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Authors: E. L. Todd

sadie

 

Sadie

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by E. L. Todd

All Rights Reserved

ISBN-13:
978-1494335670

ISBN-10: 1494335670

 

 

 

 

 

Sadie

Book One of the Alpha Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

E.
L. Todd

God Save the Q
ueen

beat, one two. one two three.
 
check check one two. im still here. 
i still hear your heart beat.
while i fall asleep. and
i can still smell you.
on my sheets.
i still reach my arm.
over to find my safe place. 
rewind. pause.
my heart sinks and my tummy jumps in my throat.
when your hands slide down and.
embrace my hips. 
my voice decides to take a vacation when.
your lips kiss me here. 
kiss me there
.
fast forward. press play.
beat, one two. one two three.
this is me.
and i am still alone. naked.
i wish i was.
i wake up to morning. 
and nothing else.
good morning sunshine. Let’s dance.

 

-
Hollie Elisabeth Machado

1

 

I pulled
my dress down as far as it would stretch but it snapped right back to my thighs. It was so short, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sit down. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I cringed. I looked awkward and uncomfortable. I wasn’t the kind of girl that went to the bar—dressed like a whore.

Natascia rolled her eyes. “Oh my god, Sadie. You look fine.”

I pulled down my dress again but it was useless. It bounced back to my upper thighs. The black dress fit my curves tightly and made my ass and chest extremely prominent. I was feeling more uncomfortable by the second. The last thing I wanted was for people to look at me. “This doesn’t even fit.”

“Yes, it does,” she snapped.

I pulled it down again. “Uh—no.”

Stephanie fixed her hair in the mirror. It was silky and brown and reached far down her back. She dyed her hair so often that I wasn’t sure what her real hair color was.
But it always looked beautiful. “Leave her alone. She’s nervous.”

Natascia placed the hair band in her hair. “She needs to grow a backbone.”

I tucked my brown hair behind my ear then smoothed my dress out again. I sighed as I stared at myself. I didn’t look horrible, but I definitely felt out of my element. I glanced at Natascia. “Why are you so mean to me?”

“I’m not,” she said with a laugh.

“Well, you’re making me go out to a bar—something I have no interest in doing—and you’re making me dress like a slut.”

Natascia crossed her arms over her chest. “You never do anything, Sadie. You never go out
. You just stay home every weekend. The only time you actually want to do anything is under the light of day when we are eating lunch or lounging at one of our apartments. You need to go out!”

I sighed. “See, you’re being mean
again, making me do something I don’t want to do.”

“I’m just calling you out on your shit. Come on. It
’ll be fun,” Natascia said.

I sighed. “I guess I don’t have a choice.”

Stephanie nodded. “You really don’t.”

We grabbed our bags
and left the apartment, heading down to the street. When we got inside the cab, I thought my dress was going to slide up and give the driver a treat. Luckily, I held it down and kept my goodies hidden. Natascia, always the leader of our group, gave the driver the address.

I tried to get my mind off what we were doing. “How was work?”

Natascia sighed. “I forgot to pull out my samples after the twenty-four hour incubation period so I had to start over.”

“That sucks,” I said.

She rolled her eyes. “You have no idea.”

Stephanie checked the time on her phone then returned it to her purse. “Well, at least it was only one day you lost.”

Natascia sighed. “I guess so.”

Natascia was a researcher at a microbiology lab in the city. When she got the position
, she was really excited about it, but now she hated doing research every day.

I looked at her. “Just be
come a high school teacher. Isn’t that what you want to do?”

Natascia fixed her head band again, pulling the brown hair back. “Yes, but my parents would never accept my decision. They didn’t pay for my education so I could just teach at the high school level.”

“Well, it’s your life,” Stephanie said. “It shouldn’t matter what they think.”

“I know.
” Natascia sighed. “I’ll think about it.”

Stephanie looked at me. “How’s the store?”

I smiled when I thought about work. My father owned a bookstore in the city, and we ran it together. The smell of fresh print books always made my hands shake. And sometimes, if we were lucky, we could get the authors to sign a few of the books. I had the coolest job ever. “It’s doing well. I wish I was there right now.”

Natascia rolled her eyes. “We’
re going to have fun tonight. Just relax.”

I cringed.

