Never been nerdy, p.18
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       Never Been Nerdy, p.18

           C.M. Kars
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  “Where are we going anyway?”

  “We’re almost there, hang on.”

  My steps slow and my breathing gets quick enough like I’ve been sprinting for the elevator door.

  Oh, no. Oh, yes?

  What’s the right answer? And why do I feel like I want to cry at the same time?

  Everything in here is beautiful. I tear my eyes away long enough to get distracted by something else, something prettier and shinier. And they’re all so bright.

  “I was thinking about this one. Sera’s never liked conventional, so my gut told me to get this. What do you think? Will Sera love it?”

  Hunter’s hunched over a counter and looks back at me when I don’t move over closer to him fast enough. I gulp and try to keep myself from passing out.

  In a nest of velvet, a rose gold band sits with a black diamond sitting oh-so-pretty on it, surrounded by little white diamonds.

  Totally going to pass out.

  Chapter 19

  “What?!” I screech, somewhere between a vulture and a seagull. I don’t know what to feel first.

  I’m a chemical reaction too big, too strong to stay in one place; I need to run miles and miles, and I also need to stay right where I am, because this is happening.

  MacLaine’s going to propose to Sera and I’m so insanely jealous it’s choking me.

  Why? I couldn’t even say, but I’m strangled by the green-eyed monster and I’m appalled by myself and everything I’m feeling.

  That was supposed to be me. I was supposed to be the one that got married first.

  And therein lies the problem. What gives you the right to think that you’re better than anyone else, that you deserve what Hunter and Sera have?

  You can’t have both worlds, DiNovro... Scorn love one second, and then get jealous when your best friend gets engaged. The world doesn’t work that way.

  “Are you okay?” Hunter asks me in that sexy as fuck voice of his, but I’ve gone deaf and only see his mouth moving before my brain catches up and puts sound to words. I’m totally sure this is what a hot flash feels like, burning from the inside out; I’m completely humiliated about the way I’m feeling and MacLaine has no idea what’s going on.

  He even comes closer but looks unsure if I need a reassuring hand on the shoulder or something like it. I don’t want him to touch me, I don’t know what I’ll do if he does, and that scares the shit out of me.

  “I’m good. Just surprised. Really surprised.”

  Hunter’s eyebrows pole-vault high on his forehead and the way he looks at me makes me wonder if I actually told him to fuck off instead.

  “How could you be surprised? Of course I want to marry her.”

  I shake my head, all my stupid, shitty, asshole thoughts pummeling their way up my throat so I can give voice to them. This is such utter bullshit. I’m acting like a stupid little kid and I’m twenty five years old!

  What the hell?

  “I don’t know. I guess I’m in shock. It’s not something Sera’s ever seriously talked about, you know? I was always the one bringing up the conversation when we were younger, planning out our whole lives, living next to each other. Our husbands are supposed to be best friends, our kids growing up like cousins.” I gulp when I see his face. Might as well have electrocuted him, the poor sap looks completely paralyzed by what I’ve said.

  “Ah, look, I mean, she just seriously never thought she was going to get married. Ever. Her family did a number on her, and then she internalized it and maybe made it a thousand times worse. To her, marriage wasn’t an option; it didn’t exist for someone like her.”

  Oh, shit, shit, shit! He’s going to kill me!

  Tell Dean I loved him once. Tell Dean he deserves a better friend than me! That’s my dying wish!

  “What?” Hunter asks, the words laced with a slice of danger that has me swallowing hard. I’m legit scared enough that my knees threaten to buckle and I can’t feel my toes, or feet, or the ground beneath me.

  “You still don’t know that much about what her family did to her, do you? The verbal abuse? The name-calling? How they made her feel worthless?”

  MacLaine’s looking at me like none of this sounds familiar. Well... shit. I may have ruined this for Sera, and if she ever finds out, I’m toast.

  “Are you saying she’ll tell me no?”

  “I’m just saying this is going to come out of left field for her. She won’t know what’s happened and maybe she’ll freak out. But she loves you,” much against my better judgement, but what the hell do I know, anyway? “and she’ll say yes. Of that, I’m positive.” I nod to add some conviction to my words.

