More Than Friends (Kingsley #4) (7 page)

BOOK: More Than Friends (Kingsley #4)
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Chapter Twelve

Once Michael had gotten his father’s agreement, the room cleared quickly. Cameron and Logan went to wait for Mac’s flight to come in at the airport, Adam and Evan headed back to the Kingsley house to rest and prepare for Eva’s return, and Harmony went home to check her travel bags. Wrestling required a lot of travel, so she kept a bag already packed, but she would need to make sure it had everything she needed, and rest up before her evening flight. Within half an hour, only Michael, Renee, and Eva remained in the room.

 

“Well,” Renee sighed, standing. She ran her hands down the thighs of her jeans, and then turned to settle one hand on Michael’s shoulder. “If you’re staying with us girls, and Miss Eva is spending another night here in Chez ‘Opital –“ this with a playful wink toward Eva, “– then I’m just gonna pop down to the gift shop and get some of that dry shampoo stuff.” She shrugged, her face flushing slightly as Eva’s eyes lit. “Well, I know you won’t be taking baths or showers anytime soon with those casts on, and everything is gonna be a mess for a while, but we can still at least try to keep you feeling fresh.”

 

“I think I might love you,” Eva teased. Renee laughed and Eva turned serious, raising her eyebrows as she said, “I mean it, though. I can’t tell you how awkward it is to be stuck in this bed like this. No showers – and that’s just one day! I feel disgusting already, just anticipating the next six weeks.”

 

“Yeah, but we can wrap those up, right? So you can take showers without them getting wet?” Michael ran a hand through his hair, contemplating the cast on his mother’s wrist. “They make bag things for that, right?”

 

Eva laughed, glancing down at her hand, the fingers sticking awkwardly out from the end of the cast. “Yeah, they make them. I don’t know how easy they are to use though, or how it’ll be to use two of them. Maybe I’ll become very adept at the art of one-handed sponge bathing.” But then she grinned up at Renee, her blue eyes sparkling as she waggled her eyebrows. “Maybe Adam will help.”

 

“Ergh!” Michael grimaced, turning his face away. “Mom!!”

 

Renee laughed. “Alright, Michael relax. She’s just teasing anyway.”

 

“Or am I?” Eva fluttered her eyelashes playfully. “I might be old,” she said, “But I’m still kickin’.”

 

“Please, you’re not old. I think you’re about the same age as my mom right – around sixty?”

 

Straightening her blankets around her leg, Eva nodded. “Sixty-two on my birthday this year.”

 

“Yeah, still young enough to want to stay clean,” Renee winked. “Just in case of a gentleman caller.” She laughed as Michael covered his ears and glared.

 

“I don’t need to hear this!” he grumbled, his protest only making the women laugh harder.

 

Renee giggled. “Okay, I’m outta here. I wonder what all they have down there, anyway? I’ll just see what I can find, and we’ll make a day of it. Or, a long morning of it, at least, before Michael and I head out to let you rest.”

 

“Are you done having the sex talk with my mom now?” Michael asked, his voice over-loud as he pressed his palms to his ears, his face flaming. “Jeez, I feel like I’m twelve or something. Are you two finished freaking me out?”

 

Eva nodded to her son, still laughing, and waved a dismissive hand at him as he cautiously uncovered his ears. To Renee, she said, “You don’t have to do all this, you know.”

 

Shrugging, Renee pouted slightly, her lips puckered as she fished in her back pocket. Pulling a plastic card from her pocket, she glanced at it, grinned slightly, and stuffed it back into her pocket. “I know,” she answered. “But it’s what I’d want someone to think to do for me. I’ll be right back.”

 

Once she was gone, Eva dropped her teasing and just sat back to look at her son. “You look tired, Michael. Are you doing okay?”

 

Michael nodded, pursing his lips. “I’m alright,” he said. “Business is good, with the end of summer coming. I took a contract a few weeks ago with a rental company, so I’ve got a lot full of maintenance and repairs right now – probably keep the bills paid through the winter, and there’s not a deadline since it’s a revolving job. As long as I keep fixing them so the rental fleet is drivable, they’ll keep sending their cars to me. It’s a big step for me, though; I might have to hire someone on to help carry the load.”

 

She smiled, patting his hand. “I remember the first time you worked on a car. You remember, tuning up my old station wagon when you were little? I think you were five, and your daddy taught you to help hand him tools because he figured if he couldn’t keep you away from the car, at least he could teach you what to do under one. Remember that?”