The cab pulled over and we climbed out. Natascia threw some cash at the driver then followed us to the sidewalk. It was saturated with people as they walked through Manhattan. I could tell the bar was busy just by looking through the window. I held my breath as we walked inside. Music was playing over the sound system but it wasn’t too loud, thankfully. We took our seats at a table in the middle of the room. I held my dress as we sat down.

When I peered around the room, I immediately saw some men staring at us. I avoided their gaze as much as possible.

“I’m getting a pina colada,” Natascia said. “I love those things.”

“Too sweet,” Stephanie said. “I prefer wine.”

“Well, that’s because you’re picky,” I teased her.

“I am not,” Stephanie said, affronted.

“Yeah, okay,” Natascia said sarcastically.

Stephanie rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

“I’m going to have a long island iced tea,” I said.

“That’s some serious alcohol,” Natascia said with a smile.

I looked at the menu again. “It is? I thought it was just tea.”

Natascia sighed. “I should have known.”

A man approached our table, holding a tray with three drinks. They were cosmopolitans, I think. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about cocktails. “This is from the gentleman at the bar.”

Natascia looked over her s
houlder. There were men everywhere and they all seemed to be looking at us. “Uh, which one?”

“The one in the black suit.” He turned around and walked away.

Stephanie stared at the front of the room. “Almost all of them are wearing black suits.”

I shrugged. “Well, at least it’s free.”

Natascia nodded. “Exactly.”

“So how’s school?” I asked Stephanie.

“This year has been the best. I’ve actually had time to have a life.” Stephanie drank from her glass and put it down. “I even went to the gym the other day. My pants were getting tight.”

I laughed. “Y
ou’re the skinniest person I know.”

“Yeah,” Stephanie agreed. “But my pants were still getting tight.”

“Well, maybe that was a good thing.” I stared at my friends and ignored everyone else in the room. I was thankful that no one came over to talk to us. Perhaps I was overreacting about going out to a bar. I did feel the stares fall on us, but I wasn’t sure who they were looking at, me or my friends. If they were staring at me, they probably knew how awkward I looked. My thin arms and white skin wasn’t appealing in contrast to the dark color of my dress. I went to the gym but I never did weights so I had no muscle tone. I was just thin. I liked my hair. It was thick and wavy. But that was the only thing I liked about myself. I was pretty ordinary.

The bartender returned to our table and I felt my palms sweat. I barely started my first
drink. I couldn’t possibly drink a second one. “This is from the gentleman at the bar.” He placed a red rose on the table right in front of me, making it clear who it was for, then turned around.

“Wait,” Natascia said. “Which one?”

“This one,” a man said from behind me.

I tried not to flinch but I did. I hadn’t noticed a man standing so close to us. The bar was packed
, so it wasn’t odd to have someone nearby. When he stood next to the table and looked at me, I felt my heart fall. He was over six feet tall with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a beautiful suit, and I could tell that he was toned and firm under his clothes. I immediately felt the panic ascend. He was staring right at me. There was no confusion who he was interested in.

“Hello. I’m Ethan,” he said with a smile.

I said nothing. My voice was caught in my throat. I knew I looked idiotic but I still couldn’t speak.

“She says hi back,” Natascia said awkwardly.

Ethan nodded at Natascia then returned his gaze to me. He was beautiful—very beautiful. There were gorgeous women all over the bar, so why was he talking to
me
? And giving
me
a rose?

“I wanted to buy you a drink but some guy beat me to the punch
. But since you’re hardly touching it, I suspect the flower is a better gift anyway.”

I blushed at his words. I was holding the stem in my fingers and I quickly released it.

He tilted his head to the side as he watched me. He was waiting for me to speak, but I still didn’t say anything. “And what’s your name?”

“Uh—Sadie.”

He nodded. “Are you named after The Beatles song?”

“Yes,” I said as I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. I was impressed that he knew that.

His eyes glanced to my exposed thighs and the cleavage of my dress. A second later, he looked back at me. His look made me uncomfortable. While I was flattered that he was attracted to me, I was also nervous. He obviously assumed what kind of girl I was, judging by my slutty attire.

“Thank you for the flower
but I’m not interested.”

His eyes widened. He clearly had never been rejected before. That wasn’t a surprise. I mean, the man was gorgeous. “Did I offend you in some way?”

“No. I’m just not interested.”

Stephanie kicked me under the table. “What are you doing?” she whispered.

