Falling for the Wrong Guy (2 page)

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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He would never forgive himself for what had happened. He had betrayed everyone. And for that he deserved to pay for the rest of his life.

A sudden coldness washed over him, as out of the corner of his eye he noticed Ruby. Blake’s sister. It hadn’t even entered his mind that now he had to repeat junior year, he would be taking some of the same classes as her. She probably hated him as much as Blake did. Fleetingly, their eyes locked, and her shock at his appearance was unmistakable. He averted his gaze and hurried toward an empty desk near the window at the front of the class, wondering how long it would take to get used to seeing the shock and horror in her eyes.

Chapter Two

T
he bell rang for lunch, and Drew breathed a sigh of relief. He’d managed to survive his first morning. He still felt like the school freak, but at least the stares had lessened as people got used to him being there. He was glad that Reese had gone to a different school because he didn’t think he’d have been able to cope with facing her friends as well. It was bad enough knowing that Blake and Ruby were around.

He remained in his seat until almost everyone had left the class, keeping his head down and pretending to read. It was kind of a game—if he didn’t look at anyone else, they didn’t exist. When the last person had shuffled out of the science lab, he picked up his books and headed out of the double doors at the back. He felt hungry, so he was tempted to go to the cafeteria for lunch, although that would be Cold Stare Central. His other option was to find a park bench where he could be alone. A quick scan of the trail of students heading toward the cafeteria helped him make up his mind. Park bench it was.

It wasn’t like he’d intended to find his old friends and ask to hang out with them. They hadn’t called or come by since the fire. Not one of them had been in touch, making it clear they had all sided with Blake. And why wouldn’t they? Blake had always been a popular guy. Drew would’ve acted the same way if he had been in their situation.

It didn’t take a genius to work out that the next two years were going to be hell. Which at least meant that he would get better grades, because what else did he have to do but work, work, work? Except he didn’t care. He was only at school because it sucked being at home. He headed toward the parking lot, his stomach rumbling.

He turned his head at the sound of a car door slamming, and his stomach plummeted to the ground as he caught sight of Blake, who was leaning against a large oak tree about ten yards away, completely oblivious to the fact that Drew was standing nearby. Every muscle in Drew’s body tensed.

It was the first time he’d seen Blake up close since just before the fire. Blake hadn’t come to the hospital when Drew had been recovering from his multiple burn surgeries, and his silence had made it clear that they were no longer friends. The one time when they’d run into each other in town, Blake walked away before they could cross paths. Drew had tried writing an apology letter—an actual letter, not a text or email—but every attempt had sounded too pathetic to finish. What could he say? “Sorry I killed your girlfriend after she cheated on you with me?”

But now they were in the same fishbowl of a school, and walking away would just postpone the inevitable.

What he really wanted to do was turn around and bolt, but he forced himself to change direction and head over to where Blake stood.

An apology couldn’t bring Reese back, but at least Drew could get it over with. Maybe Blake would punch him, and they’d both feel better afterward. And Blake was alone, which meant Drew could get that first confrontation over without an audience.

“Blake,” he called once he was within a few yards of him.

Blake glanced up and his eyes widened, shock etched across his face. Why? He had to have known that Drew was back, given the fact that the school had an excellent rumor mill.

“What?” Blake puffed out his chest and straightened.

Drew had seen him like that before. Blake wasn’t an aggressive guy, but he wouldn’t be pushed around. And that stance was how he reacted to people who tried. Drew had just never been on the receiving end of it before.

Drew couldn’t get over how different Blake seemed. Not just angry, but fundamentally different. Noticeably thinner. But it was more than that. His whole demeanor was dark. In all the years they had known each other, Drew had never seen him depressed—the guy was always in a good mood, always looking on the bright side.

Not anymore.

He didn’t know this Blake. And this Blake obviously hated him.

“Can we talk? Somewhere quiet?” Drew asked, his heart thumping loudly in his chest. They’d been friends for so long, yet now it felt like their history had been eradicated. All the things that they had done, the football games, the summer camps, the girls—it was as if none of it had ever happened.

And whose fault was that?

“No. Say what you’ve got to say here.” Blake folded his arms across his chest and glared at him.

