Made for you the best mi.., p.3

Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 3

 

Made for You (The Best Mistake)
 


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  “You’re not taking me home?” she asked.

  James glanced across the dark car at her. “I thought we’d stay at my place tonight.”

  “You could have asked.”

  He blinked in surprise at her tone. “I can take you home if you want.”

  “No, it’s fine,” she said, slumping back slightly against the seat.

  “It’s just that you’re so out of the way…”

  Brynn closed her eyes and let James’s lecture roll over her. He didn’t like the fact that she lived thirty minutes away from the “action,” and told her so at every opportunity.

  The move had seemed a good idea at the time. She was sick of downtown living. Moving to the suburbs had meant more space, a garden, actual grass…and lots of family-minded neighbors. The move was supposed to be a prompt for James. A chance for him to see how happy the young families were pushing strollers on the sidewalks and having impromptu BBQs.

  But Brynn’s plan backfired. James hated her house. Hated that she had to hire someone to mow the lawn and water plants when they went on vacation. And the guy never missed a chance to remind her that she was too young to be so far away from everything. Apparently he was so sick of the “wilderness” of suburbia that he’d resorted to kidnapping her.

  After circling several blocks, James executed a perfect parallel-parking job. “You okay walking? We’re a few blocks from my place.”

  “Now, see, if we were at my place, you could have just parked in the garage,” she couldn’t help griping.

  James sighed as he pulled the keys from the ignition. “What’s wrong, Brynn? You’re irritable, and I’d like to understand why. So let’s have it.”

  But she didn’t even know where to start. How about with the fact that her thong was riding up her ass? Or that her boyfriend apparently had no intention of marrying her in this century?

  Or the fact that nobody had told her Will Thatcher was back in town?

  She made a low, growling noise in her throat. It wasn’t fair to be mad at her family. They’d probably thought they were doing her a favor by not mentioning his arrival. It was no secret that Will and Brynn didn’t get along.

  But still, a little warning would have been nice. Sophie might have at least mentioned that she’d invited Brynn’s mortal enemy to her birthday party.

  Worst of all, the guy had looked…good. Brynn had always been so sure that the golden-boy good looks he’d flaunted in high school would give way to middle-age paunch and thinning hair. Instead, his blond, blue-eyed movie-star looks had improved with age.

  His personality had not.

  “I’m sorry,” she said, giving James a weak smile. “I think I had too much champagne. I have a headache.”

  “No problem,” he said, easily accepting her nonexplanation like she’d known he would. He opened his door. “I think you were entitled to a couple extra glasses. You’re officially into your thirties now, after all.”

  “Oh, by all means, let’s break out the confetti,” she muttered under her breath.

  James came around the car to open her door for her as he always did, but she beat him to it. Normally she liked his old-fashioned chivalry, but tonight she wanted to tell him to shove it. He set his hand lightly on her back and she resisted the urge to squirm away. It felt possessive for someone who didn’t want to put a ring on it.

  What was wrong with her tonight?

  “It was nice seeing all of your friends in one place,” he said, as they strolled along the quiet Seattle sidewalk. “And it was good to finally meet Will. Your parents and Sophie are always talking about him.”

  “Yeah, well, he’s practically been a part of the family ever since he and Sophie became inseparable.”

  “Were they in the same class?”

  “No, when Soph was a freshman, I was a sophomore and Will was a senior.”

  And can we please stop talking about him?

  James frowned as they approached his apartment building. “So he was closer to your age, but better friends with Sophie?”

  “Sure, they dated for a while,” she snapped. “Why so interested in Will?”

  James shot her a puzzled look as he let her into the building. “No reason. Just trying to put the pieces together.”

  “There’s nothing to put together,” she said, jabbing the elevator button. “He was a horny senior who asked out a pretty freshman. They didn’t work out, but remained friends. Everyone thought they’d go all When Henry Met Sally, but then Sophie met Gray, and that’s that. End of sappy story.”

