Bully Page 44

“And?” He placed his elbows on the table and crossed his arms, leaning in.

“And what was your question?” I hoped being evasive would come off cute, and then he’d surrender his line of questioning.

Looking to the side and then back to me, he laughed under his breath. “I noticed him giving you his undivided attention during that monologue. Were you and Jared Trent friends?” His wide green eyes were interested.

“How do you mean?” Playing hard to get was turning out to be easy. I could do this all night.

He looked like he was trying to contain a smile, but he pressed further. “Was the monologue about him?”

I cocked my head at him. “I thought the monologues were supposed to be from a book or film?”

“What book or film did yours come from?” he shot back.

The continued play had my stomach shaking from pent-up laughter. This was getting fun.

“It’ll all be in my essay,” I whispered when the waitress brought Ben’s card and receipt back. “But…Jared is nothing to me, just so you know.”

His lips curled up at the corner, hopefully satisfied with what I gave him. Taking my hand, he led me out of the restaurant and to his car. Unfortunately, he was driving, so he opened the door for me to slide in.

“You’ve never been to the Loop, right?”

“Nope.” I fastened my seatbelt and pulled my black pinstripe skirt as far down my thighs as it would go. The three thin buckles over the right thigh caught the streetlight shining through the window.

“Well, you’ll love it. And they’ll love you.” His gaze slid to my chest before he quickly averted his eyes. I suddenly wished I had worn a t-shirt instead. My white tank was slightly less revealing, thankfully, under my short gray military jacket, but I still felt exposed. The need to cover myself irked me. I wanted to look nice for Ben tonight, didn’t I?

Or maybe it wasn’t Ben I was thinking about so much when I got dressed.

“They’ll love me? Why is that?” I asked.

“Because you look like candy.” He shook his head and started the engine.

K.C.’s words came back to haunt me. Well, I, for one, am pretty excited to see the look on his face when he sees you!

My hands clenched into fists, and I bit my bottom lip to stifle a smile.

Yep, I bit my bottom lip. Shit.

***

The Loop was located on Mr. Benson’s farm outside the town limits. His son, Dirk, who graduated two decades ago, started a weekly racing scene around the pond on the premises. Over time, Dirk took control of the farm and still allowed races to take place on the property even though he rarely attended. As long as he received the fee charged to get through the gate, everyone else could make their bets and have fun without any intrusion.

We travelled down the long, dirt road leading to the farm. Normally, the farm would be pitch black this time of night, but with the traffic coming down the lane, it was lit up like a Saturday night cruise.

“I’ll just park here. You don’t mind walking a little, do you?” Ben asked. Cars lined the sides of the road, and since we were pushing race time, parking was scarce.

“Here’s fine.” My fingers tingled with the anticipation in the air. I hopped out of his Escalade, immediately thankful for the Chucks I’d worn. Not very stylish with the skirt, but I wasn’t a heels kind of girl. The dirt road featured dips and puddles, along with tiny gravel.

“Here, take my hand.” Ben reached out as he came around the front of the car to meet me. He pulled me to a stop and gestured to the car. “Do you want to leave your bag in the trunk?”

“No, I might need my cell. I’m fine.” I hooked my thumb behind the strap of my purse, which held two of my three lifelines. “Let’s go,” I chirped and started walking at a brisk pace.

Ahead of us, the track split to the left and to the right. Directly in front was the pond. The smell of exhaust already filled my nostrils, and I couldn’t help the bounce in my step. My eyes hungrily swept the scene, and I saw headlights from cars parked along the sides, facing inward, illuminating the track.

Fortunately for Dirk’s family, the pond wasn’t even within eye sight of the main house. Most of the time, people came and went without any disturbance to the family. Since most of the town’s current police force graduated around the same time as Dirk, the Loop was seen as a local treasure instead of a nuisance. Since racing was just as illegal as allowing people to use your property for it, anyone injured couldn’t throw the Bensons under the bus without themselves as well. It was all very convenient and tidy.

As we headed onto the Loop, Ben guided me to the right towards what looked like the starting line. There were two cars already parked side by side, and people crushed around the scene like tightly packed molecules. One of the cars was Madoc’s 2006 GTO and the other was a late model Camaro.

Liam.

“Tate!”

I spun around to meet the scream and noticed K.C. charging towards me. She fell into me in an attempt at a hug, and I stumbled to keep my balance.

“Whoa!” I burst out. “It hasn’t been that long since we’ve seen each other, has it?” Laughing at her obvious beer-induced love, I straightened us up.

We’d made amends, but now I felt uneasy about making out with Jared, and their relationship still bugged me. I aimed to keep my promise to mind my own business, but there was a distance between us that wasn’t there before, and I wasn’t sure how to get back what we used to have. Maybe I looked at her differently, or maybe our conversation wasn’t as easy, but I knew something had changed.

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