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Single, Available, and Completely Attached

 

Michelle Brewer

 

 

Single, Available, and Completely Attached

By Michelle Brewer

 

All rights reserved. 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Michelle Brewer

 

For more information:
http://www.facebook.com/michellebrewer.authorpage

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by electronic means, including retrieval systems and information storage, without the explicit consent, in writing, of the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

Cover Image ©
Shutterstock

Editing:  Jessica
Offerman

To my sister Jamie, for encouraging the romantic in me for as long as I can remember.

 

Prologue

 

 

He would remember the first time he saw her for as long as he lived.
 
Though he couldn’t even begin to understand why, he recognized his world changing the moment his eyes landed on her.

The beautiful girl, standing across the room from him with tears in her eyes.

They were at a party—and it was obvious even to him that the girl wasn’t all that comfortable with her surroundings.
 
He was willing to bet that she didn’t frequent these sorts of places all that often—a safe bet, considering how familiar he was with this crowd.
 

He would have remembered seeing her around before.
 

He didn’t know what had drawn his attention.
 
Sure, she was pretty, with her fair colored hair streaked with bright red and her vibrant green eyes.
 
Sexy too, in that way that told him she had no idea just how sexy she was.
 

Pretty, yes.
 
Sexy, sure.
  

Usually, that didn’t mean an awful lot to Drew.
 
Pretty girls were a dime a dozen at a party like this.

But whatever it was about this girl in particular, he couldn’t quite figure out.
 
He only knew that he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.
 
He observed her as she watched some other guy, curiosity stirring within him.
 
He could see her struggling against tears even from this distance, her olive colored eyes shimmering.

And he realized then that she was much more than just the average pretty girl.
 
He’d seen other girls at these parties, tears in their eyes over their latest boy drama as they cried to their girlfriends, their mascara staining their cheeks.
 

This girl was more than that.

She was beautiful.
 

For the first time, Drew shifted his gaze to the object of her attention—just in time to see the guy lower his head so that he could whisper something into another girl’s ear.
 

Surely she wasn’t crying over
this
guy, was she?
 

Drew had seen him around.
 
A different girl at every party.
 
He was quite the player—and Drew would know, recognizing his own kind when he saw it.
 

It wasn’t that uncommon though—not here.
 
Ohio State wasn’t usually recognized for its academics.

Drew sighed, glancing back toward the girl who had caught his attention.
 
It didn’t take a lot to put the story together, now.
 
Nice girl, bad boy.
 
She wanted to believe she could change him, but—surprise, surprise—here he stood, directly in front of her, proving her wrong.
 

What was wrong with this guy?

It was one thing to play the game, but it was an entirely different thing to cheat.
 

Drew took a swig from his cup, watching the two of them as if they were some of his closest friends, careful to take in all of the details.
 
The girl turned away from the guy, wiping angrily at her cheeks.
 
Drew knew what she was going to do even before she lifted her head, making her way through the crowd.
 

He couldn’t hear them, but he didn’t need to.
 
He could put the pieces together himself.
 
She was calling him out, telling him off.
 
Telling him what a jerk he was, and how she never should have even given him a chance in the first place.

The guy’s only response was to laugh.
 
And then, as if to rub salt into the wound, he waved her away—like one would a child.
 

The girl stood there for a long moment, staring at him, no longer able to fight against her tears.
 
And then she turned, beginning to shove through the crowd.

Drew was crossing the room before he had thought about it, not even sure what he was going to do.

The only thing he was certain of was the fact that there was no way he was going to let that asshole have the last word.
 
It was guys like
that
who gave guys like Drew a bad name.
 
Sure, Drew had a fine appreciation for the female race—he was the first to admit it.
 
He slept around a bit.
 
But he tried his hardest to avoid hurting anyone in the process.

This guy…he was doing it on purpose.
 

She was almost to the door by the time Drew caught up to her.
 
He reached out and caught her by the arm, only briefly noticing the confusion in her eyes before he lowered his head and touched his lips to
hers,
kissing her as he’d wanted to do the moment he’d laid eyes on her.

She fought against him at first, but after a moment, he felt her relax—almost as if she were melting into him.

And for even just those few seconds his lips were on hers, Drew felt as if he had lost himself.
 
Everything outside of this moment suddenly
quieted,
his focus entirely on her.
 
He was mesmerized by the feel of her lips on his, the soft skin of her cheeks, still dampened with tears, the feel of her hands resting against his
chest,
cool even through his thin shirt.
 

He vaguely recalled thinking he could go on kissing her just about forever—just like this.

