Cassie rose and made her way toward the restroom. Once she disappeared from sight, Jared snapped his head back toward Bryan.
“Do you and my sister have a thing going?” He leaned in close, his face super serious and voice little more than a whisper.
The bluntness of his inquiry caught Bryan off guard. “What? No.”
“Are you into her, Bryan? It kind of seems like you’re into her.”
“No, I mean, I-” Bryan never did complete that thought. Jared gasped.
“Oh my God. Bryan Lane has a thing for my sister.” Jared’s face remained serious, like this was an urgent item of business that needed an immediate response.
Bryan glanced away from Jared, searching for a rebuttal to his assertion. But in the end, Bryan dropped the facade.
“Fine,” he said in his own terse whisper. “I have a thing for your sister. And she knows about it. But I don’t think she has a thing for me - at least not the same thing I have for her, if that makes sense.”
At last, Jared broke into a grin, again. “It would be so cool if you guys went out.” Jared straightened up and lost his grin. “Wait, I’m supposed to threaten you right now, make sure you know that if you ever hurt my sister that I’m going to kill you, or something, right? But I probably wouldn’t scare you anyway, would I?”
“Probably not. Besides, saying I would never hurt your sister is an unkeepable promise.”
Jared nodded. “That’s true, and deep. Actually, ‘Unkeepable Promises’ would be a great song title.” Jared reached up and scratched his head. “She likes you, I can tell.”
“I’m not sure about that. Sometimes it feels like she just wants me out of her life.” To accurately portray his relationship with Cassie, Bryan would have to include her proposition of him from the night before, which he was in no hurry to detail to her brother.
“See, the thing about Cassie…” Jared started to explain, “…is that this is how she acts when she likes someone. She pulls them close while pushing them away at the same time. She doesn’t like to like people.”
Bryan considered Jared’s claim. Cassie didn’t seem to have any trouble initiating physical intimacy with the man at the bar or even Kent Raines. Then again, perhaps those were separate scenarios with their own unique dynamics - mere casual encounters. Bryan could have had one of those too. But he wanted more.
“Why? Did she have a bad experience or something?” Bryan asked.
“Well, I’m sure she did at one point. Everyone has a bad experience if they have any experience at all. But I don’t think that’s it. Do you want my personal opinion?” He leaned even closer, as if he possessed a deep, dark secret that threatened the fate of the world. Bryan nodded. “We grew up in a church that really frowned on high school dating. Our Youth Pastor was heavily influenced by that book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye - you ever hear of it?” Bryan shook his head. “Anyway, I think Cassie always felt like having a relationship was bad. So, she has a hard time committing, even now, when most people think she should be in a relationship. It’s hard to shed those kinds of negative feelings.”
Bryan spotted Cassie emerging from the bathroom. “She’s coming,” he said, sitting up straight; Jared followed suit.
“There she is,” Jared said, sounding as if he and Bryan had been discussing some innocuous subject, like food or music.
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