The brunette giggles again. “Y’all ? You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“I’m from Mississippi.”
She eyes my bicep appreciatively. “How do you like New York?”
I think for a second . . . then it comes to me. With a lopsided grin I answer, “Right now, I’m likin’ it a whole lot.”
Drew nods almost imperceptibly—approvingly.
“We’re art majors,” the blonde offers.
“Seriously? Art?” Drew smirks. “Guess you have no interest in making an actual contribution to society.” He raises his glass. “Here’s to graduating without a marketable skill set of any kind.”
I know he sounds like an insulting ass, but trust me, it works for him.
“Oh my god!”
“Jerk!” The girls laugh, like they always do, eating up his cocky attitude and sarcastic humor with a spoon.
I take another drink of bourbon. “What kinda art do you do?”
“I paint,” Blondie answers. “I particularly like body painting.” She trails her hand up and down Drew’s chest. “You would be an amazing canvas.”
“I sculpt,” her friend tells me. “I’m really good with my hands.”
She finishes the pink drink in her hand. Even though I’m not twenty-one and don’t have an ID that says I am, I hook my thumb toward the bar. “You want me to get you another round?”
Before she can answer, Drew intercedes. “Or we could get out of here? Go back to your place?” He makes eye contact with the blonde. “You can show me your . . . art. I bet you’re extremely talented.”
The girls agree, I down the rest of my bourbon, and as easy as that, the four of us head out the door.
• • •
Turns out the girls are roommates. I’m quiet as we walk the three blocks to their apartment—distracted by the uneasy feeling churning in my stomach like butter gone bad. It’s a mixture of nervousness and guilt. I imagine Jenny’s face in my head, smiling and sweet. I picture her holding our daughter in the rocking chair my Aunt Sylvia gave us when Presley was born. And I wonder if what I’m doing—what I’m about to do—is the right thing.
Their apartment is a lot nicer than what two college girls could afford alone. A doorman, third floor, a spacious living room with unstained beige couches and gleaming hardwood floors covered by an Oriental rug. A full-size kitchen with oak cabinets and granite countertops is visible from the living room, separated by a breakfast bar and three white bar stools.
“Make yourselves at home,” the dark-haired girl says with a smile. “We’re just going to go freshen up.”
After they disappear down the hallway, Drew’s head whips to me. “You look like a virgin on prom night. What’s the matter?”
I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. “I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
“Did you not see the brunette’s tits? Getting a closer look at those bad boys could never be anything but a good idea.”
My lips tighten with indecision, then . . . I spill my guts. “The thing is . . . I’ve never had sex with anyone except Jenny.”
He rubs his forehead. “Oh Jesus.”
With a sigh he drops his hand and asks, “But she’s good with you hooking up with other people? I mean, she agreed?”
I lift my shoulder and explain, “Well yeah—she’s the one who suggested it in the first place.”
Evans nods. “Sounds like my kind of girl. So what’s the problem?”
I rub the back of my neck, trying to relieve some of the tension that’s taken up residence there. “Even though we talked about it . . . I’m not sure . . . this doesn’t feel . . . I want to do right by her.”
Drew’s voice loses its edge of irritation. “I admire that, Shaw. You’re a stand-up guy. Loyal. I like that about you.” He points at me. “Which is why I think you owe it to yourself, and your Jenny chick, to have hours of dirty, sweaty sex with this woman.”
Not for the first time, I wonder if Drew Evans is the devil—or a close relation. I can picture him offering the fasting Christ a loaf of bread and making it sound completely acceptable for him to take a big ole bite out of it.
“Do you actually believe the horseshit that comes out of your mouth?”
Drew waves me off. “Pay attention, you’re about to learn something. What’s your favorite ice cream?”
“What the hell does that have to do—”