“Whoa, honey, do you hear yourself? You’re talking about him like he’s a hookup. I think we both know he’s not. You just said that yourself.”
I shrugged. “Maybe I should start thinking of it that way. Maybe that’s where I’ve been wrong. This is why I don’t date, Eli. This is f*****g why. Because of what we had, I let my guard down and let myself believe it could be more. But frankly, I can’t handle more. It’s probably best for both of us to keep this casual.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, hating the flood of emotion. Why the hell couldn’t I be objective about this? I’d managed to keep my heart closed off to men for five years.
The buzzer went off.
“That must be Vanessa,” Eli said quietly.
I took a last look in the mirror and finished off the wine. This will be fine, I reassured myself. But like every other Saturday night, I had no idea what the next few hours would bring.
CAMERON. Darren and I grabbed a corner couch at the bar across from the club. We drank our beers in silence while I mulled over his words from last night. I didn’t want to give him any credit, but he’d told me exactly what I wanted to hear.
I had no idea how tonight would go down, but I was determined to let Maya know how I felt. With any luck, we’d end up back at my place, and I could show her. Maybe it was risky, but sometimes our bodies did the talking better than we did. I’d never regretted a night in her bed. I didn’t imagine anything had changed where that was concerned. Visions of her under me clouded my thoughts, and my c**k twitched.
Darren elbowed me back to reality. Maya approached with Eli and a beautiful, leggy redhead in tow. If Maya hadn’t been standing next to Eli, I might not have recognized her at all. She looked amazing, but I’d never seen her that way. All made up, her hair wild and untamed, her tight dress mid-thigh. I raked her in, highly aware that I wouldn’t be the only one doing that tonight. Already I could think of nothing else but hiking up her skirt and wrapping her legs around me.
The comfortable silence between Darren and me erupted into an excited chatter among the group. I pulled my thoughts out of the gutter and rose to greet her. Sliding my arm around her waist, I pulled her close and kissed her on the cheek.
“You look incredible.”
“You like the dress?”
“I love it. I’m just not sure how I feel about the rest of the world seeing you in it.”
She offered a slanted smile, her body bending easily into the embrace. Something was off. She lifted her arm and gestured to the redhead.
“Cam, Darren, this is my friend, Vanessa.”
Darren rose quickly and shook her hand, shooting her his signature panty-dropping smile. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise.” She returned the smile, blushing slightly. Her green eyes illuminated as they darted from me to Darren, her gaze lingering on him.
Maya slipped out of my grasp and dropped herself on the opposite couch, pulling Vanessa and Eli down on either side of her. Slighted by the tease of her contact, I sat back down by Darren and nursed my beer.
Eli and the girls huddled over the cocktail menu. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Maya. Her dress left far too little to the imagination now that she was sitting. I imagined sliding a hand up her thigh to the flash of black panties I swore I saw a moment ago.
Darren blew out a quiet whistle. “Oh, man. I’m all over that,” he murmured, too low for anyone but me to hear.
His gaze was locked on Vanessa. I relaxed, grateful she was the one who had his approval. She seemed oblivious to his lascivious appraisal, caught up in ordering when the waitress arrived. Maybe Darren wasn’t going to be the best wingman tonight. Not that I really needed one, but the idea of clubbing sounded a little more bearable with him in the group. Still, I could see this going downhill fast.
I lowered my voice so only he could hear me. “How about you not f**k Maya’s best friend and complicate things for me?”
He shot me an annoyed look. “Really? You’re blocking me?” He sized her up again, tightening his jaw. “Does she have any more friends?”
“Go prowl, Darren. I’m sure you’ll find someone drunk enough to f**k you.”
He scoffed, seeming genuinely insulted. “Hey, screw you, man. I’m not that shallow or desperate.”
We were two sides on the same coin sometimes. I didn’t like hearing about any of his frequent and meaningless conquests, and I didn’t expect him to understand my determination to save the only relationship that had ever meant anything to me.
His gaze never left the expanse of Vanessa’s bare toned legs. “How about I play nice?”