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Authors: Kaylee Ryan

Tags: #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction, #Contemporary

Levitate (5 page)

BOOK: Levitate
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AFTER MAXTON LEFT with the blonde, the atmosphere at our table picked up. I enjoyed talking to both Lance and Brighton. I even let them both take me for another spin around the dance floor. Lance and I move well together, and Brighton… well, let me just say that I can see why Nicole is so smitten. They are both really nice, down-to-earth guys. I wonder how they became friends with Maxton.

The bartender announces last call. That’s when Nicole speaks up. “Do you have a ride home?” she asks Brighton.

He nods, taking a sip of his beer. “Yeah, Max is out in the parking lot in his truck. He said he was going to take a quick nap while he waited on me.”

“Really? That seems like an odd thing for him to do,” Nicole comments.

Brighton shrugs. “Not really. Max and I have been working our asses off the last several months on the remodel. It took a lot of convincing to get him to come out tonight. It’s been longer for him than it has for me. He’s running on fumes,” he explains.

I try to place that guy in my head. The one who puts his heart and soul into rebuilding his family’s legacy. I don’t see Maxton when I picture that person. It’s hard for me to reconcile the man I met tonight with the one Brighton is describing to us now.

The guys walk us to the car. Lance thanks me for a fun night. We really hit it off. We have a lot in common. He has a degree in business with a minor in finance as well. We exchanged numbers earlier. He said if I ever need any help with school to call him. He leans down and gives me a warm hug. There is nothing romantic about it. He’s a great guy, but I have no interest in taking things further. He’s fun to hang out with. I hop in the car while I wait for Nicole and Brighton to say goodbye. I figure this will give them a little privacy. Ten minutes later, she is finally strapped in her seat, and we are headed back to our apartment.

“You and Brighton seem to be hitting it off,” I say to Nicole. The smile has not left her face all night.

“Yeah. He’s nice. We’ve gotten to know each other slowly. I kept waiting for him to call and want to hook up, you know, but tonight he didn’t even try anything,” she replies, almost disappointed.

“Do you call that lip-lock nothing?” I’m sure if it wasn’t dark in the car, her face would be flushed.

“No, that’s not what I meant. I mean, look at him, look at all of them. At first glance, they don’t appear to be a group of guys who want more than a quick tangle in the sheets.”

“Pft. From what I can tell, both Brighton and Lance are great guys. Maxton on the other hand…” I trail of remembering how cocky he was. Like he just knew I would be falling at his feet. As if!

“Maxton is so damn hot. Did you see his arms? All that dark hair and the scruff on his face. Not just anyone can pull that look off. Maxton, well, he makes a day’s worth of stubble sexy as hell.”

“Oh, he’s sexy all right. That man is definite eye candy, until he opens his mouth. He’s cocky as hell and he was actually pissed off that I wouldn’t dance with him,” I scoff.

“What? Why in the hell would you turn him down? We are talking about the same guy, right? Brighton’s super-hot best friend, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy. Not to mention, the badass vibes he throws off. I can’t believe you turned him down,” she scolds me.

“He’s cocky and so sure of himself. He just assumed I would fall to his charms and worship him. That’s not me. Then he seemed pissed off that I was dancing with Lance.”

“Is that why he stormed away from the table? Sounds to me like he was jealous.”

“Men like Maxton don’t get jealous. He was mad that he got turned down, nothing more, nothing less.”

Nicole doesn’t comment, and the remainder of the drive home is quiet. Once we pull into our complex, she grabs my arm before I can get out of the car. “I’m proud of you, Kens. You faced this day and kicked its ass. You’re living life just like she would want you to,” she says softly. Her eyes find mine. “I know if she was here, she would tell you how proud of you she is. Proud of the person you are.”

Taking in a shuddering breath, I try to stop the tears from flowing. “I hope you’re right.” I force the words, fighting against the tears. “Dad said the same thing today; he said she would want me to live each day to the fullest. He’s worried about me never letting myself fall in love. He and I don’t talk about those kinds of things; it was always Mom’s territory.”

“Smart man, your dad,” she says.

“He is, and today was a good day for us. I don’t know why he started opening up, or why I did, but I think it was good for us,” I tell her.

“For what it’s worth, I agree with your dad. She would want you to let yourself fall in love, have the forever kind of love that she had with your dad.”

“I want that, I do. It’s just not going to be an overnight thing for me.”

“As long as you are open to the idea, you never know what can happen.”

I am open to the idea. I’m scared as hell to trust someone that much, but I think if I had time, I could. Only time will tell.

