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The Pact(2)

By:Karina Halle

I don’t know what I think. “You’re drunk, Linden.”

“I’m a man with a plan.”

“Since when have your life plans ever involved marriage?”

He shrugs and runs a hand through his thick, mahogany hair. “You may be one of my best friends, Baby Blue, but you don’t know everything about me.”

“Apparently not.”

His mouth quirks up into a half-smile. “But when we’re married there will be plenty of time for that. Also, sex.”

Okay, now I can see this is kind of a joke for him, as most things in life are. “What if I never want to get married?” I point out, putting the image of us having hot, sweaty sex out of my mind. “When have I ever waxed on about marriage or babies?”

“Never,” he admits. “But it doesn’t mean you don’t think about it. Why else would you always be dating?”

“Because I like to get laid.”

He laughs. “Another reason why we’re a perfect match.”

I purse my lips, staring at him. I think I need another drink.

Linden reads my mind. He gets up off the bar stool and walks behind the bar. James isn’t paying attention and even if he was, he wouldn’t say anything. Linden and I were twenty-one, James twenty-three, when the two of us first started working with James at The Burgundy Lion. Linden and I eventually went on to bigger and hopefully better things, while James ended up buying the place. There’s still a bit of an employee mentality for us – I don’t think James has ever charged us for a drink.

Linden takes two bottles of Anchor Steam out of the fridge and slides them to me. It’s our annual autumn heatwave in San Francisco and Linden has the sleeves of his rumpled grey dress shirt rolled up, showcasing his strong, tanned forearms and the Charles Bukowski quotes he has tattooed on the insides. He’s wearing a pair of khaki knee-length shorts that highlight his toned ass. On his feet are his worn black Keds that I think he’s had ever since we first met, but it suits him.

If it’s wrong to occasionally ogle your best friend, I don’t want to be right.

“So what do you say?” he asks as he sits back down beside me. “How about if we don’t find anyone by age, I dunno, thirty, we marry each other?”

“You’re actually serious?”

“Aye.” He nods and nudges the beer towards me. “Drink up and then maybe you’ll say yes. I have to say, you’re bruising my ego a little bit here.”

“That’s not a bad thing,” I tell him and I mean it. Linden McGregor is funny, kind, smart, handsome and ambitious. He’s got a BA in business and is almost done getting his helicopter pilot’s license. He’s one hot package that any girl would be lucky to snatch up.

But he’s also egotistical, cocky, arrogant and a player. It’s hard to get any real emotion out of him other than intensity – he’s got this way of looking at you, at life, like he’s trying to spear you alive. He lives his life on the selfish side, can be passionate about something (or someone) one minute, then indifferent the next. He’s a complicated guy and one that I am honored to call my best friend.

Yet, marriage – hell, a relationship – is a whole new ballgame when it comes to him and not one I’m ready or willing to play. Yes, I think he’s gorgeous, yes the way he looks at me sometimes does foolish things to my stomach, yes I have often thought about sleeping with him.

I mean, more than I should.

But this kind of agreement – marrying him – wouldn’t work.

Luckily, I know Linden is just joking around.

I take a long sip of my beer, making him sweat it out a little bit, push my thumb into that bruise on his ego, before I nod and say, “Fine.”

“Are you serious?”

“I guess so?”

He smiles broadly enough for those secret dimples to pop up. “You’ve made me a very lucky man, Stephanie Robson.”

I roll my eyes. “We’ll see about that. With any luck, we’ll both be in serious relationships by age thirty and I won’t have to entertain the thought of doing your laundry for the rest of my life.”

“Or doing me,” he adds with a wink which only prompts another eye roll from me. “Pinky swear on it. You know I don’t break those.”

And it’s true, he doesn’t. Maybe he’s more serious about this than I thought.

I swallow and hold out my pinky finger. He swiftly wraps his around mine, his skin hot and soft to touch.

“If neither of us are in a serious relationship by the time we are both thirty,” he says, looking me so dead in the eye that I can’t help but hold my breath, “then we agree to marry each other. Agree?”