The perfect match, p.3
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       The Perfect Match, p.3

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
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Page 3

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  He laughed and gave her a one-armed hug, then turned toward the living room. “It’s safe to come back, parents!” he called.

  And back they came, Mrs. Cain’s face in lines of disapproval, Mr. Cain grinning.

  Bite the bullet, Honor. “Sorry about that,” she said.

  “Absolutely no need to apologize,” Mr. Cain said, his breath leaving in an ooph as Mrs. Cain elbowed him in the ribs.

  “My parents are visiting,” Brogan said, his eyes dancing with laughter.

  “So I see,” Honor murmured. “How’s Florida?”

  “It’s wonderful,” Mr. Cain said warmly. “Stay for dinner, dear. ”

  “Oh, no. You. . . I can’t. But thanks. ”

  Brogan gave her another squeeze. “Yes, you can. Just because they saw you naked is no reason to feel awkward. Right, Mom?”

  “Laugh it up,” Honor muttered.

  Mrs. Cain was still in lemon-sucking mode. “I didn’t realize you two were. . . together. ” She never had liked Honor. Or any female interested in her son, one imagined.

  “Please stay, Honor,” Brogan said. “We’ll just talk about you if you leave. ” He winked, utterly unfazed by her little show.

  He got her a pair of sweats and a T-shirt, and she changed in the downstairs bathroom, avoiding looking at her face in the mirror. Okay, one quick glance. Yes, she looked utterly humiliated. But if she was going to be his wife, she’d just have to get over this little debacle. It would become part of the Cain family lore. They could laugh at it. A lot, no doubt.

  Brogan covered the awkwardness over dinner with shop talk, telling them about the upcoming baseball season and spring training, who was out with what injury, and Honor tried to forget that Mr. Cain had seen her naked.

  The elder Cains were only here en route to Buffalo to see Mr. Cain’s sister, thankfully. Maybe the night wouldn’t be a total wash, after all.

  Finally, they left. The second their car pulled out of the garage, Brogan turned to her.

  “That was maybe the best moment of my life,” he said.

  “Yes. You’re welcome,” she said, blushing again. But smiling, too, because there it was, that nervous, tingling feeling. The—she hated to think it, but it was true—gratitude. Brogan Cain, the hottie sports photographer, had just complimented her.

  “So let’s pretend the night is just starting, shall we?” he said, pulling back to smile at her. “You go outside, I hear a faint knock, and who is it but the beautiful Honor Holland!” He led her to the door and gently pushed her outside, though the rain had turned to sleet.

  And so Honor did it again, and this time, things went a little more according to plan. Except the kitchen table was covered in dishes, so they went to Brogan’s bedroom instead.

  And when they were done, and when Honor’s heart was racing, not just from exertion, but from terror, let’s be honest, she tried to draw in a calming breath. Settle down, she told herself. He’s your friend.

  Yes. He was. Honor raised herself slowly—Brogan seemed to be sleeping. That was okay. This way, she could just look at him. He was so handsome. Black lashes worthy of a mascara commercial, straight nose, perfectly shaped mouth. A hint of five-o’clock shadow gave his almost-beautiful face just the right amount of machismo. Hard to believe she was in bed with him, even after all these. . . encounters.

  She knew he’d had a few girlfriends here and there. During those times, they didn’t sleep together, of course, and Honor would try to be neutral on the rare occasions that Brogan did talk about these other women. Inevitably, he’d break up with them (which was a great sign, she thought).

  As for other men, well. . . there’d been four other relationships, lasting between five and twenty-three days. She’d only ever slept with one other guy, and let’s face it. It hadn’t compared with this.

  Now or never, Honor.

  “You asleep?” she whispered.

  “Nope. Just letting you ogle me,” he said, opening his eyes with a grin.

  She smiled back. “And I appreciate it. ” She licked her lips, knees tingling with adrenaline. “So. ”

  “So. ” He reached up and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. It was all the encouragement she needed.

  “You know what I thought the other day?” she asked. Her toes curled, but she kept her voice casual.

  “What?”

  “I was thinking we should get married. ”

  There. She said it. Suddenly, it was hard to breathe normally.

  “Yeah, right. ” Brogan snorted. He stretched, yawning. “Man, that flight is catching up with me. ” Then he looked back at her. “Oh. Uh, are you serious?”

  Play it easy here, her brain advised. “Well, yeah. I mean, it’s a thought. ”

  He stared at her, then his eyebrows jumped in bewilderment. “Really?”

  His voice did not indicate that he’d just heard a wonderful idea. It indicated. . . bafflement.

  “It’s just, you know, we’re good friends. Good, good friends. Really good friends. ” Oh, youch. Stop talking. You sound like an idiot. “You know, we’ve been friends for ages now. Long time. ” Her tongue felt like a piece of old leather, and wasn’t that an attractive image! Would you like to kiss my shriveled, dry, leathery mouth, Brogan? Because the years are precious, you know. Egg-wise.

  She forced out an awkward laugh, then wished she hadn’t. “Just putting that out there. It’s been, what? Seventeen years that we’ve been together?”

  “Together?” he said, sitting up abruptly.

