Page 19 of RoomHate

“You’re not nervous about going out with that jackass, are you?”

“A little.”

“Why? He’s not worth your nerves.”

“It’s the first date I’ve been on since Adam.”

He sucked in his jaw almost angrily. “That’s the guy that cheated on you…”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“Jade told me.”

It surprised me that they’d been talking about me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Justin knowing about Adam.

“Oh.”

“Don’t let what happened with that asshole make you think you should settle for the first Tom, Dick or Harry that comes along.”

“Have you ever cheated on anyone?”

He hesitated before he answered, “Yes. I’m not proud of it. I was younger then, though. It’s not something I would ever do today. The way I see it, if you want to cheat on someone, you should just break up with them. Cheating is for cowards.”

“I agree. I wish that Adam had just broken up with me.”

“I’m glad you’re not with him anymore.”

“Me, too.”

“He was trying to have the best of both worlds. He’ll end up doing it to the other girl, too. Watch.”

“Jade is lucky to have you, to be with someone who is loyal.”

His expression darkened before he said, “Temptation is natural. That doesn’t mean you should act on it.” He seemed to be pondering his own words in an attempt to convince himself of that very fact.

“Right. Of course.”

Justin swiftly changed the subject. “You got your pocket knife?”

“Yes. I’m not going to need it, but it’s in my purse.”

“Good. You have my cell phone number?”

“Yes.”

“You should be taking your own car.”

“Well, I already agreed to have him pick me up.”

“If he tries anything funny, call me. I’ll come get you.”

“But you’ll be in the middle of performing.”

“Doesn’t matter. Call me if you need a ride.”

“Okay. I will.”

His protectiveness reminded me of the old days. Having someone looking out for me was a really good feeling. In fact, I hadn’t felt it since running away from home all those years ago.

I took another sip of my drink. Before I could place it down on the counter, I felt Justin’s hand on mine as he intercepted, taking the glass from my grasp and gulping down the rest of the wine.

My voice was practically a whisper. “I didn’t know you liked white wine.”

“I’m in a different kind of a mood tonight, I guess.” He took the glass over to the small bar area and refilled it before sitting back down and placing it in front of me.

We quietly drank out of the same goblet, passing it back and forth to each other, making silent eye contact. Whenever he licked the Chardonnay off his lips, it was utterly arousing. I felt so guilty for feeling that way, but it was beyond my control. Like he said, temptation was natural, right? Knowing that I couldn’t and wouldn’t act on it, made the feelings that much more powerful, though. The fact that he was unattainable made it all-consuming.

If I were being honest, no part of me really wanted to go out with Will tonight. Every part of me, on the other hand, wanted to go watch Justin perform, especially since we were coming upon the final days before he would return to New York.

The knock on the door was loud and confident. Justin rubbed the back of his neck to massage the tension there. If I didn’t know better, I would think he was the one nervous about this date.

When I hopped down from the stool to answer the door, he said, “Wait.”

“Yeah?”

“You look really nice. I think that dress was the right choice.”

My heart fluttered. “Thank you.”

My heels clicked on the tile as I walked over to the front door.

Will was holding a small bouquet of flowers. “Evening, Amelia. God, you look stunning.”

“Hi, Will. Thank you. Come in.”

Justin’s arms were crossed. His body language was more like an armed guard at a bank rather than a man standing casually in his own kitchen.

“You remember my roommate, Justin.”

“Of course. How are you feeling?”

“Very energized at the moment, Dr. Danger.”

Will seemed annoyed at Justin’s mispronunciation. “Dan-ger,” he corrected.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to anger Dr. Dan-ger.”

Will wasn’t amused. “No problem.”

“Where are you kids going tonight?”

“The Boathouse. You been there?”

“Right on the water. Smooth. Putting out all the stops.”

Grabbing my purse, I said, “Well, we should get going.”

Justin held his hand out. “I’ll take care of the flowers.”

Somehow, I wondered if they would end up in the trash the second the door closed behind us.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”

When we got outside, Will turned to me. “Your roommate likes to butcher my name. He’s a bit of a wiseass.”

“Yes. He can be.”

Will opened the door to his Mercedes and let me in the passenger side. The conversation was easy on the way to Tiverton. He asked me about my teaching career, and we spoke about his time at the University of North Carolina Medical School at Chapel Hill.

My phone vibrated.

Justin: Those flowers were from the supermarket.

Amelia: How do you know?

Justin: He left the orange sticker on. What a tool.

Amelia: It’s the thought that counts.

Justin: Look in the backseat. I bet you’ll see milk and eggs.

Amelia: Don’t you have to be at Sandy’s?

Justin: Heading out now.

Amelia: Break a leg tonight.

Justin: Stay out of Danger. Better yet, keep Danger out of you.

Amelia: You’re a goof.

Justin: Order the lobster. At least you’ll get something out of tonight.

Amelia: Goodbye, Justin!

“What’s so funny?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. Sorry.”

He looked over at me. “So, what were we saying? Oh, you were about to tell me when you’re planning to head back to Providence…”

“The last week in August. I have to get my classroom set up for the beginning of September.”

“I bet your students really dig you.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I wish I had a teacher that looked like you when I was in middle school.”

“Well, I like to think they appreciate me for other reasons.”

“Oh. I’m sure they do.”

When we arrived to the restaurant, it was already dark out, so the waterfront view wasn’t as great as it would have been during the daylight hours. It was starting to get chilly, so we opted for a window seat inside but overlooking the water. Lights from some of the sailboats illuminated the dark ocean. White Christmas bulbs hanging inside the restaurant made for a cozy ambience. The smell of fresh seafood filled the air. I laughed to myself, thinking of how Justin would probably say the place smelled like dirty snatch.

I ended up ordering swordfish with mango salsa while Will opted for Chicken Marsala. The conversation while we were waiting for our food was pretty mundane. We spoke a little bit about the upcoming presidential election. Will was a republican while I was a democrat. I also told him the story of how I came to inherit Nana’s house.

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