“So back to Willa,” Asa began, and I rolled my eyes. “Why’d she move back in with her grandmother? Thought her momma settled down and shit and sent for her back then.”

I’d wondered the same thing. But the reason why was something Willa wasn’t willing to talk about. I’d tried to get her on the subject, and she’d closed up fast. She had secrets that obviously hurt. I got that and I respected it. I had my own damn secrets. Ones that had changed my life. She could keep hers because I sure as hell wasn’t sharing mine.

“Not my business or yours.”

Asa frowned. “So it’s a big deal? Like did she get kicked out or something?”

He was going to push because he was a nosy-ass motherfucker. “I said it ain’t our business. Leave it.”

Nash turned back around in his chair, and I slammed my book closed just before the bell rang, freeing me from Asa’s questioning. Truth was I wanted to know what her secret was. I wanted to know if she’d done something terrible. I couldn’t imagine it, but why else would she be back here?

However, it wasn’t Asa’s business. He didn’t know Willa or her past. He hadn’t sat with her and held her when she cried because she thought her mother didn’t love her. Or the day she found out she was moving away from her nonna. That had been me. Not Brady. Me.

It had been six years and puberty had hit, but we had a history, and I would protect her the best I could. Something lost and hurt in her eyes said she needed protecting. I had made sure to protect the little girl she had once been.

“So you good with me walking her to her next class?” Asa asked me as we headed out the door. I started to come up with some excuse as to why he couldn’t when I saw Brady standing at the door to her classroom and her smiling up at him.

“Never mind. I was beat to it,” Asa grumbled, then walked the other way.

I, on the other hand, walked right up to the both of them. We were all friends after all.

“What class do you have next?” I asked her, interrupting whatever Brady had been saying.

They both turned their gazes on me. I could feel Brady’s frustration rolling off him in waves. I knew him oh too well. The good boy wasn’t thinking of Willa as a friend. He would be the perfect loyal boyfriend that she deserved. I knew it but I didn’t like it. I also wasn’t that nice of a guy. I wouldn’t allow it. Brady was my best friend, and Willa wasn’t about to take him away from me with her long legs, bubble butt, and plump lips. Hell no. I wouldn’t become the third wheel to the two of them.

West had saddled himself with Maggie like it was the best damn thing in the world. He was nuts. Brady wasn’t about to do that. He had a football career to focus on, and I had frat parties and coeds in my future.

Him getting serious with Willa would ruin all of that.

As his best friend, I would protect his best interests, and I would protect Willa, too.

Six Years Doesn’t Change That

CHAPTER 12

BRADY

The first chance I got with Willa all day where Ivy wasn’t smothering me and Gunner interrupted us. I’d just gotten her to laugh, too. What was his deal? This was going to cause an issue if we didn’t talk it out. I would start on the football field later today. By pounding his ass with the ball every chance I got.

“I have Spanish,” she said, pointing to the classroom Gunner had just exited. “Right there.”

“You won’t learn shit in there. Jones watches porn on his MacBook most of the class,” Gunner informed her, making her laugh as her eyes widened.

He wasn’t lying. The man really did. He’d been caught before, but somehow he was still teaching in the classroom. I didn’t think we should be telling Willa about it though. Kind of seemed disrespectful.

“I’ve got a book in my purse I can read,” she told Gunner.

“Well, that sounds real entertaining.” Gunner sounded mocking, and she just smirked at him as if she wasn’t surprised by that response.

“Once you read all the Harry Potters with me, and we talked for hours about them.”

Gunner nodded. “Yep, then I had sex and it was all over.”

Again Willa’s eyes flared, and I elbowed Gunner to shut him up. Jesus! She didn’t want to talk about his sex life. He had to stop treating her like a dude. When we were kids, it was different. She wanted to do the things we did, but life changed.

“Ignore his crude ass,” I finally said, stopping Gunner from any more inappropriate comments.

“Willa can hear the word sex. She knows what it is,” Gunner drawled, his gaze still on Willa.

Her face flushed, and I wanted to put Gunner on his ass for embarrassing her.

“On that note, I think I’ll go to my next class. I have a novel to read, and from the way it sounds, I’m going to get an entire period to read it.” Willa smiled at both of us, making very little eye contact, then hurried to her next class.

I glared at Gunner. “You embarrassed her,” I snapped.

He just grinned, still watching her retreating form. “I know. It was hilarious. What seventeen-year-old girl blushes over the word sex? Now if I’d said fuck, then I might have expected that reaction.”

I should have gone on and left him, but I couldn’t just yet. I was confused by what his motives were with Willa. “She’s not a backseat whore. You realize that right?”

He nodded, then finally looked at me. “Yeah. She’s our friend. Six years doesn’t change that.”

She had been his best friend. If I hadn’t been so jealous of the fact he got to see her all the time when I wanted to see her all the time, I would have cared that she was the best friend and I was the runner up. When she had left, I had moved into that spot with Gunner, but it hadn’t felt right. I missed Willa. For years.

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