Touch me, p.12
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       Touch Me, p.12

         Part #4 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
 
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  thinking to touch her cheesecake.

  “Owen, I don’t think…” Kellen gave the girls pointed looks.

  Owen ignored him. “You don’t believe we have a limo, do you?”

  “I’d have to see it to believe it.”

  “All right, I’ll show you.” Owen slid out of the booth and helped the two wobbly ladies to their feet. He leaned across the table and whispered, “I’ll be right back,” to Caitlyn.

  Befuddled, she watched him escort the two women out of the diner.

  She exchanged a confused look with Kellen. And then Kellen’s scowl softened. “Wish I’d have thought of that,” he said.

  “Thought of what?”

  “Hey, hey, hands off the merchandise,” Owen shouted just before the diner door shut behind them.

  “Is he leaving with them?”

  “When he has you?”

  “Then what?”

  Before he could answer, Owen was headed back in their direction.

  “What was that all about?” Caitlyn asked.

  “Neither one of them had any business driving,” Owen said, “so I had the driver take them home. They were too excited about riding in a limo to be upset that they weren’t getting into Kelly’s pants tonight.”

  “And how are we supposed to get back to the hotel?” Kellen asked.

  “The driver will be back before I finish my sandwich. Their place is only a couple of miles from here. They told me so when they were trying to get me to go with them.”

  Caitlyn squeezed his knee under the table. “That was a really nice thing you did.”

  “What? Rescuing Kellen from two drunk girls?”

  “Making sure they got home safely.”

  “Everyone is happy,” he said, and took a huge bite of his sandwich. “Especially me,” he added, talking with his mouth full. “Good stuff.”

  Kellen grinned as he used the edge of his fork to cut into his cheesecake and took a bite.

  “Better than pie?” Owen asked.

  Kellen shook his head. “Too sweet.”

  Owen devoured his sandwich while Kellen decided he’d rather steal the chips off Owen’s plate than finish his cheesecake. It was indeed decadent—moist and creamy with cherries in thick, sweet syrup. After only three bites, Caitlyn was full, but there was no way she was going to let something that delicious go to waste.

  “How far is it from Houston to Beaumont?” Kellen asked.

  “That’s a weird question,” Owen said.

  “Less than two hours,” Caitlyn said, “depending on traffic.”

  “Why do you care?” Owen asked.

  “I was thinking of spending tomorrow night in Galveston and meeting up with the rest of you in Beaumont later.”

  “If you take the ferry from Galveston Island to Bolivar Peninsula, you can miss the Houston traffic,” Caitlyn said.

  “Thanks for the tip.”

  Owen shifted uneasily. “Don’t go. It never makes you feel better.”

  Kellen shrugged. “I don’t go there looking to feel better. I just like the ocean.”

  Caitlyn was missing something, but she didn’t want to pry. Kellen’s trip to Galveston probably had something to do with the lover Kellen had lost. Everything that caused tension between the two men seemed to have something to do with her.

  Both men stared at the table in silence for several long, uncomfortable minutes. Caitlyn tried to think of something that would lighten the mood again.

  “So you’re in Owen’s band too, right?” she finally asked.

  “Owen’s band?” Kellen lifted an eyebrow at his friend. “Did he tell you it was his band?”

  “Where would the band be without me?” Owen said.

  “Bassists are a dime a dozen.”

  Ouch! Caitlyn glanced at Owen, expecting him to look hurt or offended. He was grinning.

  “You’re over-paying, Kelly. I can easily get you a dozen bassists for a nickel.”

  “Bargain basement bassist.”

  “What instrument do you play?” Caitlyn asked Kellen. And because she’d learned her lesson with Owen, she added, “Or are you the singer?”

  “I play guitar,” Kellen said, still not out of his funk.

  “You’re so matter-of-fact about it.”

  “Why wouldn’t I be?” Kellen said. “It’s a fact.”

  “It seems so foreign to someone like me, that you can make a living playing music.”

  “Do you work?” Kellen asked.

  “Yeah,” she said. “Too much. But I’m doing what I love, so I don’t mind the long hours.”

  “She has her own company,” Owen said. “She’s the boss.”

  He sounded proud of her.

  She snorted on a laugh. “Yep, I’m the boss.”

  “What kind of company?” Kellen asked, sipping from his water as he waited for Owen to finish his sandwich.

