Falling for the Wrong Guy (8 page)

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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Chapter Eleven

R
uby’s stomach dipped when she reached out to pick up her cell from the bedside table and saw Drew’s name on the caller ID, and she had no idea why. Well, she did. Her initial reaction each time he phoned was that he was going to dump her. Not that there was much to dump. Since they’d first got together a couple of weeks ago, they’d only managed to see each other alone three times. Twice they’d met at the park, and the last time they’d gone to a tiny café downtown, where no one they knew went. Although all they’d managed to do was hold hands under the table. It was hardly a knock-you-off-your-feet romance by any stretch of the imagination.

She enjoyed being with him, but always at the back of her mind was the nagging sense that Blake should be told, but every time she had tried to broach the subject with Drew, he totally dismissed it. He always said that everything was good the way it was and they shouldn’t change things. She felt so guilty about deceiving Blake that any conversation they’d had recently was even more strained than usual because of it. She had no idea if Blake noticed any change in her. Being a guy, he probably wouldn’t, but that didn’t make her feel any better.

When Drew had dropped her off at home, they’d managed to make out a little, but nothing like the first time. She was beginning to think that all they would ever have was a few rushed fumbles and kisses. The science project was now over, so she didn’t even have an excuse to talk to him during school hours. It was driving her crazy. She thanked goodness she had Tiffany to talk to about it. Not that Drew had any idea that Tiffany knew about them. She still hadn’t plucked up the courage to bring it up. She guessed, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Just as her voicemail was about to pick up, she answered her phone. “Hey, Drew.”

“Hi. What are you doing?” he asked.


Actually
doing, or
meant
to be doing?” she quipped. She glanced down at the textbook opened on her left and the magazine opened at the horoscopes page on her right.

“Let me guess.” He chuckled. “You’re sitting on your bed reading a magazine, and you’re supposed to be doing your math homework?”

“How the heck did you know that? Have you bugged my room?”

It never failed to amaze her that he knew her so well. Then again, how many years had they known each other? And it wasn’t exactly unheard of for her to be distracted by checking out her stars or by celebrity gossip. Even though she’d happily made the decision to work hard this year, she was finding it more difficult than she’d anticipated. Especially when her thoughts seemed to focus solely on Drew and when she’d be seeing him next.

“Yep. I crept in the other day when the family was out and planted one in your bedside lamp.”

A lump formed in the back of Ruby’s throat. She loved hearing Drew tease her, and she’d never have imagined when they’d first started talking this year that it could ever be so easy between them. She would never tire of it. Ever. “Of course. And you managed to avoid Dad in the process, because you know he never goes out.” Her voice dropped while thinking about her dad and how he’d hidden himself away for so long. It was such a waste of life, and it cut her to the core thinking about how things might have been if he hadn’t been injured or if he’d reacted to it differently.

At least Drew wasn’t like that.

Or is he?

The thought pushed its way into Ruby’s consciousness, and she shuddered. Just because Drew could talk to her about the fire and his injuries didn’t mean that he wasn’t hiding. Keeping their relationship a secret was a form of hiding from people. It might not be exactly like what her father did, but it was hiding nonetheless.

“Okay. You got me there. I took a guess, and knowing you, it wasn’t hard,” he said.

“I’ll have you know that this year I’m working my butt off to get good grades. If you’d have called half an hour ago, then I’d have been concentrating on my homework. I only just stopped to take a short break and


“Ruby, stop. I was only joking. I know you’re working hard. Sorry.”

She rested her hand on her forehead. She was such an idiot. Of course he was joking. She really needed to get her crap together and stop being such a jerk, or he would have good reason to drop her. “Forget it. I’m being silly. Too much algebra totally screws with my sense of reason.” She laughed, and he joined in.

“I called to see if you could get out later?”

Disappointment flooded through her. “I can’t. I promised Mom I’d look after Dad while she goes to the mall for late-night shopping.”

