Lost and found sisters, p.23
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       Lost and Found Sisters, p.23
 

           Jill Shalvis

  But then Quinn gave him a shove in his chest much in the same way Lena did with Boomer. In fact, Lena pushed Boomer toward his truck. “Go,” she said.

  “I’ll go when you go.”

  She blew out a breath and climbed into his truck—leaving her car—and gave Boomer a “get the hell in here too” look.

  Boomer got behind the wheel and peeled out, not looking back.

  Mick’s mom brought Mick and Quinn inside. She introduced herself to Quinn and then went straight to her liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle that looked identical to the one on the table, with the exception that this one was full. She handed it to Quinn.

  “What’s this?” she asked.

  “My secret recipe.”

  “Pretty color,” Quinn said, holding the bottle up to the light and admiring it.

  Mick, still pissed off, found a rough laugh. “Don’t let the color fool you. It’s moonshine.”

  “For the rough days,” his mom said.

  “For every day then,” Quinn said.

  Chapter 24

  I’ve learned that you can’t make everyone happy, you’re not a bowl of ice cream.

  —from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

  After the “thing” and Mick’s and Boomer’s fight, Quinn went back to the café to help close up for the day. Dylan was there, and he’d turned out to be a diligent and hard worker, helping Greta and Trinee like he’d been there forever. She already couldn’t remember what they’d done without him.

  She was in the kitchen making a shopping list when there was yet another knock at the back door. What now? she thought and turned to look.

  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said.

  Lena lifted a basket. “I’ve got something for Greta.”

  “Let me repeat,” Quinn said. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

  “Actually,” Lena said. “I rarely kid.”

  Greta came into the kitchen and gestured Lena in, excitedly peering into the basket. “Is that what I think it is?”

  “My homemade honey-ginger tea for your sister,” Lena said. “You said it helped her asthma, so I brewed up some more for you to send to her.”

  “Brewed in your caldron, you mean?” Quinn asked politely.

  Dylan, from where he stood at the sink doing dishes, snorted, but when Quinn looked at him, he was head down, concentrating on his task.

  Greta took in Lena and Quinn with narrowed eyes. “If I leave the two of you alone in the kitchen, you’re not going to have a fistfight like your boys did, right?”

  Lena grinned. “I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I had a good fight.”

  Quinn rolled her eyes. “We’ll be fine,” she told Greta.

  When they were alone, Lena’s smile fell from her face. “So. About before.”

  “You mean when you tried to cajole Mick back to you by getting his mom involved?” Quinn asked. “Romantic, by the way.”

  “Hey, romantic is long, slow walks down every aisle at Target.” Lena put her hands on her hips. “Now are you going to back off Mick or not?”

  “Not.”

  “I’m going to be honest with you,” Lena said. “You’re a real pain in my ass.”

  “I’m not going to exchange blows with you in the dirt,” Quinn said.

  Lena’s mouth quirked. “Good, because your skinny ass would lose.”

  Quinn sighed. “So where do we go from here?”

  “Well, we start with you giving him up.”

  Quinn laughed, but sobered when she realized Lena was serious. “He’s not mine to give up, Lena.”

  Lena looked happy at that, and Quinn shook her head. “Look, I don’t know what you think’s going on between him and me, and I’m not going to discuss it with you, but Mick’s a big boy. You can’t manipulate him into wanting you.”

  “I don’t have to,” Lena said. “He just needs to be reminded of how good it was back then, before I messed it up.”

  Quinn set down her pad of paper. It was that or smack herself in the head with it. Repeatedly. “Everyone makes mistakes, Lena.”

  “Exactly.”

  “Sometimes all that’s left to do is learn from them and move on.”

  Lena looked at her for a long minute. “You’re talking about Boomer.”

  “I saw how he looked at you,” Quinn said. “I think he loves you. And I saw how you looked at him when he stood up after the fight. You were worried about him. He’s important to you.”

  Lena’s smug smile slipped. “Mick’s important to me too, always has been. And not that this is any of your business but I recently figured something out . . . I need him.”

  “Why?”

  “Because when I was with him . . . that was the last time my life worked.”

  Before Quinn could figure out a response to that, Lena was gone.

  “There’s a big difference between want and need,” she muttered to herself, picking her pad and pen back up. “I mean, I want a bikini body, but I need chicken nuggets.”

  THE NEXT MORNING was a wash and repeat of the morning before, meaning Quinn woke up and got Tilly moving. Not an easy prospect, the girl liked her sleep, a lot.

