Second Chance Boyfriend

By: Monica Murphy

Chapter Six

Don’t give up just because things are hard. – Fable MaguireDrewThey brought me to a strip club that’s on the outskirts of town, the building nondescript and small, the sign flashy and bright in the otherwise dark, cold night. Gold Diggers is what the place is called. I’ve heard of it before but have never been there.

Usually I’d protest, bail on them, whatever. But when Jace asked if I wanted to ride with him here, I readily agreed. Didn’t help I was still blown away by what Fable’s fucking boss said to me.

Her boss. She’s messing around with her boss. I can’t believe it. The devastation that still lingers within me is strong. Like bring-me-to-my-knees powerful. I don’t know what to think. I can’t think. It hurts too damn much.

So I left. Running away from my problems as per my usual mode. Funny thing is, I’ve surrounded myself with other people. Guys I know and would like to consider my friends. I wonder if my shrink would be proud of me for at least this part of my denial.

I’m definitely a little drunker than I was when we first arrived, and I’m still angry—at Ty for insulting Fable. At Fable for pushing me away. I can’t win. Avoiding her led me straight to her. It’s inevitable that we see each other again. How could I prepare for the shock, seeing her there? Beautiful. Angry. Believing she’s still mine when she’s already moved on.

Pain lances through me and I let it, soaking the near physical emotion just like my body is soaking up the alcohol. I hate letting my emotions control me so completely. I’m usually numb to this sort of thing. Enduring what I’ve gone through in my past made it easy for me to throw up barriers and pretend everything was fine—or more like nothing mattered.

She matters, though. Or at least, she did.

So I’m sulking like a baby and watch half-naked women gyrate on a stage, their decent bodies on blatant display, their expressions bored, like they’ve done this sort of thing a million times and they hate it, which they probably do. The club is packed, we’re probably the youngest guys there and the beer is flowing.

Straight down my throat, as fast as I can drink it.

“Having fun?” Logan nudges me, the leer on his face wobbly. He’s drunker than me, fitting since he’s the one we’re celebrating. May as well get shit faced like him, right? I’ve got nothing to lose and nothing but sorrows to drown.

Woe is me. I’ve turned into the worst sort of broken record.

I shrug. “The beer’s good.”

Logan laughs. “The beer is shit. The women are fine. They all have great racks.” He tips his head toward a dark-skinned girl dancing not twenty feet away from where we sit. “Ty’s arranging a lap dance for me with her.”

I scowl. Hearing Ty’s name irritates me. We’ve sat on opposite ends of the group the entire time, no interaction between us whatsoever. Probably best, considering if he comes near me again, I might hit him.

And keep on hitting him until he’s bloody and broken. Only then would I feel an ounce of satisfaction. Though why I keep wanting to defend her when she’s out fucking around with another guy while I mourn the loss of her, I don’t know.

Fuck.

“I’m sure he could arrange a lap dance for you too,” Logan continues.

“Hell, no. I don’t want one.” I shake my head and down the rest of my beer in one swallow. I feel hot. My head is spinning. I’m definitely losing control and for once, I don’t really care.

“That you say you don’t want one only makes me want to get you one even more.”

I turn to see Ty standing there, beer in hand, smirk in place. I want to slap that shitty look off his face but I remain calm. Nonchalant. “Why would you want to waste your money on a lap dance for me? Get one for yourself.”

Ty laughs. “I want to see you squirm, Callahan. I know this isn’t your scene. Hell, I’m surprised you’re here with us. I’m even more surprised at how you tried to kick my ass over a stupid girl.”

I say nothing. I’m surprised too but I’m not going to let on that I am.

“You know Fable? Been with her or something?” Ty shakes his head. “I took her out once, a long time ago. It was mostly forgettable.”

If he so much as goes into detail about their supposedly forgettable date, I’ll bash his face in.

“I don’t know her that well,” I bite out, every word sharp because I’m a complete liar. “But you don’t disrespect women, Ty. It’s an asshole thing to do.”

“I’ve never said I was anything but an asshole.” The smirk on Ty’s face disappears. “That’s why I already got you that lap dance, buddy. With a pretty little blonde who reminded me of our mutual friend.” He flicks his head and I turn around.

“Hi.” She smiles at me, all bright and fake, and I’m momentarily taken aback. She does eerily resemble Fable at first glance, much like my fake classmate Fable, but then I realize she’s nothing like the girl I’m in love with.

This fake Fable is taller, skinnier, with shorter hair and bad skin. Her nails are long and painted neon pink. She tosses her hair behind her shoulder and thrusts her chest out, her hard nipples poking against the thin fabric of her neon pink bikini top.

Ty plants his hand in the middle of my back and shoves me toward her. “Aren’t you going to greet your present? You need to respect women and all that other shit you talk about, right?”

