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Make It Right

By´╝ÜMegan Erickson

Chapter 1

MAX DRAINED HIS cup of beer and closed his eyes to let the sounds of the party sink into his skin and down into his bones.

This usually worked—the alcohol in his veins, the music, the friends. The girls.

He fed off others’ energy, always had. His favorite thing to do to unwind was to head out to a bar or party and just let loose.

So when his roommate Cam found him cursing and pacing his room like an animal after a particularly delightful phone call with his father—Max curled his lip in a sneer just thinking about it—he’d encouraged Max to go out. That’s what his friends did. They knew him better than he knew himself sometimes.

But for once, Max hadn’t wanted to. He’d wanted to go to the gym and sweat out all the anger, but Cam was persistent. So Max relented.

He knew now he shouldn’t have.

Because the beer tasted skunked and the music hurt his head and even the girls weren’t interesting.

The redhead beside him right now was still talking. He’d asked her one question about her major, and she was still rambling on about it five minutes later.

He’d said maybe two sentences to this girl, both questions about herself, but she was clearly still into him, pressing her chest against his folded arms. The lace of her bra peaked out the top of her neckline, and he could feel the textured fabric through her thin shirt when it brushed against his knuckles.

He hadn’t even been in the mood to lay on the charm. He knew how to stand, how to smile with his eyes. Smize, one of his brother’s ex-girlfriends had called it with a giggle.

Whatever it was. He knew how to do it. And knew how to get the girl. Too bad he didn’t want her.

Fuck this shit.

He set his empty beer cup on a window ledge. “Um, Kelly,” he said, cutting in when she finally took a breath. He remembered her name, because he always remembered names. Kelly blinked and peered up at him through her lashes, lips parted. She was hot. Big rack. A year ago, she would have been his type. Hell, most girls were his type. But lately, they’d reminded him of how much he’d almost fucked up his life.

Except that one girl . . .

He shook his head, and leaned down to speak into her ear. He heard a stuttered inhale and resisting rolling his eyes. “I gotta head out. I forgot I need to get home. Early morning.” He leaned back and shot her a smile. Or smize. Whatever.

Confusion crossed her face, but he was over this scene. “Sorry,” he said with a shrug and turned away before she could respond.

Max searched the sea of bodies for Cam. The guy was over in the corner with a girl, flashing his dimples while she looked up at him with pure infatuation. Max rolled his eyes and hollered, “Ruiz!”

Cam turned his head and Max gave him the sign he was heading out. Cam waved in acknowledgment and turned back to his girl of the night.

Max made his way through the crowd, feeling a couple of touches on his arms or shoulders, some “Hey Max”’s, but he kept walking because he wasn’t in the mood and enough people already thought he was an asshole.

He wished Alec, his best friend, was around, but he’d decided to stay home with his girlfriend, Kat, tonight. Kat, who used to be Max’s girlfriend. Before he fucked it up.

Life was complicated.

Once he stepped outside, he pulled up the collar of his jacket against the early October air and walked briskly back to the townhouse he shared with Alec and Cam. The phone call with his dad still rankled, the words poking him with their sharp edges.

He’d mentioned changing his major, had barely even spoken the words when his dad proclaimed Paytons stick together! and Max was expected to complete his business degree and then work at his dad’s mechanic shop, helping with the books and business side of things.

Max didn’t want to, but the obligation to work with his dad and two brothers weighed heavily on his shoulders. Plus, his dad said he wouldn’t hesitate to withdraw his tuition help, and Max couldn’t afford to cover it, despite his two jobs.

The bastard.

The lights of the convenience store near his house caught his eye and he changed direction, suddenly hungry for those super-greasy pizzas they made in the back and kept in a warmer on the counter.

He was still a little drunk but hopefully the cheese, dough and sauce would mop up the rest of the awful beer sitting like acid in his stomach.

He crossed the parking lot and then stopped beside the front doors, fumbling inside his pockets. His phone fell out and he cursed as it clattered on the sidewalk. He shoved it back in his coat pocket and then dug his wallet out of his back jeans pocket. He blinked at it blearily and tried to count his bills.

He kept losing count of his ones and had to start over. Fucking beer.