Trust (Wrong #3)

But Chloe loves it, and I love her so I’m willing to do what it takes to spend the day with her.

Dating is basically three hours of talking to a stranger, which is stupid, right? I don’t enjoy that. I mean who enjoys that? Who? Who are those people? It’s weird. Dating is weird.

Did you have somewhere else you needed to be?” I ask, deflecting the question.

“Yes,” she says. But it’s lacking truth and comes out a little sullenly.

“Where? Is there a murder marathon on TV this afternoon, safety girl?”

“No!” she says. But she says it too quickly and fidgets in her seat.

“Holy shit, there is, isn’t there? You’re so weird.” She’s amazing.

“It’s a Criminal Minds marathon, jerk,” she retorts and this conversation starts to make sense. I’m competing with a fucking television show.

“So you wanted to get home to watch reruns, is what you’re telling me?”

“Fine,” she huffs. “I guess I can watch reruns another time.”

“Thanks,” I say drily. “That’s big of you.”

“You’re welcome,” she replies and I’m honestly not sure if she’s being snarky or serious

Do you have a washer and dryer in this place?” He pauses by my front door and glances around. “I didn’t think so. Let’s go.” And he opens the door and walks out.

What. The. Hell?

“Boyd!” I chase him into the hallway. He’s already two doors down by the time I catch up. “You can’t just steal my laundry. It’s weird. And kinda creepy.”

“I think the words you’re looking for are, ‘Thank you.

Everything with Chloe is more fun. Donuts and shopping and traveling on the candy plane—it’s all better when she’s around. Errand-running and laundry and hours spent at a flea market. I’ll take it. Because I know that every day I spend with Chloe is the best day of my life.

Go away.” I stick my elbow in his ribs and force him to step back. “Sit on the couch and keep your hands to yourself,” I instruct, then follow him to the sofa and grab my Dating and Sex for Dummies books off the coffee table and shove them into my sock drawer while he laughs. “You’re making me miss my show,” I gripe as I toss things into the suitcase.

“Your show? You sound like you’re eighty.” He glances at the TV behind me then back to me. “Murder on Mason Lane,” he says. “It was the neighbor. She was committing Medicare fraud using the victim’s deceased wife’s information. He caught on so she killed him.”

I gasp. “You spoiler! You spoiling spoiler who spoils!” Then I shrug. “This is a new episode. You don’t even know that. It’s the daughter. She killed him. I’ve had her pegged since the first commercial break.”

“You’re cute.”

“Just you wait,” I tell him, very satisfied with myself. I’m really good at guessing whodunnit.

“Sorry, you murder nerd, I worked on this case two years ago. It’s the neighbor.”

“Really?” I drop my makeup bag into the suitcase and check to see if he’s teasing me.

“I swear. I’ll tell you all the good shit the show left out once we’re on the plane.”

I survey Boyd with interest. I do have a lot of questions. “I thought you were in cyber crimes, not murder.”

“Murder isn’t a department,” he replies, shaking his head at me.

“You know what I mean.”

“Most crimes have a cyber component to them these days. There’s always a cyber trail.”

Shit, that’s hot.

Have I mentioned how much I like his eyelashes?

He’s probably into crazy shit like having sex with the lights on.

Hey, do you know why Adele crossed the road?”

“Nope.”

“To say hello from the other side.

I guess she’s about a month old now, isn’t she?” I calculate as Sophie sets our beverages down and sits next to me at the table.

“Yeah,” she says. But her tone implies something else and the skin between her eyebrows wrinkles in the slightest way. “Almost a month,” she amends in a rush. “In two days. She’s twenty-eight days old now.” Then she blows out a long breath and shakes her head before meeting my eyes. “I’m one of those moms, Boyd. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to be. But I’m clearly on a path there. I’m that mom who’s going to tell you her kid is forty-nine months old when all you wanted to hear is that she’s four.” She shakes her head again and rolls her eyes to the ceiling. “It’s so embarrassing.