Asshole. “You don’t have to do this,” I tell her, ignoring Ty’s snicker. I glance around, looking for Logan, but he’s long gone. Probably off getting his own dance.

The girl frowns. “He paid me to do it. It’s my job.”

“Just keep the money,” I tell her, reaching out to grab her arm so I can take her somewhere else. Somewhere we can pretend this is happening instead of putting on a show for everyone.

She shakes her head, touches my chest with her free hand. “Don’t you like me?”

I study her, my vision blurry. If I squint, she could almost pass for Fable. She strokes my forearm, her light touch sending a shiver through me. “Come on,” she murmurs, her voice low.

Seductive.

No way should I do this, but I let her lead me over to a chair and she pushes my chest so I have no choice but to sit. I fall into the chair heavily, my head spinning, and the music starts, the woman on the stage begins to move.

Just like the woman in front of me.

For a moment, I let my imagination run away from me. Instead of a stranger, it’s Fable in front of me. Dancing for me, so beautiful as she moves, her lips curved in a seductive smile, her eyes glowing as she watches me. I stare back, my mouth going dry, my skin tight and hot…

I hear Ty’s unmistakable laugh, snapping me back to reality.

The girl smiles at me, her hands on my shoulders, her barely covered breasts in my face as she twists and turns to the beat of the music. Her hips roll and thrust toward me as she reaches behind her back, deftly undoing both straps on her bikini top so it falls from her chest and lands on the floor.

She has small breasts and big nipples, nothing like Fable. Of course she’s nothing like her. I need to stop comparing all women to her. It’s a mistake. Hell, it’s a sickness. One I need to cure myself of and quickly, since she already has someone else.

The realization makes me almost sick to my stomach.

“Put your tits in his face!” Ty yells and she tosses her hair and laughs, thrusting her chest directly in my face as Ty commanded, her skin brushing against mine. I smell sweat, cheap perfume and alcohol emanating from her pores and I wrinkle my nose.

This girl is nothing like mine. She’s nothing like any sort of girl I’d ever be interested in.

“You’re hot,” the dancer whispers and I tilt my head back, our gazes locking. “Want to hook up after I get off work? My shift ends in an hour.”

I slowly shake my head. “I don’t think so.” That she solicits me so easily makes me think this isn’t her first time doing this sort of thing.

She pouts. “I bet you have a girlfriend, right? All the quiet, good-looking ones do.”

“Yeah, I have a girlfriend.” A fake one, one I lost claim to months ago. But it’s easier to agree than to explain myself.

Her pout turns into a deep frown. “I’m sure your friend who bought you the dance is available, huh? I’m sure most girls wouldn’t tolerate his crap for long.”

The girl is perceptive. She’s danced for me for all of three minutes tops and has the both of us all figured out. “He’s definitely available.”

She grimaces. “Of course he is.”

The song ends, as does my dance, and she steps away from me, a little smile curving her lips. I never noticed until now her lipstick color matches the neon pink of her bikini and fingernails. She glows in the black lights, giving her a weird and unnatural effect. “You’re quite the gentleman.” She bends over and snatches her bikini top from the floor. “Take that as a compliment.”

“Thanks,” I say weakly, immobile in my chair. My head is still spinning. I drank way too much and I’m almost afraid to stand. I might collapse like an idiot. “For the dance and the compliment.”

Flashing me a smile, she wiggles her fingers at me then heads over to Ty. He immediately grabs her like she’s his piece of property. His hands are sprawled across her back and butt as he hauls her close into him. She hasn’t even put her top back on yet and he’s got his hands all over her, his mouth at her ear. She shoves at his chest and I’m tempted to go and tell her to get away from him, but then I hear her giggle and I know she likes it.

Likes him.

Disgusted with myself, I stand and glance around the room, waiting for the spinning to ease. It’s so dark and there are so many guys in the place, I can’t make out who’s who. No way could I find my friends in this crowd. I need to get the hell out of here. I need to get home, but I’m far from my apartment complex, which is clear on the other side of town. My truck is at the restaurant Fable works at.

I’m freaking stranded.

Frowning, I pull my cell out of my pocket and study the dark screen. I could do it. I practically dare myself to type in the one word that might send her to me.

Or that word might make her run away. It should. I don’t deserve her help.

Deciding to go for it before my balls shrivel up and retreat into my body forever, I tap out eleven letters, spelling a word that both makes me happy and haunts my thoughts.FableMy phone buzzes in my pocket just as I’m getting ready to clock out. It’s late, the restaurant was packed till the last possible minute and my feet are killing me.

I check my messages and audibly gasp at the one word that seems to fill the screen, daring me to ignore it.

Marshmallow

Anger surges within me. How dare he use that word? What the hell does he want? Does he need me to rescue him yet again? I can’t believe his audacity.

