This restaurant was such a bad idea. The dark, intimate atmosphere is so not what I need with my friend right now. That’s what he is – he confirmed it for me last night. I had to ask if he would still be part of my act tonight. Part of me really hoped he’d say no and make up some excuse. It’s hard to see him and not want more from him. Part of me was really glad when he said yes because it’s hard to not see him at all. I’m so screwed.
Our damn waitress isn’t making things easier for me, either. She can’t take her eyes off him and I swear she’s trying to slip him her number every time she walks by our table. Her last attempt, during our salad and while refilling our drinks, really pushed me over the edge. Besides just being damn brazen, it’s rude. I’m sitting right here beside him at a restaurant that is not meant for friends or siblings. I mean seriously, she knows we’re here together. Even if we’re not together.
On her last attempt, I snatch the note from her hand and thank her sweetly before saying, “How sweet. Bless your heart.” Which, in this case, is Southern speak for you are a complete dumbass. She got the hint and quickly left our table. I scowl after her and crinkle the note in my fist before I realize what I’m doing. I want to hold her stupid little note over the lit candle that’s sitting in the middle of our table and watch it burn to ashes.
Luke is not even trying to hide his smile at my blatant act of jealousy. “Something wrong, Andi?” His cavalier attitude makes me want to tear into him but I know I must refrain from fits of jealousy, rage and insanity in public.
“Sorry about that. That was just rude of her to keep doing that in front of me. Here you go,” and I hand him the little slip of paper that has her name and number on it, along with a crookedly drawn heart. How ridiculous. He looks at the note in my hand then back to my eyes, obviously confused at my actions.
Luke quizzes me, “Why would you want me to have her number?”
It seems I’ve unintentionally showed my hand. I’m not good with these damn games and I really just want to be honest with him. I take a shaky breath and look down at the white linen tablecloth, apparently longer than I realized because his warm hand covers my hand, the hand that still holds the waitress’s phone number. I look up and see concern in his eyes and remind myself it’s only friendly concern.
“Because you told Brandon we would never be more than friends. So if you’re interested in her, I won’t stand in your way.” I can’t even begin to describe how much that hurt to say it out loud to him. But I’d rather get it all out now and get it over with than go another day like the last twenty-four hours have been.
“Let me guess. Brandon called and asked you out so you’re ready to kick me to the curb, right? Fine. That’s just fucking fine.” Luke is really pissed now and I have no idea what he’s even talking about.
I reply just as forcefully, “What the hell are you talking about? Brandon didn’t call me and I wouldn’t go out with him even if he did ask me.”
This gets his attention and adds to his confusion, “You wouldn’t go out with him?”
Now I’m confused. “No, I wouldn’t. No offense to him - he’s a great guy and all….,” but that would just be too weird since I’ve fallen for his brother.
He’s still unsure as he asks, “Then why did you say that?”
“Because I heard you say those very words to Brandon last night. Outside, at your parents’ house. I was cleaning up and I heard you when I came around the side of the house. You were pretty loud, so I know I didn’t misunderstand you.”
I had no intentions of blurting this out to him – ever. I’m really at my wits end with trying to decipher his male code to find out if he wants more from me than friends or not. For most of the night, I really thought he was ready to take a chance. But I felt like a complete fool when I heard what he said to Brandon. If he only wants to be friends, I will be friends with him, but I can’t keep up this kind of relationship with him any longer.
And handing him that damn waitress’s number? That just plain hurt. So I know without a doubt that I couldn’t stand hearing about his dates like I do with Shane. Shane and I talk openly about his dates and there’s not one bit of jealousy or hurt feelings. I laugh at Shane’s exploits – he always has an interesting story to tell about his latest conquest. Knowing that Luke would want that with someone else, but not with me, would be unbearable.
So, I’m sitting here uncomfortably waiting for Luke’s response. He has to know he can’t deny saying it – I recited his words back to him basically verbatim. I really fell for him too fast, so I can’t blame him for not feeling the same way about me. I can’t be mad – I have no right to be, I know that. I just don’t feel that.
When he doesn’t respond for what feels like an eternity, I feel the need to fill in the uncomfortable silence.
“Look, we can be just friends. You told me you’re not a relationship kind of guy and that hasn’t changed. It’s ok. After tonight’s performance is over, we won’t have to spend so much time together.”
The more I talk, the more it hurts, but someone has to say something. All this time together hasn’t changed his mind and I refuse to be his friend with benefits. Not judging anyone else – that’s just not for me. I obviously get too attached, too easily, and too fast. Otherwise, I could have wild monkey sex every night. This is my curse, though.
Well, fuck me.
First, she ignores my texts from last night. Then she goes all day without calling, texting or coming to the gym. I’ve been worried about her all day and couldn’t wait to see her. I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night for thinking about her and how she acted when she got out of my truck. Then after I sent her all those texts last night and she didn’t respond when I told her I wanted her, I was sure I had crossed the line and she didn’t want me after all.
Then I find her at the club, dressed to the damn nines and looking sexy as hell. She didn’t even hear me come in but if she’d been meeting some other guy I was damn sure going to put a stop to it. The past few weeks of hanging out with her have been great and I wasn’t about to let some other fucker step in and mess up my good thing.