  “Uh, sort of. We always, um, fall back on each other. ” She sat up, too, leaning against the leather-upholstered headboard. Tears stung her eyes, and she immediately ordered them back. She cleared her throat. “I mean, we’re such good friends. And then there’s this. Sex. ”

  “Yeah! Right. No, we’re great friends. Definitely. I think of you as my best friend, really. But, um. . . ” Brogan took a deep breath. “I never really saw us as together per se. ” He swallowed and, to his credit, looked at her.

  Calm, calm. “No, you’re right. I just thought, we’re getting to a certain age, and you said you were cutting back on traveling. ” She paused. “And neither one of us has ever found someone. . . permanent. Maybe that says something. ”

  Please say you agree. Please realize what a great idea this is.

  He didn’t answer, but his eyes were kind. Horribly so, and that was answer enough. Her heart stuttered, then shriveled like burned paper. To avoid looking at him, she traced the stitching in the comforter. Now that the initial rejection was done, she could keep it together. She was a rational, calm person. Except she might be having a heart attack. She kind of hoped she was.

  Brogan was quiet for a minute. “You know how I think about you, On?” He turned to see her face. “I think of you like an old baseball glove. ”

  She blinked. Was he kidding? A sports analogy? Granted, he was full of them, but now?

  He nodded. “Like an old friend, something you turn to when you need it. ”

  “A baseball glove. ” Could she smother him with the pillow, maybe, or did that only work in the movies? How about panty hose strangulation? Too bad she hadn’t worn any.

  He took her hand and squeezed it, and she let it lie there like a dead fish. “It’s like Jeter once said. Or maybe it was Pujols. Yeah, because this was back when he played in Saint Louis. Wait, was it Joe Maurer? No, because he’s a catcher, so that’d be a mitt. Anyway, whoever it was, he was talking about how when he’s in a slump, or when he doesn’t feel right about an upcoming game, he puts on his old glove. He’s had it for years, right? And when he puts it on, it’s like an old friend, and he knows he’ll have a better day because of it. ” He turned to her, tipping her chin up, and she blinked, her eyes feeling like two hot, hard stones. “But you don’t need that glove every day. ”

  Surely this was the worst breakup
speech in history.

  He winced. “Okay, that was the worst comparison ever,” he said, and she had to laugh then, because it was that or burst into tears. “What I’m trying to say, On, is—”

  “You know what?” she said, and her voice was normal, thank you, God. “Forget it. I don’t know where the idea came from. Maybe it was because your parents saw me naked. ”

  He grinned.

  “But you’re right,” she said more firmly. “Why ruin a good thing?”

  “Exactly,” he said. “Because we are a good thing. Don’t you think?”

  “Absolutely. No, no, getting married was just. . . just a thought. Never mind. ”

  He kissed her then, and it nearly tore her heart in half. An old baseball glove? Holy fungus. Yet her head was cupped between his hands, and she was letting him kiss her, like nothing had changed at all.

  “Feel up for round two?” he whispered.

  Are you kidding? You just compared me to an old baseball glove. I’m leaving.

  “Sure,” she said. Because nothing had changed. She was the same old glove she’d always been.

  If she left, he might realize she’d been dead serious, and if he knew that, then she wouldn’t have any pride left. And since her heart had just been poleaxed, pride was suddenly very important.

  * * *

  SHE APPEARED AT Dana’s door an hour later, and the second she knocked, tears made a rare appearance, sliding down her face in hot streaks.

  Dana opened the door, took one look and blinked. An odd expression—half surprise, half something else—came over her face. “Well, I guess I can see how that turned out,” she said after a beat. “I’m sorry, babe. ”

  She got a clean pair of pajamas, and Honor changed, then washed her face in the sloppy, comforting bathroom.

  “At least you know where you stand,” Dana said, leaning against the doorway. “I think drinks are called for, don’t you?”

  She made very strong martinis and handed Honor a box of Kleenex. Shark Week, a shared passion of theirs, played in the background. Somehow, it was the perfect backdrop to spill everything.

  “I feel like such an ass,” Honor said when she’d finished recounting the wretched evening. “And the thing is, I didn’t know how much I loved him till it was out there, you know? Does that make sense?”

  “Sure, sure it does. ” Dana drained her drink. “Listen, I hate to be insensitive here, but tell me the part about the parents one more time, okay?” she said with a wicked grin, and Honor snorted and complied, making Dana swear she’d never tell anyone, because as a hairdresser, Dana saw everyone, and knew everyone’s business, and was pretty liberal with sharing it.

  “Comparing your vajay-jay to an old baseball glove. . . that’s going a little far, isn’t it?”

  “It wasn’t my. . . Never mind. Let’s talk about something else. Oh, look at that guy’s stitches. I’m never swimming again. ” She sat back, leaning against her raincoat. Stupid raincoat. Where was the shock and awe now, huh? Wadding it up, she tossed it on the floor.

  “Hey, it’s not the coat’s fault. And that’s Burberry,” Dana said, retrieving it. “But no, I see your point. You hate it now, so I’m going to make the ultimate sacrifice and take it from you. I promise never to wear it in your presence. ” She opened a closet, shoved the coat in and slammed the door.

  Dana could be prickly, but she certainly had her moments. “So what now?” she asked as the guy on TV described what it was like to see his severed arm in a great white shark’s teeth.

  Honor swallowed the sharp lump in her throat. “I don’t know. But I guess I can’t sleep with him anymore. I have a little pride, glove or no glove. ”

  “Good. It’s high time,” Dana said. “Now sit there and watch this next attack, and I’ll make us another round. ”
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