Too good to be true, p.44
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       Too Good to Be True, p.44
 

          
Page 44

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  A soft knock came on my front door, and I glanced at the clock. Eight minutes past nine. Angus had fallen too deeply asleep to go into his usual rage, luckily, so I tiptoed to the door, turning on a light as I went, figuring it was Callahan.

  It wasn’t.

  Andrew stood on my porch. “Hey, Grace,” he said in his quiet voice. “Do you have a minute?”

  “Sure,” I answered slowly. “Come on in. ”

  The last time Andrew had seen the home we were going to live in together, it had been only half-Sheetrocked, wires and insulation exposed, the kitchen just a gaping hole. The floors had been rough and broken in places, the stairs stained and dark with age.

  “Wow,” he said, turning in a slow circle. Angus popped up from the couch. Before he could maul Andrew, however, I picked him up.

  “Want a tour?” I asked, clearing my throat.

  “Sure,” he answered, ignoring Angus’s purring snarls. “Grace, it’s beautiful. ”

  “Thanks,” I said, bemused. “Well, here’s the dining room, obviously, and the kitchen. That’s my office, remember, it was a closet before?”

  “Oh, my God, that’s right,” he said. “And wow, you knocked down the bedroom wall, didn’t you?”

  “Mmm-hmm,” I murmured. “Yup. I figured…well, I just wanted a bigger kitchen. ”

  The original plan was that there’d be a downstairs bedroom, you see. We were planning to have at least two kids, possibly three, so we planned on both upstairs bedrooms being theirs. Then, later, when our clever children went off to college and Andrew and I got older, we wouldn’t have to worry about schlepping up and down the stairs. Now what was once going to be a bedroom—our bedroom—was my office.

  My Fritz the Cat clock ticked loudly on the wall, tail swishing in brittle motion. Tick…tick…tick… “Can I see upstairs, too?” Andrew asked.

  “Of course,” I said, holding Angus a little tighter. I followed Andrew up the narrow stairs, noticing how he was still so scrawny and slight. Had I once found that endearing? “So this is my bedroom,” I said tersely, pointing, “and there’s the guest room, where Margaret’s staying, that’s the door to the attic—I haven’t done anything up there yet. And at the end of the hall is the bathroom. ”

  Andrew walked down the hall, peeking in the various doorways, then stuck his head in the loo. “Our tub,” he said fondly.

  “My tub,” I corrected instantly. My voice was hard.

  He gave a mock grimace. “Oops. Sorry. You’re right. Well, it looks beautiful. ”

  We’d found the old porcelain claw-foot tub in Vermont one weekend when we’d gone antiquing and bed-andbreakfasting and lovemaking. It had been in someone’s yard, an old Yankee farmer who once had his pigs use it as a water trough. He sold it to us for fifty bucks, and the three of us had practically killed ourselves getting it into the back of Andrew’s Subaru. I found a place that reglazed tubs, and when it came back to us, it was shiny and white and pure. Andrew had suggested that, while it wasn’t yet hooked up to the plumbing, maybe we could get naked and climb in just the same. Which we had done. A week later, he dumped me. I couldn’t believe I’d kept the thing.

  “It’s amazing. What a great job you’ve done,” he said, smiling proudly at me.

  “Thanks,” I said, heading downstairs. Andrew followed. “Would you like a glass of water? Coffee? Wine? Beer?”

  I rolled my eyes at myself. Why not just bake the man a cake, Grace? Maybe grill up a few shrimp and a filet mignon?

  “I’ll take a glass of wine,” he said. “Thanks, Grace. ”

  He followed me into the kitchen, murmuring appreciatively as he noticed little details—the crown molding, the cuckoo clock in the hall, the cluster of heavy architectural stars I’d bolted to the wall behind the kitchen table.

  “So why the visit, Andrew?” I asked, carrying two glasses of wine into the living room. He sat on the Victorian sofa that had cost so much to reupholster. I took the wing chair, handed Angus a misshapen hunk of rawhide to discourage him from eating Andrew’s shoes and looked at my sister’s fiancé.

  He took a deep breath and smiled. “Well, this is a little awkward, Grace, but I felt I should…well, ask you something. ”

  My heart dropped into my stomach, sitting there like a peach pit. “Okay. ”

  He looked at the floor. “Well, I…this is uncomfortable for me. ” He broke off, looked up and made one of his goofy faces.

  I smiled uncertainly.

  “I guess I’ll just blurt this out,” he said. “Gracie, what are you doing with that guy?”

  The peach pit seemed to turn, scraping my insides unpleasantly, and my smile dropped from my face as if it was made from granite. Andrew waited, a kindly, concerned expression on his face. “What do you mean?” I asked, my voice quiet and shaky.

  Andrew scratched his cheek. “Grace,” he said very softly, leaning forward, “forgive me for asking this, but does this have something to do with Natalie and me?”

  “Excuse me?” I asked, my voice squeaking. I reached for my dog and lifted him to sit protectively on my lap.

  Angus dropped the rawhide and growled obediently at Andrew. Good dog.

  Andrew took a quick breath. “Look, I’ll just come right out with this, Grace. That guy doesn’t seem, well, right for you. An ex-con, Gracie? Is that really what you want? I…well, I never met the other guy, Wyatt, was it? The doctor? But from what Natalie said, he sounded great. ”

  I closed my eyes. Natalie never met him, you dope. I never met him. But God knew Natalie had a lot dependent on me dating Wyatt Dunn, so perhaps her imagination had gotten the better of her. As mine had with me.

