Jesus, I’m in love with him. With both of them.
I spin on the sidewalk to find Colin and Stacy, both from my US Women’s History class, running toward me.
“Hi, guys. What’s up?”
“We wanted to see if you’ve graded our essays yet.”
I grin at them and shake my head. “I’m sorry, not yet. I’m going to grade them over the weekend.”
“Do you ever take a day off?” Colin asks with the shake of his head. He’s just about my height, dressed casually in jeans and a plain white T-shirt.
Stacy, his roommate and best friend, is a plump girl with curly blonde hair and big brown eyes. They’re holding hands, as they always do.
College kids seem to be very affectionate with each other.
“Once in a while,” I reply with a laugh. “What are you guys up to?”
“I have a date tonight,” Colin says and wiggles his eyebrows. “New guy I met the other day at Starbucks.”
“I want to meet this guy,” Stacy says and pokes Colin in the ribs. “He’s probably not good enough for you.”
“They never are, darling,” Colin replies and kisses Stacy on the cheek. “Do you have fun plans this weekend, Lila?”
“Yes, actually. I have friends coming in from out of town.”
“Awesome.” Stacy grins and checks her watch. “Oh, hell. I have to go pick my baby sister up from school. Give me a ride, Colin?”
“You guys stick close together,” I add sternly. “I want you to stay safe.”
Colin’s eyes grow sad. “If I’d stayed with Cheyenne longer, she wouldn’t have—”
“You don’t know that,” Stacy says and kisses his cheek. “It’s not your fault. The police even told you so.”
His eyes narrow a bit at the reminder of being interrogated after Cheyenne’s death.
“She’s right,” I reassure him. “You couldn’t have known what would happen after you took her home. But be safe out there, you guys.”
“Sure. See you next week, Lila.”
“Bye guys.” I wave, get in the car, and take off toward home.
I mean, Asher’s townhouse, damn it.
When I pull into the driveway, I see a strange car parked behind Asher. They beat me here.
“You brought me strawberry cupcakes!” Casey exclaims as I walk through the front door. She launches herself into a petite brunette’s arms, hugging her tight. “I missed you so much, Nic!”
“I missed you too,” Nic replies and hugs her back, then catches my eye. “You must be Lila.”
“Guilty,” I reply with a smile. “And you’re Nic.”
“She makes the best cupcakes in the whole world,” Casey informs me and bites into a pink cupcake.
“I’ve heard,” I reply with a laugh.
“I brought about two dozen, all different kinds.” Nic shakes my hand, then simply pulls me into a hug. “It’s so nice to meet you.”
“Hey, baby,” Asher says as he and a tall man—a tall, impossibly handsome man—walk into the room. Asher plants a firm kiss on me and looks into my eyes. “You okay?”
“Great.” I smile at Matt. “I’m Lila.”
“Matt.” He shakes my hand and pulls me away from Asher and into his arms, hugging me tight. “And you’re gorgeous. Why are you with that asshole? Sorry, Casey.”
“It’s okay,” she says without looking up from her cupcake.
“You might want to stop touching her,” Asher says with mutiny in his eyes, only making Matt hug me tighter.
“Ignore him,” Nic says with a laugh. “You know how he loves to piss you off.”
“He’s good at it.”
I pull out of Matt’s hug and reach for a cupcake. Chocolate deliciousness explodes in my mouth.
“Marry me.” I turn to Nic. “Divorce him and marry me. I don’t leave the toilet seat up, and I totally understand PMS.”
She laughs and shakes her head. “Sorry. I’m all his. But I can ship cupcakes down here whenever you want.”
“I love you,” I tell her earnestly as I lick frosting off my fingers. I glance up at Asher in time to see a strange look cross his face, but then he seems to catch himself and grins.
“We all love Nic. I tried to talk her into marrying me at least a dozen times before they got married.”
