Falling for the Wrong Guy (7 page)

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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Chapter Nine

R
uby leaned against the counter for a few moments, reliving the scene with Drew, her mouth dry. For that brief moment, it had been like the old Drew was with her. The Drew she had always had a secret thing for. The Drew who had been full of fun. Who would help her play silly tricks on Blake. She’d never imagined he would make another appearance, at least not so soon.

And as for the kiss… She’d dreamed about kissing him for years. It was everything she’d thought it would be, and more. She wondered if it would happen again, or if it was a one-off. The way Drew had reacted had hurt initially, but she should have expected the guilt to get to him. And if she was honest, she felt guilty, too. Which is why she tried to push thoughts of Blake and Reese to the back of her mind. It did her no good dwelling on the pair of them, since Drew did enough of that for both of them.

She glanced up at the clock on the wall and was shocked to see that Drew had been gone quite a while, and she hadn’t done anything she’d said she would. She took the cloth and wiped the mess on the floor, then started to make their lunch. They’d bought tuna to have with the cheese, so she took out a bowl from the dishwasher and started to look for a can opener.

She’d only been to Drew’s house a few times in the past and each time had been totally overwhelmed by how grand it was. His mom had every top-of-the-line appliance imaginable. Yet, she didn’t cook. They had takeout most days, Blake had told her. It was a crime that all these things were wasted at Drew’s house. If her mom owned them, they’d be used every single day.

Finally, she gave up looking and headed instead for the bottom of the stairs. “Drew,” she called, holding her hand to her mouth.

When he didn’t answer, she took the stairs two at a time and headed down the long hallway to his bedroom. The door was opened slightly, so she stuck her head around it just as Drew walked out of his bathroom. With only a towel wrapped around his middle.

She gasped as she caught sight of the horrendous red burns and welts that covered his shoulders and arms. God, that must’ve been so painful. The thick, puckered scar tissue, still an angry red even after a year, covered more than half of his upper body. She could barely stand it when she touched the wrong end of her curling iron. She couldn’t imagine burns that severe covering that much of her body.

“What are you doing?” Drew shouted, his eyes flashing with anger.

He made a grab for the dark green sweater on his bed and pulled it over his head, pushing his arms through the sleeves. He tugged it down and scowled.

“Nothing. I… I… I couldn’t find the can opener so…” Her hands started to shake, and she wanted to reach for him, to tell him that he didn’t have to hide from her.

“So you thought you’d creep up on me and then stare at my repulsive scars. The bathroom’s that way, if you want to vomit.” He stabbed his finger in the direction he’d come from.

Ruby wanted to curl up and die for making him think that she was grossed out by him. She hadn’t meant to stare; she couldn’t help it. But it wasn’t revulsion going through her head. If anything, it was empathy. Drew’s burns were no worse than her dad’s, and she’d lived with them for years. She knew the suffering her dad had gone through. “No. You’ve got it all wrong. I’m sorry if you thought I was staring at you. I wasn’t.”

It seemed like everything they’d shared earlier was forgotten. He glared at her like she was a total stranger, and it wrenched at her gut.

“I could see exactly where you were looking.” His upper lip curled in derision.

Okay, she did stare at him, just not in the way he’d imagined. It was human nature for her to be drawn to something she hadn’t seen before. And even with all those scars, he was still…beautiful. “Well, I did look. How could I not? But you have to understand it didn’t turn me off at all.”

The expression on Drew’s face changed from anger to one of uncertainty. She willed him to trust her, believe her.

“So you say.” He rolled his eyes.

“So I mean,” Ruby replied firmly.

He broke eye contact and shook his head. She had no doubt that if he had a sweatshirt on, he’d be pulling the hood to cover the side of his neck and jaw. “I know how grotesque I am. Every morning while I’m getting dressed I see myself in the mirror. It’s karma.” He bowed his head.

She felt so helpless. “That’s crazy talk,” she said. “You didn’t hurt Reese. Accidents happen sometimes. That doesn’t mean you deserved to be hurt so badly.”

She resisted the urge to stride across the room and give him a shake, as much as she really wanted to. Because he needed one.

“That’s your opinion.” His voice seemed flat and devoid of emotion. It was like he’d switched off.

“It is. And I’m right. So deal with it.”

She placed her hands on her hips and glared at him. The silence hung in the air, but she didn’t relax her glare. Finally, Drew’s face softened, and he sat down on the bed, all the fight leaving his body. “Maybe I overreacted,” he said.

“You think?” she said, determined not to let him get away with it too easily.

“I’m sorry. You’re the first non-medical person to see my scars.”

