Pretending(5)By: Shanna Clayton
I’m not sure why, but I lean even closer, until my face is only inches from his. He smells like alcohol mixed with a clean, intoxicating scent that sparks a desire to grab his shirt and nuzzle my face against his neck.
This is crazy.
I keep waiting for someone to barge in and stop me, but no one does. Maybe it’s my curiosity again, I don’t know, but something draws me to Wesley. There have always been two versions of him—the one Harland told me about and the one I’ve been living with. It doesn’t matter that we have no involvement in each other’s lives. Part of me still holds out hope the boy in Harland’s stories will come to life. I feel like I’m waiting for that day to happen, sitting on the edge of my seat in suspense, always on the lookout for a flicker of the real Wesley to appear. There’s got to be more to this guy than an empty shell of a bedroom.
Again, this is crazy.
This is the real Wesley. He’s drunk, sleeping, and pretty beat up. I should leave.
Steely fingers grasp my arm, wrenching me back. I gasp, and my heart slams against my chest. Wesley is awake. His blue eyes lock onto mine. They look wild, like he doesn’t know where he is or who I am. I stare back at him, not sure what to do. Should I say hello and ask him how he’s been? Because I doubt that’d go over very well. Thankfully his hand goes slack, and he falls back onto his pillow.
I run from the bedroom, not bothering to shut the door behind me. I don’t slow down until I’m far across the house. After several seconds, my heart rate returns to a steady pace. I’m not sure what the heck just happened.
One thing’s for sure. Next time I hear a strange noise at night, I’m staying in bed.
“Gwen, please don’t do this to me. Not today.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve chased after Gwen Hubbard, begging for her help. It’s irritating and embarrassing, especially since we’ve had this same fight too many times to count. Keeping up with her stubborn pace makes me want to scream. I hold it back and remind myself that she means well.
“You are a waste of my talents!”
“Come on, Gwen. You’re being ridicu—”
“A waste of my training!”
I’d love to remind Gwen she’s on the clock right now, but it would no doubt send her into a blind rage. This is a prime example of why one should never hire best friends. Boundaries disappear completely. Seriously, what made me think this would work?
Let’s see, Gwen needed a job, Kent House needed a maid, and it is nice having a friend around.
Most of the time.
Now, not being one of those nicer times.
Gwen quickly makes her way through the main hall, tossing her long dark hair over her shoulder with a huff.
“Gwen, wait!” I call out, staying fast on her heels.
“Why?” she sneers over her shoulder. “Talking to you is a waste of breath.”
I stop in the middle of the hall.
That was low, even for her. “You don’t mean that.”
She turns towards the library and shoves the doors open. I follow her inside.
Shelves upon shelves of endless books tower from the floor to the ceiling. Renowned for their explorations, the Kent men filled this library with a massive collection of artifacts and treasures, most of which were discovered before treasure laws. Some I think were found later but were brought here to Gainesville in secret and then passed off as having belonged to the family for centuries. They sit in glass cases all around the room, an array of world history tucked away in the middle of nowhere instead of some big-city museum.
I stop by the fireplace, placing a hand on my hip. “Gwen,” I plead, breathless. “I really don’t want to argue with you today.”
She turns to face me, her dark brown eyes glaring beneath perfectly arched jet-black brows. “I know exactly what you’d like, Doll. You can forget it. I’d like nothing more than to throw all that crap out the window.” She crosses her arms and taps her foot against the carpeted floor. Apparently she didn’t mean the “waste of breath” comment; the foot tapping is a sign her rant has only just begun.
“First of all, you know my momma is an amazing hairdresser. She took pains to teach me her skills.”
“Yes, yes. You’re very talented. This isn’t news to me.” Gwen and I went to the same high school back in Savannah. We’ve known each other since we were kids.
She points a finger at me and narrows her eyes. “I’m not finished.”
I manage not to groan. “Go on then, of course.”
“I’m old school southern, babe. I can sew a stitch like nobody’s business, and when it comes to makeup—I’m a freaking artist.”