Building Faith (Long Beach Series Book 2) (3 page)

* * *

I can’t believe I am doing this.

“I think it’s too small,” I protest as I tug at the hem. More like the little dress is far too short for my liking.

“Hold still, or I’m going to burn you,” Zoey warns as she expertly rolls a long strand of my pale blonde hair around the curling iron she’s holding. Her brown eyes meet mine in the bathroom mirror, and she gives me one of ‘those’ looks that I am growing accustomed to. “The dress fits exactly as it should. As for the length, quit worrying over it. It’s longer than mine, and it’s the perfect length to show off those legs of yours. I knew you were hiding a cute little figure beneath the baggy shit you called clothes.”

I sigh inwardly and resign myself to wearing the scrap of material that Zoey insists is a dress. My eyes run over my reflection in the mirror, and I feel self-conscious. The dress is actually really pretty, but I’d rather it be on someone else's body than my own.

It’s a pale, buttercup yellow color and is sleeveless. When we went shopping a couple days ago, Zoey insisted on helping me pick out some lingerie along with my new clothes. I’d drawn the line at the skimpy stuff she wanted me to buy, and instead I bought the simpler, less racy stuff. Tonight, I am wearing a white, lacy bra that is padded. It gives the fantastic illusion that I actually have breasts—though not as large as Zoey’s full C’s. I have to admit, I do love the bra, though. It definitely helps fill out the top part of my dress. My waist is naturally small, and a narrow, gold belt is cinched around it while the loose material of the skirt sways slightly a little above my knees.

I frown down at the gold, strappy high heels Zoey insisted I buy to match the dress—momentarily forgetting that I’m supposed to be holding still. I feel a tug on my hair and a brief moment of extreme heat as Zoey curses from behind me. My eyes connect with hers in the mirror, and I give her an apologetic look.

She holds the curling iron up in the air and gives me a look. “This thing is hot, and I nearly burned your ear off. Hold the fuck still.”

“Sorry,” I mutter as I obediently hold still so she can finish curling my hair.

I’m still getting used to the foul language that spews out of Zoey’s mouth. I admit, I’m a little sheltered. Well, maybe a lot considering Justin always kept me to himself. Oddly enough, instead of feeling uncomfortable, I find the swearing entertaining. Caleb’s fiancée definitely does not walk on egg shells around me. I like that. A lot.

I think I was in shock the other day when I went shopping with her. It’s that shock that had me buying furniture for the apartment. I now have a blue and white floral couch, one white end table for the living room, and two lamps—one for the living room and one for on the new nightstand.  We didn't look at what
she
liked, she pushed me to buy the things that drew a second glance from me. I also have a new wardrobe, and some of the stuff I actually like. There’s about a third of it that I don’t like. Okay, I'm lying. I do like some of the clothes in that third category, but I’d rather see them on someone else than myself. Flashy things make me feel self-conscious.

“Are you girls almost ready?” Caleb calls from my living room for the third time in the past five minutes.

Zoey snickers as she unplugs the curling iron and sets it aside. “If you ask us one more time, I’m going to insist on giving her a mani and pedi before we leave, too,” she threatens loudly so that her voice carries to the other room.

We both hear Caleb groan.

Zoey smirks and glances at my nails. “You do need a manicure, but we’ll save that for another day.” She peers at me critically. “I think we’re set.”

I glance at my reflection in the mirror and doubtful blue eyes stare back at me. “I don’t feel like myself. I look different.”

“That’s the point. Come on,” Zoey says, pulling me into the living room. “What do you think?” she asks Caleb as she motions towards me.

Caleb rises to his feet while he stares at me with an odd expression. “You look beautiful,” he says as a crooked smile quickly replaces the look he'd just given me.

I thank him, and then peer at Zoey skeptically. “Are you sure I won’t get carded?”

“Absolutely,” she says confidently.

I scan her skimpy black and silver dress and the way it clings to her perfect figure. I bet men rarely tell her no. It’s evident that Zoey is used to getting whatever she wants.

With great reluctance, I allow them to escort me out of my apartment and down to the parking lot. I slide into the backseat of Caleb’s car and adjust the hem of the skirt over my thighs. Caleb and Zoey are going out to a bar tonight to meet up with friends, and they are insisting I tag along. I’d rather go to bed since I have an early shift at the café tomorrow morning, but telling Zoey no is next to impossible. The only one who seems to be able to reign her in and control some of her antics is Caleb. I fight the urge to shake my head. I’m going to have to learn how to say no to Zoey. My avoidance issues with conflict is why I now have a new wardrobe and my old one has been tossed in the dumpster behind the complex.

As I gaze at the couple in the front seats, longing sweeps through me. Even though Caleb’s driving, he has one hand resting on Zoey’s knee while the other one grips the steering wheel. Those two can barely keep their hands to themselves. I never had anything like that with Justin. At least not in the way that Zoey and Caleb like to touch one another. Justin’s touch had always been possessive. There hadn’t been any sweetness behind it.

