Authors: Miller,Cassie-Ann L.
I chuckle. “Come on, Sam. I’m just clowning around. Loosen up. You’re so
…Jeeze – you might as well be a British aristocrat.”
Her gaze narrows and she glares at me. So hard.
Isla’s eyes dart from Sammie to me and back again. “Uh — Faith, I need to go to the washroom…to…do that thing…Will you help me?” She slides out of her chair.
Faith catches on immediately and actually looks relieved for an excuse to get away. “Yeah. Yes, sure. I’ll help you.”
She leaps away from the table so fast that her glass of sangria sways precariously on the tabletop.
Sammie pushes back her chair to follow them, but Isla pins her with a look. “Uh — Sammie, you stay here…and, uh…tell Keeland about that homeowners association handbook thingy for your street.”
Isla and Faith rush away before Sammie has time to protest. And now, we’re sitting here alone. Just me and her.
I turn to her, releasing a heavy breath. “What’s it gonna take to get a laugh out of you, Sammie?”
She doesn’t answer. She just stares straight ahead, running her finger around the lip of her empty glass.
Man, I kind of wish it were my lip
I’m not giving up so easily, though. “If I’m gonna have to kiss your ass all night, we might as well get a room and a bottle of wine.” I wiggle my eyebrows at her.
I’m hoping that she’ll at least smile. But she just scowls.
I know, I know. I’m rusty and my jokes are cringe-worthy. I haven’t been with a woman in a long time. Cut me some slack.
I used to be smooth. Real smooth. Getting a girl to laugh was never an issue. But maybe it’s my three years of social isolation that has me so awkward. Or maybe it’s the fact that my age-old crush on Sammie Trotten seems to have crept back up on me before I even got the chance to unpack my bags.
expecting this when I came back to Reyfield…
Sammie looks furious. “No, okay? Just no. You can't come back after all this time and just laugh and joke like the good old days. No.”
Fuck, I’m an asshole. “Sammie —”
She throws up a hand to stop me. “Don’t. Spare me whatever it is that you have to say. I need to go speak to my brother. Have a good evening, Keeland.”
She slides out of her chair and gets lost in the crowd.
I slump back into my seat and down the rest of my beer in one gulp, feeling utterly defeated.
A model-type with perky tits just walked by giving me hungry eyes but after Sam shoved a fistful of humble pie down my throat, I've suddenly lost my appetite for anyone else but her.
“Hey Gracie,” I say, tapping my sister-in-law on the shoulder.
She spins around quickly, fire blazing in her brown eyes. When she sees that it’s just me, she takes a deep breath and a step away from my brother. They’ve been arguing in the corner since I walked into Flynn and Murray’s 20 minutes ago.
“Hi Sam,” she says dryly, blinking away angry tears.
“Everything okay over here?” My gaze bounces between Gracie and Daniel. They’ve been having problems lately. It’s gotten to the point where neither of them are able to hide it anymore.
Gracie sighs, allowing my brother to answer. “We’re great.” He gives me his most patronizing smile, yanking his silk tie away from his throat. “First time we’ve gone out since the baby was born.” My nephew, Sebastian The Pooh as I call him, popped into the world nine weeks ago.
Though I’m not convinced that everything is fine, I didn’t come over here to get in the middle of Gracie and Daniel’s marital beef. I have a bone of my own to pick. “Mind if I speak with my brother for a minute?” I say to my sister-in-law.
Her eyes are glassy as she shrugs. “Knock yourself out,” she says angrily. “Who knows? Maybe he’ll actually have a little respect for
feelings.” She spins on her heel and melts into the crowd.
I turn my attention to Daniel. He shoves his hand through his dark, floppy hair and releases a heavy breath. “Thanks, kiddo,” he says, looking relieved for the interruption.
I spit out a laugh. “Ha — you think I came over here to save you from Gracie’s wrath? Think again. It’s my turn to chew your head off.”
