By: Sara Wylde

I bit my lip again. I hated how well he knew me. “I’ve been working pretty hard on the website and the dress designs for Chubbalicious. The launch is in two weeks. If everything isn’t perfect, I don’t know what I’m going to do. My degree will be for nothing and I’ll be out of funding. I’ll worry about having fun after I have a steady paycheck.”

Kieran shook his head. “I can’t imagine living the nine to five like that. Sounds like misery.”

“Not at all. I’m doing exactly what I want to do. And I’m working way more than nine to five.”

“Right, you’re working, but you’re not living.”

“I’ll live when I can afford to live.”

“No one can ever afford to live. I came to the States with barely a hundred euro and the clothes on my back.”

“You’re also slightly insane.” The idea of just flinging myself to the wind like that and rolling with wherever I landed was terrifying. I couldn’t imagine just deciding I was sick of a place, throwing a dart at a map, and moving.

“You love me anyway.”

“Don’t let it go to your head.” I did love him. For all of his craziness, I could always depend on Kieran. In fact, if Chubbalicious failed miserably, Kieran would cover me until I got on my feet. I didn’t want to need that safety net, but it was nice to know it was there.

“Never that, lass.” He winked at me.

“Don’t start being cute.”

“I never stopped.”

I rolled my eyes. That was really the only thing I could do when faced with his Irish charm. Sarcasm was a kind of armor I used to shield myself. Because as much as I did love Kieran, it would be beyond stupid for me to have any feelings for him other than friendship. When he played up that lilting accent, coupled with his genuine grin and handsome face, it was my only defense.

“I still think you should go out with Brant.”

“So noted.” I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why are you suddenly a Brant fanboy?”

He didn’t look at me. Of course, he was driving, but it seemed like he was avoiding meeting my eyes. “I just feel bad for him, and you need to have some fun.”

“Fine. If it’ll make you stop poking me about it, I’ll go.”

He finally looked at me. “If I was poking you, you’d know it.”

I rolled my eyes again. “I have no desire to be number three hundred in a series of a thousand.”

“You give me too much credit.”

I eyed him and then he grinned again.

“Okay, that was a lie. But you know I love you, Claire-Bear.”

He pulled in to the parking lot of The Rooster.

It was a plain, refurbished warehouse without much to recommend it on the outside. A giant chicken had been freshly painted on to the side of the brick building and it made me giggle.

“Yes, that’s a giant cock.” Kieran added helpfully.

“Actually, it’s not.” That made me laugh harder. “It’s a hen.”

“Only you would notice that.” He shook his head. “Remember, you agreed to talk to Brant.”

“As if I could forget.”

April pulled up in the car next to us with Gavin, Hollie and Rosa.

This was going to make for an interesting night. I stole another glance at Kieran and wondered if he was really going to sleep with April.

He got out and went around to her car to open the door for her.

Yeah, he was totally going to hit that.

I sighed.

This wasn’t going to end well. In the beginning, I asked that my friends be off limits. I know that was selfish and totally not my decision, but if he was going to use them like Shake N’ Bake bags, I’d be the one to listen to them cry about it when he didn’t call.

April acted like this was just a hook up, but she’d had a thing for Kieran for years.

Gavin opened the door for me. “You can’t stay in the car, you know.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s April’s birthday.”

“She wants to bang Kieran, not me.” I smirked. “She won’t notice.”

“She will definitely notice. Come on. I’ll buy you a cranberry vodka.”

“Now you’re speaking my language.” One drink wouldn’t hurt. Plus, I’d agreed to a date with Brant. If he asked. If I was sitting with Gavin, he might not ask.

It wasn’t that Brant was a bad guy, I knew Kieran wouldn’t push me toward anyone who was an asshole. But it was like I said earlier, I couldn’t handle dating a guy who stripped for a living.

Logically, I knew that people chose their own actions. Simply by virtue of being an exotic dancer didn’t mean he was going to cheat on me, but I saw how Kieran was. And I knew that there were women of all shapes and sizes that came through The Rooster and I just didn’t want to sign up for that kind of angst. Especially not when I had a business to get off the ground.