Between octobers bk 1, savor the days series (page 6)

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“Loser was his name. Big. Fat. Loser. Don’tlaugh. It’s not funny.” She pointed accusingly at my smile andgiggled.

“I have to warn you, I’m pretty good atthis.” I patted Evan’s shoulder and sat beside him. “Boys againstgirls?”

“That hardly seems fair. You ladies will bepassed out before ten.” The look on Evan’s face said he was verypleased by the possibility.

“Don’t worry, I won’t take advantage ofyou.” Marcus nudged Lily’s arm.

She was about to offer a nonverbal retort,but I intervened on her behalf to keep things civil. “You guys haveno idea who you’re talking to. She’s my ace in the hole. In fact,I’m so sure you two will lose—should we give them a handicap,Lily?”

“Hell yes.” Lily raised her shot glass and Imet it with mine. We knocked them together and shouted “Salut!” inunison before gulping.

“Good, you can swallow. Now, how do youplay?” Marcus snickered.

Evan erupted at the euphemism.

I shook my head. The strong burn of whiskeykept me from responding verbally.

Lily threw Marcus a knowing look that saidshe intended to make him pay in other, more amusing ways. “Therules are: each player gets one chance to toss the quarter into theglass at the center. You have to bounce it—only once—off the table.If I make it, you drink,” She pointed to Marcus. “If Grace makesit, Evan drinks, and vice versa. If you miss, you drink the shotyourself. We keep going until you guys need to stop.”

They asked a few questions and took a fewpractice shots. Then, we flipped a quarter to see which team wouldstart. Marcus won the toss and decided to go first. He barelymissed the glass and had to drink. It was Evans turn next. He madethe shot, but didn’t bounce the quarter and had to drink. Lily tookher turn. She made the shot and pointed to Marcus, he took anotherdrink.

Then it was my turn. I carefully placed thequarter between my index finger and thumb, adjusting my grip. If Imissed, I’d have to drink. I could already feel the effects of thehandicap shot. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to use the doubleshot glass.

“I’ll put you to bed,” Evan smiled.

I bounced the coin. It hit the table andleapt in a perfect arc, soaring into the small glass at the center.The quarter jingled into the bottom of the cup—it was a beautifulmelody, proudly singing my victory.

“I made up the guest bed. It’s a full size,so you two can share.” I pointed to Evan with satisfaction. “That’syour drink, dude.” He rolled his eyes and tossed it back.

After a few more rounds, all of which aresplit between our opponents, Marcus and Evan were getting pinkcheeked. Though it was not hot, I opened the back door. After a fewmore rounds, Marcus’ movements started to slow. His head bobbed ashe asked for coffee. After I put on a fresh pot, Evan invited meoutside to talk while he smoked.

We stood on the patio and I watched thesmoldering billows of smoke waft in hectic circles around hisattractive profile.

“You weren’t kidding about a high tolerance.You guys are nearly on the second bottle.”

“All in a day’s work, my dear,” he braggedin his usual pleasant manner. “You Americans think you’re sosuperior. You may have won the war, but that’s all you’ll win.”

We laughed together and talked about menialthings until he was done. He smothered the burning end in anashtray I’d picked up on my last trip to the store. “It was kind ofyou to get this for me.”

“How do you know it’s for you? Maybe I’mthinking of taking up smoking.” I simpered mischievously.

His smile slackened. “Stop looking at melike that. I need to concentrate on winning.” He kissed my foreheadand slipped into the house.

I was alone in the cold, wondering what lookI’d given him until I remembered it didn’t matter. He may have beencomposed enough to carry on a short conversation, but he was wellon his way to inebriation.

Back inside, Lily was busy coaching Marcuson how to hold the coin at the proper angle to get a nice curve onit. I guessed by that point, she knew we were so far ahead and theywere so far gone, it didn’t matter. We’d already won.

When Evan returned with coffee, the gamepicked up again. Despite all the training, Marcus was hopeless.Evan did get lucky and made a shot. I reached for the glass butLily swiped it.

“Finally! A girl could die ofdehydration.”

