When I finished, I slumped in my booth, absolutely exhausted. “So…there you have it.”
Andrea opened her mouth and closed it several times like a fish out of water. “Holy shit…”
I took a sip of my Coke. “Yep.”
“Whoa, okay, let me get a grip on this.” She tugged her curls off her face. “You got drunk and tried to come on to him. He turned you down, and then later said you deserved better than a one-night stand while he was feeling you up? Then you two caved to your wild monkey lust and had sex several times, doing it in a way that he claimed he’d never done it before?”
Thank God she kept her voice low on that one. “Sounds about right.”
“And you guys spent over a day in pure sexual bliss, eating crackers and being all lovey-dovey, and it wasn’t awkward or anything?”
I shook my head.
“Hmm…” She fiddled with her straw. “And he didn’t act weird, right?”
“No. The exact opposite, Andrea. He was…he was perfect. I thought that he must’ve really wanted to be with me, you know? And that morning, we even took a cold shower together. He was…he was so sweet and then…” I sighed, feeling stupid. “He did seem off that morning, but then all of this happened.”
Andrea’s lips pursed. “So he obviously went over to Sasha’s, but how do you know he did anything?”
I gave her a bland look.
“Okay.” She raised her hands. “It is Kyler, but you don’t know what he did over there. Sure, it looks suspicious, and I can see why you’d think that, but you really don’t know.”
It wasn’t like I hadn’t considered that maybe Kyler hadn’t had sex with Sasha that day. Once I’d gotten home and calmed down a little, that had crossed my mind every five seconds. I shook my head again. What if my initial suspicion had been true, but I convinced myself otherwise, and then found out I’d been right he first time? My heart would be broken all over again.
“But he lied to me, Andrea. I asked him about Sasha and he said they weren’t like that.” I picked up a piece of bread, wanting to throw it. “He’s never lied to me before.”
“There is that,” she agreed as she pulled on a coppery curl, straightening it all the way out. “And the fact that psycho redneck hurt you because of Kyler’s never-ending sexual escapades. That’s hard to get past.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled and popped the bread in my mouth, wondering where our waiter had disappeared to. Andrea had probably scared him away.
“But…” Andrea let go of the curl and it bounced back into a perfect spiral. I was jealous. “That’s really not his fault, right? I mean, yeah, he might’ve slept with a chick and pissed off a boyfriend a year ago, but do you really think that’s the first time he’s done that?”
“I hope so.” Then I rolled my eyes. “No. That’s probably not the first time.”
“And I know it bothered you before—I’m not saying that it didn’t—but you still cared deeply for him.” Her eyes met mine. “I guess what I’m getting at is that he really needs to make it up to you for putting you in that position, but I don’t see any of this as being insurmountable.”
A tiny flare of hope kindled in my stomach, and I smashed it. “Okay. Let’s say that he didn’t sleep with Sasha a couple of days ago, and I can get over the fact that he didn’t tell the truth about his past with her, and the shit with Zach, but I don’t think it meant that much to him. That’s the problem.”
“I don’t know if I agree. Look, it’s been obvious to everyone that you’ve been madly in love with him. And it’s the same for him.”
“Really,” I said dryly. “It was so obvious with the bus terminal that is his pants?”
Andrea snorted. “Guys are totally stupid when it comes to unrequited love. We females pine away and keep our thighs closed for the most part when we love someone we can’t have. Guys swing their shit around at anything that has a hole, trying to forget the one they want.”
“Wow.” I laughed. “So eloquently put.”
She flashed a quick grin. “It’s true. Sort of like the laws of physics. It’s just the way it is, which brings me to a very important question. Do you still love him?”
My heart tumbled through my chest. “I never said that I loved him.”
Her eyes rolled. “Okay. Stop the bullshit. Like I said, it’s been obvious since I’ve known you that you were in love with him. Listening to you tell me about what happened, I can hear it in your voice. Answer the question.”
I was pinned by her steady stare. Andrea really needed to look into law enforcement or something. She’d never do that with her past—I get that—but damn if she didn’t have the detective hardness in her voice. I had a choice right then. I could tell her what I wanted to say, or I could tell the truth. Sometimes lying was the easiest thing to do, especially when I was lying to myself. And saying the truth out loud meant I could never take it back.
“Okay,” I said. “I still love him.” Once those words came out, I expected balloons and glitter to fall from the ceiling or something. Of course, that didn’t happen. “I’m in love with him.”
Andrea nodded slowly. “Then what do you want, Sydney?”
I dumped the half-eaten bread on my plate. “I don’t know. Like, I guess I thought he’d try to repair the friendship or something.”
“But you don’t want just a friendship.”