But when she tried to give me the waitress’s note just now, my first thought was she was trying to get rid of me. Everything added up to that until she repeated the words I said to Brandon. My blood was fucking boiling, thinking my brother had called her or made a move on her. I would beat his fucking ass and I wouldn’t care what my family thought about it.
Then she said she heard me say it, and right now I’m sure being sucker-punched in the gut couldn’t hurt worse than this feeling. I can’t even blame Brandon for this – this is all my fault. All my doing, because I wouldn’t be a man and say what I really wanted.
How do I come out of this without looking like a weak-ass punk? I sigh heavily and think to myself, “You don’t. You deserve what you get.”
I take her hands in mine and look deeply into her eyes, keeping my gaze glued to hers to hopefully show my sincerity. I’m eternally grateful for how this restaurant is designed. Rather than having the table separate us, the seats are designed for couples to sit intimately beside each other, sharing food and spending quality time together. She’s so close, the sweet scent of her perfume invades my senses every time she moves.
“Andi, first of all, I’m sorry I ever said that to Brandon. It’s not how I really feel at all. Brandon and I have a difficult…..history….and, I didn’t want to say anything to him before I’d even talked to you about it. I really hate that you heard that.”
She looks at me with blatant skepticism and I don’t blame her. I’ve given her so many mixed signals and if I’m completely honest, I don’t even know that I can do this. But what I do know is I don’t want to go another day like today - without seeing her, hearing from her and thinking I’d lost her. My concentration wasn’t for shit today and if it hadn’t been for Shane, I probably would’ve left the gym to go find her.
I stroke my knuckles across her cheek and feel a twinge of electricity move through me. I open my hand and place my palm on her cheek then push my fingers into her hair while my thumb lightly strokes along her neck. She closes her eyes for a moment and leans into my touch and I’m captured again by how beautiful she is.
“You’re so beautiful, Andi. You literally take my breath away when I look at you,” I whisper to her. “Please just….forget I said that to Brandon. He was trying to rile me up and I just wanted to block him.”
I watched as she swallowed hard but her eyes were still averted from mine. She nodded and turned away from me. She reached for her glass and I noticed the trembling in her hand.
“Talk to me, Andi.”
She took a minute but she finally answered. “I’ve never been one to hold in my feelings, Luke. I’ve always believed it was best to just put them out there…..to be up front so there’s no confusion. But I’ve went completely against that with you because I….well, I wanted you to come to your decision on your own. Without any pressure from me. But I can’t do this anymore.”
My heart just stopped beating. I’m sure I’ll keel over in the floor any second now. When she finally looks at me, the pain in her eyes is so evident, I almost wish I would just fall over.
“I can’t pretend that I only want you as a friend. I meant when I said I don’t do one night stands or friends with benefits though. If you think you want anything more than friends with me, you have to be sure because I can’t do this back and forth anymore. Decide what you really want, Luke, and do it soon….or I’ll make the decision for you and it’ll be final.”
Well, shit. Did she just really give me an ultimatum?
“If you only want a friend, that’s fine. I will be friends with you but nothing else. No flirting. No touching. No more mixed messages. Just friends. And I’ll move on. Just….decide.”
I nodded and before I could say anything, the flirty waitress returned, much more subdued this time since Andi embarrassed her, and placed our dinners in front of us. We somehow made it through the meal with idle conversation and went back to the club together. Several of our friends were already there and we made our way through the crowd to join them at our usual table. Just as we sat down, I looked up and saw Brandon moving through the crowd towards us.
Isn’t this night just getting better and better? Yeah, because he wasn’t even looking at me. He was making a beeline for Andi. Ah, hell no! Andi saw him and stood to hug him and I couldn’t withhold my sarcasm.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in.”
Andi, sweet as ever, kept her eyes on Brandon and said, “Have a seat!” So, of course, the bastard sat in the empty chair beside Andi, forcing me to lean up and look around her to see him.
“What are you doing here, Brandon?” I demanded rudely.
“Alicia mentioned Andi was singing tonight and we wanted to hear her,” Brandon answered coolly, not even bothering to take his eyes off Andi while he answered me.
“We? Who is we?” I asked sardonically before I saw Alicia and her husband, Greg, making their way to our table. Shane and Will grabbed a couple of chairs for them and I made introductions all around the table.
I made the stupid mistake of removing my hand from the back of Andi’s chair and Brandon’s arm quickly took up the empty space. I took Andi’s hand in mine and asked, “Dance with me?” She nodded and I shot Brandon a warning look as I stood up.
A slow song came on when we got to the dance floor and I pulled her in tight against me, brushing a kiss on her cheek. I felt a small shudder run through her as her body molded into mine. We started moving with music and I tightened my arms around her just a little more.
“Andi,” I murmured in her ear then pulled back so she would look me in the eye. She looked up at me from under her long lashes, with a hint of shyness about her that sent a sudden protective impulse through me.
Before I could say anything else, someone came up and tapped Andi on the shoulder, “You’re up in ten minutes.”
Andi nodded at the rude moment-stealer and looked back at me. “You ready for this?”
I nodded at her and looked around the club as she took my hand to lead me backstage. Holy hell – there’s a lot of people here tonight!
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