Brandon flexed his grip on my hip to let me know that was better. He couldn’t stand Jason Carter for obvious reasons, but of course he was still as polite as could be to him, just as he’d been with Chase.
“Carter,” I sighed when a grin crossed his face from me using his last name, “why are you here though?” I made a loose circle with my finger, indicating the gym. There were tons of fighting gyms around San Diego, it was too much of a coincidence for him to choose this one.
“I uh – one of the guys that got out before us was already a member here before I moved, he told me the owner’s name and I figured I could come here and talk to Brandon, see if he knew how you were. I didn’t know if you guys were still together, or if you even spoke anymore. But you’re my best friend Blaze, I needed to see you and this was my best shot. I was waiting for him to be done training that guy,” he nodded his head toward the wall of punching bags, “and then you were here.”
“That right there, what you just said, is a perfect example of how little of friends we actually are. We haven’t spoken in over a year and a half, and even though you kind of lost the right to know anything about my life, if we were friends at all, you would have known that if you found Brandon, I wouldn’t be far behind. You don’t know anything about me anymore, and I don’t know anything about you. So much has happened in the last year and a half with me, and you’re clueless to all of it. That’s saying something.”
Carter glanced down to Brandon’s hand on my hip and sighed, “Well it’s obvious you are still together. And you’re right, I don’t know anything about your life now. But that doesn’t change anything, you’ll always be my best friend.” He said softly.
Liam started getting fussy, so I turned and took him from Brandon. When I turned back around, Carter’s eyes were wide and his jaw was dropped. He hadn’t even realized Liam was there until then.
“You have a baby?”
The corners of my mouth curved up slightly, “Yes, and Brandon and I are married.”
He looked at me quickly, then to Brandon and Liam and back to me. “Holy shit.”
I rolled my eyes at him and hitched Liam higher up on my hip, “It was nice to see you Carter, but I have to go feed him.” Bree handed me the diaper bag and I turned to go to Brandon’s office.
“Blaze wait, can we talk sometime? I – I’ve missed you. We need to catch up. I know you’re mad at me for what I did, but I hate not having you in my life somehow.”
“Is your number still the same?”
“Yes.” There was so much hope in that one word it was almost sad, but at the same time, I understood. If he had never crossed the line at that party, I would have craved our friendship too.
“I’ll think about it Carter, and I’ll let you know.” Without another glance in his direction, I grabbed Brandon’s hand and walked to his office.
“Are you okay Harper?” Brandon asked as soon as his door was shut.
“Yes, I just don’t understand why he’d do this, and after not talking for so long. He could have just tried to call.”
Brandon took Liam and sat down in his chair, sitting Liam on his lap so he was facing me while I got the food out of the bag. “But he knows you would have ignored the call. You’ve got to hand it to him, the guy has balls for coming to my gym to ask about you.”
I laughed and kissed his cheek before pulling up another chair in front of them. “So I’m guessing that’s why you looked pissed off when I came in?”
“Yeah, I knew he was still in there, but I didn’t know where and I didn’t want him to see you. I’m sorry, I know that’s immature, but he’s not my favorite person in the world.”
“Babe, I’m surprised you let him even become a member. I would have escorted him out as soon as I’d seen him.” I smiled at Liam as he took another bite of baby food.
“The thought crossed my mind.” He laughed softly, “Are you going to talk to him?”
I leaned back into the chair as I got another scoop of pureed carrots, “I don’t know. If that night at the party wouldn’t have happened, I would in a heartbeat. But he changed things, I don’t think we can go back to being friends you know?” I shook my head, “God I still feel so stupid for not seeing it sooner.”
He smirked at me, “You were the only person who didn’t get it. Even with Bree constantly saying something to you, you were so sure she was wrong.”
“He was my best friend! He treated me like every other guy in Sir’s unit.”
“Oh okay,” he scoffed, “‘my Blaze, my girl, I couldn’t just let you go to California without me’.”
“Brandon Taylor…were you jealous of Carter?”
“Me? Jealous? Of my girl running away from me to throw herself in some random guy’s arms? Not even close.”
“Hmm,” I fed Liam another scoop of nastiness, “I seem to remember yelling at him and telling him to leave before running into your arms and kissing you.”
He smiled wide, “I don’t remember that at all, you may need to remind me how that went.”
His eyes had a wicked gleam in them as I leaned over Liam and stopped less than an inch away from his lips, “Brandon.” I whispered low and sultry.
“Yeah?” He moved closer and I backed up a fraction of an inch.
