“You’re no fun,” she said, trying to swipe her elbow out of his grasp.
“Conner!” Sawyer yelled at a guy climbing into a truck whose bed was spilling over with students. “Got room for one more?”
“Does it look like I do, Diamond?” Conner hollered back, revving his engine. “There’s only lap sitting room.”
“That’s perfect,” he replied, handing Allie off to another guy in the bed of the truck who swung her up. Neither one seemed to mind the lap arrangement.
“See you at Morrison’s?” Conner called out the window as the human circus headed out of the parking lot.
“Maybe later,” Sawyer said, tapping the truck bed as they passed by.
Coming up to me, he crouched beside me, swinging his jacket over my hunched shoulders. “Lucy? Are you all right?”
Deciding who’d I’d rather be locked in a closet with right now, Sawyer or Allie, was like choosing the lesser of two evils. “I’m fantastic,” I answered, my head still curled into my knees. “Could you just give me some space, Sawyer?”
“No,” he said, scooting next to me. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Okay, I asked nicely once, but I won’t a second time,” I said, heat trickling into my bloodstream. “Go. Away.”
“Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time. No.”
Everything else had gone all to hell tonight, why wouldn’t I expect Sawyer to go with the hellish flow?
“If you’re hoping for sloppy seconds, you can stop hoping now,” I began. “If you’re offering to be a shoulder to cry on, I don’t cry. If you’re looking to tell me ‘I told you so’ or convince me of what a loser Jude is, save your breath. If—”
“Actually,” Sawyer interrupted, “I just wanted to make sure you made it home safe.”
“Sawyer, I’m sorry,” I said, feeling like a terrible human being. “I’m pissy and taking it out on you because you’re the only one here to take it out on.”
“I have three older sisters,” he said, nudging me. “I’m used to pissy.”
Turning my head, I looked over at him. He was grinning that smile, looking at me like we were good friends. I needed a good friend.
“Your date won’t mind if you drive me home?” I asked, looking around for some solo female floating off in the distance.
“I went stag,” he said, popping his shoulders.
“Oh,” I said, sitting up. I didn’t know much of Sawyer Diamond other than knowing he wasn’t the kind of guy that went stag to dances out of necessity. “You did?”
“I was really hoping to take this one girl,” he said, gazing over at me, “but she ended up going with some other guy.”
I exhaled, staring out into the empty spot in the back of the parking lot. “Some other guy who ditched her because the cops were after him?”
“Something like that,” he said, standing up. “Come on, let me drive you home so you can put an end to this night.” He extended his hand for me to take, and it felt natural to accept it. Like I wasn’t fighting every force of nature in this universe and the next to keep a hold of it.
Standing up, I dusted myself off and smoothed the wrinkles out of my dress. “I’m so relieved you came along and took care of the Allie situation, I could kiss you right now,” I said, before realizing what I’d said and who I’d said it to.
Of course he couldn’t just laugh it off or pretend he hadn’t heard it altogether. “And I would happily oblige.”
I tried laughing that response off, but the delivery was all wrong. It sounded more like the hysterics of the perpetually awkward.
Another few seconds of cringe worthy laughter and Sawyer tilted his head. “I’m just over here,” he said, grabbing my hand and walking me across the parking lot.
His hand was warm and strong, but a little soft for a guy. Looking down at our entwined hands, mine appeared to fit perfectly in his, but it felt wrong.
Sliding up to a sleek white car, he opened the passenger door. I lifted my brows.
“I’m old-fashioned,” he explained. “Don’t tell.”
“Plus, you had three older sisters.” I slid into the seat, looking up at him.
“Exactly,” he said before shutting the door.
“Where am I heading?” he asked as he crawled into the driver’s seat and turned the key over.
“I live across the lake in Sunrise Shores,” I said, trying not to think about what I’d been doing an hour ago in this same parking lot. I tried to swallow the lump choking up my throat as Sawyer peeled out of the parking lot, leaving behind a few good and a slew of bad memories.
“I’ll take one hot fudge sundae with extra fudge and two cherries on top.” Sawyer looked across the seat at me, jacking his eyebrows. “That will be three fifty-eight at the first window,” the speaker crackled back.
“Really, I’m not hungry,” I said as Sawyer pulled forward. I couldn’t imagine eating right now.
“You don’t have to be hungry to enjoy the healing qualities of a mound of ice cream and a river of fudge,” he said, pulling his wallet out from his back pocket. He handed the cashier a hundred and she glared at him like there was no greater offense in the land of fast food.
“And here I’d been under the belief that ice cream made you fat,” I said, trying to pretend like my heart was in whatever Sawyer was doing to cheer me up. Nothing, not even a VIP pass to Disneyland, could leap over that hurdle.
