Single, Available, and Completely Attached (11 page)

BOOK: Single, Available, and Completely Attached
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“Is this what the budget crisis is about?”
 
Anna nodded again, only this time, he could see tension in her shoulders.
 

“The estimates are higher than I’d anticipated.
 
And the amount the city is willing to contribute is less than I’d expected.
 
I already requested funding to start up a small daycare program last year, which they approved.
 
But then I threw this at them…and all they’ll say is that the funds aren’t there.
 
They’re already giving me everything they can.”

“So what now, then?
 
Candy bars?”
 
She laughed—a real laugh, soft and airy.
 

“I just don’t think candy bars are going to get us there.”
 
She shrugged her shoulders.
 
“But I’ll figure something out—one way or another.
 
Even if it comes down to selling a ton of candy bars.”

“Hey—I’m not sure how much good I’ll do, but I—
you know, I could help
.”
 
This was a cause he could get behind.
 
Once again, he thought of his own childhood—wishing that he’d been able to spend his afternoons doing anything other than playing sports.

“You would do that?”

“I don’t know exactly what I could do—but, sure, whatever you needed, I could make it happen.”
 
He leaned a little closer, determined now to drive all thoughts of his past out of his mind for good—choosing the lesser of two evils.
 
Who wouldn’t rather think about Anna in a pair of short shorts anyway?

“That goes for
any
of your needs, just so you know.”
 
His tone was full of innuendo.

Anna pushed him away without so much as a glance, and Drew laughed.
 

If he couldn’t keep his flirtations to himself, he would take the next best option: Cross the line enough times that it didn’t even matter anymore.
 

He was sure there was a flaw within that logic somewhere, but he had never been friends with a woman before—let alone one as attractive as Anna.
 
He didn’t know the rules, and even if he did, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to follow them anyway.
 

So—why not just make
up his own
?
 

 

~*~

 

Anna was sitting on the couch, dressed comfortably in a pair of baggy sweatpants and an oversized zip-up
hoodie
, her hair up in a loose ponytail.
 
It was a Saturday night, and after chaperoning the movie-night at the community center, she had decided that she was going to have herself a girl’s night.
 

She had just flipped to the true crime network when her phone went off.
 
With a heavy sigh, she reached forward and snatched it off the table.

 

Drew: What are you doing at this exact moment?

 

 

Why?

 

 

Drew: Because I’m about a minute from your house.

 

 

You are not.

 

 

She heard the knock on the door only a few seconds later.
 

Oh, he most certainly was.
 

Anna rose to her feet and crossed the room, trying to remind herself that Drew was just a friend, and so by that logic, he was not someone she needed to worry about impressing.

It was a failed attempt—because, of course, as usual, Drew looked as if he’d walked right out of a magazine.
 

“I was in the neighborhood.”
 
He offered her that ridiculous little grin of his.
 

“I don’t believe you.”
 
Anna leaned against the doorway.
 

“I was going to see if you wanted to get something to eat.
 
I’m famished.”

“You passed several restaurants on the way here.”

“But I wanted you to keep me company.”
 
He tilted his head, his blue eyes sparkling as they held hers.
 

“I…have plans.”
 

“You’re obviously dressed for a very important occasion.”
 

“If you must know…”
 
Anna felt her cheeks redden even as she prepared to finish the statement.
 
She knew she was opening herself up for a whole new level of good-natured ribbing.
 
“There’s a new episode of
Forensic 360
on tonight, and I—”

“Are you serious?”
 
She rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to defend herself.
 
But Drew interrupted before she could even begin.
 
“I
love
360
.”
 

“Stop it.
 
I know you’re just making fun of me.”

“No, I mean it.
 
Is this the episode about the wife and the husband’s brother?”
 
Drew’s tone was actually serious, and Anna glanced up at him warily.
 

“And the poisoned lemonade.
 
Yes.”

“Oh man, well forget about dinner, we can order in.”
 
And before she could stop him, he was already in the house, heading for the couch.
 
“You don’t mind, do you?”

“You’re being completely serious right now, right?”

“Annabelle, I do not joke about my true crime.”
 
He removed his jacket and tossed it on the back of the couch, taking a seat.
 
It took him a moment to turn around and repeat his question.
 
“You don’t mind, do you?”

“After you’ve already made yourself comfortable?”
 
She swung the door closed and walked around to the other side of the couch, grabbing up the blanket she had been about to snuggle up with before Drew had sent her the message.
 

It had only been a few days since she had taken him for the tour around the community center, and they had seen each other more days than they
hadn’t
.
 
He’d stopped by with coffee, she’d met up with him for lunch—and if they didn’t see each other, then they had been certain to converse at least once throughout the day.
 

It felt strange to her, how easily a friendship with Drew had come about.
 
With absolutely no effort on her part, he had somehow become a fixture within her world.
 

And it had seemingly occurred overnight.

“Hey, what’s your address?”
 

“Why?
 
You’re sitting in my living room.”

“I’m ordering a pizza.
 
I told you I was hungry.”
 
She looked over to find him concentrating on his phone.
 
“Is pizza okay with you?”

“Make it stuffed crust and we’ve got a deal.”
 
He grinned, and she gave him a second before she rattled off the address.
 
