Just friends. As in no benefits.
The spot I currently resided in with one Colby Callahan.
But if I could change that…would I ever.
He was currently in a debate with his brother Landon over how to grill the perfect burger. They both laughed—clearly enjoying the discussion—though they pretended to be completely horrified by the other’s lack of burger knowledge.
Colby, who was slightly taller than his older brother—or maybe it was the extra inches his trademark baseball cap gave him—reached over Landon’s shoulder and snatched the spatula. “Let the professional handle it,” he said.
“Hey.” Landon sidestepped him. “Take the spatula, but watch the beer.” He turned around and caught me staring. “Can you believe this guy?”
Thankfully, he seemed to think the staring was due to the spectacle they’d created. Somehow, he had no clue I was madly in love with Colby, and had been since elementary school. But how he missed that fact was beyond me. In one way or another, people seemed to have heard about my infatuation with the middle Callahan boy. Rumors whispered, jokes made. Port Lucia was too small of a town to miss it. Of course, all that told me was how very not interested Colby must have been. He still treated me like the sister he’d never had, so it was a pretty clear-cut sign that my crush was hopeless.
Except…I was a glutton. And there was that tiny chance that maybe he was as clueless as his brother, that he hadn’t managed to hear the rumors or jokes, that he didn’t know.
So I’d decided once and for all I was going to find out how he really felt. Or at least get one freaking kiss before going away to nursing school.
If Colby and I were never meant to be, fine. I’d reluctantly accept the crappy hand fate had dealt me: in love with a guy who saturated my life, yet was completely unavailable. But I wouldn’t live with the regret of not knowing what it was like to kiss him.
Owen, the youngest of the Callahan boys, came outside with his phone in his hand and a frown on his face.
“Such bullshit,” he muttered. “Hey, I gotta run. Mom just texted that I have to come home. The storm shifted course and it’s picking up or something.”
“No shit?” Landon pulled his phone out of his pocket and slid his finger over the screen.
“Yeah.” Owen slouched against the wall. “She says it’s been upgraded.”
“Whoa, it has.” Landon held his phone out for Colby, who’d turned around, halting the perfect burger cook-off.
He raised an eyebrow. “Hmm, looks like a tropical storm warning now.”
Owen shook his head. “But it’s not a hurricane or anything.”
Colby chuckled. “Sorry, man, that’s the problem with being the baby of the family. She cares too much.”
Owen rolled his eyes and glanced around. He hated being the youngest of the group, but considering he was still in high school, he wouldn’t even be hanging out here had it not been for his Callahan last name. “Whatever. I’ll catch y’all later,” he grumbled as he trudged his way back inside.
A few of the other guys pulled out their phones, probably to check the weather. We’d lived through plenty of tropical storms, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I guess there was always that tiny bit of fear it’d escalate into a full-blown hurricane. And considering Colby and Landon lived right on the water…yeah, probably not the best place to be in a real storm.
“Damn.” Landon shoved his phone in his pocket. “Jack’s will be slammed tonight.”
I laughed, pulled from my own thoughts by his comment. “I’ll never understand why people ride these things out in bars.”
While Colby rose with the sun, and spent long hours on the water working the family’s charter fishing business, Landon had gone in a very different direction: bartending at Jack’s Cove, one of two bars in Port Lucia. It tended to attract the younger residents and vacationers so it was always busiest in summer. Whereas Pelican Pier, which had been around longer than anyone I’d known, brought in the locals, fishermen, and retirees. I couldn’t recall a single time there weren’t a handful of cars parked in front of that weather-worn beach bar. But on a night like tonight, they’d both get crowded.
Landon grinned back. “No amount of fear can survive friends, alcohol, and good conversation.”
One of the guys raised his beer in cheers. “Well said. And the very reason I think I’ll join you.” He chugged the remainder of his beer, then tossed his can in the nearby trash bin. “Anyone want a ride?”
Several “hell yeahs” resonated through the small crowd, but Colby stayed quiet, gaze locked on me, seemingly waiting to see what I planned to do. Honestly, the bar wasn’t my scene but, at the same rate, if he wanted to go, I couldn’t bum around his place, holding him back.