With an irritated growl, I pulled it from my pocket. My parents had been trying to call all morning. I’d probably been avoiding them for too long, so I answered.
My mother’s request was short and simple, and no way could I deny her, so I mumbled out a couple okay’s, sure’s, and yeah’s before I said, “See you then. ’Kay. Bye.”
My change in mood must’ve been obvious because Caroline touched my arm, making me jump from the unexpected contact. “Hey. Everything okay?”
“Hmm.” I tried to send her a smile that said everything was just peachy, but as I looked into her concerned blue eyes, an idea struck.
“Yes!” I pointed. “You. I need you. Tonight. Do you think you could be my fake girlfriend for the evening?”
She blinked, the pause in her answer making me instantly itchy. “Your what girlfriend?” she said slowly.
With a sigh, I worked my neck around to pop it. “That was my mom. I’ve been summoned home to eat with them tonight to, you know, celebrate my graduation this weekend, or something. I really, really don’t want the usual fucking talk. So I thought if I had you by my side, they’d not hound me about...other crap and just be excited I brought a real, live girl to supper.”
Her lips tightened with displeasure. “Do you have a habit of bringing the blow-up kind to supper?”
“Caroline.” I groaned through my teeth. “This is serious. Do you think you can not be a smart-ass for three freaking seconds and say, why yes, Oren, I’d love to go with you?”
Instead, she said, “Are you sleeping with other girls?”
“What?” I shook my head, utterly confused. “What in all the shit I just said prompted you to ask that?”
“You said you wanted me to be your fake girlfriend.”
“Yeah?” I nodded, still clueless. “So?”
“So...” She frowned at me. “If I’m not a real girlfriend now, then what the hell am I to you?”
My mouth opened, but no words came.
Oh, shit. I hadn’t even thought of labels and crap like that. “Uhhh...” I said, not sure how to answer.
Wrong fucking thing to say.
Caroline stuffed her phone into her bag. Zipping it shut, she surged to her feet. “You know that thing I just said about you being sweet? I take it all back.”
If I didn’t stop her, she was going to stomp off, and that would be the end of any more midnight visits for me.
“Wait.” I popped to my feet after her. “Jesus, I haven’t even thought about this shit. I’ve just been so busy enjoying what we have, I haven’t exactly stopped to pin a label on it.”
She paused, her eyes intent as she studied me. “Do labels scare you?”
I snorted. “Hell, no. I just...” I tossed out a hand. “I haven’t had a true, honest girlfriend in over four years. I...I’m rusty at, you know, monogamy and commitment and shit.”
She folded her arms over her chest and continued to stare with that stare of hers, the one that told me I was in deep monkey squirts.
I fidgeted under her inspection. After shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I glanced around the busy quad. “Should we really be discussing this so openly...around so many ears?”
Shaking her head sadly, she snorted out her disgust and started to stride away.
I was right on her heels. “I’m sorry, okay. Please, Caroline. You know I’m an ass.”
She smiled lightly. “And yet, shame on me, I keep putting up with it.”
“There’s no one else but you. You know that. I don’t know what I was thinking saying all that fake bullshit. I’ve been single so long it’s hard to remember I’m really, honestly in a relationship now. And besides, since we have to keep it under wraps and I have to act like I’m single around certain people, I didn’t know if the usual rules applied, anyway.”
She slowed to a stop before turning around, her eyes filled with torment. “Does the secrecy thing negate any chance of this being a normal relationship?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged, worried as hell I was going to say the wrong thing, again. “You tell me.”
“No, obviously, you have your own ideas of what we aren’t. So now I need some clarification. Are we just friends with benefits, or are we actually a couple? Have you not been with any other girls because you just haven’t had the opportunity, or because you’re actually being faithful to me? Because I need to know before I start thinking things.”