The party's hit a lull. It's that slow point around two a.m. before things head one of two ways. If someone doesn't inject something—more booze, some pills, even The 'Hoods at full volume—then people are about twenty minutes off sobering up, picking up on the muted vibe, and feeling uncomfortable enough to start heading out.

I hate the lull. Hate waiting to see whether it's all going to fizzle out, or if someone manages to spark things back up. Which means I've already got the ride-sharing app open on my phone when Jasper Whitlock shows up with a carload of pretty girls, all of them wearing sundresses as colourful as the drinks they're clutching.

'Hey, man.' Jasper stops on the verandah when he sees me, tucks the cutest girl—a brunette with a ponytail and sparkly gold eyeshadow—under his arm. The rest of the girls dance around us as they head inside, already arguing about who's going to take control of the music and what they're going to change it to. I catch someone's whine, "But I hate Aussie hip hop," before they disappear, leaving only the sticky-sweet smell of their mingled perfumes.

I tip my chin at Jasper. 'How's it going?' Not that long ago, I would've counted him as one of my best mates. We kind of drifted apart after we finished school, though, so I haven't seen him in a while.

The girl looks up at him, all wide-eyed, and I gotta wonder what bullshit he's spun her to have her looking at him like he hung the damn moon.

'Orright,' he says. The girls must have come to an agreement, because inside, the music kicks up a notch—in both volume and tempo. Jasper has to raise his voice in response. 'Heard you been workin' for Mick Newton. Must be nice, eh?'

I set the now-warm beer I've been nursing for the last hour on the verandah rail and shrug. I stuff my hands in my pockets. 'Still apprentice wages, mate. I don't get paid any more working up the nice end of town.'

I take another peek at the girl. She's still got her eyes on Jas, so I take the chance to check her out. She's got killer legs. Firm-looking muscles under skin that looks so damn soft my fingertips actually twitch.

'I s'pose.'

I snap my gaze back to Jasper as he lifts his arm, dislodging the girl, and tugs off his cap. He runs his hand through his hair—motherfucker's always been vain about his hair—and settles the cap back on, this time backwards. I want to laugh when he hooks a bleached curl out over the closure, but instead, I thrust my hand towards the girl.

'Hey. I'm Edward.'

Jasper doesn't notice—or doesn't care—that I'm not being subtle in calling out his lack of manners.

The girl smiles, all red lipstick and white teeth. 'Bella. It's nice to—'

'You leavin' already, Cullen?' Jasper asks. He jerks his head in the direction of the front door. 'Fresh pus—meat just arrived. You're welcome.'

He doesn't notice the way Bella's nose scrunches, but I do. It's cute as fuck. I catch her gaze and roll my eyes. Her lips twitch before she looks down.

Jasper nudges her with an elbow. 'You want a drink, babe?'

'Um, yeah. Yes, please.' She smiles up at him, all wide-eyed and adoring again, but he's not even looking. Instead, he quirks an eyebrow at me and grabs a handful of Bella's ass. She startles, and even in the piss-poor light, I can tell she's blushing.

'Grab me a beer, too, wouldya?' Jasper says.

'Oh. Yeah. Sure.' Bella gives me half a smile before she tucks a non-existent strand of hair behind her ear and disappears inside.

My phone vibrates in my pocket as a silver sedan pulls into the driveway. 'That's me,' I say, pointing a thumb over my shoulder.

Jas shrugs. 'Guess I'll see ya 'round.'


Anyone still out there reading this kind of stuff?