He makes his way over to our table and Kate goes up to him. They hug, and I grind my teeth together.
Pardon me while I swallow the vomit that just surged into my mouth.
“Dee Dee’s going to be so excited to see you. I thought you had a show?”
His smile is smug. Slick. Like a used car salesman. “I had my agent move some things around.” Then he looks Kate over, from head to toe.
And I want to simultaneously cover her with a tablecloth and scoop his eyeballs out with a coffee spoon.
“You look amazing.”
She tilts her head to the side with a smile, “Aww. You’re so sweet. You look great, too.”
She’s actually stomaching this bullshit? Are you fucking kidding me?
I clear my throat and stand up behind her. “Warren.”
Our eyes clash—like a lion staring down a hyena—and Kate is the fresh kill we’re both looking to eat.
That’s when my mom comes over. “Kate, could you be a dear and help me find your mother? The photographer would like to take a few more family shots outside before the sun goes down.”
Kate’s dark eyes cloud over with concern. They dart between the two of us nervously. “Ah…sure, Anne. No problem.”
“Thank you, sweetheart.”
Kate looks at each of us pointedly. “I’ll be right back.” As she turns to go, she stops at my shoulder and whispers, “Be good, Drew.”
I smirk. “That’s not what you wanted this morning.”
Her smile’s tight and there’s warning in her eyes. “It’s what I want now.”
I tuck a piece of her hair back behind her ear. “I’m always good, baby.”
She walks away, leaving me alone with my arch nemesis. This should be interesting.
He jumps right in with both feet. “So, I left Kate a couple voice mails last week. Apparently she didn’t get them.” His tone is accusing. Rightly so.
“Maybe she just didn’t want to talk to you.”
He snorts—as pigs tend to do. “Or maybe you deleted them.”
I take a step closer, making him back up. “Maybe you shouldn’t be calling my apartment.”
“I called to talk to Kate.”
“Right—Kate who’s living in my apartment.”
“You can’t fucking tell her who she can talk to. Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Her boyfriend. Which means—yeah—I can. And I don’t think that includes you anymore.”
“You know something, Evans? I see right through you. You come off all arrogant and full of yourself, but deep down? You’re shitting your pants. Cause you know it’s just a matter of time before Kate is done with you.”
My brow furrows in mock confusion. “I’m sorry—I don’t speak vagina. Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?”
He moves forward, so we’re nose to nose, like boxers before the bell. “It means newsflash, dickhead—you’re the rebound guy. A distraction. Kate will have her fun, and then she’ll move on to more permanent prospects.”
I laugh. “Like you?”
“I do have the whole rock star thing going for me, don’t I?”
Kate said he signed a record deal a few months back, and I’ve heard a few of his songs on the radio. But I don’t care how many records he sells—he’ll always be a douche bag to me. Though he’s got a point about the rock star thing. It’s a powerful force. Guys who look like Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler wouldn’t have a shot in hell at getting laid without it, and they’ve spent decades shoulder deep in pussy.
“But no, not me,” he says. “Kate and I are in the past. That doesn’t mean she’s sticking with you, though. How long have you known her, Evans? Eight months? I dated her for eleven years and I was her friend for nine before that. I think I’m a lot more qualified to predict what Kate will or won’t do.”
Okay—that one hit a little too close to home. It’s one of the reasons I hate the fact that Kate still talks to him. Because he had her before I did. I don’t mean the sex; I could deal with that. I’m talking about the fact that she loved him, came close to marrying him. So no matter what I do—no matter how good Kate and I are—I’ll never be her first where it counts. And that sucks. Second place is just first loser.
But I’ll eat my own tongue before I admit that to fuck-face.
“You’re talking out your ass. I know Kate. I--”
He cuts me off with a shoulder nudge. “You know what Kate lets you know. I had a front row seat to every significant moment in her life, asshole. Twenty years worth of memories will always mean more to her than you ever—”
Not to go all Popeye on you? But that’s all I can stand and…well…you know the fucking rest.
I pull back and punch him right in the jaw. Iron Mike’s got nothing on me right now, and it feels great. I should’ve done this months ago.
He staggers back. I expect him to come back swinging and I’m ready for the block. What I don’t expect is for him to tackle me low in the waist with the skill of a NY Giants linebacker.
We fall back in a heap, taking out the pasta station behind us with a crowd-drawing crash. Marinara sauce flies everywhere, raining down on unsuspecting heads and spattering people’s clothes. Kind of looks like the pigs blood scene in Carrie, doesn’t it?
Now, contrary to popular belief, these kinds of things don’t go down like they do in the movies. Those fights are planned out. Choreographed. Real-life guy fights involve more rolling around on the ground, cursing and grunting, while getting in the occasional punch or kick between the verbal jabs.
We roll over till we’re side by side. I straight arm him, holding on to the front of his shirt. I get in a nice right hook to his chin, drawing first blood. With a growl he flips over so he’s on top, straddling my waist. He nails me in the eye from the left.