She swallowed hard. She hadn’t even thought of it like that. It had been a huge step for him to even talk to her about it. Of course he hadn’t been ready to reveal his scars. But maybe now that she’d seen them, he’d feel even more relaxed around her.

“Do they hurt?” She moved closer, fighting the urge to take him in her arms in case he reacted badly.

“They itch like hell a lot of the time,” Drew said through clenched teeth. “I have cream to soften the skin, and meds for the itching and pain, but they don’t help much.”

“What about skin grafts? Are you going to have them?” She’d read up on it once for her dad, but it was too late for him. It would be different for Drew because his injuries were relatively new.

His face hardened. “No. Absolutely not.”

His response shocked her. She couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want them if they could lessen the scars he seemed so self-conscious of. “Why?” She frowned.

“Because whatever you think, it’s good to have a constant reminder of what I did.”

A heavy feeling washed over Ruby. For Drew to think like that was crazy. It defied all logic, and she was utterly at a loss over how to help him. She moved forward and sat down on the mattress beside him. He turned his face away from her. “What happened to you wasn’t karma, like you said earlier. You didn’t do anything to hurt Reese. You never would have. Surely you get that.” She hoped that her words might help him see sense.

“Enough,” he snapped, shoving a hand through his damp hair. “First of all, I shouldn’t have even been there. She was Blake’s girl, even if they were broken up. Everyone knew they were always off and on. Second of all, I was the one who didn’t blow out the candles that Reese had lit.” He folded his arms tightly across his chest, the expression on his face set hard.

Ruby couldn’t leave it. She had to make one last-ditch attempt to get through to him. “Reese could’ve blown them out herself, you know. Why does it have to be your mistake?” She put a hand on his shoulder, feeling the tension thrumming from his body.

“Because it was,” he ground out. “Because I’m here alive, and she’s… she’s….” His voice cracked, and tears filled his eyes.

“It’s all right, Drew. I’m here.” She reached out and pulled him toward her, holding him tightly in her arms while he sobbed into her shoulder. “I’m here.”

D
rew pulled himself out of Ruby’s grasp. He couldn’t believe that he’d broken down in front of her. He felt like such a jerk. He’d spent the previous twelve months maintaining a hard exterior that no one could penetrate, and in the space of only a few minutes, Ruby Davis had got to the very heart of him and made him sob like a baby.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to lose it like that.”

He looked directly into her deep brown eyes and immediately regretted it. He felt himself being drawn toward her, like he had no say in the matter. He couldn’t believe she could do this to him. She didn’t used to. In the past, he’d just liked her as Blake’s younger sister. And now…

Now she should be off-limits. Even when they’d been friends, Blake might have not liked the idea of Drew with Ruby. He’d certainly warned other guys who’d shown any interest in her what would happen if they did anything to upset her. He’d even enlisted Drew’s help on several occasions. Ruby didn’t know. She’d have been really angry if she’d ever found out.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize. I get it.” Ruby reached out and touched him on the arm, and just that one small touch was enough to drive him crazy. It took him all his resolve to not pull her close and kiss her hard on the lips. He wanted to. A lot. But he couldn’t. He shouldn’t.

Screw it.

He grabbed Ruby, and they both fell onto the bed, legs and arms all over the place.

Chapter Ten

B
utterflies whizzed around Ruby’s stomach as she caught sight of Drew in the mirror watching her intently while she fixed her hair. It had surprised her that he even had a mirror in his bedroom. Her father had always refused to have one in the house, so there weren’t any, apart from the ones both she and Blake had inside the doors of their closets. And if, on the rare occasion that he went out, her dad caught sight of his reflection, he’d sink into a dark mood and demand they went home right away. It made family outings very difficult because you could see reflections in so many things, not just mirrors.

Drew had his hands behind his head and was leaning against the headboard. He hadn’t got up from the bed since they’d finished their make-out session. If it wasn’t for the fact that they had to get back to school, they’d still be there. Though, it was for the best they weren’t, because she didn’t know how far it would have gone. And as much as she liked Drew, she wasn’t ready to go all the way. She wanted her first time to be special, and not somewhere they could be disturbed any minute by his mom arriving home.

She shuddered at the thought of what his mother might say if she caught them together, especially if she had been drinking. Which was likely seeing as, according to Blake, there were very few days, if any, that she wasn’t wasted.

“Are you okay?” Drew asked.

Ruby loved that he sounded so concerned. “Yeah, why?” she asked as she turned to face him.

Her heart did a triple flip, seeing the way he stared at her so sweetly. She wondered if she would ever get used to it, or whether he would always make her feel that way.

