We could depend on each other to neither expect anything but time, nor hope that we’d be invited on the next paid vacation. Our friendships would never be more about connections than inside jokes or late night talks. We knew if we were to ever bitch about the throes of money, it was not because we were hinting at needing any. We had nothing in common but the fact that we had one more thing in common than we did with everyone else.
He nodded, realizing too late his mistake. He was hoping for jealousy. Finley’s anger had always been a slow boil, and she was just beginning to simmer.
“Shush. You don’t get to talk.”
I sat back in my seat, hoping the night didn’t get any more awkward.
We ate our seabass and veal, buffalo ricotta, and chicory. We drank far too many Kir Royales that somehow turned into rounds of Irish whiskey, and then after giving the waiter the largest tip he’d ever seen, we headed out into the cold to light cigarettes and breathe puffs of white into the air.
Finley seemed to have forgiven us both, giggling against Sterling’s chest at my jokes, but I knew better. Sterling pulled her in, taking any chance to hold her that she would allow. I guided them down the alley to Turk’s, the local dive bar with a back entrance, hard to find on purpose.
“I want to see your hotshot,” Finley said, drunk and silly.
“He’ll probably be here. I’ve seen him here before. Most of the locals hang out at Turk’s.”
We walked in, removing our coats and gloves, and Paige waved to me from the bar. I let her hug me and guide us to a table in the corner. Tyler Maddox was present as expected and had a pitcher of beer to himself, a cigarette tucked behind his ear.
“Holy fuck,” Finley said not so quietly into my ear.
Tyler pretended not to hear as he stood, shaking Sterling’s hand and sweeping his own toward the empty chairs, including his. Zeke and another man stood until we sat, and then waited as Tyler found an extra seat to pull to our table.
Paige leaned into my ear. “He was just talking about you.”
Finley introduced herself to Tyler first, and then Zeke. The third man shook her hand when she extended it.
“Otherwise known as Sugar,” Tyler said with a smirk.
Finley giggled. She was immediately enamored with Tyler, and Sterling noticed. He transitioned too easily from laughter and affection to sitting motionless between the love of his life and Paige.
Paige rested her chin on her hand, smiling at Sugar. “It’s just so predictable.”
“All the transplants are from California.”
“I didn’t come here meaning to stay for six seasons,” he said.
Paige’s purple pompadour glowed in the neon lights of the bar. “Then why did you?”
“I came here for a girl.”
Zeke slapped him on the shoulder. “Isn’t Sugar sweet?”
Sugar shrugged away from him.
“And where is she?” Paige asked, attempting her best flirtatious smile.
“Not here,” Sugar said, leaning toward her.
“Is there no waitress tonight?” Finley said, annoyed. It was then that I saw it, the truth behind the flash of anger in her eyes. She hadn’t forgiven me and definitely not Sterling. She was going to flirt with the hotshot I’d mentioned to punish us both.
Tyler stood up, heading to the bar. “I got it.”
I listened to Finley and Sterling chat for a while, at the same time trying not to eavesdrop on Zeke and Sugar. Sugar was complaining about a girl, and then Zeke mentioned another Maddox.
“I don’t have to,” Zeke said. “I’ve seen it in real life, and it’s fucking scary.”
Zeke shifted in his chair. “She passed away when they were little.”
I put my head in my hands, looking down. “Fuck. That’s terrible. I’m sorry,” I said, glad Tyler wasn’t around to see me stick my foot so far into my mouth.
Tyler returned with a tray of shots and passed them around. He held up his glass.
“To good friends and beautiful women,” Tyler said. We held up our glasses, almost appreciative of his sweet toast. Then he added, “Sucking my dick.” His friends laughed, and we shook our heads, but everyone tossed back the whiskey.
Tyler stood to get another round, and Paige leaned in toward Sugar. “What the hell was that? Why is he acting like a douchebag all of a sudden?”
Sugar glanced at Finley from under his lashes. “Sisters are complicated.”
Tyler sat back down in his seat, carefully lowering the tray to the table.
Paige turned to me. “Is he being an asshole to run your sister off?”
“I’m not sure,” I said, watching him watch me.
He returned his attention to Finley and turned his wrist, allowing her to examine the arrow just above his elbow. “That would be Taylor’s choice.”
“No,” Tyler said. “Taylor is my brother.”
“Taylor and Tyler. That’s adorable,” Finley said, keeping her fingers on his arm.
“Apparently there are three more,” I said.
Finley turned her attention to me, wondering how I knew Tyler’s personal business. I pointed to Zeke, and she smiled, continuing to brush Tyler’s arm. “Are we talking five of you?” she asked. “Is that how you learned to fight?”
“Oh,” Tyler said, looking suddenly uncomfortable. “You heard about that.”
“Have you ever fought over a girl?” she asked.
I was beginning to feel sorry for her. Finley was trying so hard to make Sterling and me jealous that she was looking like quite the desperate tourist girl.
“I don’t believe it. Surely, at least once, more than one of you has been attracted to the same girl?” Finley asked.
Tyler shifted in his seat. “None of us have ever traded blows over something like that. It helps that we’re attracted to completely different types. Most of us, anyway.”
“What is your type? Blonde? Rich? Nympho?” Finley asked, leaning in.
“No,” Finley whined, reaching for him. “Don’t be silly. We just got here.”
Sterling tossed a few large bills on the table that would easily cover everyone’s drinks and more, and headed for the door. Finley frowned but followed him.
Tyler watched me for a few seconds, and then leaned in with his elbow on the table. “Are you going, too?”
I lifted my shot and took a gulp, shaking my head. “She’ll be back. He won’t.”
“How do you know?” he asked.