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Authors: Sophie Lira

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BOOK: Safe With You
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“Ooh, yay! I’m so glad I won’t have to pick up right field. I suck so bad.” Aubrey’s face lights up. “Hey, maybe I’ll ask Olivia to join. She mentioned she used to play. You think it matters that she doesn’t go to school?”

“Nah, we’re not even official this year. We were like three people short.” Zach turns to her before looking to me. “Who’s Olivia?”

“She’s the new instructor here. Kyle knows her, too.” Aubrey stands tall and reaches to the ceiling. “Let’s all grab dinner after class. It’ll be fun. I’ll call her real quick and see if she can meet us.”

“Okay, cool.” I rub my leg, my fingers pressing into the rough patches of scars along my knee and shin.

“Holy shit, what the hell happened?” Zach’s jaw drops.

“Accident.” I pull the side of my shorts down a little more, avoiding eye contact.

Maybe joining the league wasn’t my best idea.






I pull into the parking lot of this dodgy pub a few blocks from the yoga place. The gravel crunches under my feet and I sit on the bench outside. The old screen door flies open and Olivia walks out with a small smile. Everything south of the border enflames with blood as I stare at her stellar body in a pair of skin-tight leggings, a white tank top, and a thin sweater. All of her muscles and gorgeous curves are on display and I need to rein in my testosterone, quickly, so I don’t scare her off.

“Hi.” Olivia gives me a small wave. “They have our table ready.”

“Cool.” I follow her in, completely taking advantage of the moment to stare at her perfect, tight ass all the way to the table. She throws her bag in the corner of one side and I slide into the other. “I’m glad you were able to come to dinner.” I grin as Olivia scans the menu.

“Me too.” Her eyes don’t lift off the page, and I’m praying for Zach and Aubrey to get here. Maybe if she had someone she’s more comfortable with she’d open up more. She shifts in her seat and her foot brushes my leg as she adjusts. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to kick you.”

“It’s cool.” I fold the menu and set it aside. “Crazy about Aubrey and Zach, right? Such a small world.”

“Yeah.” Olivia sighs and adjusts the soft baseball cap on her head. Even though I’m impressed by the vintage Astros logo, I feel like I’m harboring a fugitive as we sit in the farthest booth from the door, in the corner. “Aubrey said to order whatever for her and Zach.”

“Have you met Zach yet?” I sigh as she wrings her hands together for the third time.

She shakes her head. “No, but Aubrey talks about him all the time.”

I would bet money Aubrey and Zach are sitting in the parking lot in some kind of effort to give us alone time, which is making our interaction exponentially more awkward. After the waiter takes our order of huge beers and macaroni and cheese, our conversation turns to dead silence as I try to figure out what to say.

If it were more socially acceptable to sit and stare, I would.

“So, are you from New Orleans? We never really got a chance to talk.” I carve an arc into the beat-up table with my butter knife.

Olivia barely flinches as she looks up from the table. Her eyes turn forest green under the fluorescent light. “No, I grew up a little ways outside Shreveport. I went to a big private high school there.”

“No shit. Did you go to Caddo Parish Prep?” Even though I went to high school in Texas, they made headlines with their successes the last few years. “Your softball team went undefeated a few years ago, right?”

“Yeah, how did you know?” Her smile is all pride and confidence, and I would do anything to see it for the rest of the night.

“Oh, I went to St. Martin’s in Houston. I think our softball team went up against you guys a few times in friendlies.” I shrug.

Olivia nods with a smile. “And we kicked your ass every time, as I recall. When did you graduate?”

“Four years ago. How about you?” I smile, hoping she stays this talkative all night.

“The same. I’ll be twenty-two in a few months.” She sighs, rubbing her neck.

“Me too.” I try to keep it light, but I can’t help but stare at her. Her tan is fading, but the remaining light caramel color is striking against her white shirt. “Well? Stats? I remember reading you guys destroyed Lake Charles Catholic.”

“Two home runs, six RBIs, and three double plays. I held it down at third.” She smiles, looking down and nibbling on her bottom lip. The waiter comes over with our beers and she swallows half of hers in a single gulp, sending my sex-starved mind into a hundred inappropriate directions about her gag reflex. And I can’t even correlate her flexibility into that scenario.

