"What is wrong with you?" I ask her, rubbing at my ear. "Why did you have to manhandle me in front of all my friends?" Greg will never respect me again.
She rolls her big, blue eyes at me. "You're being childish."
"Then stop treating me like a child," I rebut.
"Why are you so scared to be with me?" She asks, straight-forward.
"Cutting right to the chase, I see." I make an attempt to lighten the mood.
"You're not funny." She retorts bitterly.
"You know..." I pause, building up suspense, "I remember you being a lot less uptight just a few days ago."
"Funny, I remember you being a lot less of an ass." She replies before making a move to leave.
"AJ, AJ, AJ," I grab her hand, pulling her to me, "hold on."
She frowns up at me from in my arms, pushing me off of her. "What?"
"I'm sorry, okay, I'm sorry."
She raises her brows. "For what, exactly? For avoiding me or for avoiding me after introducing me to your family as your girlfriend, kissing me and then promising to take me out on a real date?"
"Woah," I fold my arms over my chest, holding my ground, "let's recap because I'm recalling things a little differently."
She glowers up at me, scrunching up her nose.
That's not fair, she can't be cute when I'm mad at her.
"You wanted me to introduce you as my girlfriend, you kissed me and fine, the last one is solid." I defend myself.
"You're scared, Ben. I see it." She places her hands on her hips. "For whatever reason, you're scared, and I don't have time for people who aren't willing to commit."
"Woman," I close my eyes, annoyed, "I hardly know you."
"But it doesn't feel that way, right?" She challenges me.
"You're loopy," I tell her bluntly, meeting her intent stare. "Stop following me around. It's getting ridiculous."
She gazes up at me in disbelief with her alluring eyes. Before I know it, I'm being sucked into a sea of blue, and then I'm leaning in, and she's not moving away.
"Are you seriously going to try and kiss me after what you just said?"
I snap out of it, opening my eyes. "Hmm?" I press my lips together, embarrassed. I shake my head, averting my gaze to the sky. "No, of course not."
"Yes, you were." She argues. "I cannot believe how egotistic you are."
"If anything, you were trying to kiss me."
Stupid, Benley. Real stupid. Just go ahead an prove her point.
"You're not who I thought you were." She says quietly.
I fall silent, contemplating her words for a minute or two, now feeling terrible. When I look up, she's still standing in front of me. "Weren't you supposed to storm off?"
"I will when I'm good and ready!" She snaps angrily.
I hold my hands up in surrender until she finally leaves.
Bell slaps me across the face with that backhand of hers.
"You gotta stop making this a habit, Bell." I complain, my head spinning. What is it with women and slapping me? "Otherwise I'm not gonna make a habit out of visiting."
"You were a jerk to AJ." She accuses me of the truth.
"Um...hello...you don't even really know her. You sure as hell know me. Why are you siding with a nut-bag?" I glance to Max for help when Bell keeps her steady gaze of fury locked on me.
"There's no use in trying to persuade Bell." Max shakes his head as if it's futile. "It's like talking a hole into a wall, it's not gonna happen."
Bell glares at him next.
"Also," he quickly emphasizes, "you were a jerk to AJ."
Bell nods, satisfied. She has my boy on a tight leash.
I let out a frustrated breath. "AJ is insane. She wants to marry me."
"Aww, cuteness!" Bell squeals, not seeing the crazy in it because she is crazy.
"Knew you two kids would tie the knot." Max chuckles before gushing over us 'love birds'. "I'm just surprised it didn't happen sooner."
They're both useless. It's times like these when I wish for my sensible friends back, if they could even be classified as friends – people like Emma and Grey.
"I'm not marrying her!" I grunt. "I'm not ever getting married."
Not after Bex. Not after what happened.
"You know who you sound like?" Bell asks me.
I don't answer because I know that the second I do, she'll just talk right over me.
"No," I protest, "because as soon as I do, you're going to do that thing you always do and-"
"Jay Taylor," she cuts me off, as predicted. "The one and only, stubborn Jay Taylor, who wouldn't ask Aqueela out despite being in love with her just because he held onto past hurts of not being good enough. Granted, your pasts are different but you both let it stop you."
I sigh and look straight through her, tired of this conversation already.
"Jay didn't get the girl. Instead, he got Africa. Africa for goodness sake!" Bell throws her hands to the air in exasperation, making her point clear.
"Bell..." Max drawls, stopping her. "Let's not go there."
"I didn't." She exclaims. "Jay did."
"Jay had to do what Jay had to do." I defend him. I'm tired of hearing everyone blame Jay for what happened. It wasn't all his fault. It wasn't his fault that Aqueela left. It wasn't my fault that Bex cheated on me. "If I was in his position, I'd do the same damn thing."
"I get it. You were hurt." Bell speaks up after a moment's hesitation, almost as if reading my thoughts. "But you can't let that hurt stop you from going after the things you want in life...the people you want in life."
I pinch the bridge of my nose and stare up at the ceiling before meeting her gaze. "I don't know her."
"Then get to know her."