Bend(4)

By: Kivrin Wilson


“You’ve got a real job,” he points out, moving the bottle up to his lips. “I’m still a starving resident.”

Can’t really argue with that. I got my APRN certification last year, and now I’m working as a women’s health nurse practitioner. It pays well—really well—much better than Jay’s second-year emergency medicine residency at the university hospital, but it’s on the tip of my tongue to comment that he’s hardly making minimum wage. I’m not looking for a fight, though, so I don’t.

Plus he has a brutal student loan payment that leaves little extra for unnecessary stuff. Like alcohol.

And honestly, I really don’t give a crap about the beer. I’ve got enough self-awareness to recognize that I’m irritated for an entirely different reason.

“When you start raking in the big bucks,” I say lightly, “I’m going to expect some payback.”

“I’ll take you out to dinner. Someplace fancy, with tablecloths.” He flashes me his quick, lopsided smile—that I’m-too-charming-for-you-to-really-be-mad-at-me smile. Grabbing a coaster from the small stack on my coffee table, he sets the bottle down. My heart does a little happy flip. He’s not a coaster kind of guy. He thinks they’re for ridiculous, overly fussy people. But when he’s at my place, I never have to remind him to use one.

Snatching his controller back from my hands, he asks, “Ready to play?”

“No, I’m done.”

“Okay.” He shoots me an inscrutable look. “Another episode of House then?”

“Nah.” I pick up my universal remote and flick the power button. “I want to talk about this.”

Jay scowls at me for a second, and then he looks at his wristwatch. The sleek stainless steel Omega watch was a med school graduation present from his uncle, and it’s a beautiful, expensive watch, but still. He never leaves his cell phone out of reach long enough for him to really need a watch, and right now he’s just using it to make a point.

“It’s getting pretty late,” he says. “I’m working tomorrow. Yamada asked me to switch shifts with him.”

Funny. He wasn’t in a hurry when he wanted to keep playing video games or when he suggested watching TV. If he thinks I’m going to let this go that easily, he’s smoking something. “Are you secretly attracted to me?”

He finally turns his full attention on me. No more evasion. If only he wasn’t giving me the stink eye to trump all stink eyes in the history of the world. Coldly, he asks, “Why are you doing this?”

I shrug. “I just want to know.”

He sighs. Picks up the beer and takes a big swig, then sets it back on the table. Slouching down farther on the couch, he rubs his eyes and says, “How can I answer that?”

“Uh. With a yes or no?”

He lets his hands drop, and this time when he points his head toward me again, he just looks miserable. “If I say yes, everything will be awkward. We’ll slowly stop hanging out until we’re not friends anymore. But if I say no, you’ll get all butt hurt about it and wonder why I don’t think you’re attractive. I can’t win.”

Ugh. My leg twitches. I really want to kick him. “Why can’t you just tell me the truth? I’m a big girl. I can handle it, I promise.”

“No,” he snaps. “Jesus.”

I’m biting the inside of my cheek as I watch him reach for the bottle again. He tips his head back, and his Adam’s apple bobs as he downs the rest of the beer. So much for sharing. My blood pressure rises—the back of my head starts throbbing, and I’m breathing as if we’re at ten thousand feet.

Well, if I drop the subject now, he’ll win. I never let him win, not without a fight. My next thought is hard to vocalize, though, and while I’m saying it, I feel like I’m marching naked into a high school cafeteria: “But what if you say you have fantasized about having sex with me, and I say I have, too?”

For a few seconds, he just gives me this blank, intense look that sends a shiver down my spine. Then something flashes in his eyes, and my gut churns when I recognize it. He’s pissed. And when Jay is pissed, he gets mean.

“You’ve fantasized about having sex with yourself?” he bites out. “Isn’t that what your vibrator is for?”

My cheeks are burning. No, I’m not being bashful. This is Jay. I’ve asked him to buy me tampons before, for Pete’s sake. It’s just that I’m really not emotionally or intellectually prepared to actually have a fight with him.

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