The perfect match, p.13
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       The Perfect Match, p.13

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 13

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  “Quite what? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. ”

  Connor appeared to be sweating. “Um, it’s hard to put a finger on it. You’re very, uh, attractive. ”

  “You’re an idiot, Connor,” Prudence said.

  Honor sighed. “Levi? Got anything? I’m your sister-in-law. Help me. As a man, what do you think when you look at me?”

  “My wife’s sister. ”

  “Before you married her, dummy. ”

  He cocked an eyebrow. “See, there you go. You’re a little. . . ”

  “Be careful,” Faith warned. “I’ll have to kill you if you hurt her feelings. Is your life insurance paid up? If I have to be a widow, I want to be rich. ”

  “No, just be honest, Levi. Go ahead. ” Honor folded her arms and waited.

  Levi paused. Sighed. “I guess Connor’s right. It probably crossed my mind once or twice. ” He glanced at his wife. “But just as a fleeting thought, and way before we hooked up, babe. ”

  “Because I’m not pretty enough?” Honor guessed. It was to be expected. Faith got the looks.

  “You’re pretty enough. ”

  “Don’t blow smoke. ”

  “Okay, you’re not pretty. I thought you were, but you must be right. ”

  Huh. That was kind of nice, and Levi was rather known for being blunt. “Sorry. And thanks. But if I’m pretty, why didn’t you ever want to sleep with me?”

  “This is very uncomfortable. ”

  “Just theoretically. ”

  “Yes, Levi. Theoretically,” Faith said.

  “Better you than me, pal,” Connor muttered.

  Levi closed his eyes briefly. “It’s not your looks. You’re a little. . . unapproachable. ”

  Honor’s mouth dropped open. “What?” She was not! She was very pleasant! Very approachable. Extremely polite. Like. . . finishing-school polite. First Lady’s social secretary polite and pleasant. That was basically her life, being nice to people all the livelong day, no matter how much she occasionally wanted to strangle them.

  “Exactly,” Connor agreed. “You’re—what do you girls call it? Walled off. Shut down. You have armor. ”

  “I don’t have armor!” Honor barked. “I don’t! What armor? There’s no armor!” Spike barked in agreement.

  “You want to go out for dinner?” Levi asked Faith.

  “Maybe you’re just unaware of the vibe you give off,” Colleen said. “The hairbands, for example. Do they scream sex? No. ”

  “I’m not unapproachable,” Honor said to her brother-in-law.

  “Okay, you’re not. I apologize. Faith, save me. ”

  “I have an idea,” Faith said. “Honor, pretend you’re meeting Connor for the first time. Like you guys are on a first date, you’ve been chatting online, but this is the first time you’ve laid eyes on each other. ”

  “Great idea,” Honor said. “Sit, Connor. ”

  Unapproachable. Armor. Please. Spike came over and whined to be picked up. She obliged, kissing the dog on the head. So approachable. Even animals thought so.

  “That dog will have to go,” Colleen said. “It’s worse than a cat. ”

  “How dare you,” Honor murmured, giving Colleen a look. “Come on, Connor. Get in character. ”

  “Yeah, Conn, get to it,” said Colleen. “We have a bar to run. Who’s opening tonight, anyway?”

  “Monica. ” Connor sighed and sat obediently across from Honor at the foot of the bed. “Hi, are you Honor? I’m Connor. ”

  “Oh, Connor and Honor! That rhymes!” Colleen said. “Sorry. Back to you two. ”

  “Hi, Connor. Nice to meet you. ” Totally approachable. She shot Levi an icy glare. He was busy giving Faith a steamy, let’s-get-it-on look.

  “You’re even prettier than your picture,” Connor said.

  “Thanks. ” She smiled brightly.

  “Eesh, you look like a wolverine when you smile like that,” Colleen said. “Easy, girl. ”

  Honor sighed, then tried again, baring only a few teeth this time.

  “Now you look feeble. Don’t worry about it, we’ll work on that later. Just keep going. ”

  Connor was Faith’s age. A nice guy. Good-looking. An excellent bartender. Otherwise, she didn’t know him too well. “So tell me about yourself,” she said.

  “Good line,” Faith murmured, swatting at Levi’s hand.

  “I’m a bartender who likes the smell of crisp autumn leaves and Johnson’s baby shampoo. ”

  Honor paused. “That’s kind of creepy. ”

  “See? You’re gutting me already. I feel emasculated. ”

  “Well, then, you need to sac up a little, don’t you?”

  “And we’re done,” Connor said. “Levi, how about that beer, pal?”

  * * *

  PRU WENT OFF with the guys, but Faith and Colleen spent another half hour giving her advice on how to talk to men, which was not something Honor would’ve suspected she needed to be taught. With Brogan, she’d just been herself.

  Okay, not a great example. Thinking his name still made her brain cringe.

  The troops finally left, and Honor got dressed in the outfit Faith had picked out. Jeans (Colleen’s, and they stopped a good four inches below the belly button and felt freakishly uncomfortable), purple suede ankle boots with three-inch heels (Faith’s, obviously), a pale green shirt (Colleen’s), pearls (Mom’s), four silver bracelets (Faith’s) and long, dangling silver earrings (Faith’s again).

  Clearly, Honor had no idea how to dress herself. Then again, that was the point. Short hair, better clothes, makeup. She’d be married in no time.

  “Droog. This is my husband, Droog. ” Okay, it lacked a certain élan.