But the worry kicks in, and the anger subsides. What if he’s in trouble? He’s with those jerk assholes he doesn’t really like and probably shouldn’t trust. What if they did something to him and he’s lying in a heap on the side of the road, bleeding to death?

God, my drama-filled brain is on overdrive tonight.

Furious at my concern, I hurriedly type in a response to him and hit send before I can second guess myself.

Where the hell are you?

He answers in seconds.

Gold Diggers.

Ugh! He’s asking me to rescue him from a strip club? I want to kill him.

Like I’m driving all the way out there. I don’t even have a car.

Seconds later, he responds again.

I left my truck at the restaurant.

Frowning, I study the words he just sent me. I can’t do this. I shouldn’t. Rescuing him gives me hope and I should feel hopeless when it comes to Drew. He’s not worth all the heartache and drama.

Is he?

No key though, I finally type, feeling sorta cheery. How can I drive his truck with no key?

“You need a ride?”

I glance up to find Colin standing in front of me, his handsome face filled with concern. My phone beeps and I read Drew’s message, a detailed description as to the exact location where the spare key is hidden on his truck.

Tempting me more and more to go rescue him, no matter how stupid I know the idea is.

“Fable?”

“Yeah, um, thanks for the ride, but I don’t need one.” I smile, realizing I need Colin to leave before I do if I don’t want him to see me drive off in Drew’s truck.

Not that he’d know it was Drew’s truck but Colin is a smart guy. He can put two and two together real easy.

“Are you sure?” He reaches out and touches me, his fingers drifting across my arm, and I don’t react. I might’ve yesterday. Hell, I might’ve about four hours ago, before Drew walked back into my life so easily, but now, there’s nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Nodding, I offer him a bigger smile. “Really. I have a ride. But I appreciate the offer.”

“All right. Jen’s catching a ride home with me so we’ll both see you tomorrow?”

My first Sunday working at the restaurant, my shift starts in the midafternoon and I’ll get off at a decent time, too, since I’m only scheduled for four hours. I’m sort of excited about it. Owen and I already have plans. Either breakfast, if I can get his lazy ass out of bed, or a late dinner after I get off work. Maybe even a movie if we’re feeling ambitious.

I feel like treating my brother to something special. He deserves it. I haven’t been around much and neither has Mom. He’s drifting and I need to reconnect with him badly. No fourteen-year-old should drift, especially my own brother.

“See you tomorrow,” I say as I watch Colin leave with Jen by his side. I wonder if they’re a couple. And if they are, why he would flirt with me. Why would he flirt with anyone? I don’t understand the dynamics there.

I don’t understand the dynamics between Drew and me either, so who am I to judge?* * * *I pull into the parking lot of Gold Diggers fifteen minutes later, driving around to the side of the building, where I find Drew leaning against the wall. His upper body is slouched forward, his hands nestled deep in his jeans pockets, and his head is bent. It’s like he didn’t even hear the truck pull up.

Rolling down the passenger side window, I whistle low and he glances up, his gaze meeting mine.

“Need a ride?” I ask, trying my best to keep my voice even, but I hear the slight waver. Did he?

I hope not.

Pushing away from the building, he saunters over to the truck and leans in through the open window, his arms propped on the ledge. “So you found the key.”

“I told you did.” I texted him when I left work that I was on my way. Did he already forget or what?

Sniffing the air, I catch the distinct scent of beer. He’s been drinking. And he’s always more of a handful when he’s been drinking. Not necessarily in a bad way, though. Not like the guys my mom always ends up dating. Those types were mean and sometimes used their hands to get their point across.

“Thanks for coming to get me.” He pushes away from the truck and pulls on the handle, opening the door so he can climb inside. Settling into the passenger seat, he rolls up the window, pulls the seatbelt on and clicks it into place, then leans against the seat, his eyes closing. “I appreciate it.”

That’s it? That’s all I get? No oh my God, you’re my hero, Fable or profusions of undying love? Not that I expected the last one but holy hell, we go from not talking or seeing each other for over two months, to all sorts of interaction with each other in the span of a few hours.

I don’t know if I can take this, especially when he’s acting like our reunion     is no big deal.

“Need directions to my place?” he asks when I pull out of the parking lot.

“Um, I thought I could go straight to my house.” I don’t want to take him to his place. Then how would I get home?

“I can’t drive. I’m all sorts of fucked up.”

In more ways than one, I want to tell him but keep my lips shut. “So what? If I take you home, who’s going to take me home?”

“Call your boyfriend.” He shrugs, but the venom in his words is clear.

“My boyfriend?” I stop at a red light and turn to look at him. His eyes are open and he’s watching me, his expression wary. “Who are you talking about?”

“The guy who interrupted us earlier. Your fucking boss, Fable. Or should I say the boss you’re fucking?”

Oh. My. God. Where the hell did he get that idea? “I should pull over right now and dump you on the side of the road.”