She clenched her fist in frustration and thumped the bed. She just couldn’t catch a break. It was like something was conspiring against her. She didn’t resent looking after her dad. Well, to be honest she did get the occasional niggle, but she soon got over it because she knew how much her mom depended on her.

“Can’t Blake look after him?”

“He could if we knew where to find him. He hasn’t come back yet from school.”

“That’s late,” Drew said.

“He must have gone somewhere. I don’t know where, though. He doesn’t speak to me much these days.” She jumped up from her bed and began pacing the floor, then stopped at the window and stared out. She’d much rather be outside with Drew than stuck in her bedroom pretending to do her homework.

“I’m sorry. It must be hard. I know how close you used to be.”

“Yeah. I try not to think about it. I’m sure it will all get sorted out eventually.” She didn’t really believe the words she’d just said, but she didn’t want to alarm Drew in case it made him feel even guiltier, since he already blamed himself for everything that had gone on with Blake. “Can we go out tomorrow night instead?” she asked, wanting to change the subject.

“Sure. I’ll call you,” he replied.

A knock on her door made Ruby start. “There’s someone here. Gotta go. Bye Drew.” She went over to her door and opened it.

Her mom was standing there. “Are you going out already?” Ruby asked. She had planned on finishing her homework before her mom left, especially now that she’d arranged to go out with Drew tomorrow.

“Not yet. Can I come in?” her mom asked.

Ruby frowned. Her mom was acting weird, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. “Yeah, sure.”

Her mother stepped into the bedroom and closed the door behind her. She had a strange expression on her face. After a few seconds of silence, she locked eyes with Ruby. “Who were you just talking to?”

Ruby swallowed hard. “No one,” she replied and then wanted to kick herself. Why the hell hadn’t she just said Tiffany? It was obvious that her mom had heard her speaking, or she wouldn’t have asked.

“Don’t lie to me. I heard you. Who was it?”

“Tiffany,” Ruby said, her voice about three decibels higher than it normally was. She glanced at the floor, not daring to look at her mother.

“Ruby. Tell me the truth.” Her mom had that way of making Ruby feel guilty without actually saying anything. She never shouted at Ruby or Blake; she didn’t need to because they would always bow under the extraordinary, invisible pressure she somehow managed to exert.

“Drew. It was Drew,” Ruby muttered. She chewed on the inside of her cheek. Drew was not gonna be happy when he found out that she’d told her mom about them. If she told him.

“As in Drew Scott?” her mother asked, arching her right eyebrow like Ruby always did when feeling skeptical or surprised.

“Yes.” Ruby nodded.

“I see.” She perched on the end of Ruby’s bed and leaned forward, resting her arms on her knees. Ruby leaned against the closet door, facing her.

“Why did you ask?”

“I heard you answer your cell.”

Ruby frowned. “But that was ages ago. Were you listening to our conversation the whole time?”

A guilty expression crossed her mom’s face. “I hadn’t intended to. But I heard you say ‘Drew,’ and I only know of one Drew in your life and Blake’s.”

“Mom. How could you? After all you’ve told us about respecting people’s privacy.” Ruby forgot about hiding her conversation with Drew because she was so shocked by her mom checking up on her like that.

“I’m sorry. It was an accident. I’d come upstairs to see if you’d be ready in twenty minutes to be with your dad, and just as I was about to knock on your door, your phone rang. I wanted to check to see if it was Tiffany because if it was, I didn’t think you’d mind me interrupting. Except it wasn’t.”

“And you listened to everything we said.”

Ruby quickly recalled her conversation with Drew to check if there was anything incriminating. She was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be able to convince her mom they were talking about the science project.

“Not really. I couldn’t hear everything.”

But she’d heard enough. Ruby drew in a long breath. “So now you know all about us.” Ruby tried to sound angry, but actually, she felt relieved because it meant she could talk to her mom about it. Especially what to do about Blake and how to break the news to him. Providing her mom understood, of course, and didn’t say she should stop seeing him because of what Blake might think.

“I do. I just don’t understand why.”

