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Authors: Delaney Diamond

Tags: #seattle, #billionaire, #friends to lovers, #family series

Just Friends (5 page)

BOOK: Just Friends
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“What do you think, Trent?”

They both looked at him expectantly, eyebrows
raised, waiting for an answer. His throat tightened and he willed
his eyes not to lower to her breasts.

“Looks a’ight,” he replied.

Alannah pursed her lips and turned sideways
to the right, showing off the length of one creamy leg to
mid-thigh. Then she shifted to the left. His eyes narrowed on the
freckles spattered across her back. For anyone to see. Definitely
showing too much damn flesh. Practically naked.

A vein in his temple throbbed.

“I like it, but let’s try something else.
This is definitely a possibility.” Alannah shot him the thumbs-up
sign before hurrying back to the dressing room.

Trenton let out the breath he’d been holding
and swiped a hand down his face, removing the small beads of sweat
that had popped out. What the hell kind of outfits had Julia
picked? Alannah was a nice girl, not one of those women who showed
all their goods for the world to see.

Before too long, both women returned. This
time Alannah wore a short black dress that, in his opinion, barely
covered her ass and hugged it too much.

“What the hell is that?” Heart racing, he
shot to his feet. “Half the dress is missing.”

That dress was unacceptable.
Un-ac-ceptable
.

Two sets of eyes widened in surprise and
looked at him.

“It’s a cocktail dress,” Julia answered.

“I see that. A real
cock
tail dress.”
Heat prickled the nape of his neck and he swallowed the tightness
in his throat.

Alannah sent a strange look in his
direction.

Julia frowned at him. Black, high-heeled
sandals dangled from her fingers, and sparkly things like jewels
covered the thin straps. To his dismay, she bent down and
encouraged his friend to put on what could only be classified as
hooker pumps.

Alannah slipped them onto her feet, and a
transformation took place. The heels had her calves looking right,
and her posture improved. Overall she looked fantastic. Taller and
sexy, with elongated legs and her butt displayed in all its round,
grabbable glory in a dress that left
absolutely
nothing to
the imagination. Trenton’s stomach knotted up, and his blood
pressure spiked high enough to cause heart failure.

Alannah took two steps in the heels and
twisted her ankle. He almost ran to her, but Julia was there,
lending a steady hand.

“Careful,” Julia said. “You can’t walk like
you’re in tennis shoes. You have to move those hips, and you have
plenty.”

Staring down at her feet, Alannah let out a
low-pitched, nervous laugh. “I guess I’ll have to practice. I’ve
never worn heels this high.” Chewing the corner of her mouth, she
shot a look in Trenton’s direction. “What do you think?” she asked
timidly.

“I don’t like it,” he answered, shaking his
head vehemently.

Julia gawked at him. “What’s not to like?
She’s got great legs, and now they’re shown off in a nice pair of
shoes. The dress fits her body perfectly—emphasizing her best
attributes in a positive way. It’s all about finding clothes
appropriate for your body type.”

Trenton scowled. “Who asked you?”

Alannah gasped. “Trent!”

He pointed at her. “Stay right there. Don’t
move.”

He marched onto the sales floor and moved
swiftly through the racks, spotting and pulling two dresses much
more appropriate for Alannah to wear. Then he hurried back to both
women—Alannah shooting Julia an apologetic smile and Julia standing
with her hands linked together in front of her and her mouth set in
a flat line.

Clutching a dress in each hand, Trenton held
them up like trophies. “These are better.” Both were long-sleeved.
The black dress would probably fall right below the knee, and the
multicolored dress should reach her around the ankles. He held the
black one toward Alannah. “And this one has sparkly things on it
and it’s black, so it’s perfect as an evening dress or cocktail
dress or whatever.”

Alannah and the salesperson looked at each
other. He chose not to decipher the look. Alannah trusted him and
had trusted him and his opinion for over twenty years. His opinion
held much more weight than some saleswoman looking to pimp her out
like a common prostitute.

A tight, close-lipped smile lifted the
corners of Alannah’s mouth. “Would you excuse us for a minute?”
Julia nodded and went to straighten sweaters at a table out of
earshot.

