Forever (This)(5)

By: J.B. McGee



He glances away. “I know. See. Mood ruined at the mere mention of his name. Which way to your kitchen?”

I point to my right, his left. “It’s right through there. Why?”

“Please tell me you have some liquor in there.”

“Ha. I’m more of a wine person.”

“So, no liquor?”

“A little early to be drinking, isn’t it?” There’s nothing sexy about a drunk man. In fact, I won’t have one.

“It’s not for me. It’s for you.”

“Sorry. What?”

He glances over his shoulder. “We’re going to do a shot. You’re so much easier to reason with once you’ve had a little alcohol. At least you were that day at the club.”

The day I found out Bradley had told Gabby about our deadbeat, drunk, abusive father living in Atlanta. Except, he’s apparently only that type of father for us. He’d managed to get his life together for his new family. My car seemed to have driven itself to Joe’s club. He does some private investigator work on the side, and Bradley had hired him to look into Gabe, my father. Gabe owns a coffee shop Gabby had been studying at. Gabby had gone missing when she was told about Gabe being right under her nose all that time, and my head was a clusterfuck. But I was mainly pissed at Gabe for bringing all the drama back into my life. The visit to Joe’s had backfired in my face. My quest for answers had resulted in more questions because it was the first time my body responded to him.

I blamed the growing warmth that coursed through me on the liquor.

His arms flex beneath the cotton of his black T-shirt as he reaches above the fridge to open the cabinet. My neck heats, then my cheeks. My pulse starts to beat in my ears.

Clearly it was not the liquor that day at the bar.

My body leans against the doorway. “Joe, no amount of alcohol is going to change my mind about my decision. It’s moving day. Besides…”

He looks back at me, a smirk on his face. “Besides…?”

“I don’t drink this early in the morning. My father. He was a drunk, which you already know.” His smirk is erased and replaced with a frown. “I’ve never wanted to need alcohol as soon as I wake up.”

He closes the cabinet. “Who said anything about you needing it?”

“You know what I mean.”

He nods. “Yeah. I get it. I also get fucked up parental situations.”

We’ve talked about a lot of things, but not a lot about his family other than the dynamic between him and his brother. “Do you?”

He pulls a chair out, turns it around, and straddles it. His arms drape around the back, and he’s panty melting sexy. But this is Joe. He knows he exudes sexiness. He’s used to women falling at his feet. He’s probably doing this on purpose. This is his version of Operation Change Sam’s Mind. Right down to arriving early so he’d have alone time with me. I would smile, but even if it’s some covert mission of his, I like that he’s about to open up to me in a way he’s never done before.

“Yeah. Ryan’s always been the prodigal son. He had the best grades, the most clubs. You know in the yearbook your senior year how they list all your accomplishments beside your senior picture?”

I nod. Mine was one of the longest entries.

“Well, they had to cut stuff back on his because there was so much. Mine had nothing but sports stuff.” He shrugs. “Which I couldn’t have cared two fucks about. Ryan went to undergrad, then to med school. I got decent enough grades to get into Clemson. That’s where I met Bradley, you know.”

“Right.”

“But anyway, even though I was the best athlete and a decent student, it was never good enough for my father, and my mother never did anything to stick up for me. Ryan and I would fight, and they’d always side with him. Eventually, I quit caring what they thought.” He looks down at the ground. “I was determined to embarrass them as much as possible. It’s like being myself was never enough for them.”

My heart feels like it’s salt water taffy being stretched and pulled in different directions by hooks. “Joe…”

“I decided to live my life for me and no one else. And doing that, I found happiness and true friends because I was true to myself.”

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