My eyes shift away from them, and I stare out my window as Caleb drives us downtown. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever have someone special in my life. Will I ever be able to trust again? What if I lose myself to a relationship and let a guy control everything that makes me who I am?

I’m only nineteen, but sometimes I feel older than my years. I guess almost being murdered will do that to a girl.

When we arrive at the bar, Caleb parks the car, and Zoey immediately slips out of the front seat and helps me out of the back. I thank her and tug slightly at the hemline of my dress once again. I hear Caleb mutter something under his breath, and I glance up at him. His eyes are on my short skirt.

Zoey playfully swats at his chest. “She’s not his type,” she laughs.

Caleb gives her a dry look. “Anything with breasts and a pu—” He cuts himself off and finishes with, “Anything female is his type.”

Zoey rolls her eyes at him.  “You’re worrying over nothing,” she replies as she walks over to me and slips her arm through mine. “C’mon, you’ll love this place.”

I’m curious about who Caleb had been referring to, but the topic is dropped as we enter the bar. Zoey was right; the bouncer doesn’t even ask for ID’s. He simply waves us past. Loud music greets us, and I fight not to allow my eyes to widen as I look around.

In the center of the room is a circular bar that is surrounded by patrons as they wait for the bartenders to get them their drinks. I see booths along the walls and tables across the room. Three pool tables take up the opposite side of the room in front of what looks like a stage for a band, though there is no band tonight. I spy a small dance floor near the pool tables as well, but there’s only a handful of people out there. Everyone is at the bar or at a table with friends.

Zoey leans in and says loudly in my ear over the music, “It’ll get busier as the night wears on.”

I nod and allow her to lead me across the room to a large table in a corner. I see that the table is already full, and I instantly feel nervous as Caleb begins to introduce me to a handsome, blond man named AJ, and his pretty, blonde fiancée, Nina. I meet Charlie, who has the adorable, nerdy look going for him. He’s attractive, but his unruly, dark hair and reserved, blue eyes betray that he’s more serious than outgoing. Dillon reminds me of the jocks back in high school—handsome but cocky. I can’t really get a read on Jeremy. He’s very good-looking with short, dark brown hair and dark brown eyes a girl could get lost in. They look playful, but there’s something in their depths that contradicts the lightness he tries to portray.

As for Ace…

The second my eyes rest on him, I’m immediately distracted. The others cease to exist. All of Caleb and Zoey’s friends are attractive, but Ace makes me feel slightly weak in the knees. I try hard not to stare at him as Caleb grabs a chair for me so that I can sit down. I peer up at him briefly to thank him, then my eyes dart around the crowded bar before once again resting on Ace. His dark, gray eyes connect with mine, and I can’t seem to look away.

He’s unbelievably handsome. I’ve never really liked long hair on guys, but Ace pulls it off, managing to still look extremely masculine. His blond hair reaches the bottom of his chin, and he has it tucked back behind his ears. There’s a slight hint of curl at the bottom, which causes it to frame his face versus looking like it’s in the way. His gray eyes stand out against his tanned face, and I see that his features are strong but well-balanced. The only flaw I can see is that his nose is just slightly crooked, but if anything—it just makes him more appealing to the eye.

Caleb leans down to say something to Ace, his shoulder blocking Ace from view—effectively ending our little stare down. A second later, Ace is rising to his feet and both men are walking away towards the bar. My eyes drift over Ace’s body, and I feel my face heating slightly as I admire his tall, muscular frame. I can’t remember the last time I actually checked a guy out.

Somehow, I manage to tear my eyes from him as Nina leans towards me to tell me she likes my dress. We chat briefly, and my eyes flicker back to where Caleb and Ace are standing. Both men look like they are having a serious discussion—that is until Ace says something with a grin before turning away to get in line at the bar. A scantily clad brunette immediately approaches him, and I watch as he turns his full attention on the woman.

Envy sweeps through me.

What would it be like to have a guy like that interested in you? Amazing, I bet. I’ll never know, though. I’m not tall or gorgeous. Nor do I have the kind of body most men want. I’m very much aware that I am considered ‘the girl next door’ type. I’m pretty enough, but not the kind of pretty that has men doing double takes. I’m small busted, short and skinny.

I’m nobody compared to Zoey and her friend Nina.

Chapter Three
Ace

 

She’s uncomfortable. It’s in her eyes and in the way she sits stiffly in her chair. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for the fact that I am watching her closely. The second Caleb introduced me to his cousin, my dick perked up. Not surprising, it happens a lot when I see a woman I want to screw.

Problem is, she’s not my type. Little Faith Preston is the absolute opposite of what I look for in a woman. I like a woman that’s bold, that’s in your face sexy. Someone that’s dressed to fuck and knows her way around a bedroom. Someone that doesn’t mind a little extra kink during sex.

