Falling for the Wrong Guy (3 page)

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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“Forget it.” He shrugged, again. “It was nothing you said. I’m on a short fuse these days, and I don’t like talking about stuff.”

It felt like she was talking to Blake. She only had to say one wrong word and he’d jump down her throat. And when she tried to talk about Reese and what had happened, he totally ignored her. It was ironic how similar Drew and Blake’s reactions were. And lucky her, she had found herself in the firing line of both of them, without having done anything.

“I understand.” The words were out of her mouth before she could check them, and she wondered if he’d get upset again.

“It’s hard enough dealing with this,” he replied, seeming to ignore her comment and holding out his arms so she could see the burns on his wrists and hands. “But they’re nothing compared with what happened to Reese.”

His eyes glazed over, and a pained expression crossed his face. Ruby perched on the edge of the bench opposite him. She leaned over and touched him lightly on the arm, causing him to jump.

“Drew, are you okay?” she asked, feeling guilty for taking him by surprise.

“What?” He frowned. It seemed like he had totally zoned out from everything.

“Are you in pain? Your face, it was all contorted and—”

“I’m fine,” he interrupted, drawing in a couple of deep breaths. “Fine.”

It was obvious to Ruby that he wasn’t. “Do you want to talk about it?” She couldn’t help asking, even though she suspected he’d say no. And Blake would probably disown her if he’d overheard her trying to help his sworn enemy.

“No. Thanks. But no.”

Ruby glanced across to the door as it opened and saw a group of girls walking in. “I’ve got to get back. Let me know if you change your mind.”

Drew didn’t reply, just acted like he hadn’t heard her.

While she served the newest customers, Ruby was hyper-aware of Drew as she moved around the café. She had started wiping down the counter when out of the corner of her eye she noticed him standing up. To her surprise, instead of heading out the door, he began making his way toward her.

She smiled at him, and he gave her that half smile in return. She was about to pop around to talk to him when the door opened and Blake walked in.

Panic washed over Ruby. She knew Blake would go mad if he saw her, but she didn’t want to cut Drew off, either. Not when he’d finally lost that haunted look he’d worn all day at school.

Blake strode over to the counter, his face set hard. Ruby risked a glance in Drew’s direction. Except he wasn’t there.

She looked up to see his retreating back as he pushed through the front door and left.

Chapter Three

R
uby sneaked a peek at Blake. His arms were rigid, and he’d wrapped his hands so tightly around the steering wheel that his knuckles protruded like tiny mountains. His mouth was stretched into a thin, angry line, the muscles in his face clearly defined by tension.

After seeing Drew, Blake had informed her that he would be taking her home, and he’d spent the rest of Ruby’s shift sitting in the corner glaring at her. She didn’t even know what had made him come to the café. They hadn’t arranged anything. The old Blake, the one who’d existed before the fire, would have popped in to see if she’d needed a ride, no question. New Blake, on the other hand, always seemed too wrapped up in himself to bother, so she had fully expected to have to take the bus home.

She’d wished the floor could’ve opened up and swallowed her whole when Blake had come into the café. If only he hadn’t seen her talking with Drew. She knew he wouldn’t understand. And she got that. After all, Drew had devastated his life.

But…Drew had clearly paid for what he had done. Was still paying.

“Blake,” she said tentatively, unable to bear the silence between them any longer.

They had always gotten on well together, even though Blake had withdrawn into himself since it all happened, and they had worked together to help their mom when they could. Blake especially had a bond with their father, and he would sometimes sit playing cards with him, more so in the past than recently, though.

“Blake,” she repeated.

Blake’s eyes remained facing forward; it was as if he hadn’t even acknowledged her presence.

“Blake. If you’re not going to answer then just listen. It’s not like you’ve got any choice seeing as you’re driving.” She paused a moment to stare at his profile. She witnessed a slight twitch under his eye and watched as he bit down onto his bottom lip. She had his attention. Whether he admitted it or not. “I had to speak to Drew. He protected me from a drunk guy in the café, and he—”

“I don’t want to know.” Blake tossed an angry glance in her direction. “He’s bad news. Keep away from him.”

If only it was that easy.

Ruby couldn’t explain it, but despite the thousands of reasons why she should do exactly as her brother said, something about Drew pulled her toward him. She didn’t know whether it was because she felt sorry for him on so many levels, or what. Not that she’d tell Blake that.

“But—” Ruby’s words stuck in her throat as she was thrown back in her seat when Blake suddenly swung the car to the side and pulled up to the curb, bringing them to a screeching halt. Her heart pounded in her rib cage.

“There is no ‘but’, Ruby.” Blake leaned across and locked eyes with her.

