Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 4
My front porch. It had a terrible ring to it. Good Lord, the man was really planning to live here.
“Brynn?” he said, raising an eyebrow. “The cookies?”
“What? Oh. No. They’re not for you,” she said.
“What, are you selling them or something? A grown-up Girl Scout? Because your outfit needs some work.”
“They’re my cookies. And they’re excellent. They’re too good for you.”
Will rolled his eyes and without warning hooked a hand around her upper arm and yanked her inside. “You’re being ridiculous. Don’t even try to convince me that you’d actually eat one of those cookies.”
“Why wouldn’t I eat a cookie?” she asked, weaving around moving boxes as she followed him into the kitchen.
“Please. You look like you haven’t indulged in sugar since the tenth grade.”
“Tenth grade,” she mused. “Now which year was that, the year you ran my bra up the flagpole or the year you told the entire football team that I didn’t wear underwear under my cheerleading skirt? Which was a total lie, by the way.”
Actually, both of those things had happened in ninth grade. But she wasn’t about to let on how well she remembered those moments.
Or how much they had hurt.
“Honey, I don’t think anyone believed for a second that you went without underwear. I doubt you take your panties off to shower.”
You’ve seen me without panties.
She pushed the thought aside. Immediately.
Since he didn’t yet have any chairs, they squared off on either side of the kitchen island. Will’s fingers toyed with the edge of the platter’s plastic wrap and she jerked the cookies away, the juvenile action giving her a strange surge of satisfaction. Why did it feel so good to be impolite?
“Come on, Brynny. I haven’t eaten all day and the cookies will just go to waste otherwise.”
Her eyes locked purposefully on his sulky gaze and she edged the plate out of his reach, very carefully pulled one cookie from the plate. Keeping the eye contact she very slowly took a bite, making a big show of enjoying the way the bittersweet chocolate rolled over her tongue.
She’d just add an extra mile onto her run tomorrow. It was worth it to prove him wrong.
The cookie turned to sawdust as she saw the satisfied expression on his face.
He’d known she would eat the cookie. She’d played right into his hand.
Crap. Annoyed, she handed the cookie over to him. Perhaps she’d get lucky and he’d have a recently developed chocolate allergy.
“So,” she said, looking around the kitchen. “Care to explain what game you’re playing?”
He helped himself to a second cookie. “Game?”
Brynn gave him her best withering glare. “Yes, game. There’s no way you just happened to move next door to me. You’re up to something.”
“Maybe I just liked the neighborhood.”
“You’re a thirtysomething man-whore. The suburbs are the worst possible place for you.”
Will rested his elbows on the counter and wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Maybe I’m here for the same reason you are.”
Brynn leaned on her own arms to mimic his posture. “Which is…?”
“Convincing your boy-puppet that he should marry you and have little mannequin babies.”
Brynn stood up straight, all traces of playfulness gone. The sting from James’s nonproposal was still raw, and Will’s jab hit a little too close to home.
“You know nothing about James,” she snapped.
His eyes went serious for a moment. “I know you got those earrings the size of a small dog instead of a ring for your birthday.”
Brynn carefully kept her expression blank. “I’m surprised you stayed that long. I’d have thought you’d be exploring the thong of some underage model.”
He didn’t rise to the bait. “Sophie filled me in on what I missed. I hope you ripped Jimmy a new one when you got home.”
“His name is James. And I had no reason to be upset with him,” she said softly, fiddling with a cookie crumb.
To her surprise, Will dropped the subject entirely. “Want to help me furniture shop?”
Her mouth dropped open. “You’re kidding, right? You honestly think I’d put myself willingly in your company?”
“Well, you are lingering here in my kitchen instead of setting my lawn on fire, so I thought it was worth a shot.”
Brynn tapped manicured fingernails on the marble counter. What was she still doing here? “I’m leaving,” she retorted. “Just tell me how long you plan to draw out this little joke.”
“This next-door-neighbor crap. You don’t belong here.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, for starters, your car only seats two people. That’s about a quarter as many seats as you need to belong in this neighborhood.”
“Maybe I’m on the hunt for a family.”
“Everyone here already has a family. There’s no possible reason you could want to live here other than to annoy me. Just come clean already.”
Will stood up straight. “I hate to break it to you, Princess, but you’re going to have to get used to me. I’m sorry I don’t fit into the box you’re trying to stuff me into, but I’m not going to apologize because I wanted a break from the swanky-high-rise-condo scene.”
“Fine,” she said, trying to keep her tone as cool as his. “You want your fill of minivans and Bed Bath & Beyond, have at it. But why this neighborhood? You can’t tell me it was just a coincidence.”
His face betrayed nothing as he lifted a shoulder. “Okay, fine, it wasn’t a coincidence. As much as you’d like to think we don’t have anything in common, there is one area where we’re very much alike…we like the best. When Sophie said you’d moved to Foxgrove, I thought it was worth checking out. I knew you lived close, but I didn’t know you lived right next door. That’s the honest-to-God truth.”
Brynn pursed her lips and studied him, looking for all possible signs of a lie. There were none.
