Would she have relaxed and hung out? Would she have felt weird or made uncomfortable jokes? She seemed pretty turned-off by the idea of coming tonight, but was that because of us, or because of her?

"You all right there, buddy?" Troye asks, clapping me on the back as if he heard me choking. Then I guess he spots the redhead, because he says, "Ah. You going over there or what? They're eye-fucking you hard enough to burn through your non-existent shirt."

I glance over their way, and Troye is...not wrong. And oh God, are they wearing actual suit pants? My heart is buzzing...

No, wait, that's my cell phone, in the ass pocket of my tightest jeans. I slip it out to read the text, and am jolted by the sight of Lauren's name. Any chance your invite for tonight still stands?

To say that text was unexpected is an understatement.

The answer is Fuck yes but that seems a little overeager. Then again, subtlety doesn't really go with this outfit. As I mentally formulate a slightly more normal response, another text comes in.

I'm sorry, I don't know why I just asked that. I can't. I'm just having a bad night.

There's a twinge in my chest and I can't even pinpoint why, whether it's because she can't come here or because I'm the closest person she had to contact or because I just do not fucking like a girl that sweet being that sad. You wanna talk about it?

That's okay, thx. Have fun w/your friends.

I glance at the redhead, who's now chatting with some girl, and then at Troye, who's telling a joke to Krys, Emily, and a cute guy with black hair I'm guessing is his target for the night. Pretty sure no one will miss me if I slip out. It's cool. I'd rather talk to you if you need it. I hesitate before my next text, not sure if I'm crossing over into "too pushy" territory, then tell myself she can always say no if I am. I can come over, if you want.

Admittedly, I'm pretty surprised when she writes back, That'd...actually be really nice if you don't mind. I hate to bother you, but I could use a friend.

I look down at my sparkly halter-top, second-skin jeans, and fuck-me shoes. Not the friendliest attire, but I like that Lauren wants to confide in me, that I could maybe make her feel better. Much as I enjoy booty calls, I get those far more frequently than I get ones like this. Of course, I wouldn't have any complaints about Lauren wanting me for my booty, but I like that she wants me for my ear.

I like it a lot.

Which feels weird.

No bother, I assure her. Just gimme 20 minutes. Enough time to say my goodbyes, jump on my Vespa, and head straight over. 30 if you want me to pick up pizza. The best way I know to improve a bad night if you don't drink.

I'll take care of the pizza, she writes back, and I'm back to mentally playing "Date or No Date." No, wait, this is obviously not a date. (And since when have I ever wanted anything to be a date, anyway?) She texted me as a friend, and all we're doing is hanging out and talking. It just happens to be that one of us is obscenely cute, and the other one would like to fuck her six ways from Sunday. No bigs. Any requests?

It takes me a second to realize she means regarding the pizza. Surprise me, I write back, and then I slip my phone back into my pocket and say my goodbyes.

• • •

I end up needing twenty-five minutes to get to her room, because Troye insists on some quick gossip about the cute dark-haired guy, but for my seldom-punctual ass, that's actually pretty good. In any case, when she answers the door in her usual way-too-flattering yoga wear, I'm pretty sure my five-minute lateness isn't the reason for her red-tinged eyes and nose.

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