“Guys, we need to talk.” She picked up her purse and sat down, plunking it in her lap, then cocked one eyebrow at Dylan's appearance, a hint of a smile spreading her lips. Good. Good. Mike let out a rush of air; he'd been holding his breath without realizing it, as if that could stop time. Or, maybe, prevent him from bungling this. Too late for both.
“I don't have anything to lose here, so I'm just going to say this.” She paused, eyes rolling up and to the left, as if rethinking something. “Well, I have plenty to lose,” she muttered, “but pride can be rebuilt.”
With a frown, she put her purse back down and stood, waving her hand at Mike and Dylan, who both followed her lead and soon Mike found himself sitting next to Dylan, who plopped on the couch with a poof that made Mike cough a bit, flour now sprinkling his forearm. He gave Dylan a c'mon, are you kidding me? look.
“What? I get artistic in the kitchen.” Dylan self-consciously wiped his face, looked at his palms, and grimaced at the white powder.
“You cook like a four year old with an Easy Bake oven and a fan.”
“Hey!” Laura said firmly. “Me. Remember me?” Sheepish, they both had the sense to dip their heads before giving her their eyes. Mike suppressed an urge to shove Dylan. Unfortunately, Dylan had the impulse control of Bill Clinton in a room full of interns and couldn't hold back his own nudge. Mike simmered. Not worth it. Not worth it. Not worth it.
His eyes settled on Laura.
Dylan blinked, his eyelashes white. “Yes.” His voice came out like silk. “Of course we do.”
“Then shut up and stop the childish crap and hear me out.” She wasn't angry now – her voice was preternaturally calm, and it creeped Mike out. Like she was detaching. Detaching not in some Buddhist sense, but detaching from them. From the relationship. From the possibility of what he knew, deep inside, was achievable.
So that creepy feeling needed to be respected.
And so did Laura.
“You know that what you did was wrong. You know that you should have told me.” Ah, here it comes, he thought. Good. Let's get this out in the open so we can deal with it like adults.
“We don't need to talk about this right now,” Dylan jumped in. Mike's hands twitched. If he strangled him would it be justifiable homicide? Instead he shoved him, hard, and stepped on his foot.
“Ow! Hey! What was that about?” Dylan crossed his leg up and massaged his instep. More flour. Jesus.
Mike gestured toward Laura while disdainfully brushing flour off his arm, carefully pointing it toward Dylan. “Let the lady talk.”
A grateful look from Laura was his reward. “We do need to talk about it. Now. So settle down there, buckaroo.”
Both men flinched, Mike's entire body turning into a lightning rod during a storm, directing all the electricity in the air through his nose, making his scalp stand on fire. Dylan just gawked at her, wide-eyed.
Instantly on alert, she seemed to realize something had happened, but Mike knew she wouldn't understand. “Did I just say something wrong?” she asked.
He leaned forward, wishing he could touch her, soothe her. Knowing he couldn't. Not yet. “No, no. Nothing wrong. It's just – that's what Jill used to call Dylan when he was, well, when he just was. Buckaroo. We haven't heard it in nearly two years.”
That face. Her cheekbones were so perfect, soft curves blunting hard bone, her eyes serene, questioning, and hard all at once, brows knitted in confusion and wariness, in something more – a look of evaluation, of surmising what was critical and worth knowing, to apply to some emotional calculus he didn't understand.
How one word could so easily change everything. Dylan swallowed so hard Mike could feel the click in his throat, and then he realized he had to break the tension, he had to make this all make sense, because Laura and Dylan weren't going to do it. All those years of Jill and Dylan carrying the emotional water in the relationship had made him stale. Soft. Lazy.
Time to step up.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Hi all -- I'm getting LOTS of email from fabulous readers (like you!) asking me when the 4th book is coming! It's going on and on, getting longer than I ever dreamed! Plus, I got hit with the flu (as did most of my family) this past week, so that's delaying everything. Rest assured, it's all in the works and I think #4 is the best book of them all! You can be the judge, of course. In the meantime, an excerpt to keep you going...