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Anna almost laughed when Drew took his first bite—she could have sworn she’d heard him make a very similar sound during one of their now many interludes together.
 

“This is…beyond incredible.”
 
He took a long drink from his beer before dishing out seconds for himself.
 

“I’ll send the recipe home with Anna Marie.
 
She can make it for you.”
 

“Oh, don’t volunteer me for that.
 
I’m nowhere near as talented in the kitchen as you, Nana.”

“That’s because you haven’t had to cook for someone you love, yet.
 
Just wait.”
 
Nana raised her eyebrows at her granddaughter before taking a drink of her own beer.
 
“Now, tell me everything.”

“There isn’t much to tell.”
 
Anna said with a shrug.
 

“Oh, I don’t believe that.”

“It’s true.”
 

“Fine.
 
Drew, tell me everything.”
 
Drew looked like a deer in headlights.
 
He swallowed what he was chewing and wiped at his mouth with a napkin.
 

“Um…Anna’s building a studio?”
 

“See, that’s something.”
 
Nana smiled at him and turned back to Anna.
 
“Tell me about that.”

“I’m
trying
to build a studio.
 
You know, for the center.
 
They’ve already taken these programs out of the schools—I just want to make sure they have the opportunity to express themselves somewhere.”
 
Anna shrugged again.

“That’s my Anna Marie, through and through.”
 
Nana leaned over and kissed Anna on the cheek, grinning broadly.
 
“Now, what’s this trying business?”

“Funding.”
 
At this, Nana rolled her eyes, taking another drink of her beer as she rose to her feet and took her plate to the sink.
 

“Typical bureaucratic BS, I’m sure.”
 

“We’ve got a couple fundraisers going, though.
 
Selling some candy bars, and Drew came up with hosting a prom at the center.
 
Charging for the tickets, asking for donations…”

“That doesn’t sound like it’ll bring in enough, though.”
 

“No, it probably won’t.”
 
Anna sighed.
 
“But we’re still working on it.”

“What about an auction?”
 

From across the table, Drew caught Anna’s eyes, and she was sure the same look of approval she saw there in his was reflected in her own.
 
“That…could be a really good idea.”

“I could probably snag some tickets from the station we could auction off.”
 
Drew told her.

“I could see about Alice donating some of her photographs—”

“And I could send you home with a pile of stuff.
 
Autographs, artwork…you name it, I’ve got plenty of it to spare.”
 
Nana chimed in.

“I’ll call Bill over at Canon’s in the morning and see if he’d mind hosting.”
 
Drew’s blue eyes were sparkling with excitement.
 

“You mentioned something about a station—are you somebody important in the scheme of things?”
 

“Drew hosts a pretty popular radio show.”
 
Nana looked at him, eyebrows raised.

“Really, now?
 
A local celebrity?”
 
Nana pursed her lips for a moment.
 
“Then I think you’ve got your big ticket item right here.”

“What’s that?”

“A date with Drew, of course.”
 
Nana replied.

“Oh, no—

 
Drew
began to protest.
 

“What do you
mean,
no?
 
It’s for charity, Drew.
 
A local celebrity who looks like
this
?
 
Think of the publicity alone—and then the bidding frenzy on top of that?”

“She has a point.”
 
As much as she didn’t like to think about Drew going on a date, she had to admit her grandmother was right.
 
If nothing else, his name would draw a crowd.
 

“Not you too, Annabelle.”
 
Drew hung his head, groaning loudly.
 
“Fine, I’ll allow myself to be objectified for the good of the children.”
 
Nana patted him on the shoulder.

“There, there.
 
I’m sure you won’t find it too taxing, having women throw
themselves
at you.”

“It’ll be just like any other Saturday night, Drew.”
 
She was sure to keep her expression casual.
 
“Except all of the desperate women will be openly bidding for your affections rather than prancing around in their shortest skirts.”

“Do you think they’ll at least wear low-cut tops?”
 
Anna threw her balled up napkin at him.

“And on that note—I think you two should get a little sleep.
 
You, my friend, have got a long afternoon of yard work ahead of you.
 
Give me a little time to see what I can rummage up for the auction.”

“You want help cleaning up?”
 
Drew asked, and Nana shooed him away.
 

