To buffer the whole double-dating scenario, Rubi turned to Rachel. “Take a break from that computer, Rach. Come with us.”
Rachel groan, pulled her glasses off and rubbed her eyes. “A break from this risk assessment sounds heavenly.”
Wes returned with his muscles stretching the T-shirt’s Hurley logo across his chest and his feet slung into worn, leather flip-flops. Rubi grinned at his surfer-boy look. But his head was still bent toward the phone in his hand, his handsome face pulled into that rare frown.
In an attempt to find equilibrium again, she teased, “Girl problems?”
He looked up with a lopsided grin and slid his phone into his pocket. “You’re the only girl giving me problems, Russo.”
He slid his hand under her hair and squeezed her neck. Tingles spread over her skin, down her spine. The touch surprised her. Unsettled her. “Let’s go. I’m starving.”
Rachel stood and grabbed her purse.
Jax pulled Lexi by the hand toward the door. “My truck’s right out—”
“I’ll meet you there,” Rubi said. “I’m going to head straight home from lunch. I’ve got a lot of work waiting for me.”
She stepped into the Los Angeles sunshine and slid her sunglasses on. At the bottom of the steps, Rachel turned to follow Jax and Lexi.
But Wes waited with a hauntingly sexy grin. “Can I drive the Ferrari?”
She always let him drive when they went anywhere together; it gave him such a thrill. And she’d been brimming with anticipation of this moment when she’d introduce him to her new—even faster—toy. But if she was going to keep things platonic between them, cutting back on these intimate habits would probably be a good start.
“No,” she repeated. “I traded it in today.”
“You what?” He reached out and placed the back of his hand to her forehead. “Are you sick?”
“No,” she laughed, batting his away. “I don’t need two cars.”
“What did you trade it for?”
She heaved a sigh. There was no way she would be able to keep him out of this car without being downright mean. And that would be as detrimental to their friendship as fucking him.
She pointed her key fob toward the parking lot. The Aston’s sidelights flashed with a corresponding chirp.
Wes’s gaze held on the sleek machine for a long, disbelieving moment, before he uttered, “Is that…? No…fucking…way.” His voice overflowed with awe and appreciation, then he yelled, “Suh-weet.”
He jogged toward the Aston, and Rubi couldn’t stop the soft grin that turned her mouth and lightened her heart. Jax followed, the two of them all smiles, as they opened the doors to peer inside, chattering like two-year-olds with a new Hot Wheels set.
“You haven’t mentioned wanting a new car,” Lexi said, coming up beside her with Rachel.
“You know I can’t pass up a smokin’ deal.”
“It’s…” Lexi crossed her arms and returned her gaze to the car, brow drawn. “Pretty.”
“Pretty?” Rachel said. “It’s so gorgeous we might have to leave the boys behind. Don’t know how you’ll get them out of there now.”
She smiled at Rachel’s comment, but it was the confused concern in Lexi’s voice that touched an uncomfortable spot inside Rubi. Sometimes it was great to have someone know you better than you knew yourself. Sometimes it was as uncomfortable as taking a cold shower.
Wes said something to Jax over the console and Jax laughed so hard he doubled over. The sight and sound eased Rubi’s nerves and made her smile again. “God, they’re so cute together.” She cut a sidelong glance at Lexi. “Don’t think so hard. I can hear the gears grinding.”
“What’s going on?” she asked. “You’re out of sorts today. And this…” She gestured toward the car. “Is something going on with Wes?”
“Denial and redirect,” Rachel said, crossing her arms with a huff and a teasing glare for Rubi. “That’s all you’ll get from her.”
Wes glanced through the windshield, and his gaze linked with Rubi’s. Electric current traveled between them and zapped her chest like a defibrillator—the same way it had just before the stunt.
A sudden, swamping, completely irrational sense of loneliness opened in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t have him. No matter how much she might want him. But her brain was at war with her body. And those were both at war with some intangible part of her—maybe her soul, if she had one. All the conflict created a niggling sense of panic deep in her chest.