  “Grace,” Andrew continued, “this guy…I have to ask myself if you’re doing this out of…well…”

  “Desperation?” I suggested with a bite.

  He winced slightly but didn’t correct me. “You’ve been…well, generous, Grace,” he said. “I’m sure the whole situation with Natalie and me has been…uncomfortable. It has been for me, anyway, so I can only imagine how it’s been for you. ”

  “How kind of you to consider my feelings,” I murmured. The peach pit scraped deeper.

  “But—what’s his name again? The embezzler?”

  “Callahan O’ Shea. ”

  “Well, Grace, to me it just seems like he’s not for you. ”

  I smiled tightly. “Well, you know, Andrew, he does have this one really wonderful quality. He’s not in love with my sister. Which, you know, I find quite refreshing. ”

  Andrew flushed, acknowledging that with a half nod. “Point taken, Gracie. But even with—”

  “And I feel compelled to mention,” I said, my voice taking on my silence in the classroom tone, causing Angus to whine sympathetically, “that my love life is no longer any of your business. ”

  “I still care about you, that’s all,” he protested softly, and in that moment, I wanted to kick him in the nuts.

  “Don’t trouble yourself, Andrew,” I said, trying to keep my voice from breaking with rage. “I’m fine. Callahan is a good man. ”

  “Are you sure, Grace? Because there’s something I don’t trust about him. ”

  I set Angus down and looked steadily at Andrew. “How interesting that you should say that, Andrew. After all, look what happened with you and me. I thought you loved me. I thought we were pretty damn perfect together. And I was wrong. So it’s funny. You don’t trust Callahan, and I don’t quite trust you, Andrew, and I have no idea what you’re doing here right now, questioning my taste in men. ”

  He started to say something, but I cut him off. “Here’s what I know about Callahan. He uncovered a crime and he tried to make it right. At the same time, he was trying to protect his brother. He risked everything for the person he loved best, and he got screwed in the process. ”

  “Well, that’s a nice spin, Grace, but—”

>   “It’s not spin, Andrew. Have you ever risked anything? You…” My voice grew choked with anger, my heart thudding, face burning. “You asked me to marry you, knowing I was head over heels for you and knowing damn well you didn’t feel the same way. But you figured it was time to settle down, and there I was, ready, willing and able. Then you met my sister, fell in love, never said boo about it. Instead you waited until three weeks before our wedding to call things off. Three weeks! Jesus, Andrew! Think you might have spoken up a little sooner?”

  “I never—”

  “I’m not finished. ” My voice was hard enough to cause his mouth to snap shut. “Even with Natalie, you just sat back and did nothing. Yet she’s the love of your life, isn’t she? But if it weren’t for me, you would never have even spoken to her again. ”

  His face reddened even more. “I said I’m grateful for how you got Nat and me together. ”

  “I didn’t do it for you, Andrew. I did it for her. You, though…you didn’t fight for her, you didn’t try to talk to her…you just sat there like a fern or something, doing nothing. ”

  His shoulders slumped. “What was I supposed to do?” he said, his voice small. “I wasn’t about to date my exfiancée’s sister. I didn’t want to put you in a bad spot. ”

  “And yet here you are, a week away from marrying her. ”

  He sighed, slumping back against the sofa, and ran a hand through his pale blond hair. “Grace, you’re right. I never would’ve even spoken to Natalie without your blessing. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you more. I thought it was the right thing to do. Wasn’t it?” He looked so genuinely confused that I wanted to shake him.

  Then I saw the tears in his eyes. The sight took the fight out of me, and I drooped back against my chair. “I don’t know, Andrew. It was a complicated situation. ”

  “Exactly,” he said, and God, I was sick of him! For the past three years, I’d been obsessed with Andrew, happily and miserably, and enough was enough.

  “Listen,” I said wearily. “I guess I appreciate your concern over Cal, but…well, you just don’t get a say, Andrew.

  I’m none of your business anymore. ”

  He smiled, a little sadly. “Well, you’ll be my sister-in-law soon. You are my business, a little. ”

  “Save it, pal. ” But I said the words with a smile. For Nat’s sake.

  He set his wineglass on the coffee table and stood. “I should go,” he said, looking around again. “The house is beautiful, Grace. You did a wonderful job. ”

  “I know,” I said opening the door.

  He went out on the porch, and I followed, closing the screen door so Angus wouldn’t get out. Andrew turned back to face me. “You’ll always be special to me, you know,” he said, not looking in my eyes.

  I paused. “Well. Thank you. ”

  He put his skinny arms around me and gave me a stiff hug. After a second, I patted his shoulder. Then, quite out of the blue, Andrew turned his head and kissed me.

  It wasn’t a romantic kiss…not quite. Too puckery. But neither was it a brother-in-law peck on the cheek. In typical Andrew fashion, he hadn’t been able to decide. Idiot.

  I jerked back. “Andrew, are you out of your mind?”

  “What?” he said, his quirky eyebrows raised.

  “Well, call me crazy, but I don’t think you should ever do that again, okay? Ever. ”

  “Shit. Sorry,” he said, grimacing. “I just—I’m sorry. Force of habit. I don’t know. I just…forget it. I’m really sorry. ”
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