“You really want to live next door to me?” she asked.
“Not particularly,” he said, grabbing a third cookie. “But neither do I feel like reentering the real estate market just to get away from you.”
She licked her lips nervously and asked the question that had been on her mind since he opened the door. “So this isn’t about…you know…”
He leaned forward as though waiting for her to finish the sentence. “You’ll have to forgive me, but it’s pretty hard to read you beneath all that snooty pretension.”
That snooty pretension is the only thing that keeps me safe from lechers like you, she thought.
“Well?” he prompted.
“You’re being here has nothing to do with that night?”
“What night?” he asked, blue eyes all innocence.
“That night. The one, where we, you know…”
“Fucked like rabbits?”
Brynn winced. “God, Will.”
“Yes, I do believe you called me ‘God’ a few times.”
“You’re appalling,” she spat.
“Maybe. But you certainly didn’t think so on that night,” he said, reaching out a hand to toy with the end of her hair.
She backed up into a pile of moving boxes. “Don’t touch me.”
His eyes went flat. “No problem. I don’t need the frostbite.”
“So funny,” she snapped, as she grabbed her platter of cookies and headed toward the front door. “Just promise me you’re not going to mention our little episode to anyone.”
“They won’t hear it from me,” he said following her into the foyer. “But, Brynn, I’ve gotta tell you…”
“What?” she snapped, yanking open the door and turning to face him. “What do you need to tell me? That my ass looks big? That you can see my roots?”
“No,” he said thoughtfully. “Although both are true.”
“Nice,” she muttered.
“But what I wanted to say, was that this is the second time you’ve arrived on my front porch. Once you offered sex. The second time you offered cookies.”
“Well, I just wanted you to know…” His eyes went hot as they ran down the front of her body and she shivered at the memory of what they’d been like together.
“Yeah?” she asked, hating that her voice was husky.
Will leaned forward until his mouth was near her ear. “I think I like the cookies better.”
With that, he grabbed the platter from her hand and slammed the door in her face.
Brynn stood there for several moments caught somewhere between anger and arousal.
And maybe something that felt like pain, which was ridiculous. She and Will had been trading barbs since puberty.
But this one had felt…personal.
And she was pretty damn sure that where Will Thatcher was concerned, personal was tantamount to dangerous.
Friendships between men and women should be avoided. They rarely end well.
—Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an
Exemplary Life, #48
Brynny, guess what?”
Brynn glanced up to where her sister danced happily in the doorway, grateful for a relief from her honors biology homework.
Sophie bounced into her room, flouncing onto Brynn’s carefully made bed with gusto.
“Why are you still in your cheerleading outfit?” Brynn asked, glancing at the clock. “I thought the freshman practice was over a couple hours ago.”
Sophie gave a mischievous grin. “It was.”
Brynn’s eyes narrowed, looking her younger sister up and down for signs of trouble. “Did Mel bring you home?”
“Nope.” Sophie twirled her hair and grinned.
“This guessing game is superfun, but just tell me whatever’s got you so bouncy.”
Actually, Sophie was always bouncy. And normally Brynn didn’t mind in the least. She kind of liked having a sister who was queen of the freshman class. Brynn did her best to be friendly and outgoing, but it had never come naturally. Not like it did to her sister.
“I got asked to prom.”
Brynn’s eyes bugged. out. “Prom? But you’re a freshman!”
“Yup. The only one going, that I know of.” Sophie’s voice wasn’t quite gloating. But it was close.
“With whom? Sophie, Mom and Dad are going to totally flip. Not in the good way.”
“Don’t worry, he’s totally the clean-cut kind of guy they want to see their baby girl with.”
Brynn wrinkled her nose, trying to think of options. It would have to be a junior or senior. Freshmen and sophomores weren’t allowed to prom unless asked by upperclassmen.
“Daniel Saunders?” Brynn asked.
“Brian what’s-his-name with the freckles?”
“Hasn’t he had a girlfriend since like second grade?”
Brynn shrugged. “Who, then?”
Sophie flopped onto Brynn’s pillow and gave a little squeal. “Will Thatcher.”
Something sharp seized at Brynn’s chest.
She just didn’t know if it was panic…or pain.
* * *
“How many copies of The Shining does one person need?”
Will glanced over to where Sophie was pulling his DVD collection out of a box. “There are multiple releases with different special features. And you’re not putting them in the right order.”
Sophie paused in lining them up messily on the shelf. “There’s an order? For the exact same movie?”
“If you want to help me unpack, they go in order by release date,” he said, returning to his own unpacking duties.
“Nobody wants to help somebody else unpack,” Sophie muttered as she began turning the DVD cases over and checking dates. “It’s just what friends do.”
“Speaking of which, you were supposed to bring Gray with you. I need his help in moving my pool table to where I want it.”
“First of all…there’s no way you two can move the pool table on your own. It’s probably time to extend your male social circle beyond one. And second, I didn’t bring Gray because then you and I couldn’t have our girl talk.”
Sophie cleared her throat. “Ahem. That was a hint to go fetch wine?”