I nod to Boyd to follow me towards Sophie’s room. Her room is only a few doors down from the elevator, but it feels like a really long walk with Boyd behind me. His shoes click against the linoleum floor while mine make the occasional squeak. Am I breathing weirdly? I think I’m breathing weirdly. I wonder how ridiculous these leggings look from behind. I remind myself to look in the mirror when I get home just so I have a clear mental image of this moment to torment myself with.

“Is this going to be our thing now?” he asks.

“Donuts?” I ask, confused, glancing at him behind me.

His eyes move to my leggings-covered ass and he laughs. “No, awkward meetings.”

“Why are you dressed like that?” I blurt out, then slap my hand over my mouth.

“Excuse me?” he replies, brows raised.

“Nothing.”

“No, I think you had a question about my clothing?” he says, glancing down at his suit and then back to me. He takes a moment to run his eyes over my donut leggings before meeting my eyes.

“I teach the second grade!” I protest, in defense.

“I catch criminals,” he retorts. “What’s wrong with my suit?”

“The federal government cannot be paying you enough to dress like James Bond.”

“So you like the way I look,” he clarifies with a confident smirk.

“Obviously,” I say, then catch myself and add a sarcastic, “Not,” to the end. What is wrong with me? Why am I behaving like a bitch? If I had any idea what I was doing with men I’d be doing it right now, not insulting him. I pause in front of Sophie’s door and turn to him. “Thank you for going along with me back there,” I say, referring to my fib to Everly about not having met him previously. “I love Everly, but she’s a little…” I trail off.

“Nuts. The girl is nuts,” he says. “But it’s fine.

I text her from the lobby and tell her I’m on my way up. Having a badge is a really convenient way to get past building security. Not that this place has much.

She’s standing in the open doorway of her apartment when I get off the elevator, hand on her hip with her head cocked to the side in question. “I brought donuts,” I offer by way of explanation for showing up unannounced.

“Did you need a favor or something?” she asks, taking the box from my hands and setting it on the tiny round dining table just inside the door of her apartment. Not a promising start, but she does allow me to follow her inside.

“I just brought you a favor,” I comment then eye her. “Do you own any pants?” She’s wearing another pair of those godforsaken leggings.

“What are you talking about? I’m wearing pants right now. And how does this count as a favor when I didn’t ask for it? It shouldn’t count towards my favor tally if I didn’t make the official request.” She pops open the donut box and peeks inside. “You’re like the worst genie ever.”

“I know. But your favors are piling up. I gotta work them off. And those aren’t pants.”

“Leggings are pants. They’re very popular.”

“What the hell is even on them?” I step closer and eye her ass, focusing on the print. Purely for research purposes. “Are those black cats?”

“They’re my seasonal leggings!” she retorts and selects a donut as I walk past her into the tiny aisle of a kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee.

“Oh. Did you want something to drink? Let me get that for you,” she says sarcastically before biting into a donut.

I ignore her tone. “No, no. I’ve got it, thank you.” I take the mug and pass by her, taking a seat on her couch

I wasn’t interested in Everly’s matchmaking. College was for studying, preparing for the future. Plus Everly thinks with her heart, not her head, and where did that ever get anyone? I mean, yes, she did marry a billionaire who’s crazy in love with her… okay, never mind, my point sucks. But I’m not Everly. Flying by the seat of your pants and thinking with your heart works for girls like Everly, but not for girls like me.

Let’s see it,” Boyd calls from outside the dressing room.

“How do you know I like this one enough to come out?”

“Because you’ve been in the same dress for five minutes and you’re wearing pretend heels,” he answers drily.

Wait. I fling open the door. “Are you watching me under the fitting room door? That’s kind of pervy.”

He smiles slowly. “All I can see are your feet to mid calf.”

“Maybe you have a foot fetish.

Oh, a Container Store,” I gush upon seeing the organizational store.

“Does that get you all hot and bothered, Chloe? Did you want to stop?”

“Shut up,” I say as we cross the street. “Maybe later.

Sit.” The stadium officer points to a chair. There’s a table with two chairs on one side and one on the other. There’s even a surveillance window on the wall, like an episode of Law & Order. This has got to be a joke.

