I was restless. Amanda had left when I went to take Daisy home. She said she needed to go eat dinner with her mother. Last night she’d told her mom she was staying over at a friend’s. She said her mom would get curious if she didn’t show up tonight. The whole apartment smelled like Amanda. I hadn’t been alone with her since work today. I needed to be alone with her. The fear inside me was eating me alive. If she ever found out . . . That couldn’t happen.
My phone rang, and I stalked over to the counter and jerked it up. It was the wrong Hardy.
“Hey,” I said, trying not to be irritated that it was Marcus and not Amanda.
“Hey, what’re you up to tonight?”
Waiting by the phone for your sister to call me wasn’t exactly something I could tell him. “Nothing. Just at home.”
“Low is studying for an test, and she needs me to get out of her hair. Feel like meeting me at Live Bay? Rock will be there. Jackdown’s playing, and you know Trisha won’t miss it.”
No. I wanted to stay here and wait on Amanda. But then if she didn’t call, I might go a little crazy. I needed a distraction.
“Okay, yeah. I’ll meet you there.”
“Sounds good,” he replied, and we hung up.
I slipped on my boots and grabbed my keys. I’d go hang out with my friends until Amanda called.
The place was already crawling when I walked in. I stopped by the bar and grabbed a beer before making my way over to our table. Marcus was already here. Rock and Trisha were taking up only one stool since she was in his lap. Dewayne wasn’t around.
“There he is,” Marcus said as I pulled out the stool beside him and sat down.
“But for how long? Soon as a girl comes over here sniffing, we’ll lose him for the night,” Rock drawled.
I tried not to tense up. They’d notice if I acted different. Then they’d all start asking questions. And there was no way in hell I was answering those questions. Marcus was like my brother, but if he tried to keep me from Amanda, there was gonna be a problem. No one was stopping this.
“I’m taking a night off,” I replied.
“Someone wear you out last night?” Rock asked.
Wasn’t going there with them either. This was hard. I’d always been able to talk about girls with them. But then, I’d never talk about Amanda the way I talked about those other girls.
“I’m just not in the mood,” I explained, and took a long swig.
A phone rang, and Marcus pulled his out. “Is she okay? . . . Yeah, I checked on her today. . . . Sorry, I’m at Live Bay. Can you hear me now? . . . If she’s sleeping fine, then you should be good if you want to leave. . . . Uh, no. Preston, Rock, and Trisha are here. You wanna come see me? . . . Ha! Sure you do. I’ll see you in a sec.”
He hung up the phone. “My mom is going to wear Amanda out. As much as I’d have missed her, I don’t like the idea of her staying here to take care of Mom. She needs a life.”
That had been Amanda. My phone vibrated in my pocket.
I pulled it out and looked down.
Amanda: Is it okay with you if I come to Live Bay? If not I’ll just go to bed and see you later.
Hell, no. I needed to see her tonight.
Me: Your brother thinks you’re coming here. Come ease his mind. Then we’ll figure out a way to leave.
“Is Preston texting?” Rock asked. “When the hell did he start texting?”
Amanda: Okay. See ya in a few.
I slipped my phone back into my pocket and looked up to see the entire table staring at me with incredulous expressions on their faces. So I didn’t text that often. What was the big deal?
“What?” I asked, reaching for my beer.
“You were texting someone,” Marcus replied.
“Intensely,” Trisha added.
With Amanda headed up here, I did not need them watching my every move.
“Actually, it’s called sexting. You get them worked up enough, and they’ll start sending sexy little videos via text.” I winked and leaned back in my seat.
That was what they expected of me. Marcus laughed and shook his head. Rock raised his eyebrows and looked at Trisha. “If I get you that new iPhone, will you send me sexy little videos?”
Trisha giggled and whispered in his ear.
I turned my attention off them and watched the door.
I managed to stay in the conversation at the table without appearing like I was as disconnected as I was.
Then the door opened, and Amanda finally walked in.
She was wearing a short little red dress and cowboy boots. I was going to end up in a fight.
I wasn’t sure this was such a good idea. Every time I’d ever been in Live Bay, Preston had been drunk and there were girls with centerfold bodies wrapped all over him. I’d changed clothes three times trying to find something that made me look sexy enough to compete with the girls I’d be up against in here. Unfortunately, nothing I owned made my boobs look any bigger than they were. So I decided to play up my strengths. Preston liked my legs. So I went with that.
