Frayed Page 67

I sidestep her to head to the bar. The place is so packed there\s nowhere to move. I turn toward her. ’’Stay here and I\ll grab us a couple of drinks. What are you drinking?’’

She tugs the collar of my shirt. ’’We could go somewhere . . . quieter,’’ she whispers in my ear as she leans forward.

I pull back and stare at her, considering the possibility of forgetting everything and just getting lost in her. ’’How about a drink first?’’

’’Sure, vodka cranberry.’’

Just as I pass the dance floor I come face-to-face with not only Tate Wyatt but f**king Romeo Fairchild. I try to ignore them both, but as soon as I walk past them one of their hands is on my shoulder.

’’Ben, man, it\s been far too long.’’

I\m in no mood for this guy\s shit. I turn to look at him. My eyes take him in dressed in a suit with a smug-ass look on his face. I really want to deck him. ’’Not long enough,’’ I mutter under my breath, and keep walking.

’’I saw your name on your friend\s phone not too long ago. Shame you\ e just friends because she\s a hot piece of ass.’’

’’Why the f**k is she showing you her phone?’’ I don\ even give him time to explain because I don\ give a shit what he has to say. I just turn around ready to pound him to the floor like the piece of shit he is. This arrogant son of bitch and I were never friends, but his superiority complex isn\ why he hates me. He hates me because he couldn\ get the one thing in high school he wanted Dahlia.

A hand grips my shoulder a little too tightly and draws my attention. I twist around, ready to deck the guy getting in my space.

’’What\s going on?’’ Beck asks.

My teeth are gritted and the anger is all I can feel. He steps between me and them. He whispers something to them I can\ hear and they make their way toward the door.

’’Yeah, you better leave,’’ I spit out.

Beck grabs me. ’’Shut the f**k up.’’

I take a step back. ’’Yeah, sorry, man.’’

His lips settle into a thin firm line. ’’Come on, man, let\s get out of here.’’ He pulls me toward the back door and Ruby is right behind him. I nod in her direction. The fraction of a smile graces her lips in return.

I look at Beck. ’’You two just got here. Don\ you want to stay and celebrate with me?’’

He furrows his brow. ’’Let\s get you home and you can tell me all about what you\ e celebrating.’’

’’Fair enough.’’

’’Hey, what happened to that drink?’’ the redhead asks, pulling on my shirt.

I turn around. ’’Yeah, sorry about that. I have to go.’’

She stands there pissed as hell looking at me. I shrug, not really caring about being cordial right now.

’’You\ e an ass**le,’’ she mutters.

’’Yeah, I am,’’ I toss back at her.

We hit the outside a few seconds later and the sudden burst of air makes my stomach turn. Beck and Ruby walk in front of me not saying a word. They turn into the side alley where Beck\s Jeep is parked. I start to feel sicker with each step. I stop at his car but have to brace my hands against the brick of the building and hang my head. Inhaling and exhaling over and over, I catch my breath.

’’You\ e not going to barf in my car?’’ he asks.

I shake my head no and climb into the backseat with my head spinning.

Over his shoulder as he drives he asks, ’’Where are you parked?’’

’’I have no f**king idea.’’ I laugh.

’’Are you for real?’’

’’What crawled up your ass?’’

He slams his foot on the brake and jerks the car into PARK, then turns around. ’’I don\ want to see you ruin everything you\ve worked so hard to accomplish.’’

His words are sobering. ’’I found out today I have a kid out there somewhere that I never knew about.’’

Ruby\s head snaps in my direction.

Beck\s eyes soften. ’’Let\s get your vehicle and get you home and I\ll throw on a pot of coffee and we can talk about it.’’

’’Okay, man. I think my bike\s down on Melrose somewhere.’’

Beck rides my motorcycle and Ruby drives his Jeep to Laguna. I fade in and out of consciousness until we hit the beach. The smell of the sea air awakens my senses. I stare out the window and into the vast body of water. Childhood memories assault me one after another making sand castles, flying a kite, shell hunting. My phone is vibrating like a motherf*ker, but I ignore it. When we get to my house, I sit at the kitchen table and cradle my head in my hands.

Beck makes the coffee and pulls three mugs from the cupboard.

Ruby sits beside me. She takes my hand. ’’Do you want to talk about it?’’

I take a breath. ’’You know the girl I told you about?’’

’’The one with the French name?’’

I can\ hold back a slight smile. ’’Yeah, S\elle. Well, her name is Bell.’’

She nods, obviously already knowing this.

Beck sets three cups of coffee on the table and has a seat.

I take a sip of mine. ’’I . . .’’ I ponder how to say I f**ked her one night without a condom and never thought twice about the lack of protection.

’’You slept with her and she got pregnant?’’ Ruby asks.

I stare down at the table. ’’Yes, I slept with her one night my senior year of college when I had a girlfriend.’’

’’Dahlia?’’ she asks.

I nod, not really remembering how much I told her during any of my previous drunken ventures but ascertaining that I blabbed about plenty. ’’She told me today . . .’’ I tell them both everything that happened earlier this evening. They listen, no judgment or comment.

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