Authors: Rachel Van Dyken
Tags: #seaside, #rock star, #contemporary romance, #new adult
She closed her eyes and lifted the glass to her lips, taking the smallest sip known to humanity. And then her eyes opened, and she took another sip.
Her smile was wide as she set the beer down and laughed. “It’s good!”
“What?” I swear to all that is holy if that woman smiles at me one more time I’m going to lose my mind.
“I, um…” There went that damn blush. Be ugly, for crying out loud! “I kind of like it.”
“Does this mean that I can introduce you to more brews in the future? Make a big deal out of it, have some taste testing?”
“Depends.” She seemed to retreat back into herself. “Are you going to invite more skanks to join in on the party?”
The arrow hit dead center. I leaned back in my chair and cursed, looking away, unable to actually make eye contact because the shame was that hateful.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly, still not looking at her. “I have no excuse for my behavior, only that I’m an ass. To be fair, you were warned.”
I stole a glance.
And wrong thing to say.
I back peddled. “But that doesn’t make it right, or better, or any less, awful.” I reached for my beer and took another gulp. “For what it’s worth, I’ve felt like an absolute ass ever since and almost called you so many times, to say…”
“What?” Pris’s eyes bore into mine. “To say what?”
“Sorry,” I whispered. “To say sorry.”
“Apology accepted.” She grinned. “And yes I would love to taste more. It could actually be really fun. You know? As friends? I’ve never had a guy friend before.”
She was talking so fast my mind was having trouble catching up with what she was saying.
She just accepted my apology? No reprimand? No tears?
And what the hell? Now I was in the friend zone?
How? How did that happen? How had I let it?
Our food arrived.
I wanted to smash my face into it.
“So, how about it?” Pris reached across the table. “Friends?”
Because if I was her friend; I couldn’t screw her. If I was her friend, I couldn’t kick Smith’s ass for stealing my girl. If I was her friend, any possibility of being more than that — slowly diminished into nothingness.
My only excuse for reaching across the table and shaking her damn hand, was because for once in my life…
The sacrifice was worth the reward.
If I didn’t agree to it, I’d lose her.
And I wasn’t ready for that.
“Sure.” I gripped her small hand in mine. “Friends.”
Jaymeson refused to let me pay even when I offered. Then he said something about how the least he could do is pay for my lunch… as a friend. Only the way he said
made my entire body go into shock mode.
I swear he said the word like an expletive.
As if it was poison he needed to eradicate from his body.
I only hoped it was the word, not the meaning behind it. A guy like him would never be interested in a relationship. It seemed the only smart thing to do was to let him know where I stood. I could be a friend. Friend meant safe. Friend meant I could date and not think about him anymore.
Besides, he apologized.
Which meant, he was successfully off my radar as a romantic interest. It was only the hurt feelings that kept my brain mulling over our kiss on the beach and his rejection of me.
That was it.
“Pris…” Jaymeson stood. “I’m going to use the restroom then I guess we should go back to the boxes?”
“Sure.” I offered a smile and shoved another fry into my mouth.
He knocked on the table and walked off toward the restrooms. I had to keep myself from laughing. It sounded stupid, but I mean, celebrities? They were just like everyone else. Sure they were mega-talented and good-looking. But they still had to use the bathroom, they still got food stuck in their teeth, which Jaymeson would totally discover once he went to the bathroom.
That had been my payback.
I laughed again as my cell went off.
My dad had sent a text.
How you holdin’
I was totally lying but I didn’t want him to know — not yet. He’d been under so much stress lately, and I wanted to see if I could take care of things first. I stared at my phone like it held all of answers to life questions and nearly dropped it when my Facebook messenger went off.
Ooh, what did you have? I’m a huge foodie. Tell me. Every. Detail.
Fish and Chips, but I TRIED BEER!
Naughty girl. I should call your parents.
You don’t know them. Not a solid threat.
The chief goes to our church.
I’m fresh out of ideas
It tasted good
Of course it did. It’s alcohol.
I thought so.
What are you doing?
I just got done eating and now I’m getting ready for work.
Oh yeah? What do you do? I mean, other than surf.
You mean what do I do other than talk to a beautiful girl I’ve never met?
I felt my cheeks heat.
I work in the film industry.
He didn’t respond right away. I waited for his message for a few seconds before almost clicking out of messenger.
Sorry, dog was barking, things like that distract me. Um, I’ve done some directing and screen writing.
Like writing scripts?
Have you written anything I’ve ever seen?
I sure hope so! Sorry, gotta run, work calls! See you later, sweetheart.
“Ready?” Jaymeson said, snapping me out of my smiley gaze. I dropped the phone onto the table.
“Who was that?” he asked curiously, dipping his hands into his pockets.
“No one.” I licked my lips.
Jaymeson rolled his eyes. “Right, and I’m not famous.”
“No seriously.” He scooted our chairs in and placed his hand on the small of my back as he led me out of the restaurant. “We’re friends now, friends share with friends. I mean, I don’t want to you to paint my fingernails or put makeup on me or anything, but you can discuss guys with me. I do happen to be one.”
“No way!” I snapped my fingers. “I had no idea.”
“Don’t make me take my pants off.”
“Feeling threatened?” My eyebrows arched as I crossed my arms and waited for his answer.
He took a step toward me, towering over my body. “Never.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“Easy.” He stepped away and winked. “I’ve seen myself naked. Oh, and I’m awesome.”
“Only when I need to be.” He grinned.