I TRY TO take a nap, lay my head back against the seat and just chill. Even though that’s what I want to do, it doesn’t happen. Instead, I think about the last several months. Dad would be proud to see the renovation of Cooper’s—our legacy. I’ve put everything I am into making Cooper’s a success. When I took over, I knew absolutely nothing about running a business. Sure, I’d worked there for Dad when he needed help, but manning the bar is nothing compared to having it all on your shoulders. I refuse to fail. Refuse to let the blood, sweat, and tears of my grandfather and my father fade away into nothing.

Staring into the darkness, I see that people are starting to clear out of the bar. I watch the door for Brighton. I sent him a text, but he didn’t reply. I’m sure he’s pissed that I walked away from his date and her friend like that. All I know is that I couldn’t listen to Nicole replay Kensington and Lance out on the dance floor.

I finally spot Bright and the girls… and Lance. They are walking toward a silver Honda. I don’t want to watch what happens. I am so off-kilter tonight, that I don’t know how I will react if I see him touching her again. This is not me. I’m not that guy, but tonight with her, I am. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to wrap my brain around why her turning me down, and not him, affects me so much. It has to be because this is my first night out in months.

I hear the truck door open and Bright climbs in. “You good, man?” he questions.

I know what he’s asking. He wants to make sure I’m okay to drive. I’ve sobered up and I’m golden. A night full of rejection will do that to you. Well, technically, the blonde didn’t reject me, but she did walk away as soon as I pulled out. Becoming a dedicated business owner has softened me up. I’ve lost my appeal to women. Shit! Now I’m gonna have to work for it.

“Yeah, I’m good.” I start the truck and head toward our house.

As soon as we make it home, I head straight to my room, strip down, and take a steaming hot shower. Something about being with the blonde… damn, I should have gotten her name. I just want to wash the night away, forget the entire night ever happened.

Twenty minutes later, I’m on the back deck, beer in hand, just watching the night sky. The weather will turn cold before long and sitting out here will not be as pleasant. I hear the patio door slide open.

Bright walks out, hands me another beer, and takes the lounge next to me. His phone beeps and he fumbles to check it. I watch in fascination as his face lights up once he reads the message.

“That her?” My voice is loud against the calm of the night.

Smiling like a fool, he answers, “Yeah. They’re home.” I nod my head, tip my beer back, and take a long drink. “I’m glad we were able to hang out tonight. Not sure what happened, but I wish you could have spent more time with her. I like her.”

Bright and I don’t really talk hearts and flowers. It’s not our thing. We’ve been best friends our entire lives and we just know the other well enough it’s not needed. For him to volunteer that he’s into this girl is a huge deal. I feel like an ass that I didn’t take the opportunity to get to know her better. I need to make it up to him.

“Tonight… was… odd for me. I guess I still have a ton on my mind with the new renovation and the next step for Cooper’s.” I don’t want to tell him that multiple rejections will do that to a guy. I don’t want to hear him tell me how big of an ass I was. We both know it to be true, so talking about it seems pointless. Besides, I can’t handle that after the night I’ve had.

Brighton doesn’t respond; he just smiles as his fingers fly over the screen of his phone. I watch my best friend in fascination. I never thought I would see the day. He’s let this one get under his skin. His phone beeps and his face lights up.

“Invite her over tomorrow night; we can throw some steaks on the grill. I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing her around a lot.”

“I hope so,” he says.

“Let me know. I have to be at the bar in the morning, but I can stop by the store on my way home. That’s the least I can do for how I acted tonight. I was just… off my game.”

“All right, man, I’ll check with Nicole,” he says, his fingers again flying across the screen. “See ya in the morning.” He climbs from his chair, holding his fist out. I push mine against his, and then it’s just me and the stillness of the night. I chug back the rest of my beer and decide to head off to bed. Putting this day behind me cannot happen soon enough.

The next morning, just as I’m walking out the door, Bright yells for me.

“Max!” he says as he comes rushing into the kitchen, phone in his hand. “I just talked to Nicole; she’ll be here at seven. She’s bringing Kensington as well. Please be nice,” he pleads.

I nod. “I’ll stop by and pick up what we need on the way home.” With that, I walk out the door wondering how my second interaction with the sexy Kensington is going to go. I tell myself that I’m just going to ignore her and her rejection. Bright is counting on me to not fuck this up for him.

AS WE WALK up the front steps of their house, I wonder how I got myself into this. I glance over and see the smile that has been permanently etched on my best friends face for the last twenty-four hours and I admit defeat. Nicole has been there for me more than I can count. When she asked me late last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, if I would come to Brighton’s with her tonight for an impromptu barbecue, I said yes at the sound of the joy in her voice. I also said yes, because I just wanted to go to sleep. Ready to put the day behind me. In the light of day, as I watch Nicole knock on the front door, I question my sanity.

