Home > Final Stretch (Glen Springs #1)(6)

Final Stretch (Glen Springs #1)(6)
Author: Alison Hendricks

He looks confused, but my emotions are running too high to parse out what that means. I open my mouth to tear into him again when a familiar voice stops me.

"Hey, there you guys are." Jake comes up to us from across the parking lot, seeming oblivious to the tension. "Trav, this is the friend I was telling you about, Shane. Shane, this is my brother."

Friend. Jake's friend. The one from college he'd said might join us for dinner. Had he mentioned his name? Had I paid attention to anything today other than my dick and my pride?

"We've met," he says, the humor gone from his voice.

Survey says: No.

This is going to be the world's longest dinner.

 

 

4

 

 

Travis

 

 

As we head into the diner, I find myself hoping a sinkhole will open up beneath it and just put me out of my misery.

Jake leads us inside, and Shane even holds the door open for me. But the warm, friendly guy I arranged a 'just a formality' coffee date with earlier definitely isn't looking at me like he wants a piece anymore. He's looking at me like he can't wait to get as far away from me as possible.

As we sit down at a table—and thank God it's not a booth—I realize he probably only came here because Jake asked him to. Obviously, right? Jake didn't want to meet me alone, so he asked for some backup from his friend.

Somehow I've managed to make this dinner even weirder than it was probably going to be.

"It's my treat, so get whatever you like," Jake says, gesturing to the one-page menus that are already on the table.

I grab mine, grateful for the thin sheet of laminated cardstock that now stands between me and Shane. Fuck. How could I screw this up so badly?

"You don't have to do that," Shane says, his voice a little more gruff than I remember.

"Don't start," Jake warns. "You find a way to pay every single time we come here."

That's enough to tear me away from my pity party, and I look between Jake and Shane. My brother would have told me if they were more than friends, right? Maybe not, considering how little we've talked over the years. But I've only ever heard of Jake being with women, and Shane doesn't seem like the type of guy who'd screw around.

Then again, I thought he was the type of guy who was going to whip out a camera as soon as he whipped out his dick, so I'm not sure my judgment's all that sound.

"So what's good here?" I ask, trying to recover some of my dignity.

"Oh, man. Everything."

Jake's enthusiasm actually makes me smile. Was he like this when we were kids? I honestly can't remember. I've got some vague, distant memory of him being stoked when I gave him a gold foil Pokemon card, but that could just be my imagination.

"Eric cooks an amazing burger. He mixes onions in with the ground beef so it stays nice and moist. Patty melt's really good. Chicken and waffles. Ummm. What else? Help me out here."

Shane snorts, then says, "Cobb salad's pretty good, if you're into that sort of thing.”

I look at him in surprise. Is he actually teasing me? Making a callback to what happened earlier in the grocery store? If he is, it doesn't really show on his face, and I tamp down my hope that we'd somehow managed to salvage this night.

We all put in our orders—I actually do go with the burger, partly because Shane suggested the salad, and partly because Jake chose it, too. Shane just gets some fries, claiming he's not all that hungry, and I guess I can't blame him after the way I acted.

After the waitress brings us out drinks, Jake decides to elevate this dinner from awkward to strained.

"So you said you've met before? Some weird coincidence, or…?"

"We bumped into each other at Weisman’s," Shane says, considering me for a moment. "Not sure why I didn't recognize you then. I guess the kale threw me off. I don't think I've ever seen Jake eat anything green."

"Wow. This blatant character assassination, right in front of my brother," Jake says, not seeming at all worried about it. His brow suddenly creases, though, and he looks at me. "Wait, kale? You didn't have to buy groceries. I was going to take care of it tomorrow."

The cloud of awkwardness spreads even thicker. I probably should've just eaten a sandwich or a Pop-Tart or something. I could’ve avoided all of this, and then Jake and I could… I don’t know. Bond over grocery shopping tomorrow.

“It was the least I could do,” I say, offering him a weak ass smile.

Shane glances between the two of us. I had hoped this whole ‘haven’t actually had a relationship as brothers’ thing wouldn’t be detectable to anyone but us. Apparently, I was wrong.

“So Jake says you play football for a living?” he asks, and some part of me wants to thank him for changing the subject.

“Yeah, I do. For the Storm. Or… I did. I’m a free agent now, so I can sign with anyone who offers for me.”

If anyone offers for me.

That doubt hits me like a punch to the gut. Sitting in that conference room, all I could think about was Jeremy’s betrayal. The idea that this might actually ruin my career is something I haven’t let myself consider, and I know I can’t start now. It’ll bury me.

“When are you supposed to hear back?” Jake asks.

“My agent’s working on a few things. We still have a month or so to field offers.”

“But you’ll get them, right? Even with what happened?”

My gaze flicks from Jake to Shane. He doesn’t look surprised or curious about this, so I’m guessing he already heard. Some bitter part of me wonders just how Jake phrased it. ‘Yeah, I’m taking in my fuck-up brother for a while, so be nice to him.’

“Shit,” Jake says, looking sheepish. “You’re not trying to keep that under wraps, right? I just assumed everyone knew. I didn’t mean to—”

“Everybody knows, yeah,” I say.

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see a man approaching with a big serving tray. He unfolds the legs of it and sets it down, revealing three plates of food that look and smells amazing. It reminds me of late nights on the road with my dad, back before everything got all strict and serious.

“Saved by the chef,” the man announces, setting plates in front of us.

Ouch. Apparently the weirdness is noticeable to everyone.

“Trav, this is Eric. Great cook, really bad at softball.” After a pause—and my confused expression—he adds, “Annual game. Raises money for the local schools.”

“Wow. Embarrassing me in front of your super athlete brother. It’s like you just think I’m a free fry dispenser and not a living, breathing human being with feelings and something that passes for a soul.”

I actually laugh at that, feeling some of the tension ease. “It’s okay, I’m pretty bad at softball, too. I won’t hold it against you.”

Eric lets out a breath, his hand resting on his chest. “That’s a relief. Good to know I’ve still got options if the whole diner thing doesn’t pan out, you know?”

“That why you’re waiting tables today?” Shane asks. “Considering a lateral career move?”

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