The petite blonde sitting across from me is about as opposite of ‘kink’ as you can get. So why do I want to screw her senseless?

My eyes drift over her, taking in her long, pale blonde hair that falls in soft waves down her back. My dick twitches as I imagine fisting my hand in that hair and holding her in place so that I can lick at her pulse. I want to feel her heartbeat throbbing frantically beneath my tongue as I learn every inch of her little body. I can just see it now, those big, blue eyes widening with surprise as I bring her body to life, showing her just how pleasurable sex can be.

She’s got fucking
freckles.
 

I hadn’t noticed them earlier, but I can see them now. They are faint across her cheek bones, so tiny they are barely noticeable, but all it does is make me harder. I fight the urge to adjust my junk as my eyes roam over her finely perfect features. She looks so damn innocent with her light colored hair and freckles. Then there’s those lush, curvy lips. They are full and pouty and just begging to be kissed. And damned if I don’t want to put something else in that mouth, and it’s definitely not my tongue.

Shit.

I pull my eyes away from her and try to regain some control of my thoughts and the boner I’m hiding beneath the table. I’ve never allowed a woman to go down on me, but I could see Faith doing it. I groan inwardly as my thoughts keep going back to sex. I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. With her. I’ve got the worst hard-on for a woman that is off limits to me. Not just because of her obvious innocence, but because Caleb had pulled me aside earlier to threaten my favorite body part if I so much as make a move on her.

Caleb catches my eye again, and I can’t mistake the warning. He’s been on my ass all night about Faith. The second I stare at her too long, he’s on my case. He acts as if I’m going to leap across the table and screw her right there for the whole bar to see.

I grab my beer off the table and take a long drink. I try to stop watching her, but it’s impossible. Faith’s sitting directly across from me, and every move she makes draws my attention. It’s inevitable that she’d draw my eye again, and I watch as her blue eyes skitter around the bar. When her tongue peeks out and dampens her lower lip—a nervous gesture that betrays her unease—I mentally groan again. How the hell am I supposed to get sex off my mind when she’s doing that shit? She seems oblivious to it, too. Does she have any idea how delectable that mouth looks?

If she wasn’t Caleb’s cousin, I wonder if I would have made a move regardless of the innocence that radiates off her in waves. Just the idea of dirtying her up and corrupting her has my chest tightening, and this time I can’t resist reaching under the table to adjust my jeans.

Thankfully, I’ve got a damn good poker face and not a single thought is betrayed. I’m looking bored as I drink my beer while watching her from the corner of my eye. It’s probably a good thing that she’s off limits since I have a feeling one fuck wouldn’t be enough. I won’t screw a girl more than once, except for Bev.

I remind myself that Faith has been to hell and back and that she needs a friend more than she needs a ‘fuck buddy.’ My eyes drift back to her, and I try to keep my thoughts PG-13. She’s so reserved and hesitant. She’s turned down Zoey and Nina’s invitations to dance, and she’s still sipping from the same drink that was set in front of her an hour ago. She definitely does not want to be here. Can’t Zoey and Caleb see that?

My thoughts shift, and I wonder what she’s like beneath the surface. If I peeled back all those layers, what would I find?

Her eyes suddenly connect with mine, and even though she tries to hide it, I see the uncertainty and self-doubt within their depths. Seeing that rawness in her gaze pisses me off. She’s broken. I can see it, and I can understand it. Shit happens to everyone. But I hate seeing it in those big, luminescent blue eyes.

A hand settles on my shoulder, jerking me back to the present. Caleb’s standing beside me, and he’s nodding his head towards the bar, motioning he wants to talk to me.

Fuck.

I was caught staring too long at Faith, and now I’m back in the shithouse. Again. With an aggravated sigh, I stand up and walk with him across the room.

When we reach a quiet area near the bar, Caleb turns on me with exasperation. “I thought we had this conversation already.”

“We did. I’m not going to make a move,” I say as I struggle to hold on to my temper. I don’t need this crap tonight.

“Then quit eye-fucking her,” Caleb says tightly.

“I have a dick. Anyone with one is going to appreciate looking at her. That doesn’t mean I plan on messing with her.”

Caleb steps closer, a rare hardness to his eyes that means he's dead serious tonight. “I mean it, Ace. You touch her, and you and I are going to have problems, you get me?”

This is the first time I've seen him get this riled up over someone. Even when Zoey lands her ass in trouble, he extracts her from the situation by smooth talking their way out of it. The Caleb that's warning me off from Faith is one I've never had to deal with before.

“Lay off. I know she’s not a casual screw, and that’s the only way I fuck. She’s safe from me. I swear.”

I mean it, too. I only do casual, and Faith’s too good for that. Hell, she’s too good for the likes of someone like me.

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