Ethan smiled. I assumed he caught the exchange. “Tell me why you aren’t interested and I’ll walk away.”

I was irritated that this guy wasn’t backing down. I made it clear that I wanted him to leave. “I’m not the kind of girl you think I am. I’m sorry if I misled you. I just don’t want to waste your time.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And what kind of girl do I think you are?”

Even when he looked perplexed
, he still looked sexy. Damn. “I’m not having sex with you tonight,” I said bluntly.

Natascia tr
ied not to laugh but her chuckles came out.

Ethan laughed
. “So you think the only reason I came over here was because I wanted to take you back to my place?”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. I didn’t mean to come off conceited. I just knew how guys behaved in bars. It was a place where they
hooked up with chicks, not searched for relationships. “Yes.”

He smiled. “Well, I think you’
re a very beautiful woman, but that wasn’t my intent.”

I started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. “You’re such a liar.”

Instead of being offended like I thought he would be, he chuckled. “You caught me.”

“So
my answer is no. I’m sorry that you wasted your time.”

Ethan nodded. “I don’t think I did.” He stared at me with his heated gaze. I felt unnerved by the look. The man was handsome, on
e of the best looking guys I’ve ever seen, but I didn’t want to sleep with him then never hear from him again. That wasn’t my style.

“Have a good night,” I said politely.

“Let’s get some coffee.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, espressos, cappuccinos, stuff like that.”

“Don’t be an asshole.”

He smiled. “Sorry.”

“And you buying me a cup of coffee isn’t going to get me to sleep with you
either.”

“That’s fine with me.”

I stared at him suspiciously. “I mean it. You may as well work your magic on some other girl.”

“But I’m only interested in you.”

I felt my spine shiver. As much as I hated to admit it, this guy had game. “No, thank you.”

Stephanie kicked me under the table. “She would love to.”

Natascia nodded. “Take her. We’ll help you.”

I turned and glared at
them, giving them a look of hate.

Ethan placed h
is hand on the table, dangerously close to mine. “Well, your friends seem eager to get rid of you.”

“Please,” Stephanie said, practically pushing me out of the chair.

I leaned toward her ear. “I’m going to kill you.”

“Okay,” she said. “But wait until after your date.” She nudged me again.

Ethan grabbed my chair and pulled it out, helping me stand. I pulled my dress down again, not wanting him to see too much. He grabbed my clutch and handed it to me. “Shall we?”

“Uh.”

“Great,” he said before I could finish. “Let’s go.”

I looked back at my friends
one more time, glaring at them before I walked with Ethan out of the bar.

2

 

As we walked down the street, I pul
led my dress down every few seconds. My heels scraped the concrete with each step. I hated wearing flashy shoes like that. It wasn’t my thing. He walked beside me, towering over me. He had his hands in his pockets, not touching me, which I was grateful for. I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. But at the same time, I did kinda want him to touch me.

Ethan saw me fix
my dress. “Would you like to change first?”

I would love n
othing more. But that meant I would have to return to my apartment—with Ethan. I was torn.

He saw me pull my dress down again. “Come on. Where do you live?”

“Uh, just up the street.”

He nodded. “Great.”

We walked down a few blocks before we reached my apartment building. Ethan held the front door open for me as we walked inside. When we got inside the elevator, it became awkward. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and cringed. I looked so awkward and unattractive. When I looked at his face in the mirror, I saw him stare at my body intently. There was a hungry expression on his face that made my heart race. His arm brushed against mine and I almost had a heart attack. When the doors opened, I breathed a sigh of relief.

We walked to my apartment door and I unlocked it.

Ethan stood outside while I walked in. I didn’t want to invite him into the apartment, but I felt rude making him stand outside. “Would you like to come in?”

He smiled. “Thank you.” He walked across the threshold and stood in my living room.

I hadn’t been alone with a guy in my apartment in a long time. I immediately felt like I was blundering. He was quiet so I wasn’t sure what he was thinking. When I heard the familiar sound of a bell ringing, I smiled.

Koku, my little dog, came into the living room and walked toward us. He held a toy in his mouth that was bigger
than his head. I kneeled down to the floor to pet him, but he ignored me and walked up to Ethan.

Ethan reached his hand down and started petting the dog. “Who’s this little guy?” He massaged Koku’s fur then scratched him behind the ears.

