“How serious is this?” he asks while we wait by the car for Matt and Foster to grab our orders from inside.
“I don’t know if it’s serious. Definitely on the way to being not not-serious.” I shrug. “We haven’t even had sex yet,” I confess, because I know Hunter can keep shit to himself. “Buffalo was the first time we fooled around.”
“That’s sort of the best part though, isn’t it? Before sex. When all you’re thinking about is having it for the first time. All the anticipation, you know? Getting each other all messed up over the tension.”
I wouldn’t know from experience—this is the first time sex wasn’t the first step for me. Usually it’s the first and last. “I remember you being kind of crabby, actually.”
“Well, yeah.” He laughs. “There’s that too.”
“Taylor’s a good girl. We get along great.” I hesitate for a moment. “Honestly, I’m trying to see how long I can go before she realizes I’m a dirtbag and she’s too smart for me.”
Hunter shakes his head. “You know, if you didn’t treat yourself like a dirtbag, maybe other people wouldn’t, either.”
I hide a smile. Hunter and I have a different relationship than I do with the other guys. Maybe because we’re both working on being better people lately. He’s the only one I talk to on a more serious level, so when he comes hard with the Mr. Rogers routine, it has a way of getting under my skin. His words are still crawling around in there when I get home and return a call to my mom from this morning.
“Where’ve you been, Mister?” she chides. “I didn’t hear from you after the game.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. It was a crazy weekend and I was exhausted by the time we got back. Then I had to play catch-up on assignments for class the past couple days.”
“I’m sorry you guys didn’t get to play in the championship. But next year, right?”
“Yeah. I’m at peace with it.” Guys who get all fucking hung up on shit like that for a whole year get on my nerves. It’s like, dude, get another hobby. “How are things there? How’s Max?”
Her sigh tickles my ear. “He wants to buy a sailboat. Went out to Monterey to look at one.”
“Does he know how to sail?”
“Of course not, but why should that stop him, right?” She laughs again. I guess it’s sort of sweet how she finds his more irrational ideas charming. “I told him, you’re hardly home enough to have dinner, when are you going to learn to sail? But if he’s going to have a midlife crisis, I’d rather it be with a boat than a younger woman.”
“You can’t go to jail for setting your own boat on fire,” I inform her. “I read that somewhere.”
“If it comes to that,” she agrees, joking. “Anyway, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Miss you. Love you. Stay out of trouble.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“Love you, Mom. Later.”
I am glad she’s happy. I’m glad Max makes her happy and she’s got all the money she’ll ever need to bicker about shit like buying a sailboat. Yet a sour taste forms in the back of my throat when I get off the phone.
Talking about Max brings the run-in with Kai back to the front of my mind. It was like whiplash, seeing him again, and I haven’t felt right since. There’s been a nagging ache in my neck that just won’t go away.
Getting out of California was as much about getting away from Kai as anything else. I used to think I owed him something. For a long time he was my best friend, and when I made it out of the old neighborhood and he didn’t, I felt as if I’d betrayed him somehow. But then I realized, it was never about loyalty or friendship for Kai—people are just tools in his eyes. We’re only as good as what we can do for him.
When I look back on it, I recognize that Kai Turner is a rot that infects everything he touches. And I hope to hell I never have to see him again.
Feeling a foul mood creeping in, I text Taylor looking for a distraction.
ME: Can I come over and go down on you?
I’m joking, but only a little.
TAYLOR: Kappa meeting. See you later?
I don’t know if I should feel rejected that she doesn’t even acknowledge my offer with so much as a thinking emoji. I decide to cut her some slack, seeing as how she’s in the middle of a meeting and didn’t have to text me back in the first place.
ME: Cool. Text me.
I toss the phone on my bed and head to the dresser in search of some gym shorts. Guess I’ll go for a run since I can’t even get my fake girlfriend to let me eat her pussy. Never too early to start working on my cardio.
I just about swallow my tongue when I read the text from Conor. That man has the very annoying habit of catching me off guard during Kappa meetings.
“What’s so funny?” Sasha rips my phone out of my hand after I send a reply to Conor. I lunge at her, but my best friend is too quick. Former gymnast and all. Bitch.
“‘Can I come over and go down on you?’” she reads aloud, jumping to her feet to get away. I chase her to a standoff around the antique coffee table in the huge living room. Everything in this room is some priceless artifact donated by an alumnus for some dumb reason. “Eggplant emoji, splash emoji, peach—”
“Shut up.” I hop the table to yank the phone back. “He did not send come-on-my-ass emojis.”
“It’s called subtext, Taylor.” Sasha winks at me with a shit-eating grin. “I’m so proud of you.”
“I’d let Conor Edwards come on my stuffed turtle if he wanted to,” Rachel blurts out.
“We know, Rach.” Olivia mimes throwing up in her mouth. “Fucking psycho.”
“You said yes, right?” Beth is jerking a straw in and out of her smoothing cup. “Please tell me you said yes.”
“See?” Lisa is nodding with earnest approval. “Real men eat cooch.”
“Is he good at it, though?” Fiona shoves a pillow in her lap like she’s got to cover her lady boner. “I feel like he’d be good at it. I can tell that about people.”
Sasha and I retake our seats at the dining room table, angling our chairs toward the living room so we have a view of the entire open-concept space. I feel someone’s gaze on me, and glance over to find Rebecca sitting a few seats away. When our eyes meet, she frowns and looks away.
“Can we bring the thirsty slut meter down a little?” Abigail huffs, her face red. “I don’t want to hear about Taylor’s fuckboy. We have business to discuss.”
“Like Abigail’s anointment,” Sasha whispers.
“Why even bother having an election, right?” I whisper back.
Sasha puts her fingers to her head and blows her brains out.
Our chapter president doesn’t start with the election, though, instead leading with a more pressing event. “Rayna, you want to bring us up to speed on the Spring Gala?” Charlotte turns the meeting over to Rayna, another senior.