Made for you the best mi.., p.7

Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 7

 

Made for You (The Best Mistake)
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  Maybe that was her problem. Brynn was a big believer in always keeping one eye on the future, but perhaps she was trying to focus on too much at once. Her life list had become overwhelming instead of being the beacon of focus it was supposed to be. Perhaps it was time to focus on just one item.

  The most important one.

  Marriage.

  And James would propose this year. She was sure of it. And then her next birthday would be perfect.

  Except…while focusing on the future usually centered Brynn, today it wasn’t working. Did she really want to spend her life merely ticking off days until her next big Life Event?

  Wasn’t there supposed to be…more?

  “You okay?” Susan asked, tilting her head to study Brynn. “You seem kind of off.”

  “A little PMS,” Brynn lied. “And the Blanton meeting gave me a headache. The mayor seems so levelheaded on TV, but up close she’s a little…intense.”

  “Aren’t they all when it comes to their darlings’ teeth? Slight overbites are the quintessential first-world problems.”

  “Does it ever get to you?” Brynn asked. “The fact that the majority of our clients come in for cosmetic reasons?”

  Susan lifted a shoulder. “I guess I sort of knew it coming into it, ya know? I mean, I know it’s not saving lives, but it’s good money, good hours…”

  “But is it fulfilling?”

  Susan blinked in surprise. “Of course. I love my job.”

  Brynn loved her job too. At least, she was pretty sure she did. Sometimes it felt a little less like love, and a lot more like…contentment.

  But that was good enough, right?

  “I’ll grab our lunches,” Susan said, standing. “You bring a salad?”

  “Yeah,” Brynn said distractedly. It was Wednesday; of course she’d brought a salad.

  “Cool. I have some Midol in my purse. You’ll feel better by the time your one o’clock gets here.”

  “Thanks, Sue,” Brynn said distractedly as her tiny friend walked out of the office with perfect posture.

  Her smile slipped as soon as her friend was out of sight. Somehow she didn’t think Midol would fix whatever was bothering her.

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  Take one day a week for solitude and reflection.

  Sundays are “me” days.

  —Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an

  Exemplary Life, #76

  Brynn had spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what “favor” Will would call in for helping with the flat tire.

  She should have known better than to ask him for help. Heaven forbid he just do the decent thing and help a girl out.

  But a week had passed and he hadn’t done more than wave at her from his kitchen window or “accidentally” knock over her recycling bin with his lawn mower.

  There certainly hadn’t been any mention of her supposed debt.

  So she’d forgotten about it. Mostly. Sure, there’d been a few nights where she’d fantasized about the clever ways she’d turn down his undoubtedly crude suggestions. But for the most part, she hadn’t thought about Will.

  Hadn’t thought about how much he annoyed her.

  Hadn’t thought about how easily he’d agreed to help her out with the tire, even though she’d treated him like crap.

  Hadn’t thought about the fact that they could be in each other’s bedrooms in under five minutes.

  And she certainly hadn’t thought about what his hands had felt like on her on that night three years ago.

  So when his face had popped up in her kitchen window on a Sunday morning as she’d been sipping a cup of coffee and daydreaming about what to do with a day to herself, she hadn’t expected it. And she screamed.

  “Goddamn it, Will!” she yelled through the pane as she wiped coffee off her pale pink silk robe. Temper spiked at the sight of his smirking face and she slapped her palm against the glass. And that made her even madder. Now she’d have to clean up the coffee and the handprint.

  He pointed in the direction of the back door that entered into her kitchen and disappeared.

  Please. Like she would let him interrupt her productive Sunday routine. She had laundry to do. And then she was going to clean the fridge. And eventually she was going to alphabetize her bookshelf, which she’d really been putting off for way too long.

  Brynn ignored the first knock at the back door as she cleaned the spilled coffee off the granite countertop.

  She ignored the second knock as she got out her organic, nontoxic glass cleaner and returned her kitchen windowpane to its usual pristine state.

