November 5th 2018
“Cheers to being single!” Lucas roared lightly – not caring when he received weird looks from people nearby – and downed the shot.
Audrey’s face scrunched up as the liquid burned her throat, so she was quick to follow it up with some soda. The glassed clinked as they all placed them down on the table, Sabrina being the only one that refrained and chose to sip at some water instead. It was ironic that she wasn’t drinking, yet had been the one to suggest they all go out for drinks to celebrate Lucas’ divorce becoming official, especially since it had dragged on for over half a year.
Audrey couldn’t help but eye the way Sabrina looked at Lucas, and wondered if she harboured more than just friendly feelings towards him.
“You’re missing out, Brina.” He chuckled and leaned closer towards her, already pretty drunk from pre-drinks earlier in the evening with Harley whom surprisingly, appeared almost sober. “We’re going to get absolutely wasted tonight.”
Sabrina merely chuckled in response, her cheeks heating at the use of his nickname for her.
“Now, if you guys excuse me, there’s a siren on the dance floor calling out to me.” He stood up as his eyes locked with the same blonde that he had spoken to at the bar earlier when he had bought a round of drinks for everyone.
Harley promised that he would join him soon, but insisted that he needed a few more drinks in him before he was ready, and the others merely laughed as Lucas straightened out the collar of his shirt and all but purred as the woman beckoned him to her.
“There’s something different about you.”
Audrey glanced up at Tobias over the rim of her glass, having been caught off guard with his sudden statement.
“What do you mean?” She asked curiously.
“Your eyes are twinkling.” Sabrina noted aloud, causing all pairs of eyes around the table to turn their attention towards her.
“Your eyes never twinkle like that.” Harley watched her closely, his gaze suspicious as his eyes narrowed and he continued his staring.
Audrey shifted in her seat uncomfortably. “It must be the mascara.” She brushed it off in hopes that they would drop it even though she was completely aware that her choice of mascara for the night had nothing to do with the way her eyes shone.
She could only thank a certain Joseph Darcy for that.
“No.” He hummed. “There’s more to it than that.”
Audrey shrugged since she didn’t really know what to say and instead, just sipped at her martini instead, hoping to come across as nonchalant and indifferent. Unfortunately for her, the conversation wasn’t over yet.
“Harley is right. There is something different about you.” Darius stared at her long and hard, grinning with how uncomfortable she looked under the spotlight, even more so when she squirmed at the intensity of his gaze. “You’re practically glowing.”
“Must be all the makeup.”
“No amount of makeup can make you glow like that, sweetie.” Sapphire snorted at her terrible excuse. “Only sex can get you to glow like that.”
Sabrina stared at her incredulously, her eyes wide. Despite they’re being so many of them huddled close together around the small table, she leaned in and lowered her voice.
“You and Lucas?”
Audrey’s eyes widened and she choked softly on her drink.
Darius reached behind her and patted her on the back gently, hoping to ease the choking though unable to keep the amused grin off his face.
Accepting the napkin graciously, she wiped at the corners of her mouth and stared up at her friends with wide, incredulous eyes.
“How could you even think that?” She asked once she had finally calmed down. “He just got out of a divorce. You really think he’d be interested in jumping into another relationship?”
Sabrina’s eyes widened and her lips parted in momentary surprise. “Does that mean you’re interested in him?”
She shook her head, no. “We’re just friends. That’s it.”
It was the truth. Audrey sometimes wondered if Lucas wanted more than just a friendship with her, but she was confident that she didn’t reciprocate any sort of romantic feelings for him so sincerely hoped that he didn’t feel that way about her.
“Well, if it’s not Lucas you’re banging, then who?”
“Yeah, who’s the mystery guy?”
“I’m not banging anyone.” And technically, she wasn’t. As confusing as things were with Joe, sleeping together would just complicate things further and Audrey wasn’t sure if she wanted to mess up the friendship that they had for 7 minutes in heaven, no matter how pleasurable and satisfying those 7 short minutes with him would be. She was also confident he would last a lot longer than 7 measly minutes.
When she felt her cheeks heating, she coughed and looked down in hopes of diverting the attention away from her.
Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.