I smiled when he growled and lightly brushed my mouth over his lips before sitting down, “Well if you don’t remember it, I guess it never happened.” I said cheerfully and went back to feeding our son.
“Oh yes, that’s me…the tease.” I winked and sat up for a chaste kiss.
“And to answer your question,” he began after a few silent minutes, “I was never jealous of Carter. I knew if you were that clueless about his feelings that you didn’t share them.”
My stomach dropped knowing what he must be thinking about. I’d never shared Carter’s feelings, but he’d known all along that there was something between me and Chase. I remembered listening to him telling Liam the morning of our wedding that Brandon knew it was a matter of when, not if. I took a deep breath in, held it for three seconds and then exhaled slowly.
“If you want your friend back Harper, I would never stop you. But if he tries anything again, I won’t stop myself from hitting him this time.”
“Thanks babe, but I’m really not sure if I even want him back in my life. You saw how he was after those few weeks of hanging out, and all those drunken voicemails he left me of the women he was with and stuff like that. That wasn’t my friend, he completely changed when he got to California, and I don’t know if that was a temporary thing or if that’s who he really is now.”
“Well I guess you won’t know if you don’t talk to him.” Brandon offered.
“Do you want me to talk to him?”
He gently grabbed my chin and tilted it up, “I want you to do whatever you want to, I just didn’t want you to think that I would be mad if you were friends again, and I know you miss the way you guys were before you moved.”
I nodded, “Well I can see if he’s still here? We can all talk?”
“If you want me there when you talk, that’s fine.”
“Brandon,” I sighed and took off Liam’s bib, “you’re my husband, of course I want you there. If he has a problem with that, then that tells me all I need to know.”
A flash of relief crossed his face and he smiled warmly at me, “Well then, we’ll be right back.” He stood up and kept Liam facing forward as he strode out the door with him.
I put everything away in the diaper bag, texted Bree back what sandwiches we wanted and sat in my chair just as the guys came back in.
Carter looked at me, then back to Brandon, “Uh, what’s going on?”
“You said you wanted to talk,” I gestured toward another chair, “so let’s talk.”
“I kind of hoped we could talk alone?”
“Anything you say to me, I will tell him, so you might as well just say it in front of both of us.”
He looked uncomfortable, but sat down and wiped the sweat off his face with the bottom of his shirt, “I don’t, um, really know where to start.”
Well I do, “What happened to you? The Carter I knew didn’t go to strip clubs and screw a bunch of girls, he didn’t go and get wasted all the time, and he certainly didn’t marry a base tramp that he had just met.” I turned to look at Brandon, “I’m sorry, but there’s really no other way to describe them.” Looking back at Carter, I continued, “You were the first guy to make fun of those kinds of girls, and then you married one? Even without that though, you turned into such a douche Carter.”
“I know, trust me I know. It wasn’t the best few months of my life.”
“And yet you continued to keep doing all of that, and for whatever reason you felt the need to always tell me what you were doing. I just don’t understand.”
He opened his mouth, eyed Brandon warily and quickly shut it again.
“Just say it.”
“It’s just,” He exhaled loudly and sunk further into his chair, “I had to pull a lot of strings to move here with you, you have no idea how hard it was to do that. I get here, and you’re with someone and my hopes of being with you were completely thrown out the window. I mean, I obviously was wrong, but I’d always thought you knew how I felt about you and thought you felt the same. So you can imagine how pissed off I was when I found out how wrong I was.”
“We were just friends though, I don’t know how many times you and I both said that.”
“No, to you we were just friends. Yes, you were my best friend, but that wasn’t it for me. You don’t realize how much time I spent with your dad talking about you. He knew exactly how I felt, he knew why I wanted to follow you to California, he was the one who helped get my transfer pushed through.”
“Sir did?” I deadpanned, “The same guy who wouldn’t let me wear women’s clothes?”
“I thought you said he wouldn’t let you date Harper when you were in his unit, so why would he help you follow her here?” Brandon asked calmly.
“Uh yeah he did, but he was also the one to suggest the transfer.”
“What?” Who was this guy Carter was talking about, and what did he do with my dad?
“I know, shocked me too. I’d already been thinking of a way to move out here when he called me into his office that Monday after you got your acceptance letter. He said something like, ‘You know, Harper’s leaving for California soon, she’ll be near Pendleton. If you were there, you wouldn’t be in my unit anymore.’ And then he gave me that look, you know the one where he expects you to know what he’s thinking? Then he said he’d start the paperwork if I was serious about being with you, and that was that.”