Tampa, Florida in the summer wasn't something to like. The heat and humidity were torture. Peyton had invited our friends to hang out by his dad's pool, and when we ran out of beer in the cooler, I volunteered to get the other case of it in the refrigerator in the garage (in which I really needed a break from everyone).
Peyton Lowery and I had been together for more than 4 years and had started dating before our junior year of high school. Since then, we were together almost everyday. School dances, vacations, and even our first year of college. We were voted in high school as the most likely to Marry their High School Sweetheart.
I loved him so much, I lost my virginity to him when I was 17.
Peyton changed. I don't know if there was a turning point, or if something happened to him that made him different, but he's not the sweet, caring guy I used to know. We got comfortable around one another. He would tell me literally anything, including how I wasn't making him happy lately or if I was acting like a bitch towards him.
It was June now, and we both were home from The University of Tampa, but it felt like I was seeing him less once we left the college and got back home. I got temporarily hired to do babysitting which the pay was actually quite satisfying and he did some work for his friend's brother's landscaping business. The hours were long for me but when I did have a day off including today, we talked for the last few days to hang out but he texted me saying he was going to hang out with some friends instead of me! Like what hell! His message said to be exact: Hey Riley, I have to cancel today to see some friends, sorry. He didn't even have the balls to call me to tell me which pissed me off even more.
We used to be best friends, and now we barely even talk. Peyton only called me when he wanted to fuck. That's what I've become to him.
Riley Shepard: Peyton's play-toy.
I shoved my phone in my bag, put one of my AirPods in my ear and turned on some Luke Bryan and walked through the house to the garage on the far end of the house. I opened the door and walked down the stairs, not bothering to turn the light on. The concrete floor was cold but the darkness helped me let go of my annoyance towards my asshole of a boyfriend. Maybe I was in a bad mood and needed to get my mind off of it.
I forced myself to do it. I needed to.
I closed my eyes and focused solely on the music, cutting everything out of my head. I was deep into the song, singing every word until I heard a sound, causing me to stop in my tracks.
Dr. Lowery stood in the doorway, and interpreting the facial expression, he must've been watching me for a while.
I was fairly shocked to see him home since he was a major emergency surgeon at the local hospital in Tampa. He was usually at work all night and half the day so he wasn't around much. He only came home for important things such as a birthday celebration or a graduation party, but for the most part, it was just Peyton and I.
Why he kept this large house after Peyton left? I don't know.
His dad looked younger than he was, at least in his facial characteristics. There were nearly invisible lines under his eyes that showed he was in his forties. His dark brown hair and short beard had some strands of grey, and the sunlight brought out the gray. It was actually a good sight to look at.
In one photo of Peyton with his dad, my friend always drooled over him. I joked about it, but I agreed. He wasn't cute. He was fucking sexy as hell.
Rather than smiling at him like I usually do, I kept myself in line. Was it possible to die from embarrassment? My knees felt week, but I kept my face and body composed. I dropped my gaze to the floor, trying to pretend he didn't just see me singing at the top of my lungs.
"Umm..." I got the phone out of my bag and shut the music off. "I was just getting another case of beer for the..." Fuck! What was I doing?! Peyton's friend Luke was the only one who's 21. "I mean... Coca Cola."
I don't know if my cover up was a success but all I got in response was a laugh. It was a pleasant sound that echoed through the garage. It drew my gaze up to him. He was leaning against the door frame, and his expression was somewhat amused.
But he broke the gaze and straightened. "Peyton sent you to get his beer?"
I shrugged, pulled the fridge door open, and stared at the nearly empty shelves. "I offered."
The cardboard started to creak when I grabbed the handle off one of the racks in the fridge. I tried to focus on the beer and not the man standing in the doorway, since it was the second time this summer he'd caught me.
Oh my God Riley, don't think about it.
Lord knew how much I spent thinking about him at night. Focusing, I hid my blushing face and took the case of beer toward the door. Every step I made towards him, he didn't move an inch. He looked at me with his mesmerizing eyes in pure concern.
"Are you and Peyton doing okay?"
I nearly dropped the case of beer in surprise. Peyton didn't really seem to give a shit about me anymore but how could his father notice?
"You can tell me."
"I think it's college that's drifted us apart. That's all."
He nodded slowly. I know he obviously doesn't believe me.
"I'm sure we'll be fine though."
His facial expression doesn't change a bit. He seems to be looking at me funny, like he was worried or somewhat upset. But he nodded once and stepped back to let me pass. I was halfway through the kitchen when he finally spoke.
"Riley." His voice was strong, yet quiet. "I don't know if I ever said it, but thank you for everything you did with Peyton."
"When he came home from college, it seemed complicated for him. You made it a lot easier." He frustratedly slammed his fists on the counter. "You made him a better person."
Growing up for Peyton was hard, considering his parents had him young and never got married, and he didn't talk much about why he lived with his mom in Virginia until he was 16.
I didn't know what his relationship with his father was like before he arrived in Florida, but it sounded very distant. He confided that he hung out with a bad group of kids and once his mom found out, she sent him away to live with his dad to keep him away from the bad influence.
When Peyton and I started dating, it was a joking matter because I was the first girl in the new town who was nice to him.
I squeezed the case of beer in my arms, not sure how to respond. I didn't really do anything, but okay. I smiled and said, "That's sweet of you but I didn't do a thing."
A small smile formed on his face. "Well, I'm thankful anyways. Sorry about interrupting you."
"I couldn't help it, but I'm really into country."
"I'm a somewhat fan."
I smiled and as I left him, I couldn't help but feel the tingly feeling he gave me that felt so wrong, yet so right.