“But you didn’t deny the fact that there is a man!”
“You’ve got that look on your face again.”
“Why am I being interrogated?” Audrey groaned painfully, not really wanting to talk about it.
She was still very much confused about Joe and telling her friends about him would just add gas to the fire. They would ask all sorts of questions that she wasn’t quite ready to answer. While it was unfair to them that she always kept a part of herself secret and hidden away from them, it was probably for the best.
“It’s because you’re so secretive.” Harley answered with a smug smile, very much enjoying the show. “It’s your own fault. If you weren’t so secretive, we wouldn’t be so nosy.”
“I’m not that secretive.” Audrey denied even though he was right. “Okay, maybe I’m a little secretive but there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“No, there isn’t.” Darius hummed and placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. “We’re just joking around. You don’t have to tell us anything you’re not comfortable with.”
She smiled at him graciously though still felt bad for being so secretive with the people she deemed as dear friends.
“Speak for yourself.” Sabrina snorted, resting her chin in her palm as she eagerly waited for some juicy gossip. “Come on, I’m not drinking tonight because of my cleanse. Throw me a bone here.”
Audrey pursed her lips as she thought about it. As brazen as Sabrina could be at times, she was right. Plus, she could do with their opinion since she was so stumped and confused over it all.
Knowing that she would probably regret it once she sobered up, she downed the rest of her drink and grinned, ready to spill some scalding hot tea that would most likely burn her.
“There is a guy.” She said quietly, a small smile on her face.
Almost immediately, a loud squeal sounded around the table and the others had to hush Sabrina as other people were starting to send them weird looks.
“His name is Joe.”
“Joe as in Joseph?” One of them asked.
Audrey nodded. “Why?”
Tobias, Sapphire and Sabrina all hunched over her phone, her fingers tapping away at the screen.
Audrey scoffed, not drunk enough yet to fall for that. “I’m not going to tell you that.” She shook her head.
“What? Why not?” They all stared up at her.
“I know you’re searching him up on Facebook.”
“You’re really not going to tell me?” Sabrina pouted.
Audrey shook her head and grinned when she put down her phone, a defeated look on her face.
“When did you two meet?” Harley asked, her admission having piqued his interest.
“About a year ago, before I moved here.” She admitted, shifting in her seat. When she had first moved here and everyone kept asking why she had moved out of the city, she had simply replied that she had needed a new start. Her friends had picked up on the hint and hadn’t asked too much about her previous life, sensing that it was a sensitive topic for her.
“Well, tell us more.”
Audrey sighed. “When I first met Joe, I was in a relationship with someone else but when that ended, I left.”
Looks of surprise and shock ran around the table, this being the first time that Audrey had ever mentioned anything about her past life in the city.
“You left Joe behind?” Darius asked curiously.
“And now he’s followed you here?”
“Not really. It was more of a coincidence but he is opening up his new restaurant here.”
“That’s kind of romantic.” Tobias noted while his girlfriend, Sapphire rolled her eyes at him. “No, that’s creepy.”
“So, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him now?” Renee asked her, almost eagerly.
“Maybe, I’m not sure.” She shrugged.
“Do you like him?”
“What does he look like?”
“Have you got a picture of him?”
“He’s very attractive and yes, I guess I do like him.” She laughed softly at all the questions before she turned to Sabrina. “I don’t have a picture of him. Don’t you think it’d be creepy if I did?”
Sabrina shrugged with a sly, dirty smirk. “I don’t know what you’re into.”
“If you like him, then what’s the problem?”
“I’m not looking for a relationship right now.” She admitted truthfully and sighed.
“Friends with benefits then.” Sapphire suggested, her lips curled up.
“He’s not that kind of guy.” She rolled her eyes playfully but in reality, she had no idea if Joe would be interested in that. Not that she was interested in being friends with benefits with Joe, of course.
“Have you tried asking him?”
“What? Of course, not!” Audrey shook her head frantically.
“Well, you won’t know until you ask him.”
“I’m not going to ask him to be friends with benefits with me.” She denied, her eyes wide as she shook her head, hoping that they would drop the topic.
“Your loss.” Harley smirked.