 

“I do,” Michael laughed, picking at the stains around his fingernails. Flattening his hands against his thighs, he showed them to his mother. “But now you can’t ever call me out about washing my hands. No one can tell anymore, if I have or if I haven’t.”

 

Cringing, Eva glanced disdainfully at Michael’s hands before looking up into his face again. “I hope you have,” she said dryly.

 

He shook his head. “Of course I have. I even use one of those scrubbers, like the ones doctors use when they scrub their hands before surgery – I clean all around my nails and my knuckles, too, but the stains never come off. I think even if I can retire young, I’ll still grow old and die with dirty hands.”

 

“Well, let’s not be in a hurry for that now, shall we?” She cleared her throat, eyeing him shrewdly. “But I have noticed something. Your little miss is hanging around a bit, isn’t she? I’m not sure I can believe that’s all about me, you know – I mean, this is only a small fracture.” She raised her arm, showing the cast, and then lowered it to point at the cast on her leg. “And that one isn’t much worse. I’m fine, Michael. No need for all this fuss from any of you.”

 

“Little miss –“ Michael pressed his lips together, still caught on what his mother had said. He felt his eyebrows draw together heavily, and with effort, forced his face to relax. But still, he had to ask. “Little miss what? I don’t have a
‘little miss’
.”

 

Shaking her head, Eva arched her eyebrows in amusement. “I swear,” she muttered. “Men.”

 

“Wait – Mom, what the hell? Are you talking –“

 

“– About Renee?” Exasperated now, she rolled her eyes. “She’s a sweet girl with a kind heart, but do you really think she spent the night sleeping in a waiting room chair in the lobby because
she likes me
?” Eva sighed, her unbroken leg fidgeting beneath the blankets restlessly. Eva was an active woman; Michael could see that being injured in such a disabling way was going to be hard. He could see, too, that she was terribly frustrated with him. “Really, Michael,” she said quietly, closing her eyes as she rested her head against her pillows. “I always thought you were smarter than that.”

 

“Smarter than – What are you saying? Mom, it’s not like that with Renee and me, she’s … she’s just a friend. Hell, she’s got a date in a few days, some guy who came into one of her yoga sessions!”

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

Ev
a’
s eyes popped open in surprise; her mouth dropped open too, before she recovered enough to shut it
.“
Hmph
,
” she said
.“
A date? Renee has a date
?

 


Renee has a date
,
” Michael answered.

 


And how do you feel about that
?

 

He shrugged, ignoring the brief wave of nausea that washed over him, ignoring the nagging sensation in the pit of his stomach
.“I’
m fine with it. W
e’
re just friends, Mom. She can dat
e
– or
not
date. Tha
t’
s none of my business
.

 


And do you date? You have
n’
t mentioned any date
s
– I have
n’
t heard of any dates
.
” Her eyebrows had drawn together now, and her lips had thinned to a frustrated line.

 


Well
,
” Michael hedged, unwilling to tell his mother that the closest he came to dating someone was a series of random hook-ups with a cute bartender he liked but did
n’
t care for
.“
Uh, sure.
I
… date
.

 


Well
,
” Eva echoed dryly, pursing her lips as she avoided meeting his eyes
.“
I hope yo
u’
r
e
… very careful, Michael. On you
r
… dates
.

 

Grimacing, he bit down on his bottom lip
.“
Mom
,
” he said
.“
I am always careful. I wear my seatbelt. I open doors. I never leave my drinks unattended
.

 

Ev
a’
s eyes snapped to his, flashing daggers
.“
Now
tha
t’
s
in poor taste
,
” she snapped
.“
If your sister were her
e
–“

 


Mom, wait
,
” Michael said, touching her hand softly to silence her
.“
Alright, bad joke. But you know what I meant. You do
n’
t have to keep worrying about me.
I’
m a big boy, remember
?

 

Finally, she looked up again and met his eyes
.“
I do
n’
t like seeing my son settle for lonesomeness
,
” she said sadly.

 


What? Eva
n’
s lonesome
?
” At his mothe
r’
s exasperated look, he winked
.“
I know you ca
n’
t mean Dre
w
– h
e’
s happy. Everyone can tell he is. Must be Evan, then
.

 

Eva rolled her eyes and sighed
.“
You know what I mean
.
” But she laughed reluctantly, and the tension between them was broken.

