Because of the couch moving extravaganza, my regular lunch date with Abby was pushed back a day, guaranteeing a run in with Eric. When we pulled up, I could tell she was already giddy with the prospect. I still didn’t understand what it was about being in a couple that made you suddenly want to pair up all of your friends, even if the thought of being in a relationship made them want to claw their eyes out.
“Stop bouncing, Abby, before I have to tell Ted to stop giving you sugar in the morning,” I growled. When she giggled, I continued, “I didn’t mean in the metaphorical sense. I literally mean I’m going to tell him to stop buying you donuts.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” her green eyes widened and I hid my grin behind a curtain of black hair as I bent to pick up my purse from the floorboard beside her.
“Just behave, okay? I don’t have the desire or time to turn my arrangement with Eric into something more permanent,” I warned again.
“Fine,” she pouted, but exited my truck with her head high. “But, that’s not going to stop us from partying like crazy this weekend, right?”
“Ugh,” I groaned, when the date flashed in my head. “I told Dennis I’d work Saturday at the other hotel to make up for the time I’m taking off for my party next weekend. I’m sorry! I totally forgot you wanted to drink your way through Mill Ave!”
“Ugh is right!” Abby’s pout seemed to grow deeper at my words. “But, if it’s slow, he’ll let you leave early and you can meet Ted and me wherever we are?”
“But how am I supposed to help you drink your way down Mill if I have to drive afterward?”
“Ted and I will pick you up and we’ll get trashed!” she grinned at the new plan. “I can’t promise I won’t be already trashed though.”
“I didn’t expect you to wait, Abs, believe me,” I chuckled as we made our way to the familiar bar top and two empty chairs against the wall. Part of me wondered if we were really that lucky to always find bar seats right away, or if we had help from a guardian angel answering the phone.
“Hey, Eric,” I greeted, flipping him a salute as we sat down.
“Hey, Lucas, am I up tonight?” he asked, winking at me with his dark brown eyes sparkling.
“Do you want to be?” I flirted.
“I already am,” he stage-whispered to me across the bar.
“Well, I get off work at 11 tonight, if you want to swing by,” I offered.
“Sounds like a plan,” he smiled. “I’ll be the puppy scratching at the door at 11:15. I tried to call the other night, but you didn’t answer.”
“Oh, I had someone over,” I answered, dismissively.
“Auditioning another newbie, Lucas?”
“Oh, nothing like that,” I laughed. “My friend, Brady, stayed over to help me move a couch Carter gave me.”
“Look at you all fancy with your furniture from ex-boyfriends.”
“Carter isn’t an ex, well, not really.”
“I couldn’t see you for like three months when you met Carter, Luke. Even if there were no labels, he was your boyfriend,” Eric said.
“I’ve seen you guys together, Lucas. Carter was your boyfriend,” Abby agreed, making me feel cornered.
“Doesn’t matter now, does it?” I sneered at them. “I tried to show him I could commit, but he wasn’t interested.”
“That guy is straight up in love with you, Lucas,” Abby shook her head. “Mark my words, if he starts to feel like someone is a threat to his tentative claim on you, he’ll get aggressive.”
“Maybe I should meet this guy, size him up, make sure he’s worthy of you,” Eric offered, his eyes suddenly distant.
“You’re still coming to the party next weekend, right?” Abby asked, starting to bounce in her chair again.
“Um, I was planning on it; you’re still getting me a pack of New Castles, right?”
“Yeah,” I nod.
“Then you can meet Carter then! He’d never miss one of Lucas’ parties, too much lady on lady action.”
“Good to know,” he rubbed his chin as the phone at his station started to ring and he excused himself to get back to work. Our waitress came to grab our usual order and Abby and I fell into a companionable silence until our drinks came.
“So, how did everything go with Carter and Brady?” Abby asked before taking a sip of her Coke.
“Fine,” I shrugged, plunging my straw into the glass of ice cold Dr. Pepper in front of me.
“Fine? Really? Cause Carter had murder in his eyes when you kissed Brady last weekend.”
“I know,” I sighed. “He kissed me hard enough to bruise after I kissed Brady, like he was trying to prove something,” I rolled my eyes.
“So, nothing’s going on with you and Brady?”
“Carter asked me that yesterday, too, and the answer is no,” I shut her down. “Brady is a good friend, he doesn’t think of me like that.”
“Oh, convenient little phrasing there, Lucas,” Abby smirked over the chunk of pizza in her hand.
“What do you mean?” I frowned.
“He doesn’t think about you like that? What about you?”
“What about me? That doesn’t matter; neither of us is looking for anything. I think his divorce turned him against relationships.”
“Hmmm, sounds perfect to me,” she grinned.
“You really don’t care who I’m paired up with, do you? Carter, Eric, Brady? You just want me to have a boyfriend.”
“Um, HELLOOOOO?” she said, as if what she was about to say was the most obvious thing in the word. “Double dating?”
“It’s not my fault you want me to come on your dates with Ted, Abs,” I groaned. “I don’t want to be in a couple, what makes you think there is even the remote possibility that I’d want to be a part of a couple’s night? That’s like double the commitment,” I choked out, disgusted at her suggestion. “I’m afraid something like that would actually cause my death, because I would be suffocating on my lack of freedom.”
“Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, Luke,” she warned before we turned back to our lunches. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to distance myself from Abby until she realized that Lucas Dunn and relationships were like oil and water or maybe I should just double down on the debauchery until she got the point. Yes, this was something that could only be fixed by calling in the rotation in succession. I’d only been calling Eric for far too long and people were starting to get ideas.
Though, my heart gave a little kick I didn’t want to acknowledge when I thought about the possibility of adding Brady as a pinch hitter. I couldn’t fight the visions that flooded my brain of having him as the only player in the dugout, and how it almost brought a smile to my face. Fuck! I’ve gotta get rid of this crush, because it was more dangerous than I ever thought possible.