Second Chance Boyfriend

By: Monica Murphy

Drew + Fable    Volume 2
 
\Prologue

Have you ever done something so incredibly stupid, the guilt and regret hang over you like the darkest, heaviest cloud? Blurring your judgment, consuming your soul until it"s the only thing you can see, hear or think about?

I have. I've done a lot of things I regret, that fill me with guilt. But the absolute worst is the thing I did yesterday.

I left the girl I love alone, naked in her bed. Like some sort of macho asshole who uses a girl for sex and then leaves her—that's me. I've turned into that guy.

But I'm not really that guy. I love the girl I left alone naked in her bed. I just don't deserve her.

And I know it.

Chapter One

Sometimes you have to stand alone, just to make sure you still can. – UnknownFableTwo months. I haven’t seen or heard from him in two freaking months. I mean, who does that to a person? Who spends the most intense week of their life with another human being and shares their most intimate thoughts, their craziest, darkest secrets, has sex with a person—and we’re talking amazing, earth-shattering sex—leaves them a note that says I love you and then bails? I’ll tell you who.

Drew I’m going to kick him in the balls next time I see him Callahan.

I’ve moved on. Well, I tell myself that. But time doesn’t stop just because my heart does, so I take care of my responsibilities. I’ve stretched the three thousand dollars I earned for my one week of pretending to be the jerk wad’s girlfriend pretty well. I still have some money left in my savings account. I bought my brother Owen some cool Christmas gifts. I got my mom something for Christmas too.

She didn’t buy either of us anything. Not one thing. Owen made me a shallow bowl he created in his ceramics class at school. He was so proud to give it to me. A little embarrassed too, especially when I gushed over it. The kid wrapped it in bright Christmas paper and everything. I was blown away that he took the time to actually create something for me. I keep that bowl on my dresser and leave my earrings in it.

At least someone gives a crap about me, you know?

He didn’t give Mom anything. Which—shallow witch that I am—pleased me to no end.

January is supposedly a time of healing. New year, new goals, resolutions, whatever you want to call them, where a person should be hopeful with all that unchartered territory spread out before them. I tried my best to be positive when the New Year came, but I cried. That clock struck twelve and I was all by myself, tears running down my face as I watched the ball drop on TV. Pitiful, lonely girl sobbing into her sweatshirt, missing the boy she loves.

Most of the month is gone and that’s fine. But the realization hit me last night. Instead of dreading every single day that comes my way, I need to savor it. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with my life and then actually do it. I’d leave if I could, but I can’t ditch Owen. Without me, I have no idea what would happen to him and I can’t risk it.

So I stay. I vow to make the best of this life I have. I’m tired of living in misery.

I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself. I’m tired of wanting to shake my mom and make her see that she has children she should give two shits about. Oh, and that she also needs to find a job. Sleeping all day and partying all night with Larry the Loser isn’t the way to deal.

And I’m tired of mourning the loss of a beautiful, fucked-up man who haunts my thoughts everywhere I go.

Yeah, I’m most sick of that.

Pushing all mopey thoughts out of my head, I go to the booth where a customer’s waiting for me to take his order. He came in a few minutes ago, a blur of a tall man who moved quickly, dressed too nicely for a Thursday midafternoon jaunt to La Salles. The bar is hopping at night, full of college kids drinking themselves into oblivion. But during the day? Mostly bum losers who have nowhere else to go and the occasional person coming in for lunch. The burgers are decent so they’re a draw.

“What can I get you?” I ask once I stop in front of the table, my head bent as I dig out my order pad.

“Your attention maybe?”

His question—spoken in a velvety deep voice—makes me glance up from my notepad.

Into the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Bluer than Drew’s, if that’s possible.

“Um, sorry.” I offer him a tentative smile. He instantly makes me nervous. He is waaaay too good-looking. Like beyond gorgeous, with dark blond hair that falls over his forehead, and classic bone structure. Strong jaw, sharp cheekbones, straight nose—he could’ve walked right off a billboard. “Are you ready to order?”

He smiles, revealing even white teeth, and I clamp my lips shut to prevent them from falling open. I didn’t know men could be this attractive. I mean, Drew is gorgeous, I can admit that even though I’m furious at him. But this guy…he puts all other men to shame. His face is too damn perfect.