  “Alternative fuel sources. We started with solar panels and wind turbines, but recently started branching out into fuel cells. R and D is finally over, next is production and marketing. My two business partners are in charge of that stuff. I’m the main geek of the triad. So things have slowed down a bit for me while I wait for the next big idea to smack me upside the head. You can have a very fulfilling career discovering new technologies, but it sure won’t make you rich. It’s a good thing I have Peter and Lillian to find my markets.”

  Owen paused with his nearly finished sandwich halfway to his mouth. “So you’re not only brilliant, good in bed, and hot, you’re also rich?”

  She flushed. “I’m sure I’m not as rich as you are.”

  “Your husband must be a complete tool,” Owen said.

  “You’re married?” Kellen asked, looking scandalized for the first time that night.

  “Divorced.”

  “Her husband—”

  “Ex-husband,” Caitlyn interrupted.

  “Her ex-husband cheated on her.”

  “Maybe he was lonely,” Kellen said.

  “Kelly,” Owen admonished.

  “I’m sure he was,” Caitlyn said. “I’ve been working eighty-hour weeks for several years now. Sometimes we didn’t see each other for days.”

  “He could have made an effort,” Owen said.

  She leaned against him and squeezed his arm. “Then I wouldn’t have had a reason to hook up with you.”

  “Thank God he’s a thoughtless idiot.”

  She smiled and couldn’t resist stealing a kiss. His lips tasted salty. They went well with the sweetness still on her tongue. When he licked her upper lip slowly, she moaned and curled her fingers into his shirt to tug him closer.

  Kellen cleared his throat uncomfortably. She could have sworn he grunted, “P-D-A.”

  Caitlyn drew away regretfully. “We need to get to the hotel,” she said.

  Owen tossed the rest of his sandwich on his plate and signaled the waitress for their check.

  The car was waiting for them when they left the diner. Kellen made Owen check the back seat for stowaways before he agreed to get in. Caitlyn did nothing to hide her laughter.

  “Geez, Kelly, those girls weren’t that bad.”

  Caitlyn and Kellen exchanged a look of agreement. Those girls had been pretty bad. Caitlyn wondered if Owen and Kellen had to deal with women like that on a regular basis. She supposed some guys would like that kind of girl; she suspected Owen might be one of them. If she hadn’t been with him, she wondered if he would have gone off to join their party.

  This time when they sat in the back of the limo, Kellen made sure to sit between them. “I’m in no mood to watch you two make out,” he explained. “You can attack each other back at the hotel.”

  “Whose fault is it that you’re in such a mood?” Owen said. “It’s not our fault you didn’t get laid. Again.”

  “I’m sure you could have picked up someone at the club,” Caitlyn said.

  Kellen ran a finger under his wrist cuff. “I went in there knowing I wasn’t going to participate.”
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  “So why do you go to sex clubs if you aren't planning to have sex?” Caitlyn asked. Seemed like a strange place to hang out just for the hell of it.

  Kellen stared at her for a solid minute before answering. He had the most hypnotizing eyes she'd ever encountered.

  “Because Owen needed someone to accompany him.”

  “Whatever, dude,” Owen said. “You don't have to torture yourself for my benefit.”

  “Next time you can go alone.”

  Owen shifted in his seat. “Yeah, fine, whatever. You’re a drag anyway.” When Kellen didn’t respond to his insult, Owen said, “Gabe will go with me.”

  “Gabe has a relationship thing he’s trying right now. He won't go with you.”

  “Then Shade…” Owen scowled. “Why did he have to hook up with Amanda anyway?”

  “You really wouldn't go by yourself?” Caitlyn asked.

  “I could,” Owen said. “But then I wouldn't be able to prove that I scored the hottest woman in the place.”

  She chuckled. “You have a competitive streak unlike any I've ever encountered. Why do you care who knows who hooks up with you?”

  Owen's smile faded, and he stared at his knees. After a moment, he shrugged. “No reason.”

  There had to be a reason. Maybe he didn't want Kellen to know. Or more likely, maybe he didn't want her to know.

  “You might as well tell her,” Kellen said. “Why you are the way you are.”

  “What way am I, Kelly? You're twice as fucked up as I am.”

  “I'm not going to argue that point.”

  “You can tell me,” Caitlyn said. “If you want to.”

  Owen glanced at her. “I had hoped that we could hook up again at the hotel.”

  “Yeah, me too,” she said, still not accustomed to his bluntness.

  “He's afraid you'll tell him to take a hike, because he still doesn't get that he's not the same man he used to be on the outside, though he's always been a bit strange on the inside.”