“If you’re not careful, Drew, I might start to think you’re a gentleman.”
 

“Oh, definitely can’t have that.”
 
Nana winked at him before turning and kissing Anna on the cheek one more time.
 
“Anna Marie, I trust you remember the way?”

“I think I can find it.”
 
Anna returned her grandmother’s kiss on the cheek before nodding at Drew, who was holding the duffel bags he had carried with him from the car.
 
He followed her from the kitchen and through a large, open living room.
 
Their room was at the end of a short hallway.
 
“Here we are.
 
The bathroom is right there.”
 
She pointed to another door before taking her bag from him and opening the doorway to the bedroom.

“Um, should I…?”
 
Drew gestured toward the floor.

“Don’t be silly.
 
I think we can get through a couple of nights in the same bed.”
 
She tossed her bag on the chest at the end of the bed, digging through it for the pajamas and toiletries she’d packed this morning.
 
“You mind if I take the bathroom first?”

“Go right ahead,

 
he
told her.
 
Anna crossed the hallway to the bathroom, where she splashed some water on her face and brushed her teeth before slipping into the t-shirt and pants she’d brought.
 
When she returned to the bedroom, she found Drew sitting on the bed, shirtless.
 

He was quite a beautiful site, she admitted to herself—and not for the first time.
 
“All yours.”
 
He offered her a tight-lipped smile before stepping past her.
 
Anna climbed into the bed, burying herself beneath the blankets.
 
The sheets were cool, and she tried not to shiver as she snuggled in deeper.
 

When Drew returned, he flipped the light before climbing into the bed beside her—and she immediately began to warm just from his proximity.
 
“Nana is something, isn’t she?”
 
she
whispered after several long moments.

“She really is.”

“Good night, Drew,”
 

“Good night, Annabelle.”

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

Anna sat on the couch beside her grandmother.
 
The TV was on in front of them, but neither had been paying attention.
 
Each sipped at their glass of wine, the bottle on the table in front of them.
 

While Drew had been outside working on the list of tasks Nana had prepared for him—she hadn’t been kidding when she said she was going to put him to work—the two of them had been catching up.
 
Anna had heard all about the month and a half Nana had spent at an old vineyard in Italy.

“It was wonderful, Anna Marie.
 
I spent my time crushing grapes and drinking wine, creating art, and making love as often as possible.”
 
Nana sighed while Anna made a face.
 
She would never get used to Nana talking to her about her very active sex life.
 
“I wish you would come with me next time.
 
There’s just something so incredibly sensual about using your body—”

“I can only imagine, Nana.”
 
Anna took a long drink from her glass, trying to erase the image of her grandmother caught up in the heat of the moment.
 

“If I didn’t know better, I would say that you’ve found a little sensuality yourself in my absence.”
 
Anna’s cheeks burned and, in spite of herself, she found her eyes glancing through the window.
 
Even from here, she could tell he was sweating.
 
He leaned forward, bracing himself against his knees, obviously taking a moment to catch his breath.

“We’re just friends.”

“That might be true.”
 
Nana poured herself another glass of wine.
 
“But friends often make the best lovers.”

“Oh, we definitely have that.”
 
Anna drained her glass and poured another.

“Where did you meet him?”

“I’ve known him as long as I’ve known Jeff.
 
Actually, if it weren’t for Drew, I probably wouldn’t have met Jeff.
 
They’re best friends.”

“And you think that’s wise?”
 
Nana asked, her green eyes holding Anna’s.

“Alice asked me the same thing.”
 
Anna sighed, shrugging a shoulder.
 
“Jeff is out of my life, Nana.”

“But is he out of Drew’s?”
 

Leave it to Nana to point out the obvious.

“It doesn’t mean anything, Nana—what’s going on between Drew and
I
.
 
He’s fun, and he makes me laugh.
 
But it’s nothing more than that—I know we’re not right for each other.
 
We’re just passing time with each other.”
 
Anna bit the inside of her lip.
 
Thinking about the relationship between Jeff and Drew always made her just a little uncomfortable.
 
She tried to convince herself that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing, but deep down, she couldn’t help but feel just the slightest bit guilty.
 