“I’ll take a Pale Ale.” He flicks his chin at the tattered menu lying on the table in front of him. “Anything from the appetizer menu you can recommend?”

He must be joking. Beyond the burgers, I wouldn’t recommend any food La Salle’s serves to this ideal male specimen. Heaven forbid it might taint him. “What are you in the mood for?” I ask, my voice weak.

Lifting a brow, he picks up the menu and glances it over, his gaze meeting mine. “Nachos?”

I shake my head. “The beef is rarely cooked all the way.” More like it comes out with a pink tinge. So gross.

“Potato skins?” He winces.

I wince back. “So nineties, don’t you think?”

“How about the buffalo wings?”

“If you want to set your mouth on permanent fire. Listen.” I glance around, making sure no one—as in my boss—is nearby. “If you want something to eat, I suggest the café down the street. They have great sandwiches.”

He laughs and shakes his head. The rich, vibrant sound washes over me, warming my skin, followed quickly by a huge dose of wariness. I don’t react like this to guys. The only other one who could earn this sort of reaction out of me is Drew. And he’s not around…so why am I still so hung up on him?

Maybe because you’re still in love with him, like some sort of idiot?

I shove the nagging little voice that pops up at the most inopportune times into the back of my brain.

“I like your honesty,” the man says, his cool blue gaze raking over me. “I’ll just take the beer, then.”

“Smart decision.” I nod. “I’ll be right back.”

I head toward the back and slip behind the bar, grabbing a bottle of Pale Ale, glancing up to catch the guy staring at me. And he doesn’t look away either, which makes me feel uncomfortable. He’s not watching me like a pervert, just very…observant.

It’s unnerving.

A trickle of anger flickers through me. Do I wear an invisible sign around my neck? One that says Hey, I’m Easy? Because I’m not. Yeah, I made a few mistakes, looking for attention in the wrong places, but it’s not like I dress with my tits or ass hanging out. I don’t put any sort of purposeful swing to my hips nor do I thrust my chest out like I see plenty of girls do.

So why does every guy I encounter seem to blatantly check me out like I’m a piece of meat?

Deciding I’ve had enough of his crap, I stride toward his table and set the beer in front of him with a loud clunk. I’m about to walk away without saying a word—screw the tip—when he asks, “So what’s your name?”

I glance over my shoulder. “What’s it matter to you?” Oh, I’m such a bitch. I could really piss this guy off and get myself fired. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Yet again, I’m as bad as my mom. She sabotaged her job with her drinking and awful attitude. At least I only have the bad attitude.

If I could kick my own ass, I would be doing so right now.

He smiles and shrugs, like my smart-ass remark doesn’t faze him. “I’m curious.”

Turning fully, I face him, studying him as much as he studies me. His long fingers are wrapped around the neck of the beer bottle, his other arm resting on the scarred and scratched table. His entire manner is relaxed, easy, and my defenses slowly lower.

“It’s Fable,” I admit, bracing for the reaction. I’ve heard endless jokes and rude remarks about my name since I can remember.

But he doesn’t give me a hard time. His expression remains neutral. “Nice to meet you, Fable. I’m Colin.”

I nod, not knowing what else to say. He both puts me at ease and shakes me up, which leaves me confused. And he definitely doesn’t fit in at this bar. He’s dressed too nice, has an air of authority about him that borders on entitlement, as if he’s above it all, and he probably is. He reeks of class and money.

But he’s not acting like an ass and he should, I’ve been so rude to him. He brings the beer bottle to his lips, taking a drink, and I watch unabashedly. He’s handsome. He’s arrogant. And he’s trouble.

I don’t want anything to do with him.

“So, Fable,” he says once he’s downed half his beer. “Can I ask you a question?”

Shuffling my feet, I glance around the bar. No one’s paying us any attention. I could probably stand here and talk to Colin the mysterious customer for fifteen minutes and no one would protest. “Sure.”

“Why is a woman like you working in a shit bar like this?”

“Why is a guy like you ordering a beer in a shit bar like this?” I retort, momentarily insulted. But then I realize…he’s complimenting me. And he referred to me as a woman. No one ever does that. I don’t do that.

He tips his beer at me, as if offering a toast. “Touché. Would you be surprised if I said I came in here looking for you?”

Surprised? More like creeped out. “I don’t even know you. How could you be looking for me?”