“You had a strange expression on your face.”

“It’s nothing.” She waved her hand. “I just had a thought about what would happen if your mom found us here, and what she’d say.”

“She won’t.” He laughed. “I can’t remember the last time she set foot in my bedroom. We’re safe. Promise.”

He swung his legs around until his feet reached the floor. Then he got up and walked over to where Ruby stood. He wrapped his arms around her middle and gave a gentle squeeze. In the reflection, Ruby could see the affection in his eyes. And she knew at that moment she was falling for him. She leaned her head back until it rested against his shoulder for the briefest moment.

“That’s okay then. Come on, or we’ll be late.” She took hold of his hand and led him out of the bedroom and downstairs.

Drew drove them back to school. They didn’t speak much during the journey, but the silence wasn’t awkward. It was perfect. Ruby wished they could be in their own little world for a while longer, but all too soon they had reached the school parking lot.

A sense of foreboding washed over her at the thought of Blake seeing them driving up to school. But then she got annoyed with herself for being such a drama queen. She’d worry about Blake when the time came.

Except, to be honest, she couldn’t just wait for him to see them together and figure out that their relationship had gone far beyond just being partners on a science project. Hard as it might be, she would have to speak to him before he found out from someone else about her and Drew. She owed him that much.

She scanned the parking lot, but when she didn’t see any sign of her brother, she decided to just enjoy everything as it was.

Drew parked his car, and they both got out. Ruby took his hand and could feel his arm stiffen. But then he relaxed and didn’t pull away. She’d only meant to touch him for a second and then let go, but she couldn’t help it. She wanted to stay like that.

Suddenly, he jerked his head to the side, and Ruby followed his gaze. Her heart pounded against her rib cage. It was Blake coming out from behind the tree.

Crap.

Blake hadn’t noticed them, or if he had, he certainly hadn’t given that impression. And, knowing Blake, it was unlikely he would totally ignore the two of them together holding hands. She tightened her grip on Drew, just to let him know that she was through feeling guilty. What had happened to Reese wasn’t his fault, and it was time Blake saw that, too.

Before she could speak, Drew pulled his hand from hers and shifted to the side, so they weren’t standing so close. He clearly wasn’t prepared to take the risk of Blake seeing them together. But Ruby couldn’t shake the thought that maybe they should just face her brother together and get it over with.

“It’s for the best,” Drew muttered.

“What?” She bit down on her bottom lip, dreading his response.

“Us.”

Okay, so she hadn’t expected that comment. His face was set firm and his body rigid, with his fists clenched by his sides. He had no need to spell it out. He was backing out of them having a relationship, choosing his guilt over following her into the light. One look at Blake had sent him running in the opposite direction. She tried to blink away the tears that threatened to fall.

“You don’t want to see me again?” she asked, more voicing her thoughts than expecting him to answer because he didn’t need to. He’d made himself perfectly clear.

“That’s not what I said.” Drew kicked the gravel beneath his feet, while not making eye contact with her.

She didn’t get it. Did he want to go out with her or not? She stole a quick glance in the direction where Blake had been standing and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that he had gone. Probably into school, since the bell was due to ring in only a few minutes.

“So what did you mean by saying
it’s for the best
?” She rammed her hands into her jacket pockets and attempted to appear calm.

“I want to keep what happened between us a secret.”

He wanted to see her, but no one else could know. It seemed wrong on so many levels.

“Why?” She frowned.

“It’s just better that way, with no one knowing. It doesn’t mean we stop seeing each other,” Drew replied, finally looking at her. His green eyes were troubled and conflicted. This didn’t seem easy for him. “If you still want to,” he added.

“Of course I do. But I’m not sure about keeping it a secret.”

She had visions of them sneaking around trying to catch an odd moment together. She couldn’t see how they could make it work, even if she wanted to, what with his home life and her living with Blake. It would be impossible.

“Think about it,” Drew said. “What if Blake finds out? How’s he gonna take it? At least this way, we can still be together, just not at school. We can work it out.”

She could see what he meant and guessed it sort of made sense. Truth be told, she didn’t want to have another falling out with Blake. She couldn’t stand that they weren’t talking very much at the moment. On the other hand, she worried about Drew’s motives. Was he really doing it to protect Blake, or was it more because he didn’t want people to judge him any more than they already had?

“What if I talk to Blake and tell him?” she probed.

Drew’s face clouded over. “No. I don’t want him to be angry.”