Koku acted like I didn’t exist. The traitor. “His name is Koku.”

“He’s a sweet dog.”

Koku dropped his toy then wagged his tail, asking Ethan to play with him. Ethan grabbed the toy and tossed it across the room. Koku ran for it, almost knocking over a table, then returned to Ethan. I rolled my eyes. The dog was supposed to protect me, not play with the strangers who entered my apartment.

“I’ll be right back.” I walked into my bedroom and changed into a long-sleeve shirt, a scarf, and dark jeans. For the first time that night, I felt comfortable. I could sit down without my ass
hanging out.

When I walked back into the living room, Ethan looked at me. His eyes drank me in for a moment. “You look lovely.”

I blushed. I tried to cover as much of my skin as possible, making it clear that I wasn’t a slut.

“U
m, thanks.”

He smiled. “You don’t take compliments very well.”

“No, I do.”

He laughed. “Your cheeks are as red as an apple.”

Now I felt more embarrassed. I kneeled down and kissed Koku on the head. “I’ll see you in a little while, okay?”

He whined.

“I love you too.”

Ethan patted him on the head. “I’ll see you later, Koku.”

I looked at him. “No, you won’t.”

He smiled. “We’ll see.”

“I meant what I said. I won’t change my mind.”

He nodded. “I know. And I’m not trying to change your mind.” He walked through the door and stood in the hallway. I locked the door behind me then we returned to the elevator.

“So, what do you do for a living, Sadie?” he asked as he moved next to me.

“I work at a bookstore.”

He nodded. “Which one?”

“Bill’s
Book Emporium.”

He
smiled. “I’ve been there a few times. Do you like working there?”

“I love it.”

“That’s great.”

“And what do you do?”

He was quiet for a moment. “I work on Wall Street.”

“That sounds boring.”

Ethan laughed. “And working in a bookstore doesn’t?”

I smiled. “You have a point.”

He nodded. “Well, it’s the same job everyday but with different numbers, I’ll give you that.”

I fidgeted with my scarf until the doors finally opened. When we walked out to the street, I heard my phone go off with a bunch of different noises. When I looked at
it, I realized I had ten text messages. I had a hunch who they were from.

Ethan smiled. “You’re close with your friends?”

I nodded. “Very.”

“I can tell. They seem nice.”

“I like them—sometimes.”

“Well, if they approve of me
, then maybe you should give me chance.”

“They just want
me to get laid.”

He smiled. “Well, I can help with that.”

I smiled at him. “I already said I’m not like that.”

“I can wait.”

I shook my head. “You’re wasting your time.”

We walked down the street and passed a few blocks. Ethan placed his hands in his pockets. “I’m definitely not wasting my time.”

“Do you think I’m playing hard to get?”

“No
.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Then I don’t understand.”

We arrived at the coffee shop and Ethan opened the door for me. After we walked inside, we stood in line.

“What would you like?” he asked. “I’ll order and you can take a seat.”

“Uh, okay. I’ll just have black coffee.”

“Okay.”

I turned away and moved to a table in the corner. It was nice not to worry about my ass hanging out like it did in my dress. I felt my cheeks blush as I stared at Ethan. He was tall and thin, not too bulky and not too skinny. He was perfect in every way. I didn’t understand why he was taking me out to coffee. I already said I wouldn’t sleep with him. I doubted he wanted anything but sex from me. And I was still surprised that he even wanted to sleep with me. I felt so ordinary compared to everyone else in that bar.

Ethan returned a moment later with our drinks then sat across from me. He took a drink of his coffee then set it down. He stared at me for a long time without saying anything. I looked out the window to avoid his gaze. The heat in his eyes was making me melt. He made me so nervous but so exc
ited at the same time. His blue eyes were paralyzing. It was hard to look at him without wanting to scream in delight. He was beautiful.

“How long have you lived in the city?” he asked.

“My whole life.”

He nodded. “My family is from
Connecticut. I moved here after college.”

“Do you miss it?”

“I miss my family, my aunts and uncles.”

I nodded. “None of them live here?”

“My two brothers do, as well as my sister.”

“Well, that’s nice.”

“Did you go to college, Sadie?”

The sound of my name
made me smile. The command in his voice when he said it made me shake. I don’t know how to explain it. “Yes.”

“And what did you major in?”

“English.”


What do you want to do with that?”

