The Fable of Us(10)

By: Nicole Williams

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do more: scoot closer or farther away. “Stop talking like an asshole. If you have a question, ask me for Christ’s sake.”

“I didn’t think debutantes were supposed to take the lord’s name in vain . . .”

I was tempted to slug the smirk right off his face, but I didn’t. I needed him to agree. I needed to not show up solo and become the target of sabotage setups and sneaky double-dates the whole week.

“Fuck you, Boone Cavanaugh,” I fired off before I could bite my tongue.

A second of silence passed between us, then he laughed. “There’s the Clara Belle Abbott I’d been convinced had been adopted at birth. Damn, I missed her.”

I found myself laughing with him, because crying seemed like the less enticing option. Laugh or cry—the beat of Boone’s and my relationship. “So does that mean you’ll do it?”

Boone wiped his eyes, his laugh rolling to an end. It had been forever since I’d heard him laugh, but it sounded the same. Just like I remembered. “If you answer my questions to my satisfaction.”

“And there’s the Boone Cavanaugh who makes so many conditions no one can ever get close enough to him to get through.” I peaked a brow at him, letting him know he wasn’t the only one allowed to take shots.

“You were planning on bringing some rich California boy toy with you this week?”

“I was planning on bringing my boyfriend who, yes, lives in California, but was a transplant from Ohio, and who was very middle class, with me this week.” The three or four or five shots were making my mind muddy. I couldn’t tell if I was saying too much or too little, but Boone seemed satisfied with my answer.

“But that fell through?”

I nodded, my head stuffed full of cotton and tequila.

“You broke up with him.” It was a statement, not a hint of doubt in his voice.

“He broke up with me.”

Boone’s forehead creased. “How long ago?”

“Three days ago.”

Boone’s mouth parted some. “The guy broke up with you three days before he was planning to fly down here to support you and save you from the blood-suckers?”

“Boone—” I warned.

“Sorry, the creatures of the night,” he continued, not hiding his smile when my frown deepened. “I gotta tell you, you really know how to pick ‘em. First Ford McBride, the behind-your-back-fucking-your-little-sister loser, and then this prick who bailed on you a few days before you flew out to face your own personal Armageddon.”

I cracked my neck from side to side. Boone wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t heard or told myself a thousand times, but it felt different coming from him.

“Let’s not forget to toss you into that knowing-how-to-pick-‘em pile,” I muttered, more to myself than to him, but he didn’t miss it.

“You didn’t pick me, Clara. I picked you.” For the briefest moment, I caught a glimpse of the Boone I remembered. The one who’d occasionally open himself up and share his world with me.

I swallowed. I’d finished my last shot minutes ago, but I felt like hundred-proof alcohol was streaming down my throat. “Any more questions? I’ve, or we’ve, got to get going unless I want my dad calling the sheriff to come looking for me.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time, would it?” A smile pulled at the corner of Boone’s mouth.

“It wouldn’t be. But at least this time the sheriff wouldn’t have to lie to my daddy about how he found me, and who he found me with.”

“Or where he found us . . .” Boone’s gaze shifted away, staring at the wall opposite us like he was seeing something else.

“So?” I pressed.

He took another sip of his drink. “Aren’t you going to ask me if I’m seeing someone? Don’t you care if I’ve got someone in my life I’ll need to explain this little week-long arrangement too?”

“Of course, yes, I should have thought of that. Do you have . . . someone? Do you think she’d care if you did this?”

Boone finished his drink before rising from his stool. He’d always been tall, but it looked like he’d stretched another couple inches in the years since I’d seen him. And that was definitely the same shirt he’d had in high school. I remembered those buttons. The shiny marbled ones that snapped closed . . . or popped open.

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