  “Let’s get you some aspirin, shall we?” James said with an amused smile.

  Whatever. Anything to get rid of this edgy restlessness and self-doubt that wouldn’t let go.

  Ten minutes later, Brynn was changing into the lingerie she kept in one of his dresser drawers, when he came into the bedroom with tea and a bottle of pills.

  “Thanks,” she said gratefully. She really did have a headache. Brynn accepted the mug and glanced up at him through the steam. She sometimes forgot that James was handsome. Not in a showy way. His dark brown hair was kept short. Shorter actually than suited him, now that she thought about it. And his eyes were a nice, sexy gold color. He worked out daily, and it showed.

  And yet, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt genuinely attracted to him. The sex was infrequent and vanilla. And she didn’t think it was all her. It wasn’t like he was making accidental boob-brushes or reaching for her in the middle of the night.

  But maybe that was okay. She was looking for a spouse, after all, not a sex toy. She’d never been one of those sappy, unrealistic types that expected the two should overlap.

  “Shall we get you into bed?” he asked, turning the covers down.

  Brynn felt both relieved and dismayed that this was apparently going to be another platonic night. “You’re not coming?” she asked, crawling between the sheets.

  “Nah, I recorded the Mariners game from earlier. You don’t mind if I go kick back?”

  “No, of course.”

  “Thanks, sweetheart.” He brushed his lips against her forehead and ran a hand over her hair. “And Brynn?”

  “Mm?”

  “Happy birthday. I hope you don’t think I was overlooking it. I was just playing it down, since I know you’re not a fan of birthdays. I tried to tell your sister, but…”

  “I know. Sophie is…persistent.”

  “But you’re not upset about the party? Or are the earrings not what you wanted?”

  Brynn set her hand on his. He was sweet. Oblivious at times, but sweet.

  “Just the headache,” she said, burrowing deeper into the blanket.

  “Okay,” he said, pulling the covers around her chin. “I’ll make breakfast tomorrow?”

  “That sounds nice. Just granola, though, since I won’t have time to work out before my first appointment.”

  She heard the bedroom door close behind James and rolled onto her side to stare out at the cloudy night. A lump formed in her throat. Had her life really become a string of just-granola mornings?

  Something was seriously wrong.

  And it wasn’t just that she was another year older.

  It wasn’t just that her boyfriend was proving to be a bit self-absorbed.

  What really had Brynn terrified was that in the moment after she realized James wasn’t going to propose she’d felt…

  Relieved.

  And she feared that the relief had everything to with the reappearance of one William Thatcher.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  Help your neighbors and they’ll help you.

  —Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an

  Exemplary Life, #98

  Brynn hadn’t even had a chance to get to her locker when her best friend pounced on her in the hallway, dragging her into an alcove.

  “What the hell, Angela?”

  But her annoyance faded into concern at the stricken expression on her friend’s face.

  “What’s wrong?


  Her friend chewed her lip. “You haven’t seen?”

  Brynn glanced at the clock on the wall. She had seven minutes until first period. Not nearly enough time to deal with Angela’s penchant for drama.

  “Haven’t seen what?” she asked impatiently.

  Her friend wouldn’t meet her eyes. “You know how the other day after cheer practice you said someone had taken your bra out of your bag in the locker room?”

  Brynn felt heat rising to her face as she looked around in embarrassment. “Jeez, say it a little louder.”

  “Well, I think I found it,” Angela said, wrapping a hand around Brynn’s wrist and dragging her toward the door.

  Brynn’s heart began to thud nervously.

  Not again. It couldn’t be happening again. Not when she’d come so far.

  Moments like this were exactly why she’d refused to let her parents send her to St. Thomas Preparatory after eighth grade with the rest of her classmates. She needed a fresh start at the public school. Needed to find a place where she wasn’t Dumpy Dalton.

