Thou shall not covet her best friend’s boyfriend.
I never had a problem following that rule until I met Logan Jacobs. Now, it seems it’s a rule I can’t stop breaking. Take right now, for instance. I’m dancing with Logan in the packed nightclub in the hopes that the creep who keeps hitting on me will back off. It should be an innocent dance. And it is – from Logan’s side. But from mine? My heart races every time our eyes meet. I enjoy the feel of his hands on my hips too much. Then, there’s the heat that stirs low in my belly every time I imagine pressing my body against his.
I’m attracted to Logan, and I’ve never felt worse about anything in my life.
Logan looks over my shoulder and smiles. I don’t need to turn around to know that he’s smiling at my best friend. Not only is Logan gorgeous – a blond Adonis in the flesh – but he’s also smart. Smart enough to know that my best friend in the entire world is the complete package. Finally, Kristy found one of the good guys. And I think that’s what I like most about Logan; the way he treats my friend. The way he adores her. Seeing the way Logan and Kristy act together makes me long for a deeper connection than I’ve experienced before.
Makes me long for him.
I keep smiling and dancing with Logan, waiting for Kristy to join us, but I stop moving as soon as she walks up to us and I see the expression on her face. She’s staring at Logan and me as though we just ripped her heart out.
“Kristy!” I take my hands off Logan and step away from her man. “Logan said you were looking for me. Sorry, I was dancing with some douche who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. When I saw Logan, I asked him to dance with me so the guy would leave me alone. I hope you don’t mind.”
Without any encouragement or provocation on my part, her past two boyfriends both made a pass at me, so perhaps the hurt and insecurity in her expression are to be expected. But it doesn’t make the betrayal she feels any less shocking or hurtful. I can understand why she’s challenged to trust Logan, but she should trust me. Even if I do have feelings for Logan, and I was just fantasizing about him, I would never let anything happen between him and I. He could be the last man on earth, and I’d never touch him. Not when my friendship with Kristy is at stake. I value her friendship above everything else. She’s the only person who matters to me, and she should know that.
After a moment, Kristy breathes a sigh and nods. Thank God. She remembers I’m on her side – that she’s my rock and I’m hers. At least, I used to be her rock. Now, I suspect that honour belongs to Logan.
“It’s fine,” she says, putting her hand on my arm to reassure me. “But are you okay? I saw Alfie dancing with someone else.”
I tear my eyes away from her to look at Alfie. My ex-fiancé as of tonight. Not that Kristy knows his new status in life just yet. Our break-up happened half an hour after we arrived at the club. Watching Alfie dancing with a girl in a too-tight skirt and top, his hands roaming over her hips, butt and thighs, I wish I felt something more than a brief stab of disappointment. Unfortunately, my feelings for Alfie – like every man I’ve dated before him – are apathetic at best.
Did I want to believe it could be different with Alfie? That I could let myself go and surrender to the madness of falling in love? Yes, but that was because for a short time I thought we might be having a baby together. Before the plane had even touched down in Melbourne, I knew him leaving Italy to come home with me had been a mistake. I should have told him then that I’d changed my mind about our relationship, but I was weak. And then he was company for me while Kristy spent time with Logan.
I lift a shoulder and smile at Kristy, showing her I’m not hurt. “Easy come, easy go. He’s free to play.”
Her warm blue eyes are full of concern and confusion. “But, Jess, you’re engaged!”
“Don’t worry about it, K. Alfie and I…It’s over between us, and I’m okay with that.” I look between her and Logan and smile. “We never had what you guys have.”
“I don’t understand, Jess. He came to Australia with you. I thought you were going to get married. I thought this was the real deal for you.”
Disappointment clouds her gaze as she studies me. I know she’s not disappointed in me, just for me. Still, her disappointment chafes. Kristy knows me better than anyone. She knows that companionship and sex are the only things that interest me about the opposite sex. Well, they were before I met Logan. After observing the intimacy that he shared with Kristy, I wanted to experience it. And sadly, I wanted to experience it with him.
I give Kristy the most reassuring smile I can muster. “Things with Alfie are complicated, but it was a mistake to think we could make it work. I’ll explain it all later. Right now, I just want to dance for a bit. Let loose.”
Seeing Kristy’s worried expression, I wink at her and walk away. I head straight for the bar, in need of a drink. I’ve never been one to knock them back. After all, one doesn’t receive the high-profile modelling jobs I do with a reputation as a party girl, but tonight I want the lift a sweet, girly cocktail can give me.
