Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 11
Not that he hadn’t wanted it.
But it hurt all the same to see it.
The long yellow hair he’d so often dreamed about sinking his fingers into had been replaced by a dark brown hack job, and instead of her usual minimal makeup, her blue eyes were dark and smoky and…
Oh, who was he kidding. This version of Brynn was hot. A hot mess, perhaps, but still hot.
But this wasn’t his Brynn. This was the wounded, messed-up, lost version.
He’d wanted her to come to him, just not like this. But he’d take what he could get.
“Bad day?” he asked easily, leaning an arm against the doorjamb and locking his eyes with hers. He didn’t give her an extended once-over. It was what she wanted, but not what she needed.
Instead he kept his face blank. This was her game now. He just needed to know the rules.
“Can I come in?”
Her shoulders were thrown back in a show of confidence and she had that subtly defiant look on her face that he knew all too well, but her eyes told another story.
Her eyes were terrified. Vulnerable.
He let her in.
“What’s with the outfit?” he asked, stepping aside so she could enter. “Was it bordello-chic day at the office?”
“I didn’t go into the office,” she said, heading to the kitchen like she owned the place. “Well, I mean, I did. But not to work.”
He raised his eyebrows behind her back. Brynn not working on a random Thursday. That was new.
“I didn’t go to work all week, actually,” she added.
“Oh yeah?” he asked, going to the fridge and pulling out a bottle of wine. It was one of her favorites, but he didn’t let her see the label. He was worried this version of Brynn would start asking questions that the real Brynn wasn’t ready to hear the answers to. Like why he kept her favorite wine stocked. Always. Just in case.
She nodded in thanks as he slid a glass across the counter, then picked up it up and wandered toward the living area.
“The furniture looks good.”
“Even with the ‘gaudy’ couch?” he asked, pouring a glass for himself.
She shrugged and flung herself on the black leather couch as though she hadn’t launched a one-woman crusade against the “pinnacle of trashiness” just a week earlier.
He wanted to sit next to her. To have her swing her legs over his knees, kick off the scary shoes she was wearing, and talk about whatever had her dressing up like a harlot wannabe.
Wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to try so hard. She didn’t have to try to be perfect, or in this case, try to be imperfect. That with him, she could just be.
Still, Will had to admit, while the clothing was completely out of character, she pulled it off well. He was used to seeing her in cardigans and silk and perfectly tailored slacks, so this new look was a shock to the system. The dark jeans fit her like a second skin, cutting off at trim ankles to reveal high-heeled black patent leather stilettos that could kill a man. And the shirt, if you could even call it that, was fitted, red, and tiny. It wasn’t low-cut…he didn’t think Brynn Dalton was ready for that, but it was one of those strapless numbers that stayed up only because it was tight as hell.
One tiny tug downward, and…
“So what’s with the midlife crisis?” he asked, taking a sip of wine and sitting in the chair across from the couch. Distance felt really important right about now.
“Why does everyone keep calling it that?” she asked with a frown. “Do you all think I’m going to die at sixty-two?”
“With all the organic shit that you eat, and nine thousand fitness classes? I doubt it.”
“I quit my job today,” she announced, taking a too-big sip of wine.
Will was careful to keep his face bland even as he felt a little flare of panic. “Oh?”
She took another sip of wine. “Well, not quit quit. Just…a sabbatical.”
He relaxed slightly. Not because he cared about whether or not she ever went back to orthodontics again, but because he didn’t want her making any decisions when she was all torn up over a guy. At least he was pretty sure that’s what it was, but damn if he’d ask. She’d come this far. She’d have to come a little bit further.
“And what do you plan to do during this sabbatical?”
She narrowed her eyes at him slightly. “You’re being nice. Why are you being nice?”
Because you’re broken. “Just checking out your new look.”
“Oh.” She glanced down at herself before running a nervous hand through her short hair. “You like it?”
Brynn held out her glass for a refill. “That’s what people say when they think something’s awful and they’re trying to be polite.”
“When have I ever been polite?” he asked.
“True. Can I have more wine? What kind is it? It’s good.”
He stood to head toward the kitchen and ignored her question. “Why is it that you seem to need to be drunk in order to be in my presence?”
“Not drunk. Although I have been having a lot of wine lately. Just…I dunno. Look, I live like twenty steps away. And if I have a little headache tomorrow, it’s not your problem.”
Will obediently went to the fridge for the bottle. Two glasses wouldn’t kill her, but no way was he going to let her get drunk. That was the easy way out.
“So when did he dump you?” he asked bluntly as he refilled her glass.
To his surprise, she didn’t even flinch. “Last Wednesday.”
He eyed her closely as he topped off his own glass. “You seem…okay with it.”
Brynn flopped back on the couch, and to his relief, she didn’t immediately dive into the wine. “Of course I’m not okay with it. I thought I was going to marry the guy.”
Something clenched in Will’s chest but he forced himself not to move. “I take it he had other plans?”
“Your way of asking if there was someone else?”
