Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 5
“She said that? That she’s bored?” Will asked.
“Well, no,” Sophie admitted. “Admitting boredom would be akin to admitting mistake, and that would send her over the edge. But it’s obvious that there’s no spark.”
“Maybe Brynn doesn’t want spark.”
“That’s just the problem. She needs it.”
He wanted to ask more questions.
How many guys had Brynn seen since he’d left?
How many had she slept with?
Did she ever mention him?
But Sophie was already looking at him suspiciously.
“Want pizza?” he asked, wanting to distract her.
“I had a salad for dinner.”
“So?” he asked, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket.
“So of course I want pizza,” Sophie said, heading into the kitchen, presumably for more wine. “Hey, you want me to start on this pile of boxes here?”
Naturally, she’d spotted the breakable items. “Nope, I want to finish up in here first,” he called. “Bring that bottle with you.”
“What’s with the cookies?” Sophie asked, returning to the room just as he finished ordering the pizza.
“The cookies on the counter,” she said, gesturing with the bottle. “They’re awesome.”
“Brynn brought them over. She made a big show about them being homemade, but I call bullshit.”
“Yeah, those are definitely from Speciality’s,” Sophie said with a dreamy look. Then her eyes narrowed on him. “So Brynn knows you’re here, huh? I bet she shat a brick when she saw you.”
Will gave a wry smile. “Let’s just say she needed a tranquilizer. She thinks I’m here to make her life miserable.”
“Well, aren’t you?” Sophie asked.
Will was taken aback by the seriousness in his best friend’s tone. He guessed he’d always known on some level that Brynn came first in Sophie’s life. Sibling relationships were like that…not that he had any personal experience.
But it still chafed that she was so sure that he had nothing to offer other than annoyance. Not that he’d given either woman reason to think otherwise. For as long as he could remember, it had been him vs. Brynn, with Sophie doing her best to play mediator without taking sides.
The sad part was, he couldn’t even really remember when the war had started. He knew from Brynn’s perspective it had started when he, as a hotshot, cocky high school junior, had snagged her bra from her cheerleading bag and put it up on the flagpole on a dare.
She had responded like a cat in a bath. And then, just because she’d become a pro at ignoring his very existence, he’d gone for the one thing that had gotten a rise out of her: her baby sister.
But Sophie had turned out to be, well…Sophie, which had turned into perhaps the one lasting platonic friendship in all of history between a freshman girl and senior boy. But despite his lasting friendship with Sophie over the years, and his eventual welcome into the Dalton family, Brynn and Will had never grown out of their roles as childhood adversaries.
He supposed he couldn’t really blame Sophie for assuming he was here to cause trouble. But if his best friend didn’t believe he might have good intentions, how the hell was he supposed to convince his worst enemy?
More disgruntled than he cared to let on, Will grumpily set Sophie back to work on unpacking his DVD collection. He’d have to rearrange everything later, but at least the monotonous task of lining them up by name and by year would keep her from rattling on about Brynn.
An hour later they were chewing on messy, cheesy pepperoni pizza, and Will became increasingly aware that Sophie’s attention was on him, and not the pizza.
Hardly typical behavior for his best friend.
He tried not to look at her. Not only because he knew the woman could read him like a book, but when she was serious like this, it spooked him how much she looked like Brynn. Same long blonde hair, same wide-set eyes, same mouth…although Sophie’s mouth was invariably a lot more smiley than Brynn’s.
“You know that I know, right?” she said, breaking the strained silence.
He irritably set his empty plate aside and walked over to one of the half-unpacked boxes. “Know what?” he asked, setting a picture of his parents on the shelf.
“About you. And Brynn.”
His fingers faltered for a moment on the frame, and he felt a burst of hope. Brynn had sworn him to secrecy on their one night together, but if she’d confided in Sophie about it, maybe she wasn’t as ashamed of the encounter as she let on.
“What do you mean?” he asked casually.
“You’re in love with her.”
His hand jerked, and the picture shattered on the floor, but neither of them moved to pick up the broken glass.
He hadn’t expected her to know that.
A million denials ran through his head, but he couldn’t bring himself to utter them. Lying to his best friend by omission was one thing. Lying straight to her face felt wrong.
“Does Brynn know?” he asked finally, hating that his voice sounded like a nervous kid before asking someone to prom.
“No,” Sophie said softly. “I think she’s still as convinced as everyone else that you hate her guts.”
He didn’t hate her guts. Not even close. Although sometimes he thought he should. The woman could be downright witchy, and was so rigid, she was one good tantrum away from exploding into a million pissy pieces.
But she could also be sweet. Not to him, of course…never to him. But he’d spent enough time watching her over the years to know that she helped old ladies take grocery bags out to their cars, and went on a fishing trip with her dad every summer even though she hated fishing. He’d also rummaged through her mail under the guise of pissing her off, and knew that she contributed to about nine hundred different charities.
She was also funny as hell, assuming one liked the prickly, caustic type of humor. He did.
None of that explained why he was completely, irrevocably wrapped up in her, but he was. Had always been.
