- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
“He’s a good guy. Scary, but super hot. I’m happy for you. We should set up a double date.”
“We’re just friends.”
“Sure.” She laughs.
“No really, we’re just friends,” I repeat, this time a little more firmly, not wanting her to get the wrong idea. Hell, not wanting to give myself the wrong idea. For some reason unbeknownst to me, Harlen decided we were going to be friends. Not friends in a way that I would enjoy a whole lot more, like friends with benefits. So as much as I want to rip off his clothes and have my way with him, I’m going to take this for what it is.
“Okay,” she agrees, but I know she doesn’t believe me. “I’ll talk to Evan about dinner.”
“I… okay,” I agree, dropping my head to the steering wheel and tapping it there twice.
“I gotta get back to class. The bell’s about to ring. We’ll talk soon.”
“Soon, have a good day.” I lift my head and look out the windshield.
“Yeah, you too.” She hangs up.
Opening my door, I get out and head up the porch and twist the knob for the door while pushing thoughts of Harlen out of my mind.
“Dad, Mom!” I shout as I walk into the house, not even bothering to knock.
“In the kitchen!” Mom calls, so I toss my purse to the entryway table and head down the hall into the kitchen. Seeing my mom at the stove and my dad sitting at the island, I head for my mom, kiss her cheek, and then go to my dad and tuck myself under his arm he holds up.
“How are things?” Dad asks, kissing the side of my head.
“Things are things.” I squeeze his waist then take a seat next to him.
“How are things going at the hospital?” Mom asks, studying me in the way only a mother can, like she’s visually taking my temp and checking me for injuries.
“Good. I spoke with one of the emergency room nurses yesterday, and she told me the hospital offers a class on trauma and critical care. She said that if I take it, it should put me in a position to transfer to that department if something opens up.”
“That’d be good,” Dad says, and I nod.
“Fingers crossed. The class is hard to get into. Hopefully they accept me. If not, I might see about going somewhere else to take the same courses.”
“You’ll get in,” Mom says, and I smile at her. My mom is the kind of mother who believes her kids have the power to walk on water and would go to war with anyone who says differently. I love that about her. “So what are you doing today?” she asks, handing Dad a plate piled high with eggs, bacon, and toast.
“Grocery shopping, ‘cause I have no food in my house. Then I’m meeting Harlen at the shop and we’re going to go pick out barstools for my kitchen.”
“He’s going shopping with you to buy barstools for your house?” she asks, sounding like he agreed to walk across hot coals while balancing a sword on his nose.
“It’s not a big deal. He said he didn’t have anything to do today, so he’s borrowing Evan’s SUV and helping me out.”
“I could have taken you,” Dad grumbles, and I turn to look at him.
“You hate shopping,” I remind him.
“I still would have taken you.”
“I know, but now you don’t have to.”
“Honey, you need to be careful. Harlen’s a—”
“Please don’t.” I shake my head, not wanting to hear my dad talk badly of Harlen.
“Baby, that man has demons.”
“Yeah, and I bet if I asked anyone, they would tell me the same thing about you when you were younger. But mom took a chance on you.”
“Are you taking a chance on him?” he questions, and I squirm on my chair.
“We’re friends and I like him. I think he’s a good guy. He’s easy to be around and he makes me laugh. That’s all I know right now.”
“Nico,” Mom says, and Dad’s eyes go to her and I watch her shake her head. Then I look at my dad and see his jaw is tight. “I like him,” Mom inserts, and my eyes go back to her. “He’s always been respectful, and if you like him, I like him,” she finishes then hands me a plate that is just as full as the one she gave my dad. “Though I still wouldn’t have minded going with you to pick out barstools.”
“I still need lamps and a coffee table. Next month, after I close on the house, I’ll have the money for those things. We’ll go to Nashville, spend the day shopping, get dinner, and see a movie,” I promise, and she smiles.
“You got a date.”
“Good.” I dig into my plate then feel my dad’s hand wrap around the back of my neck. Turning to look at him, I see his eyes are soft.
“Love you too, Dad,” I whisper, and he nods then touches his lips to my forehead in the same spot Harlen has kissed me twice. Not that I’m counting. Letting me go, he goes back to eating. I do the same before taking off, going grocery shopping, and meeting Harlen to pick out barstools.
“Where are you?” Willow asks, and I press my cell phone closer to my ear so I can hear her over the loud music playing from the speakers in the back of a truck parked a few feet away and the people around me talking loudly.
“At a bonfire!” I shout into the phone, and Harlen, who is standing at my side, looks down at me. Rolling my eyes at him, I catch his smile in the light of the fire.
“A bonfire,” Willow repeats. “Who the hell are you at a bonfire with?”
“Harlen,” I answer, and a few people around me turn my way to look at Harlen and me, probably wondering what the hell he’s doing with me. Something I have been wondering myself for the last few weeks. “I’ll be back,” I tell him, and he looks at me then scans the area before meeting my gaze once more.
“Stay where I can see you.”
“Righty-o,” I mutter, dropping my eyes to my feet. I stomp in my Converse through the grass and mostly dirt, toward the outskirts of the party, where there are more than a few people making out, and in some cases having sex, in the cover of darkness.
“Willow, you still there?” I ask once I’ve made it to a quiet area.
“I’m still processing the news that you’re out with Harlen again, this time at a bonfire,” she says, and I look up at the stars sprinkled across the dark sky. “What the hell is going on with you two?”
“Nothing,” I grumble. “We’re friends.”
“Right.” I hear the disbelief in her voice, and my hand balls into a fist at my side.
“What’s going on? Is everything okay with you?”
“I wanted to see if you were around to get dinner. I feel like I haven’t seen you since you moved.”
“I’m sorry.” She’s right. I haven’t seen her much since I moved. Then again, most of my days off have been spent hanging out with Harlen, shopping with him, watching movies, eating dinner, drinking, and just having fun. I have tried, on more than one occasion, to turn him down when he’s asked me to hang out, but somehow I always end up caving and doing whatever the hell it is he wants to do.
“I’d like to see my sister to spend time with her,” she whines, and guilt hits me in the stomach.
“I have tomorrow off. I’ll drive up and spend the night at your place. We can get dinner then veg out and watch movies.”
“That works. I also expect you to tell me what’s really going on with you and the giant.”
“Seriously, there is nothing to tell. Nothing is going on. We’re just friends, Willow.”
“Right,” she mutters again, and I sigh, wishing for the first time that I wasn’t right, that there was secretly something happening between Harlen and me, something more than us just becoming good friends. “I get off work at four tomorrow, so I should be home by five, if not before.”
“I’ll be there.”
“See you then.” She hangs up, and I shove my phone in the back pocket of my jeans. Looking toward the bonfire, I watch Harlen talk to a guy then feel my stomach muscles tighten uncomfortably when a woman sashays up to him. Like every time it’s happened when I’ve been around, he doesn’t do more than dip his chin toward her in greeting. Still, I hate seeing it. I hate knowing I have no claim over him, that if he did want to take a woman up on an offer of a good time, he could without so much as a second thought.