Until We're More(10)

By: Cindi Madsen

He certainly didn’t wait for me to ask for help when my one sorta boyfriend spread rumors about me in high school. Nope, Liam had just picked the guy up by the collar and demanded he tell everyone the truth—which boiled down to me not being as “slutty and easy” as he’d bragged. My sorta ex cleared up the rumors and gave me restraining-order amount of space after that. As did most everyone else at school, which wasn’t ideal—although for the record, not that different from the norm—but Liam was the first person who’d ever stood up for me.

He always had my back, even when I insisted I was okay, and while it occasionally frustrated me, it also brought a sense of security I’d never experienced before.

The only boundary he and I seemed good at was the just friends one. Well, he was better at it, but I was determined to stay in bounds this time. I’d push myself to keep dating while I was in town so I wouldn’t get too caught up in Liam, undo my progress, and end up as the girl with no social life again. It’d also prove to him that I’d grown adept at taking care of myself and prevent any weirdness, which was even more important now that we were doing the roomie thing.

Ooh, and being in San Diego for a couple weeks would open up a whole new pool of people I hadn’t already ruined dates with. Unless you counted the guys I’d gone out with during high school.

And college.

Ugh, don’t think about that. No going backward. I’m a different girl now.

Liam dug out the white containers with the red Chinese symbols, handed me the chicken lo mein with extra sauce and an eggroll, and took the rice, chicken, and steamed veggies for himself.

I snagged a plastic fork out of the bag—usually I pretended I could use the chopsticks, but I was too hungry for the extra effort, not to mention paranoid about dropping noodles all over Liam’s black couch.

Man, that thing is going to be covered in George’s hair in no time. I’d better pick up an extra roller. “When’s your next fight?” I asked as I headed toward the living room. “It’s the biggie, right?”

He nodded. “Yeah, finally landed a shot at the title. Three months to go, so I’ll be in training-camp mode the last couple weeks you’re here. Finn’s got a fight in three weeks, though, so he and I will be putting in a lot of long hours. But just make yourself comfortable, and if you need anything, send me a text and I’ll pick it up on the way home.”

Home. I liked the sound of that a little too much. “Or you can text me when you’re going to be late, and I can get it so you don’t have to stop.” Playing it cool was his forte, but he had to be nervous about his next fight. The professional fighting world had been completely foreign to me when I first moved next door to the Roths, but after years of being immersed in it, I understood weight classes—Liam was light heavyweight while Finn fought middleweight—could recite various takedowns and submission moves, and understood how huge a deal it was to be in the running for a belt. “I’m sure you’ve got a lot going on with work and your training, and I’m happy to help make your life easier while I’m here, however I can.”

“I appreciate that.” He sat on the far end of the couch, and I sat on the opposite side, kicked off my shoes, and spun to face him so my back was against the armrest. Even with my legs straight out, my feet barely reached his thigh. It was a big thigh, too. Muscular, and it filled out his warm-up pants nicely. After spending a lot of time with scrawny office boys, Liam seemed extra big, making me feel like the twelve-year-old girl who’d forced back her bashful side and approached him all those years ago.

I’d seen him out in his front yard the day we’d moved in and, determined not to be the sad new girl with no friends, forced one foot in front of the other until I was standing right in front of him. He was even bigger up close, and while I’d wanted to abort, his electric-blue eyes locked on to mine, and I’d stared way past the polite range.

Once I found my voice, I informed him we’d just moved in—as if he wouldn’t have realized that, what with the fact that I’d come from the house next door, the moving van still parked at the curb. I threw in some “fun facts” about both Yucca Valley, where we’d lived before that, and myself. Current Me cringed at the memory of how I’d gone on and on about my collection of unicorns and how it’d filled two boxes. If there was anything I excelled at, it was embarrassing myself.

Liam had simply let me talk, nodding a whole lot as I rattled on and on, and when my brain finally got the signal to my mouth to stop talking already, he said he was walking down the road to grab food. I’d slowly backed away, hearing what I assumed to be a hint to leave, loud and clear. Only then he’d added, “You wanna come?” and that was that. Like a trusty dog, anytime he was going anywhere, I’d jump at the chance to go along.