The perfect match, p.20
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       The Perfect Match, p.20

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 20

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  She blushed. Her clothes were rumpled, her hair disheveled. The classic walk of shame if ever he’d seen it. “Hi,” she murmured.

  “Coffee?”

  “Sure. Thank you. ” He poured her a cup, and she took a sip. Her hands were shaking slightly. “How did you sleep?” she asked, and her cheeks grew pinker.

  “Very well. And you?”

  “Fine. ” She set the cup on the counter. “Listen, Tom, last night was. . . not my typical, um, modus operandi. ”

  Latin, so early in the morning? “Yet you seemed quite the expert. ” He grinned.

  The blush spread to her neck. “I’m not usually so, er, slutty. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. ”

  “Nothing wrong with slutty. From my perspective, anyway. ”

  “It’s not that I— See, I don’t generally. . . ”

  He patted her on the shoulder. “It was just a shag, Honor. You picked me up in a bar. Own it. Be proud. ”

  She ran a hand through her hair and looked at the floor, and he felt a dart of regret sing through him. She wasn’t the teasing type, was she?

  “I had a nice time,” he said more seriously. “I hope you did, as well. ”

  Her cheeks practically gave off heat, they were so red. “Mmm-hmm. ”

  “Have a seat. I can make you breakfast if you like. ”

  “Oh, no, that’s fine. ” She did sit at the table, however. “Model airplanes, huh?”

  He sat across from her and picked up a piece of the PT-17. “I work on the real thing as well, if you’re trying to impugn my masculinity. Bit of a side business. One of the many things a mechanical engineer can do, for your cocktail party brain to store away. Customize airplanes for the very rich. ”

  She appeared to be hiding behind the coffee cup. “So this is your hobby?”

  He paused. “I used to make these with my unofficial stepson,” he heard himself say. “We started this one a few years ago. ”

  “What’s an unofficial stepson?”

  He filed a piece of aluminum tongue, as the fit was a bit snug. “It’s a surly teenager whose mother and I were once engaged. ” The cabane struts came next. He’d have to go slowly. Wouldn’t want to finish it on his own, just in case hell froze over and Charlie decided he wanted to work on it.

  “You were engaged?” Honor asked.

  “Yes. She died. ”

  He heard her quick intake of breath. “Oh, Tom, I’m so sorry. ”

  He gathered up the rest of the wing pieces to put back in the box. “Don’t worry about it. ” He glanced at her face. “It’s been three years. ”

  Honor nodded, still holding her coffee cup like a shield. “How old is this unofficial stepson?”

  “Fourteen. ”

  “Are you close?”

  Tom rubbed the back of his neck. “We used to be, when I lived with them. Not so much anymore. ”

  “Does he live with his dad?”

  “No. ” As ever, the thought of Mitchell DeLuca made Tom’s eye throb. “He lives with his grandparents. Janice and Walter Kellogg? Perhaps you know them. They moved here a few months ago, and I followed. ”

  She shook her head. Took a sip of her coffee. Didn’t say anything, and blessed be, because a woman who thought before speaking. . . that was a nice change. “How long have you lived in America?”

  “Four years. I met Melissa when I was here on holiday and ended up staying. We got engaged a few months later, and she died a few months after that. ”

  “How did it happen?” Honor’s voice was soft.

  “She was hit by a car crossing the street. ” An utterly stupid and completely preventable incident. With great care, he put the Stearman back in the box.

  “I’m so sorry,” Honor said again. “My mom died in a car accident, too. It’s an awful way to lose someone. Not that there’s a good way. ”

  “True enough. ” He stood up. “I’ve got eggs and toast, and I’d be more than happy to make you breakfast. ”

  “No, I’m fine, thank you. ”

  “More coffee, then?”

  “That’d be great. Thanks. ”

  He got up and poured her a cup.

  “So why aren’t you close, you and Charlie?” she asked as he handed her the coffee, and some coffee sloshed over the rim, onto her skirt.

  “Shit. Sorry,” Tom said, grabbing a dish towel and blotting at the stain.

  “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. ” She looked at him, straight in the eye, as he was kneeling at her side.

  Brown eyes. Lovely, really, dark and quiet. And at the moment, she was giving him a no-nonsense look, a tolerates-no-shit look combined with something else.

  Kindness.

  He looked back at her skirt and blotted some more.

  “He blames me for her dying. She was. . . away when it happened. With Charlie’s dad, who apparently liked to pop in and out just enough to f**k with everyone’s head. So off they went for a weekend, and I was watching Charlie like an absolute wanker, really, taking care of my fiancée’s kid while she was screwing around. Then she decided to text me while crossing the street against the light, and that was that. ”

  “Oh, God. ”

  “Right. When the dust settled, Charlie’s dad didn’t want to take custody. ” The familiar red haze flared, then faded. “I wanted to adopt Charlie, but I didn’t have any claim on him. ”

  The clock over the door ticked. Honor was still looking at him. “So this whole green card is so you can be around Charlie. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “And you didn’t get one, did you?”

  He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “No, I didn’t. ” He stood up and took his coffee cup to the sink, dumped it. Outside, the snow fell from the branches in clots, the temperature having jumped overnight.