I sit. What else am I supposed to do? Make a run for it? I’m not a run-for-it kind of girl. Besides, I’ve done nothing wrong. I am not a criminal. I’m a second-grade teacher. Maybe something awful happened to Cal? Maybe he tripped and hit his head. Stadium seating involves a lot of stairs. Or maybe he got shanked while in line for a cheesesteak. With a plastic knife. It happens. I think I saw it once on TV. What if they need me to provide medical information? I don’t know any medical information about Cal, I’ve met the guy twice

So, how’s the dating going?” Everly asks. “Have you gotten any more POD’s?”

“What’s a POD?” I ask her, confused.

“Proof of dick,” Everly says with a nod when we all stare at her.

“Is that what it’s called now?” Sophie asks while rubbing the side of her bump with a grimace.

“Not yet,” Everly says while swirling the straw in her glass. “But I’m trying to make it catch on. It’s a little classier than ‘dick pic’, don’t you think?” She takes a sip of her iced tea and then sets the glass down, brows raised as we all stare at her. “What?”

“How exactly are you intending to make it catch on?”

“I’m so glad you asked, Chloe. The thing is, I’m married, so no one is sending me POD’s anymore,” she begins.

“Right,” I agree. “I would hope not.”

“But you, my friend, are still dating, so I thought you could—”

“No,” I interrupt. “No. Stop talking.”

“All you need to do,” she continues anyway, “is reply to the dick pics you get and say, ‘Nice POD.’ Or even, ‘Nice POD, LOL.’”

“Nope, not doing it. I am not going to encourage dick pics so you can coin a new phrase. No.”

“Okay, no problem,” she says with a shrug. She’s quiet for exactly three seconds before her mouth opens again. “How about, ‘Why are you sending me a POD?’ That way you’re still delivering the branding message, but without the encouragement.”

I stuff a forkful of pasta into my mouth, glare at Everly and shake my head no.

Sophie’s the first one of us to have a baby, even though Everly has a five-year-old son, Jake. Everything is happening so fast. Well, for my friends anyway. Sophie met Luke last fall during our senior year at Penn. She was pregnant and married before graduation. Everly met Sawyer last Thanksgiving and they were married over the summer. Sawyer’s son from a previous relationship lives with them full-time and Everly adapted to insta-motherhood better than anyone could have expected. She’s working on a children’s book series about blended families now. Weird, I know. I always assumed she’d write porn. And then there’s Sandra; she’s a few years older than us. Sandra works for Everly’s husband and quickly became a part of our friendship circle, or squad, as Everly prefers we call it. Sandra started dating Gabe at the beginning of the year and was living with him by summer.

That leaves me.

Chloe Scott. Third wheel, or seventh wheel in this case.

So what did you think of Boyd?”

“What?” My head snaps up from the baby and I glance at Sophie. Am I that bad a liar?

“Boyd? My brother? You met him at the hospital on Monday?”

Oh, okay, whew. “He seemed nice,” I offer. I’m not sure why. ‘Nice’ isn’t really at the top of my descriptive words for Boyd Gallagher. Words like ‘gorgeous,’ ‘cocky,’ ‘nosy,’ ‘fit,’ ‘sophisticated,’ ‘chiseled’ and ‘resourceful’ come to mind. But ‘nice’ works too.

Everly seems to think the two of you would be good together,” she says, trying to dig into my thoughts on the subject.

“Yes, well, Everly also spent fifteen years thinking she and Finn Camden were a perfect match. You can’t always believe her.”

“True enough,” Sophie agrees with a laugh.

Thanks for helping me get the bookcase home,” I offer as we walk. I’m not sure why we’re still together. Why he wanted to have lunch, offered to let me do his laundry at his place.

“No problem. Gotta work off those favors I owe you, right?”

Favors? “How many favors do you owe me?”

“Two.”

“Two?”

“Yeah. It was three, but I paid one off with the bookcase. So two.”

“When did we decide you owed me three favors?” This guy totally does math like a government employee.

“Didn’t we?” He looks totally nonplussed with his bad accounting of favors. “We’re here.

The door opens and a man walks in. Not the stadium security who brought me here, someone new. He’s in jeans and a gray long-sleeved t-shirt. The shirt is fitted. Fitted quite nicely, I can’t help but notice. Dude’s got some guns under that shirt. Guns? What the heck is wrong with me? I’m spending too much time with seven-year-olds.

