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Murphy / ONE WEEK GIRLFRIEND
T-minus 4 days and counting . . .
Drew [verb]: brought toward oneself, by inherent force or influence; attract.
I wait for her outside the bar, leaning against the rough brick building with my hands shoved deep inside my sweatshirt pockets, my shoulders hunched against the wind. It’s cold as shit and dark from the clouds hanging low in the sky. No stars, no moon. Creepy, especially since I’m standing out here alone.
If it starts to rain and she’s not done working, forget it. I’m leaving. I don’t need this shit.
Panic sweeps through me and I take a deep breath. I can’t leave and I know it. I need her. I don’t even know her and she sure as hell doesn’t know me, yet I need her to survive. I don’t care if that sounds like I’m a complete pussy or what; it’s true.
No way can I face next week on my own.
The music from within the tiny bar thumps loudly and I can hear everyone inside laughing and shouting. I swear I recognize more than a few voices. They’re having a good time. Midterms are going down and the majority of us should be studying, right? Chilling in the library or bent over our desks, our heads in a book or hunched over our laptops, rereading notes, writing papers, whatever.
Most of my friends are in that bar drunk off their asses instead. No one seems to care it’s only Tuesday and there are still three more days left of testing and turning stuff in. It’s make-or-break time, but everyone’s focused on the fact that we’re off next week. Most of us are hightailing it out of this shit small town where we go to college.
Like me. I’m outta here by Saturday afternoon. Though I don’t want to leave. I’d rather stay here.
But I can’t.
She’s off work at midnight. I asked one of the other waitresses who work at La Salle’s when I snuck in there earlier, before anyone had really arrived. She’d been inside, working in the kitchen, so she didn’t see me. Which was fine.
I didn’t want her to notice me. Not yet. And my so-called friends don’t need to know what I’m up to either. No one knows about my plan. I’m afraid someone will talk me out of it if they did.
Like I have anyone to tell. It may look like I’m surrounded by plenty of people I call my friends, but I’m not close to any of them. I don’t want to be. Getting too close to anyone only brings trouble.
The old wooden door swings open, creaking on its hinges, the noise from within coming at me like a physical blast as it smacks against my chest. She emerges into the darkness, the door slamming behind her, the sound echoing in the otherwise quiet night air. She’s got on a short puffy red coat that almost swallows her whole, making her legs covered in black tights look extra long.
Pushing away from the wall, I approach her. “Hey.”
The wary glance she flicks in my direction says it all. “I’m not interested.”
Huh? “But I didn’t ask you anything.”
“I know what you want.” She starts walking and I fall in behind her. Chasing her, really. I didn’t plan on this. “You’re all the same. Thinking you can wait around here, hoping to catch me. Trap me. My reputation is far more outrageous than what I’ve actually done with any of your friends,” she tosses over her shoulder as she picks up speed. For such a little thing, she sure is fast.
Wait a minute. What she said, what’s it supposed to mean? “I’m not looking for an easy mark.”
She laughs, but the sound is brittle. “You don’t need
to lie, Drew Callahan. I know what you want from me.”
At least she knows who I am. I snag her arm just as she’s about to cross the street, stopping her in her tracks, and she turns to glare at me. My fingers tingle, even though all I’m grabbing at is coat fabric. “What do you think I want from you?”
“Sex.” She spits the word out, her green eyes narrowed, her pale blond hair glowing from the shine of the streetlight we’re standing under. “Look, my feet are killing me and I’m exhausted. You chose the wrong night to think you can get with me.”
I’m totally confused. She’s talking like she’s some sort of paid prostitute and I’m hoping to get a quickie blow job in an alley.
Drinking in her features, my gaze settles on her mouth. She has a great one. Full, sexy lips; she could probably give a most excellent blow job if I’m being honest with myself, but that’s not why I’m here.
Makes me wonder exactly how many of my fellow teammates have got with her. I mean, true, the only reason I’m talking to her is because of that reputation she mentioned. But I’m not trying to buy her off for sex.
I’m trying to buy her off for protection.
Fable [noun]: a story not founded on fact; an untruth; falsehood.
Campus golden boy Drew Callahan is holding onto me like he’s never going to let go and he’s making me nervous. He’s huge, well over six feet, and with shoulders as broad as a mountain. Considering he plays football, that’s no surprise, right? And I’ve made out with a few of the guys from his team. They’re all pretty muscly and big.