  “Don’t tell her, Kelly.”

  “You’re the one who brought her out of the club. That means you’re interested in her, right?”

  “Maybe, but don’t tell her.”

  “Why? Are you afraid she’s as shallow as you are?”

  Owen shoved him. “I’m not shallow.”

  “You sure pretend to be,” Kellen said. He caught Owen’s wrist just before it connected with his shoulder. “He used to be fat,” Kellen said to Caitlyn.

  “I told you not to tell her.”

  “In high school they called him Piggie.”

  Owen flushed such a bright scarlet, the color was noticeable even in the dim interior of the limo. “You fucking asshole, why’d you tell her?”

  Kellen didn’t try to block Owen’s next blow. Maybe because he felt he deserved it.

  “That’s cruel,” Caitlyn said. She grabbed Owen’s hand before he used it to punch Kellen again. Kellen pushed back against the seat, looking decidedly uncomfortable to be wedged between them. “Is that why you keep telling me I'm beautiful? Because no one ever made you feel that way?”

  Owen scowled. “How the fuck should I know? I just like to make people happy.”

  “What about making yourself happy, Owen?” Caitlyn asked. He’d had her fooled into thinking all was right in his world, but now she wasn’t so sure. “Are you happy?”

  “Yeah, I have glitter shooting out of my ass, I'm so fucking happy,” he yelled.

  “I'm sorry,” Kellen said, “You’re right. I shouldn't have told her.”

  “Thank God you did so I can dump him before I start to like him too much,” Caitlyn said. “I would never be interested in a guy who was called Piggie in high school due to a weight problem.” She was joking, but Owen didn't laugh. He seemed to expect her rejection.

  “Should we take you back to your friend’s house then?” Owen asked quietly.

  Kellen huffed out a breath and shook his head. “Still clueless. She’s kidding, fucktard.”

  “Shut up,” Owen said, but some of the tension had eased from his body, and he glanced at her from under his lashes.

  This really was his issue. Kellen understood his friend well. So why had he felt the need to share something so personal about Owen? She was missing something here. Something major. Either Kellen was trying to scare her away—which didn’t seem likely—or entice her into staying so he didn’t have to accompany Owen to sex clubs any more. Of course it was possible he had no motivation at all and was just striking up conversation, but she took Kellen for the kind of person who calculated his every move. Why had Kellen risked Owen’s obvious animosity by sharing something that personal about Owen’s past?

  At least she understood why Owen was so adamant about making her feel beautiful and why he was so nice to everyone even though he was easily the best-looking man she'd met in person. Though he had to own a mirror, he didn't see himself as mind-bogglingly gorgeous. Did he go to sex clubs because he thought he required a sure bet? She was just speculating, of course, because she didn't live in his skin. She didn't know what the world looked like through his eyes. But she wanted to. She wanted him to feel as good about himself as he made her feel about herself. And lord she was thankful that he was as attractive on the inside as he was on the outside. His personality sparkled even more than the twinkle in his pretty blue eyes.

  “I don't want to go back to Jenna's house,” Caitlyn said. “I do wish I'd met you somewhere other than a sex club. I guess I should be glad I met someone like you at all.”

  “Someone like me? What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “Guys like you don't usually talk to girls like me. Girls like me don't get invited to prom. Guys don’t make fools of themselves for girls like me. Girls like me are ignored. Invisible. But I'm not a girl anymore. I'm a woman. Thanks for reminding me.”

  “You are definitely a woman. I like women so much more than I like girls.”

  “Uhhh…” Caitlyn wasn’t sure what he meant by that.

  “He prefers older women,” Kellen said. “When he first saw you in the club, I thought he was going to eject himself out of his pants and directly onto your lap.”

  Caitlyn laughed. “Well, that definitely would have gotten my attention, but I doubt my reaction would have been positive.” She wished Kellen wasn’t sitting between them, because she suddenly wanted to draw Owen into her arms. “So I take it you were hurt by a younger woman.”

  “Young women, but they were the same age as I was.”

  Kellen released a deep sigh. “Most of it happened in high school and the year following graduation. This really hot girl broke his heart. He asked her out and she agreed. When she stood him up, her excuse was that she liked him as a friend.”

  “They all liked me as a friend.”

  “What's wrong with that?” Caitlyn asked.

  “I didn't want her to like me as a friend. I wanted her to like me as a man. And so after high school, I lost a lot of weight. Got in good shape.”

  “I'll say,” Caitlyn said appreciatively.

 
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