Laila was sitting on the couch with Sterling when Alistair came bursting through the door.
"I totally fucked that up!" Alistair moaned as he threw himself on the couch next to the couple.
Laila discretely pushed Sterling's hand out from under her dress where it had been slowly making its way up her thigh. Sterling gave her a wicked grin and placed his hand on her knee, squeezing lightly.
"I thought it went okay," Laila said with a hopeful smile.
"I acted like such an idiot!" Alistair whined and put his head in his hands.
"No you didn't," Laila insisted.
"Yeah, you did," Sterling laughed.
"What happened when you walked her home?" Laila elbowed her boyfriend in the ribs and he smiled at her, clearly unaffected.
"It was a disaster," Alistair said slowly. "Things were going fine. I asked for her number, saying I would need to call her for support if I was thinking about sleeping with a girl, and she gave it to me."
"See, that's good," Laila smiled.
"But then I tried to hug her goodnight, but she went in for a handshake and I got flustered and ended up giving her a high five. It was so awkward."
Sterling burst into laughter but Laila appeared to be more concerned. "That doesn't mean it was a disaster. Just send her a text or something saying you had fun tonight and don't let her think it bothered you."
"That won't freak her out?"
"Probably," Sterling teased his brother.
"No, it won't." Laila promised him and shot her boyfriend a glare.
"All right," Alistair said, ignoring his brother. He pulled out his phone and composed a quick message, taking a deep breath before sending it.
The three waited in silence for a few seconds and Laila watched as Alistair's face sank and then lit up as his phone chimed. "What do I do?"
"See what it says!" Laila told him, almost as excited as Alistair was.
"It says 'Me too. Talk to you soon.'" Alistair looked up at Laila with a giddy smile.
"See? Not bad at all!"
"I guess not." Alistair closed his phone and stood up, still smiling uncontrollably. "I'm going to bed."
"Have a good night." Laila smiled at him and waited until he had left the room before turning to her boyfriend. She punched him lightly in the stomach, not surprised at all when he caught her hand and pulled her toward him.
"What?" He smiled at her playfully.
"You shouldn't have made fun of him."
"Come on, Laila," he said, tucking some hair behind her ear. "He knows I'm only teasing."
"It's just, Piper is the first girl he's liked since Rebecca so I think we should be supportive."
Sterling smiled. He knew Laila was right but he also knew that he and Alistair had each other's backs, no questions asked, an unconditional rule. "I will be. I promise."
Laila smiled at him and held his gaze.
"Hey," Sterling said quietly, still holding Laila close to him. "I love you."
"I love you too," she said, shivering as his hand started creeping back up her thigh. Sterling leaned in and kissed her, his other hand running around her hip and gripping the fabric of her dress. Laila kissed him back and ran her hands across his stomach causing Sterling to groan against her lips. With one quick movement, Sterling had Laila in his arms and stood up from the couch, walking her quickly to his bedroom.
He had her on the bed in mere seconds, pushing her dress around her waist and running his hands up and down her legs. He kissed her stomach and her thighs before pulling her dress off completely. Sterling's lips found hers and he kissed her again and again. He could feel the heat rising between her legs as he pressed against her, making him want her even more.
They had spent an amazing summer together in Europe, and although Alistair had been with them, Laila and Sterling had managed to get some alone time. One night in particular still had Sterling's blood racing. They had been in Rome, their hotel facing the abandoned ancient ruins, and Sterling had been sitting on balcony, watching the stray cats meander through the fallen city. He thought Laila had already fallen asleep and was surprised to see her walking gracefully across the balcony to sit with him.
Her nightgown was thin and Sterling had been able to see almost all of her through the flimsy material. He had motioned for her to sit on his lap which she had done eagerly, running her fingers through his hair and kissing him deeply. Not one word passed between them as Laila repositioned herself above him, straddling his hips with her legs. Sterling's hands crept up her legs and his eyes had gone wide with surprise when he felt she wasn't wearing anything beneath her nightgown. Laila smiled and kissed him again, reaching for his boxers and gently tugging them down.
