“Maybe that used to be the case. But you’ve worked your ass off the last few months. You’ve more than caught up.”
I opened my mouth to give another excuse, but she gently grabbed my elbow.
“Look. I know you haven’t told me very much about where you were before this. But it’s safe to assume there’s a bad relationship in there somewhere. When are you going to allow yourself to start living?” she asked gently, her curly blonde hair blowing in the breeze.
I bit my lip. I did have a bad relationship in my past. The worst. But that wasn’t why I felt this way. I honestly wasn’t sure why it felt like this. We’d never said “I love you.” We’d never even come close. Hendrix had told me he wasn’t capable of that. And that last night…what he’d done...
Maybe it was time to push past whatever this was.
Or at least that’s what I tried to convince myself.
“Okay,” I finally relented, trying to sound excited. Trying being the operative word. “I’m in.”
She did a little fist bump in the air, drawing the attention of other students walking past us. “It’s going to be amazing.”
“Yeah. Amazing,” I answered lamely as we continued to walk to class.
* * *
”What the hell am I doing?” I muttered, straightening the silky black camisole that Kelly had let me borrow, and smoothing back my hair. It felt like a hive of bees had taken up residence in my stomach, and I was a little afraid I was going to throw up the minute I got to the bar.
Come on, Syn. You can be normal for one night, I told myself as I took a deep breath and opened the door to the Fangs Me Later Bar. I’m sure the owners thought they were hilarious for coming up with that name, or maybe they didn’t care because they made so much money off all the college students that frequented the place. I’d passed by it a million times while walking between the apartment where I’d been set up on the edge of campus, to class, but I’d never been in before.
One foot in and I was already having flashbacks of the bar in the Hallow Sector. It was a different experience walking into a bar to socialize rather than work, that was for sure. The floor was made of rough, wooden planks, and it was littered with peanut shells from the baskets of nuts on most of the dark wood tables. There was a long, smooth bar along the back wall with a mirror bolted on the wall above it with neon shelves hung all across it loaded down with every alcohol under the sun. Above that, there was a glowing neon Fangs Me Later sign. The music was a mix of Top 40 hits and old favorites, and the lighting was dim.
Not that I had any experience, but it seemed like the quintessential college bar, or at least what I imagined one would be like.
“Syn,” Kelly yelled loudly, cutting through the music and drawing stares, as usual. She was waving at me like a lunatic from one of the booths to the right of me, with three guys and a girl by her side, all staring at me, of course.
I gave her the best smile I was capable of and walked towards the booth, weaving in and out through tables filled with people, narrowly missing being clotheslined by a waitress carrying a tray loaded down with hot wings, fried pickles, and beer.
“I was afraid you were going to chicken out,” she screeched as she threw her arms around me. Evidently, she’d already had a few.
“Here I am,” I replied lamely.
“I’m so excited to introduce you to Logan. He’s so fucking hot. You guys will be the hottest couple ever.” I flinched with how loud she was talking because “Logan” could definitely hear every word she was saying. I glanced over her shoulder and the guy who I assumed was him gave me a charming smile and a head nod.
Even with how messed up I was, I could admit that he was cute. Maybe I’d even go so far as to describe him as hot. His hair was a dirty blond color that swept down across his forehead like he was from some kind of cool indie band. He had an eyebrow piercing above his spring-green eyes, and a tattoo sticking out from the collar of his shirt. Add in the leather jacket, and he was definitely yummy.
But I couldn’t help but compare him to Hendrix, River, and Caspian…who had been the epitome of male perfection.
He didn’t hold a candle to that.
You’re not thinking about them tonight,I told myself harshly.
“Logan. Meet Emersyn. Isn’t she gorgeous?” Kelly asked, a slight happy slur to her words.
Logan had slid off the bench and had a hand held out for me to shake. There was a beer in front of where he’d been sitting, but his eyes were clear, busy devouring every inch of me.
“Hi there. I’ve heard so much about you,” he greeted smoothly.
Okay. I could work with this. It didn’t need to be a burden to hang out with a hot guy for the night.
“Nice to meet you,” I murmured, proud that my voice sounded normal.
Kelly introduced me to Gary and Diana, who were obviously together, and to Nate, who was Kelly’s date. Next time I was definitely going to ask ahead about what she had in mind when she said “go out.” Because this was definitely a triple date.
Logan had me slide into the booth first, and then he joined me, sitting awfully close for a first encounter.
“What do you want to drink?” he asked, flashing super white teeth. Were my teeth that white? Or was he thinking they were yellow as he stared at me? And he was really staring—
“Syn!” Kelly said loudly.
Oh right, he’d asked me what drink I wanted.
“Vodka Bang,” I answered quickly, having read the menu before I left my room. “And some fried pickles.”
“My kind of girl,” he replied with a wink, raising a hand at the waitress who was passing by.
After he ordered, he turned around…and started talking about himself.
Evidently, he was an alpha, but a younger son, so he wasn’t going to be inheriting his father’s pack.
The fact that I learned that about him in the first five minutes of meeting him was a little weird. But at least he was pleasant to look at.
“So enough about me,” he chuckled…like he’d said something funny. “Tell me about Emersyn.”
This guy was kind of full of himself. And not in the I’m the biggest badass in the room kind of way that Hendrix had been full of himself. Logan was just kind of full…of hot air.
“Not much to tell. I’m from the south. Been going here for about five weeks—” My voice abruptly cut off when I saw a flash of black curly hair on a hulking man disappear down the hall towards the bathrooms.
Before I knew it, I was pushing at Logan’s leg. “I’ll be right back,” I murmured, once he’d let me out, not glancing back as I strode across the room.
It was just from the back, but the man’s form had looked so familiar. I just had to check.
The hall was empty save for two girls giggling by the women’s bathroom entrance. “Did you see a huge man with black hair go by a second ago?” I asked, interrupting the conversation they were having about some guy named “Alonso.”
One of the girls hiccuped and pointed down the hall. “Some hottie went through that exit,” she slurred. “I asked him to bone me.” The other girl snorted like “bone me” was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. Honestly, I didn’t know that was even a thing people said anymore.
But whatever. I practically ran to the exit door and threw it open, searching frantically around for any sign of Hendrix. I mean—not Hendrix—but whatever guy had looked like him from behind. The hair had been longer, but….
The alleyway was empty except for an employee leaning against the brick way across from the door, smoking a cigarette under a dim security light. He glanced at me, surprised.
“Did anyone just come out here?” I asked, searching the shadows desperately.