Unfriended(Love in New Highland Book 1)(6)

By: Deana Farrady

No matter how pointless it was.

No matter how harmful.

And that. That realization. This relationship is a fucking trainwreck. It destroys everything in its path.

That is when I basically snapped.

I was supposed to tell her she was perfect, over and over. And I almost did it, I almost fell into our pattern. But her smack talk about Charis was the last straw.

I let my hands fall away.

"Fine. Let's not fuck, then."

She gasped, then regrouped, getting a tear to spill from her eye. "See, I knew you didn't want to be with me, not really. If you really looked at me, you'd get it. Look at me, look at me, just look, Ash," she cried. "How can you want me?"

Well, I looked. Up and down, I looked at her. For once I did it objectively, without lust, without hope.

And what I saw was a person who was endlessly unhappy.

And I knew if I kept on with her, there was a 100% probability that I would be, too.

"I don't," I admitted. "I just want to fucking sleep."

"Oh, Ash," she breathed, "Do you realize what you just said? What that sounds like? How could you say you don't want me? How could you not be there for me now, exactly when I need you most?"

My jaw clenched. She needed me. Of course it didn't matter that I needed her.

You want the bare honest truth? She was absolutely right. I wanted to go to Charis, wanted it with an ache deep in my soul. My friend doesn't play games. She doesn't leverage sex. She doesn't leverage anything. Charis knows she's not a hottie and she doesn't give a shit.

What's more, Charis never doubts it when I tell her she's the best. She grins and says, back at ya.

And if I need something, she always comes through. Always. Just like I come through for her no matter what. We're a team that way.

I've known Sloane since I was a kid. We've always been friends.

We were friends when she was my babysitter. Oh, did I forget to mention she's four years older than me? Shocked? Well, she is.

We were friends when I got that crush on her at thirteen. She nipped it in the bud fast and we stayed friends.

We were friends when we met up again my first year in college.

And we've been besties almost as long as I've been dating Aura.

Our friendship may not be based on passion, on attraction, but it's special, dammit.

Aura doesn't know the meaning of being there for somebody. The closer we've gotten, the more she's taken.

As far as she's concerned, she's the center of a Ptolemaic universe that revolves around her.

It was now completely clear to me that this shit wouldn't end until I was as broken as my girlfriend was.

So you can see that by now I'd worked myself up to painting Aura Renaldi as a succubus, a Gorgon, a siren…go on and pick any classic female monster lethal to men and I'll knock fists with that.

Point is, I blew up…and burned the last bridge.


Three Years Ago—The Reconnect

Charis: No. Way.

Asher: Hey! Hey, it's you.

Charis: You have to be kidding me. Asher Norrell, is that really you?

Asher: Hey, girl.

Charis: I can't believe it! Whoa, that's some hug. Look at you. Muscles! All grown up and looking good, Ash. What have you been doing? What are you doing here?

Asher: What do you think, Sloane? I'm enrolled.

Charis: Me too, I am too. I can't believe it. Although I guess I should have expected you'd pick MCU. Why go all the way to Cali or Boston when we have our very own tech school right here in-state? What are you, a chem major?

Asher: Not sure yet. Engineering, probably. And you're in…grad school, right?

Charis: Yep, sure am. Just started this year. You knew I was here?

Asher: Mm, I heard. Still gonna be a professor one day?

Charis: Uh-huh, that's the plan. I've got a long way to go, though. Wow. Just…wow. Uh, so. How is everyone? How's Mel?

Asher: They're great. We missed you at the Labor Day picnic. And the Fourth. And my graduation. And Memorial Day. And—

Charis: Yes, well, I do grown-up stuff now. You know how it is. Oh, wait a minute, no you don't. You're just a baby.

Asher: Oh, yeah? Do I look like a baby to you?

Charis: Weeeelll, I'll take the fifth on that. No, seriously, I've been hearing about some of the amazing things you've done. I'm impressed.

Asher: Yeah, I've done all right. Nice hat.

Charis. Thanks. Want some pistachios?

Asher: No. Look, I'm late, but give me your phone. Let's not lose touch again.

Charis: Definitely.

Asher: Good to see you. Really good to see you.

Charis: Yeah. Good. To see. You.


AFTERWARDS, I KEPT MY SAVOIR FAIRE. I was in a strangely calm mood, given that I'd just flushed my longest ever relationship down the toilet.

I took a long nap. I shaved. I got down to studying. It was surprisingly easy.

It was only when night fell that reality sank in. That I discovered the huge fucking void in my life.

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