  Spike was sleeping on Honor’s pillow, worn out from emasculating Blue, who wanted very much to love Spike but which Spike wouldn’t allow. Her doggy had been a rescue, so Honor wasn’t sure what her history was with other dogs. Bossy, obviously, which Honor admired.

  At any rate, Mrs. J. would take her into her apartment for the night and watch whatever violent TV show she was into this week. The housekeeper loved Spike more than she loved most humans.

  She tiptoed down the stairs, terrified of falling in the high-heeled boots and breaking a femur or rupturing her spleen, and went into the kitchen.

  “Oh, God!” she blurted. She leaped back into the hallway, pressing her back against the wall. Holy. Fungus. “Sorry, sorry!”

  “We weren’t doing anything!” her dad yelled as a kitchen chair crashed to the floor. “It’s not what you think!”

  “Honor Grace Holland, why are you sneaking around this house, creeping up on people?” Mrs. Johnson said.

  “We were just kissing!” Dad said.

  “Is it safe to come back in?” she asked, feeling a laugh start to wriggle around in her stomach.

  “Yes! We weren’t. . . we were just. . . Oh, jeesh. Is that the phone?”

  “Don’t you move, John Holland. We were not kissing, Honor,” Mrs. Johnson said darkly. “Your father, the ridiculous man, asked if he could kiss me just the one time. And just the one time it will be, John Holland, if you can’t keep track of which of your many children is skulking around corners. ”

  “Okay, okay,” Honor said, going back into the kitchen. Dad’s face was bright red, and Mrs. Johnson looked like she was about to kick a baby dolphin, she was so mad. “I’m sorry I didn’t make more noise. I didn’t know there was a romance unfolding here. I’ll tie a bell around my neck next time. ”

  “There are no bells required! There is no romance!” Mrs. J. thundered. “It was an experiment only, and one of complete failure, given your intrusion, Honor. We thought you had left with the others. Your father said we were alone. ”

  “Mrs. J. , I’m sorry, okay? Don’t murder my dad. ” He sent her a grateful look.

  The clock ticked on the wall.
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  “So,” she said. “Dad and Mrs. J. I like it. ”

  “There’s nothing to like, you wretched child,” the housekeeper muttered.

  “Oh, stop. Your guilty secret is safe with me. But let me tell you, if I’d been Faith, you’d be packed into the back of her car, on your way to a justice of the peace this very minute. And Jack would be dead on the floor of a heart attack. ”

  “My poor Jackie,” Mrs. J. said. Honor rolled her eyes.

  “Anyway, more power to you,” she said. “I’m going on a date. Mrs. J. , would you watch Spike?”

  “Of course. Where is the little baby now? And why did you name her Spike? She should have a delicate name. A girl’s name. Princess or Sugar-Paws. ”

  “Or Hyacinth,” Dad said. It was Mrs. Johnson’s first name, and he was gazing at the housekeeper with a dopey smile.

  Well, well, well. Honor said good-night and walked out to her car.

  Last fall, Dad had decided to start dating. . . sort of. . . but after a few failed attempts, he seemed to give up. Mrs. Johnson was single (they all thought; she was a mystery wrapped in an enigma), and she’d been with the family since Mom died.

  But a romance between the two of them, huh? If there’d been handwriting on that wall, Honor had missed it completely.

  It could work, though. Certainly, Mrs. Johnson was a wonderful (if terrifying) person. She took good care of Dad and all his kids. Certainly, she knew all of them inside out and out.

  It was nice to picture her father with someone. Not so alone anymore. He’d always had her, of course, which was a little pathetic when she put it like that. But still. They’d always been two single people alone together.

  A surprisingly strong band of loneliness tightened around Honor’s chest. If Dad and Mrs. Johnson became a couple, where would that leave her? She’d have to move. She couldn’t be the spinster daughter, living with the newlyweds, sneaking Bugles into her room and misery-eating as she watched I Didn’t Know I Had a Parasite.

  All the more reason to put the pedal to the metal and get going, the eggs said. We want to be fertilized.

  “You have a point,” Honor muttered, starting her car. If Dad could find a honey, surely she could, too. eCommitment had recently come up with two matches for her. One was married, a Google search had revealed (thank you, Faith). So Droog it was.

  See? She was trying. Really hard. She did need to get a life, and not just because Dad might beat her to the altar.

  Three days ago, Dana emailed, asking if she was ready to hang out. Honor had been out of town on a sales trip to Poughkeepsie and had only responded to say so. Then yesterday, Brogan left a message, saying he was back from Tampa and would love to see her for dinner.

  And last night, Honor had a panic attack, abruptly terrified that she’d die in this bed where she’d slept most of her life, and Dad, not the most observant man in the world, would think she was traveling, and Spike would chew off the tip of her nose for food, which would mean closed casket, definitely. This pleasant little fantasy had led her to visiting OnYourOwn. com and cruising through profiles of sperm donors, and then panicking a little further. She’d soothed herself by making a list of things she needed to do for the Black and White Ball, which was only a month and a half away, and ended up working until 3:00 a. m.

  “Mom?” she said as she drove out of town. “I could use a little help finding a man. Okay? Be my wingman. ”

  Please God, Droog Dragul would be nice.

  * * *

  “HONOR?”

  Honor’s head snapped around. Oh. Oh, dear. “Droog?”

  “Yes. How luffly you look,” he said. He grabbed her by the shoulders and leaned in to kiss her (eep!). She leaned back as far as possible, which caused his lips fall on her chin, where they stayed for a horribly long moment before she wrenched away.
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