Home > Man Candy(3)

Man Candy(3)
Author: Melanie Harlow

“You haven’t. I can’t even believe he told you.”

“He felt like he had to. He knew you were upset and felt bad. He also wanted me to know he hadn’t done anything to encourage it and never touched you. Mom and Dad were paying half his college tuition—what was he supposed to do?”

Kiss me back, dammit. Love me back.

Cringing, I recalled the way I had attempted to seduce my brother’s closest friend at their joint graduation party at our house. The horrible details rushed into my mind as if a dam had burst…the wine I drank from a red Solo cup as I worked up the nerve to act on my crush. The artless way I shoved him into the downstairs bathroom and shut the door. The sound of my pounding heart as I pressed my bikini-clad body against him, lifting my lips toward his.

That awkward moment when I realized he wasn’t into it.

Instead, he laughed.

That asshole laughed at me.

“Jaime, what the hell are you doing?” He turned on the light and stared at me, a look of bemused embarrassment on his face. His eyes were so beautiful—the kind of blue that made you shiver.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Bravely, I put my hand on his crotch and felt his dick stir beneath the nylon of his damp swimsuit.

“Jesus. Stop it.” More nervous laughter as he swatted my hand away.

“Why? You don’t want this?” I blinked in confusion. Did he not feel the same pull I did when we were together? For months he’d been looking at me differently, teasing me more than usual, flirting with me in front of other people. Just an hour ago, he’d gotten handsy with me during a game of chicken in the pool—I was positive I’d felt his fingers graze my ass multiple times. Had I misread him?

He looked uncomfortable as he adjusted himself. “Look, you’re like my little sister, and—”

“I’m only a year younger than you,” I said, trying to sidle closer again. “And I’m definitely not your sister.”

Backing away from me, he ran a hand through his dark blond hair, still a little wet from the pool. “Yeah, but…I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

And that’s when I said it.

(Brace yourself.)

“But I love you.”

He blinked. “What?”

“I’m in love with you, Quinn.”

After a moment of stunned silence, during which neither of us blinked, he burst out laughing.

Shame and humiliation coursed through me. “Oh, God. Just forget it. Forget this ever happened.” Without another word, I yanked the door open and ran from the bathroom straight to my bedroom, hot tears burning my eyes. How could I ever face him again?

Lucky for me, I never had to. I didn’t know whether he’d avoided the house (me) on purpose, or whether he was just busy getting ready to leave for school, but a month after that, he left for UNC Chapel Hill without ever showing his face again.

But he hadn’t even lasted a year there, because some model scout “discovered” him—every time I think of it, I roll my eyes—and plastered his stupid perfect face and hot body in catalogs and magazine ads and on shopping bags in stores that ripped off teenagers with overpriced clothes made in China. And he didn’t even wear the clothes in all the pictures! Half the time he was nearly naked—it was ridiculous! (Didn’t stop me from hoarding every one of those catalogs under my bed.)

Eventually, after I went to school and studied marketing, I realized that those pictures weren’t necessarily meant to sell the clothes—they were selling an idea. A lifestyle. A brand.

That was also about the time I learned not to trust anything or anyone that looks too good to be true. Everyone is selling something—and if you’re not selling, you’re buying.

I’d bought enough assholery in my life already.

“Jaims, you there?” Alex sounded a little impatient.

“Yeah, I’m here,” I said. “Sorry.”

“So is it OK?”

I wanted to say no, and Alex had always told me I could have final say over who lived downstairs, but I couldn’t. He barely charged me any rent and always came through with favors for me when I asked. “It’s just one month?”

“One month,” he promised. “And then he’s out. Maybe even less, it just depends on when his new place is ready. You work so much anyway, I bet you’ll barely even see each other.”

“Good.” I turned onto my street and noticed a black BMW with California plates parked at the curb. Lights on in the downstairs flat. “Jesus Christ, Alex…is he here already?”

“Ummm…I gotta go.”

“What were you going to do if I said no?” I grumped, turning into the driveway. At least he hadn’t blocked it. I’d probably have to clear out the other half of the garage and give him the second space, not that I had time to do that. Already he’s inconveniencing me.

“Beg. Listen, I actually do have to run, we have an appointment with the florist that Nolan says I have to show up to, but do me a favor and be civil, OK? You heard about his mom.”

Some of my irritation eased when I thought about his mom. She’d been our housekeeper for as long as I could remember, a single mother who’d also worked nights as a waitress, which left Quinn to fend for himself a lot. Growing up, he’d probably eaten more meals at our house than at his own, although I remember her being a fantastic cook. Our mother, with her graduate degree in biomedical engineering, could hardly boil water, but Mrs. Rusek used to bring over delicious homemade soups and bread and meatballs and pierogies, maybe because she felt guilty about how much time Quinn spent at our house.

   
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