One round later, Evan asked for a break. Wetold him to take all the time he needed. He got up and staggeredwith Marcus to the sofa. Just as Lily and I were consideringcutting them off, Marcus’ eyes rolled back and closed.

“Do you hear that?” Lily asked, leaning overhim.

“Hear what?”

“It’s the sweet melody of another cleanvictory!” She clapped her hands together and raised them over herhead.

Her shout was acknowledged by Marcus’s head,followed by his body, rolling onto the floor without so much as agrunt. We laughed while enjoying a victory shot.

“I hate losing,” Evan grumbled.

“Well?” I sat beside him on the small couch,waiting for the concession speech.

Lily was behind the sofa, doing her victorydance. I was sure if Marcus could’ve heard, she’d sing.

Evan scooted to the edge of the couch,placing his hands on his knees. As he hoisted himself up, hetimbered to one side.

“I got you,” I swooped in to help.

“I ge’the bed,” he slurred. “The pansy keepsass out here.”

“Okay,” I soothed, not quite sure whathe was saying, but wanting to remain agreeable. “That last shot wasthe killer, huh?”

I escorted him to the guest room at the endof the hall and set him gingerly on the bed. A misguided elbowknocked the lamp on the nightstand but I caught it before it fell.His eyes were slightly drooped over his amused smile. He was a verypleasant drunk. When I asked him to wait while I snatched someGatorade and ibuprofen, he grinned dizzily and folded his handsacross his lap.

I ran full-tilt to the kitchen, fumbledaround and leapt back, hoping to make it before he passed out. WhenI barreled into the room, he was still sitting up, dreamy-eyed andgrinning, his hair a beautiful mess.

“Here, take this.” He grabbed thebottle after I opened it for him. “This, too.” I held out thetablet. He opened up wide and I set the oblong pill on histongue.

I heard the swirl of liquid as he gulped.“What was it?”

“Pain reliever. Drink as much as you can andyour liver will thank you in the morning. If you stay hydrated,maybe the hangover won’t be so bad. It used to work for me when Ipartied.”

“The responsible you. A party girl? I’d loveto see that.” He spoke slowly, carefully enunciating.

“Maybe you’ll get lucky. I’m gettingyou pajamas. Be right back.”

Creeping into Noah’s room, I pulled anunused pair of sweat pants from the bottom of his dresser. I boughtthem a little too big and was supposed to return them, but keptforgetting. On my way back to Evan, I clipped the tags off with myteeth.

“Here, change into these.” I tossed thesweats and they landed, folded, on his lap.

“How did you win?” His shining eyes held asmuch awareness as the liquor would allow.

I smiled, pleased with myself. “I said youwere going to lose to a lightweight, and you did. Big time. I onlygot the one shot, before we started.”

He complained, indecipherably, leaning backonto the pillow—gorgeous, smoothing his chaotic hair with hisfingers and blinking slowly. He had very thick eyelashes.

The taste of victory was sweet, though I didfeel a little guilty about the method. He had to realize winningwas entirely dependent upon dexterity and not the highesttolerance.

“I’ll tell you a little secret.” I leanedover and whispered, “I’m almost sorry.”

His strong hand pressed on the back of myhead. His lips made several landings along the side of myneck—every cell in my body exploded with heat—before I reacted.

“What are you doing?”

The stupid question was barely out of mymouth before being muffled by his. Despite the sudden nature of theexploit, his touch was gentle. That bursting heat coursed throughme as I feebly pushed against him. His hand disappeared from behindmy back and resurfaced beneath my shirt. I gasped and leaptaway.

Across the room, as I struggled to regaincomposure from the unexpected assault, Evan seemed quite pleasedwith himself. Of course, he had just polished off a pint of whisky,so he had an excuse. Once my labored breathing leveled-off, I madefor the door.

“I’ve wanted to do that since I saw you atthe bar.”

“Good night, Evan.”

Lily was babbling about something on thenews as I sat down beside her, taking in my surprise. Not at whattranspired, because that was totally my fault—I got too close—butthe way I felt about it. I didn’t want to push him away

I’d been readily convinced that that part ofmy life was over. No more butterflies for me. No longing glancesfrom devoted eyes, or cold nights spent curled up with someone tokeep my feet warm. I was alone and ready to deal with it. I’d onlygotten as far as I did because of the parameters of my carefullyprepared routines.