“Well, I like working at the bookstore, but
I would like to get into writing and journalism eventually. I do some freelance stuff with friends, but that’s it.”

“Do you love it?”

I smiled. “More than anything.”

“Then that’s all that matters.”

“Do you love your job?”

He shrugged. “It’s okay. I like having a job that allows me to live comfortably in the city.”

“So you just care about the money?”

He took a drink of his coffee then returned it to the table. “No, but I care about having a better quality of life.”

That sounded like the same thing to me but I didn’t comment on it.

“I like that sweater on you. It really brings out your eyes.”

Absentmindedly, I grabbed it and ran it through my fingers. It was grey. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that because my eyes are green. I realized that I hadn’t touched my coffee yet. I was just too nervous around him to move. I didn’t want to make an idiot of myself in some way.

He took another drink of his. I suspected that he was almost done.

“So, why did you want to have coffee with me?”

“I thought that was obvious.”

“Not to me.”

“I wanted to talk to you.”

“Or you thought if you were charming and handsome enough, I might change my mind.”

“You think I’m charming and handsome?”

“Uh.”

He smiled. “Well, thank you for the compliment.”

I sighed. “I know what kind of guy you are so you can save the prince charming act.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And what kind of guy am I?”

“You know, the kind that goes to a bar and picks up a chick, nails her, then never calls her again.”

He said nothing.

“Am I wrong?”

“Well, I can’t say that I haven’t done that before.”

“That’s what I thought.” I shouldn’t have sounded short with him but I did.

“But that isn’t my intention with you.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure.”

He smiled. “I haven’t always been the nicest guy. I’ve done things that people wouldn’t approve of, but I’ve never been a liar. I can promise you that.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely.”

“So, what do you want from me, exactly?”

He glanced at my body then focused his gaze on my face. “I want to take you out to dinner tomorrow night.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Because I want to get to know you better.”
He leaned further over the table. “And because I think you’re a very sexy lady.”

I felt my cheeks blush.
“And you don’t want to sleep with me?”

“Well, I didn’t say that,” he said with a laugh. “
That’s an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

“Well, I’m not going to.”

“I never asked you to.”

I said nothing
, finally taking a drink of my coffee.

“So, will you?”

“What?”

“Let me take you out to dinner tomorrow?”

I stared at him. “You know, you are taking the really long route to getting laid. You would save a lot of time if you just picked up another girl. I doubt you have trouble finding women to sleep with you.”

“First of all, thank you for the compliment. I’m not goi
ng to lie; I enjoy knowing you find me attractive. Secondly, that’s fine. You made it clear that you didn’t want that kind of relationship and I respect that. You can stop repeating yourself now.”

“So
are you looking for a relationship?”

“Possibly. I would like to spend more time with you to figure that out.”

I ran my fingers through my hair then tucked it behind my ear.

His
eyes grew hungry. “But when you do things like that, it makes it difficult to be a gentleman.”

“Sorry?”

“When you act sexy like that. You’re beautiful.”

I felt my heart catch in my throat. “You think I’m beautiful
...and sexy?”

“Duh,” he said with a laugh. “You don’t?”

“Not really.”


Your mirror must be broken.”

I didn’t know what to say. I found it hard to believe that this gorgeous man thought I
was attractive—beautiful. I felt hideous compared to him.

“So, how many times do I have to ask you?” His voice was deep and powerful. Sometimes he was carefree and other times he was aggressive. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

“What do you mean?”

He shook his head. “You lost the right to an opinion. It’s settled. I’m taking you out to dinner tomorrow night. I’ll be at your apartment at seven.”

“Uh.”

“I’m glad we got that straightened out.” He leaned back in
his chair and smiled at me.

“Okay.”

“Good.”

My phone started to go off again. Every few seconds
, there was a loud beep. My friends were pestering me, wondering what was going on with the guy I picked up at the bar. I cringed at the thought. I was on a date with some random stranger, one that I would see again tomorrow.

“Your friends seem very invested
in your personal life.”

I nodded. “They can be annoying.”

“You don’t go out with guys very often?”

I shook my head.

He smiled. “Good.”

Good? That’s an odd response.

I looked at my phone and saw the time. “I should probably get going.” In truth, I was so nervous around this man that I needed a break. He was so attractive but so intimidating at the same time.

