Home > Simply Complicated(3)

Simply Complicated(3)
Author: S. Nelson

“Don’t ignore me, Ollie. I know you heard what I said.”

Instead of focusing on the rasp of his voice, which was slightly deeper than the last time I heard it, I homed in on the nickname he gave me all those years ago, one I didn’t care for. I whipped around in my seat to face him, prepared to tell him off, but the second I laid eyes on him, all my bravado flitted away. For the briefest of moments, I was catapulted back to that sixteen-year-old girl who’d been infatuated with her neighbor, her brother’s best friend. A guy she thought she loved, until he broke her heart.

Silently screaming at myself to get it together, I steeled my posture and raised my head high. There was no way I was going to allow him to see me sweat.

“You know I hate that nickname.”

“I know.”

One minute I wanted to wipe the smirk off his face, and the next I wanted him to say something else that would make his mouth curve into that sexy grin again.

Various thoughts battled for me to give them life, but they were so random I barely had time to digest them before they were gone, only to be replaced with another odd one. When I finally settled on something appropriate to say, I parted my lips, but then snapped them shut. The slight rise of his brow showcased his amusement, and it was in that moment I realized no matter what I said, good or bad, he was only going to banter with me. Which meant, he’d only serve to rile me further.

So I stayed quiet. But there was nothing that said I couldn’t return his stare. As his eyes traveled over me, mine did the same to him. The last time I saw him in person, he was only eighteen. His dark hair had been cropped close to his head and he was clean shaven. He’d been gorgeous, but no comparison to the man he’d become.

His hair was longer now, a mass of unruly waves on top that worked perfectly on him. His jaw was covered with a trimmed beard, highlighting his full lips. He looked more rugged, all while still maintaining an ounce of the boy he used to be. One thing was still the same, minus the fine lines around the edges. His eyes were as piercing as they’d ever been, the shade switching from light blue to hazel to even gray, depending on the lighting. It was those eyes that had once promised me everything I didn’t even know I wanted. Eyes I couldn’t trust now for fear all the hurt and humiliation I’d felt back then would bubble back to the surface.

Seeing him after all this time was surreal. Sure, I’d seen plenty of images of him. There was no escaping one of the million pictures plastered online. The man offering to “help me out” was none other than the famous American Soccer League player, Luke Sorenson. He’d been to the Olympics several times during his career, winning gold and silver medals with his team. Except for myself, women loved him, and men wanted to be him.

But I knew him when he was nothing more than a guy obsessed with the sport, playing for his high school team before being given a scholarship to UCLA.

Now he was rich and famous. Was there any higher goal to accomplish? How about not being an insensitive asshole?

I digressed. I’d relive the pain he’d caused me, and our little run-in wouldn’t turn out in anyone’s favor if I didn’t stop. Of that, I was sure.

After what felt like an hour of us studying the other, I moved to turn back around, deciding it was best if I didn’t engage any further. But I barely swung my seat an inch before his hand was on my knee.

“What do you think you’re doing? Take your hand off me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.” My tone was riddled with irritation. “And just so there’s no misunderstanding. I don’t need your help with anything.” He was too slow in removing his hand, so I swatted it away, refusing to admit his touch did strange things to me.

“That’s not true. If what you told Brooke wasn’t a lie, you most definitely need my help.” He licked his lips and leaned in close. “And I’d do it from the goodness of my heart. You wouldn’t even have to pay me.”

A rush of heat swirled through me, and I had no doubt my cheeks were now flushed. But what I couldn’t figure out was if the warmth was from anger or frustration or embarrassment. Perhaps it was a mixture of all three.

“Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be a notch on that belt. By now, it’s probably worn out, ready to fall off.” I mentally high-fived myself for my quick wit.

“If that’s your way of asking me if I have a disease, I can assure you I don’t. But if that was your way of muddling through a weird colloquialism… umm… I have no words.” His tone was a mix of condescension, amusement, and a bit of offensiveness blended in for good measure.

“Let’s pretend we never saw each other. You go back to doing whatever it is you’re doing, and I’ll enjoy the rest of my night.”

As if the universe knew I needed help, three women approached and sidled up to him, asking if he would take selfies with them. He obliged, looking first to me. A quick roll of my eyes made him smile for some reason, but I wasn’t about to ask why because that would mean more interaction with him.

I wanted to ignore the spectacle, but all I could do was stare at the way he grinned at each one of them, a rush of heat blooming in my belly when the short blonde woman pressed her lips to his cheek. Refusing to acknowledge I was jealous, because the notion was simply ridiculous, I chalked up whatever feeling held me captive as the result of the wine I’d been consuming.

Once the women left, Luke scooted his barstool closer, spreading his legs wide as he faced me. I didn’t want to, but I looked at his crotch, and I hadn’t torn my gaze away fast enough because he caught me red-handed. Surprisingly, he didn’t call me out on my brazenness, though.

“I don’t want to pretend I didn’t see you,” he continued, like our conversation hadn’t just been interrupted. A sentiment I couldn’t readily identify whirled through his voice, one which had me rooted in place, questioning whether he was messing with me or being sincere.

“Well… I… um….” My words trailed off as I shrugged, not knowing what else to say. I’d only been near him a short while, and already he had me all flustered.

“Can I make my argument on why you should let me help you out? If you don’t like it, I’ll leave you alone.”

His teeth toyed with his bottom lip while he waited for me to answer. The problem was, I didn’t want to rush to say no this time, even though that was probably going to be my answer in the end. I thought about his question for a full fifteen seconds before responding, and as I suspected, a two-letter word forced its way up my throat.

“No.”

“No, what?” Brooke asked, shoving me toward Luke so she could hop back onto her seat.

I didn’t need to answer because he did it for me, leaning forward to catch her eye.

“Hi, Brooke. How are you?”

Her mouth dropped open right before she shoved against me once more, hopping off her seat to give him a hug.

“Oh my God! Luke! What are you doing here?”

I never told her he was moving back here from Miami to play for the Vegas United FC, information I’d unwillingly received from my dad.

Her excitement at seeing him irked me, but it shouldn’t have because she had no idea what happened between us when we were younger. She was aware I used to have a crush on him, but that was all she knew. I told my best friend everything, except what happened that night. I was too humiliated to speak a word of it, pushing the memory into the recesses of my mind. Now and again, the recollection would surface and embarrass me all over again. Thankfully, those instances were few and far between.

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