  She dropped Tilly off at school. Well, correction, she dropped Tilly off at the corner of the school, where she walked in because, oh yeah, she was embarrassed to be seen with Quinn.

  After a shift at the café that was just as crazy as any other but thankfully minus the fire department, Quinn was back at the house. She was in the middle of stocking the fridge so they wouldn’t have to continue to eat PB and J and crackers when her phone rang.

  She’d already spoken to Chef Wade, her parents, and Brock. None of those phone calls had been easy since she’d had to admit that she had no idea how long she was going to be here in Wildstone. She’d also spoken to Skye, who’d made plans to drive up on her next day off to visit.

  But the call wasn’t from her parents, Brock, or Skye.

  It was Cliff.

  “What now?” Quinn answered with her heart in her throat. Tilly was still at school, at least as far as she knew.

  “Just calling to see how it’s going,” he said.

  “Would you believe that I have absolutely no idea?” She cocked her head, because wait a minute . . . she could hear the chickens. They were making noise, a lot of noise, much more than usual. And how weird was it that she could tell it was different from their regular clucking? She moved to the back door and peered out.

  There was a cat ogling the hens. She could see the poor thing looked scrawny as hell, but that didn’t mean she wanted it to feast on the hens.

  “Just remember that Tilly doesn’t deal well with authority,” Cliff said.

  “Gee, Cliff, that’s brand-new information.”

  He chuckled. “Just be clear with your expectations and give her guidelines.”

  “I hear you,” Quinn said, stepping out onto the porch. “But I’m not a miracle worker.”

  “If you need anything, you know where to find me,” he said.

  “Okay, but I’ve got a question—what if I’m the one who needs guidelines?” she asked but Cliff was already gone.

  She shoved the phone into her pocket and crouched down. “Here, kitty kitty,” she said and held out a hand to the cat eyeing the hens.

  It was brown. Or maybe just dirty. Its fur stuck up in clumps, like it was too much for it to keep up with.

  She—Quinn thought the cat seemed like a she—craned her neck and gave Quinn a level look through one good eye. Her other was at half-mast, giving her a somewhat inebriated expression that showed no fear but a lot of attitude.

  “Don’t tell me,” she said. “You’re fifteen too.”

  The ragamuffin cat dismissed her and turned back to the hens, who were still squawking like mad.

  “Zip it,” Quinn told the chickens. “If you’d just shut the hell up, I’d get her out of here.”

  The cat sat, tucking her tail around her body like she was a quee
n, clearly having no interest in going anywhere.

  “Sorry,” Quinn said. “But you’re going to have to shoo.”

  The cat didn’t shoo. Or take her eyes off the hens. Correction, her one good eye, which Quinn had a feeling wasn’t all that good.

  “Does everyone on the planet walk all over you?” a female voice asked.

  Quinn sighed and turned to face Lena. “What now?”

  “I forgot that I needed more eggs. Carolyn always let me take whatever I needed.”

  “Do you cook?”

  “If offering people gum is cooking, then yes, I cook,” Lena said and shrugged. “I use the eggs in some of my spa stuff. I supplied Carolyn with face cream that she lived by. You could use some of it, by the way, you’re way too dry in your T-zone. You’re going to wrinkle up like a dried-apple doll in no time.”

  “I’ll keep that in mind.” Quinn looked at the hens, who were still extremely worked up. She gestured for Lena to go ahead because there was no way in hell those chickens were going to let her take any eggs, and maybe this made her a bad person but she really needed some entertainment right about now.

  But Lena moved into the pen and proceeded to get the eggs like a beast, moving fast and efficiently without a single problem.

  “Seriously?” Quinn asked her. “You can’t be bad at anything?”

  Lena smiled. “Nope.” She came out and eyed the cat. “Who’s that?”

  “No idea.” Quinn looked over at the neighbor’s house but neither Jared nor Hutch was in their yard, which was meticulous and perfectly kept up. There was no way that they owned an elderly cat they’d leave to fend for itself, half starved.

  So Quinn scooped up the cat and headed to Chuck’s house. He didn’t answer, but Kendall—dressed to the nines in a dress that couldn’t be more than three square inches—did. Her lip curled back at the sight of the cat.

  “Who’s that?” she asked.

  “I was going to ask you the same question,” Quinn said. “Is she yours? Or Chuck’s?”

  “Ew, not mine,” she said. “I hate cats and Chuck’s allergic.”

  Quinn walked back to Lena and set the cat down. They both took in the cat’s raggedy fur and the fact that one eye sloped funny. “She’s half starved,” Quinn said.