I shake it off and grind out, “My sister hits harder than that. Pussy.”
He grits his teeth, holding me down at the chest. “Suck my dick.”
I bring my leg up and knee him in the back. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Oh, no, that’s right—you wouldn’t. Kate sucks fantastic cock, by the way. You don’t know what you were missing all those years, you fucking idiot.”
I can’t believe I just said that, either. In front of a room full of people. In front of Kate’s mother.
And if the horrified gasp that sounds suspiciously like my girlfriend’s voice is any indication? There’s an excellent chance I’ll go the rest of my life without ever getting head again.
Still, it was a great comeback, wasn’t it?
Without warning, the scent of coffee fills the air. And a second later my legs are burning. It’s scorching, like the boiling oil castle guards used to pour down on the invaders in Medieval times.
Instantly, Warren and I forget about knocking each other’s teeth out. We’re too busy trying to get away from the sizzling liquid that’s being poured on us.
I look up into the diabolical eyes of Amelia Warren, who’s proudly holding two stainless steel carafes that used to be filled with coffee. And now aren’t.
She reaches down and grabs my ear with one hand and Warren’s with the other. And we’re immobilized. Immediately. Amelia Warren—pain in the ass by day, ninja warrior by night.
She drags us out of the room by our respective ears, not unlike Sister Beatrice would have in the good old days. But we don’t go quietly.
“Aunt Amelia, let go! I’m a musician, I need my ear!”
“Stop your whining! Beethoven was deaf and he did just fine.”
We’re dragged towards an adjoining room. Out of the corner of my eye I see Kate tagging along. Arms folded, back stiff—not a good sign for me. She opens the door and the four of us walk in.
And we all stop dead in our tracks.
Because there, on an empty table, is none other than Kate’s mother, Carol, and Steven’s father—good old quiet, number-crunching George Reinhart—going at it hot and heavy like two teenagers in the backseat at a drive-in movie theater.
I shit you not.
Kate’s mouth opens wide, disbelief clear in her exclamation. “Mom?”
I raise my brows. “Wow. Go, George.”
Have I mentioned that Kate’s mom is smokin’ hot? She is. Very.
She’s in her fifties, with wavy russet hair, familiar dark eyes with the barest of wrinkles, and a warm smile. Her body’s softly rounded with age, but still petite. The best way to tell how a woman’s going to look in her later years is to look at her mother. If I didn’t know I was a lucky son of a bitch before? The moment I laid eyes on Carol Brooks, I was sure of it.
Carol and George bust apart like they’re on fire, sputtering embarrassed apologies as they readjust their clothing. Carol’s face reminds me of that pink dog on Blues Clues. Guess that’s where Kate gets the blushing thing from. George straightens his tie, trying his best to look dignified—like he wasn’t just caught with his hands on Carol’s fun bags.
He nods in our direction. “Boys. Kate.”
Then Kate sputters, “Mom, the photographer needs you.” Carol seems relieved to have an exit strategy and they scurry out the door. Amelia-san releases her kung fu grip on my lobe and turns on her heels like a drill sergeant.
I try to lighten the mood. “Boy…didn’t see that one coming, huh?”
Kate frowns. And Amelia pokes me in the chest. “Even though you are not my responsibility, if I ever hear such profane filth out of your mouth again, I will hog tie you, hold your nose, and pour dish detergent down your throat like your mother should have a long time ago! Am I clear, mister?”
Her wrath turns to Warren. “And you—for God’s sakes, act like you have some sense! If you think you’re too old for me to take the belt to, you are sorely mistaken, young man. I raised you better than this.”
He looks down. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I expect you boys to stay on opposite sides of the room the rest of the evening. Any more trouble from either of you and I’ll have you thrown out on your asses.” In a huff she walks out of the room, with Warren trailing behind her like a stray puppy.
Leaving Kate and me alone.
THE SILENCE IS HEAVY. Awkward. Kate paces angrily, her movements sharp. She finally comes to a stop in front of me. “I don’t even know what to say to you.”
I squirm—just a little. “He started it.”
Her eyes narrow. “Are you serious?”
I think about it for a minute. “Kind of.”
Kate shakes her head. And her chocolate eyes turn wounded. “Do my feelings mean so little to you, Drew?”
I groan. “Come on, Kate. Don’t do that.”
“Make this into some big thing about me not respecting you, or caring about you enough. It’s really not that complicated. I hate him. I hate that he’s here. I hate that you fucking talk to him.”
She folds her arms over her chest, “We’ve been over this—Billy was my friend long before you and I got involved. We grew up together. Like you and Matthew and Steven. You know what that’s like.”
I do. There’s nothing on earth more valuable than an old friend. Someone who understands you, knows why you are who you are, why you do what you do. No explanations needed.
“Matthew and Steven haven’t seen me naked.” And if they have, they certainly haven’t enjoyed it.