“Alright.” Chaz finishes signing whatever papers his lawyer had drawn up. “That’s that.” He scoots his chair from the table at the same time as me, both standing, doing a quick bro shake, patting a hand against my back with a genuine smile.
“I can’t thank you—”
“Nope,” he cuts me off. “We’ve been through this, Trey. There’s only a few people I’d give anything to, and you know you’re one of them. Don’t thank me, just put this new start to good use.”
I nod, truly grateful. It’s hard as hell to get a loan, especially when you already have so many. Though the club needs a larger venue, I’d signed on all of that before. Then had a fucking house built, a house I thought Kyra would want. I bit off more than I could chew. Somehow thinking these big things. These huge expensive things were what women, or what my ex wanted. I thought I’d done it all right. Turns out, I have no clue.
“So, I already put my card on your room.” He pulls me from my trip down recent memory lane. I shake my head at him, buttoning my suit jacket, following him from the room. Feeling like I got way too dressed up for this exchange. Chaz just chilling in shorts and a t-shirt, I kind of forgot he took the day off, to spend with Briar.
“It’s really not necessary,” I say, blowing out a breath, feeing kind of dumb that at twenty-five, my rich friend has to bail me out.
“No shit,” he replies with a shrug, pressing the button for the elevator. “I knew you’d say no, or make up something. I mean, let’s be real. I feel like I know you pretty well.”
“Thanks.” Following him in after the metal doors slide open, he turns his head towards me and gives a quick smile, before his lips fall to a more serious expression, brows pulling together.
“You deserve it, man. All the things... everything you and your family have done for me...” Giving my shoulder a brief squeeze before letting his hand fall back to his side, he does a subtle throat clearing as the doors spring open to the building’s lobby. “What are you getting into now?” he asks, walking next to me through the neutral colored entryway.
“I mean it.” Looking over at him, before he pushes open the glass doors to exit the building. Feeling a tinge of guilt, but also, can’t help feel a little pissed that he didn’t tell me the shit he said last night, sooner. Though I’m not really sure I would have listened. Either way, he deserves to hear the next part. Because as much of a show as he puts on for the rest of the world... I know the truth. “You’re a really good friend.”
We walk outside to the busy sidewalk, and it’s weird because it feels more like home at this moment. I’d considered staying, knowing I’d have a better chance to really get into the business, a higher shot of success in a large city. But I thought Kyra wanted me to move back home. Said she was sick of the distance. Pegged that shit wrong.
I met her in high school, one of those awkward relationships that was on and off for the last two years of it. When I got into Columbia I almost didn’t go, I also almost shit myself—do you know how low their acceptance rate is? She was staying in Georgia for college.
My parents pushed, they encouraged me to get out there, to take advantage of any and every opportunity that I could. They’d met young, all the kids, one of those wild types of love stories you only read about in books.
So I packed up, went to the big apple. A city where people think all their dreams will become reality. It’s true, there’s something special about it, in all its jam-packed craziness.
I felt out of place immediately, this southern kid, awkward as shit, youngest of five with four older sisters. I didn’t exactly fit in. Moving into a suite with two rooms, and you can guess who walked into mine.
Chaz was cocky, good looking, and rich. We were opposites. But what I realized pretty quickly was most of it was a show. After the first year, when he said he was staying at school for Christmas, I told my parents my roommate... my friend wasn’t going home for the holiday; they demanded he come with me. No one should be alone for Christmas. They’re like that. So they booked him a flight. From then on, he became more like a brother.
“I gotta get something off my chest,” I tell him as we walk amongst the throngs of people, effortlessly weaving in and out while having a conversation. Though I’ve been back home for the last several months, navigating around here is like riding a bike.
Taking a deep breath, I shove my hands into my suit-pant pockets. I wanna call him out on the shit he said, and I damn well know that if I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna have to call myself out, too.
“Me first,” Chaz says, nodding his head towards a sparsely populated bar. “Let’s grab a drink. It’s my day off, and I don’t think you have a lot to do.”
“Noon on a Thursday?” I ask, sounding like an old man. One of the complaints or critiques from Kyra. That I’d already fallen into these habits, being comfortable, acting older than my age. She wanted to be young and live or whatever, I thought that was what we were doing.
I never really let loose in college. I was too busy worrying about getting good grades, knowing my parents were being squeezed dry trying to help pay for my tuition. Plus, after the second year, she came to visit, fell in love with the city that never sleeps. And just like that... I had a girlfriend. I wasn’t gonna go out and put myself in any shifty situations.
“You can get a light beer,” Chaz offers with an amused smirk, pulling the large baseball bat looking door handle to whatever random sports bar. “It’s the same thing as water.” He chuckles, awaiting my approval.
I give a shake of my head with a quick eye roll, following him into the place.
“So,” he begins after several minutes of making light conversation with the older gentleman behind the bar. Chaz taps his fingers a few times against the side of his glass. Though he was making fun of me, he ordered us both light beers. He’d always displayed this persona like he was a big partier in college, but he wasn’t. Truth is, he stayed in and hung out with me some of the time. The rest he definitely was sticking it in most of the females he’d met.