He cocks an eyebrow at me. “What did I do to
I lean in close to him. “Keeland!”
He nods in understanding. “Yeah, Keeland…About that, I was gonna tell you yesterday, but I couldn’t get ahold of you.”
“Yesterday? You were gonna tell me yesterday? I didn’t even know that you were in contact with Keeland all these years. Period. And then, next thing I know, he’s staying in the house next door!” My voice is louder and more aggressive than is probably appropriate. But I’m pissed. This is the guy who broke my heart when he fell off the face of the earth without warning, and my big brother has been chumming it up with him this whole time. I feel so betrayed.
I wasn’t even going to come to this get-together tonight, ‘cause this is bullshit. Keeland walked out on us years ago, then he magically reappeared and now we’re out celebrating his return like he’s the freakin’ prodigal son. This is
how I imagined that it would go if he ever came back to Reyfield, me sitting at a bar sharing a sangria with him like nothing ever happened.
It was Isla who talked me into coming here. She said that if I didn’t come, I’d look petty or like I still have feelings for him. And I most definitely do
have feelings for Keeland Masters.
I’m not here for him. I’m here for my dignity.
Daniel tsks. “Look, Sam — that whole thing that happened with you and Keeland, that was ages ago. When will you get over it already?”
I should kick him in the nuts right now. I really should. But, I’m on a mission to defend my honor tonight and something tells me that physically assaulting my brother at a bar might not work in my favor.
I decide not to dignify his question with an answer. Instead, I broach the million-dollar topic. “How does dad feel about Keeland staying in the house?” Our father never did like Keeland and he would be livid to know that Keeland had the nerve to move back into that house after his family left without paying the rent all those years ago.
Daniel wears a squeamish expression. “Yeah, don’t tell mom or dad about him being here. Okay?”
My eyes widen in disbelief. I can’t believe that he would hide this from our parents.
“Please?” My brother gives me his trademark puppy-dog face. He uses it on me whenever he needs a favor.
I sigh. “Fine.”
“And if you don’t like Keeland, just stay away from him. Simple.”
“Oh, I won’t have any problem staying away from him. Trust me.”
“Good.” This night is starting to wear me out. “I think I should probably get home.”
He groans, throwing both arms up in frustration. “Don’t be a bore, Sam. Not tonight.”
He has the nerve to call me boring. He’s the one who became a lawyer (lawyers are only marginally less boring than auditors), got married, had a baby and settled
the way down. According to Gracie, Daniel has become a real stiff since he got promoted to junior partner at his law firm a few months ago. I’d bet a hundred bucks that the argument they were just having had something to do with his work.
Just as I open my mouth to yell at him, a T-Pain song comes on over the speakers. Flynn appears next to my brother. “Dude! You remember this song? Tell me you remember this song!” Then, he bursts out singing. “
You’re my shawwwtttyyy
My brother starts bobbing his head just as a few of the other guys make their way over to us, jiving and shaking and acting like fools. They grab Daniel by the shoulders pushing him into the crowd, chanting and hooting as they go.
Well, I guess that marks the end of our conversation.
I’m pouting harder than ever as I slink back over to my table where Gracie has now joined Faith and Isla. They appear to be on a fresh pitcher of sangria and Gracie is venting about Daniel. I don’t need any convincing. After what my brother just did to me, I’m on board with any form of punishment she has planned for him.
I look over to where he and his friends are vividly reliving their high school glory days over by the bar. ‘Master Kee’ is the center of attention and his loyal disciples circle around him, looking absolutely awestruck as he speaks. He animatedly pretends to catch an invisible football before shooting it over to Daniel. All the guys roar with laughter, bumping fists and slapping each other on the back.
!” Faith’s voice catches me off guard and I nearly jump out of my skin. When I look over to my left, I see her leaning in to my ear as she gazes dreamily at Keeland.
“Who?” I say coolly as I sit back in my chair and attempt to appear unaffected.
“Keeland, silly,” she breathes wistfully, her attention still peeled to his every movement.
