Lost and found sisters, p.8
Lost and Found Sisters, p.8
“Teenagers are a whole different species,” Brock said.
“And it’s your call, but I’m game.”
“Game as in . . .”
“Anything that gets you back to the land of the living, back into a relationship.”
“You’re game,” she repeated, stunned. “To get back into a relationship.”
“Yes,” he said. “But fair warning in the interest of honesty, I’ve been sowing my oats. You’d need to give me a minute to clear my deck.” He paused. “Or two. Tops.”
She waited for the pain of his sexual escapades to hit, but before it could, he went on. “Look, babe,” he said, voice more serious now. “Honestly? I’ve been hoping for something to come along and snap you out of it.”
“Hoping,” she said carefully. “While screwing everything that moves?”
“Well, not everything. And my point is that I’m here for you, whatever you want. Just come back.”
To L.A. Where her life was.
It was a reasonable suggestion. But Tilly was here and Quinn didn’t see her up and moving to L.A. in the middle of a school year.
“What if I stayed here awhile?” she asked. She couldn’t even believe the question popped out of her mouth.
On Brock’s part, there was such a long silence that she pulled the phone away from her ear and looked to make sure they were still connected. “Hello?”
“I’m here,” he said. “How long is awhile?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head, completely overwhelmed.
“Quinn,” he said slowly, “our thing, you and me . . . it never involved leaving L.A.”
Even though she knew this, her heart did a little squeeze. “First of all, I never said I was leaving L.A. And second of all . . . so I’m the One for you, but only if I agree to stay in L.A., on your terms?”
“I love you, Quinn. But I love my job too. It’s very important to me. You know that.”
She did. And she knew something else too. “I don’t think this is going to work,” she whispered.
There was a loaded silence. “So you’re staying in Wildstone.”
“No. No,” she said again, softer. “But that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t like the ultimatum from you.”
“That,” he said. “Or you’re looking for excuses, as you have been for two years.”
She inhaled a long shuddery breath, looking for calm. And didn’t find any. “I’m sorry if you feel like you’ve been waiting on me, but we never agreed to that. You know I’ve had a problem with emotions and feelings.”
“Two years,” he repeated.
“Stop. You have not been waiting around, pining for me, for that long. You’ve been . . . sowing your wild oats!”
“No.” She knew that voice of his, that overly calm, reasonable tone, and she wasn’t having any of it. “Maybe I need to sow mine. You ever think of that?”
He was silent for a beat, processing. Thinking.
Which she suddenly resented. “I’ve got to go.”
“Don’t do anything hasty, babe.”
“Hello, have you met me?” she asked. “It took me a year to decide which condo I wanted to buy!”
“Uh-huh,” he agreed. “And only an hour after receiving shocking news to jump into your car and drive three hours north of here without telling anyone.”
She shook her head. “You’re not understanding what’s going on up here.”
“Come home and tell me about it.” There was a beep in her ear. “Shit,” he said. “A call just came in that I have to take,” he said, apology heavy in his voice. “We’ll get back to this, okay?”
“Don’t get pissy, like you don’t care or feel anything, since it’s clear you’re back to doing both.”
“I gotta go too,” she said. “Bad connection.” And she turned off the Jetpak and let the crappy Internet cut out on them.
But not before Chef Wade’s text came through: no worries, Marcel’s covering for you.
Not exactly music to her ears . . .
Things that annoy me:
3. Basically everything, I have no idea why I started a list . . .
—from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”
Fifteen minutes later Quinn was at the Whiskey River for a badly needed drink. She didn’t imbibe much. First, she was a lightweight. And second, normally she preferred to eat her calories.
But her shitty week called for alcohol. Her gaze fell to the flyer on the bar touting the “Bartender’s Special,” so she ordered one of those.
“After the day you’ve had, good choice,” the good-looking bartender said with a wink.
She resisted covering the large red bee sting she knew still stood out in the middle of her forehead and turned to take in the crowd.