But then somebody bumped into them and Drew pulled away, using his thumbs to brush away the trails left behind by her tears as he searched her eyes.
 
It took him a moment to catch his breath.

“I’m Drew, by the way,”

“I’m Anna,

 
she
told him, sounding every bit as breathless as he felt.
 

“That your boyfriend over there?”
 
Drew couldn’t even tear his eyes away from her long enough to glance at the other guy, so, instead, he nodded in the jerk’s general direction.
 

“Supposed to be.”
 
He felt the smirk forming on his lips as Anna looked over his shoulder.
 
“He’s coming over here.”

“Oh, I figured he would.”
 
Drew reached around her to grab two plastic cups from the table behind her, handing one to her.
 
Anna’s eyes were still glossy from her earlier tears, but she didn’t look all that sad anymore.
 

For some reason, that pleased Drew.

“What the hell’s going on, Anna?”
 
His voice was deeper than Drew had expected it to be.
 

“Is there a problem?”
 
Drew asked, slipping his arm around Anna’s waist and taking a drink from his cup.
 

“Yeah, there’s a problem.
 
That’s my girlfriend.”

“You mean my little Annabelle, here?”
 
Drew offered the pretty blonde a subtle grin as he called her by a pet name he’d only just made up for her.
 
He wanted to do just about everything in his power to annoy this girl’s so-called boyfriend.
 
“I think you’re mistaken.
 
She and I were just about to head out.
 
Find some place a little more quiet.”

“Really, now?
 
I don’t think so.”
 
The guy, who Drew had decided to officially name Moron, reached out to grab Anna by the arm, but Drew stepped between them, his bright blue eyes suddenly darkening.
 
“Who the hell do you think you are, pal?”
 
Moron asked.

“I think I’m the guy who’s going to go places you only
wish
you could go tonight,
pal
.”
 

Drew was prepared for the fist, but that didn’t make the blow any less painful as he felt it crack him right in the jaw.
 
That was all he needed though—he lunged forward, shoving Moron into a nearby end table and unleashing on the guy.
 

It only took a few minutes for bystanders to break up the fight, which Drew had expected.
 
Anna stood there, a slight frown on her pretty little lips.
 

Drew had expected that too.

What he hadn’t expected was to actually
care
.
 

He only came to these things for two reasons.
 
First, and foremost, were the girls.
 
Always on the prowl for a pretty girl, looking to have fun.
 
Second,
and it was a distant second at that, was the potential for a fight.
 

If he could combine the two in some way…

It usually made for a pretty good night.
 

Anna met Drew’s eyes and held them for a long moment before turning and slipping through the doorway, unnoticed by most everyone.
 
Drew pushed his way through the crowd, hurrying out into the cool night air.
 
“Hey, Anna, wait!”
 

“Oh, no, I think I’ve had just about all I can handle for one night.”
 

“What?
 
I was defending you.”
 
He feigned innocence.

“You were instigating.
 
Don’t act like it was anything different.”
 

“Well, in
my
defense, the guy deserved it.
 
Treating a pretty girl like
yourself
the way he was…personally, I feel he had it coming.”
 
Drew wiped at his lip, feeling a little blood there.
 
He was going to be a pretty picture in the morning.

“Don’t act like you haven’t
been
that guy before.”
 
She came to a stop then, raising an eyebrow at him.
 

“Hey—”

“Oh, you’ve got bad-boy written all over your face.
 
You think I don’t recognize that charming little grin of yours?”
 
Anna rested her hands on her hips, her tone full of disdain.
 
“I know all about you and your kind, Mr.…”
 

“Whitman.”
 
Drew smirked arrogantly, unable to deny himself.
 
“And you would be?”

“Going home.”
 
He watched as she turned around, walking away from him without so much as a glance over her shoulder.
 

Drew would remember that too, he thought to himself, his grin widening.
 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Seven years later.

 

 

“It’s not you.
 
It’s me.”
 
Anna stared into the mirror, unable to even convince herself that she actually
meant
what she was saying.
 

It wasn’t that she didn’t
believe
what she was saying.
 
That wasn’t the problem at all.
 

She blamed herself entirely.
 
It was Anna who wanted to break up.
 
It had nothing at all to do with her boyfriend of seven years.
 
She
was the one who wasn’t happy with their arrangement.
 
She was the one who felt as if something might be missing in her life.
 

“This isn’t your fault.
 
In fact, it really has nothing to do with you at all.
 
It’s
me
.”
 
She practiced again, rolling her eyes at the sound of it.
 
It was so
forced—
fake, even.
 

Anna took a deep breath and braced herself against the counter, forcing herself to make direct eye contact.
 