“He didn’t cheat,” she said, looking down at her black-painted nails as though surprised they belonged to her. “But he ‘met someone.’ This crazy, dumpy woman who’s not at all his type.”
Will gave a slight nod. “Those are always the ones that get you.”
Her eyes locked on his. “Have you ever had one of those? A woman that’s not your type, I mean?”
You have no idea.
“I don’t know that I have a type,” he replied.
“That’s true. You’ve always been of the if it has boobs I’m on it mentality.”
Will hid his wince. Her tone was so matter-of-fact, and she wasn’t entirely wrong. Based on what she’d seen of his behavior over the years, he did seem to pant over anything with the right reproductive parts.
“For what it’s worth, you’re better off without him,” he said, trying to redirect the conversation back to her.
Brynn narrowed her eyes. “What’s the catch? That almost sounds like a compliment.”
“Just because I don’t like you, doesn’t meant I can’t like Jimmy less.”
She gave a little laugh at that. A soft, self-depreciating, tiny laugh, but she wasn’t busting his balls or getting huffy or throwing her wineglass at him just for being alive.
Could this be…progress?
“So what’s next in this little crisis?” he asked, gesturing at her with his wineglass. “Piercings? Motorcycle? Tattoo?”
To his surprise, her face lit up at the last one. “A tattoo! Do you think I should get one?”
Oh no. She was worse off than he’d thought.
“Well, you know…those are kind of…permanent.” Will shifted uncomfortably at being put in the role of the responsible one. “Do you think this, um…phase is permanent?”
“Oh gosh, no,” she said, running a hand over her newly dark hair and taking a little sip of wine. “This is just a month-long hiatus to clear my head and get back on track. A vacation. B
“How about a little less forever kind of reminder? Like…spiky earrings or a charm bracelet or something? Hell, you could just put those trampy clothes under your bed when you’re done with them, and use those as your memento.”
But Brynn wasn’t paying attention. She had that thoughtful-Brynn expression, which usually meant she was cataloging her dry cleaning, but apparently this time meant tattoo deliberation.
“Maybe just a little quote on my ankle, like seize the day, or something,” she said excitedly.
“Or, hell, why not just go for a huge tarantula tramp stamp? Or a python crawling up your torso.” He snapped his finger as though enlightened. “Wait, no. How about that ridiculous life list scrawled across your butt?”
Brynn sniffed. “For the record, that list is retired for a few weeks. But even if it weren’t it would never fit on my butt. It’s much too extensive and detailed…”
He shook his head. “This isn’t happening, right? We’re not actually having this conversation?”
“Oh, come on. Of all people, I thought you’d get behind my little rebellion.”
Will’s hand paused briefly as he brought the wineglass to his mouth. “Is that why you’re here? Because I’m the only person in your life that won’t freak out because you’ve gone off the deep end?”
“Sophie would be pissed if she heard you talking right now,” Brynn replied, sitting up straight and setting her wineglass on the end table that she’d picked out. “She’d totally kill to see me through this little transformation. She’s only been pushing for me to let loose for about a decade now.”
“So why aren’t you at Soph’s, then?” he asked, standing and grabbing both their glasses before heading to the kitchen. She’d barely touched her second glass, but he needed to do something with his hands to keep them off her.
Brynn trotted after him. “Well, let’s see…It’s a Tuesday, so she must be having copious amounts of sex with Gray.”
“How did you know I wasn’t having copious amounts of sex before you barged in here?”
Brynn leaned her forearms on the counter and studied him. “Lucky guess. You haven’t had any women over since moving in.”
He arched a brow at her. “Spying?”
“Observant. So what gives? You haven’t been this celibate since the womb. Waiting for some STD medication to kick in?”
Why do you care?
“Why are you really here, Brynn?” he asked. It felt strange to cut through the bullshit with her. They were all about the bullshit. But he didn’t know his way around this new Brynn. And losing his footing now would completely derail his plan.
“I wanted to talk. And you live next door.” She didn’t meet his eyes.
Will crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the kitchen counter before making a rude buzzing noise. “That’s not it. Try again.”
Brynn licked her lips slightly. Lips that were just a shade brighter than her usual look, and more kissable than ever. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”
Yes, you do.
He itched to go to her, but he had to know what she was after first. Jogging her memory seemed a good place to start. He let his eyes go slightly sleepy as they raked over her, lingering on her mouth once more. “Really? So you don’t remember the last time we were alone together in a kitchen?”
She picked at a fingernail—a sure sign she wasn’t herself, because the Brynn Dalton he knew would never settle for a less-than-perfect manicure. “Sure, the day you moved in. I brought homemade cookies.”
“They weren’t homemade, and you know it. You also know that’s not the kitchen encounter I was talking about.” He pushed away from the counter and began moving carefully toward her. Decisively enough to let her know he wasn’t fooling around, but not so quickly as to scare her off.
“Well, you said the last one,” she said primly.
