But that doesn’t sound any better than what I’m doing here. And at least here my reputation hasn’t been sullied by lies. I have a shot at finding a new job. It wouldn’t hurt to at least give the city a chance.

Besides, I’m not even sure he wants to be with Tatianna. I see how they are together. I see how cold she is. And he’s not fawning all over her either. The other night he’d texted me while he was in bed with her. With her.

Why would he text me when his girlfriend is there and about to leave town for several days?

I still have the last text he sent me that night. His reaction to my mention of our childhood promise.

Let's not talk about that yet.

Yet? When I texted him, I was planning to let him off the hook. But he seems to think there’s something still worth talking about. And that sticks with me. In fact, it’s driving me nuts.

As Kylie pulls into Collins’ long drive, I determine that I will confront him about it. I hate the idea of thrusting myself between Collins and his girlfriend, but I can’t continue living in his house in this state of limbo. I’m not sure what he wants exactly, but I don’t think he wants Tatianna. I’m not sure if he wants me. But I need to know.

Chapter Nine

Collins

With Tatianna out of town, there is no way I can go home. A whole house alone with Mia? Fuck no. That would only lead to trouble, and I'm not ready to put myself in a situation like that. At least I'm smart enough to know better. When I picture her big green eyes that follow me around the room, her soft curves that beg for my hands, and the way she always seems so concerned about how I'm doing, if I've had enough to eat... I don't know how to handle her. For once in my life, I'm at a loss about what to do.

So after work, I head over to Colton's place where he and Pace are enjoying a drink in the library. Colton recently added a billiard table and a bar, effectively renovating it into his own personal man-cave.

“There's the old man,” Pace greets me with a smile.

He and Colton have both been teasing me ever since I turned thirty. Pace had the balls to check my hair for grays the last time we had drinks. The fucker.

“What's up, boys?” I ask, sinking down into a leather armchair.

“You tell us,” Colton says, handing me a glass of scotch. “Mia still roomies with you and Tatianna?”

He makes it sound like some sordid arrangement, but shit, maybe it is. My thoughts about her aren't exactly innocent. No, more like dark fantasies that involve her naked skin slapping up against mine.

I clear my throat and mumble “It’s fine.” But my answer must be too quick, because it sets off Colton’s bullshit meter.

Colton laughs. “You are so full of shit. When are you going to wake up and realize that you and Tatianna have nothing in common, other than great sex, and the girl you've been in love with your entire life is right under your nose?”

I focus on my drink. I won’t tell Colt that the sex isn’t so great – in fact I can’t even get off. “Pace, what's new with you?” I ask.

Colton curses under his breath, while Pace laughs at my obvious attempt at a topic change.

“I'm trying to get Kylie pregnant,” he announces, proudly.

“No shit?” Colton and I ask in unison.

“You guys aren't even married yet,” I point out.

He shrugs. “Close enough. We're engaged.”

I smile because I hated to see the way Pace always used to flounder with women. As a guy I always understood it, but as the oldest brother, I had to worry about him. When he found Kylie, watching him make the change from perpetual womanizer to family man was a relief. “Well, you shouldn’t have too much of a challenge getting her knocked up. Lord knows you’ve had enough practice.”

“You're not getting off that easily, brother,” Colton says, turning toward me. The douche is going to make me talk about Mia.

I try to take another sip of my drink and realize I've downed the entire glass. Shit.

Colton smirks at me and holds up the decanter of scotch. “You want some more of this?”

I narrow my eyes.

“Then you're going to have to actually talk to us. Like a grown up. No more of this grunting and evading caveman bullshit. Tell us what's going on,” Colton says.

“Give me the damn scotch,” I bark.

He hands it over and I pour myself a healthy measure while deciding exactly what I'm going to tell them.

Pace leans back in his seat, crossing his feet at his ankles, and Colton settles in, getting comfortable too. Here we go, it's fucking sharing time, apparently.

“When Mia and I were kids, we sort of promised each other that if neither of us was married by the time we were thirty, we'd marry each other.”

Colton chokes on his liquor, coughing and sputtering loudly. “You've got to be kidding me.”

Pace chuckles to himself. “That's fucking brilliant. You should totally do that.”

Neither of their responses is encouraging.

I expect them to tease the shit out of me for entertaining Mia’s childhood promise, which they do, but then the conversation shifts and I find them debating the actual merits of this marriage promise while I down glass after glass of scotch. Finally, Colton takes the bottle away and places it across the room.

“Shit, man,” Colton says. “You don’t have to march down the aisle with her tomorrow or anything, but I know you. You get this possessive-ass ‘mine’ caveman look whenever you talk about Mia. Something you never do when you talk about Tatianna.”

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