I was drunk. I’d only been drunk one other time in my life and that had been the day I’d found out about Beau and Ashton. I was almost positive that I was even more drunk now than I had been then. My stomach rolled and I bent over for the third time and hurled into the bushes in the front of Kayla’s yard. Cold sweat trickled down my face and I rested my hands on my knees and closed my eyes praying I didn’t pass out in my own vomit. What the hell had I drunk? All I could remember was pouring some rum into a few or more of my cokes. Maybe I’d stopped adding the coke after awhile and just went with straight rum… No wait, I’d switched to vodka. We’d run out of rum. My stomach heaved again but there was nothing left to come out. Backing up, I leaned against the cool brick wall and let the fresh air cool me down.
“Drink this, you stupid f**ker.”
I peeled my eyes open to see Beau’s annoyed expression before he pressed a cold plastic bottle into my hand. Dropping my gaze, I saw he’d brought me water. The aftertaste of my regurgitated liquor wasn’t appealing. I should thank him for coming to the rescue but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Opening the bottle, I took a long swig and instantly felt better.
“Get a few more drinks, then come on, I’m taking you home.”
His bossy attitude was beginning to get on my nerves. He wasn’t suddenly the good brother, or cousin as far as everyone else knew. Just because he had Ash didn’t make him the smart one.
“Back off, Beau,” I snarled and took another drink of my water.
“I promised Ash I wouldn’t knock some sense into you tonight. Don’t make me break that promise.”
Rolling my eyes, I pushed off from the side of the house where I’d been resting and walked past Beau toward my truck. I wasn’t drunk anymore. I’d just expelled every drop of alcohol from my body in the Jenkins’ shrubbery.
“Don’t do this, Sawyer. You’ve had too much to drink and you’re ready to pass out. Let me take you home.”
Stopping, I turned around and glared at him. “Why? All I do is piss off Ash. I can’t stop looking at her. Wanting her. Why the f**k do you want to help me so bad?”
Beau let out a sigh and returned my glare. “Because you’re my brother.”
That was the crux of it all. Sure hadn’t mattered to him that I was his brother when he’d taken my girl. Technically, he’d thought I was his cousin but we’d always been as close as brothers.
“I thought we’d gotten our closure on this, Sawyer. You gave me your blessing. You gave Ash your blessing and you walked away. What’s wrong?”
What was wrong? Everything was wrong. He got my girl. He got the college I wanted to attend. He got every f**king damn thing I wanted in life.
“Nothing,” I muttered and turned around and headed for my truck again.
“Sawyer, I will literally force you into my truck if I have to,” Beau didn’t sound angry, just sincere.
Tonight, I wasn’t up to handling a one-on-one with him. I was more than positive I’d lose and possibly have a few bruises to show for it.
“Fine. Drive me home.”
After Beau dropped me off, I’d taken a long hot shower and then crawled into bed. Luckily, neither of my parents got up to check on me. Once I pulled the sheets up over my waist, I stared at the ceiling and replayed the fit Ashton had pitched tonight in my head. She’d been angry. Why? Because I’d been making out with Lana in public? All we’d done was kiss. Granted, it was one really hot kiss and that girl’s skin was incredible to touch. Her hair smelled like some sort of soft flower and before we’d been interrupted by Jake’s stupid demand that we get a room, I’d been thinking about how I wanted to taste the skin in the curve of her neck. Her pulse had been racing under my lips and it had been intoxicating. Like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Ashton had put a quick stop to things though. She’d been spitting mad. Almost a little too mad. Was she… jealous? Could she be? I hadn’t really dated anyone since our breakup. She’d never seen me with any girls and certainly not making out like that. But… jealous… maybe. A small smile tugged at the corner of my mouth and I reached for my cell phone.
Me: Please tell Lana I’m sorry I got drunk and was a jerk.
I pressed send and waited to see what Ashton’s reply was. Almost immediately, it dinged. Grinning, I sat up and read-
Ashton: Yes you were. I’ll tell her. Just stay away from her Sawyer.
She was jealous. She didn’t like me being interested in someone else. Ashton wanted both Vincent brothers enthralled with her. Well, this could turn out to be fun as hell.
Me: Can’t do that Ash. I really like her.
I almost thought she wasn’t going to reply when the phone lit up and I read her text,
Ashton: I don’t want her hurt.
I laughed to myself; I knew better. She didn’t want to share my affection. Stingy little brat.
Me: I wouldn’t hurt her. I want to spend some time with her. Can I have her number?
Ashton: Not tonight
I lay back in bed grinning, thinking that Ash had just made this game too fun to walk away.
“Lana?” Ashton’s voice broke into my internal battle of staying here or just giving up and going back home.
“Yeah,” I replied, wishing I could successfully fake sleep.
Ashton opened the door to the guest bedroom where my aunt had insisted I sleep instead of the extra mattress on the floor of Ashton’s room where I normally slept. I sat up and watched as she walked over to me wringing her hands. That one small nervous mannerism of hers told me that this was about Sawyer. Not something I wanted to talk about. At least not tonight.
