Authors: Melanie Marks
(Really the word “love” should be where I used “need.”
In both cases.
Yeah, I love Zoey.)
Being alone in the office with Riley had gotten my heartbeat
pumping, and it sure didn’t help me get my mind off his kiss. In fact, now it
was all I could think about.
As a distraction, I tried to concentrate on later tonight. I
had plans—yay. Actual plans. And they didn’t involve me in my pajamas
scarfing down a carton of ice cream. Not tonight.
I sidled over to Riley at the soda machine, deciding to let
him know that: that I wasn’t just going to sit around wallowing in my Finn
detachment issues (which I actually didn’t have). All my issues these days had
to do with Riley. But Riley still didn’t seem to get that—
I was completely over Finn.
I still got the sense Riley thought I was just trying to
lick my wounds from Finn cheating on me—but that I would forgive him.
(And Finn’s mom sure didn’t help my case. Grr!) How could I convince Riley that
that wasn’t going to happen
that I would never,
ever go back to Finn? Sadly, it seemed to be true: time was the only answer.
At the soda machine, I edged beside Riley much closer than
was necessary. I stood so close my arm was brushing against his.
Whoa, Zoey! Personal space?
But just feeling the heat of his arm against mine gave me a
pathetic little thrill. And sent little sparks running through my body. It was,
yeah … pathetic. Totally.
So, though I
cringed at my utter pathetic-ness, I was also slightly satisfied—just by
his arm against mine.
You’re such a goner, Zoey!
It’s sad. It’s quite possible the guy doesn’t even
Maybe he didn’t like your kiss. Maybe while you’ve been pining away, dreaming
about his, he’s been gagging about yours!!
The way he’d been looking at me all night from the corner of
his eyes made me doubt it. But still, I liked to torture myself. Apparently.
Because though his eyes told me one thing, my brain told me quite
It kept saying:
really wanted to be with you Zoey, he would just be with you. He’d snatch you
up into his arms and make you his girlfriend.
Unfortunately, it seemed Ava had soured him on the whole
girlfriend idea. Well, her and Finn’s mom. (Grr!)
I sighed. Hopefully, he just needed time
Time to sort out … everything. The Finn is his best friend
issues, and the
his best friend’s girlfriend
issues. And the Ava clinging to him and not wanting to let him go issues.
the boy had issues
Let him breathe, Zoey! Just
stand back and let him have some space.
So, I did. I stepped back.
Away from him.
As though I’d just stumbled up against him accidently or something. Though as
I’d edged up to him his lips parted slightly, and his eyes had flickered with a
spark. Like maybe, perhaps (possibly) he’d gotten pleasure from
simple touch as well. Or, well, did I
imagine that? (Sadly, sadly, oh-so-pathetically possible.)
He eyed the space I’d made between us. Eyed the space, then
me, then the space. He ran a hand over his eyes, quirking a sheepish grin. “My
arm misses yours, Jones.”
Just to keep my heart from exploding, I turned into a
jabbering idiot. “I have an old friend coming to visit for the
weekend—she’s coming by the restaurant after my shift.”
Though my pulse was pounding, I tried my hardest to sound
Like I was just informing him of
this information out of idle chitchat. But really, it was my pathetic way of
“So, don’t worry about me,
buck-o. I have friends. And plans. My life doesn’t
around work and Finn.”
I kind of felt desperate to prove that—that I wasn’t
falling apart without Finn … and that I actually had friends, since it had been
a long time since he’d seen me with any.
I smiled when Riley lifted an eyebrow, looking way more
interested than a casual boss should. It made me gush out, “She’s really into
cool cars.” I raised my eyebrows playfully. “Can I borrow yours?”
Riley shook his head with a grin. “No one’s touching my
car—not even you, Jones.”
“I was just kidding!”
I really was. I just wanted him to see I was impressed with
his fancy new car— though really I wasn’t.
I drove a beat-up old clunker. What did I know, or care, about
cars? Nothing. A high point in my life would be getting GPS. I was impressed
with Riley’s awesome guitar playing, and his swoon-worthy, delicious,
yummy-yummy kisses, and the fact he was incredibly cool yet sweet as could be,
everything about Riley, actually.
But his car?
wasn’t really into it. But he sure was. The others at the restaurant were
mightily impressed with it too. So, apparently, I’m just kind of out of it. Or
But I tried to let him know his car was still “hot.” Since
Finn had bashed in its windshield and windows and everything. Now it was all
fixed up and perfect again. But still, I felt guilty being the cause of his
“baby” (aka: prized car) taking a bashing.
It made me coo about the car as though it meant more to me
than it actually did—because I knew it meant a lot to Riley.
When Lacy got to the restaurant I was just getting off work.
I took her out to the parking lot and showed her Riley’s car and she was all
awed by it, just as I knew she would be.
Then I took her into the restaurant and coaxed Riley into
sitting with us and visiting while we ate. Lacy was pretty awed by Riley as
well, more so than I’d expected. I had wanted the two of them to meet, and I’d
wanted Riley to see I actually had a friend to hang with tonight (besides ice
cream), and I’d wanted Lacy to meet my handsome co-worker/boss, and later I’d
tell her how we made out in his office the other night. I was hoping she’d be a
little, tiny bit jealous (‘cause Riley is gorgeous and awesome).
So, that was my plan—introduce them to each other and
have them see I wasn’t lonely and pathetic.