“Go for it. I’ll call the cops and say you stole my truck.”

Who is this guy? I give him my best, meanest stare, the one that scares the crap out of Owen every time I use it on him. “You wouldn’t dare.”

He glares at me right back. “Try me.”

The light turns green and I gun the engine, my foot pressing the gas pedal so hard we both lurch forward in our seat. The truck takes off quickly, the tires squealing against the asphalt, making me wince. Drew’s muttering curses under his breath but I don’t care. I ignore him, let the power of the truck’s engine propel me down the road, erasing my thoughts until all I feel is the speed.

But I can’t control my mind, no matter how much I want to. It’s awhirl with questions. Why did he think Colin and I were together? Why would Drew text me to come get him if he thought that was the case? Why was he at the strip club? Did he have his hands all over a stripper? I swear I can smell cheap perfume lingering on his clothes. The idea that he was with another girl, had his hands on some stupid stripper, even momentarily, fills me with so much rage, my foot presses on the gas pedal even harder.

“Are you trying to get us into a wreck?”

His quiet voice pierces my thoughts, reminding me I’m driving like a reckless jackass, and I ease up on the gas, evening out to a more moderate speed. “Sorry,” I murmur, embarrassed that I’m acting the fool.

My usual mode of operation when I’m in Drew’s presence.

We’re silent the rest of the drive, with the exception of Drew telling me where to turn to get to his apartment. The neighborhoods gets nicer and nicer the farther and farther I drive. I’m filled with jealousy as I take in the trees that line the street, the perfectly manicured lawns with bright bursts of colorful flowers, even in the middle of winter. Landscapers maintain all of the lawns on this side of town and they are utter perfection.

Unlike the grass and yards in my neighborhood, which are uneven and brown in spots. No pretty flowers in sight where I live. We mostly have overgrown shrubs at my apartment complex. They hide all the flaws well.

“Nice place,” I say once I pull into the parking spot he directs me to. It’s covered, of course. And the complex is gated, keeping the riffraff out. Like me. I’m considered riffraff, I’m sure.

“Do you need to call your boyfriend to pick you up?” he asks, his voice low. Downright menacing.

I shut off the engine and turn to him, hoping my expression is as incredulous as I feel. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

He raises his brows. “So the guy who basically told me to take a hike isn’t your boyfriend.”

“He’s not. He’s my boss. That’s it.” I slowly shake my head, pissed that I even have to explain myself.

“Why would he say he was with you last night, then?”

I’m gaping. I can’t believe what Drew just said. “What?”

“That’s what he told me. He asked who I was and I told him I was your…boyfriend. Then he laughed and said something like, where the hell was I since he was with you last night.” Drew’s mouth tightened into a flat, thin line. “Were you with him?”

God, I was. It sounds so bad, too. I don’t want to admit the truth but I can’t lie to Drew. There shouldn’t be any more lies between us. Honesty needs to be our only policy. “Yes,” I admit, my voice small. I don’t want to tell him Colin took me to a salon and paid for my makeover, a makeover Drew doesn’t even seem to notice.

He looks away from me, blowing out a harsh breath. His jaw is tight, I see a slight tic in it and I know he’s beyond pissed. “Just admit it, Fable. You’ve moved on. I can’t blame you. I fucked this all up by not responding to you. I asked for this.”

“Asked for what? I’m not with my boss, not in the way you think. We’re definitely not together.”

He looks at me again. “You’re not?”

“No,” I say, slowly shaking my head. “We’re not. He’s my boss. I wouldn’t screw around with my boss.”

Drew says nothing, but his silence fills up the truck’s cab just the same as an endless stream of words would.

“Listen, you left me, remember? I’m finally getting on with my life, moving on from you, and then you go and text me that stupid, stupid code word. You have a lot of nerve, you know. I don’t know why I bothered coming out here to rescue you. Accusing me of being with someone else like a complete jealous jerk.” I need to call him out on his shit so I can get to the truth. I need the truth. I’ve been in limbo waiting for him and hating him, loving him, wanting to kill him, wanting to save him, for way too long.

I’m done. He either needs to come clean with me and we can get to the bottom of this, or we’ll continue swimming in an endless circle that will both drive me crazy and exhilarate me, all at once.

“I didn’t know what to think,” he finally says. “What he said put thoughts in my head and fucked around with…everything.”

“You have no right to accuse me of this crap.” I take a deep breath. Drew may have jumped to conclusions, but I’m starting to think Colin didn’t help matters by implying that something’s going on between us. Which it’s so not. “Who are you going to believe? Some guy you don’t know or me?”

He lifts his lids, his gaze meeting mine. His eyes are bright, even in the dim light of the truck, and I wish I could lean into him. Touch him. Kiss him.

“You,” he whispers. “I’m going to believe you.”

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