Drew glanced around to see if anyone was standing close by listening. But thankfully no one was. He had no desire to be the
center
of attention, especially in this situation. “I just need a minute,” he said, trying to sound calm and in control but suspecting he sounded anything but.

Blake didn’t respond, but stared stonily ahead, barely acknowledging that Drew was speaking.

“Reese and I. It happened by accident. It wasn’t something we’d planned.” As if that made it any better. He felt a layer of sweat form on his forehead, and he swiped it away with the back of his hand. He wanted to say more. He wanted to tell Blake that he hadn’t meant to hurt him, that his friendship meant too much to him. And it always would. But how could he? Guys didn’t talk like that to each other.

Blake opened his mouth slightly like he was going to speak, but then closed it. He stared at Drew, his usually wide eyes narrowed and piercing.

“We didn’t want to hurt you,” Drew continued, grasping for the right words. “We didn’t plan for it to happen. We were two friends who’d had a couple of beers and got together—” His voice faltered. “I think about it every day. It kills me that I couldn’t get to Reese before she died, it—”

He clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides. Talking about it still broke him up, and he guessed it always would.

“You bastard,” Blake snapped, jolting Drew back to the present.

“What can I do? Tell me. I know I can’t make it up to you, but if you need me to do anything, just say. Anything,” Drew pleaded. But what was the point? Blake was never going to make it easy for him.

“For a start, why don’t you fuck off out of my face?” Blake pushed Drew so hard that he stumbled and only just managed to stop himself from falling. Then, he walked away, tossing a final look of loathing in Drew’s direction.

“H
ey, Dee,” Ruby said to her boss, walking from the café’s kitchen to take her place behind the counter.

Today was her second shift at Echoes, and she hoped she didn’t make as many mistakes as the last time. The worst, and most embarrassing, being when clearing plates from the tables she’d tripped and splashed cream onto the shoes of an old guy sitting in one of the booths. He was okay about it. His wife, not so much.

“Thank God you’re here,” Dee said. “Paula’s just gone off sick, so I’m on my own out here. And I’m desperate for the bathroom. Can you take that guy’s order over there?” She hopped from one leg to the other and then made a run for it.

Scanning the specials menu on the wall at the back of the counter, Ruby turned toward the customer Dee had pointed out, and her stomach dipped.

Drew Scott.

For the second time today, he’d almost given her heart failure.

She didn’t think he’d noticed her, as he was sitting in a booth staring into his coffee. For a moment, she debated whether to go over and speak and then decided to pretend not to notice him. Being friends with him again would feel too much like a betrayal of her brother. She’d just tell Dee she’d forgotten to take his order and hope her boss didn’t lose patience. She picked up a cloth and attempted to speed-walk past Drew to clear some empty tables.

“Another latte, please,” Drew said as she passed. The sound of his voice stopped her in her tracks. Crap. It was the squeak of her tennis shoes on the café’s cheap hardwood floor that must have made him look up. He visibly stiffened when he saw it was her standing there.

Ruby felt her face grow hot, and the urge to throw her towel in the air and hide almost got the better of her. She wondered if she’d ever grow out of her annoying blushing habit. She’d caught herself doing it in a mirror once, and it wasn’t a good look.

“Sure,” she said too brightly, forcing a smile and acting like he was just another customer and not someone she already knew very well. She scooped up his used mug and walked purposefully back to the counter, where she took a clean one from underneath and paid great attention to making his coffee properly, hoping that she didn’t screw it up so he wouldn’t call her back to make it again.

“Thanks,” Drew said when she took it back to him.

He locked eyes with her for a few seconds longer than she’d normally have expected, and her breath caught in the back of her throat. Then he frowned slightly. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I know it can’t be easy for you seeing me back at school, with Blake and all—”

Ruby felt a tug in her heart. For all her loyalty to Blake, and she really did hate how upset he was by what had happened, she couldn’t help herself feeling something toward Drew. She knew how awful it must have been for him as he tried to cope with people’s reaction to the angry, puckered burn scars that snaked up from the collar of his shirt to cover the left side of his jaw. She’d seen it with her dad. On the rare occasion that he went out, the staring and grimacing broke her heart—and drove him right back inside again.