It was still hard to do, even though it was only her reflection looking back at her.
 
“It isn’t that I don’t love you anymore.
 
Because I do.
 
You were the first guy to ever treat me…well.
 
But I can’t do this anymore.”
 
She paused.
 
“I’m not in love with you anymore.”
 

Even saying the words to
herself
was difficult.
 
How was she going to sit across from him and tell him these things?
 

“Are you talking to yourself, Annie?”
 
She felt her cheeks flare red as she noticed her sister’s reflection joining her own in the mirror.
 

“I wasn’t
talking
to myself—

 
Anna
began, her tone defensive.
 
Her little sister rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You were practicing your little speech again, weren’t you?”
 
Anna turned around, narrowing her eyes at the younger girl.

“This is a big deal, Alice.
 
We’ve been together for—what, seven years?
 
It’s not as if I can just call him up and say, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m not in love with you.
 
But I still care about you, so let’s be friends.’”

“Sure you can.
 
It’s just a
relationship
.
 
It’s not as if you two are married or anything.”

“No, but we were supposed to be.”
 
Anna shook her head, turning away from her sister.
 
Alice might only be a year and a half younger than her, but they were eons apart when it came to emotional maturity.
 

“Oh, please.
 
People change, Annie.
 
Plans
change.
 
It’s not as if he’s even proposed.”
 
Alice rolled her eyes.
 
“Besides, it isn’t normal to be
that
monogamous.
 
I mean, seriously.
 
You’ve barely even given anyone else a chance.”

“You don’t understand, Alice.”
 
Her sister’s idea of a lasting relationship was one that progressed further than the usual one-night-stand Alice had become such a proponent of.
 

There was no way she could understand what Anna was going through.
 

She had spent seven years of her life with this man.
 
She had been by his side when he finished law school.
 
She’d supported him when he decided to move to Chicago to take a position with a prestigious law firm, even though she knew it was going to put a strain on their relationship.
 

He was her best friend.
 
Aside from Alice, anyway.
 

And she was about to break his heart.
 

Alice sighed, perching herself on the counter in front of Anna.
 
“Maybe I don’t know what you’re going through, Annie.
 
But I do know that you’re not happy.
 
And you haven’t been for awhile.”

“It’s just the long distance relationship—”

“You don’t have to
lie
to me, sissy.
 
You don’t have to say anything at all.”
 
Alice reached out and tucked Anna’s fair blonde hair behind her ear.
 
“I know you.
 
I’ve seen it in your eyes for awhile now.
 
Whatever you have with Jeff, it isn’t enough.
 
Even before he moved away.”
 

Alice was right.
 
As much as it hurt to admit it, Anna wasn’t happy.
 
She hadn’t been for quite some time.
 

It wasn’t that Jeff didn’t make her happy.
 
He did.
 

But sometimes, Anna almost felt like…like something was lacking.
 
Even when he had been only twenty minutes away from her.
 

She sighed, shifting her gaze to the counter.
 
“You’re doing the right thing here.”

“Then why do I feel like such a horrible person?”
 

“Because your heart is much, much too big, Anna Marie
Maloy
.
 
Isn’t that what Nana always says?”
 
Anna smiled softly, nodding her head.
 
“But you’re as strong as a bull, and don’t you forget it.”

If it hadn’t been for their grandmother, who refused to be called Grandma, Anna wouldn’t even be practicing this little speech, as Alice had so poetically called it.
 
She thought of the beautiful older woman, sitting beside her, holding her close as she whispered words of wisdom in her ear.

“Love isn’t about who is best for you, sweet Anna Marie. It isn’t about what makes the most sense.
 
Love is about passion.
 
It’s about hunger and desire.
 
It is all-consuming, but it isn’t destructive.
 
And when it’s right, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.
 
Because you just
know
.”

Anna hadn’t even told the older woman about the lack of emotion she had been feeling lately.
 
She hadn’t spoken about her doubts or reservations.
 

Nana just knew, as she always did.
 

That probably had something to do with the fact that she had raised Anna and Alice since they were babies.
 
Their parents had been killed by a drunk driver just two years after Alice was born.
 
Nana was their paternal grandmother, and their nearest living relative.
 

She had moved from her Michigan cottage to the low-income Columbus, Ohio neighborhood their parents had lived in and taken over parenting the two girls, raising them to be the women they were today.
 

And so Anna had been grateful for the reprieve the weather had bought her a couple of days ago, when she had originally made plans with Jeff.
 
A storm had kept her up north through the holidays and she had used the extra couple of days with her grandmother to convince herself to do what was best for the both of them.

The
new year
was just a couple of days away—and she was determined to start it off on the right foot.