Chatter continued around the table as the group began debating about friends with benefits, and whether it was a good idea or not.
“Did you move here because your relationship ended badly?” Darius asked her quietly while the others were distracted with something else.
“Kind of, yes. I just wanted to get away from it all and starting fresh sounded like a good idea.” She visibly winced at the painful memory of her previous life. “But I don’t want to talk about it now.”
“Maybe another day?”
Audrey nodded and smiled sadly when Sabrina grabbed her hand and gave it a soft squeeze, having just overheard their quiet conversation.
Sooner or later she would have to be honest with her friends and tell them about Calvin. One of the biggest reasons she had avoided it for so long was because she didn’t want any of them to look at her differently for the person that she used to be, as she just wasn’t her anymore.
Sabrina, Sapphire and Renee were all strong, independent woman who would never let any man walk all over them. Hell, Sapphire had started at the company after her boyfriend, Tobias, but she had transferred to a different apartment once they started dating and now, she was in a managerial role and earning more money than him.
Audrey wasn’t as strong as them, but she used to be so much worse.
The longer she went without her friends knowing about her pathetic past, the better. She didn’t want anyone of them to look at her with pity or think she’s still the weak girl she used to be.
After the divorce, Audrey had done a lot of self-discovery and sincerely believed that she had changed an immense amount in the past year, but that didn’t mean that she had forgotten about her past or that it still wasn’t a part of her.
There was no guarantee that she wouldn’t resort to back the person she used to be as soon as she got into another relationship. There really wasn’t any knowing until it happened, so she was determined to keep it that way for a while as she definitely wasn’t ready for a relationship right now.
That was mainly why she was so cautious with Joe.
He was like a bull dozer, coming into her life and knocking everything she had worked so hard to build, down. He wore his heart on his sleeve and spoke his mind to her, even expressing his innate desires to be with her, yet she was too afraid of admitting her feelings even to herself.
Sensing her sullen mood, Darius pushed his drink into her hand and stood up. When he grabbed her hand, she looked up at him, confused.
“We’re at a club. This isn’t the place to talk about sad things. We should be dancing.”
Thankful for the distraction, she grinned and downed the remainder of his drink before allowing him to pull her up from the seat and onto the dance floor. The others soon followed.
They all started out as a group in one area of the dance floor but it wasn’t long before Tobias and Sapphire wandered off somewhere for some time alone. Harley was on the prowl, looking for a warm body to go home with and she wasn’t sure where Sabrina and Renee had gone off too, most likely getting guys to buy them drinks at the bar.
“I hate to be a flake but I’ve just spied my golf buddy.”
“You mean your secret boyfriend?” She quirked a teasing brow.
Darius grinned, a glint sparkling in his eyes. “His divorce has nearly come through, and then we won’t have to keep our relationship secret anymore.”
“Go have fun.” She patted him on the arm and leaned up to place a friendly kiss against his cheek.
“Thanks, babe. You’re the best.”
Audrey laughed and watched as he weaved through the crowd to his lover, subtly reaching for his hand. When they began walking away from the dance floor and towards the bathroom, he searched for her through the crowd of gyrating bodies. When he caught her eye, he winked before scurrying behind his lover, eager to join him in what she assumed was the men’s bathrooms.
She laughed and diverted her eyes, not wanting to picture the nasty things they were about to do to each other in the bathroom. Just when she turned around to look for the rest of her friends on the dance floor, she felt someone tap her on the shoulder.
Turning around, she was met with a pair dark honey eyes which smiled down at her kindly and before she knew it, she had abandoned the search for her friends and instead, pressed herself into his body before dancing to her heart’s content.
It felt good to forget all her worries and just enjoy herself for once. Even if she would most likely regret this in the morning, at least she would be able to feel something different.
Audrey scarcely remembered him introducing himself but she didn’t care. After they got tired of dancing, they grabbed a few drinks at the bar and before she knew it, she was saddling up next to him in the back of an Uber – only after having sent a text to Sabrina that she wouldn’t be needing a ride home so her friends wouldn’t worry – on the way to his apartment building.
Their hands were all over each other as their mouths locked and slanted over each other’s; just a small teaser of what the rest of the night would shape up to be.
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