Geek Girls Don't Date Dukes

Geek Girls 2


Gina Lamm

To my sister. We used to want to kill each other, and now we’re best friends. Nana was right. I love you, Heather!


“Excuse me, you’re stepping all over my farthingale.” Leah tugged her hoop underskirt free of the clueless knight’s boots. Having the most spectacular garb at the Renaissance Faire was becoming more of a burden than a bragging right.

He staggered away from her and blundered into a tree, his homemade metallic armor clanking. Leah smothered her laugh at the sight. “Somebody should pop the lid off that tin can with legs, and if he doesn’t watch out, I’ll do it for him.”

Ella, Leah’s good friend and Ren-Faire buddy, snickered behind her hand. “Go easy on the guy. He didn’t make the eye slits in his helm big enough.”

Irritation wrinkled Leah’s forehead as she watched him apologize to the tree and turn to walk the other way. “Made his codpiece too big if you want my opinion,” Leah muttered as she brushed the dirt from the gold brocade hem of her handmade Anjou gown. “If he was packing that much, he’d never be able to sit on a horse.”

Ella’s snort brought a smile to Leah’s face. She was kind of glad she hadn’t called in sick like she’d planned. This outing was just what she needed to get her mind off her best friend’s upcoming wedding. Jamie’s joy only reinforced Leah’s own shit-tastic love life. Ella had encouraged her to stop moping and get back to having fun, and Leah was determined to give it a shot.

As Ella and Leah made their way through the Faire, Leah dipped her head and mumbled “Good morrow” to a passing fairy. Why did people insist on doing that? It was a Renaissance Faire, not a nearly nude fairy-for-all. It really burned her when people took one of her favorite events and turned it into another excuse to wear booty shorts, bikini tops, and clearance Halloween wire-and-sparkly-mesh wings.

“Ooh, a henna artist.” Ella pointed to a silk tent strung beneath a large oak. “And bonus, no line! Want to get inked?”

Leah smiled. “I really need to get going, or I’ll be late for the coronation. Why don’t you go ahead? I’ll catch up with you after, I promise.”

“Okay,” Ella said, tilting her head. “If you’re sure.”

Leah nodded. With a parting wave, she wound her way through the crowd as gracefully as her hooped skirt would allow.

Once alone, Leah’s mood turned south. She slumped against a tree by a palm reader’s cart, cradling her head in her hands. What was wrong with her? Jamie’s wedding was in just a few days, and if Leah couldn’t get herself together enough to be there for her best friend, she’d always regret it. Her own loneliness could shove it until Jamie’s happy day was done. Besides, she wasn’t really losing her best friend, so she needed to buck the hell up.

The cheerful chatter of the Faire goers surrounded her—normally a wonderful, happy sound. Today, instead of scanning her fellow attendees’ garb for historical accuracy and nifty ideas, all Leah could do was feel sorry for herself. Ella was right. She had to stop acting like she was losing her best friend. Shoving herself upright, Leah glared at the green canopy of leaves above her.

“Screw this,” she said, adjusting her skirts and straightening her French hood. “I’ve got a coronation to attend.” Leah strode toward the parade ground, nearly mowing someone down in the process.

“I do beg your pardon,” Leah said as she bowed her head and bobbed a curtsy to the man. “I didst not see…” She trailed off as she got a look at his face. “Kevin? What are you doing here?” Seriously? She gripped the sides of her skirt so hard the fabric rasped in protest.

“Leah. I hoped you’d be here.” Kevin’s self-conscious smile didn’t reach his eyes. He smoothed his clearly expensive jeans over his too-lean hips. “I need to ask you something.”

“Sorry, I don’t have time to talk. Her Majesty is expecting me to help with the coronation.” Leah resumed walking, hoping like hell he’d get the hint and not follow. Their particular personal history wasn’t one she wanted to relive.

No such luck. He trotted to keep up with her, weaving through the crowd. “You’ve got half an hour before that starts. I checked the schedule. Listen, Leah, I’ve been thinking.”

“About Teresa, hopefully. She is the one you’re going to marry.” Leah fought the angry blush climbing her neckline. How could she have been stupid enough to believe that Kevin loved her? She quickened her step, wishing she could leave him, and the past he reminded her of, behind.

