Soar (Page 45)

Chapter Twenty-Four

Casey

Toby left me alone in our hotel suite while he went to some meeting with Levi and a few others. I understood that I couldn’t be included in everything, but I was antsy and refused to just sit around my hotel room while in a completely new city. I was willing to wait a while before venturing out, but I wasn’t going to do it in my room. I’d noticed a bar in the lobby. It couldn’t hurt to go down and order a drink or something.

I put on my boots and slipped my phone, room key, and a credit card in my pocket. After double checking that the door to our suite was locked, I took the elevator to the lobby.

There were a few people sitting at the bar, but I found an empty stool.

“Can I get you something?” a male bartender with dark hair asked.

“Just a Coke, please.” I could use the caffeine and sugar.

“Sure. Coming right up.” He filled a glass with ice and Coke then set it down in front of me.

I gave him my room number. Toby wouldn’t mind me adding it to our room tab. I took a sip.

“Casey, hey!” Nelly smiled before taking the stool next to mine.

“Hey.” Talk about good timing. I was glad to see a familiar face and a reminder that I wasn’t the only one being left out.

“Enjoying your stay so far?” she asked before turning to the bartender. “Scotch on the rocks.”

He nodded and got her the drink.

“Sure. So far, I’ve seen a prison and the inside of the hotel.” I used my cocktail napkin to wipe some condensation from the bar top.

She laughed. “Very exciting. What are you up to now?”

“I’m just killing time. When do you think they’ll be done?”

“Why? Looking for Toby?” She gave me a knowing look.

“Maybe.” I hid my smile in my drink.

“He’s definitely an attractive guy. It’s too bad he’s unavailable,” she mumbled.

“What do you mean?” I moved my straw around the glass.

“He’s good at pretending he’s over her, but he’s not.”

“By her you mean Allie?” I sure hoped there wasn’t another ex-girlfriend, but hearing he wasn’t over anyone didn’t feel great.

“Yeah. He’s crazy in love with her still.”

“Really?” I’m sure there was some iciness in my tone. He’d left me with a very different impression.

“You know what’s funny?” She sipped her drink.

“What?”

“The first thing Toby mentioned to me about you was how much you reminded him of Allie.”

“You don’t say.” I pushed away my glass. Suddenly finishing it didn’t sound so great.

“Yeah. But I’d take that as a compliment. I mean, you’ve seen her right? She’s gorgeous. Who could compare to that?”

My stomach dropped. “Yeah. Right.”

“Oh, honey.” She put a hand on my arm. “I’m sorry. You really fell for him, huh?”

I let out a deep breath. “Yeah. I did.”

“Toby’s never going to settle down. No one can ever live up to Allie.”

“You really think he’s going to spend his life alone?” I thought about the heartbroken expression on his face every day at the coffee shop. Was he really okay living like that?

“He has work. I think that’s enough for him.” She took another long drink.

“I guess so.”

I forced myself to sit and chat with her a few minutes longer, but I needed some fresh air. After excusing myself, I headed outside and took a walk around the French Quarter. The loud music spilling out of the bars and clubs normally would have lured me in, but not that night. I was frustrated.

It all made sense. Toby hadn’t tried anything even when I invited him into my bed. I’d written it off as him being a nice guy, but what if Nelly was right? What if he wasn’t over Allie? Was I really going to sit around waiting for a guy again? I’d been hurt that way once before, and I never wanted to experience it again.

I walked around for at least an hour. I stopped at a few tourist shops, but I didn’t buy anything. There was something about buying souvenirs on this kind of trip that felt wrong.

I kept thinking about Toby and Allie. I’d caught him looking at her several times over the past few days. I’d given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was curiosity, but what if it was more than that? What if he really was still in love with her? Nelly was right about one thing. I couldn’t compare to Allie.

After circling around for a while, I made a decision. I wasn’t going to make an effort to chase Toby. If he wanted me, he’d let me know. If he wanted to sit around and pine for Allie, I’d let him do it alone. I couldn’t blame him completely. I’d known there was something wrong when I first met him. Jess had basically confirmed it, yet I’d pressed on. Sometimes it’s easier to turn a blind eye than to face the truth.

I refused to feel sorry for myself as I walked back to the hotel on a mission. I was going to enjoy the rest of my time in New Orleans. Toby and I weren’t in a relationship or anything. If I didn’t move on, I’d be just as bad as him.

I reached the hotel just in time to see Jared walking out. If there was ever a sign, this was one. Just the sight of him snapped me out of my daze. I followed him when he turned the corner. I had no idea what I was doing, but somehow that didn’t matter.

“Where are you going?”

He spun around. “Casey?”

“Where are you going?” I repeated the words.

“Nowhere that concerns you.”

“Can I come?” I forced myself to sound confident.

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not safe.”

For some reason, I started to cry. Maybe it was just the sting of rejection or a delayed reaction to all the craziness going on. “If it’s not safe, why are you going?”

“Are you okay? You’re crying.”

“Please just ignore it. Can you do that for me?” I didn’t want him worried about me. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to stop sitting around and actually live.

A look of concern crossed his face, but then he nodded before continuing like he didn’t notice I was desperately trying to hold it together. “Because sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.”

“You’re going back to Angola.” I knew it as plain as day.

“Maybe.” His brow furrowed. If we ever played poker, I now knew his tell.