Before she even finishes knocking on the door, it flies open, revealing the glimmering eyes of Brighton. His face is lit up just like my best friend’s. I can’t help but feel lighter about the night, just seeing how they both feel the same way about each other. I want her to be happy. She deserves nothing but that, true happiness. “Hey ladies,” Brighton says as he leans in and kisses Nic on the corner of her mouth.

“Thanks for having us,” I say, because Nicole seems too busy cheesing from ear to ear to speak at the moment.

“I’m glad you could make it. Come on in. Max is on the back deck starting the grill. I hope you brought your suits for a swim later,” he says. I follow behind and watch in fascination as he reaches for Nic’s hand and laces their fingers together. Good man.

Max turns to face us when he hears the patio door open. I turn my head and take in my surroundings. This place is really beautiful. It’s not at all what I expected of two bachelors. The back of the house is like a private oasis. A huge multi-tiered deck leads down to a concreted area and the in-ground pool. One of the sections of the deck also holds a hot tub. I walk to the edge of the deck, we are on the upper most level, and peer out below. There are lots of trees surrounding the property and a decent size pond with a gazebo toward the back of the property. I hate to admit it, but I’m impressed.

“Kens!” I hear Nicole yell my name. I whip my head around to see all three of them watching me. “I’ve been saying your name over and over,” she tells me. I see the concern in her eyes.

Taking a deep breath, I push off the railing and head back over to be sociable. “Sorry, I was just enjoying the view.”

“I’ll give you all a tour later. He’s done a great job with it,” Brighton tells me.

Even though I try to fight it, my eyes find Maxton. He’s staring right at me. “It’s beautiful.” I decide to keep the compliments to a minimum. This is yet another side that I never would have guessed would be a part of the great Maxton Cooper. I guess it’s possible he was just not having a good night.

He studies me. “I have all sorts of… special skills.” He smirks at me.

Gah! And I was actually trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there is a twin around here, the nice twin. I have to be missing something with this guy.

Brighton hands Nicole and I both a bottle of water. “Can we do anything to help?” Nicole asks.

“Yes, we are at your disposal,” I tell Brighton.

“Nope, we’ve got it all taken care of. You ladies just have a seat and relax. It should be ready in about fifteen minutes.” He winks at Nic before heading into the house.

“Come check out this view.” I grab her arm and lead her to where I was just standing minutes ago.

Nicole gushes and Maxton yells, “Thank you,” over his shoulder.

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. Sexy, infuriating man. It’s a shame really, such a waste of good eye candy. He’s great until he opens his mouth.

“What?” Nicole asks, shocked.

Shit! I must have said that aloud. Great. Shrugging, I answer, “I just call it how I see it.” The corner of her mouth lifts in a smile and I know what’s coming next. Me and my damn big mouth!

“I think he’s hot as hell,” she says, bumping her shoulder into mine.

“I’ll give you that; he’s fucking beautiful to look at. It’s when he opens his mouth that he loses appeal.” Just as the words leave my mouth, Nicole’s eyes go wide and I know I’m busted.

I feel his hands on my hips and his breath on my ear. “I’d like to show you what I can do when I open my mouth, sweetheart.” He places a kiss on my neck just below my ear and then he’s gone. I instantly miss the heat of his body and it pisses me off. Guys like him are all the same. I know this. My body is betraying me because he looks so damn edible.

The sound of Nicole’s low chuckle breaks me out of my trance. “See what I mean?” I ask, exasperated.

This causes her to throw her head back and laugh. “Oh, I see all right. That man has you twisted,” she says through her laughter.

“Really? He’s an asshole.”

“Time to eat, ladies,” Max yells out.

Nicole slips her arm through mine and leans in close. “I just call it how I see it,” she throws my words back at me.

This time I let my eyes roll back in my head, letting her know what she’s insinuating is ridiculous. We reach the table and Bright pulls out a chair for Nicole. I make my way around the table to take a seat, and Max is suddenly there, pulling out my chair with the ever present smirk on his face. My manners rule in this situation as I whisper, “Thanks.”

Max leans down, his lips once again against my ear. “You smell fucking edible,” he whispers.

I shudder at his words. Before I can regain my composure and reply, he’s already seated in the chair next to me as the bowl of salad is being passed around.

What the hell was I thinking coming here?

BOOK: Levitate
8.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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