I politely turn down the three different men at the bar who offer to buy me a beverage and instead pay for my own. Drink in hand, I turn back to watch Logan and Kristy dance together again.
The way he looks at her, touches her, loves her…
The two of them are lost in each other, their heads full of each other. I feel slightly voyeuristic as I stand there watching them, but I can’t look away. Their feelings are like a magnet, drawing my gaze. What does it feel like to be so wrapped up in someone that nothing else matters but them? Have I done the wrong thing by keeping every man at a distance? If Logan and I had met first, would he have been like that with me?
“Kristy needs to watch her back, doesn’t she?”
Whipping around, I see Logan’s best friend standing less than a foot away from me. Adam Granger’s navy blue gaze fills with disgust as his eyes lock with mine. The same confusion and anxiousness I always feel in his presence makes me want to turn tail and run. I’m always in control. Cool, calm, and collected. Nobody gets beneath my skin, but Adam comes close. There’s something about the way he looks at me, as though he can see my deepest, darkest secrets and despises me for them, that completely unnerves me. It’s as if he can’t stand the sight of me.
The last time I spotted him in the crowded club, he was dancing with a small waisted, big breasted brunette, who had her body plastered to his. I wish that he was still dancing with her instead of standing here glaring at me.
Ready to get this confrontation finished, I hold his gaze and pretend I’m completely unperturbed by his sudden appearance. “What are you talking about, Adam?”
He shakes his head, as though he can’t believe I’m asking. “You’re clearly into Logan. But he’s with Kristy, so you need to stop chasing what’s not yours and leave the two of them alone.”
Adrenaline and fear surge through me as his words crash over me and I realise he knows. He knows I’m attracted to Logan.
I thought I’d covered my feelings well enough, but Adam seems to see right through me, despite the fact I avoid him as much as I can. Then again, maybe I should have expected him to see what others haven’t. Adam is a hot-shot radio personality, with a reputation for his intelligent and keen observations of life, as well as his edgy interviews with celebrities. He gets paid for speaking him mind and revealing people’s secrets, but he doesn’t know me – has made it clear he doesn’t want to get to know me – and I’m not a guest on his show. He can’t talk to me like that.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” I tell him with false confidence.
“I’m not an idiot, Jess. The way you were looking at him while you were dancing with him was a dead giveaway. Plus, you’re always staring at him. Even though you’ve got your pretty boy from Italy here.”
Denial is hot on my tongue, but I don’t want him to know just how rattled he has me.
“And you would know that, how? Have you been staring at me the whole time?” I bat my eyelids, deflecting with a fake charm that I hope will annoy him into walking away. “Have you been watching me, Adam?”
His expression darkens, thunderclouds hovering in his eyes. I know he’s not into me at all, but it’s amusing to see how downright disgusted he looks by the idea. At least, it would be amusing if he didn’t look capable of wrapping his hands around my neck and squeezing.
“I’m worried about Kristy. That’s the reason I’ve been watching you.”
“You don’t need to be worried. I’d never do anything like that.”
“But you want him, don’t you?”
He takes a step towards me, his eyes flashing dangerously. He’s never been this close to me before, and I’m only now realising that he’s taller than I thought. 6’3 at least, maybe 6’4. His long dark brown hair is a gelled mess, instead of hanging all over his forehead. It adds to his height, making me feel dwarfed, an unusual occurrence considering I’m 5’10 and a half – taller in heels. I stare at his angular jaw, full lips, and high cheekbones, startled to discover he’s got a face that would be better suited to television rather than radio.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say breathlessly.
“You can’t even be honest about it. You disgust me.”
“Your opinion of me matters very little, Adam.”
“You’ve been treated differently to others because you’re beautiful. Now you believe you’re above everyone else.”
I swallow hard at the hatred be I swallow hard at the hatred behind the words and wonder which beautiful woman yanked his heart out and turned him into a giant douche. I’ve met men like Adam before – men who hate the opposite sex because of a bad experience. But they warmed up to me eventually. Everyone warms up to me. Everyone, that is, except for Adam. His comment is personal. And I’m not sure how to deal with it or why I even care. Maybe it’s because he’s Logan’s best friend, or maybe it’s because he’s the first person who has ever truly disliked me.
