Unplanned love a love in.., p.8

Unplanned Love: A Love In Spring novel, page 8

 

Unplanned Love: A Love In Spring novel
 



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  Footsteps approached outside the slightly ajar oak door, and she inhaled deeply, holding her breath when the footsteps stopped and the door opened completely, revealing…

  Oh, please no.

  “You?!”

  “Me.” Kean chuckled as he took a step into the room, holding a yellow mug and a small blue box. He approached the bed, and Charli instinctively lifted the comforter to her chin. He chuckled again. “Sorry. Were you expecting Prince Charming on his white steed?”

  She rolled her eyes. Ugh! He was as annoying as he was handsome. Just as he’d been in her crazy, sexy dream. Her face heated at the memory. She really hoped he couldn’t read minds.

  “Here. I figured you’d need caffeine and Advil.” He handed her the mug with one hand and the box of pills with the other. “Which one do you want first?”

  She raised an eyebrow and he chuckled again. “Okay. I’ll leave them on the nightstand and you can take your pick. You can have a shower if you’d like. I’ve pulled out some clean towels, but I’m afraid I don’t have flowery bubble bath and girlie stuff. If you’re okay with white musk shower gel, you’re free to use it.”

  “Why am I in your bed? We didn’t… you know… um, do it, did we?” She doubted they had, seeing as she was still fully dressed, but she had to ask. After that dream had messed with her head, she had to be sure she hadn’t done or said something stupid.

  Kean laughed, and even though it was a sexy rumble that made her spine tingle, it was also irritating.

  “What, do you think it’d be so unlikely?” She glowered at him, and he composed himself, shaking his head.

  “Not really. But, you see, I don’t usually sleep with passed-out women.” He shrugged, and took a step backward. “Call me old-fashioned, but I like the woman I’m with to be fully aware and remember the best sex of her life.”

  A laugh exploded from her mouth before she even realized it. Handsome, annoying, and now cocky too. Good for Ellie she’d fallen for the humblest brother.

  “So you really don’t remember anything about last night?” He raised a dark eyebrow and looked slightly worried, as if he was afraid of her answer. Charli shook her head, the movement causing more pain, and she could swear his shoulders drooped a little.

  “I remember being on the porch, and I think you walked out and we talked?” He nodded, and his eyes widened a little, as if in anticipation of her next words. “Things got a little fuzzy after that. I don’t remember coming here. And why am I here, anyway?”

  He heaved an exasperated sigh. “Because you passed out on me while we were, uh… talking. And since I wanted to protect you from the town gossip, I thought carrying you here would save you from becoming today’s favorite topic. Just imagine if everyone in the room had seen you completely passed out, with panda eyes and all.”

  “Panda eyes?” Her hands instinctively went up to her face as if to cover the damage. Then she realized he’d already seen her at her worst, so there would really be no point in hiding her face now. “I… uh… I think I might take you up on that shower offer.” A corner of his lips lifted in a suggestive smirk. “I mean, I’m going to take a shower. Alone.”

  He chuckled. Yeah, that dream had really messed up with her braincells. She needed to get out of his bed and out of his house, before she made an even bigger fool of herself. How drunk had she been to pass out on him and completely forget about it?

  And, most importantly, how long would it take for the effects of the dream to fade away and stop making her feel all funny just looking at him?

  * * *

  Charli padded into the kitchen in her bridesmaid gown, holding her beautiful, but not exactly comfortable, burgundy stilettos in one hand. She’d pulled her damp hair up in a messy bun and had managed to scrub off the panda look. She should probably go back to the cottage and have breakfast there. If she was lucky, her friend would have been too busy with her wedding night to notice Charli wasn’t home. She wondered if they’d finally acted on the handcuff fantasy. She smiled, thinking it would be the first thing she’d ask once Ellie emerged from their cottage.

  “I guess the shower helped you feel better, since you’re smiling?” Kean stood against the counter, his legs crossed at the ankles. He wasn’t wearing shoes, just a pair of gray socks, and his stonewashed jeans and loose, dark red sweater added to the casual, scruffy look. He’d looked quite handsome in a tux yesterday, and his appearance today made him look completely different.

