After losing sight of her, I pull my phone out of my clutch purse and sigh when I realize there are no missed calls from Brady. It’s almost ten o’clock, and I really wish he would’ve called to say goodnight. But he probably knew it would be loud in here, and he was probably exhausted from working all day. He’s out of town for the weekend again, on yet another long-distance job for the advertising firm his uncle owns, and I’ve grown accustomed to sitting by the phone—he joined the company right after graduating, when I was still a sophomore, and traveling to meet with clients has always been a big part of the job. Still, the trips have been more and more frequent lately, and they always feel way longer than they really are.
My fingers type a quick text.
Miss you. Having a blast but wish you were here! Hope your day wasn’t too rough. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow! I love you.
I tuck my phone back into my purse and turn around, laughing when I spot Dee in the crowd, sandwiched between her two club gorillas and outshining them both. She looks amazing, and she knows it. In high school, she wasn’t on the cheerleading squad but she dated most of the football team. Most of the other girls hated her, but she didn’t care and neither did I. She had a well-earned bad reputation, but she never tried to be anyone she wasn’t. She’s real, and I love that about her.
When a stool opens up at the bar, I immediately dive onto it. My last drink is long gone, so I pull out my paper-thin wallet and flag the bartender.
I order another vodka cranberry and try to pull out cash to pay, but before I can manage, a thick hand covers mine. “A fox like you should never have to pay for her own drink.” The guy uses his other hand to slip the bartender a credit card, and I sigh, looking up into plain brown eyes deeply set into a meathead face.
“I have a boyfriend,” I say, trying not to sound rude but feeling pretty exasperated. With the number of times I’m having to repeat that tonight, it would’ve been easier to get the words tattooed on my forehead.
“Is he here?”
“No . . .”
“Then he’s an idiot. Dance with me.” The guy grabs my drink with one hand and tries to coax me off my stool with the other.
“Aw, come on,” he persists, refusing to stop tugging at my hand. “Don’t make me beg.”
“Sorry.” I pull out of his grip and settle back on my seat.
“Why the hell would you come here dressed like that if you’re just going to be a tease?” he snaps, but I ignore him completely, flagging the bartender again.
When the meathead calls me a slut and walks away—with my drink—I roll my eyes and order another, which I pay for myself before any other assholes have the chance to intercede. If I’m a slut, then Mother Teresa was too, because I might as well be her. Brady’s father is a pastor, so Brady made the decision for both of us that we’d be waiting until marriage—whenever that’s going to be. He agreed to live together, under the condition that we have separate bedrooms, but second base is getting harder and harder to stick to. I know I’m only eighteen, but we’ve been in a committed relationship for three years already, and now we’re living together and, well, what the hell is he waiting for?
I gradually lose myself to people-watching while I sip on my drink and wait for Dee to tire herself out. The group beside me at the bar all look like college kids. They seem nice, and it makes me hopeful that I’ll make at least a few new friends on Monday. Next to them is a girl dressed even sluttier than I am, surrounded by three guys who are all shamelessly hitting on her. I wonder if the guys are friends with each other, and I’m curious to see which will win the little competition they’ve got going on. The one with the blond faux-hawk is pretty damn cute; my money would be on him.
His eyes lift to catch me staring, and he smiles at me. I look away before he gets the wrong impression and decides to come over.
Next to him is a guy with his back to me, talking to a girl with bright purple eye shadow. She’s gorgeous, with rich brown hair styled in a long bob. She laughs at something he says, and he places his hand on her forearm, caressing it tenderly with his thumb, giving her all the right signals. She’s leaning slightly toward him, batting her lashes and brushing her fingers through her hair. I’m still staring when the guy turns toward the bar to order another drink.
And my heart shatters into a million jagged pieces.
I blink, for a second believing that I can’t trust my vision. I rub my eyes and stare harder, but it’s definitely him. What the fuck is he doing here?
Maybe he came here to meet me. I scramble to check my phone.
No missed texts. No missed calls. I look from him to my phone and back again, remembering that Dee had mistakenly told me that we were going to a different club across town and that’s what I told Brady. He didn’t expect me to be here. With my eyes on my phone, I type another text.
Are you still working?
I watch as he pulls his phone from his shirt pocket, checks it, and then tucks it away. The girl he’s with says something, and he leans in close to her ear, then kisses her cheek.
Maybe they’re just friends. Please be just friends.
I watch as they laugh, as they talk, and then as Brady leans in and kisses her. And it isn’t a friend kiss. He doesn’t even come up for air, and I can’t remember the last time he kissed me like that. I’m practically falling off of my stool before I know it, scrambling to find an exit door before I turn into a blubbering mess right there in front of everyone. I can barely see through the cloud of tears in my eyes as my hands push past people who stare at me or throw curses my way. Finally, I slam into a big metal door and fly outside just as a sob bubbles out of my throat.