He resisted the urge to grind his teeth as he oh-so-slowly backed her against the counter. “Sorry. I should have said the last one that mattered. You know, three years ago…a different kitchen…a certain surprise drop by…”
Will slowly moved his arms until his hands were on either side of her hips on the counter. Watching her closely, he was ready for anything. Ready for her to scamper away. Ready for a scathing cut-down. He was even ready for the potential slap, because maybe this new Brynn wouldn’t tolerate being backed into a counter. God knows the old Brynn hadn’t.
But of all the things Will was prepared for, it wasn’t for her to stand on her toes and kiss him. Hard.
Before he could register her soft body against his, she was on him, her fingers sliding around his neck at the exact moment her tongue slid against his.
And if maybe there was a tiny voice warning not like this, he didn’t pay it the least bit of attention. Instead he took what she was offering, because Goddammit, it had been too long.
Will slid one hand up along her side, letting his palm brush the outside of her breast before clamping a hand around the back of her head and jerking her mouth closer so he could take control of the kiss. He heard her little gasp of surprise as his tongue pushed into her mouth and slid hotly along hers before he drew back and raked his teeth along her bottom lip. His other hand remained planted on her hips, his fingers digging into her tight little butt as he let himself rub against her once, twice. Three times. Refusing to kiss her again until she moaned in acquiescence. And when she let out a low frustrated moan, he gave her what she was looking for, taking her mouth again and again in hot, drugging kisses.
Distantly he became aware of her doing a little claiming of her own. The woman who was tugging at his hair and writhing against him was not the refined, cautious Brynn he knew.
He’d seen only glimpses of this Brynn once before on a night all too similar to this one. A night that had ended with her treating him like a tawdry one-night stand to be ashamed of.
The memory had him pulling back. Hell, it was the only thing that could have him pulling back.
It took her a second to realize that his mouth was no longer on hers, although he couldn’t bring himself to take his hands off her. Not yet. His fingers slid around the back of her neck, tipping her head up and forcing her to meet his eyes.
She touched the tip of her tongue to her swollen upper lip, and her eyes held a beguiling combination of confusion and want, and he almost dove in again.
But first he had to know. “What are you doing here?”
He waited for her to tell him that they’d made a mistake. Another one. Waited for her to tell him that she wanted another one-night stand with no strings attached. Waited for her to break his heart. Again.
But Brynn wasn’t done with the surprises tonight.
Her blue eyes lifted to his, made slightly edgy with a dark smudge of makeup. “I was kind of thinking you might be part of my midlife crisis. You know, as a fling.”
Will forced himself not to respond. It wasn’t as much as he hoped and yet was more than he feared.
He didn’t want to be her rebound. Or at least not just her rebound.
And yet, God help him…
He was going to say yes.
A woman’s body is a temple.
It should be treated as such.
—Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an
Exemplary Life, #55
You can’t be serious about this.”
“I’m always serious,” Brynn said, shooting Will a death glare. Honestly, for a guy who’d sworn to be her personal tour guide through the land of rebellion, he was turning out to be a total stiff.
Starting with the night he’d verbally agreed to her frenemy-with-benefits suggestion before dumping her on his front porch and telling her he was tired. She’d assumed he’d come around the next day to collect. He hadn’t. Nor the day after that.
Then he’d dropped by with pizza, and then left without
Hell, she half expected him to show up with flowers, and that scared the crap out of her, because it would mean he was up to something.
So Brynn had done what she needed in order to regain control of the situation.
She’d taken him to a tattoo parlor.
“What do you think about this one?” she asked, pointing toward a tiny purple butterfly. “Maybe on my butt or something?” Where nobody will ever see it.
Will glanced over her shoulder at the binder. “Don’t embarrass yourself.”
Brynn turned the page and planted her finger on a skull with pink roses for eyes. “Okay, then, how about this one?”
“Not unless you’re a cross-dressing trucker.”
“If you’re not going to help, you might as well go home.”
“Really? Because if that’s an option…”
Brynn clamped her fingers around his wrist, enjoying the way the dark blue of her new manicure looked against his forearm. “You said you’d have a fling with me.”
Will let out a long-suffering sigh. “Which I thought meant no-strings-attached sex, not hanging out in a dirty tattoo parlor on a random Friday morning.”
“It’s not dirty! I did a lot of research for one that was clean and respectable.” And you turned down the sex.
“There!” he said, jabbing a finger at her. “That right there is proof that you shouldn’t get a tattoo. You researched first? Tattoos are supposed to be spontaneous. Or at the very least, about the ink itself, not how often the place dusts.”
“I don’t care how often they dust so long as the needles are clean,” she said with a lot more confidence than she felt. Actually, she did care about how often they dusted, but there weren’t exactly a whole lot of high-class tattoo parlors out there.
“We are not having this conversation,” Will muttered. But he reluctantly lowered himself into the seat next to her. She’d been sitting in the small waiting area for nearly twenty minutes under the guise of deciding on her “ink.” But she was pretty sure both Will and the kid behind the desk knew what she was up to.
LAUREN LAYNE SERIES:
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