Being brutally honest sucks when your words are thrown back at you. “Seriously, she’s Jade’s friend. And Jade is Shep’s girlfriend. It’s just a friend thing, you know? We’re hanging out. That’s it.”
Fuck me, I’m lying. Yeah, I’m here tonight to hang out with Kelli all right. And most likely end the evening with her naked beneath me. Not that I was confident I could actually make any moves on her but I was hoping some liquid courage would help out with that.
I’m a dick, right? A total emotionless dick.
But now that I have Lucy standing in front of me, just the thought of getting Kelli naked leaves me cold.
Leaves me disgusted with myself.
“So the guy with you inside—that’s your friend Shep?” She seems oddly fascinated with that fact. I told her all about my friends. About Shep’s girlfriend, too. Is she interested because she wants to be a part of my life?
Hey. A guy can dream.
“Yeah. But that doesn’t really matter.” I step toward her and grab her by the upper arm gently. “What are you doing later?”
“Going home and going to bed.” She tries to withdraw from my hold but I don’t let her go. I can’t. Not yet. “What do you want, Gabe?”
“To talk to you.” I drift my thumb across her skin, feel the rise of goose bumps from my touch and they give me hope. Her body still reacts to my touch. That has to mean something, right?
She sighs, the sound almost…hopeless. “There’s no point. What’s done is done. Can’t we just—let this go?”
Anger suffuses me and I try to tamp it down. But fuck, it’s hard. Her words fuel some untapped spot within me that causes a fire to roar in my belly. “Is that what you really want?”
She nods. Doesn’t say a word.
“Really?” I glare at her and she looks away.
I reach for her, my fingers curling around her chin and forcing her to look at me. She lifts those wide, dark eyes to mine, shining with vulnerability and confusion and hope and I give in to my urges, claiming her mouth for one swift, deep kiss.
When we part, she gasps, stumbling away from me when I let her go. “This isn’t over,” I murmur and she presses her lips together. “Not by a long shot.”
Without another word I turn on my heel and leave her standing there. My heart is thumping wildly and I swear to God it’s going to fly right out of my chest. We’re not going to end this. Not now. Not if I have anything to say about it.
I round the building and walk through the main entrance, smiling at the hostess Barb as I pass by her. I’ve come here many a time with Shep and Tristan. This is one of our favorite places to eat. So it’s pretty fucking unbelievable that the first girl I’m actually experiencing real feelings for works here.
“Where’d you go?” Kelli asks as I slide into the booth next to her.
“Saw someone I knew. Talked to them a little bit.” I offer her a smile, pleased that at least I’m not lying. I did see someone I know. Someone I kissed. Someone I want to keep on kissing.
“Who?” Shep asks and I send him a glare.
“Yeah, who?” Jade watches me with curiosity.
“You both sound like a pair of owls sitting there,” I joke, trying to change the subject. “Did you know when my sister was little she used to love owls? Had owl wallpaper and everything.”
“You have a sister? How did I not know this?” Kelli leans forward, touching my arm. Thank God she fell for my distraction tactic.
I shrug. “She’s younger, just graduated high school. She started community college last week.”
“What’s her name?” Kelli asks brightly.
“Sydney. Though I mostly call her Syd.” The moment the name drops from my lips I turn to see Lucy standing by our table, her arms laden with our dinner baskets. The look on her face says it all. I know what she wants to ask.
But I keep my mouth shut, watching as she distributes our meals to each of us, asks if we need anything else before she dashes off.
“Our waitress is jumpy,” Jade says the minute Lucy’s gone. “I think you make her nervous.”
“Who makes her nervous?” I ask just before I pop a fry into my mouth.
“You do.” Jade points her finger straight at me. “She can hardly look you in the eye.”
“Maybe she thinks you’re cute,” Kelli says, sounding put out.
Is she jealous? Please God say it isn’t so. I barely know this chick. And I’m definitely not looking for a relationship with her.
“Maybe she thinks you’re a total douche,” Shep adds. “I bet you’ve somehow rejected this chick before and now she hates your guts.”
“Maybe we’re all making a big deal out of nothing,” I mutter as I concentrate on eating. Enough talking. I’m done with talking.
Talking gets us nowhere.
My shift dragged on forever. When Gabe and his entourage finally left, I sagged with relief. But it was short lived. It was so busy I could hardly catch a breath and it stayed that way until we closed at eleven. I’m only just now about to leave for the night and it’s almost midnight.
“You drive home safe, okay? See you Tuesday!” Barb calls out to me as I exit the restaurant.
“I will, thanks,” I tell her as I shut the door behind me. My Toyota is parked in the lot, far away from the actual restaurant but I don’t feel unsafe. It’s well lit and there’s no one out here. Nowhere to hide.
I mentally add the tips up that I earned and smile. I might only be working at The Shack part time but if my tips stay like this it’ll more than make up for the less hours. I might not need that on campus job after all, though I’m still going to look for one. I bet I could work both, and keep up with coursework. Not like I’ll have any friends or a man to distract me from what’s important…
Referring to a man leads me to think of Gabe and a shiver steals through me. Damn him and his extraordinary good looks. The way he scowled at me, the possessive, undoubtedly raw and real way he kissed me. I’d wanted to give in so badly. It would’ve been easy too. But I couldn’t. I just…I could not say, oh yeah Gabe, let’s hook up after I get off work tonight.
No way. Why drag this on even longer than necessary? What’s done is done. It was nice, what we shared. A pleasant, sexy and sex-filled little fling for the summer. He’s mad at me and I get it. I’m a little mad at him too. I should’ve apologized but seeing him really threw me for a loop. Maybe I’ll apologize to him when I see him in class on Monday. That would be good. It will be serious and heartfelt and he’ll forgive me and we’ll move on from this mess that is our lives.
It’s not until I’m practically on top of my car that I see another car is parked on the other side of it. A familiar car, too. And an equally familiar person steps out of the shadows, his deep voice resonating, washing over me as he says my name.
I about jump out of my skin when I spot Gabe standing there solemnly watching me.
Resting my hand against my chest, I take a deep breath. “Gabe! What are you doing?”
“Waiting for you.” He crosses his arms in front of his chest.