Blake. My heart jumps into my throat at the sight of him, but I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t seen him in so long or if it’s because I know Connor is just feet away, his back to us.
He looks good, his dark hair under a baseball cap that brings out his expressive brown eyes. I think of that day we jogged in the forest, I think of that moment, and I play it over and over again as I stare at him and try to keep the panic at bay.
“Hi. Um, it’s not a good time, okay?”
I whisper it. I sound ridiculous. Even I know that.
And he knows why I’m acting like this, because he stands up straighter and looks in all directions, scanning the crowd for his rival.
Connor turns around, as if on cue, and meets his gaze, and I see the way his hands slip off the baseball cards he’d been flipping through and shove hard into his pockets, and he walks over to us, his quick long strides gobbling up the ground before I can think of a way out of this.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Connor says, his voice loud. Too loud. I know the other fair goers hear him. I see their stares without meeting their gaze.
Judging me. Everyone wants to judge me.
“Nothing, man. Just talking to an old friend.”
“I told you to stay away from her,” Connor says.
Blake arches one eyebrow. He looks equal parts irritated and amused. As if Connor isn’t a threat to him. “Last I checked, you don’t control what I do.”
My face drains of all blood even though my heart is pounding so hard I can barely make out their words. I start to step closer to them, to come between them, but Connor blocks me as he moves in front of me.
“Fuck off, buddy,” Connor says. He has Blake by a few inches, but I know Blake is in the best shape of his life. I can see it on him, all the muscle, taut over his arms and legs as he steps around and clenches his fist, looking more defensive than aggressive.
“I don’t want trouble,” Blake says. I know it’s the truth. I know Blake has no interest in a fist-fight. “I just want to talk to her.”
“Talking time is over.”Blake takes one step back, but that’s it. It’s a compromise Connor won’t accept.
Connor doesn’t do compromise.