I needed to talk to her.
I stalked into the club and almost ran over Bethy. I hadn’t seen much of her over the past few months. She’d stayed to herself and kept busy with work.
“Hey,” I said as she stopped and looked up at me with a forced smile.
“Hi” was her only response.
“What’s up?” It was an empty question but I didn’t know what else to say. Out of all of us, she’d suffered the loss of Jace the most.
She shrugged. “Headed to work. Just got Harlow signed up with Adam, the new tennis pro, so now my good deed for the day is done.”
“Harlow’s on the tennis courts?” I asked, trying not to take off running in that direction.
Bethy nodded. “Yep. Hiding from Nan for the day. I feel sorry for the poor girl. But then you wouldn’t understand anyone’s dislike of Nan,” she replied and rolled her eyes before stepping around me and walking out the door.
I wanted to defend myself but I was too focused on getting to Harlow.
When I stepped onto the brick sidewalk toward the courts, I noticed Nelton with Thad’s mother. I was pretty sure Thad’s mom wasn’t one of Nelton’s groupies. She was a nice lady. I couldn’t imagine her sleeping around on her husband. Besides, she wouldn’t do anything to let Thad down. The boy was spoiled and lucky as hell.
I walked past them and my gaze immediately singled out Harlow. She had a pinched, determined frown on her face as she hit every ball Adam sent her way. She also looked like a f**king dream in that skirt.
“That’s it, girl,” Adam called out in appreciation. I didn’t like his tone of voice. He seemed too happy for her. Too . . . interested.
“We’re gonna take it up a notch. Think you can handle it?” he asked.
“Bring it on.” She stopped when her eyes found me. I could see the series of emotions before she closed them off and turned her eyes back toward Adam. “Give me a minute.”
Adam had turned and was looking my way. I could feel his gaze on me but I wasn’t taking my eyes off her in case she got away.
She reached for her towel and wiped the sweat from her face and neck then grabbed her water bottle and took a long swig. I waited patiently, enjoying the way she moved. I had never seen anyone quite as poised as Harlow. She had this graceful, polished way of doing things. Even when she was out here sweating, she reminded me of some sort of royalty.
Her shoulders lifted and fell as she took a deep breath, then she turned to walk toward me. There was a determined gleam in her eyes. It did nothing to deter me. If anything, I wanted to grab her and kiss her until we both forgot the past two months.
“What do you need?” she asked, keeping a good foot of distance between us. The uptight, cold, sexy-as-hell tone to her voice was one I was familiar with. This had been the Harlow before I’d brought her Chinese food and convinced her to trust me.
“We need to talk. There’s a lot I need to explain,” I said.
Harlow cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not deaf or blind. No need to explain. I understand completely.”
Dammit. “Harlow, last night is not what you think. You wouldn’t talk to me. I called and you shut me out. What was I supposed to do? I was . . . Hell, I’ve been trying to forget you. To forget us. Because that’s what you were forcing me to do. And last night I was so f**king trashed I didn’t know my name.”
Harlow straightened her shoulders, and she stared at me as a slow, angry rage lit her big, heartbreaking eyes. It didn’t look promising. “I’m not an idiot. I know that you never called me except for that one time, and then you were too drunk to know your own name. Don’t patronize me to make yourself feel better. I’m a big girl, and thanks to you I’m not nearly as naïve as I once was. I’ve learned a few hard lessons.” She swallowed hard and shook her head. “No. We have nothing to talk about, Grant. Talking time is over. Please, go to Nan. Enjoy her all you want. I’m not your concern, nor will I ever be.” She turned and started to walk back onto the court.
I reached out and grabbed her arm to stop her. I had to say something. I had to get her to listen to me. This whole time I thought Kiro had told her I was sleeping with Nan. I wasn’t sure where Kiro got his info or if he was just assuming it, but from what Dean had told me that was why Harlow was ignoring my calls.
