Home > Ugly Love(5)

Ugly Love(5)
Colleen Hoover

Corbin and I have even been getting along, although he’s gone more than he’s home, so I’m sure that has everything to do with it.

I smile, finally feeling like I’ve found my place, and I open the door to the apartment. My smile fades as soon as it meets the eyes of three other guys—only two of whom I recognize. Miles is standing in the kitchen, and the married as**ole from the elevator is sitting on the couch.

Why the hell is Miles here?

Why the hell are anyof them here?

I glare at Miles as I kick off my shoes and drop my purse on the counter. Corbin isn’t due back for two more days, and I was looking forward to the peace and quiet tonight so I could get some studying done.

“It’s Thursday,” Miles says when he sees the scowl on my face, like the day of the week is supposed to be some sort of explanation. He’s watching me from his position in the kitchen. He can see I’m not happy.

“So it is,” I reply. “And tomorrow is Friday.” I turn to the other two guys sitting on Corbin’s couch. “Why are you all in my apartment?”

The blond, lanky guy immediately stands up and walks over to me. He extends his hand. “Tate?” he asks. “I’m Ian. I grew up with Miles. I’m a friend of your brother’s.” He points to the elevator guy, who is still seated on the couch. “This is Dillon.”

Dillon gives me a nod but doesn’t bother speaking. He doesn’t have to. His shit-eating grin says enough about what he’s thinking right now.

Miles walks back into the living room and points to the television. “This is kind of a thing we do some Thursdays if either of us is home. Game night.”

I don’t care if it’s their thing. I have homework.

“Corbin isn’t even home tonight. Can’t you do this at your apartment? I need to study.”

Miles hands Dillon a beer and then looks back at me. “I don’t have cable.” Of course you don’t.“And Dillon’s wife doesn’t let us use his place.” Of course she doesn’t.

I roll my eyes and walk to my bedroom, slamming the door unintentionally.

I change out of my scrubs and pull on a pair of jeans. I grab the shirt I slept in last night and just get it over my head when someone knocks on the door. I swing it open almost as dramatically as I slammed it earlier.

He’s so tall.

I didn’t realize how tall he was, but now that he’s standing in my doorway—filling it—he seems really tall. If he were to wrap his arms around me right now, my ear would press against his heart. Then his cheek would rest comfortably on top of my head.

If he were to kiss me, I’d have to tilt my face up to meet his, but it would be nice, because he would probably wrap his arms around my lower back and pull me to him so that our mouths would come together like two pieces of a puzzle. Only they wouldn’t fit very well, because they are most definitely not two pieces from the samepuzzle.

Something strange is going on in my chest. A flutter, flutter kind of thing. I hate it, because I know what it means. It means my body is really starting to like Miles.

I just hope my brain never catches up.

“If you need quiet, you can go to my place,” he says.

I cringe at the way his offer works knots into my stomach. I shouldn’t be excited about the possibility of being inside his apartment, but I am.

“We’ll probably be here another two hours,” he adds.

There’s regret in his voice somewhere. It would more than likely take a search party to locate it, but it’s buried there somewhere, beneath all the sultriness.

I expel a quick, relinquishing breath. I’m being a bitch. This isn’t even my apartment. This is their thingthat they obviously do on a regular basis, and who am I to think I can just move in and put a stop to it?

“I’m just tired,” I say to him. “It’s fine. I’m sorry if I was rude to your friends.”

“Friend,” he says as clarification. “Dillon is notmy friend.”

I don’t ask him what he means by that. He glances into the living room, then looks back at me. He leans against the frame of the door, an indication that my relinquishing the apartment for their game wasn’t the end of our conversation. He swings his eyes to the scrubs strewn across my mattress. “You got a job?”

“Yeah,” I say, wondering why he’s suddenly up for conversation. “Registered nurse in an ER.”

A crease appears on his forehead, and I can’t tell if it’s a result of confusion or fascination. “Aren’t you still in nursing school? How can you already work as an RN?”

“I’m getting my master’s in nursing so I can work as a CRNA. I already have my RN license.”

His expression is obstinate, so I clarify.

“It allows me to administer anesthesia.”