Folding her arms, Alannah shot Trenton what
she thought was her angry stare, where she furrowed her brow and
pursed her lips. Instead, she looked absolutely adorable, but now
wasn’t the time to mention it. He was upset and she was
annoyed.

“I know what you’re doing, and you don’t have
to do this. Really,” she said.

“Really? Cause I’m worried you’re going to
catch a cold in those dresses.”

Alannah raised an eyebrow at him but he kept
his expression blank.

She sighed and rolled her eyes to the
ceiling. “You’re doing what you always do, the big brother routine.
I get it, I’m showing a lot of skin.”

“So then what are you doing? You look
indecent!” He sounded like a ninety-five-year-old man. But he
couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Her eyes stretched so wide he could clearly
see the muted green ring around the brown. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious. You look like a damn
prostitute.”

Her face flushed red, and that’s when he
realized he’d gone too far. A dull ache of regret filled his
chest.

“You should go,” she said in a tight voice.
She spun around and wobbled toward the dressing room.

Trenton tossed the dresses on the sofa.
“Wait.” He rushed around in front of her—easy to do, since she
couldn’t move very fast in the heels. “I didn’t mean what I
said—”

“You said I look indecent. You said I look
like a prostitute.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.” Trenton
rubbed his forehead, in search of a better way to express the
turbulent emotions he’d felt when he saw her transformation. “It’s
just…you don’t have to do all of…this.” He waved a hand at the
entire disturbing ensemble.

A customer smiled at them and sidled by into
one of the dressing rooms.

“You date women who look like
this
all
the time, Trent,” Alannah said in a low, brittle voice. She folded
her arms.

“That’s different.”

“How is it different? Because it’s me? How
else am I going to get noticed if I don’t look like everyone
else?”

“What do you want to be noticed for?” he
demanded.

She shook her head and spoke in a low,
controlled voice. “You don’t get it, do you? Of course not, because
people like being around you. You walk into a room and everybody,
women
and
men, flock to you. Women throw themselves at you
every single day,
I mean”—she lowered her voice and darted a
gaze in Julia’s direction—“she would have jumped you if I hadn’t
been standing right there. You don’t understand what it’s like for
the rest of us. To be invisible.”

It never occurred to Trenton that Alannah
thought of herself in that way. She dated and had plenty of
friends. “You’re not invisible.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not,” he insisted. He had to rid
her of that ridiculous notion.

“Most of my friends are your friends. The
only time anyone notices me is when I’m with you.”

Trenton edged toward her, anger pulsating
through his muscles. He couldn’t stand to hear her talk about
herself in such a negative way. “You’re wrong. Your
perception—”

“My perception is my reality.”

Had she always felt this way? He wanted to
fix this but didn’t know how. “You don’t have to do this, though.
You’re fine the way you are.”

“It’s not enough. I want to be lusted after
and checked out and whistled at like other women.” Staring at
her feet, Alannah restlessly plucked the hem of the dress.

Trenton grasped her wrists. He ducked his
head and stared into her eyes. “You’re better than other women. The
kind of attention you’re going to get is from men like me—men who
only want to use you. You don’t want that kind of attention, do
you?”

Sadness shimmered in the depths of her eyes.
It killed him to think that he was the reason her earlier euphoria
had been dampened, but he had to get through to her.

“Just once, I don’t want to be the good girl,
or the nice one. Just once,
I
want to be the pretty one. In
my college yearbook, someone wrote I’d make a nice wife one day.
Who writes that? I want men to look at me and want to…screw my
brains out.”

Trenton dropped her hands and took a step
back, from shock as well as the lurid thoughts that immediately
came to mind.
Unacceptable
for him to think about his best
friend in this way.

Naked. Legs in the air. Getting screwed.
By him
.

He suddenly became aware of his heart’s
rigorous pounding against his thoracic cavity.

“Do you know what I mean?” Her eyes pleaded
for understanding.

A tightness lodged in his chest and Trenton
struggled for air, harsh breaths banging the walls of his lungs
like bumper cars threatening to bounce off track. “Yeah, I know
what you mean.”

Unfortunately. 

