a state of torment created by the sudden sight
of one’s own misery.
“There you are,” Kingsley chirped as she approached us. Cooper pushed himself to his feet and turned around to hold a hand out to me with a smile. I grinned up at him and accepted his outstretched hand, allowing him to pull me to my feet. “We were thinking of grabbing some food, want to come?”
“Well, we did come here together,” I teased as I glanced between her and Benjamin’s still intertwined hands. “And I told you I’d be mom for the night so come on daughter, let’s go feed you.”
Kingsley laughed and rolled her eyes as Benjamin lead her toward his car. He hit the button on the remote and unlocked it before tossing the keys to Cooper. I chuckled and couldn’t stop the smile from growing on my face as Benjamin opened the door for Kingsley to slide in.
“Where we going?” Cooper asked as he mimicked Benjamin and opened the passenger side door for me.
“You pick,” I told him as he looked at me with a raised brow. “I’m not that hard to please, I promise. I trust your judgement.”
Cooper nodded as he walked around the car and opened the driver’s side door, climbing in. Just as I was about to slide in, I felt a hand on my shoulder and noticed Benjamin looking at me with an intense expression covering his features.
“Can you and I talk later? Privately?” He asked which caused me to furrow my eyebrows.
“Of course, but why?” I retorted as I placed my arms to rest on the roof of the car. But instead of responding, he opened up the door and slid in next to Kingsley in the backseat. I rolled my eyes as I pulled open the door and slipped in next to Cooper.
“My god, just pick a place,” I groaned from the passenger seat as I slammed my head back against my headrest. “I’m starving.”
“Okay, okay,” Kingsley giggled from the backseat which caused me to turn my head to narrow my eyes at her. “I’m sorry, I should know better. Let’s go to the Tavern.”
“What do you mean, you should know better?” Cooper asked as he stopped at a red light and typed the restaurant into his GPS on his phone.
“Meaning once she gets hungry you have about ten minutes to get her something or else she turns into quite the bitch, no offense, El. That’s why I always carry a granola bar in my purse,” Kingsley informed the boys. They both laughed loudly and I folded my arms over my chest.
“Good to know,” Cooper said as he flipped on his blinker and turned once the light was green. “I’ll have to remember that.”
I glanced over at him with a raised brow but he kept his eyes on the road. Suddenly, my phone went off in my lap and I looked down to see a text from Kingsley. I bit my lip to stop the laugh from escaping as I unlocked my phone.
Kingsley: He likes you.
Me: He’s just being nice.
Kingsley: Nope, he’s going to ask you out. I can sense these things.
Me: Well I don’t date so his efforts would be futile.
Kingsley: But he’s hot!!!! He seems like a nice guy.
Kingsley: Please just consider it...
I didn’t bother a reply as we pulled up to the restaurant. I quickly undid my seatbelt and slipped out of the car, not waiting for the others as I made a beeline for the front doors. I heard them laugh behind me but I ignored them as my stomach growled.
I approached the hostess stand and internally cringed. Laura narrowed her eyes at me as she flipped her long blonde extension filled hair over her shoulder and popped the gum she had in her mouth.
“I need a booth,” I said dryly as I folded my arms over my chest.
“All the guys are at the bar,” she spat out as she mocked my posture. “You’ll have better luck finding a guy in there.”
Before I could fire back, I heard a pair of heels hitting the floor and knew Kingsley and guys had just entered. Laura immediately perked up and unfolded her arms, resting them on the hostess stand which caused her breasts to push together. I rolled my eyes at her lame attempt of coming off attractive as they approached.
“We’ll take a booth,” Kingsley said, ignoring the obvious tension as she came across as very upbeat and giddy.
“Hey, Coop,” Laura all but purred as she very noticeably scanned him up and down. “What have you been up to, stranger? You didn’t answer my calls.”
I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the tension in Cooper’s shoulders. He started to shift between the balls of his feet and looped his thumbs through the belt loops on his jeans. Acting on the spot, I held out my hand and grabbed his arm, pulling him to my side. Cooper wasted no time in wrapping his arm around my shoulders and holding me firmly to him.
Laura’s face fell instantly as she pushed herself away from the hostess stand and narrowed her eyes on me. A small, cocky smile made its way to my slips as I looked up at Cooper and back to her.
“He’s been a little,” I paused as I scrunched my eyebrows. “Busy.”
