-CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE-
“Oh, great, here we go, again.” I shifted uncomfortably in my spot beside Kaleb, and watched as Bree approached us from across the driveway. Her dark hair glinted in the evening sun, her strides, long, and purposeful.
He placed his hand on my knee, under the water.
A group of us had gathered in the back of Kaleb’s apartment on this Friday evening, where we were taking advantage of the complex’s pool and hot tub. I leaned back, pretending not to see her, and let the hot, frothy bubbles swirl around my aching muscles, my air cast situated on the deck in front of me.
Bree stepped over it with disdain, and tossed her duffle bag on an abandoned patio chair, before coming to stand over us, hands on her hips.
“Mind if I join you guys?”
I noticed that Kaleb was going to let me answer her. He acknowledged her with a quick nod of his head, but remained silent.
I shrugged and watched as she didn’t wait for a reply, before slipping out of her shift dress, and gingerly lowering herself into the tub beside us.
She adjusted the straps to her bikini and rearranged the large sunglasses over her eyes before turning her focus back to me.
“Where are Silas, and Kai?”
I reached behind me, in an attempt to grab my half-finished beer. I couldn’t, and threw Kaleb an appreciative glance as he outstretched his long arm to retrieve it for me, instead.
He leaned in. “Be back in a bit, okay? I have a feeling you’re going to want a top-up.
He turned politely, back to Bree. “I’m heading in, you want anything?”
She shook her head, and tried again.
“Where are the other guys at?”
I moved over to the empty spot that Kaleb had abandoned, and took a sip of my drink.
“Well, Silas works shifts, as you know, so, that’s where he’s at. Kai…I’m not sure. I haven’t really talked to him much since his party last week.”
I glanced over to her. “Why?”
She sighed, as if I was mentally incompetent, and slid the overly-large sunglasses on top of her head.
“Don’t read too much into it, Aria, I was just curious.”
Her eyes stared, transfixed for a moment, at the water swirling around us.
“How are things going between you two, anyways?”
I smiled, thinking about Silas.
“So far, so good.” I wasn’t about to divulge anything more personal than that, to her.
“He’s been treating you….alright?” Her tone had a slight lilt to it now.
“Yes. Just fine, thanks.”
She closed her eyes and leaned back against the headrest. Her skin starting to take on a pink flush from the heat.
“Just remember what I said, before. In the end, he’s still mine.” She looked smug.
“Is that so?” Annoyed, I braced myself against the side of the tub, and stood up.
“I’m sure Silas is old enough to decide that for himself, don’t you?”
I was done with this conversation.
Slipping onto the deck, I reached for my towel and dried myself off, as Bree continued to sit in the swirling water, without another word.
“Trust me, Aria,” she finally said. “There’s nothing good that can ever come between you two.”
She turned to where I was putting on my cast.
“You’ll see for yourself, soon enough.”
I threw up my hands in exasperation.
“Why don’t just you just tell me what you really mean Bree? All this secretive bullshit you keep throwing around. I have no idea what the hell you’re trying to say. It’s like your mission is just to come, and stir up shit. None of the guys seem to think any of what you have to say has any merit. Why don’t you just go find somewhere else to hang out?”
I flung my towel around my shoulders, and bent over to pick up my beer bottle, my temper getting the better of me.
“And, truth be told, I really don’t care, either. Stop acting like a fucking teenager, and grow the hell up. I’m sorry your boyfriend dumped you, for me, okay? That’s hardly my fault.”
I turned to make my way back up to the complex.
She spoke at my back.
“Is that what he told you?”
I ignored her, and continued making my way up the path.
Back inside of Kaleb’s apartment, I accepted the second beer he held out to me after pulling on some clothes over my swimsuit.
“Who the hell invited her, anyways?”
I slumped into his couch, irritated. “Fuck that.”
He took a seat across from me, still in his swim trunks, the setting sun casting a soft sheen against his well defined chest.
I arched my brow.
“You’ve been working out?”
He blushed suddenly, and I smiled.
“Aw, you’re not getting all shy on me now, are you? We’ve practically known each other since we were in diapers, Kaleb.”
He shrugged, and flexed his arms.
“Yeah, well, figured I’d have to up my game a bit to keep up with all of the ladies that come in and out of my place. You know how it is.”
I shook my head, and took a sip of beer.
“Not really. Good job though. On the working out, I mean. It really shows.”
Kaleb attempted to change the subject.
“Want to go back in the hot tub? I can kick Bree out, if you really want me to.”
I stood back up and placed my empty bottle on the counter.
“I’m not going to piss on your little get-together here. Bree’s done enough of that already. So, let me just bow out gracefully, before there’s an accidental drowning,” I joked.
He followed me to the door and reached in for a quick hug.
“Seriously, Aria, you don’t have to leave.”
“It’s fine, Kaleb. I have to work early tomorrow anyways. I’m taking on some extra shifts so I have a bit of money saved for my—“
“Birthday, right?” he finished for me.
I grinned. “You remembered. Figured with all of the romancing, and working-out, you were keeping busy with these days, it would slip your mind.”
His eyes glinted mischievously. “I’d never forget. Have any plans made, yet?”
I blushed slightly.
“Not really, but, I think Silas might have something up his sleeve.”
Kaleb’s expression darkened briefly.
“Everything still going smoothly, between you two?”
I nodded, reaching for the door. “Really well, in fact.”
“Let’s do dinner, okay?” Kaleb suggested. “We’ll get a bunch of us together, for your birthday, and, take you out. My treat. I’ll double-check with Silas first, to make sure we’re not stepping on any of his plans.”
I leaned in for a final hug. “Sure. Sounds great.”
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