“If you didn’t know about me and Nan before, then why have you been ignoring my calls?”
Harlow stopped and didn’t try to jerk her arm free from my grasp. She stood there, so calm. The females I knew did not deal with their emotions like this. They were loud. They yelled, screamed, and threw shit. Harlow was so unemotional.
“You called once. You were drunk. You never called again. Now please let go of my arm. I have forty minutes left with Adam and I’d like to use my time properly.”
“I did f**king call you. A million times! You wouldn’t answer. I called the house and got threatened by your dad. Even Dean warned me off. I thought that was what you wanted. I need to explain.”
She spun around and the fire behind her eyes startled me. “No, Grant, you don’t. I’m a real smart girl and I’d know if I missed a call. You didn’t call.” She jerked her arm free and headed for her side of the court.
This was not the way I had imagined this going. And I didn’t have a f**king clue how to get her to listen to me. She was so careful to protect herself. Walls had been erected between us and it felt as if they were made of steel.
“If that is all, Mr. Carter, we need to proceed with our session,” Adam said in a businesslike tone.
I didn’t want to do this here anyway. Not with an audience. Instead of answering, I just walked away. I didn’t know what else to do. I needed to regroup and plan what to do next. I also needed advice. Forget waiting on Rush. I was going to see Blaire.
Adam acted as if nothing had happened. Even after I started missing every ball he sent my way. I couldn’t concentrate. Grant’s words were replaying over and over in my head. He was so determined to make me believe he had called me. Yet he didn’t think about the fact that his comment about sleeping with Nan was like sticking a blade through my chest. I just stopped trying. Adam stopped hitting and we stood there, staring at each other.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish today,” I told him. He didn’t need any more explanation; I knew he’d heard us. We weren’t exactly whispering.
“I’m free for another hour and twenty minutes. Want to grab a cup of coffee?” he asked, surprising me.
I wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted. I didn’t really have a lot of friends. My books were my friends.
“I won’t ask about what happened if you don’t want me to. I just thought coffee sounded good, and I’d like some company,” he said when I didn’t respond.
I needed to do this. It was time I got a life. Dad had sent me here and made it impossible for me to hide in my bedroom. Staying at home meant being near Nan. “I’d like that,” I replied.
Adam seemed relieved when he shot me a smile. “Good. I thought I might have to beg.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that or if he was teasing me. I waited while he used his towel to dry the small amount of sweat he’d worked up and take a long drink from his water.
When he turned back to me I decided that I liked Adam. He was attractive and he was nice. And he hadn’t slept with Nan . . . or at least I didn’t think so.
“Before we have coffee together, do you have any relationship at all with Nan?” I asked. I knew this was ridiculous but I was protecting myself. If he had then I was better off not spending any time with him off this court.
Adam laughed. I guess I sounded like a child asking something like that. But I didn’t care. “No. Nan is the kind of girl I keep my distance from. She’s also messing around with August Schweep. He’s the club’s new golf pro.”
Awesome. Grant was sleeping with her while she was sleeping with the golf pro. Ew. Just ew. “He’s not the only person she’s messing around with.”
Adam’s eyebrows shot up. “Like I said. Not my type.”
Yes, we could be friends.
“Good. Not that coffee means anything. I just prefer not to waste my time with people who have had any relationship with Nan.”
“Hate her that much?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No. It’s just a big red flag that the person lacks something.”
“Really? What would that be?”
“Integrity,” I replied before snapping my mouth shut. I shouldn’t have said that.
Adam, however, burst into laughter again.
We walked into a small café area just inside the doors on the large wraparound porch. My eyes immediately found Rush standing at what looked like the entrance to a larger dining room or restaurant. He glanced from me to Adam and raised his eyebrows slightly, then nodded a hello before turning his attention back to a guy whom I recognized from the wedding.
“Is it okay if we get coffee in here? The dining room is packed this time of day. Or would you rather go in there and get something to eat?”
