“Who is that?”
At my question my best friend cranes her neck around, not at all subtle. But then neither am I, so who cares?
“The guy that just walked in? That’s Dylan.”
“That’s Dylan? The cop that’s in love with you?”
Predictably, she rolls her eyes at me. “He’s not in love with me. We’re friends.” She emphasizes the word as if I’m not clear on the definition.
Sloane has no idea how fabulous she is. In fact, she is constantly trying to stay out of the limelight, hiding on the edges. It’s probably one of the reasons our friendship started and then survived through college. I wasn’t very good at sharing the spotlight back then. I wanted it all on me.
I like to think I’ve grown up a little. But I’m also an actress so obviously I’m still very comfortable, and desiring, of people’s attention.
But I did organize this surprise party tonight for her. Not me. If anyone in my life deserves some appreciation it’s Sloane. And it’s her birthday. So the perfect time to drag her out to center stage. I kept it small though, only a few close friends. And had it here at her favorite out-of-the-way dive bar. Choices I knew she’d like.
I watch as Dylan scans the room, his eyes finally landing on Sloane and I. He smiles and makes a beeline right to us. Well, to her. He doesn’t really know me.
Damn. He’s handsome. Sloane’s been holding out on me.
He’s casually dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket. His dark hair cut short but with a little curl, it doesn’t look like he spends much time taming it. And his smile.
Dylan zeroes in on Sloane, giving her a big hug and gentle kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday.”
She murmurs her thanks and he turns his hazel eyes to me.
“You must be Blake. Thanks for inviting me. Sorry I couldn’t get here before the ‘surprise’.” He extends his hand in greeting.
Strong. I note the warmth and strength in his grip as I meet those hazel eyes. And he’s tall. As a 5’8” girl who likes her heels, I appreciate tall. My most recent ex was the same height as me and he was clearly annoyed when I wore my favorite shoes.
Ugh. Why did I stay so long? I knew he was no good. I just wasn’t motivated to find anything better. Or confident there was anything better. It was boring but easy.
Until it wasn’t.
Boring OR easy.
Pulling myself away from those memories I focus on the man in front of me.
“Glad you could make it.” I smile flirtatiously, out of habit, and then try to reign it back in. Despite her denials, I’m still not totally clear on Sloane and Dylan’s status and I am not in the business of creeping on someone else’s territory. Especially my best friend.
Dylan asks if either of us need anything from the bar before wandering off to order.
I pull Sloane aside. “Seriously, there isn’t anything going on there? He’s gorgeous. What are you waiting for?”
“Ew. No. Dylan is like a brother.”
“So, you won’t mind if I….? I mean, I’m fresh out of a relationship and am more than happy to be his ‘if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with’ situation.”
Sloane laughs at my ridiculousness. “No, honestly don’t let me stop you. But I should warn you he’s not your usual type.” She looks at me meaningfully.
She nods, gravely.
Glancing at the man in question, I watch him at the bar. “He’s the ‘R’ word?”
“And the ‘M’ word,” she intones with mock seriousness.
“No!” I turn back to her, eyes wide.
“It’s true. He’s a Relationship guy. And he’s Monogamous.”
Hmmm. She’s not wrong. I don’t tend to go for relationship guys. I’m not really looking for anything serious. I like having someone I can call but who isn’t really going to take up much of my time or energy. I want fun. And truthfully, I’m not the girl guys who want a serious relationship tend to gravitate too. I am fun.
He carries our drinks over, handing them off before going back to grab his own.
I’ll make an exception.
I’m too intrigued. And maybe a little bit into the challenge he presents.
A few hours later, we’re all tipsy enough to make this small dive bar our own personal dance party. There’s about a dozen of us enjoying the juke box, singing and dancing and drinking. Dylan and I have gravitated to the edge of the group, dancing and flirting. I’m an excellent flirt. And practiced enough to recognize that look in his eyes as the night progresses.
Someone, I’m guessing not from our group, selects a slow song on the juke box. Possibly an attempt to settle us down. Instead I take advantage to slide into Dylan’s arms and continue our flirting up close.
He grins down at me, his large hands resting on my hips as we move against each other to the music. Over his shoulder I spot Sloane talking to a man I don’t recognize. They also seem to be hitting it off, thrilling me. My girl deserves some fun! I try to divide my attention between the man in front of me and my best friend, making sure she’s okay and doesn’t need a BFF rescue. But she seems good. Better than good.
The stranger leans down and murmurs something in Sloane’s ear, she laughs up at him eyes shining. Then I see him turn to a man behind him talking to one of our old college roommates. That guy I know, I just hadn’t seen him arrive. But if Sloane’s stranger knows Erik he’s a good guy. Sloane and her stranger head to the bar, his hand resting on her lower back.
Relaxing I turn my attention fully back to Dylan.
“Looks like Sloane has picked her birthday present.” I nod to the couple in question.
Dylan glances over to them and smiles, then turns right back to me. He pulls me closer, but almost immediately I feel him stiffen. And not in a good way.
I’ve lost him.
He’s now focused entirely on Sloane and the man she’s with a grim expression on his face.
“I’ll be right back,” he mumbles but I doubt that’s true. I watch in confusion as he says a few words to the man with Sloane and then walks away, Sloane following him.
He’s talking, that same dark and concerned expression on his face. Sloane pales slightly and then abruptly pulls him outside with her.
They don’t come back.