He’d been sixteen, and he’d simply known. Known that she was the one. Even when she was busy tearing his heart out.
Will sighed and resigned himself to coming clean with Sophie. “How did you find out?”
He’d been so fucking careful. Then again, moving next door to the woman perhaps wasn’t the height of stealth.
Sophie fiddled with the case of Psycho. “I wish I could say that as your closest friend, I’ve known all along. But the truth is, I didn’t really have a clue until her birthday party the other night. When James handed Brynn that jewelry box, and we all thought…Well, I saw your face.”
Will winced. “Was it that obvious?”
She shrugged. “To others you probably just looked disgusted. But as someone who knows you best, you looked…devastated.”
“I wasn’t devastated,” he said. “Quit making a frigging soap opera out of this.”
“Use whatever man-phrase makes you comfortable,” Sophie said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “The point is, I saw you. It’s why I called you immediately after you headed out. To let you know it wasn’t what you thought.”
“Thanks for that,” he said quietly.
Those moments after he’d walked out of the party thinking he’d lost Brynn for good had been some of the worst of his life. He’d seen Brynn in a white dress walking toward someone who was not him, and it had clawed at his chest like a heart attack.
Sophie’s phone call had come just in time to stop him from getting good and thoroughly drunk.
“Although, to be honest,” Sophie was rambling, “I feel like an idiot for not seeing it before. True love hiding behind the squabbling couple is like the oldest romantic-comedy trope there is.”
“Except in the chick flicks, it’s generally mutual,” he said, leaning down to pick up the shattered picture frame.
“True,” she said, coming over to help grab the bigger pieces of shattered glass.
Will grunted. It was bad enough to know his secret was no longer a secret. He really wasn’t in the mood to have a pow-wow about it, even with Sophie. Especially with Sophie. She was Brynn’s sister, and as much as he trusted her…
“Soph, you won’t say anything, right? To Brynn? Or even to Gray?”
She hedged slightly. Secrets had never really been her forte.
“Please, Sophie. Just give me a little time.”
“But I could help! I could play matchmaker, but be supersmooth about it.”
Will gave her a look. She was about as subtle as a battering ram, which she knew full well. Smooth was absolutely not in her repertoire.
“Fine,” she muttered. “I’ll keep out of it. For now. But Will…” She stood, gingerly holding shards of glass with the tips of her finger. “You know that I’m rooting for you, but if she doesn’t feel the same way…”
“She’s a big girl, Soph,” Will said, trying to lighten the mood.
“I know,” she said, with a lift of her shoulder. “But she’s fragile under all those matching outfits, ya know?”
Actually, he didn’t know. Brynn had always been so damn flawless. But he’d always suspected that there was some piece of her that he was missing. All her die-hard dedication to perfection had to come from somewhere, he’d just never been able to figure out where.
Probably because they hadn’t had a civil conversation in…ever.
“Fragile how?” He knew he was prying, but the cat was already out of the bag. Might as well get a little information out of it.
Sophie was silent for several minutes. “Maybe ‘fragile’ wasn’t the right word. Brynn would kill me just for saying the word. But sometimes I think she’s made it her life’s mission to erase an imperfect childhood by being a perfect adult.”
Will took a sip of wine. “By ‘imperfect,’ I’m assuming you mean she once placed second in a spelling bee and never forgave herself?”
Sophie gave him a look. “You have seen some of our old photo albums, right?”
“Yeah, because that’s what every heterosexual guy longs for. To rummage through his friend’s family albums.”
“Well, if you had seen them, you’d know that Brynn hasn’t always been quite so…”
“Prim? Humorless? Slightly dead behind the eyes?”
“Well, I can tell you two are going to have sweet pillow talk,” she said. “Let’s just say she didn’t exactly hit the beauty-queen jackpot.”
Will’s eyebrows crept up. He hadn’t met Brynn until she was a little freshman hottie. He’d never done much thinking of what she’d been like before that.
“So? We all had awkward years,” he said with a shrug.
Sophie licked her lips and looked pained. “Brynn’s was more like an awkward decade. Actually, ‘awkward’ doesn’t even cover it. She was my big sister, and I idolized her because she was funny and sweet, even if she was a little—okay, a lot—overweight, and she was shy, and she had this gap the size of Africa between her teeth, and…”
Will held up his hand with a half laugh. “Tell me you have a picture of this. I can’t believe all this blackmail material was right at my fingertips and I didn’t even know it.”
Sophie was in his face in a flash. “Don’t you dare, Will. I know you two like your games, but don’t touch those years. Seriously.”
His smile faded.
Whoa. What is going on here?
“We’ve all got a few rough memories,” Sophie said more softly, “but kids can be cruel, and Brynn got more than her fair share of it.”
The pieces began fitting together and Will felt something tighten in his chest at the thought of a chubby, awkward Brynn who would have wanted so badly to fit in.
“How am I just now finding this out?” he asked softly.
“Well, gosh, I can’t imagine why Brynn wouldn’t have shared all this with you while you were torturing her,” Sophie muttered.