  The third knock made her smile as she refilled her mug. Rejection would do Will Thatcher good.

  But then she started losing track of the knocks because the fifth one turned into the eighth, and then the twelfth, and then there was no end.

  Go upstairs and take a shower, she ordered herself. Do not open that door. Not when this robe barely covers your ass.

  The knocking went from an insistent tapping to a strange rhythm.

  Good God. The infantile moron was tapping out “Jingle Bells” on her door. Clearly he had a death wish.

  “Go away, Will!” she called out.

  “I love this song, don’t you?”

  “Love it!” she hollered back.

  …oh, what fun, it is to ride…

  “Say, sweetie…I’m out of coffee…”

  She rolled her eyes. “Oh? No longer welcome at Starbucks after sleeping with their entire staff?” she asked, wandering to the other side of the door so she wouldn’t have to yell as loud.

  “Don’t be snobbish. There are a couple male baristas that didn’t interest me in the least.”

  “Lecher.”

  “Prude.”

  …a day or two ago, I thought I’d take a ride…

  “Will, if you don’t stop with that infernal Christmas carol, I’ll tell my mom that you were the one who finished off her favorite Cognac during winter break freshman year.”

  “I already confessed. And now she buys me my own bottle every Thanksgiving.”

  “Of course she does,” Brynn muttered.

  …jingle bells, jingle bells…

  “Come on, Brynny, you owe me a favor.”

  She paused at that. He wanted a cup of coffee as his favor? Hell, she’d been imagining something a little more…torrid. If coffee was all he wanted, she’d give him the whole pot.

  “Okay, fine. I’ll give you coffee. But then you’re leaving.”

  The knocking slowed. Then stopped. The doorknob rattled impatiently.

  Taking a deep breath, she opened the door. She swallowed dryly. His hair was slightly damp and he smelled like soap, having obviously just showered. Yum.

  “Wearing a shirt today, I see,” she said, closing the door behind him as he immediately headed toward the coffeepot. He found the cupboard with the mugs on the first try, and damn if that didn’t annoy her. He’d been gone for three years. He had no right to know how she organized her kitchen shelves.

  He poured himself a cup before leaning back against her counter, eyeing her over the steaming mug. The scene was unexpectedly domestic and she resisted the urge to squirm under his gaze. His worn jeans and casual green button-down fit him entirely too well.

  “You know, this is the first time I’ve been in your house since we became best friends and neighbors?” he asked.

  “And the last time. Is the one cup enough, or do you need another to go?”

  He ignored this. “I’m ready to call in my favor.”

  She nodded in the direction of his coffee mug. “You just did.”

  He held up the plain white porcelain cup in disbelief. “This? You think I rolled around on the hot pavement and wrestled a dirty tire for a cup of coffee? Please. I’ve got my own coffee back home.”

  Brynn all but felt steam come out her ears as she realized she’d been played. “You said you were out of coffee.”

  “Lied. I just needed a way to get in the door so we can t
alk about my due.”

  “The only thing you’re due is my foot up your ass on the way out,” she snapped, opening the back door and making a sweeping outward gesture.

  He sighed. “You and Sophie. Both cranky in the morning. Your poor parents.”

  Will pushed away from the counter, idly shutting the door as he wandered into the living area.

  “All-white décor. Shocker.”

  Brynn closed her eyes in resignation. Short of forcibly pushing him out the door, he wouldn’t leave until he got what he wanted. And no way was she touching him.

  “All right, let’s hear it. What do I have to do to even the scorecard? What sort of humiliating adventure do you have cooked up? Lap dance? Striptease? Orthodontist appointment?”

  It wouldn’t be the last one. Will’s teeth were perfectly straight, perfectly white. Sharklike.

  “Interesting suggestions, Brynny,” he said, idling toward her until there were just inches separating them, her back against the door.

  Stupid, stupid, Brynn. She knew by now not to let herself get backed into a corner with this guy. He always took advantage.

