“If this is so wrong, then stop. Stop trying to get close to me. You run hot and cold, Preston. I am so sick of it. I can’t keep up with you. I don’t want to anymore.” The angry glare she’d shot me when she walked past the Jeep was gone. Now Amanda just looked over it. She was tired of this. I couldn’t blame her. I wasn’t worth the hassle. I could never be what she wanted. She thought I was like Cage and the right girl could tame me. It wasn’t about that. I didn’t need taming. I needed f**king saving.
I wouldn’t be free until I was out of college and got a job that would make me enough money to take care of my brothers and sister. Until then, I’d never be free to touch someone like Amanda. She wasn’t like the other girls I messed around with. They knew the score. They meant nothing to me. Manda was different. She made me feel things. Things I’d prayed I’d never experience, because acting on them would be impossible.
“Just let me take you home. I promise this won’t happen again. I shouldn’t have brought you out here. Having you close like this makes me forget the reasons why this won’t work. We will never work.”
Amanda spun around and started stalking back toward the road. Her tight little ass swung teasingly in those shorts of hers that were always too short and drove me crazy. I’d been fantasizing about slipping my hand up a pair of her shorts for a couple of years now. Tonight that desire had taken over, and the craving to taste her.
“Manda, please don’t do this. I said I was sorry. Just let me give you a ride. You don’t even have to talk to me. Besides, you’re barefoot. You can’t walk home barefoot.”
She stopped, but she didn’t turn back around right away. Instead, she placed both her hands on her h*ps and stood there in the darkness. She was thinking about it. I couldn’t blame her. I’d hate me too. Toying with her like that was wrong. I could never do more than tease her. Because the cold hard fact was that the moment the call came in from a client, I’d have to leave her, and there was no way I’d be able to crawl out of her bed and into bed with someone else.
Finally Amanda turned around and walked slowly back to the Jeep. She didn’t meet my eyes. She didn’t even look my way. She kept her eyes down as she passed me and opened the passenger side of the Jeep and climbed in.
I walked over to the driver’s side and got in. Glancing over at her, I thought about explaining myself. Maybe just telling her the truth. I needed to tell someone. Would she understand?
“Don’t, Preston. Just drive,” she replied, as if she’d read my mind. I cranked the Jeep and pulled out onto the dark street. She was right. We’d said enough.
We rode in silence the two miles back to her house. I parked in her driveway, and she opened the door and got out, taking her sandals with her. She didn’t look back at me or even tell me good-bye. The close of the door was hard and firm. That was her way of telling me that whatever we had been attempting was over.
Swallowing against the sudden lump in my throat, I turned my Jeep toward home. I wouldn’t cry over her. I wouldn’t. I’d never had her, not really. She didn’t know me. She’d never accept the truth about me. It was better this way. Pretending like I could have her in any way was just a form of torture I didn’t need. I had my family and my baseball career to focus on. Amanda Hardy was a distraction that could make me lose it all.
“What do you think of this one?” Willow asked as she stepped up onto the small platform in front of the wall of mirrors in another gorgeous white wedding dress. I thought she looked like every guy’s fantasy. All her long red hair and her cl**vage pouring out of the top of the sleeveless dress. She was the kind of girl who could make any guy change his ways. I was missing that sex appeal. I had the cute little girl-next-door thing going for me. I didn’t have the sexy goddess thing Willow did. It was no wonder my brother had become like a panting dog at her feet the moment he met her.
“I love it. You’re fabulous in it. However, I am still a fan of the one two dresses ago. I like the way it’s short in front and shows off your legs but long in the back. It’s a sexier dress. This one would make my mother very happy, but it covers up too much. You have the body. Flaunt it on your wedding day.”
Willow blushed, and I was reminded of yet another reason my brother loved her. She was so completely blind to the fact that she was gorgeous. Every time you complemented her, she would get all red faced like she didn’t believe you or know how to handle it.
“I liked that one too. I was just worried the short front was too much. Your mom wants us to get married in the church. Can I wear a short dress like that?”
My mom was having way too much input in this wedding. Willow had no mom to weigh in, and her older sister wasn’t an option in helping her decide anything about the wedding. The fact Tawny was living with my dad and their kid made it weird. Besides, Willow and her sister weren’t very close.
“I thought you wanted to get married on the beach. I think that is the perfect dress for a beach wedding.”