“You know I didn’t mean for that to happen the way it did. I still care about you, Leah. I always wanted to stay friends with you, and Teresa wants that too. She actually wanted me to ask you to possibly, I don’t know—beabridesmaidorsomething.”

The rushed words sent a white-hot knife of hurt and anger through her chest. She stopped so fast that Kevin nearly knocked her down. Whirling, she gaped at him.

“You have got to be kidding me. A bridesmaid? She called me a slut the first time she met me! And she met me on the night that I’d thought…” The words swelled in her throat, and she fought to get them free. “I’d thought…”

“You thought I was going to propose to you.” Kevin scuffed the toe of his leather loafer in the dirt. “I know. I didn’t want to hurt you. It was just…I don’t know.”

“Hard to tell me you’ve been in love with Teresa for five years? Hard to tell me you’d been engaged the whole time you were stringing me along?” She dashed the angry tears away, hating that he could see how much she still hurt over the whole sorry situation, six months later. “Sorry, Kevin. I can’t help you.”

“Come on, Leah, it wasn’t like that. You know how my parents are. Teresa is an attorney—she’s great at what she does. Her family has known mine forever. They’re from DC too, and they all move in the same circles. I like you, you know that.”

“But an elementary school drama teacher who just happens to enjoy fantasy more than fund-raising events was more than your ancient and revered family name could take. It’s fine, Kevin. I get it.” Her voice was ragged and her chest tight, but she stood her ground. She wasn’t going to apologize. She’d tried to be the kind of girl he wanted, but that particular mask hadn’t fit. It was just as well. His mother had hated her with a passion, and no matter how hard Leah tried, she could never live up to that impossible standard. It had been much easier to cling to Jamie than to try to fight for Kevin anymore. Of course, now she didn’t have her best friend either.

He took her hand, gently rubbing a tiny circle over her knuckles. “I still care about you. A lot. And I know it’s shitty of me to ask this. But listen, Teresa’s cousin Wendy had to back out of the wedding. Her doctor put her on bed rest until the baby comes. You can wear Wendy’s dress for the ceremony and be in the pictures. And you don’t have to worry about anything because the photographer said he can Photoshop Wendy’s face in afterward.”

She’d have laughed if it wasn’t so pathetically painful. Jerking her hand away, she stared at him—his fancy clothes, hair perfectly gelled into that tousled look, his complete discomfort at standing on a dirt path in the middle of the woods—all of it. Even though she’d wanted him desperately at the time, she could see now that she’d been a total idiot to think he could have made her happy. Didn’t stop it from hurting like hell, though.

“There is no way that I’ll be in your wedding. You and that attorney bitch really deserve each other.”

She walked away without looking back, her aching heart turning to lead in her chest. What a stinking mess her life had become, and it was nobody’s fault but her own. She’d been so busy chasing the dream of a happily-ever-after that she’d completely lost sight of who and what she wanted.

The coronation, normally one of Leah’s favorite events, seemed to drag on forever today. She performed her bit perfectly—like a trained monkey in a circus, she thought, her dark thoughts belying the bright smile on her face. She didn’t miss a step, and her solo performance got the largest applause. Once the final song was completed and the parade through the fairgrounds done, Leah yanked off her hood and went straight to the gates. Her sanctuary was only a few miles away. She had to go see the one man in the world who could make her feel better about everything.

“Leah, there you are,” Ella called to her from a pottery vendor’s stall. She grinned as she approached. “You were beautiful in the coronation ceremony.”

Leah gave as sincere a smile as she was capable of, considering the roiling mass of snarled emotions inside her. “Thanks.” She scuffed the toe of her slipper in the dirt.

“Hey,” Ella said, her voice soft and knowing. “What’s up?”

Leah shook her head. “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.” Leah turned away abruptly and cleared her throat. Between the pain of Kevin’s request and Ella’s gentle probing, she couldn’t take much more today. Cursing herself inwardly for the lie, she said it anyway. “I wish I could stay longer, but Pawpaw needs some help at the shop this afternoon.”

Ella crossed her arms over her middle, framing her green-corseted chest. “You going to keep lying to my face? Because we can play that game if you want.”

Leah begged Ella with eyes already filling with tears. “Don’t make me talk about it, please.”

Ella lowered her brows but nodded. “Okay.”

“Thanks for hanging out with me today. I do appreciate it.”