  MacLaine grins suddenly and I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

  Oh, God, pretty sure I saw my life flash before my eyes – and it wasn’t a spectacular movie set, either. Just a lot of days spent at the office, working hard, getting paid, and trying to buy things that give me some minor feeling of pride and happiness. No one to come home to, no one to laugh with all because of this fear I have of being my mother’s daughter.

  “So I was thinking about this one. You like it?”

  No, not at all. But what the hell am I supposed to say? The ring says Sera Delos and that’s all that matters. Plus, it reminds me of the ring she wore the night they got back together a month and a bit ago.

  “Damn, son, someone’s got skills in the memory department.” I nod to the ring. Yeah, Sera’s going to love it and then fangirl all over the place. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see it – then again, maybe not.

  MacLaine smiles with his lips closed then stares down at the ring huddled in his open palm. It looks so tiny and delicate and shiny and beautiful, and then it hits me. This thing between him and Sera, this is real.

  And whatever heart I have left in my chest demands and howls out for it, too.


  I don’t know why I go back to Dean’s place, maybe because I know if I ask him to, he’ll give me a hug. But I don’t want to ask him - I want him to read me, I want him to instinctively know what I need from him.

  Hell, sign me up for a Delos-MacLaine special.

  I knock on Dean’s door, and swallow past the nerves slithering in my belly. I’ve never been this nervous around a guy. It’s usually nothing like this, and I don’t know why. Sleeping with Dean back in high school was just a popping of bottled lust, it was just some much needed relief.

  Now, I think if we ever slept together, it would change everything.

  And my world is already collapsing in on itself, and all the foundations I’ve set myself upon are crumbling beneath me and all I want to do is bury my head in a funny movie, or drink away my problems, and eat as much chocolate that is humanly possible.

  I need to face the world head on – that’s what strong people do.

  Dean opens the door, and greets me with a tilted head and a sweet smile, the kind that clutches at my heart and makes me wonder if I’m not too young to have some cardiac problems.

  “Hey,” he says, walking backwards to open the door for me. I get full on face-slap of wonderful smells coming from his kitchen that sets my mouth to watering. I should marry him just for the food he’s going to feed me.

  “How did it go?”

  Suddenly I’m filled with the need to tell him, to tell him everything I felt and am still feeling and just get it all out because everything’s choking me. It’s not like Dean’s going to tell Sera any of this, and it’s not like they hang out on the regular, and Dean looks like he can keep a secret.

  Hell, I sure hope so.

  I shrug, then work the crack out of my neck. Dean watches me with his green, green eyes and just waits for me to talk. I like that about him, I like that about him a lot. “I was with MacLaine – Hunter, Sera’s boyfriend. He dropped me off here.”

  Dean’s hands go to my upper arms and give me a squeeze. At this point, I’d much rather he went for a grab of my boobs and save me from all the shameful shit I’m feeling deep down in
the pit of my belly.

  “His last name’s McClane? Are you kidding me?” Dean throws his head back and laughs at the ceiling, then looks back down at me with his crinkled eyes. I get another playful squeeze around my upper arms, and a gentle shake.

  “I’m gonna be best friends with that guy, you watch. People are gonna ask me, who’s your buddy there, Dean? And I’m going to tell them, ‘Oh, it’s just McClane. But he has his shoes on and I don’t see any German terrorists right now, but let’s give it a few hours.’” Dean lets go of me, but his heat remains, and I cross my arms over my chest to keep from shivering.

  He fist pumps, and grins, taking a step back and knocking into Pongo who yelps and looks absolutely affronted that his master would step on him. The furry-baby comes hobbling over to me, barely putting any weight on his front left paw and looks at me with mournful eyes begging me to make it better.

  “Pongo! I swear, you’re going to make me crack my head on the floor one day, and then who’s going to feed you, boy?” Dean says, rushing over to Pongo and giving him chest rubs.

