Forever (This)(6)

By: J.B. McGee


His hand strokes the scruff on his jaw. “I bought everything I could buy. Nice cars, fancy houses, boats, ya know.”

“Uh huh.”

“But the one thing I want, that I don’t already have, I can’t buy. Damn if I’m not back in high school feeling all inferior again. To him.”

And the taffy just broke.

“Sam. When I told you I let you see what I want you to see, it was true. And I’m showing you a side of me no one else gets to see. He’s not good enough for you. But if I’m honest, neither am I.”

The doorbell rings. We both freeze, our eyes locked. He pushes the chair out from under him and in two long strides he’s in front of me with his arms boxing me into the wall. “The difference between us is he feels entitled to you. Everything comes easy to him. Everyone’s always bowed at his fucking feet.” His forehead rests on mine, and he closes his eyes as the doorbell rings again. “I’ll never feel like I deserve you, and I’ll work my ass off every day to make sure I keep you because you’re rare, Sam. And you should be treated like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You’re not even supposed to exist you’re so damn good.” He drops his arms. “You should probably get that before Bradley kicks the door down.”

I gulp, then let the giggles bellow out of me. “He would so do that, wouldn’t he?”

Joe smirks, and I’m so relieved that after all the things he’s just said to me, he flipped a switch and we can be silly. “Yeah. He would.”

I’d been hanging out studying at Ryan’s apartment when he got called in to the hospital. Rather than packing and leaving, I decided to stay until my shift started. Sometimes I wonder why I bothered to get my own place when I moved here. It seems like I barely even go there. Mom made Gabby promise to not have sex until she got married. I’d already done the deed, so that promise wasn’t applicable to me. But I figured the next best thing would be keeping my own place until marriage. That way if something ever happened between me and Ryan, it’d be less messy. Nothing complicates a relationship more than comingling assets and finances. The house phone rings, and I usually don’t answer, but this time is different. My lips curve in a smile as the caller ID flashes a familiar name. “Hello.”

“Hey, Sam,” Joe says. “Ryan around?”

“Nope. He got called in.”

“Oh.” There’s a moment of silence, and I find myself pacing back and forth in the same spot. “What are you up to?”

“Just studying. What are you up to?” Really, Sam?

“So…are you living with my brother now?”

The conversation we had on the phone after the wedding creeps in my mind. “No.” I shake my head as if he can see me. “I still have my place. I was here when Ryan got called in. Instead of going home, I just told him I’d lock up before I leave for the hospital.”

“So do you two actually get to see each other much?” His voice is deep and low.

“Eh. I guess as much as it’s to be expected at this stage in our lives.”

I hear him rustle around. He kinda groans, and something deep within me shifts. My pulse quickens. “What are you doing?”

“I’m at the lake house. I decided to come out here and watch the sunset.”

“So why were you groaning?”

He chuckles. “I didn’t know I did. I guess it was from me fixing the lounge chair out here on the deck.”

“Hmm. Whatever.”

“Did you like it?”

“Sorry. What?”

“Did you like my groaning?”

Heat consumes me. “Um.” I can’t admit that now that I think about it, I did. And what does that mean? What does that say about me? Ever since the wedding, I’ve been hyper aware of everything Joe does and the response it gives me. So far, nothing has left me unfazed.

“You did.” His voice is smooth, seductive. “Admit it.”

“I was just curious what you were doing.” I make my way to the couch, tucking my leg under me, and will myself to stop fidgeting. “I bet the sunset is beautiful this time of year.”

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