The Hook Up
Page 29

 Kristen Callihan

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Her expression eases into something soft. “I like you just the way you are, Drew Baylor.”
Poleaxed. Again. My throat closes too tight to find my voice. I swallow convulsively.
“I like you just the way you are too, Anna Jones.” I’m crazy for you. I f**king adore you. “Go put your damn hair up,” I tell her instead. “And we’ll get you some coffee.”
Chapter 21
SLINKING INTO MY apartment in the middle of the morning, I feel like an intruder. I don’t want to be here. I want Drew. Disconcerting, as I’m more needy than I’ve ever been in my life. About anything. Though I’m pretty sure Drew is just as needy. It took twenty minutes of making out in his car before he let me go with a sigh and a promise to meet me after practice.
Practice and team meetings are not a choice but an obligation. I honestly don’t know how Drew will manage, seeing as he barely slept. But his body is a machine—a gorgeous, perfect machine—and he knows how to operate it.
Despite his protests to wait for him at his house, which were varied and persuasive, I came home. It would be too strange waiting around in his house alone. Too much of an opportunity to think. And Lord knows I’m an expert at overthinking things.
So here I am, lips swollen, hair wild, holding tight to my keys to keep them from jangling, and tiptoeing past the living room on the way to my room. When the couch squeaks and a dark shape lifts from it, I do the sensible thing and shriek like a poked banshee.
The keys fly across the room, and Iris barely ducks in time to avoid them hitting her head.
“What the f**k, Anna?”
“Sorry.” I sag against the living room wall. “You scared the ever-loving shit out of me.”
“Must have been preoccupied, what with doing the walk of shame,” Iris grumps before bursting into tears.
“'Ris!” I drop my bag and hurry to the couch. Only then do I realize she’s a mess, her makeup smeared, her hair standing up on one end. Her clothes are rumpled and creased as if she slept in them. And judging by the dents in the couch cushions, she probably has. “What’s going on?”
“Henry,” she wails as I sit next to her. “He f**king… fucking…”
“What?” I grab her arm. If he hurt her…
“Cheated,” she gets out.
Expecting the worst, this actually fills me with relief, but my heart aches for Iris. I’m not the touchy-feely type, but Iris is. So I pull her into my arms, and she leans heavily against me.
“Oh, God, Anna, it was so embarrassing.” She sniffles and reaches for the half-empty box of tissues by her feet. There’s a snowstorm’s worth of used ones littering the floor. “I went over there to surprise him, you know?” Her dark, wet eyes blink up at me and all I can do is nod, not liking where this is going.
“His roommate lets me in, and I… and I…” She shudders. “I was wearing this slinky teddy…”
“And waiting on his bed, when he…he… He f**king bursts into the room with his tongue down some slut’s throat!”
A keening noise pierces the air as she leans forward, pressing her hands against her face. “They didn’t even notice me until they were right on top of me!”
“Oh, ‘Rissy.” I stroke her hair. “I’m so sorry.”
She rears up, her palms hitting her thighs with a slap. A wild anger lights her eyes. “And that piece of shit, puta madre, f**khead had the nerve to shout at me.” She stabs a thumb to her chest. “Because I came over without asking.” Her laugh is manic. “He was all, ‘Shit, Iris? What’d you expect? We aren’t married or anything.’”
She breaks into a rapid-fire string of Spanglish cursing that I appreciate if only for its inventiveness.
“I cannot believe he didn’t even try to apologize!” I say when she calms enough to get a word in.
Iris whips around to face me. “Well, why should he? When Henry is never wrong.” Her fists tighten on her thighs, and then she’s crying again.
I can’t do anything more than rub her back. “Do you want me to call George—”
“No!” She looks horrified. “He’ll just make it worse by going over there and kicking Henry’s ass.”
And George would do a good job of it too. While he might be happy-go-lucky and obsessed with finance, George likes to keep in shape by practicing mixed martial arts.
“This is a problem, why?”
Iris scowls. “I don’t want Henry thinking he’s worth it.” She scrunches down in her seat and scowls. “Besides, George will be all, ‘I told you so, 'Ris.’ Which I do not want to hear.”
