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Fired Up (Fever Falls #1)
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Too bad things are never that simple…
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My gut tightened as I watched Ashton Carmichael dance on the coffee table with Sarah Pinkton. He grabbed her ass, and she giggled. Everyone cheered and laughed as they grinded against each other. He took a long swallow of beer from his red plastic party cup and then let it slosh over the sides. I didn’t get it, the whole red-plastic-cup thing, but if there was beer and a keg, red cups always went right along with it.
And Ashton Carmichael, of course. I was pretty sure that in our four years of high school there hadn’t been a party he hadn’t attended…and acted like he was doing now…which people ate up like it was an ice-cream sundae on a hot day.
I couldn’t stand him. I really couldn’t stand Ash.
But he was also my friend…and obviously that made things difficult.
Strange how someone could grate on your every nerve but you also considered them a friend…kind of…sometimes…okay, fine, he was a friend, but he was also annoying as shit.
Still, my eyes stayed firmly entranced by him even while I berated myself for it the whole time. Even while I told myself to ignore him. Like everyone else, I couldn’t look away from Ash, and that truth made me even more frustrated with myself than I was with him.
The beer sloshed over the cup again. He laughed, dropping his head back with a rich, throaty sound. When he looked up, his gaze focused right on me. When I rolled my eyes, the right side of his mouth kicked up in a half grin. He winked at me while he danced with Sarah, and that was my wake-up call to turn away…which I did…only to look back at him a moment later and see Ash still watching me. There was a wrinkle on his forehead, a crease between his eyes as if he was thinking about something.
But then his eyes snapped away, and he jumped down off the table like he was trying to be Patrick Swayze in that movie my mom always went crazy about. He switched from Sarah to Crystal, and no one cared because he wasn’t dating either of them. He just liked attention, to make a big fucking show of everything, and everyone around him got their jollies watching.
Did I mention Ashton Carmichael annoyed the shit out of me? It bore repeating.
And it was time to walk away.
As I headed toward the kitchen, weaving my way through the crowd, a body slammed into me. Shannon, my ex-girlfriend, looked up at me, her eyes sparkling and sort of dopey-looking. Not that Shannon wasn’t smart, because she was. She came in third in our class with me in second and Ash fucking Carmichael in first, but alcohol always made her silly. “I miss you, Beau. Did I tell you how hot you look today?” She reached up and fingered my hair. “Your hair’s soft. It’s the color of chocolate. I really like chocolate.”
Actually, my hair was black, not brown, and I hoped she wasn’t planning on eating it. Regardless, this wasn’t good. She was great, one of my close friends, but I just didn’t feel that way about her. I kind of hated that I didn’t. Shannon was perfect, perfect for me—only I couldn’t make myself see her as more than a friend, and I couldn’t figure out why that was. “Thanks, Shan. You look good too. How much have you had to drink?”
She held up her thumb and forefinger, making an inch. “Just a little bit, Dad.”
I rolled my eyes. Was it such a bad thing to be responsible? Or as other people sometimes called it, boring, but whatever. I didn’t think boring was such a bad thing.
Shannon stumbled into me, then frowned. “I don’t feel so well, Beau.”
“Shit,” I groaned. “Come on. Let’s get you outside.”
I got her to the door just as Holly and Paulina, Shannon’s closest friends, approached. “Thank God you found her, Beau. She slipped away,” Holly said.
“We’re gonna take her home,” Paulina added. She was the designated driver. Anytime anyone partied, Paulina offered to drive people home because she didn’t drink, which was a lifesaver more times than I could count. I wasn’t out there drinking as often as most people I knew, but I did indulge sometimes.
“I’ll walk you guys to the car.”
“Thanks, Beau. You’re the best.” Holly squeezed my shoulder.
We made our way out of Wyatt’s parents’ lake house. They were the wealthiest family in Fever Falls, and Wyatt was Ash’s best friend…not that I wasn’t friends with Wyatt, because I was.
Ash and I hung out in the same social circles—being captain and co-captain of the football team—Ash was captain, of course. Hell, we were even in prom nominations together, which Ash won, not that I’d wanted to. He’d been to my house, and I’d been to his.