  Where people didn’t stuff her book bag with candy bars, or make fun of her buckteeth whenever she had to give a presentation.

  So far, freshman year at Truman High had been the best year of her life. She’d lost the weight…had even made the cheer squad. The acne medication had cleared up the worst of the pimples, and while the braces weren’t exactly stylish, they’d already made a huge improvement on the huge front teeth she’d had her whole life.

  But this? This felt a little bit like déjà vu.

  Her pulse went into overdrive as Angela led her in the direction of the courtyard. Hardly a place where one’s bra should be. Ever.

  It took Brynn several seconds to register what she was seeing. A tiny scrap of white lace was very distinctly flapping in the breeze several inches below the American flag.

  Through the roaring in her ears, she dimly became aware of the crowds of students standing around and pointing. Laughing.

  Eight years’ worth of painful schoolyard memories came rushing back over her.

  “Nobody knows it’s yours,” Angela said softly. “Just you and me.”

  Brynn’s eyes remained locked on the small bra. Small to fit her small size. When she’d lost weight, her boobs had been the first to shrink. “No, Ang, we’re not the only ones. It’s you, me, and the jackass who did it.”

  Angela’s eyes flew open. “Do you know who it was?”

  Brynn’s eyes scanned the courtyard until they found what she was looking for. Whom she was looking for.

  His blue eyes locked with hers, much as they had a couple months earlier on the football field.

  But this time, her stomach didn’t flip in excitement. It turned in hatred. Three months ago, she’d thought Will Thatcher’s interest in her had been, well…interest.

  Turned out it was disdain. And disdain had turned into antagonism.

  You started it, she reminded herself. The first time he’d tried to talk to her, she’d been so nervous that she’d gone into what her little sister called Ice Princess mode.

  He’d been taking small hits at her ever since. Catcalling her when she walked by, telling the boy who had asked her to the homecoming dance that she was a prude…

  He’d even accidentally-on-purpose ran into her, knocking her notebooks all over the ground, only to taunt her as he’d helped her pick them up.

  But this? This was a new level of mean.

  Brynn’s eyes narrowed at the smirk on his face.

  She’d spent her entire life dealing with bullies. She could take on this one.

  It was war.

  And she was more than happy to engage.

  * * *

  Brynn took the last cookie out of the bakery bag and set it on her second-favorite white platter. She’d long ago stopped fretting about the lack of the homemade factor.

  Did she wish that she’d mastered baking? Sure.

  And she would. Someday.

  But for now she worked sixty-hour weeks and barely had time to buy flour, much less use it.

  And deep down, Brynn suspected that homemade was perhaps just a touch overrated. Why opt for homemade imperfection when you could just buy actual perfection?

  Nobody had to know. Most of her friends thought she could rival Betty Crocker in a baking contest.

  She hoped the new neighbors weren’t gluten-free, or whatever, because they were about to have the best chocolate chip cookies that they’d ever had. Specialty’s cookies were one of the few indulgences Brynn allowed herself once a month. Her butt wasn’t going to fit into skinny jeans without a little self-control.

  Brynn moved a couple cookies around so the plate looked symmetrical, and then headed upstairs to the bedroom to change her clothes. There was a fine line between casual-chic and casual-frump, and her favorite ratty athletic shorts were in the latter category.

  Brynn had quickly learned that while yoga pants were always fair game in the suburbs (whether or not one actually did yoga), other athletic wear was not for public consumption. Probably because being spotted in well-worn gym shorts gave away the fact that one actually had to work out to look the way they did.

  And Brynn definitely had to work at it. If she heard one more petty girlfriend complain about Brynn’s slender figure being “unfair,” Brynn was going to come unglued. She worked damn hard to keep her butt from wiggling and stomach from spilling over her jeans. She ran at least five times a week and did yoga on most weekdays. Maybe there were some women out there who were effortlessly thin. Brynn only aspired to make it look effortless.