Mental note: bite back any and all urges to say ‘I told you so.’
“He’ll find out sooner or later.” I hold up a hand when she looks ready to tear my head off. “But I’ll keep quiet for now. Why don’t you go take a shower, and I’ll get us hooked up with some truly terrible and truly good munchies, and we’ll have some quality veg time on the couch.”
Iris smiles and leans in for a quick kiss on my cheek. “Thanks, Banana. That sounds good.”
It takes me no time to run down to the corner store and fill my bags with goodies. I’m just getting back into the apartment when my phone dings.
Baylor: Hey, beautiful. Had a quick break between drills. What are you up to?
I smile wide. Shit. I am so gone on him. I want to dance in place. I want to run and hide. I settle for answering him back.
Me: My armpits in drama. Iris discovered Henry with another girl last night. It’s bad over here.
Baylor: Damn. Sorry for Iris, but that guy is a POS
Me: The biggest. Iris was with Henry for two years. She’s a wreck.
Baylor: So I’m guessing you’ll have your hands full?
Disappointment tugs with both hands on my breastbone.
Me: Epic girl time is imminent. Movies ordered. Junk food acquired. Dart board w/Henry’s pic attached is being hung at this moment.
Baylor: Lol. I guess I’ll be seeing you in class then.
Me: That’s probably a good guess. :( Sorry.
Baylor: I’ll console myself by hugging the pillow you slept on. Maybe the guys will come over & watch Snakes on a Plane with me. Sigh…
Me: Funny. :P
Baylor: ;) I’d call you at some point but I want to live.
Me: I knew you were smarter than you look.
Baylor: See you, Jones.
Me: Later, Baylor.
Damn, I already miss him. This can’t be good. An age-old panic tries to claw its way up my chest. Exposure. I feel it rip through my skin, and I rub the backs of my arms to prevent it from spreading further.
Iris shuffles back into the living room, her damp hair spreading wet spots on her Bieber shirt. His goofy, clean-teen smile mocks me. But Iris seems diminished, her shoulders curling in on themselves. I shove my phone into my purse and meet Iris on the couch to give her a big hug.
“I’m sorry, 'Ris.” I kiss the top her head.
“Yeah, me too.”
One tray of brownies and five Kahlúa and vodkas later, Iris and I have watched The Hangover (1,2, and 3), Bridesmaids, and Wedding Crashers. When we realized the unfortunate wedding based theme running through our DVD selections, we moved on to a TV rerun of Die Hard. Not that it helped.
When Bruce kisses his wife at the end of the movie, Iris throws a chip at the TV.
“God,” snarls Iris from her sprawl on the couch, “is there any movie that does not have a romantic element in it?” She flops a pillow over her head and groans.
I’m not feeling much better, having consumed my weight in sugar. I ease to a sitting position, the room spinning slightly. “’Fraid not, butter bean.”
She lifts the corner of her pillow and her dark eyes narrows. “Butter bean?”
We stare at each other for a moment before bursting out laughing.
“He wasn’t even that great in bed,” Iris says between snorts.
I don’t want to know. But Iris is in a sharing mood. “Had like one mode. Fast, jerky, and oblivious. I swear to God, there were times my teeth would rattle.”
She glances at me with an evil grin. “It’s true! He was like a wind up f**k toy, you know? All...” Sticking her lip under her teeth, she bobbles her head as she thrusts her h*ps in rapid fashion.
We both laugh then, giddy giggles that are designed to drive out Iris’s pain. But it only makes the room spin faster. Our laughter dies down on a gurgle, Iris’s or mine, I can’t tell.
“You know what the worst thing is?” Iris says to the ceiling. Her voice is suddenly somber, strained.
“I knew he was cheating. I swear, I knew.” Her nose reddens. “I just turned a blind eye to it all. Shit, I am such an idiot.”
I turn to my side to fully face her. “You just wanted it to be okay. And he’s the idiot, not you.”
Her attention remains on the ceiling as she expels a long sigh. “I can’t blame him entirely.”
“What the hell do you mean by that?” I lurch up. Not a good idea.
