Unfriended(Love in New Highland Book 1)(8)

By: Deana Farrady

I happened to know Charis's parents funded her rent; she was piss-poor at getting money, didn't care about her digs, and if it were up to her, she'd live in somebody's basement.

Hell, if her parents ever fell through, she'd probably hit me up. I'd pay for her rent, too, no questions asked. Sometimes she whined about her parents so much, I wished she would ask.

The door swung open and I was greeted with a yawn that turned into a broad smile. "Well hey, there, handsome stranger. What's up? It's late. I thought you'd be studying for exams."

I looked into Charis's eyes. They weren't big, green and wide like Aura's. They were squinty, early Renee Zellweger eyes, the irises a light brown, with laughter lines already forming under them. Friendly eyes, warm and welcoming.

I looked her up and down. She wore a humongous black night shirt, a tee that came down to just above her knees. I couldn't tell if she was wearing a bra. I wasn't even sure she wore the things. She was, in her own words, a boobless freak.

Her neck, arms and legs were willowy, her calves pretty decent since she'd gotten into zumba last year. I liked to tease her about her bony knees. Her feet were bare. Her right little toe had a silver ring.

She was Charis. Same old Charis. She looked like the geek she was.

Fucking fantastic to see her.

So fantastic I almost reached out and grabbed her for a hug. But I stopped myself—I don't know why.

"I probably should be." I said, clearing my throat. I was nervous, for some reason. "If I need to, I'll call the profs for an extension."

"Thinking you can wiggle out of things? Ha, I dare you to try, Norrell." She finally remembered to move aside to let me pass.

"They'd agree to a retake," I assured her. I was confident there, having finagled it before, in my wilder drinking days.

"You are such a politician sometimes," she laughed.

I was just inside the door when I paused. I hadn't been exactly sure how I would break it to her, but this needed to be said. "Char…Aura and I just broke up."

Charis froze into stone. Her mouth opened and stayed open. "You. Did. Not."

That made me grin despite myself. "Did."

"Impossible." Her tone was urgent. "No, no, this can't be. Asher, you and Aura are The Couple. People talk about the two of you in one breath, use you as a metaphor after Romeo and Juliet, Abelard and Heloise…"

"It takes more than being invited together to parties to keep a couple going, Sloane."

"An institution, that's what you are…"

She was right. We had been a Marmot Canyon University institution, Aura and I. Everybody knew we were together. My professors asked after her. We received single, not double, invitations to social events. We were "the most tweeted couple on campus." For what it's worth.

It was depressing, when you thought about it.

While Sloane stood there in her doorway as if paralyzed, I reached into my sack and brought out a bottle. She lunged for it, holding it to her chest like a life jacket.

"When did it happen?"

"We fought this morning."

Charis's mouth finally closed a bit, her lips pursing. She continued looking dazed as I attended to the business of getting glasses and pouring.

"You guys always fight. I think of your fights as romantic, kind of Shakespearean. If I be waspish, best beware my sting and suchlike."

"Yeah, well, this one was a dealbreaker."

"Wow," she said, plopping down on her sofa next to me and putting her feet up on the coffee table. "Wow. I just can't believe it."

"Believe it." I downed a couple of shots, leaned back, and closed my eyes.

And relaxed for the first time in months.


I was here. I was home. Everything would be fine now. The rush of relief actually made me smile.

I glanced around, comforted by the pistachio wrappers, the clothing draped over furniture, mounds of batteries and electronics piled on surfaces. Charis's long feet rested between two precarious stacks of books. Her bachelor-style housekeeping reminded me of my two older brothers. The place smelled nice enough, so I don't think anything was actually rotting, but there was disarray galore. Nothing had changed. She was just the same.

I felt more tension flowing out of me before I even took one sip of whiskey.

"This really blows." She sounded subdued, like the air had gone out of her. For someone who wasn't a huge Aura fan, my bestie was taking this hard.

"Maybe you'll make up with her," she went on. "Maybe whatever it is she'll forgive you for, or you'll forgive her, or…something."

It was like she was trying to convince herself.

I looked at her curiously. I was starting to wonder if there was something more to her dismay than the obvious. "No. We're done. Truth, Char? It's a relief. My dad always told us boys a good woman would enhance your life, make it better. Fill it up, not drain it dry."

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