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Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The Present (Two years since Aqueela has been gone)

"Heard you got yourself a new girl?" Greg arches an eyebrow at me. "Want to tell me when that happened? Didn't realize you were capable of keeping one."

I sigh. I just got here and he's already giving me a hard time – I don't know how Jay put up with him all day, every day. "Don't be that guy. It's been a rough couple of years for me."

"That always gonna be your excuse?" He asks, point-blank. I now see why he gets along so well with Grey and Jay. All three say it like it is.

I shrug. "For however long I need it to be."

"So...Bell wasn't kidding?" He changes the subject. "You really do have a new girlfriend?"

I grin at the thought. "I don't think so. The girl is nuts, like 'Aqueela nuts'." I've had some time to come to my senses since meeting that bag of crazy.

Greg lets out a low whistle before chuckling. "That bad?"

I nod. "Yeah, dude, that bad."

"So you're not gonna make a go of it?"

I shake my head. "Not worth the drama. She lives in New York anyway. Don't feel like losing another Aqueela when she leaves."

"Why still so attached to Aqueela?" Greg frowns. "You remember she was Jay's girl, right?"

Wouldn't dare forget it.

"You know it's not like that." I shake my head. "When I met Aqueela, I'd just lost the girl I was going to marry. After I caught my girl cheating, things just went from bad to worse. I lost my life because it revolved around one person. Because of her, I threw in the towel and stopped caring. But Aqueela gave it all back. You want a real friend, you'll find it in her. You'll find it in the people around her."

"Bex, was it?" He asks while busying himself with making some more drinks for his customers. "She the one who you used to date?"

"How'd you know?" I don't remember telling him her name.

"You complain about her a lot when you're drunk," he answers, amused. "Which is often, by the way." He slides a shot glass my way. "Figured you could use a drink." He sees my face. "I mean, it's been a rough couple of years, right?"

I grin, not thinking twice before downing the shot. "Didn't think you listened?"

"All ears." He taps his left ear before smirking.

I shake my head, suppressing a grin.

"Guys," one of Greg's annoying regulars interrupts as if desperate, "how do I look?"

"Wasted," Greg answers bluntly.

The regular rolls his eyes at Greg. "I'm serious."

"So am I, Mike," Greg replies smoothly.

Mike scowls at him before frantically combing his blonde hair to the side with his fingers. He turns to me instead. "No homo, but how do I look?"

I flash him a thumbs-up, uninterested in whatever the hell is happening. I've learned that showing interest automatically involves you and I hate being involved.

"Why so eager anyway?" Greg asks, stupidly showing interest.

"Hot brunette," he answers before spinning back around to face the entrance where, in fact, a hot brunette is standing. "I got dibs."

I scoff and turn to face Greg, avoiding her gaze. "She's following me now?" I mutter to myself, preparing to bolt.

"Why are you complaining?" Greg asks in disbelief, his eyes tracking AJ's every move. "Assuming that is your 'new' girl."

"Because she doesn't catch hints," I answer, ducking my head.

Mike doesn't hear us. He's already approaching AJ. He, among the rest of the guys here, have noticed her. It's unsurprising considering she lucked out in the genes department. I used to think Bex was beautiful, but she has nothing on AJ.

"Why would you send a girl, as gorgeous as that, hints? Assuming they're 'leave me alone' hints," Greg questions, confused.

"They are," I confirm.

He merely shakes his head. "I've seen a lot of good-looking girls in all my years of owning this bar, but that girl probably tops most of them."

I'm not blind. I know she's extremely attractive. What Greg and the others don't know is that she's two sandwiches short of a picnic.

I tap my fingers on my knee, agitated.

As expected, it doesn't take AJ long to politely turn Mike down, seeing as she's obsessed with me, and it doesn't take Greg long to sell me out. Next thing I know, he's waving her over and gesturing to me.

For a second, I watch her walk in my direction, her hips swaying.

I come to my senses and lean my forehead on the bar counter, trying to magically disappear. Still, I don't miss the looks of envy crossing the other guys' eyes.

Sensing her presence, I turn my head sideways and reluctantly stare up at her. She's wearing a denim skirt and a thin, strappy shirt that covers only half of her stomach. Her brunette waves fall over her shoulders effortlessly as her blue eyes narrow in on me. Her full, pink lips twist up into a frown at seeing me trying to escape her gaze.

Even when she's furious, she's hot.

Either she's insane or I'm insane. No sane guy would turn her down yet here I am, planning to do exactly that.

"You've been ignoring my calls," is the first sentence to leave her lips. "You've been avoiding me. Luckily, Sash told me you'd be here."

"Have I?" I question sarcastically, still wondering how she got my number. And when did she and Sash get all cozy? "I didn't realize."

A few bystanders drop a whistle upon hearing my comment.

I smirk in pride, grinning at them, just before being hit through the face.

"Oooh!" The bystanders chorus shamelessly, having nothing better to do.

I lift a hand to my stinging cheek in disbelief.

Greg takes one look at her before making up his mind. "Benley, I said this to Jay once and I was right, and now I'm saying it you too, she's a keeper."

I sigh, my gaze straying down to her bronze skin, her flat stomach distracting me.

She clicks her fingers in front of my face in an effort to get my attention. "You owe me an apology for making me come in here. This place is full of sleazebags."

"Offense taken," I retort, snapping my gaze back up to her face.

"Plus," she pauses as she touches the top of the bar counter, inspecting it, "it's also filthy."

"I was wrong," Greg chimes in, offended. "Get rid of her."

If only it were that easy...

"What do you think I've been trying to do?!" I ask him in exasperation.

AJ clearly takes offense. She grabs me by the ear and begins pulling me out the bar. "You and I, Mister, are gonna have a talk."

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