  She knew what it felt like when none of her clothes fit. Knew the despair of realizing she had to go up a size again.

  And she was never going back down that path, no matter how much she hated the exercise or wanted the cookie.

  Pulling on a casual white skirt and short-sleeved black turtleneck, she smoothed back her hair into a low ponytail and grabbed the plate of cookies and her keys. Showtime. The moving truck had been gone for a few hours now. Plenty of time for the new family to settle in, and plenty of time for her to have made welcome to the neighborhood cookies.

  Brynn mentally kicked herself for not making it to last week’s cul-de-sac party. She’d missed whatever scoop her neighbors had on the newcomer to the neighborhood. They probably had kids. Most people in Foxgrove Estates did. She only hoped they were the quiet, intellectual type of children, and not the throw-a-baseball-through-your-living-room-window types.

  It didn’t really matter either way, though. The sad truth was, Brynn had little in common with any of her neighbors. They were all friendly and welcoming, but the group was made up almost entirely of families or couples. The only other single person was the elderly Mrs. Hoover, and she had her grandkids visit every weekend, which meant she was at least up-to-date on all the latest kid lingo. Meanwhile, Brynn had mistakenly thought Justin Bieber was a Harry Potter character, and the neighborhood’s under-twelve population had yet to let her forget it.

  The path to her new neighbor’s front door was only a few feet from her own if she cut across the grass, but walking on the lawn didn’t even cross her mind. What was she, an animal? Instead, she carefully marched down her driveway, across the sidewalk, and back up the new neighbor’s driveway toward the front door.

  As was typical in master-planned communities, this house wasn’t all that different from her own. Lots of brick, unobtrusive cream-colored paneling, and a dark mahogany front door. James was forever rambling about how McMansion-style houses like hers lacked character, which was a bit hypocritical, coming from a guy who drove the same BMW as half the other doctors at the hospital where he worked.

  But Brynn actually didn’t mind the cookie-cutter nature of the neighborhood. Why did everyone think that character had to mean haphazard quirkiness? Her house did too have character. It was just uniform, organized character. Just as she liked it.

  Nobody responded to her soft knock, so she tried the doorbell. She saw
a shadow move through the slim glass partition in the door and straightened her shoulders and put on what Sophie referred to as her “orthodontist smile.”

  The door swung open and Brynn’s vision went blurry as she felt her perfect smile crack.

  She couldn’t breathe.

  It had never occurred to her that a single, good-looking guy would answer the door. And it certainly hadn’t occurred to her that she would know him.

  Intimately.

  “Will, what the hell are you doing here? Tell me you’re working for the moving company.”

  He leaned against the door and looked down at her. His faded jeans and tight white T-shirt were perfectly acceptable for moving-day attire and yet they annoyed her to no end. The jeans hugged body parts she’d rather forget, and the shirt displayed proof that he hadn’t neglected the gym while he’d been whoring himself on the East Coast.

  “Hey, neighbor,” he said, shooting her a cocky grin.

  Hope that he was just passing through town crumbled around her feet, and her fingers clenched her cookie platter.

  “You don’t live here,” she ground out. “You can’t.”

  He shrugged. “If you say so.”

  “You live in Boston,” she said firmly.

  “Sold my place last week,” he said, reaching for the cookies.

  Brynn slapped his hand away. “Well, you can’t live here. I live there,” she said, jabbing her finger at her house to the left.

  “Do you now?”

  Brynn narrowed her eyes at him. He didn’t look the least bit surprised. He looked…smug.

  Her jaw dropped open. “You knew? You hate me that much that you can’t let me live in peace?”

  “Now who said anything about hate?” he said in a low voice.

  It might have been her imagination, but she could have sworn his eyes drifted down and lingered. Not on the cookies. Or rather, not those cookies.

  Her mouth went dry.

  “Are those for me?” he asked.

  She jerked. “Are what for you?”

  “The cookies you’re about ready to drop all over my front porch.”

 
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