 

Chapter Six

Alannah bought the first dress and
left the other outfits behind. She and Trenton exited Macy’s in
quiet, an unusual occurrence for the two of them.

“I’m done for the day,” she announced. They
stopped in front of the main entrance to the mall. Her excitement
about the shopping trip had dulled dramatically. She’d made a
mistake accepting Trenton’s offer of help.

Trenton didn’t argue, but his wrinkled brow
conveyed his contrition. “About what I said, Lana…I’m not used to
seeing you like that, and it threw me, that’s all.”

“I understand. I have to get used to the
changes, too, but I’m excited.”

“Obviously.” He scratched his head and
scanned the busy mall.

“There’s nothing wrong with change,” Alannah
pointed out.

“There’s good change and bad change. Once you
start dressing a certain way, men start looking at you and thinking
things. It’s not right. You’re…special.” He swallowed.

Translation: boring, plain. Invisible.

“I’m not walking down the street half naked.
The clothes fully cover me.”

“I know, I know. Still…” He frowned. “This
guy you’re trying to impress—if he can’t see you for who you are
right now, then maybe he doesn’t deserve you. He might not be right
for you.”

“I’m making these changes for me, not
him.”

“I don’t want you to make a mistake.”

“And you haven’t made mistakes? I’ve warned
you about certain women, but you don’t listen. Remember when you
wanted to impress that woman who makes the energy bars? You
actually tried to adopt a vegan diet.”

“Don’t remind me,” he groaned. He covered his
face with a hand. “Worst forty-eight hours of my life.”

Alannah grinned. “I told you something about
her rubbed me the wrong way.” Truth be told, all of his
entanglements rubbed her the wrong way. Some more than others.

That particular woman turned out to have a
very specific agenda. She hadn’t been interested in Trenton, but
went out with him because their high-profile relationship brought
much needed publicity to her company.

“I remember, I remember.”

“And let’s not forget the one with the
ridiculously huge breast implants.”

“Who?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know who I’m
talking about. The one who wanted to land a Playboy spread. What
was her name? Boobies McBoobage, wasn’t it?”

He chuckled, almost doubling over with
laughter. “Come on now, she wasn’t that bad.”

Alannah quirked an eyebrow at him. “Oh,
really? She looked ready to tip over. Didn’t she wear a back brace
so she wouldn’t?”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

Alannah shrugged. “All I’m saying is, we’re
both adults, and we’re going to make mistakes. But even with that,
I don’t think this guy is a mistake.”

He watched her in silence for a moment, and
then flipped his gaze to the shoppers milling around. “I wish you
would at least let me know who he is.” He brought his eyes back to
her.

“I will in time.”

“You keep this up, and I’m going to start
thinking he’s an ex-con.” Trenton sighed. “But I’ll leave you alone
for now. Come here.”

“I’m not hugging you.”

“Come in for the hug.” He motioned with his
hands. “You know you have to get the hug.”

She groaned, pretending to be upset, but when
he pulled her into his arms and kissed the top of her head, she
felt as if she were right where she should be and didn’t want to
let go. Her cheek rested against his firm chest, and she inhaled
his Trenton smell. He didn’t have on cologne today, so it was just
him—pure masculinity and achingly familiar. She squeezed her eyes
shut and hugged him tight, wishing…wishing he would see her as more
than someone he had to protect.

When she felt as if she would drown in her
emotions, she pulled back. “Okay, that’s enough.” She bit her
bottom lip to keep it from trembling.

Trenton took a couple of steps back and
cleared his throat. “I better go,” he muttered, almost to
himself.

They said their goodbyes and he sauntered
away. Alannah watched his progress down the wide hallway to the
exit. He moved slow and easy, with long, confident strides. The
black shirt hugging his broad back, and a full head above almost
everyone he passed.

At the doors he turned, waved to her, and
walked out into the sun.

****

On Sunday, Alannah met Terri for brunch at a
French bakery on Queen Anne Avenue. The big red house served as a
gathering spot for residents of the neighborhood and offered an
assortment of sweet and savory pastries in addition to breakfast
and lunch.

BOOK: Just Friends
4.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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