It was lunchtime but the idea of walking in there while it was full of people didn’t sound appealing.
“Can we get a sandwich in here?” I asked
“Sure can.” He pulled out a chair for me. “Have a seat and I’ll grab a menu. They don’t normally bring them in here.”
I started to tell him not to bother, that coffee was fine, but he had already headed for the door. I didn’t look to see if Rush said anything to him. I kept my attention focused on the windows overlooking the courts. Letting myself think about this too deeply would make me nervous. There was no reason to be nervous. Adam was a nice guy. He played tennis. We already had something in common.
“I like Adam.” Rush’s voice startled me, and I turned around to see he’d walked over to my table.
“Me, too,” I replied, wondering if he knew much about me and Grant or anything at all.
“Nan treating you okay?”
He would be worried about that. Rush knew more than anyone how bad it was between us. “Haven’t seen her yet. I’m avoiding her.”
Rush smirked. “Not a bad idea.”
“How’s Blaire and the Nate?” I asked.
A glow touched his face and his smirk transformed into a smile. The genuine kind that you knew went deep. “They’re perfect.”
He never was a man of many words. “I’d like to come see them.”
“Blaire would like that. As soon as I tell her you’re here, she’ll be hunting you down.”
That made me smile. I really liked Blaire. She was the kind of person you couldn’t help but be drawn to. “Good. I look forward to her finding me.”
Rush glanced up and then back down at me. “I’ll let you enjoy your lunch. Don’t let Nan take control. Stiffen your spine.”
He didn’t say any more; he just walked off. I turned to see Adam walking back into the room. He and Rush greeted each other in passing. Adam set the menu in front of me before sitting down across from me and glancing back at the door.
When he turned back to me he looked like he was thinking about something. I decided to wait and let him build up the courage to ask me. Opening my menu, I studied the selections of salads and sandwiches.
“So you’re friends with Rush but not Grant. Aren’t they close or brothers or something?”
Ah. He was finally going to ask about the scene Grant and I had caused earlier. I wasn’t ready to give him details. We’d just met, and what had happened with Grant was too personal.
“Rush is a friend. He has been since we were kids. Grant is someone I met a few months ago and made the mistake of trusting. That’s about it.”
Adam nodded and then turned his attention to his menu. He was going to be satisfied with that explanation. Good. I wasn’t going to tell him more.
Ihad started for my truck when I noticed Rush’s Range Rover. He was here. I turned around and headed back inside while calling him to find out exactly where he was.
“Yeah,” Rush said.
“I see your truck. Where are you?”
“Inside. Are you outside?”
“Wait out there. I’ll come outside.”
Then he hung up. What the hell? He had been in the dining room. I could hear familiar sounds in the background. Why was he leaving to come see me? Unless . . . Harlow was in there. What did he think I was going to do? Make a scene? Hell, I’d already done that on the tennis court. I needed a game plan. Not another train wreck.
I waited on him. He was there fast. Rush walked out the door and glanced over at me with a concerned look on his face.
“Did I beat you here?” he asked, as if he weren’t at all suspicious.
I decided to ease his mind. “I know Harlow’s in town. I know she’s living with Nan and we’ve already had our first encounter . . . and second, actually.”
Rush let out a relieved sigh. “Good. After your last drunk-ass rant I was worried this was going to be an issue.”
“My only issue is she won’t let me explain. She hates me. I need advice, man. I f**ked up. That’s why I wanted to talk to you. But I think . . . I think I may need to talk to Blaire.”
Rush’s eyebrows drew together. “How’d you f**k up? Kiro was keeping her from you. That was it. Harlow is a sweet girl. I can’t imagine her hating anyone.”
“There’s more to it than that,” I said, running my hand through my hair. I didn’t want to tell Rush that I’d been sleeping with Nan again. She was his sister, and even though she was selfish and mean as a snake, he loved her. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to me using her.