But suddenly, I could see things weren’t going to go the way
I’d imagined. I felt sort of sick watching Lacy blatantly flirt with Riley, and
she kept putting me down to make
seem—I’m not sure—funny? Suddenly, I realized I liked her a lot
better when she was miles away. Suddenly, I realized I hated her.
“Um, Riley has a girlfriend. Sort of,” I informed Lacy.
Though Lacy had gone to middle school with
us, boys and girls
didn’t really mingle too much back
then—but Ava had been popular. I knew Lacy would remember her. And she did—I
saw her eyes narrow with a jealous glint in them. Before she could say anything
though, Riley cleared his throat.
“Jones—what I was saying tonight—in my
office—I was trying to tell you Ava’s having a hard time with it … but
we’re over.” He gave me a level stare. “
My heart did a little flutter at his words. And the way he
was looking at me. And the way he had said that—all husky and meaningful.
Like he was conveying a message.
But then my heart
seemed to interpret his message differently. She gushed out, “Maybe you could
take me for a ride in your new car.” She pushed away her half-finished dinner
and smiled up at him all flirty and
like. “And take me dancing.”
Riley rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes cutting to me
before he answered. “You mean the three of us?”
“No!” Lacy laughed. “Zoey isn’t into cars, or dancing. She
likes to stay home with her brothers and sisters since her dad died and her mom
is … struggling.”
Okay, that was true, what she said, but it suddenly made me
feel boring (and I’d told her about my mom in confidence, so I was also kind of
“I like hanging out with Jones’s brother and sister too,”
Riley said, and I could have kissed him. In fact, I wanted to full-on make-out
with him right there on the table. Suddenly, he was the sexiest guy on the
Take that Lacy! Who’s
But Lacy let the remark slide, as though it hadn’t even been
uttered. Instead she turned all chit-chatty, changing the subject. “Why do you
call Zoey, Jones?”
Riley took a drink of his soda. He rubbed his mouth with his
palms before answering. “Back in middle school, when I first met her—I
just wanted to make it clear—let her know: her last name wasn’t Oaks.” I
Finn’s last name.) Riley’s eyes
locked on mine. “—
Missiles shot through my body. I choked out. “Riley, it’s
not going to be Oaks. Ever.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You sure about that, Jones?”
I swallowed. “Riley, I’m completely over Finn. Despite what
you think—or what Finn’s mom tried to feed you—we’re not going to
get back together.”
Riley’s eyes clung to mine,
leaned his head back, staring up at the ceiling. “That’s not what he’s saying,
I wanted to tell him so bad, “Finn’s not
I want anymore. You are.”
I wanted to express everything in my heart. How much I
longed for him to be my boyfriend. For a crazy, psycho moment, as I stared into
his warm, hopeful eyes, I felt I could. Felt I could pour out my heart and
soul—even though it would be in front of Lacy.
But just as I opened my mouth to confess my feelings, Lacy
broke the moment. Shattered it.
She clutched Riley’s thigh. “So, let’s see how fast your car
She snuggled up close to him and gave him a skanky smile,
fluttering her eyelashes. “And we can check out the back seat.”
Riley glanced at me, as though for permission.
Or at least to see what I thought of this.
He had to be
sorely tempted. I mean, Lacy was beautiful and had killer curves and she was
blatantly throwing herself at him. He had to know if he went off with her he
was going to score big time, no doubt about it.
I shrugged at him, like whatever. After all, I wasn’t
exactly into my dear friend Lacy anymore—it seemed. I mean, I hadn’t seen
her since middle school, and now I hoped I’d never see her again, ever. So, she
might as well get lost. At least that’s what I tried telling myself. But in
truth, I knew I’d die if Riley left with her.
Still, what could I do? I held my breath, waiting for
Riley’s answer, knowing he believed Finn—
Oaks and I were fated to be together. Forever. That though Finn had made a
horrific error in judgment I’d eventually forgive him.
that’s what I do.
Over and over.
Riley took another drink, then flexed and unflexed his jaw
muscles a moment—something he does when he’s thinking. Apparently,
weighing the situation in his mind.
Finally he drew in his breath and said, “I think I’m going
to pass. Jones’s brother and sister are at their grandma’s tonight.”
I jerked my head up at him in surprise. How did he know
that? He must have overheard me talking to the other waitresses earlier.
Riley went on, kind of confidential-like, “I’m pretty sure
Jones planned on this being a girl’s night.”
Now I felt lame.
felt sorry for me. Ugh! He must have heard how excited I sounded to have my
dear old friend in town, heard all my silly plans that I had gushed to the
waitresses in the break room about—just trying to lift my spirits and
seem like I had a life outside of work and my family.
Riley rose from the table, giving the excuse he had work to
finish in his office.
“It was nice meeting you,” he said to Lacy before walking
Lacy watched him go with her mouth hanging open in
disbelief. I mean
herself at him. I’m sure she hadn’t expected him to brush
My spirits turned toward the heavens.
I so wanted to follow him into his office and pin him
against his door. Lock lips with him again and get reacquainted with his
thrilling, tantalizing tongue. I wanted to
Having Lacy around wasn’t what stopped me.
, I thought,
I’m just going to go for it
But then she started whining about how she missed her
boyfriend and how she felt sad and alone and ugly.
And of course Riley’s rejection crushed her.
So, of course, I had to take her to find chocolate. Lots of
it—fast. And it couldn’t be here, in the booth she’d just been jilted in.
I took her downtown to a restaurant that served chocolate decadence to die for.
But when we got there the place was hopping busy, so the hostess offered us a
table in the bar, where there was a table-for-two that just opened. “Otherwise,
it’s an hour wait,” she said.