Then he hit me with this curve ball!That kiss . . . oh,that kiss.It wasn’t like the other and I couldn’t ignore it. I should’ve beenangry. He had no right to touch me like that. I wanted to be mad.Maybe I would have been if he hadn’t felt so good. What was hedoing to me?

I coaxed the hairs on my arms down with myfingers, thinking of his silken hands and rough touch, hisbeautiful lips. “Evan kissed me.”

The first time, Evan and I agreed it was amistake. It wasn’t going to happen again. I tried to forget,telling myself it made no difference. No need to tell Lily.

“Details!” She squealed, excitedly grinning,and pulling her feet onto the couch to avoid Marcus’ head on thefloor.

“Is he alright down there? That can’t becomfortable.”

“He’s fine—tell me.”

I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. “Well, Ishowed Evan to the room, gave him some Gatorade and ibuprofen—”

“Yeah, yeah, for the hangover. And . . . ?”She muttered, cuing me to get to the good part.

“Well, I was apologizing for getting themwasted and he kissed my neck.”

“He kissed yourneck?” Her eyebrows shot up.

“Then my mouth. And put his hand up myshirt.” My face was burning red.

“Hmm . . . a boob man.” She smiled wickedly.“What did you do?”

“I got the heck outta there. But he didmention something about seeing me at ‘the bar’?”

“You met him in the elevator, right?”

“Yeah,” I muttered.

“Maybe he got you confused with someoneelse. That would explain him being handsy.”

I followed her as she got up. Along the wayto the kitchen, her comment sank in. I didn’t grumble like I wantedbecause I was sure Evan knew who he was talking to and gettingupset over a simple comment seemed asinine. But it bothered me.

“He knew who he was talking to.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Of course he did.”Her version of a retraction.

I poured a shot for us both after we clearedaway the traces of our impromptu party. When I knocked it back, mythoughts wandered towards the guest bedroom. My lips tingled, mymouth watered and burned.

“Ugh, this is terrible.” Lily squinted,leaning in. “So, you liked the kiss,” she surmised, and followed upwith a surprising question. “Why didn’t you let him feel you up?Mama needs a little fun.”

My shocked laugh startled us both. “Shoot! Idon’t know. It scared me. It’s been too long. And not longenough.”

I touched my neck again and looked towardsthe clump of flesh out cold on the family room floor. The volume ofhis snore was escalating so I moseyed over and tucked a decorativepillow under his head.

Lily and I talked until the shot kicked in.I gave her my bed and took the chaise.

As I sat on the end, unfolding my blanket,the feeling of Evan’s palm brushing sweetly against my bare skinoverwhelmed me. The feeling was so strong, like he was in the roomwith me. The feeling evoked a strange anxiety, too—shock at beingtouched with such familiarity—because his hands did not belong onme. I curled up under my blanket and tried to forget.

 

October18th

I woke to the sound of my alarm blaring andsmashed the top of the clock. Hobbling out of bed, I felt anxiousto shake off my strange dream. I was riding the city bus all overLos Angeles. Solomon was the bus driver who wouldn’t let me off. Hekept telling me if I wanted off, I’d have to jump. But the bus wasmoving so fast and the speed scared me.

I made my coffee, took my vitamins, read mydevotional, and hit the treadmill. The list of things I needed toaccomplish—costume shopping was a must—was clouded with thoughts ofEvan and his manicured hands. After a shower, I got the kids up. Wekept quiet for Marcus, who was still sawing logs on the living roomfloor.

Once Caleb and Noah got off to school, thehouse was filled with glorious silence. Everyone else was stillsleeping and I felt like cooking. I took out my ingredients and gotto work on country potatoes, eggs with bacon, and fluffy pancakes.Contentedly craving carbs, my light mood made me go overboard. Bythe time Lily woke up, everything was done. We sat at the table andtalked over breakfast.

“Don’t you think Marcus is a nice guy?” Sheasked.

“Yes. He’s cute, too, despite the fullbeard.”