“Now be quiet—it’s about to start.”

“Wait, you don’t have DVR?”
 
He shook his head, completely astounded.
 
“Okay, next week, we’re taking this party to my house.
 
I don’t even know if I can watch live TV.”

“Yeah, yeah…sorry, I don’t live a life of luxury like you do, Mr. Whitman.”

“It’s not a luxury, Annabelle.
 
It’s a necessity.”
 

Her only response was to roll her eyes at him before she shifted her attention to the TV, the familiar intro music filling the room.
 
Within a few minutes, it was obvious what was going to happen, as it always was.
 
But still, Anna couldn’t tear herself away, and neither could Drew—until the knock at the door.

“You get it—I’m not getting axe murdered.”
 
Anna told him, and he laughed as he rose to his feet.
 
He returned a moment later with a pizza box.
 

“What’d I miss?”

“The brother poisoned the lemonade to make it look like it was the wife!
 
They found evidence on his computer about a search he did for the most commonly used method of murder by women.”
 

“What an idiot.”
 
Drew held open the box, letting Anna take the first piece before taking one for himself and setting the box on the coffee table in front of them.
 
She tried not to remember how, just a few weeks ago, he had been sitting on that table.

“I know, right?”
 
She cast a sidelong glance at him as he sat there, absorbed by the narrator on the TV.
 
Something stirred within her as she remembered the touch of his hands on her bare skin—but she pushed it away.

She was enjoying his friendship.
 
And though he made sure to offer some sort of sexual favor every time they were together, she was under the impression that it was actually the last thing he wanted from her.

Not that she could blame him, if for no other reason than because Jeff was his best friend.
 
She was sure there was some sort of code at play, but she felt as if they were already breaking those rules just by simply sitting here together.
 

“Want another piece?”
 
He startled her back to the present by offering the box to her again.
 
She took another slice just as Alice walked through the door.

“Anna Marie, I swear, if you’ve got that stupid crime—

 
Alice stopped short as soon as she saw Drew sitting on the couch.
 
“Oh.”

“You don’t like
Forensic 360
?”
 
Drew’s tone was incredulous as he took in the younger girl.
 
Anna couldn’t help but bite her lip.
 
She had never really thought about it until now—but Alice and Drew
were
kind of the same person.

And, deep down, Anna felt the faintest stirrings of panic fluttering within her.
 

What if Drew liked Alice?
 
What if he realized she was the more exciting sister?

She was, in Anna’s opinion, the more beautiful one.
 
With her bleached hair, her funky style,
her
pretty tattoos…she was, at the very least, much more provocative.
 

Wait, what if Drew
liked
Alice?

“Gross, I can’t stand that crap.”
 
Alice rolled her eyes.
 
“And who are you?”

“I’m Drew.
 
Annabelle here is my new best friend.”
 
He reached out and tugged on Anna’s ponytail.

“You mean…Drew Whitman?”
 

“The one and only, thank you.
 
Well, there’s probably another Drew Whitman out there somewhere, but I guarantee I’m the best looking one, at the very least.”
 
Alice turned to look at Anna, clearly disappointed with what her sister was wearing.
 

“We’re having a girl’s night.”
 
Anna explained, grinning when she felt another tug on her ponytail.
 
“Well,
I
was having a girl’s night, until Drew crashed.”

“So, you’re…just hanging out?”

“That’s what friends do.”
 
Drew explained, as if this wasn’t common knowledge.
 
“I mean, it’s a whole new concept to me—personally, I wouldn’t mind a little something extra, if you know what I mean—”
 
Anna turned and punched him in the shoulder.

“You’re more than welcome to join us, Allie.”
 
She only offered because she knew it was the last thing in the world Alice would want to do.
 
Still, she almost crossed her fingers—just in case.
 

“Oh, I think I’ll pass.
 
You kids don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
 
Alice winked dramatically before she clunked her way up the stairs.
 

“She seems like a sweet girl.”
 
The tone in Drew’s voice was very sarcastic, and relief swept through Anna.
 

“I’m surprised you two didn’t hit it off.
 
Actually, what I’m more surprised about is that you haven’t run into one another before.
 
I think you both…follow similar philosophies when it comes to the opposite sex.”

“Then maybe she’s the one I should be friends with.”
 
Anna swatted at him again, shaking her head.

“Well, I can call her back down here for you—” And she was startled when she felt his arm fall around her shoulders and pull her just a little bit closer to him, his free hand finding it’s way to her waist—where he proceeded to tickle her.
 
She squealed, squirming away from him.
 

Friends
keep their hands to themselves.”

“Not in the movies I’ve been watching.”
 
She rolled her eyes as she turned her attention back to the TV, a small smile on her face.
 

“You’re impossible.”

“I know, but
it’s
part of my charm, isn’t it?”
 
He nudged her with his shoulder and without even looking at
him,
she knew he had that cocky little grin on his face.
 

“Keep telling yourself that…”

“Oh, you adore me.
 
Just admit it.”

“I would never.”
 
She told him, not taking her eyes from the TV, though she had no idea what was going on.
 
He sighed loudly beside her.

“See, this is why DVR is so important.
 
We’ve missed the ending of the show.”

BOOK: Single, Available, and Completely Attached
4.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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