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But maybe Jeff and Anna were different.

Drew took a deep breath, setting his glass on the counter and pouring another shot for himself.
 
This time, though, he poured some of the same golden liquid into another glass and slid it across the counter.
 

“What’s this?”
 

“I don’t know, a little liquid courage, I guess.”
 
Drew held his glass out to his friend.
 
“And congrats, man.
 
Best of everything to you.
 
You deserve it.”
 

If there was a guy out there who deserved good things, it was Jeff.
 
Drew knew that firsthand.
 
He had the biggest heart of anyone Drew had ever met.
 
The kind of guy who would go out of his way to help someone he cared about.

How many times had Drew been on the receiving end of Jeff’s kindness?
 

More times than he could count.
 
Hell, if it wasn’t for Jeff, who knew where Drew would even be right now.
 

Certainly not where he was.
 

Drew glanced around his large apartment—knowing that it was impressive.
 
Definitely a bachelor’s pad, true.
 
It had that industrial feel to it—lots of brick and metal.
 

And if Drew hadn’t met Jeff, he wouldn’t be able to look around and feel
proud
of himself.
 

Because this was his.
 
Drew had earned it, all on his own.
 

Without his father’s help.
 

Wasn’t it Jeff who’d stood by him, telling him that he was more than just a spoiled little rich boy?
 
More than the failure his father assumed he was going to be?
 

Hadn’t Jeff been the guy who’d told him that all his rebelling was stupid?
 
That the only place it was going to get him was dead?

Yep, that was Jeff.
 
The Good Guy.

As if on cue, the buzzer rang.
 
Drew raised an eyebrow at Jeff.
 
“That’s Anna.
 
She said she would meet me here.
 
Can you make yourself scarce tonight, Drew?
 
I wouldn’t ask—it’s just that, you know, we might want to celebrate.”
 

“Oh, I think I can handle that.”
 
The last place he wanted to be was the place Jeff and Anna were going to be.
 
Jeff walked over to the intercom to buzz her in, and Drew prepared himself to see her.

“And do I have to ask you to be nice?”
 

“Me?
 
I’m
always
a gentleman.”
 
That wasn’t exactly accurate.
 
He and Anna—well, sometimes, he just had a bit too much fun with her.
 
All in good spirits, though.

Jeff rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he pulled the door open.
 

She breezed into the apartment, hardly looking any different than she had all those years ago when he’d first met her.
 
Her hair—still fair blonde, only without the fire-engine red—was up, off her shoulders.
 
She wore a black dress—and sure, she looked good, but it wasn’t her.
 
He imagined she was itching to get out of it.

Drew stopped himself right there.
 
Jeff leaned over and touched his lips to her cheek and Drew poured himself another shot.
 

“Hey Drew,

 
Anna
greeted him.
 
“You’re looking cocky as ever, aren’t you?”

“Aw, have you put on some weight, Anna?
 
I could’ve sworn you were thinner the last time I saw you.”
 
Anna scowled at him and Jeff pleaded with him over his shoulder.
 

“Good night, Drew,

 
Jeff
told him, slipping his jacket on and taking Anna by the hand.
 
“See you tomorrow.”

“You kids have fun tonight!”
 

The moment the door closed, Drew exhaled softly.
 

He was going to get very, very drunk tonight.
 

 

~*~

 

Anna sat across from Jeff, the restaurant buzzing around them.
 
It was a Saturday night, so that much was to be expected.

They were already to dessert and Anna still hadn’t mustered the courage to tell Jeff how she felt.
 
She’d been waiting for the right moment, but it hadn’t come.

No matter how difficult it might be, she had to do it—she knew that.

With a deep breath, she told herself it was now or never.

“Jeff, there was something I—I need to tell you.”
 
She felt her heart pounding painfully in her chest as she ran through the speech in her head.
 

“Me too,

 
he
told her.
 
She bit her lip.
 
“Can I go first?”

“No, I really think—

 
She
took a deep breath, the sound of her heart drowning out the quiet hum of her thoughts.
 
“I had everything all planned out.
 
But I can’t—I don’t even know how to start.”

“What’s going on, Anna?”
 
The crease he normally got when he was confused about something appeared on his forehead.
 

“I just…”
 
She stopped, unable to look at him any longer.
 

He didn’t deserve this.
 
It wasn’t fair, and she knew that.
 
But it wasn’t fair to stay, either.
 
Not to either one of them.
 

“I think we should—I think we should break up, Jeff.”
 
She finally opened her eyes only to find she had made a huge mistake.
 
The image of him sitting there, sorrow flooding his eyes…it was going to be with her forever.
 

But he had to have known this was coming, didn’t he?
 
Things had been so strained, lately.
 
She couldn’t have been the only one who had noticed.
 

“It isn’t you.
 
It isn’t your fault.
 
It’s just…”
 
She tried to continue.

She struggled to find the words as she continued on.
 

Hadn’t she practiced this?

“I’m so sorry,

 
she
whispered, tears flooding her eyes.
 
“I wish I didn’t have to do this—”

“Then don’t.”
 
He placed an open felt box in front of her, a large diamond glimmering in the light.
 
