He was right.
I see movement inside and shake my head. MaryLou’s screeching voice grates—I mean greets—me the second I walk through the glass door. “How was it?”
I would say the turn of the lock or the sound of chimes bouncing against the steel frame gave me away, but that would be a lie. I bet MaryLou’s been here since before 4:00 a.m.—a panther waiting in the bushes for her chance to pounce.
I’ve been dreading this interaction the most. The twenty questions, the scrutiny, the knowing, hawk-like stare. She’ll watch every twist of my fingers, listen to every inflection in my tone, or track my hand as I tuck a piece of unruly hair behind my ear. She’ll read something into everything I do.
She’s too damn perceptive, but of course…she knows the truth. She’s always known the truth. She’s been my best friend since the first grade when I saved her life.
Well…that’s the way she looks at it. All I did was save her waist-length hair from being chopped off when Petie Marshall stuck not one, not two, but three giant wads of bubblegum in it, right in the roots. She was in the bathroom trying to rip it out, along with fistfuls of her strawberry-blond hair when I led her to the lunchroom instead, asking the lunch lady for some peanut butter. Half an hour and a few hundred strands lighter, she was gum free. She stunk of peanuts for days, no matter how much washing she did, but at least she held on to her beautiful locks. Ones she still has to this day. Exactly the way it was in first grade. Girl needs a makeover.
“Wow, a girl can’t even get a cup of coffee before the interrogation starts?” I say, throwing my keys onto the counter with a flourish. I guess I’m not quite ready to paste on my fake smile yet.
“Here.” She offers me a steaming black cup of life and manners.
“Kissing the boss’s ass?” I watch her over the rim of my mug as I take a nice long swallow of the hot, sweet brew. It tastes like a cup of sugar with a little coffee thrown in. Just the way I like it. Wow, I’ve missed this place.
She huffs. “I don’t like the taste of ass.”
I laugh. I’ve missed bantering with MaryLou James for the past fourteen days. “That’s why we’re friends.”
“So…how was it?”
“What exactly do you mean by ‘it’?” I ask, stalling for time. Kael and I returned two days ago from our two-week honeymoon on the exclusive Calivigny Island, just off the coast of Grenada. It was paradise. I should have enjoyed our private, luxurious, fully staffed home, fine sandy beach, and unmatched sunsets more than I did.
My chest clenches hard. It’s the exact honeymoon I imagined taking with Killian.
“Well, I’m not talking about the view from your private balcony.”
“Why not? It was spectacular.” I take another sip and wait for her to take the bait.
“Was your husband’s tight naked ass framed in it?” she asks, her arched brows wagging.
“Maybe,” I tease.
“Do you have a picture?” Her voice pitches an octave higher. I laugh harder.
“Possibly.” I do.
“Oh fuck.” MaryLou fans herself with both hands and my entire body shakes. She’s had some unholy fascination with Kael’s behind since the ninth grade when she swears we were mooned by three seniors driving the loop on a Friday night. I keep telling her it wasn’t Kael. It was David Brandt. Kael was the one driving, but no matter what I say, she won’t listen.
“I think I just had a mini orgasm. For real.”
“Oh. My. God,” I squeal. I wad up a paper napkin and throw it at her. “That’s my husband you’re ogling over.”
“Hey, I can’t help that you married a ridiculously good-looking man. And that’s the most protective I’ve ever heard you get about Kael. Guess the sex was more than good, huh?”
“Hasius Crepes, bitch.” I may use fuck like punctuation, but if I so much as utter JC’s name in vain, I kid you not, the taste of Lava soap magically appears in my mouth. A bad side effect from my childhood.
“I hate it when you say that. You’re a grown-ass woman now.”
“Well…I hate your face.”
She grins widely, showing off her slightly crooked two front teeth. “That’s lame, Mavs. You can do better than that.”
I flop onto the wooden stool behind the counter. “I know. I’m tired. I haven’t been up this early in two weeks.”
“Yeah, you’ve been in a sex coma for a straight fourteen days.”
That’s not exactly true, but I don’t correct her. I feel guilty enough as it is. Believe it or not, while Kael and I had done plenty of fooling around, we hadn’t slept together before we were married. It’s not that I’m old-fashioned or was saving myself because I certainly wasn’t a virgin. It’s just that a large part of me wasn’t willing to cross that line with him, hurt him even more if I didn’t walk down that aisle. And it was just so…weird to have sex with my very best friend, a boy who used to sneak toads through my open bedroom window at night to scare the shit out of me. But thankfully, Kael was understanding, the way he always is. He assured me that we’d have a lifetime to get to know each other “that way.”