“Now, go on you little harlot.
 
You’ve got a long few hours ahead of you.”
 
Anna only glared at her sister while the younger girl raised an eyebrow, her grin broad.
 

Well, at least Nana could be proud of
one
of them.
 

 

~*~

 

Drew stared blankly into his open refrigerator for a long moment, taking the time to process the information he had just received.
 

Finally, he reached inside and pulled out two bottles of beer, turning around to place one of them in front of his best friend of nearly twenty years.
 
The other guy twisted the cap off and took a quick swig.
 

“So?”
 
he
questioned.
 
Drew held up a finger, tipping the bottle upward and downing over half of the contents before setting it down on the counter between them.
 

“Now go.”
 

“I’m proposing tonight.”

Nope, it still hit him like a wall of bricks, tumbling down over him.
 
Drew picked up the bottle and downed the rest.
 

This was going to call for something a bit stronger than a beer, he thought, reaching for the nearest bottle of liquor.
 

“You’re proposing tonight.”
 
Drew finally heard himself say, his eyes blankly staring at the granite countertop.
 
“To Anna?”

“Who else would I be proposing to?”
 
Jeff asked him, rolling his eyes in amusement.
 
“I was going to do it Christmas Eve, but she got stuck up north because of that storm.”
 
Drew remembered.
 
It had only been a couple of days ago—in fact, the street-sides were still piled up with snow.
 

“And you think this is a good idea?”
 
It wasn’t that Drew didn’t approve of Anna.
 
Nope, he thought she was a great girl.
 
But for Jeff?
 

He thought of her standing across the room, that sort of wild innocence about her, with her thin white t-shirt and black bra—the red streaks in her hair, the stud in her nose.
 

Then he shifted his gaze to his best friend, sitting across from him in his pressed khakis and tucked-in button down shirt.
 

Drew had never really understood Jeff and Anna’s relationship.
 
How had the two of them even come together?

Well, that much he knew.
 
The memory danced across his mind, watching them laugh together in
his
living room.
 

But how had they lasted for seven years?

Drew twisted the lid from the bottle and poured himself a generous shot, quickly tossing it back

“Well, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think so.”
 
Jeff got that tone he sometimes got—the one where Drew knew Jeff thought he was an idiot.
 
“Clearly you don’t, though.”
 

“It isn’t that.”
 
Drew sighed, setting the bottle on the counter.
 
“It’s just…you two don’t even live in the same state anymore, man.”

“Then we’ll move.”
 

“You mean either you’ll leave your firm when you’re on the cusp of making partner, or she’ll leave behind her dream job, just as she’s about to get it?”
 
Drew knew from his and Jeff’s conversations that Anna had finally made progress with her local community center about establishing some sort of a program for underprivileged youth.
 

“We can make it work, Drew.
 
It’s been fine so far.”
 

He couldn’t argue with that.
 
It seemed as if Jeff and Anna transitioned into the long distance thing with ease.
 
It helped that Jeff made the six hour trek every chance he got, which really wasn’t that often, to come back home and visit.
 
The effort must count for something, right?

“Yeah, keywords: so far.
 
But once you add marriage into the mix—things get messy, that’s all.
 
I mean, what about when you two decide to have kids and all that?”

“We can deal with that as it comes.”
 
For as anal as Jeff was about a lot of things, he seemed to be a little too dismissive about something as huge as officially tying himself to someone who lived 400 miles away.
 

But who was Drew to say anything?
 
It wasn’t as if he had a whole lot of experience with the position Jeff found himself in.
 
Drew wasn’t exactly known for his enduring relationships.
 
Hell, Jeff and Anna were the best example he even had for reference.
 

So then why did it seem like such a horrible idea?

He told himself that it was because he was, like many, many men out there, terrified by the thought of lifelong commitment.
 
Even just the idea of it was enough to send him reaching for the liquor bottle to pour
himself
another shot.
 

Yeah, that had to be it.
 

That,
and the thought of losing his best friend.
 

How much would things change if Jeff and Anna got married?
 
He was sure that Jeff would no longer spend his weekends off crashing at Drew’s place—the guest room unofficially declared as his.
 
No, they would probably have to buy a house.
 
A place of their own.

And what, Anna would be alone for weeks at a time?
 
Alone in a house, her husband alone in his apartment in Chicago.
 

How was that going to work?
 

How had any of it worked at all?
 
He might not be an expert on relationships, but even he had to admit
that
400 miles of distance between he and whatever imaginary woman he loved seemed like something he wouldn’t be able to handle.

BOOK: Single, Available, and Completely Attached
9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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