Unfriended(Love in New Highland Book 1)(3)

By: Deana Farrady

I stared at the phone, listening to her words, which made no sense to me, going from grades to paralegal stuff to fashion and spring sales and rude checkout clerks and other crap I gave not a shit about ever, and closed my eyes. After a few minutes, I interrupted her.

"Look, Aura, I'm at the airport. You said you'd be picking me up. Can you swing by now, please?"

"Oh, Ash, I wish I didn't have a paper to finish. And after this I have to stop and pick up my smoothie. I discovered my skin likes the coconut milk better than the goat milk."

"Right. Are you coming or not?"

"Isn't there a shuttle you can get? Oh, come meet me at the gym later. You will not believe how firm my thighs have gotten in just a week of intensive…"

I shoved the handle down on my carry-on, sat on it, and rubbed my jaw, then my eyes. It was a job to keep them open. Shit. I was more tired than I realized, swaying just sitting here, and I hadn't even had any booze on the plane.

"Aura, get in a fucking car and—" I changed my mind. "Never mind. I'll get myself home. Over and out."

I was pissed enough to flag down a passing taxi, my least favorite means of transport, seeing as they were all grungy and unreliable around here. By the time I got to my place, my mood had sunk low enough that I knew I wasn't getting to bed anytime soon.

I grabbed a bag of potato chips and sprawled out at the kitchen table, unmotivated even to take off my coat.

I then proceeded to brood over A) why I'd gotten involved with Aura Renaldi in the first place, and B) why I was still involved with her three years later.

The answer to A) was easy.

When I'd met her, Aura had everything a college freshman could want—stunning beauty, a complete absence of sexual inhibitions, and her own apartment off campus.

She also had a serene way about her (fake, it turned out). And she happened to be ambitious about getting her law degree early—ambitious like me. That's something in common, right?

Somewhere in this funk, energized by salt and calories, I shrugged out of my clothes and hopped in the shower. Once I'd scrubbed away the travel dirt I just stood there under the stream of hot water, letting it work on my stiff muscles, which were bitching at me from hours sitting on my ass—business class and its comforts notwithstanding.

By now I was on B)—the question of why Aura was still in my life after three long years.

The answers were not encouraging.

In order of frequency:

1) I didn't want the headache of the breakup fight.

2) She fucked like a dream. We fucked well together even if we were fighting. Especially when we were fighting. And I love to fuck. I need to fuck.

Related to that, let's call it 2)a, is her submissiveness. She likes to take orders, in and out of the bedroom. I like to take charge. Dominating a situation when everybody else is being a chicken shit is how I keep my life going in the direction I want.

This was actually a big one. Our excellent dynamic is why years ago when my brothers said, She's a manipulator, just look how she got Mama to move Easter to June and my sisters said, She's a user, she runs you ragged, and my buddy Joel said, She's a one-week wonder, bet you three hundred bucks she won't stick it out, I said they didn't understand and to fuck off.

Anyway, you get the idea. Sex with the girlfriend. Thumbs up.

3) I actually thought we might be able to work it out. Like, Aura might acquire a sense of humor. She might stop harping on me to go to med school. She might learn to play a video game for more than fifteen minutes at a time. She might stop interrupting my work whenever she felt like it, forcing me to rent office space miles away. I might learn to deal with all her messed-up emotional shit. I might relent and let her decorate my house. And she might get therapy.

As I said, I'm an optimist.

With a towel wrapped around my hips, I grabbed a soda from the fridge, not much liking where my thoughts were headed. I was guzzling it, wondering where my all my idealism had gone—yeah, I actually am by nature a romantic, not that you'd know it these days—when the doorbell rang.

My first thought: Thank fuck it's Sloane, come to welcome me home.

Then: Where the hell had that thought come from? Of course it wasn't Sloane at the door. It couldn't be. I hadn't talked with, messaged, or in any way contacted Charis Sloane in a couple of months. She didn't even know I'd gone out of town.

That damn Sloane ban. It was killing me.

I forgot, you don't know about the ban.

Fuck, it's a long story. The gist is that I was trying to work things out with Aura. In the interests of that…no Sloane in my life. No anyone-but-Aura in fact. All my hanging-out time belonged to Aura.

Whatever else it did, the ban left me with one key takeaway. Aura Renaldi may be the woman I hoped to end up with eventually, but in no way, shape or form was she my other half.

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