Making the Rules (The Rules #1)

By: Ali Parker

Chapter 1

Kendal





I'd never seen Damon look so dejected, so fidgety, so lost.

"What can we do to fix this?" I leaned back in my chair and let my hands drop into my lap. We had ordered lunch, but it had yet to be served. Where I'd usually love to hang out with my best friend for an hour, today wasn't one of those days. I was sliding into a dark place in my own life, and watching Damon head-dive into depression wasn't helping much.

"Nothing." He glanced up from staring at his hands and shrugged. "I fucked up."

"Everyone messes up, Damon." I reached for my water, enjoying the coolness of the glass in my hand. Life was a torrential accumulation of painful fuck-ups, but I thought it was only my life that told that story. It would seem that I was wrong.

"Right." He chuckled and let out a sigh as his eyes moved around the quaint restaurant in front of us. "All these women and any one of them would be mine with very little effort."

"But you don't want any of these women." I took a quick sip of my water as I tried to think through the various ways we could get Bethany, Damon's ex-finance to forgive him, to see him in the light I saw him in. He might have been a shallow asshole from time to time, but deep down inside of his puffed up chest was a good man with a lot of hurt.

"No, I don't. I want my woman back." His shoulders stiffened as the waiter appeared beside us and set down our lunch.

I reached across and traded the grilled salmon in front of him for the burger in front of me. I ran every day so I could eat like shit... it was one of the only real pleasures in life that seemed to be constant.

"It's going to work out. You have to give her some time to think things through."

"Is it?" He picked up his fork and pushed the fish around his plate. "And what if it doesn't? Am I willing to change? To soften? Can I even if I wanted to?"

"I don't know." I shrugged and picked up my burger, pausing only briefly. "If Ana needed me to change all those years ago, I would have."

"Bull shit." He lifted his eyebrow, challenging me. As much as I hated to be the center of his attention when he was in a foul mood, it was better to see him aggressive and moody than dull and non-responsive.

"No?" I spoke around a mouthful of burger.

"You didn't quit your job. That would have solved the problem, Kendal. The university couldn't have stepped in between the two of you because she wouldn't have been your student anymore."

"No, you're right. I love my job, but don't let her off the hook that easily, please." I forced a tight smile, hating that the bastard was forcing me to go back to the most painful time of my life.

Misery loves company, even if it has to push its friends to the party.

Damon chuckled as his eyes darkened a little. "Do you miss her?"

"Nope. I used to, but I'm over it." I lifted my napkin and wiped my mouth.

"Then why aren't you dating, old friend?"

"I haven't found the right woman. Unlike our college days, I'm not looking for a hot woman to bend over a bench somewhere. I want a relationship that matters."

"Pussy." Damon snorted.

"That would be delicious as well." I took another bite of my burger and gave him a toothy grin. He could work to bait my emotions all he wanted to. I was used to him, and cared too much about him to let him push off his own hurt onto me. He wouldn't learn anything from doing so.

"She's going to be insanely pissed at you." He took a bite of his fish, but kept his brown eyes focused on me.

"And she should be." I shrugged and reached for the ketchup. "I set her up to have you run into us. It's no better than lying. The things I do for you, I swear."

The tight line of his mouth softened a little. "I'm sorry about that. I know she's your TA. I shouldn't have-"

"You didn't." I shook my head and reached for my water. "Stop being an emotional roller coaster and pull yourself together. You fucked up. Big damn deal. Get the girl back, or sell the ring and find another woman to worship you."

"Worship?" He snorted and sat back in his chair. "Is that a joke?"

"Nope. Look around. Half the women in this place are either staring at you, or pretending not to. It's disturbing." I laughed as a smirk lifted his lips. He needed to go after Bethany and soon. She was the kind of girl most men would trip over themselves to get to. Beautiful, young, incredibly brilliant and strong-willed. He'd almost felt something the first day she walked into his classroom not a month before.

The memory of their first encounter caused a laugh to bubble up inside of him. He stifled it and forced himself to keep his mind locked in the present instead of dipping into the past. Memory lane would quickly lead back to where it always did - to Ana. To her soft white sheets and caramel-colored skin. To the sound of her moaning his name as her back arched, her breasts jutted out.

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