I huff. “Didn’t notice.” I fold my arms angrily across my chest.
She slaps me on the shoulder. “
…you’ve been staring at him every time he walks by and you’re an absolute bitch to him every time he utters a word to you…I think you’ve noticed that he’s hot.”
Isla pipes in. “Sammie, grow the hell up! You’ve been putting on this unconvincing, I-don’t-want-Keeland act since we were in high school. Just admit it. You think he’s hot.” My best friend isn’t helping my case at all.
I grit my teeth. "He looks like he could use a shave,” I say sulkily.
Gracie throws back her head and laughs. “A little bit of stubble goes a long way behind closed doors. Trust me, girlie.” She winks at me. Isla and Faith giggle along.
My stomach roils. “Firstly, ew. Just, ew. That’s my brother you’re talking about. Secondly, I thought you hated Daniel right now.”
“I do hate him…but I love him.” She shrugs. “That’s marriage, I guess.”
“Should we be worried?” Faith asks. “You looked like you were about to scratch his eyes out a little while ago.”
Gracie gives us a weak smile. “Let’s put it this way – after the way he’s been acting lately, it’ll be a while before he gets to put his stubble to use, if you know what I mean.”
I groan. “Could you not be so descriptive when you talk about your sex life with my brother?”
Laughing, she opens her mouth to respond but her phone interrupts her, vibrating on the table in front of her.
She picks it up and answers on the first ring. She slips a palm over her ear to drown out the noise of the bar, her frown deepening with each word. When she hangs up, she looks panicked. “That was the sitter. She thinks Sebastian’s got a fever.” She’s already sliding her arms into the sleeves of her jacket.
“Crap, is he gonna be okay?” Faith asks, worry crinkling her forehead.
Gracie shrugs anxiously. “I don’t know. He’s probably just fine. Our sitter is 18 and she has a tendency to overreact and panic over the slightest thing. But my philosophy is ‘better safe than sorry’.” She peers over at the bar as she rises to her feet. “Now all I have to do is pry my husband away from his gang of fist-pumping, back-slapping hooligans.”
“Good night, Gracie,” we call after her as she ventures off into the crowd.
Before long, she’s back at our table, Daniel and Keeland on her heels.
“Hey Sam,” my brother calls out to me and I already don’t like where this is going. Just the tone of his voice is enough to put me on edge.
“We’ve got an emergency with the sitter and we have to leave immediately. You’re gonna have to give Keeland a ride home.”
I scowl and Keeland gives me an impish smile. “I came with Daniel. My bike is at the mechanic’s, remember?”
I think back to this morning when his motorcycle had ripped me out of my meditation as it howled on the driveway like a wild animal fighting for its last breath.
Before I can object, a nervous-looking Gracie pulls on my brother’s sleeve, nodding in the direction of the door. “C’mon, Daniel. We’ve gotta go.”
He gives her an impatient nod before turning back to Keeland. “Later, man.” I watch as Daniel and Keeland’s hands collide, clasping together in an obnoxious parting gesture.
I can’t believe they haven’t outgrown that shit.
Daniel lifts his hand, quickly waving goodbye to our table before Gracie drags him towards the exit.
So, now I’m left with a meek-looking Keeland standing in front of me. Faith and Isla are at my side, communicating with their eyes, telepathically goading me to have mercy on him.
I feel cornered. There’s no way to ditch him without looking like an absolute bitch. And for some inexplicable reason, I don’t want him to think that I’m a bitch.
Why the hell does this asshole have me feeling all discombobulated?
I’m not wasted. I’m not even a little tipsy. But I suddenly feel bold enough to let myself scrutinize him, eye him shamelessly trying to figure out what his appeal is.
Broad shoulders. Scruffy chin. Tattoos covering the flesh exposed by the short sleeves of his fitted, black t-shirt. Round ass under the dark denim of his jeans.
Okay, I’ve got to admit that, physically, there’s a lot to like.