She remembered what Drew had asked her, several weeks ago now, when they’d first started this.
 
Would it bother her if Jeff started sleeping with Alice?

She’d been honest with him when she’d told him that whatever Jeff did with his life was his own business.
 
She forced herself to imagine him with Alice—and, once she got passed the unlikelihood of such a pairing, she found that it didn’t bother her at all.
 
It wasn’t as if she wanted to hear the details or anything—but it was tolerable.

And then she remembered how much it stung when she thought about Drew and Alice.

“What happened with Jeff?”
 
Nana asked, pulling Anna back to the present.
 
She hadn’t been aware of the older woman watching her.

“Oh, Nana.”
 
Anna sighed again, and Nana scooted closer, pulling her granddaughter in and wrapping her arm around her shoulders.
 
“I broke up with him, and he proposed.
 
I felt so terrible.”
 
She pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her head on Nana’s chest, remembering all the times she’d done this throughout her life.
 

“But you were right before—Jeff and I, we made sense.
 
When I think about it, I know that he’s the one I should be with.
 
For the first time in my life, I had someone who didn’t walk all over me.
 
I had someone who looked out for me, and who wanted to share his life with me.
 
I knew everything there was to know about Jeff, and I knew exactly what our life would be like.”

“But you weren’t happy.”

“No,

 
Anna
shook her head.
 
“And I don’t know if it’s just the wine talking, but I’m happy now, Nana.”

“I would be happy too, if I had a handsome piece of work like that hanging out in my bed.”
 

And Anna couldn’t help but laugh.

 

~*~

 

Drew stood outside, breathing heavily.
 
He didn’t realize just how out of shape he was until this afternoon.
 
To be fair, he’d been quite busy.
 
Nana had a large yard, and he’d started off the morning by spending an hour trying to figure out what was wrong with her lawnmower.
 

Once he’d gotten that taken care of, he’d spent the next few hours mowing through the jungle of grass, using the clippings for mulch and compost.
 
Nana had several boxes she needed stored in the barn, and after that, he’d gone ahead and cleaned out the gutters, as she’d asked him to do.

He was pretty sure that, tomorrow, he was going to be reminded about muscles he’d long forgotten.

His side ached and he grabbed at it, deciding he would go in for a drink of water before putting everything away for the night.
 

But as he approached the door, he heard Anna’s voice and he froze for a moment.

“It doesn’t mean anything, Nana—what’s going on between Drew and
I
.
 
He’s fun, and he makes me laugh.
 
But it’s nothing more than that—I know we’re not right for each other.
 
We’re just passing time with each other.”
 

Drew turned back, feeling bad for having eavesdropped.
 

He didn’t know why it bothered him so much, hearing her
say
the words that he’d told himself time and time again.
 
He knew that there was very little substance to his end of the relationship—sure, he’d given her glimpses of himself that he hadn’t shared with anyone else.
 

But even that wasn’t saying much.

Especially considering how much Anna had opened up to him.
 
He looked around the property.
 
She’d let him into every aspect of her life—her work, her family, her bed…

She really considered him a friend.
 
And what had he shown her?
 

That he really enjoyed giving her a hard time?
 
Oh, and having sex with her.
 
He couldn’t forget that.

If he didn’t make a few changes, Drew was pretty sure that by the time she found someone to settle down with, he was likely to be left behind—hardly even a memory.
 

He imagined his life once Anna was out of it, and he was suddenly overcome with a sweeping sense of sadness.
 
Drew clenched his jaw, angry with himself.

This wasn’t the kind of guy he was.
 
What happened to the guy who’d been around at the start of all of this?
 
The guy that was pretty sure he would get over the loss of some silly arrangement with a pretty girl?

Maybe, he told himself, it wasn’t the arrangement he was afraid of losing.

Deciding he’d had enough time with his own thoughts, he pushed his body a little more, taking his time to put away all of the tools he’d used throughout the day.
 
When he finally made his way back up the house, he felt as if he’d regained his composure.
 

The scent of Italian greeted him as he stepped through the door, and he found Anna leaning back into the couch while Nana was in the kitchen, filling a pot with water.
 

“Nana, I hope you made enough to feed a small army, because
I
am famished.”
 