“I should rephrase that. I came here hoping I would find someone I could steal away.” At my raised eyebrows, he laughs. “I own a new restaurant in town. The District. Have you heard of it?”

I had. Some new fancy place that caters to the rich college kids, the ones with an endless supply of money they can use to eat, drink and party. So not my scene. “Yeah.”

“Have you been there?”

I slowly shake my head. “No.”

Leaning back against the seat, he studies me, his lids heavy as he does a slow perusal of…me. Now he’s totally checking me out and I can feel my cheeks burn with embarrassment. The guy is sort of a jackass.

I’ve always had a slight thing for jackasses.

“Come with me to the restaurant tonight. I’ll show you around.” His mouth curves into not quite a smile and I’m tempted.

But I’ve also sworn off men so I know this is a bad idea. “Thanks, but I’m not interested.”

“I’m not trying to ask you out on a date, Fable,” he says, his voice low, his eyes glowing. I take a step back, glancing around. I need to get away from this guy. Fast. But then his words stop me in my tracks. “I’m trying to offer you a job.”Drew“Let’s talk about Fable.”

I tense up but nod. I try my best to appear neutral, like our new topic of discussion doesn’t bother me. “What do you want to know?”

My shrink watches me, her careful gaze steady. “It still bothers you to hear her name.”

“It doesn’t,” I lie. I try my best to appear nonchalant, but my insides are churning. I both dread and savor hearing Fable’s name. I want to see her. I need to see her.

I can’t make myself go to her. And she’s clearly given up on me. I deserve her giving up. I gave up on her first, didn’t I?

More like you gave up on yourself.

“You don’t have to lie to me, Drew. It’s okay if it’s still difficult.” Dr. Sheila Harris pauses, tapping her index finger against her chin. “Have you considered trying to see her?”

I shake my head. I consider it every day, every minute of my life, but my considerations are useless. “She hates me.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know I’d hate me for what I did if I were her. I shut down and shut her out, like I always do. She begged me again and again not to do it. That she’d be there for me no matter what.” Yet I left her. With only a stupid note that took me way too long to write, filled with a secret message that my smart, beautiful girl figured out right away.

But she’s not my girl. I can’t lay claim to her. I ignored her. And now…

I’ve lost her.

“So why did you shut her out? You’ve never told me, you know.”

My psychologist loves to ask the tough questions, but that’s her job. I still hate answering them. “It’s the only way I know how to cope,” I admit. The truth slaps me in the face on a daily basis. I always run.

It’s so much easier.

I sought Dr. Harris out myself. No one else pushed me to do it. After we came back from Carmel, after I ditched Fable and left her that bullshit note, I withdrew into myself worse than ever. I fucked up my game play. I fucked up my grades. Winter break came and I ran away. I literally ran away to some crazy cabin in the middle of the woods I rented from some nice old couple in Lake Tahoe.

My plan? Hibernate like a bear. Turn off my phone, hole up by myself and figure my shit out. I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be, though, being alone with my thoughts. My memories, both the good and the bad, haunted me. I thought of the bombshell my stepmom Adele dropped on me. I thought about my dad and how much the truth—if it really is the truth—would affect him. I thought about my little sister Vanessa and how she died. How she might not be my little sister after all…

More than anything, I thought of Fable. How mad she’d been when I showed up on her doorstep, but she let me in anyway. The way I touched her, how she touched me, the way she always seemed to break down my barriers and see the real me. I let her in. I wanted to let her in.

And then I left her. With a note that was rendered pointless because she tried her damnedest to rescue me and I wouldn’t let her. She sent me exactly two texts. The second one surprised me because I knew she was stubborn and I figured she’d give up after I didn’t answer the first one.

How could I answer it, though? She said all the right things. And I would’ve said all the wrong things. So it’s better to say nothing at all.

She also left me one voice mail. I still have it. Sometimes, when I’m feeling really fucked up, I play it. Listen to her soft, tearful voice, those unbelievable words she says to me. By the time the message is finished, my heart literally hurts.

It’s torture listening to it yet I can’t make myself delete that message either. Just knowing it’s there, that for one last minute she actually cared, is better than deleting those words and her voice, and pretending she doesn’t exist.

