The perfect match, p.17
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       The Perfect Match, p.17
 

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
Page 17

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  This was. . . what was the word for it? Hell. Yes. This was hell, and she was pretending to have a wonderful time. Oh, Satan, you’re so droll! Hahahahaha!

  Because yes, Honor’s stupid heart had done that squishy, painful thing when she saw him. At the moment, Brogan was telling a story about an athlete who did a sport that involved running, and you know, at least she could stop storing away this kind of information so as to be the Most Perfect Companion Ever. At least there was that.

  Your attitude could use adjusting, said her aging eggs, fanning themselves. Yowza! Here comes another hot flash!

  “You’re kidding. That’s just crazy,” Honor said out loud. Hopefully her comment made sense, since she clearly wasn’t paying a lot of attention.

  It wasn’t fair.

  She still felt for him. You don’t love a guy for seventeen bleeping years and then just stop. At least, Honor didn’t. Unfortunately.

  Brogan had now moved on to a story about his parents, whom he’d just seen in Florida. Kind of surreal that just over two months ago, Honor had been having dinner chez Cain, had flashed Brogan’s parents, had imagined them as her in-laws.

  Now, she just hoped her sweat wasn’t showing and was counting the seconds till she could leave for her pretend date. At least the restaurant was practically empty, given the raw weather and the fact that Hugo’s had just opened for the season last week.

  You know, she was so good at her job. For the past eleven years, she hadn’t made one major misstep at work. All her decisions had been sound, had proved to be good investments, smart moves.

  On the personal front, a fail. She’d chosen the wrong friend, the wrong guy.

  Next time she had an instinct about someone, she was going to do the opposite thing.

  Nodding all the while, Honor stared at Brogan. Why were his eyelashes so long? Why had God seen fit to give him that perfect, curling, chestnut hair? Hmm? Anyone? Bueller?

  They’d been here for twenty-seven minutes. About twenty-eight minutes too long, in other words. Did Dana know he was meeting her? Was Dana at Brogan’s right now, in the same bed where Honor had—

  Oh. The sports story was over. Brogan was looking at her, his face concerned. “Honor, are we okay?” he asked gently, and her face burned with heat.

  “Yes! Yes, we’re fine. It’s fine. I’ve practically forgotten about it. ” She forced a laugh, making her sound like a dying seal. Faking. Not her area of expertise. Jessica, who was taking an order at a nearby table, shot her a look.

  “It’s just that we’ve been friends for so long,” he said. Damn those blue eyes. The concern in them seemed genuine. It probably was. Brogan was not a faker, either.

  “Look, Brogan,” she said, keeping her voice low. “I was surprised, I overreacted and I’d love it if we could just drop the subject. Okay?”

  He nodded. “Of course. It’s just. . . I hate thinking that I led you on,” he said. “I always thought we felt the same way about each other. ”

  She took a large swallow of her drink. “No, we did. We do. Um, I care for you. As a friend. When I asked you if you wanted to get married, it was an ill-formed thought. ” One she’d spent roughly six years thinking. “I’m over it. Really. ”

  He smiled a little. “Good. I’m glad. You mean so much to me. ”

  God. This night was endless.

  “Can I get you guys anything else?” Bless her, Jessica was here with a pitcher of water.

  “We’re good, I think,” he said. “Do you want another martini, On?”

  “Oh, no! No. Nope. Thanks. I have to get going pretty soon,” Honor added.

  Brogan’s face lit up. “Right! Your date. We’ll take the check, then, Jess. ”

  Thank you, baby Jesus! This interminable evening would finally end, and then she was going home to watch Top Ten Tumors, and she didn’t care if Dad and Mrs. J. were doing it on the hallway floor. On second thought, maybe she would call Pru and see if she could crash. She and Abby could watch the tumor show together.

  Jess went off, and Honor forced a smile and looked at Brogan. Three more minutes, and she’d be free.

  He was staring at his glass. “I’m so glad we can still be friends,” he said. “And I hope you and Dana can be patch things up, too. ”

  Two and a half minutes. “Oh, you know. I’m. . . it’s. . . ”

  “She said you guys talked a little. Told me you cut your hair. It looks really nice, by the way. Kind of shocking, but really nice. ”

  “Thanks. ”

  He shifted in his chair. “Um, did I tell you I’m gonna join the volunteer fire department here? I thought it’d be good. ”

  “That’s great,” she said. Two minutes and twenty-four seconds.

  “So you’re seeing someone?” Brogan asked.

  “Excuse me? Oh, yes. Yes, I am. Mmm-hmm. ”

  “What’s he like?”

  “Uh, he’s so. . . ” An image of Droog mopping the floor with Wet Ones popped into her head. “He’s, uh, European. Very funny. Cute accent. ” One! One terrible lie! Two! Two minutes till you can leave!

  “Think it’s something special?” Brogan asked.

  “Possibly. It’s a little early to tell. Maybe. ” She smiled, hopefully not like a wolverine. A bead of sweat trickled down her back, irritating as a housefly.

  “That’s good. I’m really glad to hear it. ” He took a breath, then another. “Honor, I have to tell you something, because I don’t want you to hear it from anyone else. ” He hesitated. “Dana’s pregnant. ”

  Honor was fairly sure her expression didn’t flicker. Her eyes, though. . . something was wrong with them. Blink, the eggs advised. Right. “Pregnant?”

  “Yeah. We just found out. It was a surprise, but we’re really, really happy. ”

  He was. She could see it in his ridiculous-colored eyes.

  He was going to be a father.

