Here With You (A Laurel Heights Novel) - By Kate Perry Page 0,1

with her."

"No, I'm fine," she said, watching her former best friend, who'd been M.I.A. for nearly a decade, zero in on her. He sauntered with deceptive laziness. There'd never been anything lazy about him—he always had a purpose. She just wondered why that purpose brought him here.

Bull scowled. "You know that dude?"

"I used to." At one time she knew him better than anyone. They used to hang out in her backyard, sharing their hopes and dreams, talking about all the places they were going to go one day. Places he'd gone without her.

Griffin Chase stopped in front of her and took his sunglasses off. The stormy gray eyes that women all over the world swooned over were aimed right at her. "Hello, Nicole."

Nicole stood face-to-face with the man she thought she'd never see again. He looked familiar and like a stranger all at once, like the urban cowboy the media labeled him: jeans, boots, and an untucked shirt under a dark jacket. A leather necklace disappeared into the vee of his collar.

His face was harder, the soft edges of adolescence gone. His stance was casual, with his hands in his pockets, but he vibrated with energy. Grif looked both like the boy she'd known and the rock star she occasionally saw on magazine covers in the grocery store.

He looked hot, actually. He'd always been attractive, but now there was an intensity about him that made you think about sweaty nights and tangled sheets.

Bull shifted next to her. "Hey, you're—"

"Bull, this is Griffin Chase." She pressed herself against her new friend's arm, mostly for support, but she didn't mind the frown it caused Grif.

"I'll be damned." A wide smile split Bull's face. "I loved your last album, man. I worked out to it every day for a couple months."

Grif shook the man's outstretched hand. "You're Kelly Torres, right? I saw you fight in Vegas last year."

"Which match?"

"Against the Cheetah."

"That wasn't a match, that was a mauling. Cheetah didn't stand a chance against me," Bull said modestly. "I've got one coming up with Georgie Boy Rocklin this summer. That's a worthy one to see. Let me know. I can hook you up."

Nicole rolled her eyes. "Sorry for breaking up the mutual admiration society, but what are you doing here, Grif?"

He returned his gaze to hers. "I need to talk to you."

"Now?" She looked around at the celebration happening. More than a few people were staring at them and whispering.

He looked around, too. "I'm sorry my timing isn't great, but we both know it'd have been awkward regardless."

An understatement. She hadn't seen him since right after high school ended. "Because it's been nine years."

He had the grace to wince. "I know and it’s completely my fault. You're entitled to rant at me, if you want."

Sighing, she shook her head. "I don't want to rant at you. I just don't understand why you're here."

"You kiddies should take this private." Bull kissed her cheek and patted her butt. "Play nice with him, or he'll immortalize you as a witch in his next song."

"Thanks for the warning." She patted his butt in return. "Rain-check on the dance?"

"You betchya." He winked at her and rejoined the crowd.

Nicole faced Grif, her stomach jittery. The way he watched her was unnerving. It wasn't her best friend's gaze—it was the direct stare of a man who wanted something from her.

Not that they'd ever been like that. Why her mind was going there, she had no idea.

"Shall we?" He motioned to the door.

Nicole led the way, brushing by him quickly, aware of the muffled thud of his boots following close behind. She stepped into the doorway to the left, away from any prying eyes in Grounds for Thought, and faced her past.

"This is weird." She wrapped her arms around herself, to protect herself from Grif as much as the evening wind. The flirty dress that had seemed perfect for the wedding didn't offer any protection from the chill air.

He took his jacket off and offered it her. "I'd been meaning to come see you for a while, actually."

She stared at the beat-up leather.

When she didn't make a move to take it, he draped it around her shoulders. It was warm from his body and somehow more intimate than it should have been. It smelled spicy, nothing like the sun-scented boy who'd been her friend.

Grif leaned against the stucco wall, the intensity of his gaze belying his laid-back posture. "The timing never seemed right. So much time passed, and I knew I