Home > What If You & Me (Say Everything #2)(6)

What If You & Me (Say Everything #2)(6)
Author: Roni Loren

   Hollyn bit her lip, smiling adoringly at her guy. “What you are is exactly my type.”

   “Goofy improv actor?” he confirmed and walked over to peck Hollyn on the lips.

   “Obviously.”

   “Sweet. I’m your man.” He turned to Andi after stealing a piece of Hollyn’s cinnamon roll and popping it in his mouth. “So, who are we talking about? What’s the word? Give me all the details.”

   “Andi’s new neighbor is apparently a hot firefighter,” Hollyn said, tone playful.

   Andi groaned. “I said no such thing.”

   “Uh-huh,” Hollyn said.

   “Fine,” Andi admitted. “He’s not…difficult to look at.”

   Jasper propped a hip on the corner of Hollyn’s desk and grinned. “Uh-oh, Andi finally likes a boy. Fitz is going to be so bereft when I tell him. He’s harboring a mad crush.”

   Andi gave him an oh-please look. Fitz McLane owned an investment firm that took up most of the fourth floor of WorkAround, and he was a nice enough guy, but he also could sell ice to an Eskimo. “Fitz acts like he has a crush on every woman in the building. He likes to be adored. And I don’t ‘like a boy.’ Neighbor dude is definitely a man. And I never said I was into him. I’m just objectively saying that he is a nice-looking human.” She pointed at them, narrowing her eyes. “Don’t do that thing.”

   “What thing?” Hollyn asked, setting her chin in her hand and obviously enjoying the teasing way too much.

   “That thing that people do once they’re a couple and want everyone else to suddenly couple up,” she said. “You become like gossipy grandmothers playing matchmaker.”

   Hollyn shook her head and held up her own wagging finger. “Oh, no you don’t, Lockley. You were like my own personal cheering squad, trying to get things to work out with me and Jas. You don’t get to pull that couple card on us.”

   Andi put her hand to her chest. “Me? I was simply seeing two people who obviously needed to be together and encouraging that. That was being a good friend. But you don’t even know this guy. I don’t even know this guy. He could be a crappy human. He could be married and not wearing a ring. He listens to country music, so we’re already starting off at a deficit.”

   “Country?” Jasper cringed. “Yeah, sounds like a lost cause. I’ll tell Fitz his crush is safe.”

   Hollyn offered the rest of her cinnamon roll to Jasper and cleaned her fingers on her napkin. “Look, I won’t be that person. You’re a grown woman who can make her own choices on who she’s interested in or not. But at the very least, it can’t hurt to get to know your neighbor a little, right?”

   Andi frowned, that old tight feeling filling her chest. Just because someone was a neighbor didn’t mean they were someone worth knowing, someone worth trusting. But she didn’t want to go there with her friends. They didn’t know about her past. Didn’t know that the story of her first crush involved a guy currently sitting in a maximum-security prison. These friends knew her in the After—as the quirky horror writer, as the weird girl who finds comfort in the macabre, as the woman who wants to run background checks on all her friends’ dates but rarely goes on a date herself. She didn’t want them to know what had gotten her here.

   “Sure. I mean, maybe I’ll need to borrow a cup of sugar one day,” Andi said noncommittally.

   Jasper’s lips hitched at one corner. “Is that what the kids are calling it?”

   Andi snorted and tossed her balled-up napkin at Jasper as she stood. “See if I bring you people pastry and weaponry again.”

   “Ooh, there’s weaponry?” Jasper asked, turning to Hollyn.

   Hollyn lifted her hand with an apologetic smile. “Fine. I’ll drop it. Maybe we are doing that couple thing. Gross.”

   “No worries. I know it’s coming from a place of love, but really, it’s nothing. It was just a meet-the-neighbor.” She nodded toward the computer. “I’ll let you get back to your article.”

   “Thanks again for the presents. What’s on your agenda today?” Hollyn asked.

   “Oh, you know, the usual. I have to write a chapter of my book and then…” Andi stretched her neck from side to side like she was getting ready to enter a boxing match. “I have to put together a podcast episode covering this documentary about a guy who kidnapped and murdered three women. He hunted them at shopping malls in the eighties.”

   Jasper’s eyes widened behind his glasses. “Fuck.”

   “Yeah,” Andi said. “It’s a grim case, but at least he was caught. I wanted to cover it because there’s a lot to be learned from it. If nothing else, it will remind women that we have to check our back seats before we get into our cars. And not to trust some random guy appearing to be helpful at the mall.”

   “You realize you make what we do for a living look like utter bullshit when you say stuff like that,” Jasper said. “You’re like a crusader. You need a cape or something.”

   “Nah,” Andi said, picking up her laptop bag. “We need people to make us laugh, too. If all we thought about all day was how sick and cruel people can be, we’d never get out of bed in the morning. I’d be in a bunker dug into my backyard.” She smiled at her two friends. “We need people to entertain us. To make movies, to write books, to sing songs. It’s all important. And it’s not like I’m doing any real public service. I’m not investigating unsolved cases or helping catch the bad guys like some podcasters are. Not my skill set. I write scary books, and I tell people about real-life scary stories. I’m not fixing anything.”

   “I don’t know if that’s true,” Hollyn said. “You’re telling people what the victims would if they could. I know I’m a lot more careful after listening to your show.”

   “She keeps me safe,” Jasper confirmed, setting his chin on Hollyn’s shoulder.

   Hollyn rolled her eyes.

   “You keep each other safe, all right?” Andi wiggled her fingers in a little wave. “See y’all later.” She looked back and forth between the two of them. “And I’ll shut the door. Enjoy borrowing a cup of sugar.”

   They were laughing when Andi clicked the door shut. And though she doubted they were going to get it on at the office, it made her grin to see her friends so happy. She didn’t believe coupledom was in the cards for her, but for some, it really was a beautiful thing to behold.

 

 

Chapter Three


   The ancient oak trees looked like giant sea monsters rising from the earth in the early morning twilight, the curly Spanish moss swaying from their branches like seaweed, as Hill turned a corner on one of the jogging paths in City Park. He liked jogging very early in the morning, sometimes before the sun’s rays had even peeked over the horizon, because the paths in the park were less crowded and the humidity and heat weren’t overwhelming yet.

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