I turn my head to look at Shep. “Let me go,” I mutter but I know he’s not going to. I’m furious. I can’t believe Tristan would blurt out my private business in front of everyone, including a bunch of girls we don’t freaking know. They’re all staring at me like I’m some sort of monster. A couple of them have gone over to comfort Tristan as he stands on the grass, glaring at me while he still cradles his jaw with his palm. His gaze is dark, full of anger and hurt and I know exactly how he’s feeling because I’m feeling the same exact way.
“Get out,” I tell him, my voice low and fucking scary, even to my own ears. “Get the fuck out of here and take your harem with you.”
“Gabe,’” Shep starts but I shrug off his hold and step away from him. I don’t need him giving me a lecture on how I should treat my friends. Did he not hear what Tristan said? He’s such an asshole. He’s trying to make Lucy look like a gold digging bitch and I fucking hate him for that.
Without a word Tristan strides past me, his head bent, gaze never meeting mine as he waves his hand. Every one of those women eagerly falls into step behind him. He goes around the side of the house, the whispering girls following until they all disappear.
“I can’t believe you hit him,” Shep says incredulously.
“I can’t believe what he said,” I return. “He’s an asshole.”
“You know how he gets when he’s drunk…”
I cut Shep off. “Don’t defend him. He’s a dick when he drinks. And he’s less of a dick when he’s sober. I’m tired of his shit. I’m tired of the way he talks to me, treats me, hell, how he treats the both of us. Fuck that guy. Let’s buy him out.”
“I can’t buy him out, he’s my fucking cousin. Hell, my mother will probably call me and vouch for Tristan, then give me a bunch of shit over it. Then his mother will call me…it would be a total mess, dude. I can’t do that to him. We’re stuck with him,” Shep explains.
“You’re the one who’s stuck with him, not me. I say I shut this shit hole business down and let you two take it somewhere else. I’m tired of dealing with it. I’ll let it be your problem now.” I shake my head and rest my hands on my hips, turning toward the patio to see Lucy is outside, standing just beside the back door.
And she doesn’t look very happy.
“You don’t mean that,” Shep says. “You’re just mad. Tristan will say he’s sorry, you’ll forgive him and all of this will be forgotten.”
Tristan’s apology won’t mean shit to me. “Hell yeah, I’m mad. And trust me, I mean it. Check with me tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll still feel the same way.” I need to get to Lucy. Forget standing here talking to Shep. I need my girl.
I make my way toward her, notice how she’s watching me with fear and doubt in her eyes. I stop just before her and take her hand and she lifts mine up, examining my scratched and battered knuckles from socking Tristan in the jaw. The skin is raw and it hurts like hell. “You’re injured,” she says before she lifts my hand and brings them to her lips.
“Yeah, well it happened because I was defending your honor,” I mutter, touched that she’s kissing my hand so tenderly, like she wants to take care of me despite the fact that I’m a total asshole who gets into fights with his best friend.
Damn it. Regret is starting to surface. What Tristan said was bullshit but did I really need to hit him?
“I heard.” She carefully drops my hand and I instantly miss her touch. “How did he know, Gabe?”
My entire body stiffens. She’s eerily calm as she asks the question and that’s fucking scary. “I told him, okay? I needed to talk to my friends and get some advice and I—let them know what was going on.”
Lucy gapes at me, her mouth opening and closing as if she doesn’t quite know what to say. “That was our private business,” she finally whispers. “Private business that really sheds me in a bad light, what with how he just spilled my secret in front of a lot of people.”
“He’s an idiot when he’s drunk. No one will take what he said seriously,” I say to reassure her but she’s not falling for it. And I can’t blame her. Seeing her so upset makes all regret disappear and infuriates me all over again.
“It doesn’t matter if they believe him or not. Now I look like some gold digging whore out to trick you and steal all your money or whatever via child support. And that’s not the case at all. I don’t want your money. I don’t need it,” she practically spits at me.
“Right, because your rich daddy takes care of you and gives you whatever you want.” Spoiled little princess not liking her reality right now, is she? Well, me either. I wonder how sheltered she’s been. I wonder if anyone has said something about her as shitty as Tristan just did.
“Not quite,” she mutters as she starts to walk away from me.
“Wait a minute.” I grab hold of her upper arm, my grip loose so she could slip right out if she wanted to. She watches me, her eyes wide, her lips trembling, like she wants to cry and is holding back. I search her face for some sort of clue, something to let me know what’s wrong but…
Something’s off. I can feel it in my bones, sense it in my blood. It’s like everything’s going to change between us with whatever she’s about to say next.
“What did you just say?” I brace myself for the verbal blow.
She stares at me, her eyes glistening with unshed tears and damn, that look on her face is almost unbearable. I hate it when she’s sad. When I can’t fix whatever it is that’s bothering her.
“I don’t even know who my daddy is, okay? My mother got pregnant when she was sixteen and he ran out on her before I was even born. So she had to raise me by herself with no support. In a tiny, one bedroom shitty apartment in a terrible neighborhood in the middle of Los Angeles with no help, no money, just me and her. We didn’t have anything. Nothing.”
What the hell? “Are you serious?”
She sends me a look that says she’s so fucking serious it hurts.
All I can do is stare at her, my mind going over what she just said. I had her pegged all wrong. Completely and totally wrong and she never corrected me. Not once. Just kept up the lie like it was no big deal. Hell, did she laugh at me? Talk with her friends about what a sucker I was? The longer I think about it, the more pissed I become and I stare at her in shock, her words slowly starting to sink in. She’s not rich. She never was rich. But some of these things aren’t adding up. “What about the house in Santa Barbara? How’d you score that?” I ask like a dumbass.
“I was housesitting for the family who owns it. My mom is their maid and cleans the main house they have in Beverly Hills. They usually come to Santa Barbara for the summer but for whatever reason, that plan fell through. Mama got me the job for the summer so I could earn extra cash to help pay for my tuition.”
Her mom is a fucking maid. Jesus. I lean against the wall, so shocked by her story I’m afraid I’ll keel over. Glancing around, I see that everyone has miraculously gone back inside the house, thank Christ. I don’t need an audience for this particular conversation. “So there’s no rich dad.”