  The chair scraped as she stood up. She came over to the counter and leaned against it, folding her arms over her chest. “What other options do you have?”

  “Not many. I’ve been looking for another job in the area, but I haven’t had much luck. The truth is, I imagine Charlie’ll be relieved to be rid of me. He barely speaks to me. ”

  Honor nodded. Took a slow breath and released it. “So let’s get married. ”

  He glanced at her sharply. “Oh, no. That plan is off the table. Thank you, but it’s not. . . necessary. ”

  “Of course it is,” she said briskly. “You love this boy, you need to be around for him. I’ll marry you and you can stay. You should’ve said this up front and not been such an ass. ”

  He gave her a quick smile. “Right. Sorry about that. But you’re not going to marry me. Marrying a stranger isn’t going to cure your own issues with Brighton—”

  “Brogan. ”

  “Whatever. And you want rug rats, sure, but you barely know me. You strike me more as the sperm donor type. That way you can get the whole list of assets—blond hair, green eyes, Harvard education—and boom. A happy single mum with an adorable tot. Possibly twins, given that you’re getting up there in age. Am I right? You’re more likely to pop out a duo when you’re past forty?”

  “I’m thirty-five. And don’t pull that idiot act again. ”

  Busted. “Sorry. ”

  “The grandparents. . . is he close with them?”

  “They do their best. ”

  “I’ll take that as a no. ” She pursed her lips. “Look. I’m not going to let some poor kid who’s already riddled with abandonment issues watch his unofficial stepfather get deported. You need a green card. I’m offering. ”

  The image of Charlie’s bloody ear flashed. The sound of the boy trying desperately not to cry in the car. “You’re right. I want to stay near him. But there are other ways. ”

  “Which you’ve already tried. ”

  He took a slow breath. “Honor, you’re being a real champ here, and I appreciate it. But oddly enough
, I like you, and I don’t want you to marry me because you feel bad for some kid you’ve never met. I mean, what do you get in the bargain? It’s a bit drastic, isn’t it?”

  “Sometimes drastic measures are called for. ” She looked at him steadily for a moment. “You want to get married or not?”

 

 

  CHAPTER NINE

  HONOR MANAGED TO sneak back into the house without running into Dad or Mrs. J. Why neither was around was a question best left unexplored, but still, at least Honor wouldn’t be caught in her walk of shame.

  It had been years since she spent the night in a man’s bed. The entire night, that was. With Brogan, she’d yearned to stay. . . but he was usually in town only for a day or so, often flying out early the next morning. And despite her advanced age, she did live with her father, who would need to be informed just why his baby girl wouldn’t be coming home that night.

  But back to the issue at hand. She’d just proposed to Tom Barlow, whom she’d met exactly three times. Her second proposal in two months. They’d be meeting again this afternoon to talk it over.

  Holy orgasm.

  See what good sex could do? Check that. Great sex. Sex on the floor! And things were pretty fabulous down there! She had a little rug burn on one knee and one shoulder, but the rest of her had been all for it.

  Tom hadn’t seemed to mind, either.

  No, indeed. The memory of his amazing mouth, and the way his face could change from so. . . intense to kind of goofy and sweet made her knees wobble as she climbed the stairs. The walk of shame, please. It was the walk of pride today.

  “Hey there, Spikey-doodles,” she said to her dog, who was curled on her pillow, snoring. “Want to go skating? Hmm?”

  She took a shower, and it was funny. Before this morning, showers had been a way to get clean, and all of a sudden, she was lathering and daydreaming and thinking thoughts that rivaled the billows of steam.

  Honor Holland: the type of woman who picks up British hotties in bars. Who went back to Hottie Tom Barlow’s place and shagged him within an inch of death.

  Who was maybe going to marry him.

  A wave of icy panic slapped through the steamy water. Oh, God. What was she thinking?

  She was meeting him later on, after the family wine tasting at four. A brisk skate at the pond would be just the thing. She got dressed, put Spike in a pink fleece doggy sweater, kissed the dog’s little face four times, then tucked her into her jacket. In the mudroom, she grabbed her skates and headed out to Willow Pond, where the ice would still be thick enough.

  Honor had skated all her life. She’d even done a little competing before Mom died. eCommitment had asked her to list her hobbies, and Honor was relieved to see that she still had one, at least, not counting watching documentaries on bizarre medical conditions.

  She didn’t skate too often—a few times a winter with Abby, and on Christmas Day, which was a family tradition. The Finger Lakes were too deep to freeze in the winter, but Blue Heron had a much shallower pond, a beautiful little secret, down near Tom’s Woods, ringed in hemlocks and Douglas fir trees. The wind had scoured the snow from the ice, and if there was a more beautiful spot on earth, Honor didn’t know what it was.

  Honor sat down on her usual rock, strapped on her skates, checked that Spike was secure into her coat and pushed off. The wind whisked through her short hair and brought tears to her eyes as she glided around the pond. A cardinal flashed across the snow; Spike gave a little bark and wriggled in delight. Push and glide, push and glide. She flipped around and skated backward now, protecting her little dog from the wind.

 

 

  Tom Barlow.

  Reasons for:

  Good in bed. (Shallow but so true. )

  Noble reason for staying.

  Likes kids.
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