“Didn’t you take off today?” I raise my already condensing bottle, taking a swig. “To hang out with Briar?” I try not to show any type of emotion when I say her name. No reaction. I’d gotten good at it in college, trying not to reveal my clear infatuation with his model looking best friend.
I hid out in my room when she’d visit, even more so once Kyra and I went full fledged with the distance thing. Because even if it was in my head, clearly I thought a relationship should come with respect, though it was definitely not mutual.
Briar was the fantasy, the hall-pass, the girl I really didn’t know, but had the hots for... well, immediately. I’d created this image of a perfect woman in my head—kind of weirdly if I’m being honest—based on her looks and the shit Chaz would say about her. She always had a boyfriend... always. And really, nothing about it surprises me right now.
She is exactly like the dream, the perfect vision I created. I’ve never met a woman my age who just kind of takes up an entire room and seems like one of the most funny and honest people I’ve ever met.
“That’s who I wanted to talk about,” Chaz says as I tip the bottle up to my lips, trying not to choke. “Not necessarily about her, but about a conversation I had with her.”
“Mm-hmm,” I mumble, wiping my sleeve across my mouth, letting the glass hit the solid wood surface with a decent clang.
“Another one?” the bartender asks. Nodding my head, somehow having just downed an entire beer in a matter of a few seconds.
“Might as well,” I say, throwing a hand up.
“Damn,” Chaz remarks with a gentle laugh. “I guess we’re just goin’ for it.” He flips a finger up, signaling for a refill for himself as well, draining his drink. “I like this new behavior, Trey.” Leaning his head back, he side eyes me with a smirk. “It’s good to see you relax.”
“Here ya go, ladies,” the older guy says with a chuckle, placing the beers in front of us.
“So, Briar... well, last night, I was talking to her. She was in the bathroom and I don’t know, I guess I just felt like I had to get a few things out.”
Gulping, I tug slightly underneath the collar of my shirt, wishing it wasn’t buttoned all the way up with this fucking tie threatening to choke me.
“Sorry, that’s TMI, and not even the point.” Chaz waves a hand. “She’s pissed at me, by the way. But ya know...” He raises a shoulder. “That’s why I want to say this to you. Because I think the truth, at least amongst friends, is probably the best.”
I avert my eyes from him, guilt flooding through me. Maybe he knows something was up? Maybe she told him? But probably not. I think he would’ve had something to say right off the bat. My sights wander over all the various sports memorabilia spanning the walls. The TVs all turned to different events. He’s right though, I’ll just go out with it. “I should just tell you—”
“I told her shit last night that I should have said to you years ago, and I feel all fucked up about it,” he interrupts, tossing his bottle up to his lips before lowering it with a frown. “I told her that I never liked Kyra, I didn’t, and I’m sorry. I saw this shit... I saw it coming.”
I nod slowly, frowning at him, trying to have some sort of reaction like this is the first time I’m hearing it, not the second.
“Anyway, I’m pretty sure that she hooked up with other guys when she was at school.” I maintain eye contact, biting the inside of my cheek. “And I know she did at one of the parties when she came to visit before our last finals. I mean, I wasn’t there, but people were buzzing about it. I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry I didn’t tell you.” Lowering his head, Chaz shakes it, looking down at the ground. “You were so excited to go home and get the ball rolling and I...” He tips his bottle to his mouth. “I just didn’t want to ruin things.”
Leaning my forearms on the bar, I slump forward, running my palms back through my hair, resting the heels of my hands against my forehead. “I kind of had an idea,” I ashamedly admit, concentrating on the swirls of polished wood grain before leaning back and facing him.
“You did?” Chaz jerks his head back with a scowl.
“I don’t know, I guess I did... Well, after she said no... after she said she wasn’t ready to settle down. I just kind of hoped...” Looking up at the ceiling, shaking my head. “I just hoped I was wrong. Or that when I moved home, things would be different, and I was an idiot.”
“I should have told you this shit. I shouldn’t have let you blow everything on that house, that ring. That’s something a good friend would have done. I should’ve—”
“Wait. Is that why, is this the only reason you lent me—”
“No. Fuck no,” Chaz replies, squeezing his eyes shut, pressing his fingers over them. “I meant what I said. You deserve it. Not because you’re in a hole. But, shit...” He tosses back his beer. “I’d be glad to help you out of that, if you let me.”
I shake my head no.
“I want to help you, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that shit.” He puts a hand on my shoulder. “But I mean it. Besides Briar, you’re the only other person I really consider family. I want to see you guys happy, living good lives.”
“Any of that shit, all of it...” I peel the corner of the bottle label, already wilting. “That’s not on you. I think I saw it coming too, I just didn’t want to believe it. I just thought...” I lift a shoulder before taking a sip. “I just thought if I did these things, made these grand gestures, I don’t know?”
I look straight ahead, staring at the rows and rows of different bottles situated in front of a mirror, Chaz’s eyes intent on the side of my face.