  “Yeah, um… thanks.” She wasn’t going to tell him the reason behind her smile. Or the reason why she couldn’t look him in the eye, after that stupid dream. Of all the people she could have a sexy dream about, it had to be the last person she wanted to fantasize about. Just her luck.

  “I figured your coffee got cold while you were in the shower, so here’s a fresh one. Do you take sugar or milk?” He handed her a mug and she reached for it, careful not to brush her fingers against his. She couldn’t trust her body right now.

  “Yeah, um. Just a splash of milk, if you have it.”

  He nodded and opened the fridge. Her eyes fell to his butt, and she caught herself just in time, before he turned back and saw her staring. More like ogling. She had to get out of this place. This felt a little bit too homey and familiar, just like a man would talk to his girlfriend the morning after spending the night together. Oh, gosh, that dream was going to blow up her brain.

  “Um…”

  A knock on the door saved her just in time. Kean walked out of the kitchen and chuckled when he opened the door. “Was my brother such a disappointment you couldn’t wait to get out of his bed?”

  Ellie chuckled. Oh, gosh. Ellie was here. Ellie was here! She’d think Charli had slept with him and—

  “There you are.”

  Charli nearly dropped the mug and had to place it on the counter before it crashed to the floor. “I can explain. It’s not—”

  “Relax. Kean told me you fell asleep and that he’d brought you here. I just thought I’d check on you while Adam is at his parents’ checking on Sophie.”

  Charli let out an internal sigh of relief. Then she decided this would be the perfect time to turn the tables, if she didn’t want to undergo an interrogation. “You should be in bed tangled with your husband, instead of checking on me. I’m a big girl.”

  “I knew you were in safe hands, but I couldn’t help worrying after the amount of alcohol you drank. Besides, Adam and I had all night. And the early morning. I don’t think either of us would be able to keep going any longer—”

  “Yuck, Ellie!” Kean brought his hands up to cover his ears and scrunched up his nose. “Too much information. He’s my little brother, remember?”

  Ellie punched his bicep lightly and laughed. “Oh, come on. A big, tough guy like you? I thought men loved bragging about their sex lives.”

  His face wrinkled again. “Not when it’s about my brothers.”

  “Oh, good. I see you’re still alive. Ellie was worried.” Adam walked in with Sophie on his shoulders and a smile that told Charli, and the rest of the world, he’d had a very good night—and morning, from what Ellie had just said. Lucky girl.

  “Hi, Auntie Charli! Can I bwaid your hair?”

  Everyone laughed at Sophie’s obsession with Charli’s hair. “Yes, I think it might be a good idea, after I’ve had some breakfast.”

  “Sorry, I should’ve asked you what you wanted to eat,” Kean said from behind her. His voice, gentle and caring for once, brought the dream back to the front of her mind. Shivers skittered up and down her spine, like grasshoppers having a field day on her back. “I didn’t mean to be rude, I’m just not used to having guests at breakfast.”

  And why did this information make her feel relieved? What did she care if he entertained women for a healthy breakfast after they’d spent the night in his bed? He was a grown man, an annoying, irritating, though handsome man, who could do whatever he wanted with his life. And why did the thought of another woman in his bed squeeze her stoma
ch? No, it had to be the lack of food. And that stupid dream that she’d probably need to scrub off with bleach.

  “Don’t worry, we’ll feed her.” Ellie linked an arm through hers and smiled. “Enya’s filled a picnic basket with goodies, so once we get home we only need to switch on the coffee machine. Obviously, you’re both welcome to join us.”

  All the blood left Charli’s face as it rushed to her feet. Oh, no. She couldn’t spend another minute with him. Not if she wanted to protect her mental sanity. Not until the images from the dream had faded, together with the embarrassment of falling asleep and hogging his bed.

  “Thanks, but I don’t want to be the third wheel on your honeymoon.”

  He gave Charli a pointed look and, just like that, the remnants of the sexy dream disappeared, giving way to irritation—a feeling she had by now associated with the guy.