“Okay, in my defense, by the time I met the girl, she was queen of her freshman class.”
Sophie shrugged. “On the outside, sure. Inside she was still Dumpy Dalton. That’s what they used to call her.”
Will rocked back on his heels. Christ.
He swallowed dryly. “Soph, you ever wish you could go back and do things all over again? I mean, like all the way?”
She gave him a look. “Will, my husband once assumed I was a Las Vegas hooker. So no, of course I wouldn’t want a do-over.”
He smiled slightly at her sarcasm, but his mind was already back on Brynn. For the first time, he was finally starting to see things the way they really were.
And a part of him—a big part of him—wanted nothing more than to cradle her to him and tell her that she was not that little girl anymore. That she didn’t have to try so hard.
But the smarter part of him knew that Brynn Dalton would take anything looking even remotely like pity and shove it up his ass.
He’d have to stay the course. At least for now.
Sophie’s eyes narrowed on him. “Oh God. I know that look. You’re planning.”
“Maybe,” he said, giving her a boyish grin. “Would that be so bad?”
“Well…” she said in a thoughtful voice, flouncing toward the kitchen. “Let’s see. There was that time that Brynn told Vicki Morales that you had crabs, and you got so pissed that you let the air out of the tires of the car my parents bought her for her sixteenth birthday. She’d had the car for exactly four days before you put it out of commission, and I honest to God thought she was going to kill you…”
Will had started to follow Sophie into the kitchen, but he stopped abruptly at the long-forgotten memory of Brynn and that car. He felt a small smile slide over his face.
Little did Sophie know that she’d just provided the next step in his plan.
A tasteful watch is always in style,
as a lady is never late.
—Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an
Exemplary Life, #21
Brynn was going to be late.
She never ran late. The inability to keep track of the hour and plan for potential mishaps was just so crass.
“And of course it would be today,” she muttered as she pulled her cell phone out of her purse.
Normally Brynn’s work schedule could withstand the occasional delay. She trusted her partner completely, and Dr. Wee would be more than happy to cover one of Brynn’s patients.
But today, Brynn really wanted to be there in person. Seattle’s mayor was bringing her daughter in for an initial consultation. And while it was hardly the president, the mayor was still something of a local celebrity. It was just the sort of reference that Brynn could put on her website that would set her apart from the other orthodontist practices that were popping up with increasing regularity.
Only one tiny problem…
Her tire was flat. Beyond flat.
She flipped through the list of contacts on her phone until she found AAA. She’d been a member ever since buying her first car. She’d never needed assistance before, but she’d found it prudent to plan for emergencies. She just wished it hadn’t happened today.
Brynn patiently pushed all the requisite numbers to get through their automated call-intake system and calmly explained her situation to the woman on the other line.
“What do you mean it’ll be ninety minutes?” Brynn exploded.
Suddenly her silk blouse started sticking to her back. She hissed in frustration. She hated perspiration. It was so…pedestrian.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the polite voice was saying. “We’ll get there as soon as we can, but we only have so many available agents.”
She glanced at the Chanel watch she’d bought herself for her thirtieth birthday. The mayor’s daughter would be in her office in a little over an hour and ten minutes. There was no way she’d make it in time. Dr. Wee would just have to tak
Brynn’s eyes fell on the house next door.
The thought still made her vaguely queasy.
“You know, I think I’ll see if an, um…friend can take care of the tire for me,” Brynn heard herself saying to AAA. “Thank you anyway, though.”
She dropped her phone back into her purse and delicately pulled at her shirt with her nails to keep it from sticking to her body. Of course this would happen on what would probably be Seattle’s one hot day of the year.
Although, truthfully, she wasn’t sure what was making her sweatier: the weather, or the thought of asking Will Thatcher for help.
But Brynn was nothing if not practical. AAA wasn’t nearby, and she knew firsthand that Will was just a few hideous steps away. She’d seen him preening in front of his kitchen window that looked directly into hers.
She avoided looking in the direction of his house as often as possible, but the occasional glance had been inevitable. Best as she could tell, Will Thatcher did not seem to own a shirt. He probably enjoyed the reflection of his own pecs too much.
Brynn started marching toward his front door. If he wanted to torture her by living next door, she’d just let him see exactly what it meant to be neighborly.
She should have been prepared for it when she opened the door, but she still gaped. “For God’s sake, Will, put some clothes on. You’re going to scare the neighbor kids.”
Will stretched and leaned against the door. “Yeah, but their moms will be happy.”
“Gross,” she muttered, scooting past him into the air-conditioned home, being careful not to brush against his impeccably carved chest.
He made a valid point, though. The soccer moms would be drooling if they could see him. The man was wearing only black boxers, and the rest of him was nothing but golden skin and defined muscles.
“Why are you all shiny?” she asked with a sneer as she gingerly scraped a nail down his bicep. “You look like you just got done with a wrestling playdate with Hercules and Achilles.”
“Is that your way of saying I look like a Greek god?” he asked as his fingers locked on her finger. She jerked her hand back. She hadn’t meant to touch him.
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