“I feel like there’s a hidden perverted meaning there and I’m going to choose to ignore it so your face doesn’t end up on the opposite end of my palm.”
“Wow.” He looked both ways then raced with me across the street. “I didn’t get slapped, but I could have sworn I just felt it.”
Jaymeson stopped. His hair fell over his eye making me itch to push it back, you know to help him, um… see better.
“That, I believe.” He opened the door to the church and let me go in first. For being such a whore, he really did have amazing manners. He’d done the same thing at the restaurant and even pulled out my chair like we were at some fancy restaurant in Portland.
“So, boxes.” We both faced the tower of boxes we had left to do. “Tell you what…” He turned to me. “Every box I finish, you have to tell me details about lover boy.”
“Lover boy? Are you ten?”
“Deal or no deal?”
“Deal.” I rolled my eyes. “At least it will keep things interesting, and since you are a guy, you can give me really good advice on how to not be boring.”
Jaymeson froze then dropped the box onto the floor and turned around to face me. “Don’t ever call yourself that. Rule number one, if a guy says you’re boring he’s a jackass. If every fiber of his being isn’t focused on you — especially when you first start dating — you run. You don’t make excuses for his inability to pay attention. You don’t put yourself down. You run, and you don’t look back. Okay?”
“Whoa, that it, Dad?”
Jaymeson scowled. “And say no to drugs.”
“Wow. You’re the definition of wisdom.”
“I try.” He turned back around. “Now I’m going to work my ass off so I get more details. I want to know what type of guy just turned that pretty little head of yours.”
I didn’t respond.
But he’d called me pretty.
The funny thing? I actually sort of believed him.
“Box ten is done and all I know about this boy — don’t scowl, he’s a boy until I say he’s a man — is that he works for the film industry. Lame.”
“Lame?” Pris got down on all fours and pushed the heavy box toward the wall. Her back arched. My mouth went dry. She grunted.
I looked away and almost had a freaking seizure. No joke. I swear I almost had an episode.
“Don’t you work in the film industry?”
“I’m the talent.” I shrugged. “Totally different scenario.”
“How so?” She got off the floor — thank God — and started packing up another box.
Oh wow, great answer Jaymeson, hitting it out of the park with that one.
“I have to pretend. He just writes shit.”
“He just writes shit?” she repeated. “That’s your reason?”
Yeah, I should have come up with a better job for the guy, but it felt wrong to completely lie to her, especially when I was literally messaging her from the bathroom and hiding my identity. Damn, my
should be a movie. What I’d said was true, I had done screen writing and it was fun, I just liked acting more.
“New question.” I taped another box. “What’s he look like?”
Pris’s fingers fumbled with the box. “He, uh, has dark hair.”
“As well as half the population of Seaside. I need details. Does he look funny? Crooked teeth? Weird hairy mole by his mouth? Long nose hair? Come on I want the gory details.”
“Where do you come up with this stuff?”
“I have a scary creative mind,” I answered honestly. “I can’t help it, so?”
“So…” She slowly placed the stuffed animals in the box. “I haven’t actually seen his face.”
“So he’s a predator,” I joked.
A stuffed animal went soaring by my face.
Another animal followed, hitting me directly in the balls.
“Good shot,” I wheezed, thanking my lucky stars that the bear wasn’t giant size and packing something sharp.
“He’s… nice.” She shrugged. “I need nice in my life.”
The hell she did. She deserved wild. She deserved crazy. She deserved an adventure. Nice? There was no room for nice in a relationship with a girl like Pris. A man should always be a gentleman, but nice? Nice meant boring, nice meant safe, nice meant two point five children with a white picket fence and a dog named Spot.
Nice be damned.
“I don’t know, we’re just talking, it’s not like anything would happen.” She scooted the full box over to me. “It’s just nice—” Okay, I was officially going to blot out that word from my vocabulary. “—to have attention, I guess. I don’t know, does that sound stupid?”
“No.” I grabbed the box and taped it. “It makes me want to murder every guy you ever went to high school with, but it doesn’t sound stupid.”
“Please.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ve done my fair share of dating, believe me.”
My blood pressure just skyrocketed. I laughed. “Oh yeah? How many boyfriends?”
The box began to crush beneath my hands.
“Kidding.” She winked. “I’ve had four boyfriends, only one of them tried to have sex with me and that didn’t end well for him.”
“So you cut him?” I taped the box and set it far, far away from me so I wouldn’t inflict damage on it again. Poor bears.
“Um, no, people don’t cut people here. It’s Oregon. We’re about peace.”
“So you hugged him to death?”
“Jaymeson!” She laughed and threw a pen at me. I ducked and returned her smile. “I just told him no.”
“And it worked?” I was stunned.
“Well… no.” She fidgeted with her hair. “But it gave me enough time to knee him in the balls and run away.”
“That’s my girl.”
And… utter silence.
“Anyway…” She laughed. “I think that’s all the questions for today. My schedule says I have you tomorrow too, right? We only have five more boxes, so we should be done by noon.”
“Great.” But it wasn’t. I was half-tempted to break into the church and unpack every damn box just so I could keep talking to her.
There I go again with the talking.
Beer. I needed more beer.
“Why don’t I give you a ride home then?” I suggested.
“I hope I’m not interrupting?” A knock sounded on the door. An elderly woman walked in. “Honey, I’m having problems with that old copy machine again, you think you could help me?”
“Sure, Stella.” Pris smiled.
“I can, um, wait?” I offered.
“Nah, Stella can give me a ride when she’s done, the office closes at three anyway.”