  “What are you trying to say?” She glared at him with her fists on her hips and her head tilted to the side. He lifted one shoulder and brought the mug to his mouth.

  “Nothing,” he said innocently. His eyes crinkled as he smiled smugly into the mug, and Charli felt the familiar rush of blood to the head. This guy was going to cause her a stroke one day, if she didn’t leave this town fast enough.

  “Oh, no. Don’t nothing me. You were implying—”

  “Charli.” Ellie put a hand on her shoulder, and Charli looked away from him. “It’s okay, nobody’s going to be a third wheel. First of all because we wouldn’t be alone anyway, and then because we’re not on our honeymoon. It’s just a normal day—we weren’t planning on being alone today.” She turned to look at Adam, and he nodded.

  “Yeah, don’t worry about that. Ethan’s going to be around a few more hours before he has to fly to Texas, so he’s going to have breakfast with us, too. And then we’re all going out to lunch.”

  “Well, thank you for letting me sleep off the hangover in your bed,” Charli said to Kean, determined to be the adult of the two.

  “Anytime.” He raised his mug in a toast and took a drink.

  Yeah, um, maybe not. She definitely didn’t want to end up in his bed, or in his house, ever again. Thanks very much.

  After making sure Kean didn’t want to join their family breakfast, or lunch later, they walked out to Adam’s car, which was parked in his parents’ driveway.

  She had to speak to Ellie as soon as possible and then pick up her luggage, book a flight to Texas and spend some time with her family while she decided what to do with her life. She couldn’t be around that annoying man any longer. Not after that stupid dream.

  * * *

  “Ellie, there’s something I have to tell you.”

  After breakfast and lunch all together, during which Charli had endured a good dose of ribbing for her disastrous end of the night, Ethan had taken a taxi to the airport and Charli had gone back to the cottage.

  She’d meant to leave the newlyweds to enjoy their first day as a family, but after an unbelievable amount of coaxing from Sophie, Charli finally agreed to join them for dinner—and to sit next to her, as usual.

  Now that they were finally alone, with Adam upstairs getting Sophie ready for bed, Charli thought it would be the perfect moment to fess up. Her secret was eating her up, and ever since she’d had the flash of a memory of herself telling Kean everything just before she passed out on him, she couldn’t risk him spilling the beans in front of her friend.

  Ellie looked up from the dishwasher and frowned. “Wow, you sound serious. What’s wrong?”

  Charli wrung the towel she was holding around her fingers and cleared her throat. Once. Twice. She swallowed. Then cleared her throat once more.

  “I, um…”

  Ellie closed the dishwasher and leaned against the counter, her frown intensifying. “Charli, you’re scaring me. You’re not sick, are you?”

  Charli smiled and shook her head. Leave it to her friend to pick the worst scenario. “No, I’m perfectly healthy. At least, I think.”

  Ellie let out a sigh of relief, and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. The golden wedding band on her ring finger mockingly blinked at Charli, as if to remind her of all she didn’t have, and would probably never have if her bad luck with men kept up.

  “I may have, uh… lied to you, lately. Just a tiny white lie because I didn’t want to ruin your wedding day.”

  Ellie straightened and took a step toward her. The worried frown morphed into a sad one, as the corners of her lips turned down. “We never lie to each other.”

  “Yeah, I know. But I was…” She looked away as guilt squeezed her chest. “I was ashamed of telling you that my life’s going down the drain, while you were all excited about your wedding and your new family.”

  “What do you mean, your life’s going down the drain? Is it because you had a fight with Donnie? Or does it have to do with work?”

  “Both.” She shrugged and put the rolled-up towel on the counter. Her fingers hurt from the force she’d put into wringing it. “I walked in on Penelope half naked on top of Donnie, in what should’ve been my office. He got the promotion I was after because he was sleeping with her behind my back. So I quit my job and had to leave my apartment, too, since I couldn’t afford the rent. So now I’m unemployed, single, and homeless.” She’d said it all on one breath, while keeping her eyes on the poor, innocent towel that had borne the brunt of her nerves. A second later, Ellie’s arms wrapped around her and pulled her close.

