Having Cameron in my life again was sending me into an emotional tailspin that I had no control over. I could almost visualize the past and future colliding. I simply wasn’t the person I used to be, sentimental and lovesick and profoundly in love with this man. I’d given up on love after a few unsuccessful rebounds. Nothing held a candle to the love I’d shared with Cameron, and in the end, I decided to stop wasting my time. I didn’t date, and I didn’t fall in love.
Yet I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that bringing Cameron back into my life could challenge me on both fronts.
CAMERON. The minutes ticked by as I waited for her to meet us at the bar. Every time we met seemed like a gamble, a chance that could be easily missed. And I didn’t want to miss any more chances. The attraction to her was fierce enough, but the void I’d lived with for so long wanted to be filled, more than ever now that I’d seen her again. Self-preservation told me to run hard in the opposite direction, but deep down, I knew I wanted her back somehow.
The problem was I had no idea if that was something she might want too. I could have been reading all the signals wrong, but surely she couldn’t deny that outside of the breakup and its aftermath, we had something worth salvaging. Not just the sex, though that had been remarkable, but simply being together had always been great. I’d never been so at ease, so fundamentally happy with another person. We were comfortable with silence, comfortable with ourselves. Not like now. She was a beautiful mystery to me now, and I was putting myself out there in a way that had every alarm going off, and not in a good way. With every word, I was waiting for her to say no again—no to friendship, to seeing me ever again, or to something more that I still wasn’t sure if I wanted.
I strummed my fingers on the bar, twisting around to scan the room in anticipation of her arrival.
“Relax, man. You’re stressing me out.”
“She’s my ex. If anyone’s stressing out here, it’s me.”
Darren broke his concentration on the televisions above the bar. “You think you’ll hook up?”
I shot him an annoyed look. “Are you f*****g serious?”
Darren went wide-eyed. “Uh, yeah?”
“You really need to try out an actual relationship sometime. I can barely hold a conversation with you.”
He laughed. “A couple weeks living with Liv and you sound exactly like her now.”
I sighed and leaned back into the bar stool. He might have been right, but he was also being an idiot, as usual.
“Maya isn’t some random girl you pick up and take home.”
“What kind of girl is she then?”
“She’s someone I have history with. I was ready to marry her. Obviously that complicates things.”
“Why? You haven’t seen her in years. She’s smoking hot, and if she’s into you, why not? You really need to loosen up, man. How long has it been since you’ve been laid?”
I took another sip of my beer, refusing to get sucked into another inane conversation.
“That long, eh? How about this? I’ll give you one week to get Maya into bed, and if you can’t bite the bullet, then you’re letting me hook you up with some people I know. This celibacy thing isn’t working for you.”
“I’m not celibate, and if you’re talking about hiring a professional, you can f**k off right now.”
He laughed loudly. “You worried you can’t seal the deal in a week?”
A subtle charge went through me at the challenge. Maya wasn’t a conquest, at least not a purely sexual one, but Darren had a way of capitalizing on our non-stop competitive natures. “I’m not worried about that, no.”
“You probably want to romance her and s**t though. See if she’ll go steady with you first?”
I rolled my eyes.
“Maybe I’ll give you a week and then I’ll give it a go,” he prodded.
I fisted my hand in my lap, anger simmering through me. “Maybe you should mind your own f*****g business. I’ll sleep with her when I’m good and g*****n ready. You even think about touching her and I’ll kill you. Understand?”
A glint of mischief passed over Darren’s eyes. His gaze shifted past me and his smile widened. “Hey, Maya.”
I swiveled in the chair to find her standing by my side, her light brown eyes glimmering under dark lashes. I had no idea how much she’d heard, but if she’d heard any of it, I couldn’t imagine what she’d be thinking now.
“Hey.” She stood frozen in place. “Am I interrupting something?”
“No.” I pulled out the stool for her to join us. “I was about to haul Darren into the street and beat the hell out of him, so you arrived just in time. Saved by the bell, I guess.”