He runs his hands down his face before letting out an exhaustive sigh. Turning around, he starts back into his house. “Where the hell are you going?” I ask, stepping forward and grabbing the door. This conversation isn’t over until I fucking end it. I follow him inside, stopping at the end of the hallway that dumps out into the kitchen. He emerges from the fridge with two beers.
“Here. I sure as hell need one of these and maybe if you have one you won’t be so inclined to murder me on my porch.” He places my beer on the counter and leans against the fridge, taking a swig of his. “Actually, if you are going to kill me, do it outside so I at least have witnesses. And avoid messing up my face too much. I’m sure my mom would prefer an open casket.”
“I’m not going to kill you. I might make it so you can’t walk for a few days, but you’ll still be breathing. And you can’t blame me for wanting to find out what the hell your motives are with my girl.” I walk over to the counter and grab my beer, keeping my eyes on him as I take a drink.
“Look, man, I’m not moving in on Mia. I swear. But I would like to keep being friends with her and I don’t fucking think I should have to ask your permission to do that.”
I grin and take another sip of my beer. I have a good amount of muscle on Reed, so the fact that he has the balls to talk to me like I can’t wipe the floor with him earns my respect. “No, you don’t have to ask my permission. I’m fine with you being friends with Mia. I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t trying to be anything else with her. I’m fucking crazy over that girl.”
He arches his eyebrow at me. “Really? I had no idea.” We both laugh and he pushes off from the fridge and moves across from me. “You’re fucking crazy over a girl you’re trying to be friends with? That makes a hell of a lot of sense,” he states sarcastically.
I grimace. “I’m doing what’s necessary. The torture I’m going to endure by not acting on my feelings will be worth it if she lets me in.” He looks at me with a perplexed gaze, like I’ve just explained myself to him in another language. I take another sip of my beer and frown. “When you meet a girl that gets to you the way Mia gets to me, you’ll understand. Friends genuinely like each other and I need her to like me. She’ll never love me if she doesn’t like me first.”
He places his beer down with a shake of his head. “I had a girl get to me like that and she completely fucked me over. I don’t see how any of it is worth it. That’s why I’m just with girls for one night. They can’t rip your heart out if you don’t let them anywhere near it.” He tosses his beer bottle into the trashcan. “I hope it works out for you though. I think you have a pretty good shot with her from what I’ve observed.”
“Why do you think that? Did she say something to you?” If Reed and Mia are friends, she could’ve shared things with him like she does my sister. And I am suddenly all for their friendship if it helps my cause. He regards me with a smile like he knows things. Things I desperately want to know. I place my beer down and leer at him. “You’re not going to tell me shit, are you?”
He smiles again, more cunning this time. “I don’t have much to tell. But a fucking blind person would’ve seen the way you two acted around each other yesterday. I could’ve burned the place down and I doubt either one of you would’ve noticed. You flustered her so bad she could barely speak, and she definitely wasn’t paying attention to a damn thing I was saying once you stepped in the shop. I could’ve asked her to carry my children and she probably would’ve agreed without knowing it.” He shakes his hair out of his eyes and registers my annoyed expression. “Not that I would’ve asked her that. I’m sure you’ve claimed that uterus.”
I wave him off dismissively, holding the neck of my beer bottle with my free hand. “I’m glad I make it difficult for her to form a sentence, but I don’t need to convince her body that we should be together. I’ve proved that point already.” He grabs another beer, offering me one but I decline it. “I just need her to see me as the guy I am now and not the shithead I used to be. And being friends and showing her that I’m not just in this for pussy seems like the best option for me.”
“Unless she keeps your ass permanently in the friend zone. This whole plan could blow up in your face if you aren’t careful.” He walks around the counter and sits down on the couch, turning on the TV.
I haven’t thought about the possibility of that happening. But I highly doubt Mia can ignore the chemistry we have and only see me as a friend. The spark between us is fucking palpable. The air seems to crackle when we’re in the same room. There is an energy to it, a dynamic that you can practically see rippling between us. Drawing us together like charged particles. There’s no denying it. And once she only sees me as the man I am now and not the boy I used to be, I’ll make it my life’s purpose to never again let her feel the type of pain I once caused her.
“Hey, man, I’m gonna head out and go see my kid. Thanks for the beer.” Reed acknowledges me with a nod before I walk out of his house. I feel better now that I know for sure that he isn’t trying to get with Mia. And I don’t have a problem with him being friends with her. He’s a decent guy. He’s always been good to my sister. But if he ever steps out of line with my girl, I won’t hesitate to put him back in it.
* * *
I park out front at Angie’s apartment complex and take the stairs quickly to her floor. I want to tell Nolan that he’ll be spending time with Mia on Saturday night. I know he’ll look forward to it as much as I am once I break the news to him. I knock on the door, hearing his gruff voice singing aloud somewhere in the apartment. The door opens and Angie stands there looking less than pleased to see me.
“Great. Now I’ll never get him to go to sleep.” She steps aside and motions for me to walk in. “He’s been fighting me for the past hour and my nerves are shot.” I can hear Nolan’s voice coming from down the hallway where the bedrooms are. He sounds very animated, but that’s pretty standard for him.
“I’ll put him to bed. I want to talk to him anyway.”
She closes the front door and moves past me toward the couch. “Don’t keep him up with another story. I’ve already read to him four times and if he doesn’t get to bed soon, he’ll be cranky as hell in the morning.” She begins flipping through a magazine, seemingly done with lecturing me which is a good thing because I’m fucking done listening to it. If anyone needs parenting advice between the two of us, it sure as hell isn’t me.
I walk down the hallway and stop at Nolan’s door, leaning against the doorframe. He is trying to balance his stuffed dragon on the end of his bed, holding his sword in his free hand. I watch with a smile as he gets his favorite sleeping buddy to stand up on the wooden footboard before he strikes it down with a mighty swing.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed, buddy?” His eyes light up and he scrambles off the bed, running toward me. I scoop him up and plant kisses all over his face.
“Daddy! You’wre hewre!”