“You’re going to regret this one, Elliott,” she hissed as she spun on her heels and stormed away from us. Once she was out of eyesight, I stepped out from under Cooper’s arm and walked into the bar looking for Johnathan. Spotting him bartending, I smiled as I walked over.
“John,” I said as I leaned against the bar with a cheeky grin.
“Elliott,” Johnathan said in surprise as he glanced down at his watch. “You’re in early tonight.”
“What can I say,” I started with a shrug of my shoulders. “The heart wants what it wants and this heart wants a burger.”
“Let me guess, Laura wasn’t happy to see you?” He asked as he wiped his hands off on his apron before walking out from the behind the bar.
“Not in the slightest,” I said with a roll of my eyes as we walked over to the hostess stand to meet the others. “It’s not my fault her boyfriend didn’t tell me he was seeing someone.”
“She’ll get over it,” Johnathan said with a shrug as we finally approached the group. “Hey, King.”
“Hey, John,” Kingsley said with a smile as he grabbed four menus. “How have you been?”
“Can’t complain,” he said as gestured with his head for us to follow him. “Want your usual spot?”
“Yes please,” I chirped as he led us over to the booth in the corner of the restaurant that had the best view of the lake.
As he placed the menu’s down, I slid into the left side as Kingsley slid in next to me which made the boys sit across from us. Johnathan took our drink orders and disappeared and I smiled across the table at Cooper.
“So, what happened back there?” Benjamin asked, not missing a beat. I opened my menu and began to scan it before I reached for the build-your-own-burger sheet at the table.
“What are you referring to?” I asked which cause Kingsley to turn and look at me.
“What are you referring to?” Benjamin repeated my question back to me. I huffed in annoyance, hating when people answered a question with another question, even though I had just done the same.
“Not how this works,” I told him as I pointed my pen at him and went back to filling out my order card.
“Okay, how’d Cooper get what looks like is going to turn into a shiner near his eye?”
I quickly looked up and noticed a small bruise starting to form under Cooper’s eye. Guilt flooded through me and it must have been evident on my face because he started to shake his head as he placed a hand over mine on the table.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said with a small smile. “I’d take a thousand of these from assholes like that for you.”
“Ryan is what happened,” I mumbled, ignoring Cooper’s comment. Kingsley elbowed me under the table but I only gave her a small sideways glance as I handed her my sheet of paper to put at the head of the table.
“God, he can be such an ass,” Benjamin hissed as he leaned back into the booth. “But don’t worry, we’ll make sure he leaves you alone.”
“Thanks,” I said with a small smile as Johnathan returned with our drinks. After everyone ordered, Benjamin started making small talk.
“So Elliott, what do you major in?” He asked as he took a sip of his coke.
“I’m currently in business,” I said with a shrug as I picked up my right leg to cross under the left. “I want to start my own reporting company.”
“What do you mean by that?” Cooper asked as he folded his arms on the table across from me.
“I want to have a journalism company that contains all women. Yes, there’s a good handful of women journalists and reporters out there but they don’t receive even half the pay or opportunity that men do,” I finished with a smile.
“Ah, so you’re a feminist,” Benjamin said with a smile tugging at his lips. I knew he was trying to bait me since I’ve been in this situation plenty of times before but I knew from experience that arguing gets you nowhere.
“I am a woman,” I informed him with a smile and a tilt of my head. “It’d be dumb of me to not be on my own side.”
“Maybe that’s why Nick and Ryan seem to have a stick up their ass,” Kingsley said, finally putting in her two cents. “They didn’t think you’d be respectful of yourself, unlike most girls.”
“You know Nick?” Cooper asked suddenly which caught me off-guard. I nodded slowly as I glanced between the two of them. “He’s my roommate.”
Kingsley’s phone started ringing, thankfully bringing a halt to the conversation.
“I’ll be right back,” she said as she slid out of the booth before she pointed a finger at me. “If the food comes, don’t you dare take my pickle.”
I rolled my eyes as she walked away and chuckled, knowing damn well that I was going to do exactly that. Taking a drink of my water, I glanced up and saw both the boys on their phones. I shook my head as I rested my elbows on the table.
“You two really need to learn some better manners,” I told them which caused them both to look up at me. “We are at the table.”
Cooper chuckled while Benjamin rolled his eyes but they both put their phones back in their pockets. Smiling with satisfaction, I clapped my hands together and rested them on the table in front of me.
“So what about you? What do you two study?”