  “So the lap dance is an intriguing suggestion, but I find I’m…” His eyes skimmed over her, on the coffee stain splattered all over her breast.

  Brynn sucked in a breath, every physical instinct telling her to arch her back to push herself into him, even as every mental instinct told her to knee him in the balls.

  “You find you’re what?” she asked. Crap. Her voice was way huskier than the situation warranted.

  His eyes flicked back up to hers, his head inclining just slightly toward hers. “Not interested,” he finished in an equally husky voice.

  She let out a hissing noise, and this time her mental and physical instincts were completely in sync. But he saw it coming, and grabbed her knee and pushed it easily away before she could make contact with his special bits.

  He’d moved away before she could register the feeling of his fingers on her knee, giving her that classic Will Thatcher grin. The one that said I’ve got your number.

  She straightened, primly tugging the hem of her robe into place, ignoring the brand his thumb had left on the inside of her leg.

  “So, back to the debt,” he said, taking a sip of coffee as though nothing had happened. “Go get showered. The Marilyn Monroe getup won’t do.”

  Her nostrils fluttered. “You’re calling it in today? I have plans.”

  “What plans? Vacuuming your car? Ironing your sheets? Reading some boring biography?”

  It was a little too close to her actual plans, and she kept her mouth shut as she moved to top off her coffee, instinctively topping his off as well just because he was there.

  “Thanks,” he said gruffly. For some reason this quiet and unexpected bit of manners unnerved her even more than the flirty Will and she felt herself blushing.

  “Spit it out already,” she said, refusing to meet his eyes.

  “Well, actually, I already told you the other day, but you seem to have forgotten. We’re going furniture shopping.”

  Brynn’s mug clanked noisily on the counter. “Furniture shopping?”

  “Good hearing, Brynny. And yes, furniture shopping. I plan to have lots of female company, and hence I need a female’s opinion. You qualify. Barely. None of this white stuff, though,” he said, gesturing at her clean color scheme.

  “Make Sophie do it.”

  “She’s busy.”

  “So am I,” Brynn ground out.

  “Not with anything interesting. And you owe me, remember? Wouldn’t you rather get it over with?”

  “I’d rather you’d have just changed my tire as a favor, not as something to lord over me until you could decorate your bachelor pad.”

  Will drained his coffee before rinsing his cup and placing it in the dishwasher, in the exact right spot on the top shelf. Upper right corner, handle facing in. How’d he know?

  “I’m not shopping with you.”

  He shrugged and then moved so quickly she barely had time to swallow her mouthful of coffee. He was on her in a second, his hips pressing into hers.

  Don’t move. Do. Not. Move. Why could she never breathe around this guy?

  It wouldn’t have mattered if she moved. She could already feel him, hard and hot even through the denim of his jeans, his erection pressing into the flatness of her stomach.

  “I can think of another way to return the favor,” he said, his eyes never leaving her. “One you might like better?”

  His hips moved ever so slightly and Brynn bit her lip against a moan. It’s just memories of before. That’s all.

  “I’ll go shopping with you,” she whispered softly, keeping her gaze locked on a spot over his shoulder.

  He moved away as quickly as he moved in, his grin triumphant.

  Brynn didn’t know what bothered her more, that he’d won the battle, or that he was apparently more enthused about the idea of furniture shopping than sex with her.

  “My driveway in thirty minutes?” he asked.

  “An hour,” she said, setting her mug aside in resignation. So much for her quiet, productive Sunday.

  He gave her a none-too-soft slap on the ass, like a coach swatting his second-string running back.

  “Good girl,” he said, grabbing her elbow and ushering her in the direction of the stairs. “Go shower now, you look like hell.”

  She probably did. God knows she was in hell.

  CHAPTER NINE

  The home is an oasis—it should be treated as such.

  —Brynn Dalton’s Rules for an

  Exemplary Life, #12

  Does this little toy car of yours have heated seats?” Brynn asked as she peered at the fancy buttons of his sports car.

