Home > The Fill-In Boyfriend(4)

The Fill-In Boyfriend(4)
Author: Kasie West

“And yet he broke up with you in the parking lot before he actually did.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. Ten more steps and we’d reach the group, so I couldn’t explain to him that I had treated Bradley poorly. That the first thing I’d said to him after not having seen him for two weeks was that my friends were going to die. It was because he’d looked so amazing. But I should’ve said that instead. I shouldn’t have worried what my friends were going to think. It was hard not to, though, when I’d spent two months fielding questions about his existence, two months telling them all about him. All because of Jules. I shouldn’t have let her get to me like I did.

Claire noticed me first and her eyes seemed to light up in relief when she saw my date. We were the closest, so she was always the one defending me. “Gia!” At her exclamation everyone else turned around.

The look from Jules was priceless. It was a smug smile followed by a slight drop of her jaw. And for once, Laney didn’t have the pity face. I smiled a huge smile.

“Everyone, this is Bradley.”

He raised his hand in a small wave and I didn’t know if it was to be funny or if it was unintentional, but when he said “Nice to meet you all,” his voice was low and husky.

Claire widened her eyes at me like way-to-go-Gia was written in them.

Jules got her inner snob back quickly as she looked him up and down. I held my breath, waiting for her to say he looked nothing like his pictures or nothing like the guys I normally dated. Instead she said, “I’m surprised you wanted to come to a high school prom.”

He looked me straight in the eyes and slipped his arm down my back, hooking me around the waist. “It was important to Gia.” With the words he pulled me against his side. My back tingled with his touch. My first instinct was to yank away, but that wouldn’t have been my reaction to Bradley. I would’ve leaned into him. I would’ve sighed happily. I made myself do both.

Jules smirked. “Is that the theme of your relationship? ‘The importance of Gia’?” She actually did air quotes.

Garrett, Jules’s date, laughed but then stopped quickly when another one of the guys smacked him on the back.

“No,” my date said before I had a chance to respond. “But maybe it should be.”

With this, they all laughed. I was too busy glaring at Jules to laugh.

“We’re going to dance,” my date said. And as he led me to the dance floor, it hit me that I didn’t know his real name. Was that what the smirk was all about when we were walking toward the gym? So when the-guy-whose-name-I-didn’t-know put his arms around me, I leaned my forehead against his chest and whispered, “Sorry.”

CHAPTER 3

“What are you sorry for?” fill-in Bradley asked.

“I don’t even know your real name.”

He laughed a low chuckle that I could feel through his chest. Then he leaned down so his breath tickled my ear when he said, “My name is Bradley.”

I looked up with a gasp. “Really?”

He shook his head no. “I’m a method actor. I have to become a person.”

“Are you an actor?” It wouldn’t have surprised me. He was obviously really good at it.

He looked up, thinking. “You didn’t tell me that about myself. Am I?”

I hit his chest with a laugh. “Stop.”

He glanced over my shoulder, toward where my friends were still standing. “Nice friends you got there.”

“They’re mostly nice. Jules is just constantly trying to oust me.”

“Why?”

“I have no idea. I think she thinks I’m the alpha of our pack and that there is only room for one without resorting to cannibalism.”

“I’m going to take your weird wolf analogy and assume you mean that she wants to be the leader of your group.”

I shrugged and watched across the room as Jules hooked her arm through Claire’s and said something to her. “It’s the only thing I can think of. She’s the main reason I needed you here tonight. She thinks I’ve been lying. I didn’t want to give her ammo. She already finds enough without me handing her some on a silver platter.”

He raised his eyebrows—he liked to do that, I was already learning. “So if she finds out you’ve been lying . . . ?”

“Yes. I get it. That’s exactly what I’m now doing and wasn’t doing before. But she thinks I was. And if I walked in here without you, I would’ve been gone.”

“You don’t trust that your other friends like you enough not to let her do that?”

“They like me. But for two months she’s been working on this. She really thought she had something on me. She thought I was hiding something. I needed tonight.”

“So if you really are the alpha, why aren’t you the one kicking her out?”

I’d thought about that question a lot. The main answer was that I really didn’t think I was in charge, as much as Jules thought I was. But the other answer, the one I admitted only on my darkest nights, was that I was worried if I made everyone pick, they’d choose her. I was worried that no matter how much confidence I’d shown on the outside, deep down people didn’t like me. And that maybe they were right not to. I was not going to tell him that, though. He’d already seen enough weakness tonight. “Because I’m only an eighth evil.”

“What?”

“I sometimes call Jules a quarter evil. But that’s the thing. . . . I guess I don’t want to be that girl. The one who needs to kick someone out of a group. I’ve been hoping we can work it out, sign a peace treaty, find neutral ground, I don’t know.” And regardless of the other reasons I was scared to cause trouble, these reasons were true too. I just wanted us all to get along.

“You like analogies, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. Words are powerful.”

He tilted his head as if intrigued by that answer. “So, I still don’t get it. If they’ve seen pictures of him, why don’t they believe he existed?”

I gave a humorless laugh. “Because there aren’t enough of them. But it’s not like we were together a lot to take pictures. We have . . . had . . . a long-distance relationship. So Jules thinks I asked some random guy off the street to pose with me.”

He laughed. “I don’t know why she’d ever think that.”

My cheeks flushed red and I looked at the ground. “Yeah. Yeah.” It was pretty pathetic that I had to bring in a fake date tonight. A date I wouldn’t have had to bring in if my very real boyfriend hadn’t broken up with me.

 

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