Her step-father’s condo has three bedrooms and a killer view of the ocean. ”
Six months later. . .
I’d known better than to come here but I couldn’t keep avoiding the field parties. It was time I started acting as if Beau and Ash being together didn’t bother me.
“Here, man,” Ethan shoved a red plastic cup full of beer into my hand. Frowning, I started to hand it back to him. “Drink it. You need it. Hell, I need it just watching the three of you. ”
I was thankful he’d spoken low enough that no one else could hear him. I could feel everyone sneaking glances at me. They were all waiting to see how I would react. It’d been six months since I’d lost Ash to my brother. It was easier to see them together now but, normally, I kept my distance. This was the first time I’d had to witness Ashton snuggled up between Beau’s legs while my horny ass brother kissed her neck, hand, head and anything else he could get near his lips while he carried on a conversation with everyone else.
Ethan was right; I needed a drink. Touching the cup to my lips, I tilted my head back and took a very long gulp. Anything to distract me from the make-out session in front of me would be nice.
“I still can’t believe you two aren’t going to the same college. I always expected y’all to get signed on as a package deal. ” Toby Horn almost sounded let down that I’d chosen to sign with the University of Florida instead of Alabama, like everyone expected me to. Beau and I had been planning to play for the Crimson Tide since we were five years old. But when Florida had offered me a full ride, I’d taken it. I needed the distance. Ashton was headed to Alabama with Beau and I just couldn’t do it.
“Florida offered him a sweet deal. Can’t blame him for taking it,” Beau explained. He got it. He never mentioned it but he knew why I’d gone with Florida. Beau had been careful for a long time not to shove my face in his relationship with Ashton but since graduation he’d put that behind him. Every time I saw them lately she was wrapped up in his arms and he was staring at her with that ridiculous worshipful expression he’d always reserved just for her.
“Alabama can’t handle two Vincent boys. I needed to share the love,” I replied, focusing my gaze on Toby before taking another swig of my beer.
“It’s going to be weird not having you around though. ” Damn. Why’d she have to say anything? Couldn’t she sit over there quietly and let Beau paw all over her? Hearing Ashton’s voice made it impossible not to lift my eyes to meet her gaze.
The sad tilt to her full lips made that old familiar ache start up in my chest. Only Ashton could get to me this way. “You’ll survive. Besides, you two hardly come up for air to notice much of anything else. ” I’d just sounded like an ass. Ashton’s flinch from my snide comment was just another strike against me.
“Careful, Sawyer. ” The threat in Beau’s voice was unmistakable. Silence fell over the group. Everyone’s focus was on the two of us. The anger flashing in Beau’s glare just pissed me off. What did he have to be angry about? He had the girl.
“Why don’t you calm down? I was responding to her comment. Am I not allowed to speak to her now?”
Beau gripped Ashton’s waist and moved her away from him as he stood up. “You got a problem, Sawyer?”
Ashton scrambled to her feet, threw her arms around Beau’s neck and began begging him to ignore me. Telling him I didn’t mean anything by it, which we both knew I had. Beau’s eyes never left mine as he reached behind his neck to unlatch Ashton’s hold on him.
Setting my cup down on the bed of my truck, I took a step toward him. This was a fight I needed. Holding my aggression in was so damn hard at times. Ashton, however, wasn’t having it. She grabbed Beau’s shoulders and jumped up, wrapping her legs firmly around his waist. If seeing her wrapped around him didn’t piss me off so bad, I’d laugh at her determination to keep us from fighting. She’d been dealing with us since we were kids and she knew exactly how to keep us from coming to blows. Throwing herself in the line-of-fire was the only way.
Amusement lit Beau’s eyes as his angry snarl turned into a pleased grin and his eyes shifted from me to Ashton. “What ya doin’ baby?” he asked in a slow drawl I hated. He’d been using it on girls since we hit puberty.
“That’s the way to distract him, Ash,” Kayla Jenkins hooted from Toby’s lap.
More catcalls and whistles started. Beau was smiling at her now like she was the most fascinating person in the world. That was it for me. I had to get out of here.
“Let’s go get something to eat, I’m starved,” Ethan suggested and Jake North agreed.
“You drive,” Ethan called out and climbed into the passenger seat of my truck. Without looking back at Ash and Beau, I walked around my truck and climbed in. If he hauled her off to his truck, I’d lose it. Leaving was the best idea.
