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K. A. LINDE
Not for reprint or sale.
“What a douchebag,” Liz grumbled for the hundredth time on the drive back to her place. “What a douchebag!”
“Yeah,” Savannah muttered. She stared out the window, watching D.C. pass by her in a blur.
“He really said that to you?”
“Are you sure I can’t let Brady and Chris beat some sense into him?” Liz asked.
“I think he has all the sense he needs at this point.”
Liz sighed. “I hate this for you. You were finally getting out there and having a good time. Then stupid Lucas had to ruin it.”
Savannah leaned her head against the window. “I should have just told him.”
“You weren’t in the right place for it then.”
“I was never going to be in the right place to tell him. I didn’t want to deal with it. With any of it. I didn’t want to be broken up with. I didn’t want to decide what to do about Lucas. I was avoiding everything instead of facing the reality,” Savannah said, closing her eyes against the pain. “And the reality is that Easton and I are done. It’s been almost a month and he’s gone. Lucas is dating someone else. And I just need to be me for now.”
“While I think that is a good idea, it doesn’t make up for how Lucas treated you tonight.”
“No,” she agreed. “It doesn’t.”
Liz glanced over at her and then back at the road. “If he hadn’t gotten back together with his ex, would you have told him that day you went to see him?”
“That was the plan.”
“What do you think would have happened? Would you have gotten together finally?”
Savannah shrugged. “We’ll never know.”
Savannah lay back in the bed in Liz and Brady’s guest bedroom, staring up at the ceiling as a thunderstorm raged on outside. It had hit suddenly about a half hour after she and Liz had returned home. She probably should have just tried to close her eyes and let the storm lull her to sleep, but she couldn’t stop replaying her argument with Lucas on repeat.
It was stupid to hate the fact that they were arguing when they’d spent the last four years doing nothing but arguing. But still, she hated it.
Hated the words he’d thrown at her.
Hated the way she’d reacted.
The look on his face.
The hurt he could draw out of her.
Weapons they wielded against each other as sharp as knives and cut just as deep. Born from knowing each and every trigger point. From growing up together, seeing every success and failure, every new love and heartbreak. Always being there for each other through each of them. Even when it hurt, especially when it hurt.
It was no secret to her that Lucas had fallen for her in high school. She’d been to terrified of losing her best friend to look too deep into herself and see that she’d fallen for him too. Instead, she’d flaunted every stupid meaningless relationship in front of him in the hopes of deterring him, deterring herself. Then when it had all unraveled that night on Hilton Head island the summer after graduation and they’d had sex on a dune in the sand, everything had changed. For the better and the worst.
Because he had left for Vanderbilt with no promises. And she had gone to Chapel Hill without voicing that she wanted one.
It was the beginning of the end.
And now they were trapped here, causing the other pain and never asking for that promise for fear of rejection.
She’d loved the three years that she had spent with Easton. It was a different sort of love. One of mutual understanding and respect. They just fit together, built each other up. It wasn’t fiery passion, but it wasn’t hot burning pain either. If there had never been a Lucas, she and Easton would already be married. He never would have had a moment to doubt her love for him.
She wouldn’t be lying back in her small tank and sleeping shorts all alone in her brother’s house.
She reached for her phone and pulled up Easton’s number. Maybe she should reach out. Figure out where his head was. Her finger hovered over his name on her phone. Then she groaned and flung the phone away from her.
Desperation. That’s all it would be. She’d be calling him because she was mad about Lucas. She didn’t need to know where Easton’s head was, because it was pretty clear. She hadn’t heard from him since Hilton Head and even then, he’d only called to find out if she was with Lucas.
Being alone was so much harder than she thought it would be.
At some point, she must have drifted off. Because suddenly Liz was there, shaking her awake. “Savi.”
She opened her eyes and checked the clock that read three in the morning. “What is it?”
Liz sighed. “Lucas is here.”
Suddenly she was very awake. “What? What is he doing here?”
“He wouldn’t tell me. Just said he needed to talk to you. I told him to go home and talk to you in the morning, but he said he’d wait all night. What should I tell him?”
She shook her head in confusion. What the hell was he doing here? She was too curious not to know. “I’ll talk to him.”
“Are you sure? Brady’s home. He offered to kick him out.”
“No,” she said, brushing sleep out of her eyes. “I’ll tell him myself. Thanks for waking me up.”
Liz chewed on her lip. “If he acts like an asshole again, I’m sending Brady. You don’t need to keep dealing with this shit.”