  Dana never wanted kids. She’d mock the obsession of new mothers, saying, “Another friend gone. ” And when a patron would ask if she wanted to hold a baby, Dana would pass, then later say, “Why would I want to hold that little petri dish, right? And the smell, Honor! Can you imagine wiping someone’s butt eight times a day?”

  The thing was, yes. She could. She’d love to wipe someone’s butt eight times a day. To cuddle a baby against her cheek, breathe in the smell of a sweet little head, hold a tiny hand in hers.

  “Are you okay?” Brogan asked.

  “Yes,” she said faintly. Oh, crap. There were tears in her eyes. She looked down, then forced a smile. “I’m happy for you, Brogan. I am. This is great. Babies are. . . they’re so. . . magnificent. This is great news! Good for you guys!”

  “Honor? Hey, sorry to interrupt. ” It was Jessica, angels bless her. The woman was getting a raise. “Your date’s here. ”

  Honor blinked. “He is?”

  “Yeah. ” Jessica gazed down at her, her expression calm. Okay. Right. She must’ve heard the lie from before and was throwing her a rope.

  Brogan looked at her expectantly.

  He was going to be a dad. She could picture it so clearly—tall, handsome Brogan Cain cradling a little bundle in his arms, looking at the tiny face with wonder.

  She took a deep breath. “I have to go. Brogan, congratulations on the. . . on the baby. ” Her voice wobbled. “I mean it. Best wishes. ” Tears wrapped around her throat and squeezed.

  “Thanks, On. ” Brogan stood up. If he hugged her, she would lose it.

  He hugged her. Her heart folded in on itself like a dying bug as she breathed in his familiar cologne. Chanel for Men. It always got to her.

  “So,” Brogan said, releasing her. “Where is this guy? Can I say hi?”

  Oh, fungus. Honor stood up, grabbed her coat. “We’re meeting in the parking lot. ” If she didn’t get out of here, she was going to cry. In public. And wouldn’t that suck.
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  “No, he came in,” Jessica said. “He’s at the bar. ”

  He was? They all looked, Honor half expecting to see Droog Dragul. But Jess had never met Droog, and if Droog was actually here, it would be the universe’s biggest coincidence. Nope, no Droog.

  Brogan took out his wallet (and yes, by all means, let him pay). Mercifully, his phone began playing the theme song to Monday Night Football, and he picked up. “Hey. How’s it going?” he said, turning slightly away.

  “Who are you talking about?” Honor whispered to Jess.

  “What do you mean?”

  “I don’t have a date. ”

  Jessica’s eyes widened. “Oh, shit,” she whispered. “I heard you say you were meeting someone, and he had a cute accent. . . . ”

  “I was lying,” Honor whispered back.

  “But there’s a European at the bar. He’s British, I think. ” She pointed to someone’s back. Manningsport wasn’t exactly a microcosm of the world. Europeans were in short supply. Honor looked.

  Oh, God. It was Tom Barlow. He seemed to feel her looking, because he glanced over, did a double take and waved.

  In about four seconds, Brogan was going to stand up and want to meet her nonexistent boyfriend.

  Honor was across the restaurant before she was aware she’d moved. “Hey,” she said without preamble. “I’d be eternally grateful if you’d pretend to be my date for a second. ” Please don’t be an ass. And please be sober.

  His eyebrows raised. He glanced to where she’d been sitting. “Oh, right,” he said. “There’s the object of the catfight. You look like you might vomit. No puking, please, and if you cop a feel, it’ll cost you extra. ” He put his arm around her. “There you are, darling,” he said in a slightly louder voice, and before she knew it, he kissed her on the lips.

  Instinctively, she tried to jerk away, but he held her a little closer. “Now, now,” he murmured against her mouth. “We’re deeply in love. ”

  And he kissed her again.

  And that mouth. . . oh, Mommy, it felt good. Soft and firm, and not too much, but just exactly the kind of kiss a woman would want if she were meeting her man, and something locked inside of Honor opened in a rush.

  Then he stopped and smiled at her.

  That was some kiss. That was a food-for-thought kiss and would require some serious analysis.

  Analysis? the eggs said. You gotta be kidding.

  Jessica was fixing a drink behind the bar, and here came Brogan, all tall, easy grace. “Hey, there. I’m Brogan Cain. An old friend of Honor’s. ”

  “Hallo. Tom Barlow. A new friend of Honor’s. ”

  “Where are you from?” Brogan asked.

  “England. ”

  “Awesome! I’ve been there a few times. The Olympics, a few soccer matches. ”

  “Football, mate. ”

  Brogan laughed easily. “True enough. It’s football when you’re over there. ”

  Super. Brogan was about to make a new best friend.

  Her eyes felt too wide. There was Jeremy the-years-are-precious-egg-wise Lyon, leaving with his boyfriend, Patrick. He waved and gave her a subtle thumbs-up, lest she forget that her breeding years were almost behind her. Emmaline Neal, who worked at the police station with Levi, also waved, holding the door for her mother.

  Tom turned to her, and touched her earlobe with one finger. Her entire left side electrified. “Honor, darling, are you hungry?”

  She swallowed. “I am. I’m starving. I’m really, really hungry. Let’s eat. ”

  “I love how she babbles when her blood sugar’s low. ” Tom shook Brogan’s hand. “Great meeting you. ”

  “You, too. Have a good night. ” Brogan leaned in to kiss her—something he’d always done, on the cheek, in public, one of the ways he’d always made her feel special. But times were different now, and she took a little step closer to Tom. Brogan caught himself, and for the first time ever, he looked a little. . . awkward. “Well. See you soon, On. ”
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