Jewel flirted outrageously with the bartender. I knew her game and was willing to bet he did too. The brilliant scheme to flash cleavage and bat eyelashes while giggling wasn’t the most original idea ever concocted. Why she couldn’t just be happy with her soda while we waited on a table was beyond me. The ten-hour road trip I’d been on with her from Alpharetta, Georgia to south Alabama was my quota on quality time spent with my childhood friend and next-door neighbor. Jewel and I had grown up and become two completely different people but that bond from our childhood had somehow kept us from growing apart. However, Jewel could only be endured in small doses.
“Come on Lana, flash him a view of those fabulous boobs you’ve finally decided to share with the world,” Jewel whispered as her gaze stayed on the young guy fixing drinks for another customer. Shaking my head at her ridiculous request, I picked up my soda and took a sip. I was happy with my soda. If she wanted to make a fool out of herself in hopes of getting a mixed drink, then fine, but I wasn’t about to join in. The last thing I needed was to get caught with an alcoholic drink only thirty minutes away from my aunt and uncle’s house. My uncle was a Baptist preacher and if he found out I’d been drinking alcohol, there was no way he’d let me stay with him and his family for the summer.
“You’re such a party pooper, Lana,” Jewel whined and glared at my drink like it was offensive.
I didn’t really care if she was upset at this point. I just wanted to get some dinner and then get to my aunt and uncle’s. The sight of Jewel’s taillights driving away was going to be a welcome event.
“I don’t get you, Lana. You go and get all gorgeous and finally decide to flaunt what your Momma. . . Okay maybe not your Momma because God knows she ain’t real attractive. . . How about flaunt what luck must have given you and for what? Nothing! That’s what! You buy yourself a new, sexy, cute wardrobe and finally get a hairstyle to show off that head of hair of yours but you never flirt. It’s as if you did this for yourself and that’s just dumb. Guys notice you now Lana. They turn their heads but you just ignore them. ”
This was a familiar tirade of hers. It drove her nuts that I didn’t throw myself at any boy that looked my way. I wasn’t about to tell her the reason why. That kind of information would make Jewel dangerous. She’d find a way to ruin everything. She wouldn’t mean to, of course, but she would. Her loud mouth always seemed to bring a world of trouble with it.
“I’ve told you that I’m just not interested in dating right now. We just graduated. I want a summer to prepare for college in the fall, enjoy being away from my insane mother and just—relax. ”
Jewel sighed and bent her head down to nibble on her straw while her eyes zeroed in on the poor bartender who had to be ready for us to be seated at a table.
“You can still come with me, you know. Skip this living with the preacher stuff and come party all summer at the beach. Corey would love you to join us.
A summer hanging out with drunk Jewel and friends was not appealing, at all. I had my plans and so far everything I’d put into motion was running smoothly. However, I couldn’t help but be nervous about the next step. It was the most crucial.
Having my naturally red hair darkened to a deep copper and styled attractively instead of pulled back in a braid or ponytail had been step-one. The darker red color had made my pale skin seem almost delicate. Then the cleaning out of my closet had been the next move. I’d bagged up every single piece of clothing I owned and dropped them off at the local Goodwill. My mother had been horrified but after she’d seen the clothing style I intended to replace it with, she’d been very supportive. Unlike most mothers, my mother wanted to see me in shorts that showed off almost all of my legs and tight tops that emphasized my C cup boobs.
Jewel had wanted to teach me how to apply makeup but I’d kindly refused and went to the Clinique counter at Macy’s and had them teach me, and then I’d bought everything they’d used. Although I’d never been one for makeup I had to agree that it did startling things to my eyes. I’d closed my bedroom door and stared at myself in fascination for hours after they’d put makeup on me.
Convincing my mother to let me stay the summer with my aunt and uncle had been a little more difficult. My cousin, Ashton, had helped tremendously with this part. She’d talked to her mother who in return talked to mine. Our mothers are sisters and once my aunt convinced my mother that Ashton truly wanted me to come spend our last summer before college together, I’d been so excited I’d momentarily forgotten about the last step in the plan. The reason why I’d made myself moderately attractive and begged to come stay the summer with my cousin. The goal sounded so simple but when I allowed myself to dwell on it then it became so incredibly complicated. Getting a boy to fall head-over-heels in love with you isn’t easy. Especially when he’s been in love with your cousin for as long as you can remember.