He rose from his chair then helped me out of my seat. His actions made me smile. At least he was a polite gentleman. He threw our coffee away
then held the front door open. When we were outside, I stopped and looked at him.

“Thank you for the coffee.”

“Tell me that when we say goodnight.”

I raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“I’m walking you home.”

“Uh
, that’s really okay.”

He grabbed my arm—actually grabbed it—and walked me forward. He placed my arm through his and we walked down the street together. Since he placed me in that position, I didn’t dare move. Actually, I was happy that he did it. I liked
touching him. I felt warm walking next to him. I could feel the muscles of his arm through his jacket. He glanced down at me every once in a while.

When we returned to my apartment building, I
tried to pull my arm away but he wouldn’t let me.

“We aren’t at your door yet.”

“You really don’t have to do that.”

He ignored me. “Come on.”

When we got in the elevator, I didn’t pull my arm away. His hand was resting in his pocket and he shifted his weight to one leg. He turned to me and stared for a long time, his eyes gazing at my lips. I felt my heart accelerate as I thought about kissing him. I never wanted to kiss anyone like that before. His lips were so thin and pink. I wanted to stick my tongue in his mouth—stop. I couldn’t think like that. Things were getting out of hand.

When the doors open
ed, I breathed a sigh of relief. We walked down the hallway until I reached my apartment. I pulled away and grabbed my keys from my purse. I wanted to invite him into my apartment but I knew I couldn’t. With this level of attraction, I knew I would get myself into a mess. I turned toward him.

“Good night. And thank you for the coffee.”

He smiled. “Thank you for letting me walk you home.”

I nodded, unsure
of what to say.

“I’ll see you tomorrow at seven.”

“Okay.”

He continued to stand in front of me, staring at me. His look was so intense that I had to avert my gaze. He stepped closer and I could feel his breath fall on my cheek. I really, really wanted him to kiss me, but I also really, really didn’t want him to. I waited to see what would happen.

He leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “Good night, Sadie.”

“Good night, Ethan,” I whispered.

“I can’t wait until I see you tomorrow.” He took a step back and watched me. “Now go inside.”

I was dizzy from the kiss he gave me. It was so childish—just a peck on the cheek—but I felt exhilarated. I was surprised that
he wanted to watch me walk inside. I turned the key then opened the door. After I walked inside, he started to walk away.

I leaned my head out of the doorway and stared at his ass as he walked away. When he reached the elevator, I felt my heart fall. I forgot tha
t the doors were covered in reflective metal. I could see his face in the reflection. He was smiling at me.

“You like what you see?” he asked as the doors opened.

I jumped back into my apartment and closed the door. I was so embarrassed that I slid to the floor and covered my face. Koku ran out and started to lick my face, calming me. I had never been more ashamed in my life. Ethan caught me blatantly staring at his ass. God, my friends would never let me hear the end of it after I told them.

3

 

The loud knock on the door made Koku bark. I rolled over and sighed. I was having a dream about Ethan, a really good one, before I woke up. I c
ouldn’t remember it that well, but his lips were pressed against mine and they tasted really good. I wanted the dream to come back to me but it was already gone.

The pounding continued.

“Muh,” I mumbled as I got up. I walked to the door with Koku trailing behind me. He stared at it and waited to see who was on the other side. I trained him not to run into the hallway years ago. He was a smart dog and I liked having him around. It got really lonely around the apartment when he wasn’t there.

I opened the door, and wasn’t surprised to see the people
greeting me.

“What happened?” Natascia asked, her eyes wide.

Stephanie was staring at me, waiting for an answer.

I yawned and wiped the sleep from my eyes. They looked over my shoulder, expecting to see a naked Ethan walk out of the room. “He’s not here.”

“He isn’t?” Natascia asked.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not like that and you know
it.”

“Well, neither am I but I still would have done him. Did you see him? He was gorgeous.”

I smiled. “Yeah, he was.”

Stephanie stepped into the apartment then sat on the couch. We followed behind her. “Did you kiss him?”

“He kissed me on the cheek after he walked me home.”

“Awe,” they said together.

I rolled my eyes.

“Are you going to see him again?” Stephanie asked.

“We are going out to dinner tonight.”

Natascia clapped her hands together. “Yes.”

I covered my face with my hand. “I did something really stupid last night.”

Stephanie leaned forward. “What?”