Then I stare at him for a while trying to determine what he wants.

And if I want to give it to him.

And then I start to panic a little. What if he wants to have an awkward conversation? Like more awkward than me? Or ask me about my sexual history? Or if I cheated on my third-grade spelling test in Mrs. Kallam’s class?

Okay, I admit that last one is a little specific and not likely to come up. But I’m still a little ashamed of myself for doing it.

“Would you rather eat stale pretzels or stale Cheetos?”

“What?” I look at him, not sure I heard him correctly. He tilts his head in a nod, like, ‘you heard me correctly,’ but repeats the question.

“Um, stale pretzels, I guess.”

“Go a week without the internet or a week without coffee?”

Oh, we’re playing the ‘would you rather’ game. “Internet.” I smile. “I think. Wait maybe the coffee? No, the internet.”

“Play Quidditch or use the invisibility cloak for a day?”

“You did not just Harry Potter me.”

“I did.”

“Well, I’m not sure that’s even answerable.” I shake my head and groan a little. “Who wouldn’t want to play Quidditch? But the invisibility cloak, wow.” I sigh, a dreamy expression on my face.

Boyd just stares as if he’s not moving on until I answer.

“Quidditch.” I finally relent.

“Why?”

“It looks like fun. Plus the invisibility cloak is basically spying, right? And I don’t really need to spy on anyone so it would be a waste.”

“No point in being wasteful,” he agrees.

“Plus I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I’d be really good at Quidditch.” And I can’t help it. This tidbit comes out a little smugly. Boyd lasts two seconds before laughing at me.

Then I wonder if I’m crazy to even let my thoughts wander there in the first place. Boyd is freaking amazing. Hot. Wealthy. Incredible in bed. He volunteers with children, for crying out loud. He’s practically perfect in every way. Like Mary Poppins. If Mary Poppins was an attractive thirty-two-year-old man with magic sex skills and an interest in me.

He cannot be interested in me. In what I want. Which is not casual. What we’re doing right now—the sex and the hanging out—is fun. And I’m enjoying myself. Anyone would. But if we keep doing this I’m going to fall in love with him and then I’ll want more. Or I’ll freak out and need to breathe into a paper bag, hard to tell with me.

The table is silent again while we mull that over. Then Sophie reminds us that she dated a gay guy for two years.

“Dating sucks,” I conclude.

“I got kicked out a guy’s apartment once,” Everly offers as her contribution to dating horror stories.

“You broke into his apartment, Everly. You stole his key and broke in. You’re his dating horror story, not the other way around,” I remind her while Sophie and Sandra laugh.

“Minor detail, Chloe.

Wait.

Is he mad at me? Oh, heck, no.

Because I’m mad at him.

And really, is there anything more annoying than someone who’s mad at you when you’re the one who’s supposed to be mad? No. No, there is not.

Was it as scary for you as it is for me? Falling for Sawyer?”

“Not really, no.” She shakes her head. “I’m sure I had some of the same worries, everyone does. But I’m a leaper. You’re a thinker. We process things differently.”

“You didn’t have a panic attack and run away?” I ask sarcastically.

“No,” she muses. “Not even that time he refused to have sex with me.”

“That was your first date, Everly. And you did have sex,” I remind her. I know, because I heard about it for a week.

“Whew.” She blows out a breath. “It was a tough few hours though. How is Boyd’s POD by the way? Can we talk about that?” She leans forward on the couch, looking at me expectantly.

“Um, no. I don’t think so.”

She shrugs good-naturedly then changes the subject back to me. “Chloe, why didn’t you tell me you were struggling with your anxiety? You know I’m never too busy for you, no matter how many husbands or children I have.”

“You have one husband, babe,” Sawyer says, walking into the room at that moment.

“You’re still the one, baby.”

“We’ve been married for three months, Everly. I sure as hell better still be the one.”

“Sawyer,” she sighs. “I was trying to have a moment, okay? Work with me.”

“Next time, try waiting more than a day after downloading Shania Twain’s greatest hits to your iPod. You do realize the receipts come to my email, don’t you?”