 

Michael sighed too, nodding silently as he ran one fingertip over the jagged cut that ran along the middle joint of his right ring finger
.“
Yeah, I know what you mean
,
” he said, his voice hardly more than a whisper. He swallowed, pressing slightly against the cut, the sudden sting bringing tears to the corners of his eyes. He blinked them away, releasing the pressure on his finger as he looked up at his mother
.“
Maybe tha
t’
s the life for me. And who says
I’
m lonely, anyhow
?
” Shrugging one shoulder, he forced a grin
.“
Maybe I like having the house to mysel
f
– stays pretty clean that way. No delicates always hanging over the shower rod to dry
.
” Eva turned away, picking slightly at the edge of the cast on her wrist. She slipped a finger between her hand and the cast, grimacing, and Michael watched her sweep her finger back and forth, attempting to scratch her palm
.“
Does it hurt much
?
” he asked.

 

She shook her head
.“
No, it does
n’
t. Because I say it does
n’
t, and I choose to ignore the pain. I guess tha
t’
s what w
e’
re doing now, right? Ignoring it
?
” She looked at him pointedly, her mouth drawn into a stern line even as her eyes were laughing
.“
Sounds ridiculous, does
n’
t it
?

 

Chewing his lip, Michael stood up and moved to the window. In the parking lot below, an ambulance sped in, lights flashing, and came to an abrupt halt beneath the emergency overhang designated for ambulance usage. The back doors exploded open, the driver door opened, and the hospital door opened all at onc
e
– as if the entire scene were perfectly coordinated. Michael supposed it must be; hospitals have their own routines, in the midst of the mess
.“
Pain does
n’
t go away just because you ignore it
,
” he conceded, nodding. He could still feel his mothe
r’
s eyes on his back as he watched the paramedics below, working with the nursing staff to wheel their patient from the ambulance and into the hospital
.“
But you do
n’
t just dwell on it, either. You go on living anyway
.
” His mother did
n’
t answer, but he heard her sigh as he continued to watch the scene below. When he turned back she had gone to sleep, her broken wrist held close to her chest, the blankets smooth over her lap, save for the long narrow lump of her casted leg. Dropping back against the wall beside the window, Michael tipped his face to the ceiling and closed his eyes
.“
Damn, I need a drink
.

 

He didn't open his eyes again until he felt the air change in the room, the smell of disinfectant breezing in as Renee silently pushed the door open with her shoulder. Her arms were ful
l
– she was carrying a small clear plastic box, filled with several small bottles and things. Resting atop the box was a vase of flowers, cheerful shades of yellow and white, a mix of daisies, lilies, and small roses. Renee smiled at him silently, her eyes flicking from him to his mother and back. He shrugged, stepped forward, and lifted the vase from her arms.

 

Her hand now freed of the burden of not dropping anything, Renee reached out and caught the collar of Michae
l’
s shirt, pulling him back down so that she could whisper in his ear
.“I’
ll stay with her
,
” she said softly, her breath sending tendrils of electricity spiraling through his blood
.“
And w
e’
ll do a good job faking it until yo
u’
re off the hook, but I can tell yo
u’
re tired
.
” She waited until he nodded softly, his cheek brushing close to her lips; sh
e’
d pressed a folded slip of paper between his fingers and whispered
,“
Tha
t’
s a twenty. Will you get us some coffee
?

 

Nodding again, Michael swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. They were good friends, close friends. They had shared many private jokes and small secrets in the time they had known each other. This was
n’
t the first time she had whispered in his ear; in fact, he had whispered in hers many times, too. So why was it that this time, the caress of her breath along the shell of his ear made goose bumps fly over his skin? Why was it that the coconut breeze that surrounded her seemed to short-circuit his brain and send inconvenient wake-up signals to his crotch? What the hell was wrong with him? Clearing his throat, he stepped away and watched her hand fall from his collar, the delicate fingers long and slender, tipped with simple, clear pink polish. She smiled, totally unaware of the effect she had had, and turned away to settle the box in her hands on the windowsill.

 

Michae
l’
s eyes fell down as she turned her face away, to watch lean arms and narrow shoulders, the curve of a slender waist beneath her favorit
e‘
Yoga Rock
s
’ t-shirt, the subtle flare of a hip against the smooth stretch of yoga pants as she bent to glance out the window. Long, lean thighs, slender calves, dainty feet in bright pink flip flops. How had he never noticed her in that way before? Shaking his head, he dragged his gaze away from the way the spandex cupped her ass, thrust the vase into her hands, ignored the questioning look she shot his way, spun on his heel, and fled the room.

 

 

BOOK: More Than Friends (Kingsley #4)
7.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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