“It’s difficult.” Ruby bit down on her bottom lip. “But it’s not that I don’t get how hard it is for you, being—”

“A monster,” Drew muttered.

“No. Not at all. That’s not what I meant,” she said as horror flooded through her and her face undoubtedly turned tomato red. “I understand, that’s all.” God, she felt like such an idiot.

“Really?” Drew asked, his voice sharp with anger. “You with your pretty, unblemished, perfect skin and body. You understand?”

She swallowed hard. Things were getting worse by the minute. Even so, some part of her brain registered that Drew Scott had just called her pretty. Which was so beyond warped. “That’s unfair,” she snapped. “You know what happened to my dad, Drew. You know what my family has been through. I
do
understand.”

“So now you pity me. Well, I don’t need it.” He looked away, staring into the depths of his latte. “Your dad’s situation is totally different. For starters, he didn’t deserve what happened to him.” Drew clenched his coffee mug so hard, she was surprised it didn’t shatter.

“No one deserves it,” she said softly, stepping closer to him.

The tension practically vibrated from his lean, muscular body. “In your opinion,” he said. When she didn’t immediately respond, he lifted his gaze to hers once more.

She hadn’t meant to take so long to answer. It was just…his eyes. She had always been fascinated by them—they were such a beautiful, intense green that it seemed like he was wearing colored contacts. She loved them.

“In anyone’s opinion,” she said. “No one would think you deserved what happened to you.”

For the first time since he’d come into Echoes, his expression softened, just for a second, back to that of the carefree boy she’d once known.

Blake would so kill her for this.

“Miss?” In the distance she heard someone call. “Miss?”

She turned to see a customer trying to get her attention. Before Drew could say anything else, she gave him a small smile and bolted, grateful for the distraction.

The guy who had called her slumped against the counter, swaying from side to side in a strange manner, instead of just taking a seat at one of the empty stools. It didn’t take a genius to realize that he’d had too much to drink, and as she got up close, the overpowering liquor smell confirmed as much.

“Yes, sir?” Ruby asked, walking around to put the counter between them. She plastered a fake smile across her face while wondering whether she should serve him or not. Dee would have known, except she still hadn’t returned from the bathroom. Ruby suspected she’d also gone outside for a smoke.

“Cappusshhhhhno,” he mumbled, leaning across the counter and leering obviously at her breasts.

Ruby slapped a palm over the vee neckline of her black, button-down uniform shirt, her heart thumping in her ears.

“Awww, thass not nice. Come ’ere,” the drunk slurred, making an almost cartoonish swipe at her. She didn’t think he was serious about trying to grab her, but she closed her fingers around the handle of a coffeepot, ready to throw the scalding liquid in his direction if he started to get violent.

She hadn’t even noticed Drew get up until he was standing directly in front of her. “Hey bud,” he said casually. “Why don’t you go outside and walk it off?”

He took hold of the drunken guy’s arm and pulled him toward the front exit. The man initially tried to resist, but Drew was too strong for him. Ruby couldn’t hear what Drew said, but the guy soon started nodding and looked repentant, his head bent.

“Sorry,” the guy muttered over his shoulder. He then turned and headed to the door before Ruby had time to respond.

Shocked into silence by the abrupt turn of events, Ruby watched him leave. She turned to thank Drew, only she found he was almost back at his booth. She shot around the counter and went over to him.

“Thanks,” Ruby said, her racing heart gradually slowing. The enormity of what had happened hit her. No one had told her that drunk customers bent on sexual assault were a possibility in a sweet little café like Echoes.

Drew shrugged. “It’s nothing.”

It might have been nothing to him, but that wasn’t how Ruby saw it. Especially because she needed the job so badly and couldn’t afford to rock the boat by having a problem with the customers.

“No, really. Thanks. Let me buy you another coffee.” She glanced at the untouched full mug in front of him. “Or a cookie?” she suggested.

“Sure.” He gave a half smile. But it was enough to make those green eyes sparkle.

Ruby’s heart flipped. She was hooked. Again.

“I didn’t mean to upset you earlier when I compared you with my dad.” She held her breath, waiting for his response.

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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