Razed (Barnes Brothers #2)(9)

Written By: Shiloh Walker

“Ani, I haven’t had a date with a guy who knocked me off my feet in forever. Trust me.” And that wasn’t a lie. Zane had knocked her off her feet, stolen the breath right out of her and made her come harder than she ever had in her life. But they hadn’t been out on a date—before that night, he’d never so much as kissed her. Oh, he’d asked her out, but she never really thought he was that serious. It was like an afterthought.

He’s asked you out since then . . . those aren’t afterthoughts, a sly little voice inside her whispered.

Her hands went slick. No. They weren’t. But the thought of going out with him terrified her. She couldn’t explain why.

“Okay, so you’ve had some lousy luck. You know what that means, right?” Anais looked like a cherub, big blue eyes, rosy mouth, round cheeks, blonde curls that were one hundred percent real. She didn’t go without a date unless she chose to, and that didn’t happen too often.

“Yes.” Keelie gave her a brilliant smile. “It means I should just give up this whole relationship idea.”

“No.” Anais rolled her eyes. “It does not mean that.”

“Sure it does.” Keelie held up a hand. “Last year’s bad date . . .” She ticked off a finger. “There was a guy before that who decided my tats meant I was crazy kinky and he shoved his hand up my skirt. So I punched him in the middle of the restaurant and the cops were called and he lied and I had to explain it all to the cops and half of them didn’t believe me.”

“What the f*ck?” Javi demanded.

Keelie gave him a dark look. “Don’t ask. I didn’t want you threatening to kill him. I handled it.”

She looked back at Anais. “Then there was this guy I thought I did like . . . I made a move on him, it was a disaster—” She ticked off another finger, acutely aware that Javi had developed a fascination with the ceiling. Anais was new here, and didn’t know about the mess Keelie had caused with Zach and Abby. “He was involved with somebody else and I almost messed that up. See? Bad luck. I’ll give this guy a shot, but I’m not expecting it to be a rousing success.”

Anais looked away, her shoulders slumping. Keelie felt like she’d kicked a puppy and so she groped around, looking for something to say to make it better.

But Javi spoke first, his voice soft, “Keelie, maybe that’s the problem.”

“What’s the problem?”

“You go into it expecting there to be problems. Guys ask you out and you shoot them down before the sentence even gets out. The few who managed to get the words out, it’s like you’ve already written them off.” Javi shrugged. “If you go into this expecting him to be a jerk, expecting this be a failure . . . that’s probably what’s going to happen. Just don’t expect anything. You don’t know him. It’s hard to know what to expect from a guy you don’t know.”

Keelie made a face at him. She wouldn’t, under any circumstances, admit that he made sense. Nor would she admit that he might have a point. Maybe she did go into things expecting most of the guys she met to be something less than . . . well. Anything decent.

She’d stopped looking for the good in people a long time ago—only after they’d proved it existed did she let her guard down.

Aware that Javi was still watching her, she lowered her brows and gave him the stare that would have had most men backing away. “What?”

Javi only shrugged. “When was the last time you actually thought about giving a guy a chance? Ever liked anybody well enough to just relax and talk to him?”

“Well, that’s easy.” She fluttered her lashes at him. “I talk to you daily, honey. But the thing is, you’re married. You went and broke my heart with it, too.”

“Very funny.” He rolled his eyes. “Seriously, can you name one guy who you don’t automatically put at arm’s length? One guy who doesn’t automatically make you shut down?” Then he added, “Besides anybody who works here. We all get a pass.”

Well, yeah. She could. But she sure as hell wasn’t naming him.

Aware that Javi was watching her, she managed a casual shrug.

“There are a couple, yeah.”

“Okay, then. Give this guy the same benefit of the doubt you give them.” Javi grinned at her. “You don’t need to be looking for the man of your dreams—”

Her bark of laughter all but rang around the room. Javi ignored her and continued. “Just talk to the guy. See if you like him. The only thing you’ve got a right to expect is that he treat you well. He’s got the same right to expect that of you.”

Anais grinned and nodded. “Exactly, Javi. Give him a chance without assuming the worst.”

Bracing her hips against the counter, Keelie stared down at the toes of her boots. Give him a chance without assuming the worst. She jerked a shoulder in a shrug. “I guess I can do that.”

Assume the worst was pretty much her motto in life, but it hadn’t exactly made for the best life, either. Her life was damn lonely. Damn empty. It had seemed even more so the past few months, too.

Yeah. Fine. Mentally, she decided she’d try it. Once.

“That’s the spirit. Also, Keelie? Don’t get drunk.”

Jerking her head up, she stared at Anais. “Don’t get drunk?”

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