“Um… do you, uh, do you like Sawyer?”
How blind could one person be? Ashton had always been clueless to the world around her. She had her little small bubble and she worried about what affected her and nothing more. Now, I was invading her bubble and she was noticing things that she should have picked up years ago.
“Yes, a little.”
Her bare perfectly tanned shoulders lifted with a sigh and she nodded. “I thought so.”
She sat down cautiously on the edge of the bed. I studied her face and wondered if the concern was for me or herself or possibly Sawyer.
“Sawyer wasn’t himself tonight. You know that,” she lifted her eyes to meet mine and I only saw sadness. No jealousy or anxiety. She was just sad.
“I know. I didn’t even realize he drank. I thought that was Beau’s MO.”
“He normally doesn’t. Tonight was a side of Sawyer I’d never seen before. He was very… Beau-like. Or at least the way Beau used to be.”
Her words made everything click. The puzzle that Sawyer had created tonight all fell into place. He had acted like Beau back when Beau wanted Ashton and didn’t have her. A small ache in my chest started and unfortunately, it was all too familiar. It was the same ache I felt when I’d seen the tender, completely devoted look Sawyer would bestow on Ashton every time he glanced her way. Which had been often.
“Makes sense,” I muttered, more to myself than to Ashton.
Instead of asking me what I meant, she only nodded and stared helplessly at the pale blue wall across from her. At least she got it and I wouldn’t have to spell it out for her. Sawyer was coping with not having Ashton by drinking and acting out. It had been six months for crying out loud. How long did he need?
“He texted me tonight.”
“Who?” I assumed she was talking about Sawyer but with Ashton you never could be sure which Vincent boy she was talking about.
“Sawyer. He asked about you. Wanted me to tell you he was sorry.”
My stupid heart sped up and I tried to keep my face composed. I reminded myself he’d probably been more worried about Ashton’s feelings than mine.
“Oh,” was the only response I could muster.
“I don’t know what his motives are Lana. I mean you are gorgeous and he is a guy. I can see that he could be interested in you–”
“But you’re also worried he’s using me to get to you,” I finished her thought for her.
Ashton pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and grimaced. Yep, it sounded bad when said out loud. But it was the truth.
“The Sawyer I know, the Sawyer I loved isn’t calculating and cruel. But the Sawyer I knew also would have never gotten drunk at a party and made out with a girl in public. Heck, I’m pretty sure you did more with Sawyer on that couch than I did with Sawyer during the three years we dated.” Ashton let out a hard short laugh, “I basically had to beg him to do more than a few chaste kisses. He was so controlled. Tonight, when I came downstairs and saw the two of you and well—his hands…” she trailed off.
I knew exactly where his hands had been and remembering made my face heat up.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is, be careful. I don’t know what he’s up to and I don’t want to believe he is trying to get to me through you. I just don’t think he would do that. Honestly, if you and Sawyer became an item I’d be happy for both of you. He’s a wonderful guy. He just wasn’t ‘my guy’… ya know?”
I didn’t know what to say to her. I was surprised she was so okay with Sawyer moving on. Sure, Beau was a hottie but if Sawyer had been mine I’d be devastated to see him move on.
“He wants your cell phone number. I didn’t give it to him. I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do.”
“Give it to him,” I replied quickly.
Ashton laughed and nodded before standing up. “Well, okay then. Glad to know where you stand,” the teasing in her voice was a relief. She really was okay with this.
“This summer… my coming here… it wasn’t just about wanting to spend time with you before we go off to college.”
Ashton grinned and raised her eyebrows. “I can’t believe you’re telling me a Vincent boy brought you to Grove, Alabama and not me.”
Shrugging, I returned her smile, “They’re hard to resist.”
“Don’t I know it.”
I stood at the window and watched as Ashton jumped in Beau’s arms and proceeded to kiss his face all over as if she hadn’t just seen him last night. It was kind of gross. He was shirtless and covered in sweat. He reached up and turned his dirty University of Alabama baseball hat around backwards before grabbing Ashton’s face and taking over her wandering lips. Shaking my head, I turned away from the major public display of affection those two were sharing with the entire street. She’d been all-clean when she left and now she had Beau Vincent sweat all over her outfit. Not to mention the grass probably stuck to his body. She’d better hope her daddy doesn’t decide to come home for an early lunch. That would not go over well.
The short clip of Tell Him by Colbie Caillat alerted me that I had a text message. Running over to the dresser where I’d left my phone, I grabbed it up and my heart fluttered even before I read it.
Sawyer: It’s Sawyer. I’m sorry about last night. Let me make it up to you. I’m taking out the boat today. Come with me, please.
I didn’t even give myself time to think it through. I quickly typed.
Me: Okay. When?
Playing hard to get might be the best way to handle this if Sawyer actually liked me. But I wasn’t sure. If I was just a weapon to use against Ashton then I needed to change that. I needed to make him see me.
Sawyer: Can you be ready in an hour?
Sawyer: Wear a Swimsuit. Preferably that bikini you had on last night.
I had to take a deep calming breath and I reread his request several times before typing—