I hesitated, trying to imagine what he was proposing. “What does that mean? Get her to fawn all over you and then ditch her when you realize you’re not allowed to sleep with her?”
“No. I’ll be my usual charming self. But we’ll all have a good time as friends. That low-key enough for you, old man?”
I stared at him, skeptical of what he was proposing. I’d never seen him spend time with a woman without having a very singular motive in mind.
“I’ll be good, all right? I get it. I’m not big on drama either, and if you’re going to keep Maya around, I don’t want it to be awkward.” He paused, waiting for me to give him the okay. “You know, I’m capable of interacting with women without taking them straight to bed.” He was getting pissed now, which was good. I wanted him to know I was serious.
“Fine.” I hoped he’d keep to his word.
By the time the three of them had finished off a round of drinks and a small tray of shots, I’d begun to realize what was off with Maya. She was plastered. She leaned lazily against Vanessa and Eli, pressed snugly between her and Eli. She laughed loudly, and while I loved the sound and the way her eyes glittered when she smiled, I couldn’t shake a protective worry over her.
“Should we head out?” Maybe I could get her to sober up at the club. She claimed to have a penchant for dancing the night away.
“Let’s do it!” She hopped up.
We made our way out of the bar and across the street. A sizable line had formed at the club entrance. I groaned inwardly. Standing outside for hours wasn’t my idea of a great Saturday night. “I guess we’re not in a rush.”
“No worries. I don’t do lines. Come here.” Maya flagged the attention of one of the guys at the door who nodded to her.
She joined the bouncer, bounding into his arms for a hug. “Hey, Paul.”
“Hey, baby. How’s it going?”
When I approached, he nodded and held out his hand. I shook it, if only to give him a reason to stop touching her. “I’m Cameron.” The words came out strained because my teeth were clenched.
“Good to meet you. Friend of Maya’s?”
I simply nodded. Something like that.
“Cool. You guys can head in.”
“Thanks, Paul.” Maya smiled and slipped a bill into his palm before disappearing into the noise of the club.
I followed, eager to keep her in my sight. The place was loud and filling quickly. Maya led the way and we found an unoccupied seated area large enough to accommodate our group. Darren immediately posted himself between Eli and Vanessa. Eli seemed to clue in to Darren’s plan and disappeared a few minutes later to mingle.
A cocktail waitress approached and leaned close to Maya to take her order.
“What do you want?” Maya asked me.
“Diet Coke is fine.”
She turned back to the server. “Two Jack and Cokes and a shot of Jager.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Going for a strong start?”
“I’m not letting you drink soda at the club.”
We settled back into the couch next to each other. I draped my arm over her shoulders, lightly grazing the bare skin of her arm. She leaned into me, tracing circles into the fabric of my pants at the knee. Her bright energy seemed to dim.
I tightened around her shoulders, bringing her closer. “What’s going on in that mind of yours?”
She lifted her gaze to mine.
Before I could press her, she looked away. Her eyes narrowed over Darren and Vanessa, now pressed firmly against each other. Vanessa was laughing, and Darren was at her ear, telling her God knew what. So much for self-restraint.
“What’s with them?”
I rubbed my jaw anxiously. “Hopefully nothing. He’s assured me he’ll be on his best behavior.”
She let out a short laugh. “You’ll have to excuse me if I take that assurance with a grain of salt.”
“I hear you, but he did promise me.”
Before she could respond, the server brought our drinks. Maya tossed back the shot and handed me one of the two remaining drinks. She’d barely looked me in the eye once since arriving. I wasn’t going to endure the night this way.
“Are you upset about something?”
Maya’s lips twitched slightly. “No, I’m having fun. This is me having fun.” She sucked down her drink before I could even taste mine. Her eyes darted around us, never landing on anyone or anything for too long. I caught her chin and turned her to face me. Her eyes were glossy, her skin flushed and warm.
“I never know what you’re thinking.”