Page 15

She leans in, and says, "Walking like this puts ideas in people's minds. Those looks we're getting are for both of us. Wait until we sit down. Some hot guy will ask for your number within five minutes." She winks at me right when we get to the bar.

I'm insanely uncomfortable, but I try to relax. This chick is just a person with a weird job. She seems nice, really. I would have never thought she was a hooker if she didn't tell me. I press my lips together. I have no idea what to talk about. Avery chooses for me. "So you guys drove up from Texas?" The bartender hurries over and Avery orders two shots.

Nodding, I say, "Yeah, but I don't do shots."

She laughs. "Neither do I. I'll claw my tongue like a cat in a second. Watch and see."

I can't read this woman. I can't tell if she's pulling my leg or if she's for real. The bartender sets down two tiny cups of amber liquid. She plucks one from the bar. Just as I lift mine, she clinks them together and says, "Mazel tov. Here's to the fucked-up Ferro brothers." She knocks back the shot before I can speak, and then makes the funniest expressions I've ever seen. Apparently she wasn't lying about the not doing hard liquor thing.

I can't help but laugh. She's got her mouth hanging open and is fanning it frantically. Just as I'm about to do the shot, a man sits down next to me. "Hey, beautiful, can I buy you a drink?" I turn and look at him. Holy shit, he's hot. The guy looks like a GQ ad, complete with amazing eyes and sun-kissed skin.

I blink in shock and fail to respond. He looks over at Avery. "I'm sorry. Are you two together?"

Avery gives him a look with those dark eyes and leans into me as she places her hand on my arm. "Yes, and I'm buying her drinks tonight. Scat."

The man smiles at us with a look of sheer appreciation laced with lust. "My apologies. Enjoy your evening." He slips off the stool and takes the walk of shame out of the bar.

I gape at her. "Why'd you say that?"

"Because you think you're a fucking wallflower and you're not. Now you know. Hot guys want you, even in that frocky thing you're wearing." She taps the bar and nods at the bartender. He brings Avery another shot, but she doesn't drink it just yet.

"It's not a frock! I thought I looked cute." I look down at my dress. Is it that bad?

"You look like a schoolmarm. It's the classic don't-look-at-me long black dress. In Latin, it's called guyus replantunus." She grabs my long skirt and waves it back and forth. "What is this? A broomstick skirt? Don't they show off knees in Texas, or is that illegal?"

I glance at her skirt. It's not tight but it's much shorter. I can see her shapely thighs and so can every other person in the room. She notices me looking and smirks. "I don't do women, in case you're still nervous about that. Actually, I haven't been doing this very long, and Sean Ferro was my first client."

"No way, really?" My fingers tap the lip of the shot glass as we talk.

Avery nods. "How'd you land the brother?" She looks behind us. We can see the two of them from here. They're speaking with mirrored expressions. It's a little insane how much they look alike.

I smirk because it was so unlike me. "I walked up to him in a parking lot and offered to sleep with him. It was kind of random. I was trying something new." I can't look at her.

"Looks like it worked out."

"Actually, he threw me out that first night." Screw this. I'm doing the shot. I lift the glass to my lips and let the liquid flood my mouth, but it's too slow. It starts to burn before I manage to empty the glass.

Avery laughs. "Holy fuck, you're crazier than I am. Swallow it before it burns a hole in your face!" She's too loud. Everyone turns to look at us.

I feel too many eyes on the side of my face and panic. I can't swallow the liquor. It was too much and my eyes are burning like my brains are on fire. I start to squeal and fan my face, like that'll help. Avery yells at me to swallow it, but now I can't. I have too much liquid in my mouth and I'm pretty sure my tongue has flames shooting out the end.

I frantically look around, trying to figure out how to spit it out, but there is nowhere. Way to be classy. There's a couple of guys sitting a few stools over drinking. The one closest to her has a tall glass. Avery reaches for it, tosses the contents in the drain on the other side of the bar, and slams it down in front of me. I spit it out into the cup as fast as humanly possible while Avery laughs hysterically.

"Oh my God, you're just like me!"

I'm not sure about that, but I can't talk. I fan my open mouth as people stare at me with knowing expressions on their faces. Avery leans into me, laughing, and tells me not to scrape my tongue, since that will only make it worse. My eyes water and tears streak down my face. The bartender shoots Avery a look and puts down a glass of water in front of me. Avery reaches into her purse and slips him a big bill. All is forgiven, and he actually smiles at her.