“It might upset him initially, but I’m sure he’ll come around,” she said, not really believing what she was saying. If Blake’s recent behavior was anything to go by, he could take a very long time to
come around
if he did at all. But that didn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

“Maybe, but I don’t want to risk it. I don’t want anyone else to know about us. It’s too difficult at the moment,” he said, his adamant tone leaving her no option but to agree.

What choice did she have, if she wanted to keep seeing him?

She shrugged and nodded her acceptance.

“L
et me get this straight,” Tiffany said, grabbing Ruby’s arm so tightly that her nails dug a little too hard into Ruby’s flesh. Obviously she was a bit excited. “You’ve been making out with Drew Scott in his BEDROOM!”

Ruby had texted Tiffany earlier in the afternoon, as they didn’t have any classes together, to see if they could meet after school, and they were sitting in a nearby park. She’d decided that when she’d promised Drew not to tell anyone about the two of them, that didn’t include Tiffany. There was no way Ruby could keep everything to herself, and she trusted Tiffany not to tell anyone.

It had been pure torture all afternoon sitting in class and having to maintain a distance from Drew. He didn’t seem to have any difficulty, though. He didn’t even say good-bye once school was out. He clearly wasn’t going to let even the slightest hint of a relationship between them get out into the open. She didn’t know how he managed to do it.

“Yeah.” Ruby couldn’t help grinning at Tiffany’s reaction. One she could relate to, seeing as if the situations were reversed, she’d be acting exactly the same. A new guy was always big news.

“And how was it? On a scale of one to ten.” Tiffany wriggled on the bench in excitement.

A shiver shot down her spine as she thought about exactly how it was. She couldn’t believe they’d first gotten together only a few hours ago. It seemed like they’d been a couple forever.

“Good. Amazing,” Ruby replied, her voice sounding sappy even to her own ears.

“And what about his. You know… his…” Tiffany sucked in a breath.

Ruby knew exactly what she meant. “Burns?”

Tiffany nodded, then winced. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. You must think I’m awful. Please don’t tell him I said that.”

“It’s okay. That’s what got us together in the first place. He went for a shower, and I saw them. He’s no worse than my dad. It didn’t freak me out or anything.”

“I don’t think I could do it,” Tiffany mused.

Ruby’s jaw dropped. “I don’t believe you! Just because he’s been burned doesn’t mean he’s any less of a person. You act like you would with any other hot guy.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.” Tiffany scrambled to recover. “Just that… I don’t know. I’m not sure I could handle anything like that without making an idiot of myself or saying the wrong thing. I know he’s a great guy and that you like him.” Tiffany had flushed to a bright shade of red and was staring at her feet. “And you’re right—he’s still hot.”

Ruby realized that she was overreacting, and she got what Tiffany meant. It was hard for people to deal with the awkwardness of large scars or disabilities, stuff like that. She’d done it her whole life, so Drew’s scars didn’t intimidate her, but she’d sometimes been afraid of saying the wrong thing about the events that had caused them. “No. I’m sorry. Of course I understand what you’re saying.”

“Do his scars hurt? Was making out hard because of them?” Tiffany asked, her color back to normal.

“They are sensitive. We had to be careful. I was really worried at first, but it was okay. We managed.” Ruby couldn’t help a tiny smile escaping her lips as she thought about just how well they
managed
.

“So when are you seeing him again?”

“That’s the point. I don’t know.” Ruby groaned. “He wants to keep it a secret.”

“Why?”

Yes, why?
echoed a voice in the back of her head that seemed to be fighting with the side of her that accepted Drew’s reasoning. “Because Blake doesn’t know. Plus I think Drew doesn’t think it would look good to other people.”

“I get the Blake reason, but not that it wouldn’t look good. It’s not like either of you are seeing anyone else. So where’s the harm?” Tiffany frowned and looked puzzled.

Tiffany was preaching to the converted. If only Drew could be as rational as Tiffany, it would make things so much easier. “It’s Drew’s decision, so I’m going along with it,” Ruby responded lamely.

“I guess.” Tiffany nodded. “So when are you telling Blake?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t discussed it. The main thing is that you can’t say anything to Drew to let on that you know. At least not yet. Not until I’ve mentioned to him that I’ve told you.” She wasn’t sure when she’d bite that bullet. Not if how he reacted earlier was an indication of how he’d respond.

“Well, it’s not like I hang out with him, so he won’t hear anything from me. Nor will anyone else,” Tiffany replied.

She hadn’t really had to say that—she was sure that Tiffany wouldn’t throw her under the bus. One reason they’d been best friends for so long was that they always kept each other’s secrets.

“Now, back to the making out.” Tiffany moved even closer to Ruby on the bench so she could give her a nudge. “Marks out of ten for kissing?”

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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