Dirty Rowdy Thing (Wild Seasons #2)(2) by Christina Lauren

His eyes fall closed and he laughs, and the way the light catches the angle of his jaw, and the way I know exactly how that stubble would feel on my skin . . . argh.

I tilt my head, staring at him. “What’s funny?”

“It was a real possibility in my mind that you could own this Starbucks.”

With a little eye-roll, I reach for my drink and march out of the store.

Walking to my car, I stretch my neck, roll my shoulders. Why am I so annoyed?

It isn’t like I expected a carriage to be at my disposal when I showed up unannounced at his little seaside house. I’d already slept with him in Vegas, so I knew the no-strings-attached arrangement. Clearly I was there because I wanted good sex. Actually, I wanted—no, I needed—confirmation that the sex was as good as I’d remembered.

It was so much better.

So obviously it’s the bad-Toby-Amsler-sex hangover that’s killing my calm. This chance meeting with Finn would have gone very differently if I hadn’t just left the bed of the first guy I slept with after him—the first guy I’d been with in two months—and if that experience hadn’t been so unsatisfying.

Footsteps slap the asphalt behind me and I start to turn just before a powerful hand curls around my bicep. Finn grabs me harder than I think he’s intended, and the result is that my pumpkin coffee monstrosity tilts and spills onto the ground, barely missing my shoes.

I give him an exasperated look and toss my empty cup into a trash can near the curb.

“Oh, come on,” he says with a little smile. He hands me the one cup he had balancing on top of the other. “It’s not as if you were going to drink that. You wouldn’t touch the instant vanilla spice stuff I had at my place.”

Taking the coffee he’s offering, I mumble my thanks and look to the side. I’m acting exactly like the kind of woman I never want to be: jilted, martyred, put out.

“Why are you pissed?” he asks quietly.

“I’m just preoccupied.”

Ignoring this, he says, “Is it because you came all the way up to Vancouver Island, showed up at my house wearing only a trench coat in the middle of July, and I banged you hoarse?” The smirk in his voice tells me he thinks I couldn’t possibly be pissed about that.

He’d be right.

I pause, looking up to study him for a beat. “You mean the day you couldn’t even be bothered to put on some clothes to take me to the airport?”

He blinks, his head jerking back slightly. “I skipped an entire shift when you showed up. I never do that. I left for work about a minute after the cab showed.”

This . . . is new information. I shift on my feet, unable to maintain eye contact anymore, instead looking past him to the busy street in the distance. “You didn’t tell me you had to work.”

“I did.”

I feel my jaw tighten with irritation when I blink back up to his face. “Did not.”

He sighs, pulling his cap off, scratching his crazy bed-head and then putting it back on. “All right, Harlow.”

“What are you doing here, anyway?” I ask him.

And then it clicks into place: Ansel is in town visiting Mia, and we’re all headed to the grand opening of Oliver’s comic book store, Downtown Graffick, tomorrow. Canadian Finn, Parisian Ansel, and the dry-witted Aussie Oliver: the bridegrooms of Vegas. Although four of us got quick annulments after our wedding shenanigans, Mia and Ansel decided to make a real go at this marriage thing. Lola and Oliver have become friends, bonding over their shared comic and graphic novel love. So, whether we like it or not, Finn and I are expected to be a part of this band of misfit buddies. We have to learn to be civil, with our clothes on.

“Right,” I mumble. “The opening is this weekend. You’re here for that.”

“I know they won’t be stocking Seventeen and Cosmo, but you should come by and check it out, anyway,” he says. “The store looks good.”

I lift the coffee cup to my nose and sniff. Black, unadulterated coffee. Perfect. “Of course I’ll be there. I like Oliver and Ansel.”

He swipes a palm over his mouth, smiling a little. “So. You’re pissed about the cab.”

“I’m not pissed. This isn’t a lovers’ spat, and we aren’t having a quarrel. I’m just having a bad morning.”

Narrowing his eyes, he looks me over, from head to toe. He’s so damn observant it makes me blush, and I know as soon as his smile reappears that he’s deduced I didn’t come from home. “Your hair is all crazy, but what’s interesting is you look a little hard up. Like maybe you didn’t quite get what you needed somewhere.”

“Bite me.”

Finn steps closer, head tilted slightly to the side with that infuriating half smile. “Say please, and I will.”

With a laugh, I push him away with my palm flat to his very nice, very hard chest. “Go away.”

“Because now you want it?”

“Because you need a shower.”

“Listen,” he says, laughing. “I won’t chase you down again if you go running away, but we’re going to see each other from time to time. Let’s try to be grown-ups.”

He turns without waiting for my reply and I hear his truck alarm chirp as he unlocks the door. I make a bratty little fuck-you face and display my middle finger to his retreating form. But then I pause, my heart tripping over itself with an abrupt rush of adrenaline.

Finn is climbing in the same cherry-red truck that was parked at the curb in front of his house. Only now it’s covered in the dust and grime accumulated from miles and miles of driving.

Which begs the question, if he’s only visiting for the weekend, then why did he bring his truck all the way here from Vancouver Island?

I don’t have much time to ponder this because my phone buzzes in my pocket from my mom’s text and I pull it out only to see the words, Will you come to the house right away please, written across my screen.

I AM A fixer.

When I was four and broke my mother’s favorite necklace while trying it on, I spent three hours in my tree house trying to glue it back together. I succeeded only in gluing several fingers together. Senior year when Mia was hit by the truck and nearly paralyzed, I sat by her side every day for the entire summer she spent in a toe-to-waist cast. I knew that if I sat there long enough she would need something and I would be there, ready. I brought her DVDs and ridiculous teen magazines. I painted her nails and went so far as to smuggle the oddest things into her room—wine coolers; her boyfriend, Luke; her cat—just to see her smile. When Lola’s father was sent to Afghanistan—and then when he returned, shaken and different, and Lola’s mom abandoned them both for good—I brought groceries and dinners, anything that would take the tiniest burden off them. And when Ansel was too man-brained to fix things with Mia, I forced my way in there, too.

When my friends need something, I do it. When someone I love can’t solve a problem, I find a way. For better or worse, it’s what I do.

So when I pull into the drive and sit down beside my little sister and across from our parents in our light, airy, happy family room—a room that, right now, feels like a tomb—I’m immediately on high alert. On an average day, our family is boisterous. Right now, we are silent. I feel like I should whisper my hellos. The curtains are open, but the thick fog of the marine layer outside makes the room feel gloomy and dark.

My family is—and has always been—the center of my world. My mom was an actress when my parents got married, and Dad’s career didn’t take off until I hit high school. So when I was little, Dad and I would travel with Mom from one set to the next. Until my sister Bellamy was born when I was six, it was just the three of us most of the time.

Dad is the emotionally intuitive, nurturing one, all creative energy and passion. Mom is the beautiful, calm centering force in our family, leading the house with a wink behind my father’s broad shoulders. But right now she sits next to him, gripping his hand in both of hers, and I can see from across the low coffee table that she’s sweating.

I have it in my head that they’re going to tell us they’re selling the house. (I would picket in the driveway until they backed down.) That they’re moving to Los Angeles. (I will lose my shit.) That they’re having some trouble and are going to spend some time apart. (This I can’t even fathom.)

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