“I’m hoping to help you with that. Your coping mechanisms,” Dr. Harris says, drawing me out of my thoughts. “I know how much she means to you. Fable. And I’m hoping that eventually, you’ll go to her and tell her you’re sorry.”

“What if I’m not sorry?” I toss the words out, but they’re meaningless. I’m so sorry I can’t begin to explain how much of a screwup I am.

“Then that’s another issue we’ll have to deal with,” she says gently.

It goes on like this for another fifteen minutes and then I finally make my escape, walking out into the cold, clear winter afternoon. The sun is warm on my skin despite the temperature and I start down the sidewalk, heading for where I parked my truck. Harris’s office is downtown, in a nondescript building, and I hope like hell I don’t see anyone I know. The college campus is only a few blocks away and students hang out at the little stores, cafés and coffee shops that line the street.

Not like I have many friends, but hell. Everyone likes to think they know me. No one really does. With the exception of one person.

“Hey, Callahan, wait up!”

Pausing, I glance over my shoulder to see one of my teammates running toward me, a big grin on his goofy face. Jace Hendrix is a pain in the ass but generally a good guy. He’s never done me wrong, not that any of them ever really have. “Hey.” I offer him a wave and shove my hands into my jacket pockets, waiting until he stops just in front of me.

“Long time, no see,” Jace says. “You sort of disappeared after that last failure of a game.”

I wince. That last failure of a game had been all my fault. “I was feeling sort of fucked up over that,” I confess.

Hell, I can’t believe I just admitted to my failures, but Jace doesn’t seem bothered. “Yeah, you and everyone else, man. Listen, what are you doing this weekend?”

The way Jace brushes off my statement—hell, the way he agrees with it—blows me away. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Logan’s birthday. We’re doing it up right at the new restaurant that just opened a few blocks over. Have you heard of it?” Jace looks excited, he’s literally bouncing on his feet and I wonder what the hell is up.

“Vaguely.” I shrug. Like I care. The last thing I want is to be social.

But then Dr. Harris’s words ring through my head. How she wants me to reach out. And act like a real person.

“Party’s going to be there. Got a private room and everything. I haven’t been there yet, but I hear all the waitresses are gorgeous, the drinks are delicious and loaded with alcohol and Logan’s parents arranged for a private room. Rumor has it strippers might’ve been hired out for this momentous event. Logan’s turning twenty-one, so we want to get him all sorts of fucked up.” Jace waggles his eyebrows.

“Sounds great,” I lie. It sounds like torture. But I need to go. At the very least, make a quick appearance and then jam. I can report back to my shrink what I did. She can give me a gold star for making an effort.

“You’ll go?” Jace looks shocked and I know why. I rarely do anything with the guys and especially the last few months, since I’ve been like a ghost.

“I’ll be there.” I nod, unsure how I’m going to work up the energy to make an appearance, but I’ve got to do this.

“Yeah? Awesome! I can’t wait to tell the guys. We’ve missed you. Haven’t seen you for a while and we all know how those last few games were tough on you. They were tough on all of us.” Jace’s expression is solemn and for a minute I wonder if he’s playing my ass.

But then I realize he’s sincere. Funny how I took full responsibility for those losses when I bet every single one of these guys on my team probably did the same thing.

“Tell the guys I can’t wait to see them.” The words fall easily from my lips because they’re the truth. I need to stop wallowing in my own misery. I need to stop worrying about my past, worrying about my dad and my bitch of a stepmom and the little girl who died because I was too busy fighting with her mom and telling her to keep her goddamn hands to herself.

That’s the one regret I have, that I never fully explained to Fable what happened that day. I know she assumes I was off screwing around with Adele. I would think the same. But that was the day I told her never again. Whatever she was going to try, I wasn’t interested. It was over. That was the day I became liberated.

And also the day I became a prisoner to my own guilt.

Forever.

“See ya around, Drew.” Jace waves and turns, whistling as he walks away from me. I remain rooted to the spot, watching him leave until he’s a speck of nothing in the distance, wishing like crazy I could be that carefree. That my biggest concerns were my grades, what girl I could get my hands on next, and how excited I was for the big party coming up in a few days.

Maybe, just maybe I could lose myself in the mundane for a bit. Pretend that nothing else matters but friends and school and parties. Doc says I can’t move forward until I face the past.

But what the fuck does she know?

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