“Please,” I mutter, slumping in my seat. “It’s the alcohol talking. You shouldn’t take me seriously. And no, I didn’t tell her about the bet that I haven’t lost yet, thank you very much. What’s to tell?”
“Whatever. You’re just digging yourself a deeper grave I hope you know.” Shep chuckles and shakes his head. “I’m thinking this might be the only time you’re completely sincere. You like this girl, don’t you?”
“Hell no,” I say quickly. Maybe a little too quickly. “Fucking. That’s all. That’s all it can be. One and done. I’m sticking to the rules. Just like we promised.”
“Whatever. Keep living in denial.” He slows the car and makes a right turn. We’re close to home and close to the end of this conversation, thank Christ. “It’s not so bad you know.”
“What?” I ask warily.
“Falling in love with a woman. Wanting to be with her and no one else. Actually, that part is pretty damn easy. I can’t imagine being with anyone else. I don’t want to. Not when I have Jade.”
“You’re sick in the head.” I scoot further down into the chair, wishing I could tune him out and fall asleep.
“Naw, man. I’m serious. Sticking with one girl isn’t bad at all. The more time I spend with her, the more I realize just how much I love her.”
His sappy talk makes me feel sick to my stomach. “Next thing you know you’ll be planning your wedding and discussing flower options and all that shit.”
“We’ve discussed it all, bro. Pretty sure she’s waiting for an engagement ring for Christmas but I don’t think that’s on my radar. Yet. I’d rather wait until we graduate before I get that serious,” he explains.
I gape at him. He really is serious. He wants to put a ring on it and make Jade his permanent piece. I can’t even imagine…
“Someday it will happen to you,” Shep says confidently. “And I can’t wait to tell you I told you so.”
“You will never get a chance to say those words to me,” I insist, undoing my seatbelt the moment Shep turns his car onto our driveway. There are still a few cars parked out front but I don’t recognize them. I’m reaching for the door handle before he even has the car in park. “I’ll see you inside.”
“Dude, wait a minute, she might still have girls in there—”
I slam the door before he can finish his sentence. Fuck it. If Jade’s crazy sex party is still happening, I’ll sneak in through the garage and through the back hall. That way I won’t have to face any of them.
The moment I enter the kitchen I can hear the sound of girls giggling coming from the living room. One of them squeals and I swear it’s Kelli. She’s got a loud mouth so that’s no surprise. I glance around the messy kitchen. Two empty wine bottles and a few glasses sit in the sink. The island has serving plates scattered all over it, most of them empty but one still has a few appetizers on it. Grabbing some weird looking pastry thing off the plate, I stuff it into my mouth and go to the fridge to grab a bottle of water.
Hmm. The weird pastry thing is pretty damn good. I grab another one, about to shove it into my mouth when Shep enters the kitchen, his eyes about bugging out of his head.
“Holy hell, did you just eat one of Jade’s fancy appetizer things?” He sounds like I just risked my damn life for a mushroom puff or whatever the fuck it is.
I roll my eyes and bite into the pastry with extra enthusiasm just for Shep, then shove the other half in. “It’s delicious,” I say, my mouth full.
Shaking his head, Shep picks one up and takes a bite. “Huh, it is good,” he mumbles, sounding shocked.
Oh, if Jade heard his lack of faith just now. She’d give him endless shit.
“I know.” I swallow and take a drink from the bottled water, trying my best to ignore the laughter that’s still coming from the living room. I’m curious to check out what’s happening. “Sounds like they’re having fun in there,” I say casually.
Shep goes still. “Don’t go in there.”
Him saying I shouldn’t makes me want to go in there even more. “What’s the harm in seeing what’s going on?”
“Aren’t you the one who told me you didn’t want to see them passing vibrators around?” he points out.
I might’ve said that very thing back at the bar but that was hours ago. Now I wanna see it. I wanna see something.
I also want to know if Alexandria’s in there. I swear I can feel her presence but that’s ridiculous. I can’t want Alexandria. To want her is to want—more. More than I can give her, more than I can accept, more than I can deal with. Relationships are bullshit, all the girls I’ve ever been with are greedy bitches who demand the whole damn world and yeah…
It’s gotta be the booze affecting my mental state. I drank too much, my head is spinning, I’m starved for more mushroom pastry things and the need to see Alexandria is damn near overwhelming. Just to catch a glimpse of her, even for a few seconds. That’s all I need.
All I can want.
Pushing away from the kitchen counter, I head toward the living room, Shep falling into step behind me, right on my heels.
“Don’t go in there,” he warns me, his mouth practically at my ear. I swat him away but that doesn’t stop him. He just keeps talking. “Jade will murder us both if we ruin her party, you know. And you really don’t want to face her wrath.”
“I’m not scared of her. Besides, we’re not going to ruin shit,” I say. “Maybe we can be the entertainment.”
“I think they have enough entertainment,” he retorts as he grabs my arm, stopping me. “Come on, you should go to bed.”
“I don’t want to go to bed, Dad.” I jerk my arm out of his hold. I hate it when he tries to tell me what to do. “I’m not tired.”
Shep glares at me. “I forgot how belligerent you get when you drink.”
“Shut up. I’m fine,” I mutter as I stroll into the living room as if I didn’t have a care in the world. Shep doesn’t follow me and I’m glad. This is my moment to shine with a bunch of amped up women who’ve done nothing but obsess about sex all night. Talk about an opportunity.
“Good evening, ladies,” I say with my biggest grin, spreading my arms wide like I’m on display—just another sex toy for one of them to possibly enjoy.
Clearly, I’ve lost my damn mind.
I go completely still when Tristan walks into the room, looking so good I sort of lose my breath when I see him. Kelli’s sitting next to me on the couch and she jabs her elbow in my ribs, making me jump.
“What an asshole. He’s not even looking at you,” she whispers out of the side of her mouth.
I say nothing because there’s no point in denying it. Tristan doesn’t even look my way. And all I can do is watch him as his arms drop to his sides, his smile faltering the slightest bit. His eyes look wild. Bloodshot. And that smile on his face can only be described as sloppy.
He’s drunk. Or at least has a good buzz going.
“Tristan.” Jade sounds mad. She worried before the party started that the guys would show up and somehow ruin everything. “What are you doing here?”