Willow twirled one of her long strands of hair around her finger. “Well, I do. But your mom really wants us married in a church. I didn’t want to upset her. She’s had so much to deal with already. And Marcus doesn’t care. He just wants to get married.”
Willow was going to have to learn to stand up to my mother, or Mom would run all over her. Mom loved to plan and be in charge. Willow was so eager to please her that she would let her. I wasn’t going to let that happen.
“If you want a beach wedding, then have a beach wedding. This isn’t my mother’s wedding. She doesn’t get to plan this. I’m not letting her plan mine, I can tell you that right now. You cannot let her start controlling your decisions. She’ll do it about everything. Heck, she’ll even name your kids for you. This is your life. Marcus is yours. Not hers. He’s a big boy now, and he is yours. You make the choices. That dress was gorgeous on you. Marcus will love it. Have your beach wedding and wear your rocking-hot dress.”
Willow smiled and bit down on her bottom lip, then nodded. “You’re right. I shouldn’t do what others want me to on my wedding day. It’s about Marcus and me. No one else.”
I felt a swell of pride in my chest that I’d convinced her to go with her heart. Do what she wanted. I nodded and sat back down in my chair, and I crossed my legs to wait while she went to put back on the dress we’d both loved.
My phone played the short tune to let me know I had a text message. I reached into my purse and pulled it out.
Jason: Instead of me coming there this weekend, what would you say to dinner in NYC?
What was he talking about? Had he accidentally texted me when he’d meant to text someone else? I live nowhere near New York City.
Me: I think you texted the wrong person 🙂
That was awkward. Especially since he had mentioned coming to see me this weekend. He must have made plans with more than one girl.
Jason: I’m positive that I texted exactly who I meant to text. I don’t normally offer to ask my brother for his jet to take girls on dates. Only for the really special ones.
Oh. He wanted to fly me to New York City for dinner? Really? What did I say to this? I knew Sadie had done this kind of thing all the time last year while she was finishing up high school in Sea Breeze while Jax toured the states. But Jason and I had been on one date. This seemed kind of like a big deal for a second date.
Jason: The silence is not promising.
Me: I was just surprised. I don’t know what to say.
Jason: “Yes” would be a really good option.
I laughed at his quick response. I really liked this guy.
“Who has you smiling down at the phone like that?” Willow asked with a grin on her face as she walked back out of the dressing room in the dress that I knew was meant for her.
“Jason Stone,” I replied.
Willow wiggled her eyebrows. “Dating a celebrity.”
“He isn’t really a celebrity. Just the fact that he’s related to Jax.”
Willow laughed and stepped up onto the platform in front of the mirrors. “Yeah, I’d say being the brother of the world’s favorite rock star makes him a celebrity.”
Me: Can I think about it?
I wasn’t ready to just say yes. Sure, I was mad at Preston about the other night at the beach. He and I hadn’t crossed paths since then, but I just couldn’t get him out of my head. Once the anger faded, I remembered his sad face. The hopelessness in his eyes. Those things had me wanting to hunt him down and ask him why.
Jason: Of course. Let me know when you’re ready.
Me: Thank you.
“So, what is it he’s saying?” Willow asked.
“He wants me to go out with him again soon.”
“And are you going?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t sure. It all depended on Preston. Everything depended on him. If somehow I was missing something that I needed to know, I didn’t want to just walk away without knowing the facts.
“Maybe. Not sure. I need to think about it.”
Willow nodded. “Good idea. Dating him will put you in a spotlight. I imagine that isn’t always fun.”
I knew from Sadie’s experience it wasn’t fun at all. She was still getting used to it. But I wanted to change the subject. We weren’t here to discuss my love life. We were here to find the perfect dress for Willow.
“That’s it,” I said, nodding to her image in the mirror.
Willow turned to look at herself. “Yes, I believe you’re right.”
“Marcus will be a puddle at your feet,” I assured her.
Willow beamed at me. “Now. We still need to find you the perfect dress. Do you think Jason would want to come? Should I send him an invitation for you?”
I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Would Jason and I still be talking then? It was very possible he would have moved on to another model by that point. I shrugged and straightened the train on the dress. It was covered in tiny pearls and weighed a ton. The fact that there wasn’t much to the rest of the dress was made up for by the extravagance of the train.
“So do you or don’t you?” Willow asked.
I realized I still hadn’t answered the Jason and the wedding question. Sadie and Jax were coming, so why not invite Jax’s brother? Even if we weren’t dating then, I was sure we’d still be friends.
“Sure. Send him an invite.”