They made love right there on the balcony of the hotel that night, a slow and silent dance which left both breathless and exhausted. Neither spoke a word nor had they mentioned it since. That memory had gotten Sterling through the three weeks of lonely nights when Laila returned to California before their move to Yale. But now they were back and Sterling could see her as much as he liked. They would be celebrating their one year anniversary soon and Sterling already had the perfect evening planned. He had the flowers ordered, the dinner reservations made, the promise ring he was going to give her was being safely kept at the jewelers.
He smiled as Laila started unbuttoning his jeans, knowing he would always be happy when she was near.
Piper waited for her phone to vibrate again. Alistair had sent her a text message a few minutes earlier saying that what a good time he had that evening. She couldn't help but smile. Even though he figured out how to relax, he had been so nervous to say goodbye. She thought she was doing him a favor by offering to shake his hand, thus avoiding the awkward moment when you didn't know if you should hug someone or simply walk away. But he had already started moving in for a hug by the time she realized her mistake. The poor guy had been so embarrassed, he had simply held up his hand and given her a high five.
Piper laughed to herself again at the silliness of it all. At least he hadn't tried to kiss her. That would have made things almost unbearably uncomfortable. Not that she ruled out that possibility for future encounters with Alistair. He did seem to like her, much like Laila had insinuated, and she could easily see herself falling for him and his goofy yet confident ways. It helped, of course, that he was gorgeous with his ashy blonde hair and his dimples. When he had asked for her number, she had practically thrown herself at him because those dimples were just so damn irresistible.
But it was now obvious that Alistair wasn't going to text her back that evening. She had left things open, texting that she would talk to him soon, but by that she had meant immediately. Once he had sent her that initial message, she wanted nothing more than to see him again, maybe spend the rest of the evening listening to music or watching a movie. Nothing formal, because Alistair didn't seem like that type of a guy, and that was fine with Piper. She preferred it that way and remembered all those times her ex had taken her out to fancy dinners just to show her off. She had hated it. But, of course, looking back on that relationship, she now hated everything about him. Her fingers ran through her hair, stopping only briefly at the scar which was hidden just above her left ear. But those days were over, she told herself. She had something new to live for, something - and definitely someone - new to look forward to.
Piper got ready for bed and set her phone on the nightstand, hoping he would send something so she wouldn't have to fall asleep just yet. But eventually her eyes closed, and she fell asleep thinking of his smile and how things would be the next time they saw each other.
Alistair was sitting in bed, clutching his phone in his fist. He had turned it on and off so many times, debating whether or not to carry on the conversation with Piper. He hadn't expected her to respond so quickly - if at all -and now he was left with an unfinished feeling. Would Piper forget about him if he didn't reply? After their completely awkward farewell, he didn't think that was possible. Piper and Laila would most likely be laughing about it tomorrow. Maybe if he called her next week, the excitement of her classes would have time to overshadow his stupidity.
Sighing deeply, Alistair set his phone on his nightstand and turned off the lights. He rested his head on the pillow and stared at the ceiling, his hands tucked behind his neck. He wanted nothing more than to see Piper again, with her long legs and gorgeous green eyes. The thought of starting school wasn't nearly as excited as the idea of seeing her again. But quickly his thoughts turned to Rebecca. His heart still ached for her and he could still feel his fingers running through her soft hair. He missed the way she used to smile at him, the look she would get in her eyes when she was pleased with something he said, the way she felt in his arms when he woke up in the morning.
Nights were always the hardest for him. At night, there was nothing to distract him from thinking about her. He thought about climbing out of bed and searching for Laila, suddenly needing her comforting reassurance that everything was going to okay. But he had seen the look in Sterling's eyes as he had left the room, a look Alistair used to know all too well, and he knew speaking to Laila was out of the question.
Alistair closed his eyes and did his best to picture a scenario in which Piper and Rebecca would meet. Would Rebecca approve, knowing that if it were up to him, he would still have her by his side and in his arms? He knew she wouldn't want him to be miserable, she wouldn't want him to grieve for the rest of his life. But how would she feel about Piper? No answer instantly came to his mind and he fell asleep debating the possibilities.