“I want to get married, Anna.”
 

Apparently he hadn’t had a clue.
 

“I don’t.”
 
She could barely even whisper.
 
“I wish I did, Jeff.”

“It’s not that hard, Anna.
 
You just say yes.”

“But it isn’t that easy.”
 
She shook her head.
 
“Things haven’t been right for awhile.”

“I know I’ve been working a lot—”

“It’s not that.”
 
Why did he have to make this so hard?
 
Didn’t he know that the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him?
 
He had always been so good to her—too good, really.

“Is there someone else?”
 
he
asked.

“No, it isn’t that either.”
 

How was she supposed to tell him that she didn’t even really miss him anymore?
 
That when he cancelled his weekend visits because of work, she was hardly even disappointed?
 

There was no possible way to say those things without making him hate her.
 

“I don’t understand, Anna.
 
I thought things were going well.”
 

“I’m not happy anymore.”
 
She bit her lip as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
 
“I haven’t been happy for awhile now.”
 

“We can—”

“I don’t think I’m…”
 
Anna broke off, searching for the right words.
 
“I’m not in love with you anymore, Jeff.”
 
He closed his eyes as she said the words, as if absorbing a blow.

“Anna—”

“I’m sorry.”
 
She whispered.

“You’re just lonely—if we get married—”

“Then what?”
 
She stared at him for a moment, waiting for him to tell her all of the answers.
 
“Then you leave your job in Chicago and resent me for it?”

“You could move—”

“I couldn’t, though.
 
You don’t understand how important to me the work I’m doing is.”
 
She closed her eyes again.
 
“Something is missing, Jeff.
 
I should be happy.
 
But I’m not.
 
I feel—

 
Anna
found his eyes and held them then.
 
“I feel empty inside.
 
And I don’t know how to fix it.”

“So you break up with me?”
 
Jeff was getting angry now, and Anna couldn’t blame him.
 
“Did Alice put you up to this?
 
I know she’s your sister, but—seriously.
 
All she’s looking for is a wingman—”

“Alice has nothing to do with this.”

“She’s been trying to get you to break up with me for years.”
 
Anna rolled her eyes.
 

“She’s just looking out for me.”

“So, what, you’re going to go whoring around with her now?
 
Is that the plan?”
 

She couldn’t believe he’d just said that.
 
She held her breath for a moment, staring at him.
 
“Anna, I’m—”

“I’ll pack up your things and leave them with Drew.”
 
She slid backward, bringing herself to her feet.
 
“I would appreciate it if you didn’t call me.”

“Anna—”

But it was too late.
 
She made her way to the door, pausing only briefly to pick up her coat, before stepping out into the frosty night.

The trails left behind by her tears felt as if they’d frozen over as she walked down the street a ways, until she was sure Jeff wouldn’t spot her.
 
Then she pulled her cell phone out of her purse and scrolled down to highlight her sister’s name.
 
It only took a few rings before she picked up.
 
“So, how’d it go?”

“He proposed.”

“Oh geez.”
 
Anna heard Alice sigh.
 
“Where are you?”

“He took me to Deepwood.
 
I’m about a block away.”

“I’ll be there in about twenty.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“And Annie?”
 
Anna brought the phone back to her ear.
 
“I love you.”

“I love you too, Allie

 
She
ended the call and tucked her phone in her purse, trying not to imagine the expression on Jeff’s face.
 

He’d been so devastated.
 

But it had been the best thing for the both of them.
 
He would see that eventually, wouldn’t he?
 

She couldn’t help it, though.
 
No matter how much she told herself she’d done the right thing, she didn’t believe it.
 

 

~*~

 

By the time Drew returned home, it was late.
 

He knew he shouldn’t be there.
 
Jeff and Anna were probably still celebrating their big night.

But Drew had a strict policy.
 
No sleepovers.
 
He could fool around with a woman as much as either party wanted—but there would be no cuddling, no morning breath,
no
awkward goodbyes.
 

It was best that way.
 

He unlocked the door and stepped inside, careful to be as quiet as possible.
 
It didn’t help that he was having a hard time just managing to stand upright, though.
 

He stumbled over something on the floor—a shoe, he realized as he swore quietly under his breath.
 

Jeff’s shoe.
 
Which meant he was likely to find more items strewn across the room, more-than-likely leading to the guestroom.
 
Well, that was something Drew was more than happy to ignore.
 

But it would take at least one or two more shots to leave him completely oblivious.

He stumbled toward the bar he and Jeff had been sitting at earlier, looking for his favorite bottle of rum.
 
His brow furrowed as he looked around.

Hadn’t it just been here before he left?

“Looking for this?”
 
Drew nearly jumped out of his skin.
 
He swore loudly as he narrowed his eyes, peering toward the living room.
 
It was dark in there—but that was definitely Jeff, sitting on his couch.
 
Alone.

That wasn’t a good sign.

“There isn’t much left.”

“That’s okay.
 
You probably need it more than I do.”
 
Drew slipped out of his leather jacket and draped it over one of the chairs before walking toward Jeff.
 
He sat down beside him, flipping one of the lights on.

BOOK: Single, Available, and Completely Attached
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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