"That was the funniest thing I've seen in an insanely long time." She hangs on my shoulder and then looks at me. Her little fingers dab away my tears without messing up my makeup. "There you go. Good as new."

"That was so disgusting. I can't believe I spewed." I start giggling and can't stop. Avery chortles with me. It feels like I've known her forever. It's really weird and not lost on me. I don't get along well with many people. I tap her arm a few times and manage to say, totally straight-faced, "That was evil. Really. Frock you."

Avery honks out a huge laugh and slaps her hands over her mouth. Frantic giggles burst forth from both of us and fill up the bar. I can't breathe, and I'm pretty close to falling off my stool. A guy tries to hit on us, but neither of us can stop laughing long enough to look at him. A second later, I feel his hand on my shoulder. The smile is torn off my face as I round on the person, ready to punch. I've already formed a fist when Avery touches my hand.

It's not a random guy. Sean is standing there looking much too serious. His deep blue eyes shift between Avery and me. "Ladies." He arches a dark brow at me like he disapproves. "Dinner is on the table." He extends his elbow to me. I hesitate because I don't want to take it. My skin is still covered in goose bumps from the first time he touched me.

Avery leans forward and pushes his arm away. "We'll be right there. Give us a sec." Sean looks annoyed, but walks away. His posture is so perfect. He carries himself differently than Peter, but their confident stride is the same. Avery pulls me out of my thoughts. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." I'm not. I'm too jumpy for a normal person and she noticed.

Avery gives me a knowing look. "If you ever need somebody to talk to, I've been through hell and back. I know stuff, even if I seem like an idiot most of the time."

I appreciate the gesture, and smile at her. The look she gives me says she knows what happened on some level. I see it in her eyes.

I nod and tuck my hair behind my ear, breaking her gaze. "I might have a question or two for you, actually." I tell her what I'm thinking, and she answers my inquiries without judgment.


"Peter tells me that you were his student." Sean gives me a sharp look that says I'm devoid of morals.

"Yeah, Peter was my boss, too." I poke around at my food.

Peter ordered for me while we were at the bar. The food is good, but it feels like I'm being judged and I hate that. Especially by him. Sean pisses me off. He has this superior thing going on, and I can't stand it when people think they're better than everyone else. Maybe I shouldn't say it, but I do. I place my fork down and look up at him. "Listen, if you want to throw stones, you probably shouldn't have bought your date."

"Oh, snap." Avery grins and lowers her gaze to her salad.

Sean's eyes bore into mine. I don't look down. He's a facsimile of Peter with harder edges. "You think I'm judging you?"


"I wasn't," he says, still staring at me like he has no manners at all.

"Then why'd you bring it up?"

Peter watches us but doesn't intervene. Instead he leans back in his chair and steeples his fingers, tapping them together lightly and looking at his brother.

"Because I thought it was interesting." Sean cuts his gaze over to his brother. "Is she always this adversarial?"

"Only when you piss her off." Peter smiles at me and resumes eating his dinner. His eyes flick up with amusement after he takes a bite.

"It was a rude question," I say, still glaring at him. Maybe I should let it go.

Sean straightens in his chair. "Very well. Then turnabout is fair play, so ask something of equal boorishness."


"It means rude—"

"I know what it means. Fine, I have a question. Why do you keep calling Avery? Why not just date her like a normal person?"

Sean sounds completely dignified when he says, "Because I'm not a normal person."

I give him a face that says I think his answer is crap.

Avery leans forward and rests her elbow on the table as she gazes at him. "Sean, you told her to ask you. Tell her whatever you want." They are the weirdest couple I've ever seen. She's so light, and he's so dark. I wonder if there's more to both them. There has to be some common thread somewhere.

Sean leans back in his chair and looks me over. "I don't like you."

"I don't care." Holy shit, that was blunt. Who the hell says stuff like that? Peter is getting agitated, but I shake my head slightly. I don't need him to rescue me, not from this guy.

Sean makes a disgruntled sound at the back of his throat. "I asked her to be my mistress."

"How flattering." I glance at Avery and can tell my gut reaction is right—it's not flattering at all.

"Isn't it?" Sean's tone sounds sincere but he can't be.