“Damn, you’d probably drink my ass under the table in a funneling contest.” I take a swig of my beer and laugh at my shitty joke. “So, please tell me more about you. There has to be more than that.”

She keeps clutching the strap of her bag and glancing toward the main entrance, but I don’t feel like I know her well enough to ask if something is really wrong. Not to mention, it’s taking every ounce of my composure not to dive over the table and see how good her lip balm tastes.

“Uhm, well. I was born in Shreveport, never moved until I came here. I have an older brother, Tyler, who goes to school in California.” She scratches the peeling paint off the table.

“Did he get you into playing?” I take a piece of bread and feel like I’m pulling teeth with her sudden change in tone.

“Yeah. He played for UCLA for a bit and then left the team. Never told me why.” The sentences come out a jumbled, quick mess, and she takes a deep breath.

I nearly spit my beer out at her obvious mood shift. “Liv, are you—”

“I’m fine.” Her eyes go wide and she shifts in her seat, looking at her hands. “God, I’m sorry. It’s been a long week, and I’m all over the place.”

“Don’t be sorry, I didn’t mean to pry into your personal life.”
I’ve never heard someone apologize as much as she does. I know right now my dream of making out with her is a long way from becoming a reality. For some reason, I’m okay with it. I don’t know what it is about her that makes me want to stick around.

“Did you grow up in Houston?” The most unconvincing half-smile creeps across her face. Her phone lights up and I do a double take at her plain flip phone. It looks like the first one I got in high school. “They’ll be here in a minute.”

“Okay, cool.” I throw back another mouthful of beer as if it were a shot and motion to the waiter for two more. “Yeah, but in River Oaks, it’s a suburb—”

Olivia chokes on the beer in her mouth, spitting a little across the table.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, handing her some napkins.

“Oh, nothing. I’m sorry.” She blots the table, her face scorching red. “I used to know someone with family there and the coincidence surprised me. Houston is so big. I didn’t think when you said Houston it’d be the same area.”

Another few minutes go by and her face and hands are scarlet. The coincidence has to be something she wants to forget, and as hard as I’m pushing to know her, I feel like it’s not in the cards. At first, my number one priority was trying to get her on a date. Then maybe if I was lucky enough, she’d come back to my place. I know that is not happening tonight.

Or tomorrow night, or probably the month after that.

Her eyes widen as I get up from my side of the booth and swing around the table to sit next to her. “What are you doing?” she asks, scooting back.

“Hey.” I twist toward her. “I’m trying to be your friend and get to know you, okay?”

“And?” She moves back a fraction of an inch.

That’s it … well, and Aubrey and Zach are coming.” I motion her to move over as they walk up to the table. She looks away from me, staring at the TV on the wall, but I can’t see anything except her in the restaurant. As she reaches for her pint, her hand misses and the glass teeters. We both grab it at the same time and our hands brush each other, sending electricity through me on the spot.

“Sorry,” I manage, looking for fresh air as the waiter drops off our food, breaking our silence.

“Yes! Mac and cheese!” Aubrey slides into the seat, grabbing a piece of macaroni off the edge of the plate. “Liv, this is Zach. Finally you guys get to meet!”

“Hey.” Olivia gives him a small wave and digs in, her smile beaming once again. “Wow, this is amazing.” She takes another huge bite. “How did you find this place?”

I shrug. “I saw a menu in the student center a couple days ago.”

“Oh, this is mad good.” Zach scoops a spoonful into his mouth. “Good job, Avery!”

Somehow in the midst of our conversation about junk food, she lightens up enough for me to take my chance to draw her out again. I keep the conversation strictly
Man vs. Food vs. Cute Shy Girl
as long as I can. I can sense something different inside her like the real person under the surface is screaming at me for help. Because when she lets her guard down, even for a moment, she’s different. She seems fun, kind, and compassionate. Not the person she thinks she probably needs to be, someone who pushes everyone away.

I know someone like that. Me.

Now I wish I wasn’t so damn unappreciative to Cam after I was hurt. He was an overbearing pain in my ass and I appeased him so he’d shut up. I kind of know what he was trying to do. I can’t let someone else be locked in their mind and believe their problems are the only thing they can slay.

