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.”

“Iris!”

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.

“What?”

“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.”

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