Blurred Lines Page 56

Parker and Lance stand as we get closer.

Parker so that she can hug Lori, Lance so that he can shake my hand in that weird, man-to-man thing that guys do.

If Lance or Lori notice that Parker and I don’t say hello, much less hug, neither says anything.

“This place looks amazing,” Parker gushes as we all sit down around the too-small table. She and Lori are sitting across from each other against the wall, with me across from Lance on the outside.

This leaves Parker and me kitty-corner from each other, which I guess is as good as can be expected given the circumstances, but it still feels too close.

Lori doesn’t know about our fight, and from the placid look on Lance’s face, I suspect he doesn’t know, either, so we’ll have to play nice.

And since Parker’s currently talking, playing nice means looking at her. Pretending to listen.

She’s wearing a black sleeveless top with a low scoop neck and a bunch of layered necklaces. Nothing special. Her hair’s pulled back in a long ponytail, her makeup all smoky and Friday-night-out-ish.

She looks amazing, and that pisses me off. I don’t want her to be miserable—not really—but I don’t exactly need her to look like that, either. All pretty and glowing and…happy.

“I’m so glad we could do this,” Lori is saying, because oh my God are we still talking about the restaurant? “We could have gotten a better time next weekend, but obviously that won’t work with Ben going back to Michigan.”

Parker glances at me in surprise. “You’re going home?”

And then it’s Lori and Lance’s turn to look surprised, because normally—as in before—Parker would have known that not-so-little detail about my life.

I take a sip of water. “It was too expensive to fly on Thanksgiving, so I’m going back the weekend before. It’ll appease the parents without blowing my entire savings account on a plane ticket.”

“Right, of course,” she murmurs.

I suspect that she, more than anyone, knows how much I’m dreading the trip.

And, yes, I know that’s an awful thing to say. I hardly ever see my parents, and putting in some time at the winter holidays really isn’t too much to ask.

It’s just that I always come away from trips home feeling woefully inadequate. Four straight days of passive-aggressive versions of So, when are you going to stop messing around? will do that to you.

“I hear you,” Lance is saying. “My parents are paying for me and Parker to fly to Boston for Thanksgiving, so expenses aren’t a problem, but, man, I hate traveling on the holidays.”

It’s my turn to glance at Parker in surprise, but she’s staring at the candle on the table and won’t look at me.

Thanksgiving in the Blanton household is a big deal.

I mean, all families like to be together on turkey day, but Thanksgiving is Sandra Blanton’s favorite holiday, so she goes all out.

More than even Christmas.

I can’t believe Parker’s going to miss it to spend it with Lance’s family.

Lance, who dumped her just a couple months ago. Lance, who—

My thoughts are interrupted by our server, who rattles off five specials of things I’ve never heard of before taking our much-needed drink order and disappearing, once again leaving the four of us in awkwardness.

At least it’s awkward for me.

Lori and Lance seem to be continually oblivious to the fact that they’re carrying the entire conversation.

Probably because Lori is really good at talking.

I’ve learned this about her in the two weeks since we started “dating,” if you’d call it that.

Not that it’s a big deal. Just a couple dinners. Lunch together at work. She came over the other night and watched a movie.

And yet…no sex. Nothing even close to sex.

I can tell she’s puzzled, but she hasn’t really pressed. I feel a little guilty. I’m pretty sure she thinks that I haven’t made a move out of some gentlemanly sentiments, but the truth is…

I haven’t been interested in sex with Lori. Or with anyone.

I glance at Parker and Lance, wondering how their sex life is, only to realize that the thought destroys my appetite. Since the supposedly excellent food at this place is likely to be the only good part of the evening, I push the thought away.

Things go pretty well through our first round of drinks.

And through appetizers. It’s right after our main dishes are served that they start to go downhill.

“So, Ben,” Lance says, cutting a bite of his steak and then glancing up at me. “I’ve gotta say, when Parker told me that you and Lori were dating, I practically fell out of my chair.”

“Gosh, thanks, Lance,” Lori says sarcastically.

“Not because of you, honey,” he says with a little wink. “It’s just I always thought Ben here had no intention of dating.”

“Wonder where you got that idea?” I say with a pointed look at Parker.

She pauses in the process of winding pasta around her fork and narrows her eyes at me. “I’m pretty sure he picked it up from your track record. Because, remind me, when’s the last time you saw the same girl for more than one night in a row? Is it four years ago now? Or five? And didn’t you cheat on her—”

“Hey, now,” Lori says with a little laugh. “We all did things we shouldn’t have in college. Slept with people we shouldn’t have—”

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