There’s a part of me that’s dying to know what happened to make her so scared. But I can’t ask her. So I’ll ride this out for a while and hope she knows I’m not going to bail on her. The waiter comes back after a while, clearly aggravated we’ve clogged up one of his tables for so long with talk about the Food Network and ice cream, and drops off the check.

“I got it, guys.” I take the check before anyone else can and pull out my wallet. “It’s the least I can do for you guys befriending my nomadic ass so quickly.”

“Absolutely not.” Olivia pulls out her wallet and drops a twenty on the table. “There is no way you’re paying for me again.”

What the hell?

“Yeah, it’s okay.” Aubrey looks to Zach as he drops a few twenties on the table. “This was a pretty huge bill, we drank so much. It’s not fair you should pay for it.”

“It’s really no trouble.” I glance at Olivia as she moves down the booth, almost dissolving into the wall. Her hands wring the paper napkin in front of her and drop into her lap. I glide down the bench until I’m practically sitting on the floor.

Aubrey turns to Olivia, who still is staring at her hands. “Liv, I need to use the ladies’. Wanna come with?”

Olivia’s head darts up, her eyes almost tearing. “Yeah, definitely. Kyle, may I get out?”

“Of course.” I stand and hold out my hand for a millisecond before pulling it back since she’s looking at it like I have a few extra fingers.

“We’ll be back.” Aubrey looks at Zach and then to me before turning away. “Hey, Liv! Wait up!”

“What the hell was that about?” Zach’s head follows Aubrey as I sit.

I shake my head, closing my eyes for a second. “I have no idea.”

“No offense man because I can tell you’re into her, but she’s … weird.” Zach rips a piece of the straw wrapper in front of him.

“Yeah … ” I nod, and I know this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Chapter Five


Jekyll and Hyde





What the hell is wrong with me?

Aubrey grabs my hand when she catches up to me in the bathroom. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m fine.” I walk inside a stall, slamming the metal door shut. My mind races, stuck in a continuous loop of bad thoughts. Kyle has no idea how fucked up I am, how fucked up Braden made me. Thoughts of him turning into another psycho have been plaguing me for days.

Even though it’s completely fucking irrational. I know it is.

I still can’t process that he’s here. That he came out with us after what I did the other day.

“You were on the verge of collapsing.” Aubrey pushes harder on the old door and it pops open. “Oh my gosh. Talk to me, please.”

I shake my head and plop onto the closed seat, rubbing my eyes. “He’s different, okay, and I can’t read him. I’m trying so hard to keep things simple, but every time I’m alone with him for more than five seconds—”

“You want to rip his clothes off and be everything but friends? That’s not headline news.” She squats down until she’s eye-level.

“No. I mean … ” I huff and shake my head. I’ve never admitted to anyone Braden’s jealousy issues, verbal tirades, or that one drunken time … “I don’t know.”

“Sweetheart, you can talk to me. I’m not going to air out your life to anyone.” Aubrey takes my hand and shuffles closer, her smile becoming more comforting. “You like him, but you think it’s too quick?”

“In theory, yes.” Only Natasha knows how bad it was, how I left before he could hurt me again. “I had this boyfriend for like five years. He changed so drastically and I didn’t realize how bad it was until it was too late.”

“When did you guys break up?” She wipes the cascading tears from my eyes.

We didn’t, technically. I left. Just like Tyler.
“Right before I came here. I needed to get away from it all. He really screwed with me, the things he said … and did.” A few stones lift off my chest from telling someone what happened, if only the surface details. “I just need time for myself. I haven’t been single for years. I don’t even know who I am without being chained to someone.”

“Relationships should never, ever be something you’re chained to, sweetie.” Aubrey’s eyes widen as she takes my face in her palms. “And by the way, never chastise yourself for having feelings for another human.”

“I know.” I hiccup another breath, burying my face in my hands. Thinking I’d be cured of this shitstorm immediately is just as ludicrous as thinking relationships are balls and chains. I need to stand on my own, be my own person.

“Maybe Kyle is different?” Aubrey pulls me off the gross seat and wraps her arms around my waist, holding me tight.

BOOK: Safe With You
4.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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