it doesn’t help.
“So, Gabe.” Jade’s voice pulls me out of my thoughts. “You know my friend Kelli, right? The one I used to live with?”
Shep sends me a look and sips from his cup. Guess I’m supposed to play dumb with this question. “Yeah, I remember her.”
Jade smiles. “She thinks you’re cute.”
I smile in return and stretch out my arms. “They all think I’m cute.”
Tristan makes gagging noises. Shep rolls his eyes.
“You should ask her out sometime. I know she’d be willing,” Jade suggests.
“Willing to do what?” I ask innocently.
“Go on a date with you,” she replies, just as innocently.
Uh huh. Poor Kelli is looking to get laid and for some reason Jade is pimping her friend out. This is sort of twisted. I don’t think Jade is purposely acting as Kelli’s pimp but that’s what it feels like.
“I like Kelli but I think I’m going to pass,” I say as I polish off the rest of my champagne.
The disappointed look on Jade’s face is nothing short of obvious. “Really? I shouldn’t tell you this but she recently broke up with her boyfriend.”
“Right, and she’s still somewhat attached to him I assume. In mourning over the loss? Looking for someone to fuck him out of her system once and for all?”
“Gabe!” Jade laughs nervously but from the look in her eyes, I think I nailed Kelli’s predicament. “Truthfully, they had an awful sex life and I told her she deserved more, which she so does. Everyone deserves a great sex life, right honey?” She smiles up at Shep.
I don’t know how much more I can take, hanging out with the two lovebirds. “And you’re thinking I could remind her that sex isn’t so awful after all?”
“Well, you have taken over the title of local sex god since I took Shep off the market,” she points out.
“Hey, what about me?” Tristan asks, looking offended.
“You’re too grumpy and sullen,” Jade says, waving a hand at him. “Kelli’s scared of you.”
I smile and crumple the solo cup in my fist. Fuck it. Maybe I need a distraction. If Lucy is going to run away from me every time she sees me, I should give up. Why torture myself when I can have pretty much any girl on campus?
I don’t mean to sound like a dick but it’s true, especially with Shep out of the game. One and done were our rules. Maybe I should return to that policy. Lucy was a distraction. That’s all. I need to get back to my old ways.
One and done. In and out—literally and figuratively. No one gets hurt, everyone has fun and then it’s over.
I like it.
“You know what, I’ll do it,” I say, making Jade squeal and start jumping up and down. She comes over to me and wraps me up in a hug, squeezing me tight before she releases me.
“Let’s go on a double date,” she suggests excitedly. “You and Kelli and me and Shep. We can go out to eat or for drinks or whatever, and you and Kelli can get to know each other better.”