“Howdy, ma’am,” the other guy greeted her with a grin.
Kady was just about to smile back when it hit her, and her eyes widened.
She was Elizabeth…and he was Arden?
Everyone suddenly burst into laughter, and when Kady blinked in confusion, Elizabeth raised her hand as if admitting to a crime. “You can put the blame on me,” the other girl said cheekily. “When he transferred to my high school, and I found out his name was Arden, I kinda thought to myself, wouldn’t it be funny cool if I ended up with this guy?”
“And now we live happily ever after,” Arden finished mockingly.
Everyone started snickering, and even Kady, despite still feeling shy and not quite a part of their gang yet, found it impossible to hold her smile back. This really was the life, she thought blissfully, and as conversation turned towards cafe matters, Kady was content to simply listen and take everything in, doing her best to learn as much as she could.
As Slade and Arden discussed next week’s debut of their fall menu, Farica couldn’t help but notice how Kady was studiously following the men’s conversation as if determined to mentally store every collected byte of data. She looked every inch the diligent apprentice and nothing at all like her predecessor Penny, who, at her first sight of Slade, had not stopped throwing herself at the billionaire at every opportunity.
Most girls should have been, at the very least, crushing on Slade by now, and even Farica had to grudgingly admit that she herself might not be as immune to her friend if not for long having lost her heart to someone else—
“Oh my God!” The words, followed by Farica’s gasp, had everyone turning to her in surprise. “I just figured it out,” Farica exclaimed.
Slade regarded his friend dubiously. “If this is going to be another infatuation-fueled commentary on Steel—”
“I’m actually talking about you,” Farica retorted.
The billionaire arched a brow at this. “You’ve figured out something about me?”
“Technically, it’s you and Kady—”
All eyes swung towards her, and Kady could feel her cheeks turning red under their scrutiny.
“I’ve been wondering why she seems to find you as attractive as a toad—”
Slade grimaced while Arden choked and Elizabeth suddenly found her nails a fascinating object to study. Kady, however, was valiantly trying for the impossible as she willed herself to shrink into nothing.
“I mean, it totally makes sense now…” Farica, oblivious to the impact of her words, was still busy mulling her thoughts out loud. “If you consider Elizabeth and me…it just figures.” She swung her seat around to face Kady, and eager to find out if her theory held water, she didn’t bother gently leading up to the matter and simply blurted her question out. “You’re in love with another guy, aren’t you?”
All I Wanna Do
* * *
“Love is not in our choice but in our fate.” ~ John Dryden
* * *
“Eric Von Humbug,” the billionaire read from the report hand-delivered by one of his Laramie-based messengers.
“Sorry, what’s that?” Farica lowered her salad fork in confusion.
“Eric Von Humbug.”
She saw her friend’s lip curl, and her confusion grew. Maybe she wasn’t hearing him right over Sheryl Crow’s song playing in the background. “Did you say Eric Von…what?” Because as far as she could remember, the local roaster Leander had referred them to and they had just finished meeting with was named Erwin.
“The idiot Kady dated,” Slade drawled as he carved a small slice of his steak and popped it into his mouth.
Farica blinked. “Seriously?” And why was he bringing it up out of the blue?
The billionaire cast another glance at the document he had set aside next to his plate. “Ah, my mistake. It’s Von Humboldt, apparently.”
She watched her friend take another bite of his steak, acting oh so casual even though it was unlike him at all to talk about a girl – any girl – that wasn’t related to him by blood. Oh my God. Farica started laughing. “I never thought I’d see the day—”
“You’re not making sense.”
Her friend’s voice was bland, but she totally wasn’t buying it. “Once I tell Lace about how her big brother—”
Slade shot up in his seat. “Do that,” he warned, “and I’ll tell Steel the truth about—”
“You win,” she grouched, but a moment later added under her breath, Wimp.
“I heard that.”
“I wanted you to.” Farica leaned back against her chair and crossed her arms over her chest as she eyed him calculatingly. “This whole thing about Kady finding you ugly has really gotten under your skin, hasn’t it?” And this being the same guy who, having once been forced to comfort a bawling Farica, had told her that men like him and Steel didn’t really give a damn about the women they fucked.
I don’t even bother to remember their names most times, he had continued philosophically, and I’m betting March’s the same.