He rolled his eyes, but headed into the kitchen to comply. Most of the time, having a woman as a best friend was useful. Hell, most of the time he barely even noticed that Sophie was a woman.
But there were times when a man would have been preferable. Times when he didn’t want to talk.
Times like now.
But he hadn’t been able to turn her away. He harbored a fair amount of guilt for ditching Sophie when he’d moved to Boston. Not that she’d ever guilt-tripped him about it…Soph always had his back. But he’d known she’d been hurt that he hadn’t given her any warning about moving across the country.
The thing was, he couldn’t have given her warning even if he’d wanted to. Because Will himself hadn’t even contemplated the move until exactly three days before he’d actually gotten on that plane.
Weighing even heavier on his conscience was the one and only secret he’d ever kept from Sophie. The one that had him moving to Boston in the first place.
“White or red?” he called.
“Surprise me,” she hollered back. He heard a crashing noise and winced. Sophie wasn’t exactly the most careful of souls. Thank God he’d put all of the boxes marked FRAGILE out of her reach.
He poured them both liberal glasses of one of his favorite Cabernet Sauvignons and headed back to his living room. Sophie’s expression was all innocence, and Will pretended he didn’t see that his Aliens anniversary edition case had a new crack in it. He’d always found the movie overrated anyway.
Will smiled as Sophie took a massive gulp of wine. There was no swirling, no sniffing, no savoring on the palate. Just unpretentious good old-fashioned drinking. It was one of the reasons he loved her. There was nothing complicated about Sophie. At least, she’d never been complicated to him. She said what she wanted, did what she wanted, and before you could figure out whether she was brilliant or pure fluff, she’d already moved on, recruiting yet another person to her fan club.
“When are you going to get some furniture?” Sophie grumbled as she stood and stretched.
“Monday,” Will said absently, taking in the unfamiliar setting that was his new backyard. He’d never really thought much about where he lived. Hell, he’d spent the better part of his twenties living in hotel rooms while he tried to secure investors. But he was surprised to find that he sort of liked having the extra space. He would have moved into a shoe box if that’s what the plan required, but this was better. Much better.
“So,” Sophie said, coming up beside him and gazing out at the newly stained deck. “When are you going to fill me in?”
Will didn’t pretend to play dumb. But neither was he ready to come clean.
“I already told you,” he said, keeping his voice light. “I was ready for a change.”
That part, at least, was true. The constant moving, the sterile furniture, the high-rise city views had begun to feel a bit stale.
“Uh-uh,” Sophie said, taking another gulp of wine. “If you’d wanted a change, you would have tried a new city. You wouldn’t have come back to Seattle. There’s nothing new here.”
I don’t want new.
“Does this have anything to do with my sister?” Sophie asked, turning to face him. “Is this like some new level of psychotic in the little war you two kids won’t let go of?”
Will didn’t answer. Didn’t have to.
Sophie groaned. “Oh God, it is about Brynn. I should have known when you started asking so many questions about where she lived. And here I thought it was just a little good old-fas
“You act like I’m out to ruin her life,” Will grumbled. Sophie’s tone didn’t bode well for him. Sophie and Brynn were close. If Soph thought Brynn didn’t want him around, this was going to be one painful uphill battle.
“I know you guys get some sort of perverse enjoyment out of the whole fighting-like-cats-and-dogs thing,” Sophie said. “But isn’t it getting a little…old?”
For a second Will wanted to tell Sophie everything. About that night. About his agenda. About how seeing Brynn again made him feel like a pathetic boy trying to get the attention of the girl he liked by pulling her hair.
But he couldn’t risk that Sophie would tell all to her sister and scare Brynn off before he even had a chance.
“She’s happy, you know,” Sophie said softly.
Of all the things that Sophie could have said, that, quite possibly, was the worst.
What if he was wrong? What if his presence here did nothing but make her miserable? He wanted to shake her up and challenge her, not ruin her life.
“Tell me about this James guy,” Will said, trying to keep his tone indifferent.
Sophie looked at him closely. “I thought I already did. In fact, I distinctly remember giving you the full scoop on the phone the other day.”
“You gave me the résumé version,” Will said, turning and leaning against the window. “I want the paparazzi version. This guy could be my neighbor one day soon.”
“I doubt that,” Sophie muttered, settling onto one of the larger moving boxes.
“Oh?” Will asked. Casually. Too casually. “You don’t think he’s ‘the one’ or whatever you women call it?”
Sophie shrugged. “On paper, they make sense. And God knows my mother’s done enough interrogating of the guy to determine that he definitely wants a family someday. So he and Brynn are pretty much perfectly aligned right down to their hourly to-do lists.”
“But…?” Will prompted.
“There’s something missing,” Sophie mused.
“You always think that about Brynn’s boyfriends,” Will said. Not that he ever disagreed with Sophie.
“That’s because she keeps choosing the wrong ones,” Sophie said, waving her wineglass around wildly. “She picks these perfect guys that are mirror images of herself. And she wonders why she gets bored.”
LAUREN LAYNE SERIES:
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