Ruby hated to see him this way. The day Reese died had changed him so much. Yet, Ruby knew that Blake and Reese weren’t even meant to be together. Their relationship had been constantly on-again, off-again, and they were always arguing. Blake had broken up with her many, many times, saying he’d found her too manipulative. In fact, he’d broken up with her again the day before the fire, so strictly speaking they weren’t together. But after she’d died—after sleeping with his best friend, mind you—it was like Blake had put her on a pedestal and had totally forgotten their split and all those things about her that he hadn’t liked.

Ruby had often wondered whether Blake would have reacted so badly if it had been another guy with Reese and not Drew. Maybe he was really grieving the loss of his friendship. Not that she’d have any way of finding out, because he refused to confide in her.

“I’ll try,” Ruby said, not wanting to upset him any more than he already was. She wasn’t prepared to commit to anything other than
trying
to keep away from Drew, because something inside of her wanted to help him if she could. There was a definite similarity between Drew and her father, who, after his accident, had grown self-obsessed to the detriment of everything else in his life. At the moment, Drew seemed headed down the same path. She couldn’t help but want to keep Drew from ending up like her dad.

She also wanted to make her brother happy, but Blake wasn’t exactly making that easy. Yes, he’d lost his on-again-off-again girlfriend, which was horrible. And yes, his best friend had betrayed him. But Blake still had his life ahead of him, with no disfigurement to deal with and no one’s accidental death sitting on his conscience.

She sighed, wishing that everything wasn’t so confusing.

“Good.” Blake broke into her thoughts, voicing his approval over her promise to
try
to stay away from Drew Scott.

The rest of the journey seemed to last forever. Tension hung ominously in the air like a thick cloud threatening to choke them both. Ruby deliberately kept her eyes focused on the houses they passed. Eventually, Blake pulled up outside the front of their house, and before Ruby had even undone her seat belt, he’d jumped out of the car and was walking down the path and through their front door. When Ruby finally got inside, she heard the door to his bedroom slam.

She walked into the kitchen where her mom was standing at the counter and her dad was sitting reading the newspaper.

“Hey,” Ruby said, the bright tone in her voice forced, as she didn’t want to alert her mom there was anything wrong.

“Hello, love. How was work?” her mom asked, looking up from rolling out some pastry. Ruby’s mom baked every day. She said it was her therapy. Ruby didn’t mind. She’d kill for one of her mom’s chocolate and banana muffins any day of the week.

“Okay. I didn’t make as many mistakes as on my first shift. And—” Ruby stopped herself just as she was about to mention what had happened with the drunk guy, thinking that it was best left unsaid. Otherwise, she’d have to mention Drew being there, and she wasn’t sure how her mom would react once she found out that he had returned to school.

“And?” her mom asked.

“Um. Nothing. Hey Dad.” Ruby glanced at her father, who seemed oblivious to her presence. He didn’t seem to be reading, either, just staring into space. “Dad?” she repeated.

He glanced up and grunted a greeting. Then he resumed staring at the paper. She guessed this was one of his bad days and knew better than to push things.

“S
o what will you do?” Tiffany’s eyes were wide as she leaned forward and rested her elbows on her legs.

Ruby had met Tiffany before school started that morning, and they were sitting on a bench outside. She’d told her all about the drunk guy and Drew’s involvement and then about Blake turning up, hoping to get some perspective. Not that perpetually happy Tiffany would know how to handle the complex situation, but it made Ruby feel better to talk about it with someone she trusted. “Good question.” She shook her head and chewed on the inside of her cheek, wondering why she never managed to have a simple life like Tiffany’s.

“Do you still like Drew. As in
like
him?” Tiffany asked in a matter-of-fact tone.

“No. Yes. No. I don’t know,” Ruby replied, waving her arm in frustration.

“That’s covered all of your bases.” Tiffany laughed but not in an unkind way. Tiffany was the only person who’d known about Ruby’s secret crush on Drew last year. And the year before that. And probably the year before that. When he used to hang out with Blake at home, Ruby would invent all sorts of excuses to be with them. She was surprised they hadn’t ever guessed. And she was pretty sure they hadn’t, because Blake would have definitely teased her about it had he even the slightest inkling.

She remembered one Halloween the three of them had dressed up as pirates and went out trick or treating. Drew shared all the candy he had with Ruby, and at the end of the night, he’d given her his eye patch. She still had it in her memory box.

But that all seemed like a lifetime ago. And indeed it was. Were Blake and Drew ever going to even speak again, let alone actually hang out together?

“The thing is, I think I do still like him,” she said. “But he’s so different now. I don’t mean his scars. He’s a different person. You can’t blame him, though, after such a tragedy. Not that he wants anything to do with me. Which doesn’t matter, because Blake will never speak to me again if I have any contact with Drew.” Ruby jumped up, unable to sit still any longer. She kicked the gravel path, and clouds of dust flew into the air. “Come on, let’s go to class. Just talking about it is driving me crazy.”

