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“I’m really not that savvy. I just like numbers, especially even ones. And come on, I’m thirty-six and this is turning out to be an amazing year.”
I raise an eyebrow, questioning what that means.
“Thirty-six is divisible by twelve.” She beams at me.
That sounds like something S’belle would say, and the thought makes me laugh. “Like I said, you’re the biggest geek on the planet.”
“Gotta run,” she says, kissing my cheek and avoiding my umpteenth request for her join me at Plan B.
I shove my hands in my pockets and shake my head, watching her take off down the wooden steps. “Tell Trent to call me,” I yell after her.
“I will,” she calls back.
I rush to the railing. “And, Serena . . .”
She stops in the sand and raises her hand over her forehead to shield herself from the sun’s glare.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
My sister and I have always been close. I know why she loves the number twelve. It’s not because it’s an even number or because she loves how divisible it is—it’s because that’s how old she was when our father was killed. I was only five and my memories of him aren’t really that clear, but my sister’s are. She always told me stories about how much fun we had together, and I think a small part of her will remain twelve so that her memories stay alive. Every day that passes I see how very much like our mother she is and I hope that I’m just a little like my father.
With the sun directly overhead, I realize it’s past noon and I should figure out where I want to take S’belle on our date tonight. I snatch my phone and pace the planks of the deck. Fancy restaurant might be too stuffy. Casual might look as though I’m cheap. Bringing her here will definitely look as if I just want to get in her pants. But she did say sex only. Having no f**king idea where to take her, I decide I’m done waiting for her to call. It’s not as though she can’t take a call in front of her family.
I squint at the screen and press her name. When she answers on the first ring, I know I made the right choice.
“Red, it’s me.”
“Me who?” But she asks in a way that I know she knows it’s me.
“Ben . . . Ben Covington,” I say to humor her.
There’s silence for a few moments. “Oh, hey, Ben.” She tries for casual, but there’s something more than casualness in her tone.
“I haven’t heard back from you.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
Is she blowing me off? Well, she’ll have to do it to my face. “I want to take you out to dinner.”
“Tonight.” I think I already mentioned that in my earlier text.
“I’m not sure. I have a lot to do.”
“I thought we could talk about this thing we have going on.”
“Oh, um . . . ,” she stutters, clearly not expecting my comment.
“I was thinking Pebbles,” I add. Where the hell did that come from? It’s the perfect spot.
She’s quiet for the longest time, but I don’t break the silence. I can play along a little too.
“Sure, I can probably make it. What time?”
Now I know I hear excitement in her voice. “Seven. I’ll pick you up.”
“Seven thirty and I’ll meet you there.”
“Okay, but I want you to know, I like to pick a girl up when I take her out.”
“We’re meeting for dinner. You said you wanted to talk. This isn’t a date.”
“Call it whatever you want.”
She’s silent but still there.
“And, Red, I’m looking forward to it.”
All she says is “bye” before she hangs up.
I’m not at all surprised she said yes. I know she wants to see me too. If she’s scared about going out with me, I’m confident I can prove I’m worthy. As soon I suggested we go to what she had already told me is one of her favorite places, I swear she purred at the mention. I’ve got this.
Run Run Run
The mental anguish and sleepless nights have left me exhausted. So I decide on a quick nap after brunch to try to rid my mind of the thoughts I know I shouldn’t be thinking, the idea of the two of us as a couple. However, my nap turns into an all-day siesta full of dreams of him. As I bury my head into my pillow, the sound of his voice keeps ringing over and over in my head. Red, it’s me. Ben Covington. His voice through the line melted any resistance I was feeling toward the idea of seeing him for another date.
I still remember the first time the same thing happened in college. It was our first official conversation. And it was the first time he had strung those two perfect words together, his name, in a way that reverberated through the library and slid into my soul—forever.
• • •
The library was filled with people. Hushed voices echoed through the huge space. The enormous arched windows in the back gave the vast space a feel of magnificence while also allowing a powerful amount of light to shine in. Rectangular wooden tables and artificial trees were scattered around, giving the place a more homelike feel. I spent a lot of time there and appreciated those touches. I was premed and biology was kicking my ass. So I often sought refuge in the library to study and help drill everything I needed to know into my brain. Deep within one of the stacks of books, I spotted him. He stood in one of the aisles, lost in his novel. He was the same guy who had captured my attention one night at a party, but who didn’t even know I existed.