“Hey, Indie,” Jude said, his eyes locked on Anton. “I hope you kicked each one of those bloodsuckers in the junk on your way up.”
I sighed. I must have been too absorbed and focused on getting up to the apartment to notice that the small crowd of people outside our apartment had cameras around their necks. It seemed wherever Jude Ryder went, so did the photographers. Looked like we wouldn’t be leaving the apartment all weekend, which, actually . . . wasn’t such a bad deal.
“I hope you are hooking up my girl tonight, because she needs some sweet, sweet lovin’,” India said, patting his cheek before heading down the hall. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen Lucy’s cute little freshly F-U-C-K-E-D face.”
“Don’t worry,” Jude answered her, continuing his stare-down with Anton, who didn’t look the least bit threatened. “I plan on taking care of my girl. All. Night. Long.”
I flushed so hard I could feel it bleeding into my neck. “Hi, Anton. Nice to see you,” I said, wrapping both hands around Jude’s arm. “Even for you, this is one hell of a ballsy move.”
“Lucy,” he replied with an amused smile.
I shot him a tight smile before tugging on Jude’s arm. Yeah, that wasn’t happening. “Now, if you’re done talking about our sex life with my boss . . .” I pulled again, harder this time. Nope. One of the downsides to being with a man who could bench a school bus was feeling like the biggest wimp in the world. “I’ve got a half dozen cheeseburgers with your name on them.”
Jude squared himself in front of Anton, not taking the cheeseburger bait. “You must be Anton.”
How could he make a few harmless words sound like a death threat?
Anton looked pointedly at Jude’s arm draped over me. “And you must be Jude.”
“In the flesh,” he said. “No more phones keeping us apart if you try to cuddle up to my girl again.”
“Jude,” I warned for quite possibly the millionth time in my life.
“Okay. How do we do this?” Anton said, sliding his hands into his slacks. “I haven’t been in a fight over a girl since fifth grade. Do we take it outside? Throw down right here in the doorway? Schedule an appointment? I’m in uncharted territory here.”
I would have laughed had the whole situation been so not funny. Where was everyone else when I needed them to help me separate these two? A peek over my shoulder revealed my answer.
“Oblivious” was the name of the game back in the kitchen.
“Let’s get one thing straight right now. We are not fighting for a girl. Luce is my girl. She will always be my girl.” The veins were starting to bulge in Jude’s neck. We were two stages away from fists flying. “What we’re fighting over is the way you look at my girl. The way I know you think about her. The way I know you want to have her. That’s what we’re fighting over.” Jude straightened his back to stand a little taller. He had a way of making his three-inch advantage seem like he was towering over Anton. “But let’s be honest. Since you and I both know you don’t stand a chance in a fight against me, why don’t we just pretend I’ve just kicked your ass into next year and you stop trying to weasel your way into Luce’s better judgment, heart, or pants. Got it?”
“I’ve never been one to take the easy road,” Anton replied, as calm as if he were conducting a business meeting. “And I don’t like being told what to do, so I’m afraid that’s a no-go, big guy.”
“Anton,” I hissed, wondering if he had a death wish. From what he was saying, I would guess he did.
“So how are we going to do this?” Anton repeated, taking a step forward. I’d underestimated Anton. I’d figured him for more the pacifist, antiwar kind of guy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He wouldn’t back down from a fight any sooner than Jude would. Anton just wore a suit to the battle.
“I’m gonna kick your ass,” Jude replied, taking his own step forward.
Yep. They were going to do this. Right here in the doorway.
“Dinner’s ready!” Holly shouted. “If you don’t want me tossing yours out the window you’d better have your butts in your seats in three.”
When the end of time was upon us, Holly Reed was here to save us.
“Later, then,” Anton said, shouldering past Jude.
“Looking forward to it,” Jude said, glaring holes into Anton’s back.
“Real mature,” I said, nudging him.
“I thought you said that guy didn’t have a thing for you, Luce.”
I still hadn’t told Jude what Anton had said to me that afternoon a few weeks ago in the office. No time seemed to be right for unloading that dirty little secret. Least of all now.
“What’s your point?”
“That douche has a serious thing for you. A serious thing.”
I rubbed his arm, trying to soothe him. “How do you know that?” I asked, pretending I wasn’t sure if he was right.
“Because when he looks at you, it reminds me of the way I looked at you when we first met.”
“And how was that?”
Jude grabbed my hand in his and led me to the table. He sighed. “Like it was all over. Like the girl I was looking at was the one I was going to spend my life with.”
“And you don’t look at me that way anymore?” I teased.
“I still do, but there’s a confidence behind that look now. A confidence because I know you’re mine.” Jude pulled my chair out for me and moved his mouth closer to my ear. “That guy looks at you with the uncertainty I did at first. When I wasn’t sure I could ever have you,” he said quietly. “That guy wants you, all right, but I’m going to make damn sure he knows that he will never have you.”