“My loss,” Nic says with a shrug and a smile, then melts into her husband’s side when he wraps his arm around her shoulders. He leans in and whispers something in her ear, making Nic blush. “Not here,” she whispers to him.
“Newlyweds,” Asher says just as the doorbell rings.
“That’s Masie!” Casey exclaims and runs for the door. “We’re having a sleepover!”
“Wait!” Asher and Matt both yell at the same time, bringing Casey up short.
“You don’t just open the door, Casey. We’ve discussed this,” Asher says as he stomps toward the door.
“But it’s just Masie,” Casey says.
“You don’t know that,” Asher replies.
“Things still intense down here?” Nic asks.
“Not really.” I shrug and snatch up another cupcake. Strawberry this time. “Things have been quiet for a few weeks now. It’s weird.” I bite into the cake and immediately know what all the fuss is about. It’s absolutely delicious. “Seriously, you should make these for a living.”
Nic laughs. “You’re right, I should.”
I wink at her, perfectly aware that Nic owns a successful cupcake bakery in Seattle. Asher loves his friends and has told me all about them. He and Matt were partners for nearly ten years.
“Well, Casey is off for her sleepover,” Asher says as he rejoins us in the kitchen. “She’ll be back tomorrow morning. She wants to go on the cemetery tour with us.”
“Fun,” I reply. “I haven’t done the cemetery tour yet.”
“How long have you lived here?” Matt asks as he lays his hand on the back of Nic’s neck, massaging gently, as if she belongs to him and touching her is second nature to him.
It’s sexy as hell.
“Since last fall,” I reply and swallow the last of my cupcake. “But I jumped right into work and haven’t taken the time to explore the city. So, thanks for letting me tag along this weekend.”
“You’re not tagging along,” Asher says and kisses my cheek. “Not coming isn’t an option.”
“Oh right,” I reply and frown. “Because you’re keeping tabs on me.”
“No, because I don’t want to be without you,” he whispers in my ear. “Keeping tabs on you is the excuse I use.”
I roll my eyes, but I’m lit up inside. When he says things like that, I can’t help but swoon.
“What are we doing this evening?” Nic asks. “I’m hungry.”
“Are you okay?” Matt immediately asks her, concerned.
“I’m fine.” Nic turns to me. “Don’t mind him. He freaks out when I talk about food. I’m diabetic.”
“Punishments happen when you make light of it,” he says calmly, as if he’s reminding her, and my eyebrows climb into my hairline.
“It’s okay,” Nic assures me. “These are punishments that I like.”
I glance at Asher, who just coughs into his fist and pretends not to say, “Pervert,” making us all laugh.
“Okay then.” I glance around, clearly missing the joke. “Well, it’s about dinner time anyway. Why don’t we head into the French Quarter to eat?”
“Perfect,” Nic says. I nod my head in agreement and remember that I was supposed to stop by my apartment after class to change into a cute sundress and matching bra and panties I’d bought about a month ago, just in case I ever started to date again.
“Why don’t you guys go ahead?” I cover the cupcakes and set them aside before I devour the rest. “I will meet you. I have to swing by my apartment.”
“No.” Asher frowns and crosses his arms over his chest. “No way.”
“You’re being silly.” I roll my eyes. “I’ll be there in just a little bit.”
“There’s a killer out there,” Asher reminds me. “No.”
“I’ll ride with her,” Nic offers with a smile. “We’ll have girl time that way. You can drive Matt into the French Quarter, get us a table, have a beer, and we’ll be right behind you.”
Asher shakes his head, but I lay my hand on his arm. “Asher. Nothing has happened in weeks. We’ll be fine.”
“What do you need at your apartment?”
I grin and bat my eyelashes. “Casey isn’t coming home tonight. That means I get to sleep with you all night. And I might have something pretty to show you.”
His face softens, and he cups my jaw in his hand, then leans in and presses his lips to mine. “Okay. Please be careful.”
“Don’t you know? Careful is my middle name.”