Where the Blame Lies - Mia Sheridan Page 0,1

flashed in his eyes. God, it’s hot. And that feeling of being removed settled over her once again. The need to get away. “I’m going to get a drink,” she yelled over the music, turning away from him.

In her peripheral vision, she saw the guy begin to follow her and slipped between a group of girls, losing him, and walking quickly to where she was out of sight. She spotted a familiar face standing at the end of the bar and while she wove through the crowd, a smile took over her face as he saw her and grinned. “Hey you,” Cooper greeted, giving her a big hug. “I didn’t know you were going to be here tonight.”

“I’m here with Reagan. Who I think has ditched me for Evan.” She dragged out his name, giving Cooper a meaningful look. “Last time I saw them, they were on the dance floor making out.”

Cooper shot her a wry smile. “Geology Evan? The stone-cold hunk?”

Josie laughed. They’d been annoying Reagan with really bad geology puns for weeks.

“The one and only. She really digs him.” They both pretended to crack up, giving big, fake laughs, which dissolved into real ones. Josie grinned. “Reagan always gets her man.”

“I’ve noticed,” Cooper said, rolling his eyes. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure.” She was tipsy and heading toward drunk. Just where she wanted to be. She gripped the collar of her shirt and used it to fan the overheated skin beneath her clothing.

Cooper and Josie stood at the bar chatting and laughing for a little while, which helped Josie’s mood improve. Cooper attended UC too, and he worked at a local coffee shop where she and Reagan had met him over lattes and late-night studying. He was funny and sweet, always had a smile to share, and they’d gone out drinking and dancing with him a few times. He was also ridiculously good-looking, but unfortunately for her—and every other female in Cincinnati—he was not interested in the female persuasion.

She laughed as Cooper told a story about a customer he’d had earlier, her eyes meeting those of an older man sitting at a high-top table nearby, sipping a beer. He was handsome, wearing khakis and a button-down polo shirt. A young professor or a teacher’s aide. He smiled, his eyes moving down her body, and her nerves tingled. She was tempted. So tempted. He’d make her forget the melancholy that didn’t seem to want to release its hold on her tonight. He’d make her feel wanted, happy. But it’d be temporary. And temporary always ended up hurting. The thought confused her slightly. She’d never pondered that before, and definitely didn’t want to in the midst of a packed meat market. She’d come here for temporary. Hadn’t she?

She broke eye contact and took a long sip of her drink, attempting to recapture that carefree mood she’d found at the bottom of three gin and tonics and via Cooper’s charm. Cooper looked back over his shoulder where her gaze had lingered. When his eyes returned to her, his brow was raised. “Nice. Very nice.” He glanced back one more time and then leaned closer. “He’s still looking at you. Go ask him to dance.”

She shook her head, gathering her resolve. No, a one-night stand would only make her feel worse in the morning. Especially now. Don’t do it, Josie. “Nope. I’m on a hiatus from men at the moment. Especially older men.” With wives. And children. Her mood plummeted further, self-loathing rising, and suddenly her buzz soured. She felt annoyed. Sad. Lonely. The music blasted, the air felt hotter. Muggy. Everyone was too close. Jostling her, pressing, touching. She used the collar of her shirt to bring more air to her skin.

Cooper was watching her. “I think another round is called for.”

She shook her head but forced a smile. “No. And speaking of nice, there’s someone cute who’s got his eye on you.”

Cooper glanced over his shoulder at the dark-haired guy who was watching him from the other side of the bar, his head nodding slightly to the beat of the music. When Cooper caught his eye, the guy looked away bashfully and then immediately back in that age-old flirting move. “Ron. He works at the sandwich shop next to Brews. Do you mind if I go say hi and then I’ll be right back?”

“Not at all. You go. I’m good.”

“You sure?”

She pushed him. “Yes. I’m fine.”

With a smile, Cooper headed off in Ron’s direction, Ron’s face lighting up with