Ruby flipped a hand in the air, hoping so much that her mother wouldn’t be angry. “It just sort of happened. I felt sorry for him, coming back to school and being subjected to all the stares and grimaces. You know what that’s like with Dad. And none of his old friends wanted anything to do with him because of Blake.” Not to mention the whole deal with how thoughtless people could be with their offhand comments and perpetual staring.

“You can hardly blame them,” her mom said.

Ruby couldn’t argue with that. As usual, her mother had a knack for seeing things exactly as they were.

“What happened with Reese and Drew was just a one-off,” she said. “Reese was upset because Blake had broken up with her, they had a few beers, and it just led to…you know. No one could feel worse about it than Drew does. He hates himself for what happened.”

“Nothing’s ever clear cut, love.” Her mom got up and walked over to where Ruby stood. She rested her arm around Ruby’s shoulders. “But this is the boy who betrayed your brother. His best friend. You know what that’s done to Blake; you’ve seen it yourself. Blake should be your priority in all this.”

Ruby knew that. Blake was family. Of course they had to think of him. But maybe it didn’t have to be a case of Blake or Drew. Maybe there was some way of being with both of them.

“I know what you’re saying, Mom. I know. But don’t you think Drew has been through enough? His life will never be the same again. He’s always gonna be judged by his appearance. Yes, he hurt Blake. But Blake and Reese were never going to last.” Ruby hated bringing that up and was aware that it didn’t for one moment diminish the awfulness of Reese dying. But it was true, and for some reason, Blake now held Reese up as his one and only true love, which Ruby knew wasn’t the case. Whenever they’d broken up in the past, Reese had been the one to try to patch things up. And Blake had even admitted the last time that he’d only gotten back together with her because he couldn’t stand to see her cry.

“Yes, I know. We’d talked about it often enough. But Blake is my son, and while he’s going through this pain, I have to be there for him.” She frowned.

Ruby understood exactly why her mom was conflicted by all of this. Just like Ruby herself had been. And still was. “I get what you’re saying, Mom. But all I’m saying is that Drew has suffered, and probably more so than Blake. I really like Drew, and I don’t want to stop seeing him.” She slumped in defeat against the closet door. “Not that we see each other much. He wants us to keep our relationship a secret. He doesn’t want Blake to find out.”

Ruby saw from the softening of her mother’s face that she was beginning to understand. “He always was a considerate boy.” Her mom paused for a few seconds. “Why don’t you invite him over tomorrow? He can have some pizza with us. Blake won’t be here. I’d like to see him again.”

Well, that was a surprise. And she had no idea how exactly she would broach the subject with Drew. It certainly wouldn’t be easy. “I don’t know. He might not agree.”

“Well, it’s up to you. Try to persuade him.” Her mom smiled and then walked toward the door.

“Okay. I’ll ask him and see what he says.” To be honest, it didn’t feel right to her. Almost like a betrayal to Blake. Then again, if he didn’t know, it would be okay. If her mom wanted to check out Drew’s motivations first, then she ought to try to get the two of them together.

“Tell him I’ll bake his favorite chocolate cake.” She opened the door and left.

“You don’t have to do that,” Ruby called out just as her mom closed the door, so she didn’t know if she’d heard. If she was going to go to all that trouble, maybe her mother missed having Drew around. Just a little.

Chapter Twelve

A
s Drew pulled into the curb, where Ruby stood waiting for him on the sidewalk, his heartbeat quickened. Every time he caught sight of her it happened, with no let up. It didn’t matter where they were, it still hit him. He couldn’t get used to the depth of his feelings for her, and how he had gone from thinking of her just as his friend’s little sister, to someone he wanted to be with as much as possible.

He knew she didn’t like all the cloak-and-dagger stuff he insisted on, like them having to leave school separately, but he still couldn’t deal with the thought of them being seen together. As deep as his feelings were for her, it didn’t seem right for him to be in a relationship with anyone. Especially not Blake’s sister.

She opened the car door and hopped inside.

“Hey,” he said, leaning across to kiss her. Heaviness formed in the pit of his stomach as she briefly returned his kiss and then pulled back. It wasn’t like her. He knew instantly that something was wrong.

