Isn't She Lovely Page 9

“Mike here?” Wag says, looking behind me as though I’ve been hiding my best friend.

Former best friend.

This time I don’t bother responding at all, but Wag is finishing his beer and doesn’t notice.

He belches again as he scans the room. “Tits in the corner,” he says, his eyes doing a slow once-over of some poor girl who’s probably about to be subjected to Wag’s legendarily bad come-on techniques. Hope she likes beer breath.

“There are tits all over the place,” I mutter, feeling bored with this whole scene.

“Not like these,” he says, all but salivating.

Being human—no, being a guy—I of course have to turn and look. Ah, shit.

I don’t know why I’m surprised to see that it’s Stephanie who’s caught Wag’s horny interest. Wasn’t I ogling that very same chest just a few minutes ago? Seriously, those little tank tops of hers are sexy as hell. They manage to be revealing without trying too hard. Unlike all those plunging V-necks or perfectly tailored designer tops that the other girls are wearing, Stephanie’s simple black tank seems to scream, Hey, I just threw on the first thing I found in my closet, and I have no idea that I fill it out so completely.

I can’t blame Wag for noticing, but at the same time I kind of hate that he does. There’s something fragile about the way she tries so hard to be fierce. And as mean as her glares are, I’d expect her to have scales or spikes or something, but her skin is ridiculously soft.

Which I shouldn’t know. I mean, accidentally elbowing a girl in the face is not grounds for fondling her at a crowded party. I still don’t know what made me do it. I’d like to think I did it just to get under her skin and piss her off because she clearly loathed the very sight of me. But for a few minutes in the hallway it didn’t feel like she hated me. Not when her breath hitched the moment I touched her.

Not when mine hitched as she fell against me, all soft curves and smelling of soap.

“Leave her alone,” I hear myself grumble to Wag.

He gives me a surprised look. “You know her?”

“Taking a summer class together,” I say, finally giving up on my beer and setting it on a side table already teeming with keg cups and abandoned bottles.

Wag’s not so drunk that he doesn’t raise his eyebrows at that. “What the f**k is the almighty Price doing taking a summer class? You flunk Macro or something?”

I’ve never flunked a class in my life. Never gotten lower than a B. But there’s no way I’m going to explain myself to a guy who thinks burping’s a hobby. I don’t even know what I’d say. Nah, I’m taking some stupid class about movies just so I don’t have to spend the summer in the office with my dad.

No way.

“Just leave the girl alone, ’kay?” I shoot a quick glance toward Stephanie, but she’s disappeared. I should be relieved for her sake, since it means she won’t be subject to Wag’s special brand of ass-pinching seduction.

Instead I just feel grumpy.

“What’s with you tonight, man?” Wag says, giving me an exasperated look.

“What do you mean?”

“Normally you’re the life of these things. The first to tap the next keg, but also the first to throw out anyone who gets too shit-faced. Tonight you’ve had like half a beer and get pissed at anyone who tries to talk to you.”

It’s true. I’m not acting like myself.

But normally Michael and Olivia are by my side. Without them I feel … off.

And the feeling is f**king annoying. I’ve never thought of myself as the type who couldn’t cope without my best friend and my girlfriend, but I guess I’ve taken for granted that they’re always there. Until they were gone I never really noticed that when I was tired or introspective, one of them would be there to soften my edges.

Just like I never noticed that when I was in what Michael called “Price Charming mode”—which was most of the time—they always stepped back and let me shine.

I certainly don’t feel charming tonight.

Someone calls my name, and I see my usual group of guys gesturing me over to the keg, all of them too wasted to see that I’m clearly not interested.

I give them a sort of vague gesture as though to indicate that I’ll be there in a minute, and with a muttered bye to Wag, I head in the direction of the bathroom. Not because I have to piss, but because I need a minute alone. But there’s a line a mile long, made up mostly of scantily dressed girls. A tall, skinny blonde grabs my hand as I walk by, and I don’t miss the way her fingers graze my palm in a totally unnecessary gesture.

“Hey, Sarah,” I say, giving her a brief jerk of my chin as I start to move away.

“I hear you’re all alone tonight,” she says, not letting go of my hand.

I’m not surprised that she knows. Sarah is one of Olivia’s best friends. But I am surprised by the suggestive undertone in her voice because she’s one of Olivia’s best friends.

“Yup, and I plan to stay that way,” I say, refusing to give her supermodel body a once-over. Sarah’s pretty, but there’s no way I’d hook up with one of my ex’s friends. I may be pissed at Liv, but I’m not total trash.

“Ah, come on, Eth,” she says, trying to tug me closer as she leans forward slightly. “I can make you feel better.”

The blatant invitation to her best friend’s recent ex is a turnoff, so I merely give her a quick half smile and pull away. I make it about five steps toward the back door before another girl whose name I can never remember locks her arms around my neck, pushing herself against me like a kitten who accidentally drank too much vodka. She’s talking at me, and I catch the word dick and suck and drunk, but she’s slurring too much to make a full sentence, and instead of being turned on, I feel tired.

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