“You’re right,” she said on a yawn. “I don’t.”
Savannah pulled on a pair of UNC sweat pants over her too-small shorts and then stepped out of her room. Liz had gone to get Brady, who looked none too pleased. Savannah waved him off and continued to the front door. The storm had lost its temper, but rain still fell continuously. And there was Lucas, silhouetted in the doorway.
“I don’t know why you’re here, but you should probably just go,” she told him before she even reached his side.
He leaned forward against the doorframe. “I can’t go. We need to talk.”
“I think you’ve said everything you ever need to say to me. I’m tired. I’m angry. And I don’t want to deal with this at three in the morning.”
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I don’t think I’ve said that enough.”
Savannah narrowed her eyes. “You’re sorry? About what?”
“Everything.” His eyes slipped to her own and she saw the sorrow there. The apology written in the iris of his eyes more than from his tongue. “For speaking to you that way. For attacking you out of anger. For dating Mariah to get back at you.”
Savannah winced at the admission. “Why are you apologizing? Why now?”
“Because I should have seen the truth when you said you’d broken up. I should have seen how hurt you were. How alone you were in it all. And I should have been there.” He stepped forward into the house, clearing some of the distance between them and bringing his sharp features out of shadow. “I should have been the one that you went to and cried to. Instead of being selfish and expecting something of us. We’re friends. We’ve always been friends. No matter how much more there is between us. But friends don’t abandon each other when they’re hurting.”
“You were hurting too,” she whispered. Her throat closing up at his words. At how much she had missed Lucas. Her Lucas. Her best friend.
“But I shouldn’t have put that on you. It wasn’t fair.” He reached out and took her hand. “I’ve always wanted you, Savi. I shouldn’t have tried to sacrifice your happiness for that.”
“I don’t…I don’t understand how we’re standing right here,” she whispered.
“When I saw you sitting there with those two guys in that hot dress you were wearing, I just…lost it. Then you told me that you and Easton had broken up, that you’d broken up and hadn’t told me, I let that anger rise to the occasion.” He sighed and ran a hand back through his wild hair. “I shouldn’t have done any of that. I didn’t get it together until you left. Can you forgive me?”
Savannah extracted her hand from his and glanced away from him. “I don’t know, Lucas. I should have told you about Easton, but you were an ass. I don’t know that I want to do this right now. Shouldn’t you get back to your girlfriend?”
“We broke up.”
Savannah’s mouth dropped open. “You…what?”
He shrugged. “It was a rebound, Savi. I tried to convince myself it was something real, because I didn’t want to think about you. I thought you were getting married. That you were happy. That he was what you wanted. I couldn’t stand around and witness that.”
“And now that I’m not, you’re just going to dump Mariah?”
“Honestly, it was mutual. I think we both saw the writing on the wall when we saw you out. She agreed it was for the best.”
Savannah blinked. “So…you’re single.”
“As are you,” he said softly.
“And we’re in the same city.”
“We are,” he agreed.
Savannah shivered at the words. At the knowledge that for the first time in four years, they were in the same physical place and both unattached. Except that…they weren’t in the same place emotionally. Savannah had just had the revelation that she didn’t need anyone. Being alone was lonely, but it was better than this hot and cold. Better than the heartbreak and questions. The tempers that they both exhibited.
“I want you, Savannah,” he said, bringing his hand up to her cheek and tilting her face up to his. “I can see that I’ve hurt you. I know that you wanted the space to be your own person. But I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t want you, because I do.”
She closed her eyes. “I just…I don’t want it to be the same. I don’t want us to keep hurting each other. I want my own life.”
“I don’t want it to be the same either. I want us to give this a chance. A real chance. Not fucking in secret one day and screaming at each other the next. I just want to be with you the way we should have always been together.”
She leaned her cheek into his hand. “Lucas…”
“Shh,” he whispered, slipping his other arm around her waist and drawing them together. “Don’t think. Just do what your heart tells you. Be with me, Savannah.”
She opened her eyes and stared up at his handsome face. Hearing the words she’d wanted to hear for so long. The agony that they’d caused each other slipped away. And she just saw her best friend standing there, trying to finally make everything right.
She nodded her head. “This is what I want.”
A sigh escaped his perfect lips. Relief washed over his features.
And then those lips were covering hers. Claiming them for his own. She forgot everything else, just let herself dive head first into this moment. Into the feel of his arms around her. And it felt like coming home.
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