“Want to stop at Griff’s for dinner?” he asked as we got closer to the bar and grill.


We pulled in and went inside to grab a table. I don’t know how, maybe it’s providence or just good luck but, like almost always, our usual table was open. I slid into the booth and Brandon followed me in.

I looked over at him with a raised brow, surprised that he didn’t take the seat across from me. He winked and nodded his head toward the door, where Leah and Ian were coming in. I grinned and waved back at Leah, who was waving crazily at me from across the room. They made their way to the booth and sat down.

“Hey! How’d you guys know we were here?” I asked Leah.

“Brandon called us earlier and asked if we wanted to meet for dinner. He said you were bitching that you never got to see me anymore, so he figured he’d take matters into his own hands.”

I gasped, turning to scowl at Brandon who was shooting a ‘how could you?’ look in Leah’s direction.

He sighed, muttering, “Women,” under his breath.

Ian gave Brandon a sympathetic nod and smile, which earned him a sound thump under the table. “Ow!” he shouted, glaring at Leah.

She gave him a sweet smile and then turned to me. “I’ve been thinking about throwing a 4th of July party or an end of summer bash before I have to go back to school. What do you think?”

“I’m in!” I said, promptly. “It’s about time for a party around here. I say we do both!”

“That’s what I thought!” she said, laughing. “I know the guys will be in because they never turn down an opportunity to blow shit up. Then she clapped her hands excitedly. “Ooohh, today was the day, wasn’t it? Did you get your new tattoo?”

I nodded. “Yes, and I’m in love with it. He’s got it covered right now until we get home, otherwise I’d show you. So what have you been up to?” I asked her.

“Nothing really, just enjoying what’s left of my summer. Can you believe it’s July already?”

“I know. It’s been a crazy year so far, hasn’t it?” I asked, shaking my head. “But damn, woman, the fourth is in five days, you better get to planning your party!”

She laughed. “That’s what I was gonna talk to you about! We can have the party out at Emma’s because that way we’re out of town and will be less likely to get busted for fireworks. I think Ian was gonna see if Brandon, Luke, and Jacks wanted to go with him to get fireworks, and I figured you’d help me with the food. And Emma and Allie will, too, of course.”

“Did you ask them about the party?”

She shook her head. “Not yet. What are you doing tomorrow? Want to go over there for a girls’ day?”

“Sure!” I replied, smiling at her.

It was nice to be able to visit with her while we ate, and we had our own little conversations as Brandon and Ian talked shop beside us. She made sure to text her sister, who checked with Allie, as well, and everything was put in place for girls’ day.

Suddenly, Ian swore and Leah jerked her head around to see why. My eyes followed by instinct to see what was wrong and my brows lifted when I saw an exotic looking woman totter into the bar on ridiculously high stilettos, wearing what amounted to nothing more than a couple of band-aids strapped across her breasts and groin area.

You’d think I was exaggerating about her outfit, but you’d be wrong. She seriously was wearing a micro-mini skirt that barely met the bottom of her vagina, and a crop top that was nothing more than a fancy bra. I was afraid that she’d move wrong, or hell, even just sneeze, and everything would come busting out everywhere. She was pretty in a way, but it was more like she was helpless, completely vapid, yet very, very calculating.

It didn’t take long to determine the reason Ian had sworn, either. Her eyes locked onto him like a heat-seeking missile. We didn’t have to wonder how she even knew he was here because she played her cards for everyone to see, in a very loud way. She click-clacked over to us with mincing little footsteps,

“IAN! O.M.G! Why didn’t you call me to go to the bar? You know I would have come with you,” she pouted, shrilly. “I drove by your house but you weren’t there, and then I just happened to drive by Griff’s and, uh, here you are! How could you forget to call your girlfriend, silly? At least just to let me know where you were.”

I winced and glanced over at Leah, who straightened in her seat beside Ian. I could feel the tension rolling off of her in waves as she stared at the woman standing at the end of the table. I felt Brandon’s hand slide over my thigh, squeezing gently. I covered his hand with mine, my anxiety level rising by the second.

“Victoria…” Ian growled, glaring at the woman.

Leah put her hand on his arm and said, sweetly, “Ian, introduce your girlfriend to your friends.”

I sucked in a breath as Brandon tensed beside me. Guess I wasn’t the only one who heard the barely veiled threat in her tone.

Victoria’s attention moved to the hand Leah had laid on Ian’s shoulder. She giggled, a fake, saccharine sweet, but nauseating sound, before she snapped, “You can quit touching my man, now.” Her eyes were flashing with jealousy and possession and it wasn’t a good look on her. It made her look decidedly unbalanced.

Ian closed his eyes and sighed. He then slid out of the booth, pushing Victoria back gently at the same time. “Look, Victoria. I don’t want to do this here. Let me call your dad to come get you, or your brother. Which one do you want?”

She pouted again, sticking her lip out like a child. “You take me home,” she whined.

Leah caught my eye and I nodded, immediately knowing what she was asking. I tapped Brandon’s thigh and jerked my head to get him to move. He complied, sliding out of the booth and taking my hand to help me out, even though I didn’t need it. He’s a gentleman like that.

Leah slid out as well, pushing past Ian without a word. I followed her as she intended. Brandon hurriedly tossed some bills on the table and caught up to me, taking my hand in his once more. He looked worried as he glanced back at Ian, who was standing there, stunned, in the same place Leah had left him.

When we got to the door, Ian hollered, “WAIT! Leah!”

She paused, looking over her shoulder, quirking her brow at him. I noticed we’d gathered quite the crowd of on-lookers, especially Griff, who was standing behind the bar. Ian moved past Victoria, ignoring her gasp of outrage. He strode to the door, cupping his fingers gently around Leah’s arm and pulling her to him.

“You can’t seriously believe that she’s my girlfriend. Not after everything we’ve shared these past months. I haven’t seen anyone else besides you since I laid eyes on you, woman.” His face was sincere, his tone soft and pleading.

“Then why is she showing up here, calling herself your girlfriend and all that shit?” Leah asked just as softly.

Ian blew out a breath on a sigh. “It’s a long story. Can you give me a second to call someone to come get her? Then I promise, we’ll go home and talk.”

I blinked in surprise at the whole ‘home’ comment, because I wasn’t aware that they’d started living together. I knew that they spent a hell of a lot of time together because, let’s face it, I hardly ever saw my best friend anymore. But I’m not complaining, you know, ‘cause obviously, I’ve been pretty preoccupied myself. Wink wink…need I say more?

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