“You’re filthy,

 
Anna
giggled, her eyes roaming over him.
 
He tried not to
noticed
the way she raised an eyebrow ever-so-slightly, as if she appreciated what she saw.

“I hope you enjoyed yourself while I slaved away out there.”

“Oh, I did.”
 
She held up a nearly empty bottle of wine, as if to prove just how much fun she’d had.
 
Drew reached forward and took her glass, draining it before handing it back to her.
 
“Hey!”

“I hope there’s more where that came from.”

“Oh, I’ve got a few cases in here.”
 
Nana called from the kitchen.

“She made it herself.
 
Well, with her lover.”
 
Anna dissolved into a fit of giggles as she poured another glass.
 
Drew took it from her, taking another sip.

“Well, that explains it.”
 
He handed the glass back to Anna.
 
“Now, if you don’t mind, I am, as you so blatantly pointed out, filthy.
 
I’m certainly not going to sit at a table with you two beautiful ladies looking—and smelling—like this.”
 

“Have fun!”
 
Anna told him, and, unable to help himself, he leaned over and whispered into her ear.

“Not nearly as much as if you were there.”
 
He felt her hand on his chest, pushing him away.
 
But when he glanced back over his shoulder, she was still smiling.
 

He showered quickly, though he enjoyed the hard spray on his already sore muscles.
 
Again, he dreaded how he would feel in the morning.

By the time he returned to the living room, he found it empty.
 
“Help yourself, Drew—we’ve decided to dine on the patio tonight.”
 
He found a plate and silverware waiting for him, and he dished out a heaping serving of spaghetti, his mouth already watering at the thought of it.

It had been far too long since he’d had a home cooked meal.

His memory betrayed him as it conjured up an image of a beautiful brunette, sitting across from him in their tiny little apartment.
 
She laughed at him as he slurped his noodles, sauce splashing all over his face.

She’d had a bad day, he remembered.
 
He could always tell when she had a bad day.

A longing he hadn’t felt in years filled his chest and he set the plate down for a moment so that he could clench his fists, doing his best to will it away.

He didn’t want to think about his mom.
 
He didn’t want to remember what it had felt like to have a warm home to come home to after school, or the way she smiled at him whenever she was trying to pretend that everything was okay.
 

After a moment, he took a deep breath and stepped out into the cool night air.
 
Anna sat on a glider, Nana in a rocking chair.
 
Drew settled in a chair between the two of them, and Nana handed him a glass already filled with wine.
 
He took a long drink before setting it on the table beside him and digging into his meal.
 

“Nana, I think I might have to make this a regular thing.
 
Every spring, I think I should come up here and do all your dirty work for you—and you can pay me in the best home cooked meals I’ve ever had.”

“That sounds like a fair arrangement to me.”
 
Nana agreed.

“I mean it—long after Anna has moved on and left me in her dust—”

“Hey, I claim custody of Nana.”
 
Anna interjected.

“I’m only asking for seasonal visits.
 
I’ll even winterize the place.”
 
Anna threw her napkin at him and he grinned, though he didn’t quite feel like it.
 

“Anna, my dear, there are certain things you’ll just have to come to accept.
 
An old woman like
myself
can’t pass up on a deal like that.”
 

“Oh, like you couldn’t just go into town and flirt with whatever jailbait is working the counter at the garage this year.”

“Well, there’s always that option,

 
Nana
replied coyly.

“I feel used.”
 
Drew announced.

“We’ve all been there.”
 
Anna told him, and when her eyes lingered on him for just a moment too long, he wondered what she was getting at.
 

Did she think he was using her?

Because he could see how she could feel that way…but really, wasn’t it the other way around?
 

“Oh—Anna Marie, do you know who I ran into at the vineyard?”
 
Nana asked excitedly.

“I couldn’t even begin to guess.”

“Chandler Duvet.”
 
Anna burst into laughter, setting her empty plate down on the table between
she
and Drew.

“You’re kidding.
 
I haven’t even thought about him in ages.”
 

Drew was very, very lost.

“Who’s Chandler Duvet?”

“He was one of Nana’s students.
 
I had the biggest crush on him—oh, how old was I?
 
Sixteen?”

BOOK: Single, Available, and Completely Attached
6.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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