“What the hell was that?” Ethan demanded as soon as Ashton was out of hearing distance.
“Ash going to the restroom,” I drawled in a bored tone.
Ethan started to stand up and snarled at me.
“Sit down,” Beau barked and Ethan lowered himself back into his chair. “You know what he means, Sawyer.”
“He knows I like Lana. Hell, he was with us all day on the boat. She was with me. Me. She wants to be with me. You can see it all over her face. Not my fault he asked her out and she was too nice to turn him down.”
Ethan let out a frustrated sigh. He knew I was right. “You’re still hung up on A—” he trailed off when Beau turned his angry glare his way.
“No, I’m not hung up on Ash. She’s moved on and I’m trying to do the same thing. But you’re stepping in my way.”
“Do you have to flirt with her on my date? Could you at least let me enjoy tonight with her?”
Shaking my head, I picked up the Coke the waitress had placed in front of me. “And let her think I don’t care she’s with you? No can do. She needs to know what I want.”
Beau cleared his throat and stood up. “Hey baby,” he pulled the chair out beside him for Ashton to sit in.
I turned my head to watch as Lana walked up to the table shifting her eyes from me to Ethan. I’d strategically taken the spot at the end of the table when Ethan had sat down leaving the spot next to the end open for Lana.
“I’m guessing that seat isn’t for me,” Leann said in an amused tone under her voice as she passed me to go sit on the other side of Ashton.
Lana pulled her chair out and sat down, putting herself equidistant from Ethan and me. Sliding my chair over, I closed the distance between us until my thigh was resting against hers.
“Hey,” I said quietly as she peeked at me through the curtain of her hair separating us. I reached up and tucked the silky locks, blocking my view, behind her ear. “There, that’s better.”
Her posture tensed.
“You gonna eat those oysters with me?” I asked, leaning down to look at her menu, instead of opening mine.
“Oh, I uh,” she stammered and Leann let out a loud sigh.
“Tone that down a little bit would ya? The girl is so rattled she can’t even talk.”
I didn’t take my eyes off Lana, “Am I making you nervous?”
Lana lifted her eyes to meet my gaze. A small apologetic smile touched her lips. The pale pink lip-gloss she was wearing made them appear even plumper than normal. I leaned in and caught a small whiff of the raspberry scent.
“A little,” she replied softly.
She was on a date with Ethan and I was making it very hard for her to be comfortable. The guilt that came with that knowledge stopped me from leaning in and taking a small nibble of those raspberry flavored lips.
“I’m sorry. I’ll stop,” I said softly enough that only she could hear me. Ashton’s voice was in the background as she talked to the others in her attempt to draw the attention away from Lana and me.
“Thank you,” she replied and then turned her gaze back to the menu in front of her. Sliding my chair back to a proper distance, I refused to look back at her as I ordered my food and carried on a conversation with everyone. I did my best not to let my gaze linger on her or lower my voice, when I spoke directly to her. I even managed to eat a meal while I watched Beau kiss Ashton’s hand, bare shoulder and temple whenever he had the chance.
“That’s the Sawyer I remember. I wondered where you’d run off to,” Leann whispered as she walked beside me to the stadium seating at the Wharf. Ash and Beau led the way and Ethan and Lana were behind us. I didn’t turn around and check on them. I wasn’t sure I could handle it if I caught them touching in any way.
“What do you mean?” I asked only because I needed a distraction.
“Hot and bothered Sawyer is a new one. I’ve never seen you treat a girl like you could eat her up if given the chance. It was… interesting.”
“You think Lana has me hot and bothered?”
Leann let out a cackle, “I know Lana has you hot and bothered. If the girl was to crook her finger your way you’d have her pressed up against the first hard surface you could find.”
I slowed my pace and glanced down at Leann, “What?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You want that girl. Sweet, prim, and proper Lana went and got all sexy and she’s getting under your skin. You never did that with Ash. Not once did I see you look at her like you wanted her. She was your trophy or possession and you were real proud of her but she didn’t make your body simmer.”
Clenching my jaw, I glared down at Leann, “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I loved Ashton like crazy. She was my world. I planned my future around her. She was never a trophy or possession. Just because I didn’t treat her like a piece of hot ass didn’t mean she wasn’t my reason for living. I respected her. I’d never treat her with anything less than respect. I’m not in danger of falling in love with someone like Lana. She’s a distraction. Sure, I treat her differently; she is different but she’s just for fun.”
The wide-eyed expression on Leann’s face as she glanced to her right and left alerted me to the fact that I’d stopped walking and raised my voice. I turned my head to the right and saw Ashton and Beau both looking at me. Beau’s expression was anything but pleased and Ash looked like she was about to cry. Well, hell.
Turning my head to the left I saw Lana’s big green eyes glistening with unshed tears as she stared at me. Ethan was glaring at me with a murderous expression.
“Lana,” I started toward her and she shook her head at me and turned to run off. I took a step to chase after her when Ethan stepped in front of me.
“No. I won’t let you do this to her. I thought maybe you were sincere and I was willing to step down and let you have her. But you’re not. If you were you’d never have been able to yell what you just did without a thought to her hearing you.”
“Get out of my way, Ethan.” I started to shove past him when a large hand clamped down on my shoulder.
“You need to let him go to her. You’ve done enough.” Beau wouldn’t let me go. I’d have to fight him first and that would just get us both thrown in jail.
Sagging in defeat, I turned and stalked toward the car. Once the concert got going and Beau was distracted, I’d find her. I’d fix this. I had to. The hurt look in her eyes was more painful than I would have ever imagined.
“Lana, wait,” Ethan’s voice called out from behind me. As much as I didn’t want him to see me crying over Sawyer, I couldn’t exactly keep running away from him. He was my date. Slowing, I stopped and leaned back against the brick wall outside the restrooms.
