Blurred Lines Page 18

My elbow barely—just barely—hits the shoulder of Redhead, who’s standing to my right.

My hand is already touching her forearm in apology as she’s turning toward me.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I say, laying it on a little thick. Most dudes would grunt an apology, if at all. But this kind of over-the-top courtesy has gotten me the girl more than a couple of times.

My fingers linger on her forearm as she turns all the way toward me, surprise flickering over her face. And the face is a good one. I was expecting her eyes to be hazel or brown, but they’re blue. She’s got a full mouth, which I like, because, hello, and her body’s as good from the front as it was from the back.

“No problem,” she says, a slow smile sliding over her face. It’s a predatory smile, which is kind of a turnoff, but I’m not marrying the girl, so it’s cool.

“Buy me a drink and we’ll call it even?” she says.

Yup. I’d been right. No challenge here. Still, just as well. The little lesson I’m putting on for Parker could not be going any better.

You’d better be watching this, Parks.

“I think I can do that,” I say easily to the girl. “What are you having?”

She pushes a near-empty glass toward me. “White wine. Whatever she’s pouring back there, I’m not picky.”

“You got it,” I say, before flicking my eyes to the dude in the black shirt who just now seems to be figuring out what’s going on here. I’m stealing his target.

“What are you drinking?” I ask him, to soften the blow. I’m not a total dick. Plus, I need him to stick around. With any luck, Lori will understand what I’m doing here and somehow maneuver Parker into this guy’s path. Not because I have any intention of letting her go home with someone who looks slightly dead behind the eyes, but she said she wanted practice, and this guy’s harmless.

“Um, beer?” he says.

I hide a grimace. Whitehorse Tavern has more than twenty beers on tap, some of them pretty damn good microbrews. Beer doesn’t quite cut it as far as descriptors go. I’m about to ask if he wants to be a bit more specific, but the scent of familiar perfume catches my attention. Parker wears Chanel Chance. I know this because I buy it for her every Christmas. It’s expensive, but it’s a win-win, because she squeals in delight every time, and I don’t have to do any thinking.

I turn around to find her looking at me in exasperation. She points at the glasses in front of me. “You forgot our drinks.”

“I didn’t forget,” I say, giving her a meaningful look.

She tilts her head in confusion, clearly understanding that I’m trying to tell her something, but not comprehending what.

Good lord. I glance around for Lori, and find her back at the booth where I left her, engaged in conversation with a hipster type. Some wingwoman. I’m on my own.

“Parker, this is…”

I turn toward the redhead, using the opportunity to get her name.

“Terri,” she says warily, her eyes doing a not-so-subtle once-over of Parker. This is why I don’t usually try to pick up chicks when my best friend’s in tow. She scares everyone away. Tonight in particular, she looks good, dressed in tight-as-sin jeans and a plain white T-shirt that should be harmless but fits her sort of perfectly. Her hair is in a ponytail, but not a messy gym ponytail; it’s one of those careful, preppy ones that girls do.

“Parker,” she says, extending a hand. I hope Parker’s friendly smile will put Terri at ease, but Terri’s eyes merely narrow, and I mentally sigh.

“My cousin,” I say to Terri.

I don’t look at Parker, but I can feel her disapproval. She hates when I lie, and I’m not a fan of it myself. But it’s a necessity tonight, because Redhead is definitely thinking that Parker is competition.

Terri smiles at my new (false) revelation, which is good, but what’s even better is that the dopey beer guy in the black T-shirt also seems to jump to attention. His eyes move over Parker, his gaze as assessing as Terri’s was, but with a wholly different agenda. He smirks a little, and it sets my teeth on edge, but if this is what Parks wants…

I clear my throat meaningfully at Parker before turning back toward the bar, this time going all out in my effort to get the bartender’s attention. I need a drink. Stat.

Five minutes later, everyone’s drinks are full and Parker’s apparently figured out my game plan, because she’s leaning back against the bar, elbows propped up on the wood, and she’s laughing at something Black T-shirt is saying. I have to think her laugh’s fake; the dude seems like a bore to me, but this doesn’t seem like her fake laugh. I’m pretty familiar with Parker’s fake laugh, because I’ve heard it turned more than once on some of my ditzier sleepover buddies.

For my part, I’ve been trying to engage in conversation with Terri the redhead. She’s not one of the ditzy ones, which, I guess, is refreshing, but I’m not really feeling it because she’s kind of…mean. I can overlook plenty of personality flaws in the name of extreme hotness, at least for a one-night stand, but the edge on this girl is exhausting.

“I just don’t get what they expect me to do,” she’s saying. “Like, use one of my vacation days so I can shuttle my grandpa back and forth between his nine million doctors’ appointments? But if I say no, I’m a bitch, right? My mom almost bit my head off when I suggested a cab.”

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