They made their way toward the lockers, and on the way passed the science noticeboard.

“Stop a minute. I want to check which group I’ve been put in for the project,” Tiffany said. Instead of a midterm exam, the junior chemistry classes had to do group projects that counted for a full third of the grade. Ruby had forgotten that the group assignments were being posted today.

Tiffany scanned the board while Ruby peered over her shoulder, looking for her own name.

She’d always heard the expression “her jaw dropped,” but she’d never actually had that happen—until now.

Ruby Davis, Richard Kent, Jessica Peters, Bradley Rydell.

And Drew Scott.

“Crap. I’m in Drew’s group,” she whispered loudly. Tiffany turned and gave her a slightly pained but sympathetic look and then went back to looking for her group. “That sure as hell complicates things. I just can’t catch a break,” she continued.

Or can I?

As quickly as her panic had hit her, it subsided. Maybe being in his group wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It meant she’d be able to legitimately talk with him without worrying about what Blake might think. After all, her brother couldn’t blame her for being put in the same group by a teacher. It wasn’t like she’d engineered it somehow.

“Do you want to ask if you can swap with me? I don’t mind being in his group,” Tiffany asked as she stepped back from the board.

“No, it’s okay. I don’t want to cause trouble.” Ruby gave a nonchalant shrug. At least she hoped it came across like that.

Excitement bubbled in the pit of her stomach as she realized that in less than two hours’ time, she’d be working with Drew. And three others, of course, but she could take or leave their presence.

“Have I missed something?” Tiffany asked, tilting her head quizzically like a confused puppy. Her eyes widened as she got it. “Ohhhh. Now you
want
to be with him. Why didn’t you say?”

Ruby laughed. Tiffany knew her too well, like she had a hotline to Ruby’s thoughts. But she had to be careful—if Blake caught on that she was happy being in a group with Drew, it could damage their relationship for a long time.

D
rew crushed the empty soda can in his hand and threw it into the trash can a few feet away. Two points. At least he hadn’t lost his throwing arm. Probably the only thing that hadn’t changed.

He’d just left the cafeteria after lunch, where he had sat alone again. But he’d actually enjoyed it. The other students still gave him a wide berth, but they were growing used to him being around, so the whispers and stares had finally died down.

And he’d never minded being alone—it gave him time to be calm and think. Even being a loner at school certainly beat the constant attention he’d gotten from his parents over the last twelve months. On the odd occasion when they were sober, they hovered like two helicopters, wanting to know everything he’d done and would be doing and was even thinking of doing. His mom would even text him from the kitchen when he was in his bedroom. It drove him bat-shit crazy.

When they were drunk, which they were most often, they were the total opposite. Then he was only good for target practice, as they hurled a constant barrage of verbal abuse at him. They’d even told him that he had better get used to looking out for himself because no one else would, not looking like he did. Cutting, yes. But true. He couldn’t argue with what they’d said.

In his peripheral vision, he spotted Ruby, wearing a short green dress and heading in the direction of the science labs. He could hear her unique laugh as she walked with her friend—if sound could sparkle, her laugh would. He’d always thought she was cute, but in a brotherly sort of way. Since he was an only child, she was the closest thing he’d ever had to a sister. And she always made him laugh with her ridiculous, quirky take on things.

Seeing her on his first day back at school had shocked him. She had changed a lot over the last year. She’d gone from cute to hot. He loved the way her chestnut-colored hair framed her face and brought out her enormous, expressive brown eyes, made even more enormous by the fact that over the summer, she’d obviously learned how to put on eyeliner. And since when had she developed such long legs?

Crazy talk.

Blake would hate him even more if he knew what Drew was thinking. Plus, this was
Ruby
. She was kind, she was funny, and now, she was suddenly gorgeous. She deserved better than the likes of him—his parents were right to use the word “grotesque” on him. And even if there was the remotest chance that she felt something for him, no way would he ever make a move on her. He was never going to make a move on anyone ever again. He knew he had to pay for Reese for the rest of his life, and even that wasn’t long enough.

He forced the thoughts of Ruby to the back of his mind and kept on walking toward class, stopping to check the chemistry noticeboard to see which group he’d be in for the project. He’d gotten so used to wandering around campus like a ghost, refusing to interact with anyone, that he had no clue what it would be like to be forced to talk with four other people. Four people who probably wanted nothing to do with him. He’d even asked Mrs. Weatherall if he could do the project alone, but she’d just given him that pity-filled stare he was really starting to hate and told him no.

He scanned the list and found his name. Not the only name to stick out in his group.

Ruby Davis.

He’d been assigned to the group that Ruby was in.

Maybe he should ask to be reassigned.

Except he didn’t know if he wanted to be reassigned.

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
10.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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