“I’ve got something to tell you and something to ask you.” Ruby bit down on her bottom lip and seemed very uneasy.

He knew it. He could read her like a book. Reasons for her behavior raced through his head, but all he could think of was that she’d finally realized she couldn’t carry on and was giving him an ultimatum. Bring their relationship out in the open or forget it. He had no idea how he would respond. “What?” He forced his voice to sound light and not betray his worry that they would soon be over.

“Don’t answer right away. Well, I need your answer now; just think before you decide, that’s all.”

Drew ran his fingers through his hair, wondering what the hell she wanted him to do. He probably wasn’t making a huge leap by thinking it would be something he wouldn’t be thrilled about. He shook his head in frustration. “I don’t like the sound of this.” He paused a moment. “Come on then, get it over with.”

“Don’t be mad, but my mom knows about us.”

He hadn’t expected that. “What? How?” He really didn’t need this.

Ruby cleared her throat, clearly uncomfortable. “She overheard me talking to you yesterday. Anyway, I told her about us, and she wants you to come back with me for pizza today.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Drew spluttered. He couldn’t believe Ruby had told her mom about them. She could’ve said that they were talking about their project or something. Anything. Just not that they were seeing each other. Because as much as it derailed him, what the hell would it be doing to her mom? What the hell would it do to everyone he’d hurt if they all found out?

“Blake won’t be there. She wants to see you. She cared about you before, you know.”

He scanned Ruby’s face to see if she was being straight with him. He couldn’t for a single moment imagine her mom wanting to see him. It made no sense at all. “Before I ruined her son’s life, you mean.” He leaned forward and rested his head on the steering wheel. The whole conversation was as surreal as it could get.

“No, she doesn’t think that.”

“Of course she does,” he snapped, then immediately regretted it. He sat upright. “Sorry. It’s just… just… I don’t understand why you had to tell her. It doesn’t seem right me going to your place, even if Blake isn’t there.”

“Why? You spent most of your time there before.”

“Exactly. Before.” He didn’t get it. Was Ruby being deliberately obtuse about the whole thing, or did she really think it was a good idea? He’d shared a lot of great times with Blake at his house. Tree climbing. Biking. The first can of beer they’d tasted. It had been like his second home. His sanctuary from the awful life he had with his parents. He’d have given anything to live there all the time. But now… “How can I go to your place after what happened?” He thumped the steering wheel in frustration.

“You have to trust that Mom wants to see you. She’s made your favorite cake.”

“Chocolate?” Everything was getting weirder by the second.

“Isn’t that proof that she really wants you to come back with me?”

He let out a long sigh. It sounded like her mom was being genuine. She’d always baked his favorite cake on special occasions that his own parents overlooked. “I don’t know.” He heard the hesitation in his voice. Much different from his adamant
no
from a few moments ago.

“Come on; it will be fine. And if you find it too hard, we don’t have to stay. Deal?” Ruby held out her hand for him to shake, anticipation evident on her face.

He couldn’t resist the sparkle in her eyes. “Okay. But not for long.”

He wondered what the hell he’d gotten himself into. It seemed so wrong. And Blake might be out, but what would happen if he came back home and found Drew there? It would be a nightmare for everyone.

“It will be fine. Trust me,” Ruby said, taking one of his hands in hers and gently stroking it.

“Yeah. Trust you. Like the time when we…”

“I know what you’re going to say,” she interrupted. “About the time I almost got us arrested for fare evasion on the subway. But this is totally different.” She grinned at him.

Drew’s muscles relaxed a little. He wasn’t happy about going to Ruby’s house, but he’d do it. For her.

He started the engine and drove in the direction of her house. Ruby talked non-stop about nothing in particular, and it suited him because it gave him the chance to brace himself for what he knew was going to be a very strange and difficult time.