“When he walked away, he caught me staring at his ass.”

Natascia laughed. “How was the view?”

I smiled. “It was nice—really nice.”

“And what did he say?” Stephanie asked.

My cheeks turned red. “You like what you see?”

Natascia laughed. “At least he has a sense of humor about it. It sounds like he really likes you.”

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

“Well, he wants to go out with you again and he just saw you yesterday.”

I shrugged. “I guess.”

“What do you mean, you guess?” Natascia said. “When it comes to guys
, you are so stupid.”

“Uh, thanks,” I said with a laugh. “Well, this guy is gorgeous and successful—he works on Wall
Street. What interest does he have in me?”

Stephanie stared at me. “You’re pretty too, Sadie.”

Natascia rolled her eyes. “No, you’re gorgeous. Stop acting like you’re not. I don’t know where your low self-esteem comes from.”

“Well, either way, the guy is out of my league.”

Natascia leaned forward. “Well, he wouldn’t have asked you out twice if he wasn’t interested.”

“Unless he just wants to get laid,” I countered.

“Wouldn’t he just pick up some other chick if that’s all he wanted?” Natascia asked.

I was quiet for a moment. “I guess you have a point.”

“You’re one of the dumbest smart people that I know,” Natascia said.

“Thanks,” I said with a laugh
.

There was knock on the door and we all flinched at the sound.

I looked at the clock on the wall. “That’s Jared. We’re going out to breakfast.”

Natascia sighed. “Well, it sounds like your wild—not really—story is over.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you.” I walked to the door, but before I opened it, I turned to them. “Don’t mention this to Jared.”

“Why?” Stephanie asked.

“Just don’t,” I argued. I opened the door. “Hey.”

He walked inside and nodded to my friends. “Hey. Had a sleepover?”

Natascia snorted. “No, unfortunately.”

I glared at her. “They were just leaving.”

Stephanie and Natascia stood up and walked out the door. “See you later,” they said as they disappeared.

“Where do you want to go?” Jared asked.

“The same place we always go.”

“But we
always
go there.”

“Because I like it.”

He sighed. “Don’t you get tired of it?”

“Fine. Where do you want to go?”

He was quiet for a moment. “Whatever.”

I stared at him for a moment. “You’re so annoying, you know that?”

He smiled. “The feeling is mutual.”

I grabbed my keys and we walked out the door. “So, how are you?”

“Good.”

I look at him. He was never this short with me. Most of the time
, I couldn’t get him to shut up. “What happened?”

He smiled. “I’m just having problems with Suzie. I think I’m going to end it.”

I nodded. “Thank god.”

“I figured you would be happy. I know you never liked her.”

I shook my head. “Definitely not. She’s too needy, jealous, and controlling. You deserve someone better.”

He laughed. “But I thought I was annoying.”

I smiled. “Well, you aren’t that bad.”

“I thought not.”

We left the building and made it to the sidewalk. We walked a few blocks before we reached the restaurant. They had brunch every Saturday so Jared and I went whenever we didn’t have plans. We took a seat by the window and faced each other.

“So, what did you do last night?”

“Uh, just went out with the girls.”

He grabbed a menu and looked at it.

I really wanted to change the subject. “You always order the same thing. Why do you need a menu?”

“Well, what if I change my mind?

“Have you ever?”

He smiled and put down the menu. The waitress came and took our orders. Jared ordered for the both of us. I always ordered the same thing too.

When she walked away, Jared looked at me. “So, what did you do last night?”

“I just said I went out with the girls.”

He shook his head. “You’re such a smartass. Went out
where
?”

“Just out.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Why are you being weird?”

“I’m not.”

“Then where did you go?”

“We went to a bar, okay?”

He laughed. “Wow, my sister put on her big girl panties.”

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up.”

“Get any takers?”

I was quiet for a moment. “No.”

“You know you can’t lie to me, right? I’ve seen you lie to Dad a hundred times. I know when you’re bluffing.”

“Well, there was this one guy.”

“And what happened?”

“We went out to coffee.”

He nodded. “Are you seeing him again?”

I smiled. “Tonight.”

“What does he do for a living?”

I rolled my eyes. “I hate it when you act like this.”

“Like what?” he asked, exasperated.

“Like a controlling, over-protective brother.”

“Well, it’s my job.”

“No, it isn’t. I can take care of myself.”

