It had only been two weeks since Trey had spotted Paige coming out of Darren’s place, looking for all the world like a woman headed home after spending an intimate evening with her man. And D had copped to the fact that they were sleeping together. So this little show with the woman with the fire-engine red hair had to be some Darren-acting-out bullshit.
“Wow,” Shayla said next to him. “That’s . . . interesting. Is that who Darren’s dating?”
Trey shook his head. “D doesn’t ‘date’. Two days from now I doubt he’ll remember her name.”
“Hmm,” Shayla said. “I’d forgotten that about you two.”
“You two?” Trey said, slipping an arm about waist and pulling her toward him. “I don’t know about D, but I’m taken.”
“Are you?” Shayla looked up at him with those large, molten, chocolate-brown eyes of hers.
Trey’s heart went ba-dum.
“Yeah,” he said, eyes fixed on hers. “Man down.”
Shayla reached up to give him a quick kiss. “I’m going to see whether Paige needs help in the kitchen.”
Turning his attention back to Darren, Trey wondered at the cause of this latest display. D should have known better than to mess with Paige in the first place if he wasn’t ready to give up this kind of shit; but to bring the woman here of all places. Even for Darren, that was some foul-ass shit. It would be foul no matter the woman he did it to, but for him to do it to Paige was inexcusable.
Even throughout Paige’s engagement to their boy Clint, Trey always thought there was something in way she looked at Darren. Something Darren studiously pretended not to see; something Clint himself had seen clear as day. Trey’s nature wasn’t to pry into his boys’ lives unless invited, and during that time he had his hands full with Tessa. But anyone with eyes could see that something wasn’t right among those three.
Paige was engaged, but to the wrong man. And though no one said it, on some level, they all knew.
How that screwy turn of events had come about, Trey wasn’t sure. But it had gone on for years and would have probably culminated in Darren being best man at the wedding of his woman to another man, if Clint hadn’t died in Afghanistan. But now that Clint was gone, and had been for about two years, Darren still seemed not to know how to come correct with Paige.
Trey walked across the room toward him and when Darren noticed his approach, his friend reached out a hand to give him some dap. Trey almost didn’t return it.
“What’s up, man?” Darren asked, his voice just a couple decibels too loud.
“Not much,” Trey said. He looked at the young woman to Darren’s left.
“Hi,” she said smiling and extending a hand. “I’m Stormy.”
Trey shot Darren a look as though to say: are you fucking kidding me?
“Good to meet you, Stormy.”
In her heels, she was taller than he was, and shoulder to shoulder with Darren, which meant that in bare feet, she was at least five-ten.
“Did you know this was a sit-down thing?” Darren asked, wrinkling his brow. “I didn’t know this was a sit-down thing.”
Not quite drunk, but getting there. Determined to do so.
“Yeah, I knew,” Trey said.
“So we’re going to leave in a bit,” Stormy piped in. “The hostess says there’s Cornish hens and I don’t eat flesh.”
“So if we leave before dinner, you don’t want to get a burger from Five Guys?” Darren asked, mock seriously.
Stormy gave a theatrical shudder. “I don’t know how people eat that stuff.”
“You’re from Texas,” Darren said. “Stop acting like you’ve never ingested dead cow before.”
“Yeah, but . . .”
“Excuse me,” Trey mumbled. “I see a few folks . . .”
Darren in self-destruct mode was not a pretty sight. But Darren in destroy-everyone-else mode was even less attractive. Not content with having brought this woman to Paige’s party and hurt her feelings, he was probably going to spend much of the evening laying waste to Stormy’s feelings as well.
Classic Darren bullshit. Bull-in-a-china-shop came to mind. And this time, Paige was the china.