Seven Years Ago…
“I love you.”
The words had just fallen out of my mouth. I hadn’t stopped to think about them, nor was I worried about how my best friend, Zeke Conner, would interpret the statement.
In my more than slightly inebriated state, I just didn’t care about anything.
Maybe because I would have never said those words had I not been two sheets to the wind because it was my twenty-first birthday, and I’d spent the entire night getting drunk for the first time.
“I love you too, my little drunken friend,” Zeke answered with a grunt as he hoisted me onto my bed.
He grinned as he straightened up. “Everybody wants to have sex when they’re drunk.”
I frowned at him. Here I was, spilling my guts to him, and he wasn’t taking me seriously.
It wasn’t just the alcohol at work. Sure, I’d drunk a lot, and I wasn’t in complete control of my words, but I really did love Zeke. I’d been crazy about him for years. But I’d never had the guts to admit it.
Now, I was ready to spill the fact that every wet dream I had revolved around him.
And he wasn’t going to take me seriously.
“Where are you going?” I called to his retreating figure as I flopped back against my pillow.
I tried to decide if the bed was really spinning as I listened to him rummage around in the kitchen.
My new apartment was tiny, but I loved it. I’d just moved out of my grandmother’s house a few weeks ago because I’d gotten promoted to manager at the coffee shop I worked in.
I sighed as Zeke walked back into the room. He was so hot. And it wasn’t easy having a best friend like him. Especially not when I wanted to be so much more than just his friend.
“Drink some water, and take these,” he insisted as he sat on the bed and handed me a bottle of water. He put a few more bottles on the bedside table.
I held my hand out unsteadily, and he took it and tucked the aspirin into the palm of my hand.
I took the pills because he seemed to be waiting for me to do it, and then took some healthy slugs out of the water bottle he handed me.
“Drink water as long as you’re awake. Lots of it. I’ll be back in the morning with some food,” he said gruffly.
He’d spent the evening barhopping with me to celebrate my birthday, but he hadn’t had more than one drink himself. As usual, he considered himself my protector, and it was his obligation to see me through my coming of age drinking spree.
I sat up and carefully put the water down as I said, “Did you even hear me say I wanted to have sex with you?”
“I heard you,” he said with humor in his tone. “But I know it’s the alcohol talking.”
I felt his shoulders tense. We were suddenly face-to-face, so close that all I had to do was close the minimal distance between us and I’d finally have his mouth on mine.
I felt his warm breath on my face, and my body shuddered.
Wanting Zeke had become a habit I couldn’t break, and a dream I couldn’t seem to stop coveting.
His blue eyes turned stormy and turbulent as he stared at me. “It’s not happening, Lia. I wanted to take you out to the bars so that I could watch out for you on your birthday. I don’t want this, and neither do you. Being drunk makes everything look different. You won’t feel the same way in the morning. Trust me.”
I closed my eyes as he leaned forward and kissed my forehead, my disappointment flooding through me in waves.
He gently pulled my arms away from him and stood as he grumbled, “Call me if you need me.”
I already needed him, but he’d just firmly and soundly pushed me away. “Okay,” I answered, feeling dejected.
I had no doubt he’d locked up since he had a key, and Zeke was nothing if not thorough in his desire to make sure I was safe.
I flopped back on the pillow again, regretting the abrupt motion because it made me dizzy.
He doesn’t want me back.
I let out a strangled sob, and then another, until I finally cried myself to sleep.
The next morning, Zeke did come back as promised. I was hung over, but I felt better once I’d eaten breakfast.
I think he assumed I didn’t remember, and I certainly didn’t bring it up.
Zeke and I were friends. Good friends. And the line I’d crossed the night before was horrifying.
I had Zeke’s friendship, and because he wanted nothing to do with a more intimate relationship, that was always going to have to be enough.