“Nonsense,” he said, handing over a bucket sized sundae. “Ice cream makes any situation, especially this kind, at least fifty percent better.” The cashier handed him a spoon which he jabbed into the mountain of whipped cream, waiting for me. Cars were lined up behind us, but he obviously wasn’t moving until I took a bite.
I rolled my eyes and dug in. It was just a spoonful of whipped cream, with a smudge of fudge, but Sawyer was right. I felt better, not jump out of your seat and raise your hands to the heavens better, but enough so it counted.
“Better?” he asked.
I nodded slowly. “Better.”
“Well, my mission is done here.” With that, Sawyer punched the car into gear and sped out of the drive-in like we were cruising down Rodeo Drive.
Carving out a spoonful of ice cream, I glanced over at him. He noticed.
“What’s on your mind, Larson?” he asked, trying to sound like he was talking to one of his buddies, but he wasn’t looking at me like one of his buddies.
“You don’t want to know,” I answered around a mouthful of ice cream.
“Sure I do.”
I took another bite so I could come up with something tactful to say. Yep, nothing was coming to mind.
“What I meant by you don’t want to know is that I don’t want to tell you.” Why did I have to be so bluntly honest?
“Oh,” he said, turning down Sunrise Drive. “Moving on, then.”
He was silent for another mile or so, not pressing anything. Any other high school student would have pressed for every last detail of tonight’s drama fest. Another point for Sawyer. He’d scored a lot of them tonight, and I started to realize I’d been quick to judge him, like everyone else had me. He wasn’t the cliche jock slash prep. I mean, he did play sports and wear a lot of name-brand polos, but he was also thoughtful and kind and helped a girl out when no one else would.
Sawyer Diamond was in danger of being labeled a good guy in my book.
We pulled into my driveway another minute later and I was surprised to find I’d finished almost half the tub of ice cream. I’d be dancing my ass off tomorrow morning. Literally.
“Thanks for the ride, Sawyer,” I said, turning in my seat. “I’m sure there are about a thousand other things you’d rather be doing on Homecoming night, but it means a lot to me.”
“Right now,” he said, unbuckling his seatbelt and leaning towards me, “there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
I forced myself not to roll my eyes at that line. One point forward, one point back for Mr. Diamond.
“Good night,” I said, reaching for the handle.
“Hold up, Lucy.” Sawyer’s hand grabbed mine. “I’ve been going back and forth the whole drive here on whether or not to say anything to you, but I wouldn’t be a very good friend if I didn’t.” He took the melting vat of sundae from me and set it on the backseat floor. “I know you like Jude, and maybe that’s in the past tense after tonight.”
That pit in my stomach returned, the ice cream be damned.
“Sawyer,” I began, wanting to stop him because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know everything that was Jude because then I might not have any excuses to stay with him.
“He’s not the right guy for you, Lucy,” he started, but something about the look I gave him or the anger starting to radiate off me stopped him.
“I’ll decide who is and who isn’t right for me, Sawyer,” I said, making another push for the door.
He didn’t let my hand go. “No, wait, don’t leave like this, Lucy,” he said, taking a deep breath. “You’re right. I have no business telling you what to do or who to stay away from.”
Damn straight, my inner voice replied.
“But do me this one favor. Next time, if there is a next time, you see Ryder,” Sawyer paused, looking like he was fighting a battle he was about to lose, “ask him about Holly.”
That prickly feeling was my hackles standing on end. “Holly who?”
“That’s Jude’s history to tell you about, not mine.”
And women were supposed to be infuriating creatures? It was time for another census. “Then why did you bring her up?”
“Because you have a right to know what you’re getting into.”
I knew I had the right, but I wasn’t sure it was one I wanted to claim. There was nothing else to say. “Good night again,” I said, stepping out of the car. He let me go. “Thanks again for the ride.”
He grinned up at me. “Thanks for letting me give you a ride,” he said. “I’ll see you Monday?”
I slid into my sweater. “Unless the west coast falls into the ocean.”
“So, all natural, personal, and economical disasters aside, I’ll see you on Monday?” His boyish grin was making me smile, it was impossible to resist.
“Just get the hell out of here, Diamond,” I said, covering my smile as I shut the door.
Flipping a salute, Sawyer turned around in the driveway and waved as he pulled out.
I watched his car go until its tail lights were eaten up by the night, trying to decide how I felt about Sawyer. By appearance’s sake, he was a shoo-in for the young man of the year award, but something else, something I couldn’t yet pinpoint, made the hair on the back of my neck stand a bit on end when he was around. It was nothing more than an instinct, but it was something I couldn’t ignore.