“By avoiding men at all costs,” he said with a laugh.

“Then your brotherly duties are relieved.”

“I would much rather have a sister that has shitty boyfriends than one who doesn’t have anyone at all.”

“I’m not having this conversation with you again.”

“Why are you like this?”

I sighed. “What did I just say?”

“Well, I don’t get it. You never give anyone a chance. What about Alex? That guy is like in love with you.”

“Not this again.” Alex was Jared’s friend. They met a few years ago and do almost everything together. I always had the suspicion that Alex had feelings for me, but I never thought they were so intense. My brother encouraged me to be with him, but I just never felt
anything for him. He was sweet—really sweet, attractive, and funny, but I don’t know. He never made my heart race. If I did decide to go out with him, it would be safe. I don’t think the guy would ever hurt me, but I still didn’t want to.

“Just give the guy a chance. I think you
’ll like him.”

“And if I don’t
, it will make everything awkward. I would never want to ruin any of your friendships.”

“Well, I’m giving you permission
, so just try.”

I rolled my eyes. “I just told you I have a date tonight.”

“What’s this guy’s name?”

“Ethan.”

“Ethan what?”

“I don’t know.”

“What are you doing tonight?”

“He’s
taking me to dinner.”

He nodded in approval. “So you like him
, then?”

I felt my cheeks blush. “Yeah.”

My brother caught the look. “So you like him a lot, then?”

I shrugged. “I just met the guy.”

“Well, your face is redder than a tomato.”

Thankfully, the waitress came over and handed us our dishes. We ate in silence for a
long time. My brother and I are barely over a year apart and I think that’s why we are so close. We always experienced life around the same maturity level. Sometimes we fought until we were on the brink of war, but we always settled our differences no matter what. My brother was a great guy—the best—but I would never tell him that. Besides, he probably already knew it anyway.

“When are you going to break up with Suzie?”

He sighed. “I don’t know. Next time I see her.”

“Make sure you hide all the dishes.”

He rolled his eyes. “I know.”

“She showed me wedding dresses last week. You need to do it soon.”

“That girl is crazy. We’ve been dating for a few months. I never mentioned marriage once. I didn’t even introduce her to Dad.”

“I don’
t know what her deal is. You sure know how to pick em’.”

He laughed. “Yeah, that’s true. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”

I stared at my brother across the table. He had the same dark hair and green eyes that I did. However, he was much taller and larger than me. He played a lot of sports with his friends and prided himself on his physique. My friends always told me they thought my brother was hot but I never mentioned it to him. It was weird to think about him in that way.

The waitress brought the bill and Jared paid for it like he always did. He refused to let me pay for anything. I never understood why. I didn’t need him to take care of me.

“So are you nervous about tonight?” he asked.

“So are you a girl now?”

He laughed. “I’m just trying to talk to you about this guy. You never go to bars and you never go out with people you see on the streets, or people in general, for that matter.”

I smiled. “Well, he convinced me.”

“And how did this guy manage to pull that off? He must practice hypnosis.”

“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “He just didn’t give me the opportunity to say no.”

“Well, that’s never worked for me.”

“He had a charming way of going about it.”

“Such as?”

“Well, instead of sending me a drink
from the bar, he sent me a rose.”

Jared rolled his eyes. “So cliché.”

“When have you ever seen a guy do that?”

“Whatever. It’s still cheesy.”

“Well, it worked.”

Jared rose from his seat. “You ready to go?”

“Yeah, sure.”

We left the restaurant and returned to the apartment building. My brother and I lived in the same complex. We didn’t do it on purpose. It just worked out that way. He lived a few stories above me and had an extra key to my apartment. Sometime
s, when he wanted to hide from Suzie, he would crash at my place. I didn’t mind. He never dropped by unexpectedly. He was always respectful of my privacy just like I was of his. I knew he would always protect me and defend me no matter what my crime. I felt the same way about him.

When the elevator stopped, I got out on my floor.

“Good luck tonight,” he said before the door closed.

“Uh, thanks.”

“And don’t chase him away by being annoying.”

“You only think I’m annoying because I’m your sister.”

“No. You really are annoying.”

“Piss off.”

He smiled. “Have fun.”

I smiled back. “Thanks.”

The elevator doors closed and he disappeared. When I came back to my apartment, a rose was taped to my door along with a note.