  Dean gingerly touches Pongo’s paw and slowly convinces him to put it back down. The dog immediately starts giving Dean kisses, and Dean kisses him back and something in my chest pulses and squeezes and tears me open wide.

  Everything hurts, every nerve ending.

  God damn it, I want Dean Carter. I want him so badly my teeth ache, and my heart trips up, and I want to yell it out loud that I want him sitting beside me watching movies, or watching him read a book, or talking to him as he cooks some masterpiece for me. But I can’t have him and that sucks smelly balls.

  “Hunter’s going to ask Sera to marry him,” I say in a rush, pushing my breath to the limit. I watch Dean slowly get up from his crouch and straighten up, up, up, he’s so tall, and look down at me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face.

  “That’s awesome! Shit, does she know?”

  I shake my head. “She has no idea. I’m betting on at least five litres of tears will be shed that day. I just wonder how he’s going to do it.” I try to smile, but it feels forced and alien on my face. Maybe I just need to stew in it, wallow in all my stupid, irrational feelings and they’ll go away.

  “So you met him at Rockland for…”

  “Oh, to help him pick out the ring. He didn’t need my help, though. MacLaine had it all figured out. The freaking thing is so Sera. He was being all shady as fuck when he called me to meet him there, too, and it freaked me out. I thought it was a trap.”

  Dean chuckles and lifts his hand up, palm facing me. “You get a high five for the good use of that quote.”

  I smile for real this time, and slap my hand against his. Dean then twines our fingers together and leads me over to the couch where he sits in one corner and I’m in the middle but he’s still got my hand. Shit, he can probably feel my cardiac issues right through the skin of my wrist.

  “So what’s got you all upset? You look like you’re about to cry,” he says in that quiet, assured way of his. My lip might start trembling if he keeps speaking to me like that.

  I could hate how easily he can read me, but then again, it’s the best feeling in the world.

  I tug my hand free and settle both of them on my lap. I stare down at my immaculate cuticles and think that Sera never even bothered to take care of her nails, or fix them after they chip with those wacky colors she wears (TARDIS blue, I kid you not!).

  I’m prettier than Sera; I take care of myself, and I watch what I eat. I’m beautiful on the outside; my wrapping is more attractive in so many ways but Hunter MacLaine took one look at me as I opened Sera’s apartment door all those months ago and dismissed me with those crazy-blue-Paul-Walker eyes of his, and asked for her specifically. Without even giving me a chance to give him my very best smile.

  I saw how happy she was, how much she blossomed under his support, how much she learned about herself by loving both him and Matty. And I thought I could break that up?

  I’m nothing but a lump of coal in a pretty package.

  I talk to my lap because it’s easier than seeing Dean’s disgust.

  “The first thing I felt when Hunter asked me if the ring he chose was good enough was absolute, pure jealousy,” I say, voice mousy and small. I squeeze my eyes shut, and hear my pulse ratchet up its beat in my ears.

  “I’m so jealous of what they have and it’s going to kill me. I don’t know what I’m going to do if she wants me to be her maid of honour. I really have no idea how I’m going to stomach that day.”


  The dogs come rushing to us, Potter struggling and failing to jump up the height of the couch. He’s frantic, yipping out for help, and I take pity on him and settle him in my lap. I stroke his back, feel his tiny spine and hip bones underneath his meagre flesh and muscle. He kills me with his cuteness when he sighs like he’s so exhausted and curls in the space between my crisscrossed legs and sleepy snuggles into the leg of my jeans.

  “I’m really mad at myself for feeling that way. I also want to cry, and scream, and yell at Sera not to go ahead with it, not to say yes.”

  Dean clears his throat, and nudges me with his giant knee. “Why?”

  I blow out a breath and continue petting Potter’s ears. The little guy turns over in my lap and shows me his belly for special petting. I shrug, it’s such a useless movement but I’ve got so many words clamoring to come out of me, I don’t know what to say first, and how to sugar coat them so I don’t sound like such a bitch.

  Then again, be yourself and all that.