I swallow hard at the hatred behind the words and wonder which beautiful woman yanked his heart out and turned him into a giant douche. I’ve met men like Adam before – men who hate the opposite sex because of a bad experience. But they warmed up to me eventually. Everyone warms up to me. Everyone, that is, except for Adam. His comment is personal. And I’m not sure how to deal with it or why I even care. Maybe it’s because he’s Logan’s best friend, or maybe it’s because he’s the first person who has ever truly disliked me.
Whatever the reason, I’m not about to let him know his hatred bothers me.
“You have a problem with beautiful women, Adam?” I ask. I stand on my tip-toes, bringing our faces closer together, trying to raise myself up to his level and pretend he doesn’t intimidate me. “Did some cheerleader ditch you at prom and now you have a vendetta against us all?”
His eyes harden. “You don’t know anything about me, princess. Don’t pretend for a moment that you do.”
“You don’t know me, either.”
“I know your type. You’re the kind of woman who uses her looks to cover up her biggest flaw.”
“And what, pray tell, is my biggest flaw?” I don’t want to know what he thinks. Truly I don’t, and yet the question rolls off my tongue before I can clap a hand over my mouth.
“Ugliness.” He pauses for a moment to let the word sink right in. “I see you for who you are. The exterior is all glossy, but underneath that you’re painfully unattractive.”
I choke on his words, my breath locking up in my lungs as I stare at him. My heels thud to the floor. No one has ever spoken to me like that before, let alone said something so awful.
Finally, he steps away from me, and I try and inhale a large gulp of air, but the pain in my chest inhibits it as I repeat his words over and over in my head.
“Stay away from my friends, princess,” Adam says. “Leave them alone, or you’ll wish you never met me.”
His friends? Logan and Kristy are my friends, too. And I’m never letting go of Kristy.
I smile at him sweetly, praying my smile isn’t as wobbly as it feels. My hands won’t stop shaking, and my body is trembling from the words we’ve exchanged. “I already do, Adam. Don’t worry about that.”
I down the rest of my drink and walk back to the bar, signalling I want another cocktail. As I put the glass down on the bar, my hands are still shaking.
I hate that. He shouldn’t have any power over me, and yet every time we’re in the same room together, I find myself desperately trying to avoid him. I hate that I let him get to me – that his words bother me so much. I hate that he tears at the carefully constructed self-control that I always have in place, and that his words hurt.
The only person who matters to me is Kristy. Her opinion is the only one that’s important.
The bottom falls out of my stomach as I imagine Adam telling Kristy she has to watch her back. What if she believes him?
I don’t want to believe she will, but the look on her face when she saw me dancing with Logan…well, it makes me think she might. And I can’t bear the thought. I’ve never seen her as happy as she is now. Hearing that I desire Logan would ruin it for her. She’ll doubt Logan’s faithfulness, even though the man is one-hundred percent devoted to her. She’ll be on the lookout all the time, waiting for something to happen between him and me, waiting for him to pick me over her because her last two boyfriends did.
I can’t allow that to happen.
Yesterday, I was offered a job by my agent – a role on a new game show in the UK. I turned it down because my experience in television is limited, and because I didn’t want a long-term role I another country. I’ve never been away from Kristy for more than a few months at a time, and if the show was successful I could be away from her for much longer than that. I hate the idea of leaving her for more than a few months, but right now I’m starting to think that leaving is what I need to do.
It couldn’t hurt to give myself some time to get past this attraction I feel towards Logan, could it?
“Or you’ll wish you never met me.”
Adam’s threat spins around in my head, gathering so much speed and momentum my head feels like it’s going to explode.
If I go to London, maybe Adam will forget about what he thinks he saw and keep his mouth shut. I hate the idea of giving into his threats, but the alternative – Kristy’s unhappiness – is not an option for me. When I was sixteen and had no one else, she was there for me. She’s always been there for me. She deserves to be happy.
Before Logan moved in next door to her and turned her life upside down, I might have worried about her being lonely while I’m gone. But she isn’t alone anymore. The house I share with Kristy – the lease – it will need to be worked out. Maybe she’ll move in with Logan. Maybe he’ll move in with her. Whatever she wants to do is fine. She’s thriving with Logan, and she’s never needed me less. Who cares if I need her? Who cares if I’ll miss her more than anything?
As I watch her smile up at Logan, I know in my heart that I’m making the right choice. It’s time for me to leave Australia again.