The music was surprisingly good and she sat there absorbing the easy laughter and sounds of conversation around her. By the time the door opened and in walked no other than Mick Hennessey, maintenance guy, mind reader, and incredible Levi’s filler, she was relaxed.
Or so she thought. Because from across the large room, Mick’s gaze met hers and she stilled from the inside out, if that made any sense at all. It was the oddest thing.
The bartender greeted Mick with some complicated handshake followed by a back-slapping guy hug. “Beginning to look like you’re sticking,” the bartender said.
“No,” Mick said. “Hell no.”
The bartender grinned. “Ah, come on, man. You know you’ve missed us.”
“Again, hell no.”
“Take it back and first round’s on me.”
Mick slapped some bills on the bar and the bartender sighed dramatically. Mick’s gaze locked on Quinn as he headed her way.
“Sticking?” she asked, admittedly curious about him.
He shrugged. “Long story.”
“Yeah. And it’s one I don’t want to tell any more than you want someone to ask you about that sting on your forehead.”
Touché. She lifted her drink in a silent toast.
He touched his beer bottle to her glass and said, “When I walked in, you were staring into the bottom of your drink like you were searching for the answers to the mysteries of the universe.”
“There should be a warehouse where you could buy the answers,” she said. “Preferably in Hawaii, ’cause that’d be nicer than, say, Toledo, you know?”
He studied her and then slowly nodded. “I do know. I also know that you could use some food.”
What she could use was a night of wild, passionate, up-against-the-wall sex with a man who’d make her forget her upside-down life, but she managed to keep that thought to herself.
“Let’s move to a table,” he said, standing, looking . . . hell. Hot as sin and just as irresistible.
She bit her lower lip. “You should probably know something about me.”
“I’m all ears.”
“I’m not doing the whole guy thing right now.”
“How about pizza?” he asked, cocking his head with a smile. “Are you doing the pizza thing?”
Dammit. The way to her heart was pizza. And maybe also that incredible smile he was sporting. “Sure,” she said. Stupid alcohol . . .
He picked up his drink and hers, and gestured with a head nod to an empty table. The waitress came over with another round. “Bartender’s Special,” she said. “On the house. Tonight’s a Red-Headed Slut. Boomer, he’s the bartender, he said he could make you a Wallbanger if you’d rather. Or a Sex on the Beach.” She shrugged when Quinn just stared at her. “It’s Drink-a-Kink Night. Boomer takes his theme nights seriously. We’ve also got Angel’s Tits and Slippery Nipples. Oh! And Bend-Over Shirleys, though I can’t remember what’s in those.”
Mick craned his neck and looked at Boomer, behind the bar, who winked and gave him a thumbs-up.
“Good friend of yours?” Quinn asked dryly.
“Since kindergarten, but I’m still going to have to kill him.”
She laughed. “I guess a little kink never hurt anyone.”
“Exactly!” an elderly gentleman at the table on the other side of them said. “That’s what I say too! And anyway, silk panties aren’t a kink, they just feel good against the skin. Everyone knows that.”
They toasted to silk panties and then ordered pizza. Quinn added a salad because something green would make her feel less guilty about the pizza. When it came, she ate the salad first and then inhaled her half of the loaded pizza.
“I’m impressed,” he said. “When you ordered the salad, I got worried.”
“You don’t like salads?”
“I like girls who eat.”
“Well, I do want to look good in a bikini this summer,” she said. “But I also want to eat pizza. It’s pretty unfair that I have to choose, but it is what it is.”
“I’m betting you look sexy as hell in a bikini,” he said.
This gave her a hot flash. But she decided to attribute it to the alcohol. She was now halfway through her second Bartender’s Special and still had no idea what was in it, but it was delicious and had gone down smooth, so she kept sipping.
Mick, who was clearly smarter than she was because he’d had only one beer and had drunk only half of it, smiled. And just like that, something fluttered low in her belly.
“Are you flirting with me?” she asked.
“Trying. The question is, are you flirting back?”