In what seemed like only seconds, he pulled up outside Ruby’s little white row house. It struck him how different their lives were. Not just because of his parents drinking, but the whole way they lived. He couldn’t care less about living in such a huge place. About the fact that you could practically fit Ruby’s entire house in the square footage of his kitchen. Even with the problems with her dad, Ruby’s home had laughter and warmth that no amount of money could buy. He’d trade his house in a heartbeat to live like she did.

“Let’s get this over with,” he said as he opened his door.

He leaned against the back of his car and tried to relax his super-tense muscles. The temperature had dropped, and there was a distinct chill in the air, which caused him to shiver. At least he told himself that the weather had caused this reaction in him, and it was nothing to do with the situation.

“Come on,” Ruby said, taking hold of his hand and tugging him toward the footpath leading to their front door.

Before they’d even made it to the door, it opened, and Ruby’s mom stood there with a welcoming smile on her lips. Although it didn’t quite make her eyes; the expression in them was hesitant.

Drew’s feet seemed to be stuck to the ground, and fleetingly, he debated turning and running in the opposite direction. Ruby squeezed his hand, pulling him forward the extra few yards.

“Hello, Drew,” Mrs. Davis said. As he got close up, he could see her staring at his neck and then tears formed in her eyes, which she blinked away.

His breath hitched in the back of his throat. He couldn’t believe that she’d felt moved to tears by seeing what had happened to him. No one had done that before. Apart from his mom in one of her drunken moments when it first happened, and he didn’t count that because he wasn’t 100 percent convinced the tears were for him anyway.

“Hi, Mrs. Davis.” His voice sounded forced and awkward, but he didn’t know how to change it.

In the past, she’d always given him a hug. He didn’t expect that now, and that suited him fine. He didn’t do hugs now, apart from Ruby, who knew how to give them without causing him too much pain.

“Come in.”

They followed Ruby’s mom through to the lounge, and Drew sat on the dark wooden upright chair in the corner. Ruby and her mom sat on the brown leather couch. He glanced around the room. On nearly every surface there were photos of Blake. Blake playing football. Blake receiving a medal. Blake in the school play. It seemed like Blake overload, and it took Drew all his strength to not jam his hands over his eyes before his head exploded.

“Drew?” Ruby’s voice distracted him from his thoughts.

“Yes?” Ruby and her mom both stared at him with similar expectant expressions on their faces. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t noticed before how alike the two of them were.

“Mom asked you about being in hospital.”

“Sorry, I was miles away. I don’t want to talk about being in hospital.” He waved his hand dismissively.

All he remembered about his time in hospital was going between losing all sense of what was happening when they administered his morphine, to the excruciating pain as the drug gradually wore off. He’d been more lucid in those latter moments, and it was then that he remembered what he’d done to Reese. At those times he begged the nurses to let him suffer because he deserved it. Of course, they didn’t listen to him. And so the cycle went for many days. He couldn’t remember how many.

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and stared at the carpet, in particular on a dark stain that looked like ink.

“That’s okay,” Ruby’s mom said. “How about I get some cake and a drink? Homemade lemonade?”

“That’s great,” Ruby said.

“Yes, thanks,” Drew said. Mrs. Davis stood up and headed out of the lounge.

After a few moments of silence, Ruby jumped up from the couch and stood in front of him with her hands placed on her hips. “I know it’s hard, but there’s no need to be rude.”

He sensed her attempting to remain calm, even though he could see by the way her eyes flashed that she was really mad at him.

“What do you mean?” he replied, feigning ignorance. He didn’t know why he pretended because his actions spoke for themselves.

“You are making it very hard for Mom. It’s not easy for her either, you know. She’s making a huge effort, and all you are doing is throwing it back in her face.”

Yes, he knew that. He knew he was acting like a child, but at that precise moment, he was unable to do anything about it. “So why did she invite me? I knew it was a stupid idea agreeing to come here. It’s served no purpose at all other than winding all of us up. I’m sorry, Ruby. I know you wanted us all to be back to how we were, but that’s a ridiculous wish. It’s never gonna happen. Say good-bye to your mom for me. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Without waiting for a response from Ruby, Drew left the house without a backward glance.

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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