Page 53

“Thomas, you try then.” Lifting her finger to Thomas’s mouth, she paused. Maybe because of the way Thomas was looking at her, or maybe because of the way she was looking at him, but it was clear they were both very conscious of each other.

Her other hand dropped to the bend of his elbow right before he opened his mouth. Holly slipped her finger inside and, just as Thomas’s lips closed around it, LJ came running into the room.

“I didn’t spill even a little bit,” he announced proudly as he set the pitcher on the counter.

This shook them both out of their stupor. Clearing her throat, Holly pulled her finger back. “What do you think? Too spicy?”

Thomas looked like he’d need a two-by-four to the head to clear his mind. I was about to go searching for one when he shook his head. “No.”

I supposed a lame one-word reply was better than no reply.

“Maybe not enough salt?” Holly suggested, looking everywhere but at Thomas. Her eyes had suddenly become allergic to him. “There’s definitely something missing.”

Thomas’s face got all deliberate. “From where I’m standing,” he said, “it’s pretty darn perfect.”

I was beginning to feel like a third wheel, so I started making my way to the table when a knock sounded at the door.

“Yay! He’s here,” India said, clapping as she rushed to the door. “Someone who will be on my side.”

I didn’t know India was going to invite her latest boy toy over for the night, not that she would have cared if I knew or approved or not. I was contemplating dodging behind my room dividers so I could change when she threw the door open.

“Anton!” she said, tossing her arms around his neck.

Anton. My exact same response, minus the enthusiasm. Actually, with the complete opposite of enthusiasm.

He was still in his checked tie and vest when India dragged him inside. He had the decency to make an apologetic face when he looked my way. That was, until he really saw me. Or saw what I was wearing. He was grinning by the time he got to the slippers, but that grin died as soon as he noticed the look I was leveling on him.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, sounding as impolite as a person could. “I thought you had some sort of hot blind date tonight.”

“The bitch canceled on him last-minute,” India answered for him, “and when my big brother texted me that for the first time ever, he’d been stood up, I couldn’t not invite him over to our first Friday-night dinner to lick his wounds. Besides, we’ve got Corona on ice, and Mama made some Jell-O shooters for the after-little-man-goes-to-bed party,” she said, nodding over at LJ, who was too busy tossing his football up in the air to pay us any attention.

“You don’t mind, do you, Lucy?” India asked, finally taking a second to look at me.

Instead of smacking Anton square across the face like I wanted to, I plastered on a fake smile. “No, why would I mind?” I said, going to the kitchen to grab another place setting. “Why wouldn’t I want my boss and my friend’s brother to join us for dinner?”

I was laying it on thick. That was obvious from the way Holly and Thomas were studying me, like I’d tripped a wire in my brain or something.

“I’m sensing the sarcasm,” India said, when I marched back to the table and slapped a plate down.

“You mean I wasn’t subtle?”

“Not exactly,” she said, as I took out a little frustration on the napkin I was folding. “Bad day at work?” she guessed.

“Understatement,” I muttered before I looked up and caught Anton staring at my cle**age. So much for Saint Anton who was impervious to what was south of a woman’s neck.

“I’m going to go,” Anton said, lifting his hands and retreating toward the door.

“Best idea you’ve had all day,” I said, crossing my arms.

“Hold up, you two,” India said, grabbing her brother’s arm and pulling him back. “What in the H-E-L-L is going on here?”

Thomas and Holly had drifted up to the table and were watching the whole thing like it was one big ol’ train wreck they couldn’t look away from.

“I can answer that with four words,” I said, crossing my arms tighter. “Anton is an A-S-S.” I glanced over at LJ, who was oblivious. Nothing but him and his football. I mourned that kind of simplicity.

India’s face scrunched up while Anton’s dropped. “You’re right. I was an”—he glanced over at LJ—“A-S-S. A huge, insensitive one. And I’m sorry.” He took a few steps my direction but stopped once I stiffened. “Will you forgive me?”

“Will you promise to stop acting like a huge, insensitive A-S-S?”

“I can’t guarantee that,” he said. “But I can promise that I’ll try.” A couple steps closer, until I could smell that damned cologne of his. “So? Forgiven?”

“Forgiven? I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. “But you can stay.” Wanting to put some space between us, I headed back into the kitchen. I was tempted to hack up the other half head of lettuce just to get some of my frustration out, but held myself back.

Instead, I cracked my neck, popped my knuckles, and grabbed a Corona. I didn’t bother with the lime.

“Lucy, my girl, I don’t know how you managed to get the first apology I’ve ever heard from my brother, but that ought to make you eligible for your own national holiday,” India said, taking a seat at the table. “Lucy Larson Puts Jack-A-S-S-E-S in Their Place Day.”

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