Say I'm Yours (Page 14)
“What did I say?” he asks innocently. “I’m offering to protect your date from gettin’ mauled by a bear or God only knows what.”
My hands tighten in my lap, and I swear this drive is taking longer than normal. Cooper looks out the back window with his head resting on his fist. It isn’t anyone’s fault this happened, but it still sucks. And making matters worse, Trent looks calm and relaxed. He starts to whistle and looks over to smile at me.
I loathe him.
We arrive at my house, and my stomach clenches. I shift in my seat to face Cooper. “Would you walk me to the door?” I ask.
I need to salvage even a tiny bit of tonight.
Yup. This is my life.
“I can’t get out,” Cooper explains after he tries and fails to open his door.
Trent clears his throat. “We don’t like to let the criminals have access to an escape.”
“Well,” my voice grows hard, “Cooper isn’t a criminal, and you bein’ the helpful sheriff and all should have no problem lettin’ him out so he can walk me to the door, right?”
I take a small amount of pride from being able to box him in at least once this evening. He can’t say no since it isn’t like anyone is under arrest, but at the same time, when he says yes, he’s admitting there’s no win for him. And he’ll have no choice but to wait for Cooper and me to finish saying our goodbyes.
Take that, Trent Hennington.
“No problem at all.”
Trent lets Cooper exit, and we head toward my door. “I’m sorry,” he says looking over at Trent, who is leaning against the car watching us.
“Don’t be. It wasn’t like you planned this.”
Cooper takes my hands in his. “I know, but this couldn’t have gone any worse.”
“Yeah, having to be rescued by my ex wasn’t high on the list of things I wanted to do today.”
“Will you let me make this up to you?”
The million-dollar question. I like Cooper. He’s been a friend forever, and my accepting a make-up date isn’t wrong. So, why does it feel like I’m cheating on Trent? It’s insane and completely ridiculous. My eyes drift over to where he stands. Trent’s eyes are unmoving as he stares at me. He doesn’t have to say a word. I hear him through the silence. He’s asking me to say no.
“Please?” Cooper brushes his thumb across my knuckles. “I’m not blind, Grace. I see your hesitation. I’m asking for you to give this a fraction of a chance.”
Trent clears his throat, and when my eyes find him again, all pretense of relaxation has melted away from his posture. “I hate to interrupt this”—his eyes flick to where Cooper’s hand is on mine—“touching scene, but I’m on duty, which means I need to get back to work.”
I nod in his direction and turn back to Cooper. I’m not sure what about that statement helped me decide, but there’s no way I’m turning Cooper away tonight. Who knows if things might have been great had the tire not blown. I sure as hell don’t. But I do know that the man by the car has hurt me more times than I can count. I gave him a second chance and then a thirtieth chance. Cooper deserves at least one.
“I would love to try again,” I say with a big smile.
I’ve never been a possessive guy.
I had two younger brothers who stole my toys, friends, and anything else they could grab. But we lived by a code when it came to girls. We would never go after a girl the other brother dated.
I like to think of this as a man’s code. Something we all follow. I wouldn’t sleep with a married woman because that’s another man’s woman. It’s wrong.
Cooper is breaking every goddamn man code I know.
He knows that Grace is mine.
He just doesn’t give a shit.
He climbs back in the cruiser after kissing Grace on the cheek. I swear I might have used deadly force if he touched her lips. The life sentence would’ve been worth it.
We sit in silence as I try to assemble my thoughts. It’s high time I let him know what I think. I promised Grace I’d let her be, and I won’t break that promise, but I didn’t say shit about him.
Once we’re out of the view of her house, I throw the car in park and turn to him.
“What the hell?” he asks, trying to mask his surprise.
“I figured it was time we had a talk.”
I don’t know how this conversation will go, I didn’t plan very far ahead, but I’ve got things I need to say.
“I don’t have anything to say to you,” Cooper glowers as he shifts in his seat. “I think we both know where we stand.”
“Do we?” I push. “Because I can’t imagine you know where I stand.”
Cooper has been a friend for my entire life, and what he’s doing is beyond fucked up. No, we’re not close anymore, but the line he’s crossing is unacceptable.
“I know you’re pissed.”
“Damn fucking right I am,” I bellow. “I can’t believe you would go after her. Her!”
He raises a brow and smirks. “I didn’t go after her. You let her go, and I was there to catch her after you tossed her away.”
Well, if that isn’t the equivalent to kicking me in the nuts, then I don’t know what is. He’s wrong, though. I didn’t toss her away—she left me. However, it doesn’t change the fact that she’s the girl I want. She’s the girl I love. She’s the girl I’m going to get back.
“You and I both know who she belongs with.”
“You don’t get it.” He lets out a bark of incredulous laughter. “You think this is a game? That I’m trying to take something that’s yours?” Cooper glares at me. “I don’t think she belongs with you. I think you had your chance.”
I try to slow the anger that’s coursing through my body. The desire to punch him in the face is strong.
“We’ve been friends a long time, Coop.”
He nods. “I know.”
“Friends don’t go after another man’s girl.”
For the first time since he got into the car, he looks contrite, but only for a second. “I didn’t go after your girl. You guys weren’t together.”
Now I’m pissed. “Oh, so you waited for a fucking technicality? You think this is going to work? That she’s going to suddenly be fine with throwin’ away all the years of what we’ve had? We may not have been together, but you’re a fool if you think there aren’t still feelings there.”
Cooper shakes his head. “You keep holdin’ on to the past, buddy. I’m not trying to be that to her. I’m lookin’ toward a future.”
Red clouds my vision. I clench my fists tight, trying to stop myself from ripping him out of the car and beating the piss out of him. Out of the corner of my eyes, I see him tense. Cooper knows I’m not a man who backs down from a fight, he isn’t, either.
In the back of my mind, I know that would be a mistake. If I get in a fight with him, there’s a chance Grace will see it different. I can’t run the risk of pushing her further away because I kicked her new boyfriend’s ass.
“There isn’t a future for you and Grace. I think we both know that. If she had feelings for you, she wouldn’t hesitate. So, why are you doin’ this?”
“Why are you?” he asks with annoyance. “Because I’m not walkin’ away. I like Grace. I like her a lot, and she deserves better than the shit you’ve given her.”
I know this.
He isn’t wrong, but I’m done being that man. Seeing Grace walk away that day was enough to snap me out of this. Then, knowing she’s with him set my plan in motion. Watching her smile at him fucking kills me. The thought of her kissing him makes me go insane. And the mere idea of another man touching her body? You’ll have to kill me before I let that happen.
She’s the girl I love. The girl I’ve always loved but was too stupid to hold on to.
That won’t happen again.
“If you care about her, you won’t make this harder on her than it already is. You and I both know who she loves. And it ain’t you.” I growl as I point my finger at his chest.
“Do you hear yourself? You don’t get to make that choice for her. I’m not the one who hurt her and fucked with her head. That’s all on you, buddy.”
“No, fuck you, Trent. You had all the time in the world to be with her. Even after she’s done with you, you think you get a say in her life?”
“I’m not makin’ a choice for her!”
Cooper folds his arms across his chest and shakes his head. “I’m not sure what to say to you. I didn’t set out for any of this to happen. I really didn’t. I went back and forth on whether goin’ after her was the right thing to do.”
I answer for him. “It wasn’t.”
“And what you’re doin’ now is?”
I’m not sure what I’m doing, but I can’t stand idly by and let this happen. I can’t give up on her—on us. Maybe walking away would be the noble thing, but I can’t do it. I won’t do it.