Home > I Promise You(8)

I Promise You(8)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

“Hey, Babycakes,” Ashley calls from behind me. “You coming? I won and get to ride up front with you, wahoo! Can we listen to my songs? I have a playlist—”

“Sure, sweetheart, whatever,” I call back, cutting her off, barely listening because Four Dragons has swiped up her bags from the car and is marching across the parking lot. I hear the clinking of the beer bottles as they bounce against each other.

“Hey!” I shout at her back. “Where are you going?”

“Walking home, duh,” she says as I jog up next to her.

“Can’t you call someone? A friend?”

“I know how to take care of myself.” She throws her chin in the air—so proud—and picks up her pace, but she’s no match for my long legs.

“You’re running from me like you’re scared. Are you?”

“No, Damon, I’m not. You annoy me. You refused to hand over just one package of Oreos because I wasn’t attractive enough for you.”

“I never said you weren’t attractive!”

“It was on your face.”

“No, it wasn’t. Look, let me call you an Uber.”

“I don’t want an Uber, thank you.”

“I just want to help.” I’m worried about her. She’s barely holding on to all those bags.

We’ve reached the edge of the parking lot and she’s about to step onto the sidewalk. A big truck roars past us on the road a few feet away, and my gut clamors for her to stop, protective instincts flaring. “Come on, let’s put aside the fact that we don’t like each other. Since you don’t want the Uber, let me give you a ride.”

“I don’t know who you are.”

“I’m Dillon McQueen, the quarterback for the Tigers. I promise, you know me.”

Her brows arch. “Um, never heard of you.”

I take my cap off and rub at my disheveled hair as I laugh. Sure, sure. Keep saying that…

“You’ll have to skirt around a few bars and dark alleys, and you’re on your own with all those bags.”

She inhales the humid night air, making her chest rise. She’s maybe a B cup, but it’s hard to tell in that loose shirt. My eyes linger there, watching as she breathes.

I can see the wheels in her mind turning, debating as she flicks her eyes down the darkened busy street, taking in the multiple red lights, and then back to me, her top teeth worrying her bottom lip.

“You think I’m a jerk,” I say as I shrug, trying to be nonchalant and non-threatening. “I’m not, you know. I help old ladies cross the street, volunteer at the local schools. Cats like me, and they’re finicky. Not gonna kidnap you. Plus, my posse is with me. You’re fine.”

“Posse…ugh.” She scrunches her nose up. “And?”

“You want more?”

“Please. I want to hear all about how awesome you are.”

I squint my eyes. She is infuriating. Why am I still talking to her?

Several moments pass as she searches my face, and then she looks back at her car, uncertainty on her face. “Alright, you convinced me. I live off Highland on Burgundy Street, if it’s not too much trouble? Thank you.”

“Cool. Driving past there anyway.” Not on the way at all.

“You love it that you have the upper hand now, don’t you?”

I huff under my breath. She thinks I have the upper hand? Holy… She ran circles around me in the Piggly Wiggly, and now I’m chasing her across a parking lot?

“Right.” I tuck my hands in the pockets of my pants—and her gaze follows, as if she can’t help it, lingering on my crotch. I smirk.

The streetlight illuminates one half of her face, devoid of makeup, a smattering of freckles dotting her dainty nose. Our eyes cling, and I’m aware of the moon coming out from behind the clouds above us, illuminating the hue of her eyes.

“Champagne,” I murmur.

A frown puckers her brow. “What?”

I’m silent, just taking in the long lashes behind those glasses. My fingers itch to rip that ugly hat off her head. I want a good look at her.

Her shoulders rise and fall. “Stop staring.”

“You’re staring at me.”

Her lips twitch, barely. “We sound like toddlers.”

“It’s your fault.”

“No, it’s yours.” She dips her head, as if hiding a smile, then glances back up at me and I’m snared. I can’t see much of her, one high cheekbone, a pointy chin, the pulse at her throat…

Cars whiz past and moments tick by, me looking at her, her looking back. A buzzing sensation runs over my body—

One of the girls, probably Ashley, blows the horn on the Escalade.

I let out a groan of frustration. “Dammit!”

“Your posse is waiting.” She whips around and heads to my car.

 

 

4

 

 

“You girls want a beer?” she says from the back seat a few minutes later as I pull out of the parking lot. I watch Four Dragons in the mirror as she looks over at her seatmates, Chantal and Bambi. They got chummy before I even got to the car. They probably got her name and I didn’t. Fine. I’m not asking her again.

The girls decline while she opens one, takes a swig, and chokes.

“Love it, huh?” I say, my eyes holding hers in the mirror.

She takes another drink—just to spite me. “Wonderful balance, a little toasty with a hint of biscuit. Might pair well with a cookie.” She bends down and I hear packaging tearing as she rustles around then pops back up with three Oreos clenched in her teeth.

“You’re opening my stuff?” I snarl, my voice incredulous.

“Obviously,” she says.

The girls pause and dart their eyes between us.

“You two know each other?” Chantal asks.

“No,” I say as Four Dragons snips, “As if.”

“Seems like you do. Could cut the tension in here with a knife,” Chantal chirps as she takes a cookie from the sleeve. The girls tilt their heads together, talking, most of which I can’t hear, so I turn down the music.

Ashley pouts and pokes me in the arm. “Hey, that’s my playlist I made for you.”

“I’ll listen to it later, ’kay?” I tell her, my tone distracted. Did I just have a moment with Four Dragons in the parking lot? Nah. It was a fluke. She doesn’t like me; I don’t like her.

Ashley huffs then turns around to the girls in the back and says, “I’ve never seen you on campus, Serena. What’s your major? Are you in a sorority?”

Serena! I rack my brain for a girl with that name but come up empty.

“I’m a grad student in journalism. I pledged Theta freshman year, then went inactive,” she says.

“Oh no. What happened?” Bambi asks.

Serena pauses, her brow wrinkling. “Um, my parents passed away my sophomore year. I tried to be part of the sorority, but I had to get a job and didn’t have time to do the activities.” A long sigh comes from her. “Plus, the dues were pricey.” She says it matter-of-factly, but there’s heaviness in her words.

“Oh, wow, sorry about your parents. That must have been tough,” Chantal says quietly. “But, hey, small world. We’re Thetas. You still know the secret handshake?”

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