“Um.” Everly looks away and scrunches her nose. “No?”

“You’ve been on quite the 90’s love ballads kick this week. Which is weird, because you’re not old enough to have owned the CD’s those songs were originally released on.” He looks at her with amused interest.

“What’s a CD?” She blinks at Sawyer dramatically.

“Cute. Keep it up.”

“Nineties music is all the rage with the millennials,” she tells him with a shrug. “I saw a blog post about it.”

“Don’t worry, sweets. We’ll beat the odds together.” He winks and she scowls. “You’re still the only one I dream of,” he calls as he walks into the kitchen and grabs a bottle of water.

“See! I don’t even care that you lifted that from a song. It still gave me all the feels!

We should break up,” she says. “I’m a disaster. I’ll fuck everything up. I always fuck it up.” Her voice is distressed and she looks like she’s on her way to hyperventilating. “And you’ll leave. Everyone leaves. And I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You can’t break up with me. We’re not dating,” I reply calmly and cross over to her, taking her hand so she’ll stop twisting the hell out of her hair.

“Oh.” She exhales in an audible puff as she tilts her head back to look at me. She swallows. “I can’t?”

“Nope.”

“Then what are we doing? Why are you so nice to me? You’re always so freaking nice to me, Boyd. And attentive. And good in bed. And—”

“We’re just Chloe-and-Boyding.” I cut her off before she gets any more worked up.

“Chloe-and-Boyding?”

“Yes,” I say then brush my lips along the shell of her ear. “Trust me, Chloe.” I give her a gentle push back, because I’m not above distracting her with sex. Not one bit. I lie on the bed beside her and pull her to me. “And you can’t go when there are so many fucks I haven’t given you yet, Chloe. I’d like to give you all the fucks.”

“All the fucks?” The tension eases from her body and her eyes flare, but in excitement instead of panic.

“All of them. The bossy fuck.” I slip my hand under the hem of her shirt and lift it up and over her head. “The rough fuck.” She lifts her hips as I grip the waistband of her leggings and tug. “The shower fuck.” She sucks in a breath at that and swallows. “So many fucks, Chloe.” I brush my lips against her ear. “The dirty talk fuck. The ass play fuck,” I whisper. “Do you want to miss any of those?”

“No.” She shakes her head and flexes her hips against me, already looking to move this forward. “I want all the fucks.”

“Good. Then we’re on the same page. Take off your bra.

We were laughing and then we were kissing and then my slutty leg went rogue and now we’re having pizza.

Yeah. All that is called dating.” She waves a finger in the air. “You’re dating Boyd.”

I think I’m going to throw up.

“You might even be engaged,” Everly continues. “For all you know... Hey, are you pregnant by any chance? Remember how Sophie didn’t know she was pregnant? That might be a thing you can add to your collection of things you don’t know are happening.” Her eyes light up and she places a hand on her chest. “Can I be the godmother?”

“I’m not pregnant.” But I do feel sick.

You cannot be serious.”

“I am.”

“You need another favor?” It’s two weeks after the Vail trip and a week since I saw him last—when I did laundry at his house. And other stuff. “Don’t you still owe me two favors?”

“So I’ll owe you three, which is a big deal. You could cash in three favors for one really big favor.”

Yes. Yes, my mind does instantly detour into the gutter.

“I don’t know,” I mumble.

“Chloe. I’m not even making this up. I really need your help.”

“What is it? I’m not getting on an airplane.”

“Meet me at the book store down the street. At 18th and Walnut.”

“The book store?” I ask, my voice dripping sarcasm. “Really, Boyd? Are you being serious right now or is this one of your weird come-on lines? ‘Oh, Chloe, I’ll do your laundry,’” I purr into the phone in a sexy voice. “‘Chloe, I have an emergency at the book store. Hurry,’” I add in the same tone. “Please, Boyd,” I finish, my voice back to snarky.

He laughs, his voice a throaty chuckle over the phone, and I can picture his smile as he does. I wonder if he shaved today or if he’s sporting the day-old scruff look. “No, this is legitimate. Hurry up.” Then he hangs up on me before I can object again.

What a weirdo.

But I put my shoes on all the same.