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Keeping Her (Losing It #1.5)

By:Cora Carmack

."

When I went home for Christmas, I'd just tell her it didn't work out with the library boy. Or that he was a serial killer. Use that as my excuse to never date nice guys.

"Well, that sounds lovely. We'd love to meet him."

Mace returned to me then with my purse and our coffees. He snuck a flask out of his pocket and added a little something special to his drink. I waved him off when he offered it to me. The caffeine was enough. Funny how he couldn't afford coffee, but he could afford alcohol.

"Sure, Mom." Mace snuck a hand into my coat and wrapped it around my waist. His hand was large and warm, and his touch through my thin tee made me shiver. "I think you would actually really like him." I finished the sentence on a breathy sigh as Mace's lips found the skin of my neck, and my eyes rolled back in bliss. I'd never met an accountant who could do that. "He's very, ah, talented."

"I guess we'll see for ourselves soon." Dad's reply was gruff.

Hah. If they thought there was any chance I was bringing a guy home for Christmas, they were delusional.

"Sure, Dad."

Mace's lips were making a pretty great case for skipping this morning's band practice, but it was our last time to practice all together before our gig next week.

"Great," Dad said. "We'll be at that coffee place in about five minutes."

My coffee hit the floor before I even got a chance to taste it.

"You WHAT? You're not at home in Oklahoma?"

Mace jumped back when the coffee splattered all over our feet. "Jesus, Max!" I didn't have time to worry about him. I had much bigger issues.

"Don't be mad, honey," Mom said. "We were so sad when you said you couldn't come home for Thanksgiving, then Michael and Bethany decided to visit her family for the holiday, too. So we decided to come visit you. I even special ordered a turkey! Oh, you should invite your new boyfriend. The one from the library."

SHIT. SHIT. ALL OF THE SHITS.

"Sorry, Mom. But I'm pretty sure my boyfriend is busy on Thanksgiving."

Mace said, "No, I'm not." And I don't know if it was all the years of being in a band and the loud music damaging his hearing, or too many lost brain cells, but the guy could just not master a freaking whisper!

"Oh, great! We'll be there in a few minutes, sweetie. Love you, boo boo bear."




If she called me boo boo bear in front of Mace, my brain would liquefy from mortification. "Wait, Mom-­"

The line went dead.

I kind of wanted to follow its lead.

Think fast, Max. Parentals in T-­minus two minutes. Time for damage control.

Mace had maneuvered us around the spilled coffee while I was talking, and he was moving to put his arms back around my waist. I pushed him back.

I took a good look at him-­his black, shaggy hair, gorgeous dark eyes, the gauges that stretched his earlobes, and the mechanical skull tattooed on the side of his neck. I loved the way he wore his personality on his skin.

My parents would hate it.

My parents hated anything that couldn't be organized and labeled and penned safely into a cage. They weren't always that way. They used to listen and judge ­people on the things that mattered, but that time was long gone, and they'd be here any minute.

"You have to leave," I said.

"What?" He hooked his fingers into my belt loops and tugged me forward until our hips met. "We just got here."

A small part of me thought maybe Mace could handle my parents. He'd charmed me, and for most ­people that was akin to charming a python. He may not have been smart or put together or any of those things, but he was passionate about music and about life. And he was passionate about me. There was fire between us. Fire I didn't want extinguished because my parents were still living in the past, and couldn't get over how things had happened with Alex.

"I'm sorry, babe. My parents have made an impromptu visit, and they're going to be here any minute. So, I need you to leave or pretend like you don't know me or something."

I was going to apologize, say that I wasn't ashamed of him, that I just wasn't ready for that. I didn't get a chance before he held his hands up and backed away. "Fuck. No argument here. I'm out." He turned for the door. "Call me when you lose the folks."

Then he bailed. No questions asked. No valiant offer to brave meeting the parents. He walked out the door, lit up a cigarette, and took off. For a second, I thought about following him. Whether to flee or kick his ass, I wasn't sure.

But I couldn't.

Now, I just had to figure out what to tell my parents about my suddenly absent library-­going-­nice-­guy-­boyfriend. I'd just have to tell them he had to work or go to class or heal the sick or something. I scanned the room for an open table. They'd probably see right through the lie and know there was no nice guy, but there was no way around it.

Damn. The coffee shop was packed, and there weren't any open tables.

There was a four-­top with only one guy sitting at it, and it looked like he was almost done. He had short, brown curls that had been tamed into something neat and clean. He was gorgeous, in that all-­American model kind of way. He wore a sweater and a scarf and had a book sitting on his table. Newsflash! This was the kind of guy libraries should use in advertising if they wanted more ­people to read.

Normally I wouldn't have looked twice at him because guys like that don't go for girls like me. But he was looking back at me. Staring, actually. He had the same dark, penetrating eyes as Mace, but they were softer somehow. Kinder.

And it was like the universe was giving me a gift. All that was missing was a flashing neon sign above his head that said ANSWER TO ALL YOUR PROBLEMS.

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