Ethan stopped in front of me and the worried expression on his face made me feel even worse.
“Lana, I’m sorry.”
“For what? You didn’t do anything but make the mistake of asking me out on a date.”
He reached out, touched the side of my face, and wiped away tears with his finger. “Nothing about asking you out was a mistake.”
I let out a sad laugh, “Yeah, right.”
“I mean it,” he sighed and dropped his hand to grab one of mine. “I realized today on the boat that you liked Sawyer. The rest of the female population in Grove has a thing for Sawyer, except for Ash, so that wasn’t a big deal. I still wanted my chance. I didn’t expect Sawyer to find a way to come too.”
I’d been stupid enough to believe he had come because of me. It was sad, how deluded I’d been. “I’m an idiot,” I whispered through the lump in my throat.
“No, you’re smart, beautiful, and funny.”
I smiled up at him and wiped the rest of the tears from my face. “Thank you.”
“You gonna be okay?”
“Yes, I just need a little alone time. If that’s okay.”
Ethan nodded, “Sure, I’ll meet you back at our seats.”
I washed my face with the cold water in the sink and dried it off with a paper towel. My makeup was gone and the freckles I worked so hard to cover up were standing out like a neon sign against my red face. I had makeup in my purse but I’d left it in the car. Sawyer had more than likely locked it but then again these south Alabama people rarely locked their vehicles. I needed to walk and get my mind off things. I could at least check the car and give my red face time to return to its natural pale color.
I searched for row D and headed down until I saw the back-end of Sawyer’s mother’s Mercedes. Turning in between the cars, I didn’t notice the car door open until Sawyer was right in front of me.
Lana,” he said in a surprised tone.
Backing up, I started to turn so I could run back to the bathroom and cry a little more because he was just so perfect it hurt to look at him
“Lana, please, don’t go. I need to talk to you.”
“You’ve said enough.”
“Lana,” Sawyer grabbed my arm and firmly but gently turned me around and backed me up against the car door. “I need you to listen to me,” he pleaded and cupped my face in his hands, gently rubbing my cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.
“I’m an a**hole,” he started and I fought the urge to nod my head in agreement. “I didn’t mean any of that the way it sounded. It wasn’t even about you or how you make me feel.”
“Really? Because it sure sounded like it,” I blurted out.
“Leann was accusing me of never loving Ashton. She was saying that I thought of her as a possession or trophy. It set me off.” He closed his eyes and let out a frustrated sigh.
“With you, things are different. I’m not sure what it is but when I’m with you, I feel something I’ve never felt before. I do want you. Bad. It surprises me and scares the shit out of me. Maybe I’m not good for you. Maybe what I feel is wrong. Because, I did love Ashton. She was all I needed… but never did I feel the uncontrollable desire to get her underneath me.” His voice dropped, “Never did I make up reasons to get her to wrap her legs around me so I could feel her pressed up against me. Never,” he swallowed hard. “Never, did I think about being inside her.”
I forgot to breathe as I stared up at him. He looked torn between fear and longing. The sweet guy I’d fallen in love with years ago was there but it was underneath the other guy he was slowly changing into.
“I’m not good for you. I don’t know why you make me want you so bad. I was angry with myself when I said all that earlier. I was mad because I wanted you in a way I’d never experienced before. Before you, I just wanted to excel in football and school. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. But now, I want other things too. You get to me in a way I don’t understand.”
I stood up on my tiptoes and stopped his words with my lips but before he could pull me against him, I stepped back and broke the kiss. “Thank you for explaining it to me,” I replied as his eyes searched my face for an answer to why I’d kissed him and backed away so quickly.
“I know you loved or love Ashton. I watched you grow up adoring her. It’s just that… I’m not sure I can handle you flirting with me one moment and the next sulking or having angry outbursts over Ashton and Beau.”
“Fair enough,” Sawyer said as he reached down and threaded his fingers through mine. “I’m not ready for any kind of relationship but I’d like to enjoy this summer. Before you came into town, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to hang around until August. Now you’re here and I don’t want to leave anymore. I’d like to enjoy this last carefree summer with you.”
That wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for when I’d decided to come here this summer but it was a lot more than I expected. Maybe Sawyer would find a way to move on soon. Besides, we needed time to get to know each other without Ashton between us.
“I’d like that too.”
Ashton’s eyes went wide with surprise when she spotted Lana and me walking toward them together. She was standing in front of Beau with his arms wrapped protectively around her. I tore my attention from her and quit trying to read her facial expressions. That was something I needed to stop doing. Beau’s head turned to see what Ashton was staring at and he raised his eyebrows then shook his head once before turning back to watch the stage where Little Big Town was singing Boondocks.
“I’m here with Ethan,” Lana said beside me.
“I know.” But that didn’t mean I liked it.
Her small hand grabbed mine and squeezed it before letting go quickly and walking toward Ethan who finally noticed she was back. His worried frown went from her to me and the angry glare directed my way wasn’t lost on me. He didn’t like she’d come back with me. I couldn’t blame him. I hated seeing Lana’s face all red and splotchy from crying. I’d walked with her to the bathroom after she retrieved her purse from the car. She’d gone inside and covered up a good bit of those adorable freckles.
I didn’t follow her. This was Ethan’s date. His only one. Because he was my friend and I really needed a little distance from Lana after the conversation we’d had by the car, I was going to spend the rest of the night talking to Leann and enjoying the music.
Leann studied me as I made my way over to stand beside her. Before she could open her mouth and ask twenty questions that were none of her business, I informed her, “Don’t want to talk about it.”
She closed her mouth and gave me a dirty look before focusing her attention on whatever Ethan was saying to Lana. I didn’t allow myself even to glance over at them.