Home > Anti-Stepbrother(9)

Author: Tijan

“Uh.” Dave grew still. “I mean, they’re dating. I think he said something about her studying with friends tonight.”

Avery’s eyebrows snapped together, and she turned to face him directly. I was scared to move. I glanced from the corner of my eye and saw the other girls had had the same response.

All eyes were glued on Avery.

Her eyebrow lifted.

Dave seemed to realize he’d said something stupid. His eyes widened, and his mouth formed a small O, as in Oh, shit. He edged back a step. Then he scratched behind his ear, making it look casual, “Uh…I mean…” He expelled a breath of air. “Fuck.”

Avery spoke, stiffly, “I’m aware he’s with Maggie. This is his house. I’m assuming he’s here, but I want to avoid him. That’s why I’m asking.”

Dave bobbed his head up and down. “Got it. You’re right. And he’s out back.”

“Is Maggie here?”

He closed his mouth and shook his head.

“That’s all I need to know.” Avery gave him a grin.

“Okay. I hope you all have a great evening, and…” He edged back another step, clutching his tray of drinks. “See ya!” He was swallowed by a crowd of people.

“What was that about?” I asked.

Avery shrugged, her shoulder jerking up. “He must’ve thought I gave two more shits than I do.” She grabbed my hand in a tight grip, then released it and shook out her hand so it was softer. “Come on. We need to find the dancing and get back to drinking.”

That’s exactly what we did.

Avery led the way, weaving in and around so many people. Just like on campus, the ones who recognized her yelled a hello. Some wrapped their arms around her, giving her big drunken hugs, and like before, she returned whatever they sent her way. It took us an extra twenty minutes to find the dancing in the basement.

We settled in a back corner, and right away a guy pulled Avery out to the dance floor. Watching her go, I leaned closer to one of the others and yelled over the music, “Is it always like that?”

She nodded. “That’s the deal if you’re friends with Av. She’s liked by everyone.” Her eyes shifted upward and she added, “Well, almost everybody.”

I wanted to ask more questions. I wanted to know everything, but when she turned and began talking to her buddy, I didn’t get the sense that either of them wanted to give me the rundown. The genogram would have to wait.

I pulled out my water bottle filled with rum and orange juice and leaned back to enjoy the rest of the night, which was filled with lots of laughing, lots of booze, and lots of dancing. Avery eventually pulled the rest of us out on the floor with her. Shell and Claudia joined us again, and a couple of the girls cozied up with guys. The ones who didn’t were turning offers down.

Avery leaned close when we were at a table later. “They’ve got boyfriends!” she announced over the music.

“That makes sense,” I yelled back.

She frowned slightly. “You have a boyfriend? I didn’t ask before.”

I shook my head. “Nope. No boyfriend.”

“What?” Her head bent closer to hear me better.

I shook mine again. “Nothing. No! I don’t.”

“Oh.” She gave me a thumbs-up sign. “Me neither. It’s the best! Being single is a lot more fun.”

Yes, it was, it’s just that I thought I’d have a boyfriend by now. She didn’t know I’d been hoping for one. But it wasn’t that simple. It wasn’t just wanting a boyfriend. I wasn’t that type of girl. I’d dated a couple other guys, but I hadn’t felt for them what I felt for Kevin, or thought I felt. Things were getting cloudy about that, but this was supposed to have been our time.

“Okay.” Avery stood up from the table. “I’m hot and sweaty, and the slow song is killing my buzz.”

Shell leaned forward, resting her elbow on the table, and gazed up at Avery with drunken, tired eyelids. “Where’s Marcus?”

Claudia came off the dance floor and plopped into the chair beside Shell. She grimaced, picking off strands of hair that had been plastered to her cheek and neck with sweat. “What’s going on?” She had a glazed-over look similar to her buddy’s, but she seemed a bit more alert.

Avery answered, “I’m ready to go outside.”

“Marcus is out there.”

No outside. No Marcus. I silently willed the girls to come up with another plan. I should’ve left as soon as I found out whose house this was. This was Marcus’ territory. If he remembered me from the other night, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t want me here.

I stood up. “You know, I’ve got more dancing in me. They’ll change the song soon, I’m sure.”

Shell snorted. “Not likely. Once the slow stuff starts, they keep it up. It’s how they get people to leave. The kegs must be empty.”

“I don’t care what we do except for Marcus,” Avery announced. “Wherever he is, we should not be.”

I agreed, pumping my head up and down. I so agreed.

Avery rolled her eyes as her hands found her hips. “But I still want to go outside.” She sent a puff of air out, blowing a strand of hair off her forehead. “Come on, guys. We can do this. I can do this.”

Shell said, “You’re drunk. It’s not a good look.”

Avery’s eyebrows shot up, and her head cocked to the side. “Excuse me?”

“Marcus is still in the backyard. You’re drunk. It’s not going to look good for you. We all know that you speak first and think later when you’re like this.”

“I can handle Marcus.”

“No, you can’t.” Claudia joined in. “Not when you’ve been drinking.”

The more they talked, the more intrigued I became. The more anxious I felt, too. Avery and Marcus? He’d been proclaiming his love for Maggie two nights ago.

“I told you guys, I can handle this, and I will.” With that, Avery whipped around and shoved through the crowd, heading for the stairs.


I wasn’t sure who said that, but Shell and Claudia scrambled to their feet and ran after her. Another girl that had been dancing caught the exchange. She tore out of her partner’s arms and grabbed her buddy, pulling her behind. I was the last to go, because I was a little bit more drunk than I realized. I stood, but the dance floor spun with me. I had to wait until the couples righted themselves, and once they did, I headed off too. The girls were long gone by the time I got upstairs.

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