She glances at me, her dark eyes glistening. “Just that he isn’t exactly in an easy position.”
“I’m not getting you, 'Ris.”
Iris shrugs, then hugs the throw pillow to her chest. “He’s hot. He’s the captain of the lacrosse team. A lot of girls throw themselves at him. And I don’t know…” Another shrug. “How would I react to the same temptation?”
My mouth opens and closes as I try to speak. Is she serious? “Iris, unless they’re na**d and landing on his dick when they throw themselves at him, Henry has no excuse screwing them when he’s supposed to be committed to you.”
The couch creaks as she turns to look at me. Her mouth is a flat line of protest. “Are you saying that if you constantly had guys hitting on you, you’d ignore them for Drew?”
Again, is she serious? Has she seen Drew? Nothing compares.
“Yeah, I’d ignore them.”
Dark eyes bore into me. “And you think he’d do the same? That he isn’t tempted on a constant basis?”
An afternoon’s worth of junk food threatens to rise up my throat. I want to say that Drew would never do that. My whole soul cries it. But my jaw seems to have locked.
Iris’s voice is low yet clear. “I mean, he’s a star, way more than Henry ever could be. He’s got his own Wiki page. Tumblers devoted to him, for crying out loud. He’s met the freaking President. Of the United States. Did you know that?”
Dully, I shake my head.
“His last girlfriend was like a beauty queen.”
Seriously? Now she’s just being cruel. Does she think I want to know that Drew had a girlfriend? A f**king beauty queen girlfriend? An ugly, too-close-to-raging-jealous feeling weighs down my gut as I glare at her. “This is the South. Any halfway pretty girl with an ambitious mama has at least one crown on her mantle.”
Iris snorts as if I’m full of shit, and I swear to God if she tells me this old girlfriend rescued baby yaks in Tibet I’m going to punch her. But she simply shakes her head. “Do you have any idea how many women would kill to be in your place? How many of them are probably waiting for the opportunity to take it? Or maybe they have. As you keep pointing out, you’re just hooking up.”
My throat feels scratchy as I find my voice. “Why are you saying this to me?”
Her slim shoulder lifts, and I want to hit her. But I just sit there as she stares at me with sad eyes. “I’m only pointing out that you never know. You think it’s all good. You think he wants only you. But if you’re with someone like that, you never know.”
I rub the back of my arms and resist the urge to cower.
She doesn’t even see me. “Maybe it’s a good thing you’ve kept it casual. Save yourself the pain.”
Chapter 22
I STAND IN front of shelves lined with small cast-iron casserole pots in a rainbow of colors. “What the hell do you use these for,” I ask Gray.
In the act of crouching down to inspect a much larger pumpkin colored pot, Gray glances up. “Individual servings.”
“For who? Barbie and Ken?”
Gray snorts and stands. “Probably. I don’t know, I guess you’d use it for an appetizer. Soup, maybe?” And now the little doll pots are the center of his attention.
When Gray picks up a bright blue individual pot, his hand nearly engulfs it. He frowns and sets it back on the shelf. “Yep. It’s f**king dumb. I don’t even want a soup serving that small.”
With assured authority, he moves on, and I follow with all the awkwardness of a guy who is in foreign territory. I roll my stiff shoulders, feeling like an ox in a dollhouse. Women cast wary glances our way. We’re not the only guys in the kitchen supply store, but we are the youngest, biggest, and scruffiest with our battered sneakers and worn jeans.
Gray’s irritated expression shifts to thoughtful. “Man, wherever I get drafted, it had better be to a city that gets cold enough for soup.”
“Soup? That’s your criteria?” I don’t know if Gray has an actual team and city in mind. It’s an unwritten rule that you do not say what team you want to play on. The disappointment would be too harsh if it didn’t happen, and chances are it won’t. For that reason alone, I’ve never stuck my hopes on any one team.
“Never underestimate the power of soup.” Gray shrugs one shoulder. “I like cold weather. Fall. Winter. I don’t want some tropical shit.” He flashes a grin. “Even if it means freezing my ass off playing in the snow.”