  “She’s feral,” Lena said. “And I think she’s really old too. Probably mean. I’d be careful—”

  Quinn looked at the cat. “You hungry? Wanna come inside for some food?”

  As if the cat spoke English, she stood up and headed for the back door like she owned the joint.

  Lena arched a brow.

  Quinn, feeling triumphant for once, followed the cat, who’d stopped on the porch.

  Quinn opened the door but the cat didn’t budge.

  Leaving the cat there, Quinn poured a small bowl of milk and set it down on the kitchen floor.

  The cat hesitated and swiveled her one good eye to Lena.

  Lena raised her hands. “Just standing here.”

  The cat walked past Lena into the kitchen and sniffed the bowl. Then she stuck her paw in it.

  “Your cat needs the short bus,” Lena said.

  “I don’t think she sees well, I think she’s looking to see where the milk begins.”

  Even testing with her paw first, the cat still leaned in too far, got milk up her nose, and sneezed, blowing drops of milk. When she was done with that, she began to lap with a distinct lack of daintiness at the bowl, splattering milk everywhere. When she’d finished the bowl, she sat back and looked up at Quinn.

  “She looks drunk,” Lena said.

  “She’s cute.”

  Lena snorted. “If you keep her, she’s going to tell all her friends, and by this time tomorrow you’ll have a hundred wild cats and we’ll all be calling you the cat lady.” Lena paused. “On the other hand, keep her. Keep them all. It’ll make you look crazy and I know Mick isn’t into crazy.”

  Quinn, short on patience on the best of days, of which this wasn’t one, crossed her arms. “He dated you, didn’t he?”

  For the first time since she’d stepped onto Carolyn’s property, Lena smiled. “You know, it’s really a shame we’re sworn enemies.”

  Quinn sat on the kitchen floor, hoping the cat would come to her. “And why exactly do we have to be sworn enemies?”

  The cat eyeballed her, consideringly.

  Lena huffed out a sigh and sat on the floor too. “We’re sworn enemies because you’re sleeping with the guy I want to marry. Cat, don’t go to her, come to me.”

  The cat climbed into Quinn’s lap and Quinn felt her heart squeeze when she then rubbed her head against Quinn’s shirt. “Ha. She likes me.”

  “She’s marking you, making you her bitch.”

  Quinn rolled her eyes.

  “Don’t think I didn’t notice that you didn’t deny you’re sleeping with Mick.”

  “It’s none of your business,” Quinn said. “And anyway, you had your chance.”

  Lena deflated a little, and Quinn realized this wasn’t a joke or a game.

  “I was young and stupid—emphasis on stupid,” Lena admitted. “But Mick was so serious back then. I didn’t realize it, but he had his hands full keeping Boomer out of trouble and giving school everything he had so he could get out of here, away from his hard-ass dad and everything. He was ridiculously responsible, and I mistook that for being too good for me.” She shrugged. “So I did what I always do and self-destructed my happiness.”

  Quinn didn’t want to buy into this story, but she couldn’t help but feel sympathetic. “Have you tried stopping the pattern?”

  “Unsuccessfully. The guy I was seeing before Boomer stole money from me.” She shrugged at Quinn’s sympathetic look. “So I bought a car for a couple of hundred bucks, registered it in his name, then parked it at LAX and racked up four hundred and fifty-nine parking tickets for him, totaling fifty grand.”

  Quinn blinked. “Actually, that’s pretty brilliant.”

  “Not crazy?”

  “Oh definitely crazy,” Quinn said. “But crazy brilliant.” She reached up to the counter where she’d left Mick’s mom’s moonshine and offered it to Lena.

  “I’m good but you go right ahead.”

  Quinn’s first sip was nearly her last. Fire burned a hole down her windpipe and her eyes were streaming by the time she managed to stop coughing.

  Lena grinned. “Lightweight.”

  “Shut up. And for the record, you’re still sabotaging your happiness. You’ve got a great guy waiting for you to grow up, but instead you’re chasing a unicorn.”

  “Unicorn? You think Mick’s a unicorn?”

  “I know it.” By now she’d had two more sips of the moonshine—which no longer burned at all, and in fact went down nice and smooth—and she had a little trouble counting off points on her fingers. “He’s hot. He’s employed. And he doesn’t seem bothered by baggage. Lots and lots of baggage . . .” She sighed and hugged her newfound companion.

  The cat allowed it for about three seconds and then gently sank her teeth into Quinn’s hand, not breaking the skin but letting her know she meant business.

 
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