Contains signed paperbacks of the complete Friend Zone Series Special Edition covers by Nicole Blanchard.
Liam was kissing me.
Liam. My best friend.
What the fuck?
“What the fuck?” Andrew echoed.
I pushed Liam away after a long moment and turned my head, unable to process what had happened. His harsh breathing sounded like he’d run a marathon, whereas I seemed to forget how to breathe altogether. The alcohol made my head spin and the repeated sound of Andrew shouting was giving me a headache.
“Can you not?” Liam said. His body vibrated against mine. I chanced a look and would have pulled back if it weren’t for the hand he had pressed against my back. I’d never seen him so furious.
As my body relaxed, he pulled me even closer. He was protecting me, like he had since the day my mother abandoned me with my dying father. My assumption was confirmed when he let go of me to push me behind his back. From the view over his shoulder, I could see Andrew fuming, his face red and his hands fisted at his side.
“Screw you.” Andrew’s voice shook and a vein pulsed at his temple.
“Just go, man,” Liam snapped. “We’re done here.”
Andrew’s eyes turned cold, determined. “Not even close.”
Liam kept me tucked behind him until Andrew pushed his way through the crowd, then he turned and cupped my face with both hands. “God, I’m sorry. You okay?”
“Well, I guess you were right,” I mumbled.
His thumbs traced my cheeks in one last lingering touch and then he pulled me away from the curious crowd to a pair of empty bar stools. He tugged me onto one and braced an arm on the bar. We were sitting so close I could hear him above the music and shouted conversations. It reminded me of how it felt when his body was pressed against mine and I shivered.
“About what?” he asked. His lips glistened in the glow of strobe lights. I’d never paid attention to them before, but now I knew what they felt like. I couldn’t help but wonder, despite everything, what it’d be like to feel them on mine again.
I shook my head at the memory of his heat wrapped around me. The kiss was a way to get Andrew to back off. That’s all. “That I break their hearts. I never would have done this here if I’d known he would cause such a scene.”
He scowled. “Don’t apologize for that dipshit. He’s only upset because he knows what he’s missing.”
I sniffled and wiped at my eyes. I was not going to cry. “He wasn’t going to propose. Didn’t you hear? I’m not good enough for his perfect family. I don’t know why I keep dating. It’s a good thing I’m leaving after this semester.”
Liam straightened. “You’re what?”
All I wanted was to go home—not the little apartment I rented near school—but home, where Liam and I grew up. It’s funny, my mom had run out on us when dad got sick when I was thirteen and I’d always promised myself I’d never turn out like her. I guess some things run in the family.
“I was going to tell you later, but I got offered an opportunity to volunteer overseas. They need nurses to give vaccines, run free clinics. That sort of thing.”
He rocked back on his stool and rubbed a hand over his face. “Wow, Charlie, that’s great.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry I dragged you into all this. Next time, I’ll make sure to find another place to break up.”
His gaze met mine. “Next time?” Was it a trick of the dim lighting or was he upset?
The heat in his eyes prompted the memory of the kiss. I had to knock it out of my brain before all I could do when I was around him was think about kissing him. “Well, probably not since there’s no point in dating if I’m leaving soon anyway.” At his silence, I kept babbling. “Anyway, thank you for jumping in. Kissing me was probably a better choice than punching him and getting fired. He was so sure you and I had something going behind his back, so it must have pissed him off something bad. Joke’s on him though, right?” I attempted a smile, but I could only muster up a grimace. This was why friends never kissed. It made everything awkward as hell. I could only hope our friendship would survive it.
He looked away and eased himself back. “A joke. Right.”
Friends to Lovers, Roommates to Lovers, Close Proximity, New Adult, Small Town
Family illness, graphic sex