“I thought it would magically make something happen. And it just wasn’t there.”
We sit in silence for a few minutes. Both taking random swigs from our bottles. Neither of us saying anything.
I’m not really mad at him, it’s true. My sisters all tried to warn me, they weren’t fans of hers. Kyra and I had this agreement that we wouldn’t get too crazy about each other’s college life, living states away. But after we’d... well, she would settle down. My dad refused to give me his mother’s ring, the one that’d been in our family for years. Said it was rushing, that the right person wouldn’t require all these things.
I thought it all was what she wanted.
I guess when it was in her face it was too much. It put her on the spot. I figured most women want that shit. She was all kinds of mixed signals, saying she wanted one thing and then acting like she didn’t.
“Just make me a promise.” Chaz finally breaks the silence. Which luckily, is never really uncomfortable around him. “If you ever see shit, hear shit, think there’s any red flags if I ever get serious with someone.”
I let out a single laugh, raising a brow.
“I know, I know. Hell will freeze over. But, if this ever happens. Will you tell me?”
“Yeah, man.” I nod, pressing my lips to a tight smile. “I promise.”
After another shorter bout of comfortable silence, and another round of drinks, I decide it’s time to get the shit off my chest, as well.
“Yeah?” Chaz asks, phone lifted to his ear. “Fuck, you’ve gotta be shitting me.” Holding up a finger, his eyes roll. He stands from the bar stool, walking over to a vacant corner of the place.
I let out a groan. “Just wanna let you know I hooked up with the one person you’ve always said is off limits,” I say in a low whisper, my head down.
“What’s that?” the bartender asks, now standing directly in front of me.
I glance nervously from Chaz back to the face of this stranger, inhaling a deep breath. “Oh, nothing.” I sigh. “Just gotta figure out how to tell him...” I nod my head to the side, where an apparently irritating conversation is happening. His voice getting louder by the second, f-bombs flying. “Gotta tell him I hooked up with pretty much his sister.”
I guess that’s what I would ultimately equate Briar to.
A few moments later, he comes back fuming, seething. Face red and teeth clenched. “Gotta go put out a fucking fire at work.” He shakes his head, draining his beer. “I swear, motherfuckers can’t do anything on their own.”
He’d straight out of school become one of the top financial guys in the city. A fucking whiz with numbers.
“God, if this account gets fucked, I’m gonna kill someone.” He taps away furiously on his phone screen with multiple whoosh sounds, looking up. “Sorry to cut this short. What are you doing later?”
Another ding chimes, and an indistinct sound growls from his throat.
“I think I’m gonna visit Eli, go see their baby...”
“Oh, right. I saw it,” he says, not looking up from his phone. “It’s pretty cute.”
“Fuck!” He growls again, slapping some money on the bar top. “What’d you wanna tell me again?” He finally lifts his head, jaw tight, obvious temper in the making as he pushes a finger to his temple. “I swear someone’s getting murdered.” Looking back down at his screen, a sound of annoyance growling from his throat.
The bartender shakes his head with a nervous smile, signaling a no for my admission.
Yeah. I’m gonna come clean. Especially after he just told me this shit... but I’m thinking the best outcome for all involved might be when there are a few states between us. “It’s not... well... it isn’t... it can wait.” Chaz doesn’t look back up to my widened eyes, keeping them straight ahead.
“Great, sorry again.” Waving a hand at the man when he tries to give him change, huge smile on the bartender’s face from the gigantic tip he just received. “Shit, I shared the location with Briar. Can you hang out a few, tell her I’ll be finished with this soon?”
I smile at the mention of her name.
“Sure,” I reply, trying to play it off like it’s no big deal. Like my heart didn’t just start pounding at the thought of being in close proximity with her.
“Thanks. I’ll catch you tomorrow. Nine. Briar and my birthday thing.”
“Can I... should I bring anything?” I ask Chaz, who’s already bee-lining for the door. I shouldn’t even bring myself. But it’s probably the last time I’ll see her, and I don’t know, I just wanna breathe that fresh air once more before I head home and back to reality.
“Nah. She’s not into real flashy stuff. It’ll be low key, promise,” he says, pushing open the door, signaling a thanks, with a flip of his palm to the bartender. “Maybe a bottle of tequila and call it a day?”
My eyes go wide and my pants go tight, just thinking about her licking my hand, and the lime, and the—
“You look like you could use one or two more,” the eavesdropper behind the bar says with a smile.
You have no idea.
A/N: awwww my heart. My guys💕💕 I couldn’t love Trey more, WTF. Death to his ex! Sooo maybe now you get even more why Chaz wants to keep Briar from Trey. Let’s be real tho... I think she does what she wants.
Fun fact: it was previously told that Trey’s club in Georgia is called the second floor... in Ties (their new club in Philly) is called Level 3... see my ultra creative theme🥴🥴🥴☺️☺️☺️ also, when the earlier relationship goes south (I’m referring to in Ties, again) its Trey that tells Chaz about his ex... not wanting to give too much away here bc I’ve said this can be read as a stand alone. Anyway... next update comin in a few!