He stares at me for a few seconds before standing up straight and pushing off the doorframe. “Good for you,” he says.

There’s no smile, though.

Why doesn’t he ever smile?

He walks back to the living room. I step out of the doorway and watch him. Miles takes his seat on the couch and gives the TV his full attention.

Dillon is giving mehis full attention, but I look away and head to the kitchen to find something to eat. There isn’t much, considering I haven’t cooked all week, so I grab all the stuff I need from the refrigerator in order to make a sandwich. When I turn around, Dillon is still staring. Only now he’s staring from about a foot away, instead of all the way from the living room.

He smiles, then steps forward and reaches into the refrigerator, coming inches from my face. “So you’re Corbin’s little sis?”

I think I’m with Miles on this one. I don’t much like Dillon, either.

Dillon’s eyes aren’t anything like Miles’s eyes. When Miles looks at me, his eyes hide everything. Dillon’s eyes don’t hide anything, and right now, they’re clearly undressing me.

“Yes,” I say simply as I make my way around him. I walk to the pantry and open it to look for the bread. Once I find it, I set it on the bar and begin making my sandwich. I lay out bread for an extra sandwich to take to Cap. He’s kind of grown on me in the little time I’ve lived here. I found out he works up to fourteen hours a day sometimes but only because he lives in the building alone and doesn’t have anything better to do. He seems to appreciate my company and especially gifts in the form of food, so until I make more friends here, I guess I’ll be spending my downtime with an eighty-year-old.

Dillon casually leans against the counter. “You a nurse or something?” He opens his beer and brings it to his mouth but pauses before taking a drink. He wants me to answer him first.

“Yep,” I say with a clipped voice.

He smiles and takes a swig of his beer. I continue making my sandwiches, intentionally trying to appear closed off, but Dillon doesn’t seem to take the hint. He just continues to stare at me until my sandwiches are made.

I’m not offering to make him a damn sandwich if that’s why he’s still here.

“I’m a pilot,” he says. He doesn’t say it in a smug way, but when no one’s asking you what your occupation is, voluntarily contributing it to the conversation naturally comes off as smug. “I work at the same airline as Corbin.”

He’s staring at me, waiting for me to be impressed by the fact that he’s a pilot. What he doesn’t realize is that all the men in my life are pilots. My grandfather was a pilot. My father was a pilot until he retired a few months ago. My brother is a pilot.

“Dillon, if you’re trying to impress me, you’re going about it the wrong way. I much prefer a guy with a little more modesty and a lot less wife.” My eyes flash down to the wedding ring on his left hand.

“Game just started,” Miles says, walking into the kitchen, directing his words toward Dillon. His words might be innocuous, but his eyes are definitely telling Dillon that he needs to return to the living room.

Dillon sighs as if Miles just stripped away all his fun. “It’s good to see you again, Tate,” he says, acting as if the conversation would have come to an end whether Miles decided it should or not. “You should join us in the living room.” His eyes scroll over Miles, even though he’s speaking to me. “Apparently, the game just started.” Dillon straightens up and shoulders past Miles, heading back into the living room.

Miles ignores Dillon’s display of annoyance and slides his hand into his back pocket, pulling out a key. He hands it to me. “Go study at my place.”

It’s not a request.

It’s a demand.

“I’m fine studying here.” I set the key on the counter and put the lid back on the mayonnaise, refusing to be displaced from my own apartment by three boys. I wrap both sandwiches in a paper towel. “The TV isn’t even that loud.”

He takes a step forward until he’s close enough to whisper. I’m pretty sure I’m leaving finger indentations on the bread, considering every single part of me, right down to my toes, just tensed.

“I’mnot fine with you studying here. Not until everyone leaves. Go. Take your sandwiches with you.”

I look down at my sandwiches. I don’t know why I feel like he just insulted them. “They aren’t both for me,” I say defensively. “I’m taking one to Cap.”

I look back up at him, and he’s doing that unfathomable staring thing again. With eyes like his, that should be illegal. I raise my eyebrows expectantly, because he’s making me feel really awkward. I’m not an exhibit, yet the way he watches me makes me feel like one.

“You made a sandwich for Cap?”

I nod. “Food makes him happy,” I say with a shrug.