  Wordlessly, Will punched a button and turned his attention back to the road. Brynn studied him out of the corner of her eye. They might not get along, but she’d known him long enough to know that silence and Will were never a good combination. Her body went on high alert.

  “You shouldn’t have offered me a ride if you were going to sulk the entire time,” she said.

  “Had I known you were going to chatter the whole way, I probably wouldn’t have offered.”

  Brynn straightened her shoulders and gazed out of the passenger window and tried not to let his words sting. He’d never made a secret that he didn’t like her, but she couldn’t quite understand why her company was so repellant to him. And she really couldn’t understand why someone as open, loving, and sweet as her younger sister had befriended such a selfish oaf. His entire existence revolved around casual sex and business ventures. He had zero substance.

  “I don’t understand why Sophie loves that bar so much,” Brynn mused as she stared out at the line of red brake lights on either side of them. “It’s so out of the way.”

  Will made a sharp turn to take a side-street detour, and Brynn braced her hand against the dash, surprised by the sudden movement. She was about to nag him for driving like a freaking NASCAR driver when his outburst obliterated the sullen silence.

  “Don’t you ever get tired of being selfish?” he exploded.

  She snapped her head around to look at his clenched profile. “Excuse me?”

  “I’d just think you’d get sick of yourself after a while. I know I do.” His knuckles tightened on the steering wheel.

  “What—”

  But he wasn’t done. His voice took on a whining, high-pitched mimicking tone. “Sophieeee, you need to sit through a hellish double date to make my life more convenient. Why doesn’t everyone pick a bar that’s closer to me? Mommy, Daddy, it’s been ten minutes since you’ve praised all of my superpredictable accomplishments. Gray, why aren’t you adoring me the way I deserve to be adored? Gosh, Will, you’re so mean to me.”

  The unprovoked attack sent a river of emotions rolling through her, the anger hitting her hardest. How dare he of all people accuse her of being selfish?

  The sharpness of her anger was followed quickly b
y an automatic denial. Will didn’t even know her, not really. She was a good person. Sure, maybe she’d asked Sophie for an unfair favor, but Sophie was resilient. Nothing bothered her.

  But as hard as Brynn tried to hang on to her anger, doubt crept down her spine. Was he right? Was she selfish? Brynn didn’t mean to be. She loved her sister, and would never want to sabotage her happiness. But did Brynn even know what Sophie’s version of happy looked like? Had she really stopped to assess what was going on with her sister, or had she just assumed that her own priorities were more important?

  God, she was selfish.

  The last emotion was perhaps the worst of all.

  Hurt.

  Hurt that it had to be Will of all people who’d held up the mirror and forced her to see her own narcissism.

  Oh no. Not tears. Not now. She could not let Will Thatcher see her cry.

  “Are you crying?”

  “No,” she said, the word soggy.

  “Shit,” he said softly.

  Exactly.

  He pulled over to the side of the road, and Brynn was surprised to see through the haze of her tears that they were outside of her condo building. Grabbing her purse, she fumbled at the door, desperate to escape Will and the flood of emotions he’d thrown at her.

  “Thanks for the ride,” she muttered tersely.

  Again with the damn manners! She should have told him to go screw himself, but even at her most vulnerable, she couldn’t get the words out.

  “Brynn,” he said softly, putting a hand on her arm.

  “Don’t you dare,” she hissed, turning to face him, suddenly not caring that he was seeing her with puffy eyes and black rivers of eye makeup running down her cheeks. “Don’t you dare insult me, outline every single flaw I have and then turn around and try to make it better. You wanted to hurt me and you succeeded. At least have the balls to own your victory.”

  “I never meant to hurt you,” he said, not breaking eye contact. “I just can’t stand the way you were trying to push Sophie down so you could pull yourself up.”

  “Of course, we wouldn’t want your poor precious Sophie to suffer,” she said scathingly, hating the words she heard coming out of her mouth.

 
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