  “Gosh, Charli. Why didn’t you say anything? How could you keep all that inside and pretend nothing happened? You know I would’ve been there for you.”

  Charli nodded. “I know you would, and that’s why I kept it a secret. I didn’t want to spoil everything with my sorry tale. But last night I accidentally told Kean everything while I was, uh… tipsy, and I didn’t want you to think I’d trusted someone else more than I trust you.”

  “What are you going to do now? Have you found another job yet? Where are you going to stay? No, wait. You can use the cottage.” Ellie pulled back, a big smile easing the frown that had been there only a moment before. “I don’t need it, now that I’m living with Adam. And Ethan’s not going to be back for good anytime soon. You can stay there, rent-free, while you plan your next move. What do you think? It would be great if you could stay a little longer, spend a little more time with us.”

  “Stay here?” The thought was ludicrous to say the least. “Although I appreciate your offer, do you actually see me living here?”

  “You say it like Spring is some kind of third-world town.” Ellie’s hurt tone made Charli feel a bit more like her snobbish grandmother. “I know it’s not San Francisco, but there are pros to living a slower pace of life. Especially if you need to figure out what to do.”

  Yeah, and what about keeping away from Ellie’s brother-in-law? Because, seriously, she’d barely tolerated being around the guy when she couldn’t stand him, but after that dream, being around him would be hard for a whole lot of different reasons.

  “What other options have you got?” Ellie pulled back, interrupting Charli’s thoughts. “Apart from going home to your parents and living with them while you get back on your feet?”

  “That would mean hearing a never-ending lecture from my grandmother about how I should’ve listened to her and married a rich man from the country club.” Charli shuddered. “No, thanks.”

  “So there you go.” Ellie gave her a smug smile, and Charli rolled her eyes. She was stubborn, but Ellie could be even worse if she set her mind to it. “You could consider this a much-deserved vacation after slaving away since you graduated college. And after all you did for our wedding, in such a short time, I think some rest in our quiet little town would do you good.”

  Charli sat at the table with her chin propped on her palm, pondering her friend’s words. A bit of rest wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. Sure, she missed her family, but going home now, with her head hanging down while sharing the news, would make her feel like a bi
g, fat failure. It wasn’t exactly the best time of year for a beachside vacation, but she could take advantage of Ellie’s cottage while looking for a job and planning her future. She was still determined to start her own event company and maybe, with a bit more free time on her hands, she could research and plan.

  “You’re probably right. I do need a bit of time out, after the tour de force that was the organization of your wedding,” she said, eventually. Ellie laughed and sat across from her. “I don’t mean to go all teary-eyed and stuff, but I’ve missed you. It would be great to spend time together again, even though you’ve got a ring on your finger and the white picket fence fairy tale.”

  “That won’t stop me from having time for my best friend. I’ve missed you too, you know.” She reached out for Charli’s hand and squeezed it. Charli squeezed back. Ellie had always been like a sister to her, and even though she’d understood her need to move away from San Francisco and the gossip, it had hurt like crazy when she’d walked out of their apartment.

  “Anyway, enough about me. Have you picked your honeymoon destination yet?”

  Ellie had been reluctant to book their honeymoon, coming up with all kinds of different excuses about why they couldn’t go, but Charli could be like a dog with a bone when she wanted. And right now, she wanted Ellie to enjoy a romantic, possibly sex-filled honeymoon with her handsome husband.

  “We’ve already had this conversation. We can’t go anywhere right now, and I don’t really need a honeymoon.”

  Charli huffed. “Stop it, okay? I know Adam already had it all with his first wife, but you deserve the whole package, too. You didn’t want a lavish wedding because Adam already had it the first time. You don’t want to go on a honeymoon because Adam already went to Hawaii with his first wife. Next thing you’re going to tell me you don’t want kids because Adam already has one.”

  “You’re exaggerating, as usual.” Ellie shook her head but she didn’t meet Charli’s eyes. “We can’t go on a honeymoon, first of all because I can’t leave Dee alone with all the preschoolers, and then because we don’t want to leave Sophie and have her think we don’t want her with us.”

 

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