She laughed and felt her face heat. “Maybe. But I don’t want to be. It’s . . . not a good time for me.”
“Because you’re not doing the whole guy thing right now,” he said.
“I’m just a little bit . . . upside down at the moment, and not myself.” She paused. “At all.”
“So what brings you to Wildstone?” he asked, leaning in a bit to hear her answer. It wasn’t just him making conversation, he was actually interested in what she had to say.
“I sort of ran away, actually,” she admitted.
“And here I thought you were at the Wild West B and B because of the exemplary plumbing.”
She snorted. Like actually snorted, and clapped a hand over her mouth in horror at the sound.
He smiled. “Loves pizza. Snorts when she laughs. Cute.”
She felt the wide grin on her face. “I can also burp to the count of ten. Can’t do the alphabet though. It’s too long.”
He laughed. “I can teach you.” He tugged gently on a wayward wave of her hair. “You ever going to tell me more about the upside-down thing?”
She shook her head. “Definitely not.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Let’s just say that on a scale of mental breakdowns from Justin Bieber to Britney Spears, I think I’m about a Shia LaBeouf.”
He gave a low laugh. “I bet I could make you feel better about your life.”
“Yeah?” she asked with doubt. “Go for it.”
“All right.” He had a hand resting on his bottle of beer, his thumb taking lazy swipes at the condensation. He took another long pull and she watched his throat as he swallowed.
He was sporting at least a day’s worth of stubble. Maybe two. All she knew was that when he rubbed a hand over his jaw, the ensuing sound made her mouth feel dry enough that she needed another sip of her drink.
“My dad died four months ago,” he said, and she stilled, her gaze flying to his.
“He left my mom with a stack of bills,” he went on, “and a house she needs to repair before she can sell or even refinance, and I’m the only one she has left to help her.”
So she wasn’t the only one facing a whole barrage of things she didn’t know how to face. “I’m sorry,” she said, reaching for his hand. “About all of it. You’re an only child?”
“I’ve got a younger sister, but Wendy’s in New York waitressing, waiting for her big break on Broadway.” He shrugged. “She got out and stayed out.” He looked into her eyes. “Now you.”
She looked into his eyes. Dark brown. Gold flecks. She’d seen them cool and accessing. Amused. Now they’d warmed like melting chocolate. And she felt herself melt a little bit too. Damn. He wanted her to open up and she realized she was not authorized to make this decision while under the influence of alcohol.
“Excuse me a minute?” she asked and made her way down a hallway toward the restroom, where, once inside, she pulled out her phone and texted Skye.
So there’s a guy.
And the problem is?
I can’t remember. That’s why I’m texting you.
Bring him into work so I can get a look at him. I’ll let you know yea or nay.
Can’t. I’m still in Wildstone.
Then yes. Hell, yes. You go for it. Out of town is like being in Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Bring me back a good story. Gotta go, Marcel is on a tear about the effing carrots.
Quinn shoved her phone away and made her way back to their table.
Mick greeted her with an easy smile, sitting there looking better than the pizza she’d just inhaled.
So what’s the holdup? she asked herself. You’re leaving tomorrow, never to see him again, right?
And as it turned out, he was a really good listener. Too good a listener because before she knew it, she’d told him about meeting Carolyn at the coffee shop in L.A., how she’d not known who the woman was until Cliff had shown up and told her, and that she’d been completely in the dark about Tilly.
And then she sat back and waited for him to have some variation on the same reactions her parents and Brock had given her.
But Mick took another pull from his beer and nodded. “You really have had a shitty week.”
She found a laugh. She should have known he’d be different. “You could say that.” She paused. “You don’t think I’m a little nuts, or overreacting to all of this?”
“Don’t ever ask someone that,” he said. “Your reactions, your emotions, they’re all your own. You don’t need permission to have them.” He gave her a small smile. “But for what it’s worth, I think you’re entitled to going more than a little nuts.”
Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis / Romance & Love have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on42 votes