  “Marriages don’t work. We have tons of statistics to prove that. And Hunter… Hunter’s a diabetic, Dean. He can’t be spontaneous, he can’t go for a damn walk outside without needing to check his sugar and decide if he needs to eat something or not. That shit’s ridiculous! Plus, he has a kid, Dean! An actual kid! They’re doomed before they’ve even started.” I take a deep breath, and peek up at him. His face is completely impassive, and I can’t read his eyes too well.

  “Sera loves junk food, I mean, hello. And because of the two of them, she can’t have any of it. Why does she have to sacrifice so much when he can’t give her as much back?”

  “How do you know that?” Dean asks. There’s an edge to his voice and I can’t tell if he’s pissed off at me or, say, Potter for clearly adoring me so much.

  “How do I know what? I see it! I see it when they’re together!”

  “Has Sera ever complained about any of this?”

  “Please, Dean, I think I know my best friend.”

  Dean shakes his head, like you would to someone who is clearly not getting it. “That shit isn’t important. You think if Sera really, and I mean really, wanted some chocolate she couldn’t chow down in her car, at work, wherever, but anywhere away from Matty and Hunter? You’re just making up excuses now, and fuck if I know why.”

  “Don’t you see?” I stare at him, willing him to understand. “It’s not going to last. She’s going to be ripped to pieces when all this is over, and Hunter asking her to marry him is just a forceful tactic to getting what he wants.”

  Dean’s eyes glitter with something like anger.

  Is it wrong if I find him to be even more beautiful?

  “Are you even hearing yourself? Sera can say no, she can even tell him to go fuck himself. I don’t know what you’re getting at.”

  “He’s going to destroy her and I’m going to have to fix her and I can’t do it anymore. I don’t have it in me to fix anyone else. I’m tapped out.”

  I hadn’t meant to say those words, hadn’t even thought them into existence until they were suddenly fully formed and occupying sound-wave space.

  “I don’t understand you,” Dean says, rubbing his face with both hands. He sounds a little bit like Darth Vader without the breathing problem. “You keep going back and forth, and I don’t know whether to shake some sense into you, or… Or, shit, just come here.” He opens his arms, and tries to get his legs out of the way.
  “C’mon, Kat, I’m waiting. My offers for Dean-cuddles will only last for the next five seconds before they self-destruct…”

  I launch myself at him, forcing him backwards, but his arms just wrap themselves around me and hold me tight to his chest, I can feel his heartbeat and I end up stuffing my face in the crook of his neck and shoulder where he’s so warm and wonderful. Potter squirms around near my knees and jumps off the couch.

  “You know you’re being stupid, right?” He mumbles, the sound vibrating from his chest to mine and hello, happy nipples.

  Don’t ruin the moment, do NOT ruin the moment!

  “I’m being realistic.”

  Dean exhales loudly, and holds me tight enough to cause injury. I don’t mind at all. “You’re being stubborn.” He sounds like he’s mad at me, but he ends up squeezing me even tighter.

  “You think couples don’t have fights; that they don’t get into it once in a while?”

  I grunt my no. “I’m not a kid. Of course people get into fights. You can’t get along twenty-four-seven.”

  Dean nods against me. If I move just a little bit south we’d be absolutely connected in all the best ways, but I shouldn’t ruin this, not now, not when he’s being nice and I’m being nice and we’re having an actual conversation.

  “What I’m saying is Hunter isn’t enough for Sera. He’ll never be enough.”

  Dean growls, and the rumble hits me in my vagina and I start squirming. “He’s not enough for you, maybe, but he’s enough for her. Don’t you talk about him with her? Don’t you see her face?”

  “I’m always looking at her face.”

  “You don’t see it. You don’t see it at all. Sera’s head over heels for that lucky asshole, and all you’ve got are smoke screens to try and keep them apart. That’s low, Kat, even for you.”

  I move to pull away, but his arms are like steel across my upper back, and one giant hand goes to the back of my head and starts running his fingers through my hair. Slow strokes, sweet strokes, the kind that just might put me to sleep and make me do whatever he wants.

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