He studies the exhibit a little longer before leaning into me again. He grabs the key off the bar behind me and slides it into my front pocket.

I’m not even sure if his fingers touched my jeans, but I inhale sharply and look down at my pocket as his hand pulls away, because holy hell, I wasn’t expecting that.

I’m frozen while he’s casually making his way back into the living room, unaffected. It feels like my pocket is on fire.

I persuade my feet to move, needing some time to process all of that. After delivering Cap’s sandwich, I do as Miles says and head over to his apartment. I go on my own accord, not because he wants me over there and not because I really dohave a lot of homework but because the thought of being inside his apartment without him there is sadistically exciting to me. I feel like I’ve just been handed a free pass to all his secrets.

I should have known better than to think his apartment would give me any sort of glimpse into who he is. Not even his eyes can do that.

Sure, it really is a lot quieter over here, and yeah, I’ve finished two solid hours of homework, but that’s only because there aren’t any distractions.

At all.

No paintings on the sterile white walls. No decorations. No color whatsoever. Even the solid oak table dividing the kitchen from the living room is undecorated. It’s so unlike the home I grew up in, where the kitchen table was the focal point of my mother’s entire house, complete with a table runner, an elaborate overhead chandelier, and plates to match whatever the current season was.

Miles doesn’t even have a fruit bowl.

The only impressive thing about this apartment is the bookshelf in the living room. It’s lined with dozens of books, which is more of a turn-on to me than anything else that could potentially line his barren walls. I walk over to the bookshelf to inspect his selection, hoping to get a glimpse of him based on his choice of literature.

Row after row of aeronautical themed books is all I find.

I’m a little disappointed that after a free inspection of his apartment, the best I can conclude is that he might be a workaholic with little to no taste in décor.

I give up on the living room and walk into the kitchen. I open the refrigerator, but there’s hardly anything in it. There are a few takeout boxes. Condiments. Orange juice. It resembles Corbin’s refrigerator—empty and sad and so very bachelor.

I open a cabinet, grab a cup, then pour myself some juice. I drink it and rinse the cup out in the sink. There are a few other dishes piled up on the left side of the sink, so I begin washing those, too. Even his plates and cups lack personality—plain and white and sad.

I have the sudden urge to take my credit card straight to the store and buy him some curtains, a new set of vibrant dishes, a few paintings, and maybe even a plant or two. This place needs a little life.

I wonder what his story is. I don’t think he has a girlfriend. I’ve yet to see him with one up to this point, and the apartment and obvious lack of a female’s touch make it a likely assumption. I don’t think a girl could walk into this apartment without decorating it at least a little bit before she left, so I’m assuming girls just never walk into this apartment.

It makes me wonder about Corbin, too. All our years growing up together, he’s never been open about his relationships, but I’m pretty sure that’s because he’s never been ina relationship. Every time I’ve ever been introduced to a girl in his past, she never seems to make it through an entire week with him. I don’t know if that’s because he doesn’t like keeping someone around or if it’s a sign that he’s too difficult to bearound. I’m sure it’s the former, based on the number of random phone calls he receives from women.

Considering his abundance of one-night stands and lack of commitment, it confuses me how he could be so protective of me growing up. I guess he just knew himself too well. He didn’t want me dating guys like him.

I wonder if Miles is a guy like Corbin.

“Are you washing my dishes?”

His voice catches me completely off guard, making me jump in my skin. I spin around and catch sight of a looming Miles, almost dropping the glass in my hands in the process. It slips, but I somehow manage to catch it before it crashes to the floor. I take a calming breath and set it down gently in the sink.

“Finished my homework,” I say, swallowing the thickness that just swelled in my throat. I look at the dishes that are now in the strainer. “They were dirty.”

He smiles.

I think.

Just as soon as his lips start to curl up, they mash back into a straight line. False alarm.

“Everyone’s gone,” Miles says, giving me the all clear to vacate his premises. He notices the orange juice still out on the counter, so he picks it up and puts it back in the refrigerator.

“Sorry,” I mutter. “I was thirsty.”

He turns to face me and leans his shoulder into the refrigerator, folding his arms over his chest. “I don’t care if you drink my juice, Tate.”

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