Holly jumped up and stopped LJ from unpausing the movie. “Let’s get your pajamas on, LJ,” she said, steering him down the hall. One thing Holly had learned about Jude over the years: When he was pissed, he wouldn’t take the time to spell out select words that weren’t meant for little ears. Thomas rushed after them.
“It would be nice to see you, too, if you weren’t horizontal next to another guy.” Jude’s glare didn’t leave Anton once, like he was hoping he’d combust if he stared long enough.
“Let me guess who this chump is . . .” he said. “The man whose gravestone is about to read, ‘Anton Xavier.’”
I knew I should be embarrassed that my fiancé was acting like this. I knew I should be mortified. But I was too angry for that.
“And you must be the very noncontrolling Jude Ryder,” Anton replied, sitting up on his elbows.
If there was a silver lining to this testosterone showdown, it was that the jabs wouldn’t leave bruises.
“Anton,” Jude said, sitting up straighter. “You’re shorter than I pictured you.”
Kill me. Kill me right now. Why wasn’t I hitting that end button? Why hadn’t I hit it the instant LJ handed that sucker over to me?
Because I was an idiot, that’s why.
I hopped up and headed for the kitchen, hoping Anton would stay where he was so I could start with the damage control. Of course Anton shot up and was only two steps behind me when I stopped in the kitchen.
“Jude,” Anton said, moving in front of the screen. “Your head’s smaller than I thought it would be.”
“Cute. Real cute.” The veins in Jude’s neck looked ready to burst. “I hope you’re gutsy enough to say something like that to me in person.”
“I’m gutsy enough.”
Jude grinned a tad manically for my liking. “Something to look forward to.”
I was starting to wonder if their next display of manhood would include whipping their dicks out and comparing size. I elbowed Anton, hoping he’d take a clue. Not happening.
“You planning on being at Friday-night dinner two weeks from now?” Jude asked.
“If I’m invited.”
“You’re not,” I said instantly.
“Yes, he is,” Jude said, that joker smile turning up a notch. “That is, if you’re gutsy enough.”
“I’ll be here.” Anton did what I guessed to be a Face Time stare-down with Jude.
“No, you won’t. You’re not invited,” I said.
“I invited him, Luce.”
I moved the phone closer, until my face took up the entire screen. “And I just uninvited him.”
“Sorry, Luce. But that apartment’s just as much mine as it is yours. And I invited him.”
I was losing my grip. My fiancé and my boss were fighting over me like I was some shiny trophy. This was the last straw.
“Fine. You want to invite Anton? Invite Anton,” I seethed, as my hands began trembling. “You boys have fun, because I sure as shit won’t be here.” Jude’s forehead lined as his eyes finally softened when they took me in. “Now, if you boys are done cockfighting, you’re going to leave right now,” I ordered, pointing Anton in the direction of the door. “And I’m hanging up on you,” I said, narrowing my eyes at Jude.
“Luce,” he began, but I was true to my word. Before Jude could get another word out, I did what I should have done three minutes ago.
I punched end.
“Lucy, I’m sorry,” Anton said.
“Get out,” I said, pointing toward the door. “Just get out. I’ve had enough for one day.”
Anton looked like he wanted to say more, but for once he kept quiet. After letting out a long sigh, he headed for the door and didn’t look back.
Jude’s calls started coming in thirty seconds later. I didn’t answer them. I wasn’t ready.
India had snoozed through the whole Face Time call from hell, and Holly, Thomas, and LJ had stayed hidden in the bedroom until the coast was clear. When it was, Thomas came back into the living room, wrapped me up in his arms, and didn’t let go until I’d almost fallen asleep.
He carried me to my bed and tucked me in before crawling back into the ginormous fort and falling asleep himself.
It was a little past midnight, and I was stuck in that place between sleep and awake, when I finally answered Jude’s call. It wasn’t an exaggeration to guess he’d called at least fifty times.
“Hey, Mr. Persistent,” I said in a sleepy voice.
“Luce.” He sighed. I could feel his relief in that one word.
“You were out of line tonight, Ryder,” I said, reminding myself to stay calm.
“I know,” he replied, his voice all low and rough, like he hadn’t said a word in days. “But so were you, Luce.”
“Huh?” I sat up in bed. “I wasn’t the one verbally threatening to kill a man.”
“No. No, you weren’t. But you were the one cuddled up to him and practically sharing a pillow.”
“Yeah, Anton was next to me. So was India. And Thomas. And Holly. And LJ, too. We were all camped out on the floor watching Ice Age in a kick-ass fort.” With all the Face Time calls Jude and I had been doing, it felt strange just talking to him. I couldn’t read the expressions on his face; I could only guess how he felt from his voice.