Pretending(3)

By: Shanna Clayton



“Wait there, miss! We need your help!”

Guess running is out, dammit.

I stand, glaring at the wooden rail like it’s out to get me. Tyson marches up the stairs while my mind runs rampant constructing a plan to get out of this mess. Wesley and I live our lives pretending the other doesn’t exist. If he were sober, he wouldn’t want me talking to his friends. He wouldn’t want me having anything to do with them. This is what I get for letting my curiosity get the best of me. Never again will I inspect a noise in the middle of the night—serial killers and thieves be damned.

Thanks again, Harland.

I turn and nearly smack into Tyson’s chest. When I look up, the guy is smiling at me and giving me a look I haven’t gotten in quite a while. “Well what have we here?” he asks no one in particular, eyeing me from head to toe.

Guys haven’t looked at me this way in so long I’m not sure how to react. It completely throws me off. I sort of have the urge to laugh, but at the same time, I feel like rolling my eyes.

“What the hell is going on?” Chase calls from the foyer, sounding irritated.

Tyson doesn’t tear his eyes from me. “Nothing.” His smile widens. “Just admiring some of Kent’s artwork. This piece is in-fucking-credible.”

Oh Jesus. He’s really working that seductive appraisal thing. Tyson is a good-looking guy with blonde hair and dimples, and he’s got a certain swagger about him. I’m not swooning at his feet or anything, but even so, I can’t help the laugh that bubbles up in my throat because:

I’m a girl.

Flattery works on me every time.



“Well stop eyeballing her, and ask her to point us in the direction of Wesley’s room.”

“I may ask her more than that,” Tyson says so only I can hear.

I’m more than amused at this point, but not the least bit intimidated by the heated look he’s giving me. Back home, I dealt with guys like Tyson all the time. Waitressing at the local sports bar meant serving guys who came on too strong once they had a few beers in their system. I can handle him.

“Tell me, beautiful, how much does Kent pay to keep you on his staff?”

A grin tugs at my lips. I can’t really blame him for that assumption, considering Wesley probably never mentioned me before.

I decide to have a little fun with it. “Why are you asking?”

“Because I want to offer you double his price.”

Now I know he’s drunk. Either that, or he’s teasing me. I’m not sure which. “You’re making me think I’m underpaid.”

“I assure you, I’ll pay more. My house could use a maid.”

“I’m not a maid.”

He shrugs as if he couldn’t care less what my job is. “Cook. Clean…whatever you want to do.” He winks, and there’s a suggestive cadence to that last part.

I purse my lips, pretending to consider his offer. “Gee, what’s the going rate these days for a roommate? Because I can assure you, Kent pays me nothing.”

Tyson’s jaw drops. The look on his face is priceless, and I laugh again.

“You’ve got to be shittin’ me,” he sputters. “You’re Wesley’s roommate?”

“Dahlia Reynolds,” I say, sticking my hand out. “But most people call me Doll.”

“You live here with Wes? In this house?”

“Yep, that’s how the whole roommate thing works.”

“How come I’ve never seen you before?”

“We had Biological Anthropology together. You’ve seen me before.”

Tyson rubs his hand over his jaw, trying to place me. “You sure about that? I don’t remember you being in that class.”

“You probably never noticed me because…” I look down at my body, catching the way my tank top and boyshorts peek out of my robe. Readjusting the fabric, I pull the strings tighter to cover myself up. “Well I don’t usually look like this.”

That’s something of an understatement. I usually go out of my way to look as unnoticeable as possible. Tonight I look like myself.

“That’s hard to believe.” Tyson’s sexy rasp reappears. “’Cause I don’t think I could ever forget you.”

Oh geez. He’s back to flirting. Better change the subject now before Wesley wakes up and realizes what’s going on.

“You’re looking for Wesley’s room, right?” Glancing over the balcony, I spy my roommate’s limp form sprawled across the stairs. “What exactly is the matter with him?”

As soon as the question leaves my lips, I feel like banging my head into the nearest wall. I shouldn’t have asked.

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