Frayed Page 35

CHAPTER 11

Show Me

Ben

One of the perks of owning your own business is making your own schedule. I can come in as early or as late as I want, but I\m always here by seven. I can also take a long lunch or skip it in favor of working. And I get to leave at four or stay until I\m done, although I\m always here well past eight. But what I like most is that I can work out at any time of the day. And today I\ve been feeling a lot of tension that needs to be relieved, so I decided midday works best.

The treadmill beeps and I slow my pace.

Kale throws me a towel. ’’Speed it up, man. I\ve been done for more than five minutes.’’

’’I didn\ know I was running a marathon.’’

’’I don\ think you knew you were running at all.’’

I grab my water bottle and guzzle it down after wiping the sweat off my brow. ’’Do I want to know what you thought I was doing?’’

’’Yeah, you just might. I think you were trying not to get a hard-on thinking about that girl you\ve been besting up to.’’ His Australian accent stresses the word hard-on.

’’Besting up to? What the hell does that mean?’’

He hooks his feet under the padded bar of the bench next to me. He pauses mid-sit-up to answer me. ’’Come on, man, you\ve got it bad for that girl, but besties don\ f**k.’’

I shoot him a glare. ’’You don\ know shit.’’ I refuse to tell him I f**ked her twice before the friends-only rule was invoked.

Huffing and puffing, he continues his count and I head for the door, my muscles still tight and tensed, not in the least bit relieved from running.

’’Don\ be pissed,’’ he calls to me. ’’I\m just looking out for you. Maybe she\s getting it elsewhere.’’

I shove my middle finger up in the air as I enter the locker room of the small gym on Plan B\s floor. His comment cuts deep. It\s been a few weeks since I found out she\d be working with Romeo Fairchild. I\ve brought him up a couple of times since then and all she talks about is how well the wedding planning is going. I know him, though. He was a snake in high school and I have no doubt he still is. The thought of him alone with her drives me f**king crazy. Then there\s that ass**le boss of hers calling her night and day. Maybe she was all about the fun we were having and when I said no to any more role-playing to f**king in public places she just wasn\ interested in me and this friends thing was really her way of trying to get rid of me, not trying to get to know me.

Just as I\m changing into a clean shirt, my phone beeps a text from S\elle.

You\ e not going to believe this. Xander\s going to propose to Ivy the night of her release party. I\m so excited but have to add some special touches to the event now. One week! I can\ wait.

My fingers hover over the keyboard, but I don\ respond. I\ve seen S\elle almost every night this week. We\ve texted and talked on the phone more than I\ve ever done with anyone, in fact, more than I\ve probably done in my lifetime. Our conversations have been deep at times and lighter at others. She hasn\ laxed on her friendship guidelines, yet my attraction toward her has steadily grown. The quirky, funny things she says get me in the gut and do strange things to me. But Kale hit a sore spot. The whole ’’friends’’ dating thing is growing tiresome. Don\ get me wrong, I\ve enjoyed getting to know her and having someone to talk to, but I think Kale might be right. I respond with a quick note.

Great news. Hey, I\m going to have to cancel tonight. Something came up at work.

Her response is immediate.

Okay. Hope everything is all right. Call me later.

I shove my phone in my pocket, grab my shit, and head back to my office. Once I\m there I drop it all on my desk and pace to the window. Plan B headquarters is located in the Jamboree Business Center in Irvine, a quick hop on the freeway from Laguna. It\s also a fast drive to LA.

I can see the calm Pacific framed in the distance through my large window and long to be out there, but I have work to do. I think about all I have to accomplish before the announcement of my takeovers is made public. Surfer\s End\s migration to this building is finally happening this week, and I am so f**king happy the transition has been a nightmare. Their offices will occupy the floor below me, whereas Sound Music occupies the one above. Both publications should be ready to upload their online issues early next week. And I just need to hire a few more people and we will be hitting the modern world of technology with a boom.

In order to concentrate on work, I have to avert my eyes from the California view. Just as I head toward my phone to text her again, there\s a knock at my door.

’’Come in,’’ I call.

The door opens and Kale stands there. ’’Just checking on you. I didn\ mean to piss you off.’’

As soon as I sit down my speakerphone buzzes. I raise a finger and answer it. ’’Yeah, Beck?’’

’’I need to go over this budget with you. Is now okay?’’

’’Sure.’’

’’On my way.’’

I glance back over to Kale. ’’I\m not pissed, man. I think you might be onto something. I may have become her \girlfriend\ as hard as that is for me to say.’’

’’What do you say to grabbing a beer tonight?’’

’’Yeah, sure, why not?’’

Before I can finish asking where, Beck is standing behind him.

Kale turns. ’’Hey, how\s it going today?’’


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