But not a one of them makes my heart race just by grabbing my arm. I don’t like how I react to him. I don’t usually react to anyone.
With all the strength I can muster, I tug out of his grip and step away from him, gaining some much-needed distance. A sort of pleading light flickers in his eyes and I part my lips, ready to tell him to fuck off, when he beats me to the punch.
“I need your help.”
Frowning, I rest my hands on my hips. Which is sort of hard, considering the stupid bulky coat I’m wearing. It’s cold outside and the flimsy skirt I wear for work is allowing a major draft to coast up my legs. Thank God for wool tights, though I know my boss hates them. He says they’re not very sexy.
I could give a crap about what he says when it comes to what’s sexy. My tips are still good. I have over one hundred dollars in my purse from tonight. It’s already spent, though.
My money is always spent before I actually get it in my hands.
“Why do you need my help?” I ask.
He glances around, as if afraid someone might see us. No surprise. Most guys don’t want to be seen with me in public.
Sometimes it really sucks, being the campus slut. Especially when I don’t even go to that stupid university.
“Maybe we could go somewhere and talk,” he suggests with a slight smile. I’m sure most girls would melt at first sight of that smile, the beguiling look on his face. It’s a beautiful face and he knows it, with those dark eyebrows that match his brown hair and the striking blue eyes.
But I’m not most girls. I don’t fall for a bunch of crap. “I’m not going anywhere with you to talk. If you have something to say, you can do it right here. Be quick with it, too, because I need to go home.” I’m pretty sure my mom isn’t there and my little brother is all alone.
He blows out a harsh breath, sounding all irritated. I don’t care. Whatever he has to say can’t be something I’d consider. I’m too curious, though, so I need to know. Just so I can savor it later.
Drew Callahan does not talk to girls like me. I’m a local. A townie. He’s the quarterback of our winning university football team. He’s like a superstar, larger than life, with fans and everything. He has NFL aspirations, for the love of God.
I work a shitty job and can barely make ends meet. My mom is an alcoholic who sleeps around and my little brother is starting to get into trouble at school. Our worlds are such total opposites. I don’t have a clue why he would want to talk to me.
“Thanksgiving break is next week,” he starts out, and I roll my eyes.
Duh. I’m extra thankful for it, too. It means everyone will vacate this town and the bar will be virtually empty, making work a breeze. “Go on.”
“I have to go back home.” He pauses, his gaze cutting away from mine, and uneasiness slips down my spine. I have no idea what this has to do with me. “I want you to go with me.”
Okay. That I didn’t expect. “What? Why?”
His gaze meets mine once more. “I want you to pretend to be my girlfriend for a week.”
I gape at him. I feel like a dying fish. Closing my lips, opening them. As if I’m gasping for my last breath, which I sorta feel like I’m doing. “You’re kidding.”
He slowly shakes his head. “I’m not.”
“I . . .” He shakes his head and clamps his lips shut, as if he doesn’t want to tell me. “I’ll pay you.”
I cross my arms in front of my chest. They’re elevated from the stupid puffy jacket. I hate it so much, but it’s the warmest coat I own. I bet I look like a blimp. “I’m not for sale.”
“Listen, I don’t want to pay you for anything—sexual.” His voice drops an octave and chills scatter all over my skin. The way he said that was sexy, though he didn’t mean to be. “I just need you to pretend to be my girlfriend. We won’t have to share a room or anything like that. I’m not going to try and get in your pants, but we’ll have to look like we’re together, you know what I mean?”
No answer. I want him to continue this so I can remember later how I had Drew freaking Callahan begging me to be his pretend girlfriend. The moment couldn’t get any more surreal than it already is.
“I know you have a life and a job and whatever else that you do. It’ll probably be hard for you to ditch everything and go away with me for a week, but I swear, I’ll make it worth your time.”
He makes me feel cheap with that last remark. Like I’m the whore every guy brags that I am. The exaggerations are out there. The stories are so outrageous, I don’t bother denying them. There’s no point. “How much are you talking?”
His gaze locks with mine and I’m trapped. Anticipation curls through me as I wait for his answer.
“Three thousand dollars.”