Her brow rose. “But you don’t want a relationship?”
I opened my mouth.
Andrea leaned forward. “I get that you’re mad, and trust me, you have every right. Kyler has spent how long being the universal bicycle that had no training wheels? And he has a lot to make up for, because his actions hurt you. And I’m not saying you even have to forgive him. Honestly, I’d totally understand if you didn’t. Guys suck, Kyler among them, but…” She tapped her fingers. “But if you are in love with him, and not forgiving him hurts more than forgiving him does, Syd, and he wants to make it up to you, you’d be a fool to walk away from that.”
Knots formed in my belly as I stared at my friend. Not forgiving Kyler would hurt worse in the end, even if we only remained friends. Holding on to the anger would create nothing but bitterness. But I also didn’t want to be the person who gave so much of herself to someone who didn’t deserve it and ended up never being whole again.
I sighed, unsure of what to do or say. “I don’t know, Andrea. Maybe after some time passes, things will go back to normal.” I felt stronger for saying that. Hopeful. Maybe we could move past this, eventually. That seemed more likely than Kyler professing his undying love for me. “I guess we’ll just see.”
“You’re right. We will see.”
I raised a brow at her.
Andrea leaned back, dropping her hands on her legs. “All right, well, don’t hate me.”
Suspicion blossomed and spread like a weed through my mind. “Why would I hate you?”
A sheepish look crept into her expression.
She bit down on her lip and cringed. “I sort of invited guests to our dinner.”
My stomach roiled. “What?”
“Well, I sort of told Tanner that we were going out to dinner, and he made the suggestion that it would be a good idea to invite Kyler, so it’s really Tanner’s fault, not mine.”
All I could do for several seconds was stare at her while part of me started doing squealing jumping jacks and the other part wanted to get up and run for the door. “You didn’t.”
“Andrea!” I whispered.
She smiled tentatively. “I sort of texted them where we were, and they should be here any minute.”
“This is probably the worst idea you’ve had in a long time.” I killed the engine and sat back, clenching the keys in my hand until the jagged edges cut into my palm. “Seriously.”
Tanner snorted. “I can come up with an entire list of worse ideas, but hey, you’re sober for the first time in two days. And just in time for the holidays.”
Leaning my head back against the headrest, I groaned. “It still feels like someone is slamming an ice pick into my temples.”
“You were pretty drunk,” Tanner commented, reaching for the door. “Which is why I think this dinner is the best idea ever.”
I rubbed my palm along my chin, frowning at the growth of stumble there. I hadn’t shaved since the first night at Snowshoe. “Yeah, you’d think that, since Syd doesn’t hate your guts.”
Tanner rolled his eyes. “She doesn’t hate your guts. I don’t think that would ever be possible.”
“Oh, it’s possible. Trust me.”
“Look, I don’t know what really went down between you two, but something did. It’s not the end of the world.” Tanner opened the passenger door and a wealth of frigid air streamed into the SUV. “So stop being a pussy and get out of the car.”
I shot him a dirty look, but I climbed out. As I joined him on the other side, I asked the question I’d already asked a dozen times. “She’s knows I’m going to be here, right?”
“Yep.” Tanner opened the door and motioned me in. Once we got past the hostess, he glanced at me. “Okay. I lied. I don’t think Syd knows.”
“What?” I stopped in the middle of the aisle, nearly causing a waiter to slam into me. I glared at Tanner. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Tanner clamped his hand on my shoulder, steering me away from the packed round table in my path. “Nope. Chill out. I’m sure she knows by now.”
Easy for him to say “chill out,” but I felt like I was walking in front of a firing squad. So many times since Syd left Snowshoe, I’d fought the urge to call her. I wanted nothing more than to hear her voice and to see her. And yeah, my fucking stupid-ass heart was bouncing all over the place, but Syd had made herself pretty damn clear.
“You’re a bastard,” I grumbled, running a hand through my hair. Man, I wished I’d shaved. While I had showered, I was sure I still smelled like whiskey. That shit would be bleeding out of my pores for days to come.
I saw Andrea before I saw Syd, and my heart pounded like I’d run up and down the quad, and I was sweating like a whore in church on Sunday. Tanner got in front of me somehow, proving that I was dragging my feet like a mofo.
The bastard took the seat next to Andrea, who had the biggest, fakest smile known to man on her face. Of course, I wanted to sit next to Sydney. I also wanted to touch her, hold her close, and kiss her. There were other things that I wanted to do to her, things that kept me up late at night in a drunken stupor with my hand between my legs.
But I was also sure she might punch me in the balls.
Needing to pull it together, I told myself that the best thing to do was to act normal. With that in mind, I stepped beside the table and looked at Syd.