I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t walk out that room without the desire to be shoved against the nearest wall and ravaged by Jason’s lips.
Falling for the elusive rich bastard always seemed to be the turning point in my mother’s erotic novels. I always found them unrealistic and frankly, pathetic.
Unfortunately, the world has a way of twisting personal opinions into a cruel joke.
As soon as I swam out into slut infested territory I was surrounded by a frenzy of flesh-eating girls in bedazzled bikinis.
I braced myself for the impact of their incredibly nosey questions but they were far too excited about the male suitor at the front desk.
Sarah poked at my side, “Your little friend is here to see you.”
“Friend?” I asked. Last time I checked I only had three.
“Mr. Ethan is here to whisk you away and make you his princess.” Jade teased as a dozen other girls buzzed around me.
“That’s crazy,” I said while fending off wandering hands, “I haven’t spoken to him in weeks.”
“Well, he’s waiting for you upfront.” Jade grabbed my arm and led me over to Ethan. He was running a quarter over his fingers and reading a flyer for PinkCherry’s next big event.
“Interested?” I asked.
The quarter rolled onto the floor when his eyes met mine, “Not really my kind of party.” He smiled softly and greeted Jade. She nodded and left me with one last elbow to the side.
I rolled my eyes at the giggling behind me, “Sorry about them.”
“I don’t mind,” He shrugged, “It’s not their fault I’m so damn sexy.” I laughed but he wasn’t too far from the truth.
If I wasn’t constantly comparing him to Jason then maybe I’d be just as smitten as the rest of them.
“So what can I help you with, Mr. Sexy?”
“I was wondering if you want to grab something to eat with me.”
I glanced over my shoulder and saw the girls conspicuously watching from across the room, “I should really hang around here. As you know we have a big show coming up.”
“I promise to have you back within the hour.”
I was tempted to throw caution to the wind and go out with a guy who’s main goal wasn’t to tie me to my headboard but then again, he wouldn’t tie me to a headboard.
After all, nice guys deserved nice girls and I wasn’t so sure that was who I could be.
Ethan sensed my hesitation, “I have no expectations, Tara. I just want to talk.” His usual laid back demeanor was suddenly much stiffer.
“Is everything alright?”
He rubbed the back of his neck, “There are some things you need to know.”
I watched his gaze flicker behind me and followed his eyes. Jason stood at the end of the room and glared at Ethan almost accusingly.
“Please,” Ethan added quickly, “Just hear me out.”
I agreed to listen to whatever he had to say but before we could leave Jason intervened.
“What are you doing here?”
With one on my left and the other on to right, I had front row seats to their bickering.
Ethan tried to seem unfazed by Jason’s calloused greeting, “Stopping by to see a friend, you have a problem with that?”
Jason leaned closer to him and frowned, “Maybe I do.”
“That’s alright because Tara and I were just leaving.”
The cleft of my back was pressed against the front desk. I scanned the room for Jade. The one time I needed her to ride in on a white horse armed with tabasco sauce and a strong right hook and she was nowhere to be found.
“Jason it’s fine,” I nearly dove under the nearest piece of furniture when his eyes met mine, “I already said I would go.”
He scowled, “That’s not a good idea.”
“She said she wants to go.”
I glanced at Ethan, “Thanks but I can take it from here, Macho Cheese.”
“I like Mr. Sexy better.” I was sure he said that just to see if he could make steam come out of Jason’s ears.
“Mr. What?” Jason growled.
“I’m sorry you disagree but I already made my decision.” I turned my attention back to Ethan before Jason could break my resolve.
Ethan opened the door and waited for me to exit before casting one last look to Jason. I had no idea what had happened to make them behave that way but something told me that I was a crucial part of it.
We walked two blocks before I worked up the courage to ask what I just witnessed. Ethan refused to answer any questions until after we ate but I only made it halfway through my chicken tenders before losing my patience.
“You have the eating habits of a child.” Ethan chuckled as I took a bite of my meal.
I tossed down my tender as angrily as one can toss a food off the kid’s menu, “Listen, Chuck, I get it if you think it’s best to wait until after you feed me to spill our nation’s secrets but until you do I prefer we eat in silence.”
Ethan grinned, clearly completely recovered from going toe to toe with the crap-weasel not twenty minutes before, “I know this seems unnecessarily ridiculous but I swear there is a point.”
“Then get to it.”
He sighed at my demand, “The short version, Jason doesn’t care about you any more than he cares about telemarketers.” Such a vivid statement to crush someone’s spirit.
“The long version?”
“Jason hasn’t been capable of genuinely loving a girl for a very long time now.” That seemed relatively short and inconclusive for the ‘long version.’
“And you know this how?”
“We were best friends not too long ago.”
I sat back in the booth and let his information sink in before continuing, “Why aren’t you friends anymore?”
He only said one word but it felt like a million, “You.”
“Me.” There was a pause before I couldn’t prevent the giggling from surfacing. Ethan stared at the unhinged woman sitting across from him with disbelief.
“Why are you laughing?” He asked.
I fought to regain my composure, “Because that’s ridiculous. Why would you stop being friends over me?”
“It was bad enough when I helped him trick sorority girls into his bed but-” His eyes gleamed as he watched my expression, “Enough is enough.”
“So you refused to help and that’s why you guys can’t be within five feet of each other?”
“More or less.” He really knew how to flatter a girl. “I just wanted you to know the truth. This is a game for him and when he’s done he’ll move on to the next girl. I’ve seen him do it a million times.”
I stared at my plate and thought about Jason’s hands on my body, grabbing me, owning me, and now I was being told it was all a lie. Maybe I already knew but that didn’t make it sting any less.
“I would like to go now.” Suddenly I lost my appetite.
Ethan waved down the waitress and paid the bill before escorting me back to PinkCherry. We didn’t speak on the way back, my mind was racing with questions that I couldn’t handle the answers to.
“I’m sorry I had to tell you this way.”
I shrugged off his apology, “I needed to know.” Cars sped past us while we waited for something to say.
Ethan was the first to come up with something, “You love him, don’t you?”
I couldn’t tell him the truth, how every day I wake up afraid of the answer. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Be careful, Tara.” Ethan glanced inside before kissing me gently on the cheek, “I’ll see you around.”
I watched him walk off as I hid behind the side of the door where I could live in denial, where what Ethan said couldn’t be true.
But hiding never did anyone any favors so I pulled my wits together and let the door slam behind me.