Early Monday morning I tiptoe down the hall with just a towel wrapped around my body, slide into my bedroom, and slowly close the door. Once it clicks shut, I release the breath I’m holding, hoping I was quiet enough not to wake Liam.Getting ready while trying not to make any noise is harder than dragging Grandma Dori out of the Lucky Tavern on dart night. Slowly sliding the hangers over the metal bar, I select the easiest and most loose-fitting outfit from the closet. After Austin’s wedding on Saturday with the heat index the highest it’s been in three summers, I’m bloated. Once I’m dressed, I comb through my long blonde hair hoping it air dries enough to throw up in some sort of updo before I leave because a hairdryer is out of the question this morning.I successfully managed to avoid Liam all day yesterday by being out of the house and I don’t plan on running into him today.I make my bed, hang the damp towel off a hook on the back of the door then close my closet after grabbing matching heels. I turn to leave but before I do, walk back over to the bed and slide my hand along the comforter to smooth out a wrinkle. I grip the door handle and turn it slowly, halting at the sound of movement. I hear a groan and the sound of someone using the washroom down the hall without the door closed. My shoulders sag in relief. Denver.I listen as he flushes and sneak a peek to see him walk out of the bathroom still half asleep in a pair of boxers, scratching his junk.Just what every sister wants to see. He walks back into his room and shuts the door. I slide out of the room and tiptoe down the hall as fast as I can, carrying my heels down the stairs into the kitchen area. I place my shoes with my computer bag and purse next to the table by the front door, setting my keys down quietly so I can grab something to eat from the kitchen and go. As I open the fridge door to grab a yogurt, shivers race up my spine with the sound of the front door opening and closing. He’s already up and not fast asleep in his room like I’d hoped.I close the fridge door and turn around.“Aaaahhhh!” I jump back startled to find his big body already leaning against the counter with his arms crossed. Damn him.“Good morning, Savannah,” Liam says, a cocky smirk on his lips. “Stop it.” I peel back the lid of my yogurt, eyeing the spoon drawer that he’s currently blocking. This is exactly why I was trying to sneak out. Liam Kelly is my brother’s best friend, very often the bane of my existence, and unfortunately too hot for my own good. He’s also my landlord for the foreseeable future since the insurance company’s contractor is taking his sweet-ass time fixing my place after the flood.“What?” he asks.“You and that look.”“What look?”I want to scream at him for making this uncomfortable. How many people hook up at weddings? It’s a common occurrence, so there’s nothing special about us messing around after Austin and Holly’s wedding reception.“The look that says you just caught your prey.”“And you think you’re my prey?”“No.” I glance at the drawer again. He follows my vision, his smirk only widening further.His t-shirt is sweaty and clinging to his muscles which means he woke up earlier and left to go work out. Or he could have snuck out while I was in the shower, but he always keeps his door open when he’s not in his bedroom and it was definitely closed. Did he purposely set me up to talk about what happened Saturday night?I glance at the fast food straw on the counter, next to an empty fry container. Denver. But that straw might work for my yogurt.“Do you want to be my prey?” he asks.“No. Why would I?”“You seemed to enjoy it the other night.”I inhale a sharp breath. “That was a mistake. A drunken mistake.”“I wasn’t drunk.”I step forward toward the drawer and jut my hip out. He could be the gentleman and step aside, but he doesn’t.“I don’t think you were drunk either,” he says.I stare into his bright blue eyes then let my gaze drift down his tattoo-covered arms that aren’t hidden by his Smokin’ Guns Tattoo Shop t-shirt. I remember that he shot that same t-shirt out of this handheld cannon blaster at the last Founder’s Day Parade. They were a hit as is everything he does in Lake Starlight. Young and old, the people love him. “It doesn’t matter whether I was or wasn’t. It changes nothing. We’re not…”“Spare me the lecture, I have it memorized.” He pushes off the counter, the blue of his eyes deepening with his anger. I open the drawer, grab a spoon and slam it closed. “What do you want from me?” I whip around to face him. He opens up the paper that was sitting on the counter and takes a seat on a breakfast stool. “Nothing Savannah. That’s your problem. You always think everyone wants something from you.”He’s got to be kidding me. “Because everyone does, Liam. Everyone always wants or needs something from me. Ever since I was nineteen it’s been Bailey Timber or Austin or Grandma Dori or this town. You wanna see the list of people who depend on me?”He continues to read the paper, cool and collected while annoyance grates at me like I’m a chunk of cheese.He has no idea what it’s like to have all the responsibilities of the second oldest Bailey. The one who was chosen to take over the family business. I don’t recognize myself or know who I might’ve become had my parents not died.“I said I don’t want anything,” he says after a minute of me staring daggers into the side of his head.“And you’re lying.” I shove a spoonful of yogurt into my mouth. He lowers the paper. “You’re right. I’m lying. I’d like you to admit that you weren’t drunk on Saturday.”I throw my hands in the air. “Seriously? What does it matter to you?”The paper falls from his hands and he leans back. I soak him in once again pushing back the memories of what it felt like to have his fingers inside of me. “It’d be nice to see you be honest with yourself for once.” “Why? So you’ll feel better? Have you reached the limit on drunk girls to take to your bed?” I heap another spoonful of yogurt into my mouth. His eyes narrow. “You know that’s not what Saturday was.”I clean off the spoon and put it in the dishwasher, throwing my yogurt container away. “What was it then?”I shouldn’t ask. I’m starting a fight I can’t win. I know what it was. We didn’t fall into bed while stripping each other’s clothes off in a drunken haze. We had a heavy make out session and explored one another for hours. His words of praise for my body have repeated in my head for the past twenty-four hours, but I can’t admit that to him because it will only hurt both of us. “If I have to tell you than you’re not worth it.”His words cut deep like he meant them to. Rarely does Liam say anything without thinking it through. It’s where he differs from my brothers. The three of them may be best friends, but Denver and Rome say whatever, whenever without thinking of the consequences. Liam though, he chooses his words wisely and with purpose.“Fine. I need to get to work.” I slide my heels on and swing my bags over my shoulder. “You gotta bear all that weight, right? I mean the success of everything rests on you.” His back is to me and he’s stripped off his t-shirt now and is digging through the fridge.I stand in place, staring at him for a moment. My shoulders fall, my bitchy attitude faltering. I hate that we’re like this.“You just don’t understand… I mean the company and the family. Grandma Dor—”“Don’t second guess Saturday, Sav. I’m a big boy.” He raises his hand in the air. “Have a great day.” Defeat consumes me as I watch him. Wishing I could break the distance, place my hands on his hips and cast a trail of kisses up his back, taste the saltiness of his skin and trace his intricate tattoos with my tongue.Instead I spin on my heel and stomp back to the front door, slamming it shut behind me.Why can’t he just accept the way things have to be?
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