I looked over at their table, and Preston’s eyes were already locked on me. He looked . . . mad. Why was he mad? Maybe mad wasn’t the word. Maybe he looked fierce. I wasn’t sure. The good thing was, the only girl at their table was Trisha. I had been prepared to walk into something much worse.
As I headed toward the table, someone stepped in front of me. I looked up to see Dameon Wallace’s smiling face. I’d thought he was gorgeous in high school. But now he didn’t seem so perfect anymore.
“Hello, Dameon,” I replied, taking a step to the side to get around him.
“Hey, Amanda. Haven’t seen you since graduation. How are things?”
I smiled. “Good, thank you, and you?”
His hand grabbed mine, and he pulled me close to his side.
“What are you wearing?” he whispered in my ear as he pulled me away from Dameon.
“A dress,” I replied, trying to figure out why he was asking me such a ludicrous question and why he was making a scene in front of my brother.
“I’m gonna end up beating someone’s ass tonight because of this dress,” he growled, and let go of my hand. “Go to the table. I’ll handle this with Marcus.”
I nodded and hurried to the table, trying to look casual while Marcus studied me carefully.
“You made it,” Marcus said, looking over my shoulder at Preston, who was right behind me.
“Yep” was the best reply I could come up with. I smiled over at Rock and Trisha, who also seemed to be studying me, then Preston, curiously.
“Want to tell me what that was about?” Marcus asked, his gaze locked on Preston instead of me.
I was almost afraid to look at Preston, but I couldn’t help it. I needed to make sure he was okay.
“That douche was all over her, and you were just gonna sit here and let it happen. Someone had to go get her,” Preston explained in an annoyed tone.
“That was mighty chivalrous of you.” Trisha sounded amused and not at all fooled.
Marcus turned back to look at me. “Did that guy touch you?” The edge to his voice meant he was buying Preston’s excuse. That was good. But I still didn’t want him going and roughing up Dameon for just saying hello.
“He’s a friend from high school. We did the flirting thing in school but never anything more. Preston misunderstood.”
The tension in Marcus’s shoulders eased, and he nodded.
I chanced a glance at Preston, who hadn’t relaxed at all. He was even more tightly wound now than he had been before. This was a really bad idea. My coming here was going to be an issue.
“Did I take your seat, Preston?” I asked, trying to distract him.
He shifted his gaze to me. “No. You’re fine. I’m gonna go grab another beer and I’ll get a stool. You want something?”
“A Coke, please,” I replied.
He nodded and headed toward the bar.
“Amanda” Marcus called my name, and I tore my eyes off of Preston’s retreating form and looked at him.
“Why do I feel like I’m missing something here?” he asked, studying my face closely.
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
He looked back at Preston at the bar. Preston was getting our drinks and blowing off a girl at the same time. He looked very uninterested, which made me smile. Preston’s eyes met mine and a knowing grin tugged at his lips. His eyes shifted to my brother’s and the smile vanished.
I decided to study the stage. Jackdown had just come back on the stage, and Trisha was doing her normal cheering.
“Here’s your Coke,” Preston said, sliding a mug of ice and a can in front of me, then pulling up a stool on the other side of Marcus. He wasn’t sitting beside me. This was so frustrating. I just wanted to tell Marcus and let him get over it. How bad could it be?
The music was too loud to hear anything else, so no one talked while Krit’s voice filled the room. He had a smooth sound with a little raspy touch to it that made girls go crazy. I had to admit, the guy was hot. I’d never really been into him like a lot of my friends, but then, deep down I’d always had a thing for Preston. It was hard to focus my attention on anyone else. I had liked Dameon in high school but it was never anything very serious.
A girl walked up to Preston and started whispering in his ear. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and his eyes shot directly to me. This was what I was afraid of when I’d decided to come tonight. Girls knew Preston as a player. They loved him for it. Preston moved forward away from her mouth, which was entirely too close to his body.
His eyes never left mine. I dropped my gaze to my soda and contemplated just leaving. This was too hard. I couldn’t get upset about the girl because of Marcus. Preston couldn’t act like he was taken because of Marcus. If I was going to be anything more than just a blip on Preston’s radar, we were going to have to tell Marcus.
I couldn’t just keep going this way. Preston’s reputation would require he act a certain way to keep Marcus from questioning things. I reached for my purse and stood up. I’d tell Marcus bye and go back home. It was where I should have stayed.
Preston was up and out of his seat before I could say anything. I stopped and watched as he pushed the girl away and walked over to me. “Dance with me,” he said in my ear, taking my purse and laying it back down on the table, then pulling me out to the dance floor.