The perfect match, p.41
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       The Perfect Match, p.41

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 41

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  Spike, her damp fur standing up in clumps, jumped up next to her and began gnawing on her thumb. Honor stroked her little tummy, and the dog’s tail wagged. At least Spike was all right. Thanks to Tom.

  Honor wiped her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry. I had a little accident. Fell through some ice. ”

  “My God! Are you okay?” Faith asked.

  “Yeah. Just kind of cold. ”

  “Is Tom all right?”

  “He’s fine. He’s, um, he’s not here right now,” Honor said, and there was an embarrassing little tremble in her voice.

  Faith was quiet for a second. “Dad will drive me to your place. I’ll pick up dinner first, okay?”

  Honor’s eyes filled again, this time with gratitude. “That’d be great,” she said.

  An hour later, filled with chicken tikka masala from Taj’s Indian and two glasses of pinot gris, Honor was sitting on the couch, wrapped in a fleece blanket, Spike snoring gently on her chest.

  Dad and Mrs. J. had interrogated her about her rash actions. Mrs. J. brought a loaf of comforting blueberry bread and checked the larder to make sure she had enough food; Dad gave her a lecture about ice safety. After a half hour, Faith managed to kick them out. Then she tucked Honor in on the couch, fussing over her quite nicely. Blue cowered under the kitchen table, chewing his disgusting tennis ball, afraid to come within a thirty-foot radius of Spike.

  “Tell me again how he tossed you onto shore,” Faith said now.

  “He just. . . did. ”

  “It’s kind of romantic. He’s really strong, isn’t he? Levi says he’s got a right hook that could stop a tank. ”

  “Well, he was furious. ”

  “Sure. Which is pretty romantic, too. ”

  “Is it?”

  “Yes. Trust me. He was worried about you. He saved you. It’s a good sign. ”

  Honor finished her wine and set the glass on the coffee table, careful not to disturb Spike.

  Faith was looking at her thoughtfully. “Honor, you don’t have to marry him, you know. If you’re not sure. ”

  “Oh, I am. No. It’s just. . . he’s a little moody. ”

  “He’s a man. Of course he’s moody. ”

  “Imagine what they say about us. ”

  “They don’t talk about us. They’re men. ” She paused. “I think you and Tom are really nice together. ”

  “Do you?”

  “Mmm-hmm. ”

  Honor looked at her pretty sister. Faith had been in love twice, once with Jeremy the Perfect, and then with Levi, whom she’d known forever. Could she tell something was off?

  “Hey. ” The back door banged open, and Pru came in. “Heard you fell through the ice. That was stupid of you. ”

  “Thanks for your sympathy, Pru,” Honor said. “Faith brought me dinner, Mrs. J. brought dessert. What did you bring?”

  “My good wishes,” she said. “Is Tom in the shower? Can I check on him?”

  “He had to run out,” Honor said. Dad had also asked about Tom’s whereabouts, and it was a little embarrassing that Honor didn’t know where he was (and hadn’t wanted to call, either).

  “Damn. ” Prudence hurled herself into a chair. “Where’s Dad? I thought he and Mrs. J. were here. ”

  “They were,” Faith answered. “We just got rid of them about half an hour ago. Honor and I were having a heart-to-heart. ”

  “Cool! This place is cute, Honor. Nice work. It wouldn’t kill you to invite me over, you know. ”

  “Sorry. ” The place was pretty cute, Honor thought. Family pictures were scattered about, and a few prints hung on the wall. Honor had filled a shelf with paperbacks to go along with Tom’s books on airplanes and bridges. Faith was curled in the leather club chair Honor had brought from her suite at the New House.

  It was starting to feel like home, in other words.

  “So when are you two making things permanent?” Pru asked, taking a piece of garlic naan and folding it into her mouth.

  “Pretty soon,” Honor said. Unless Tom came home and broke up with her, that was. “Maybe early June. ”

  “Speaking of, are we getting matching dresses for Dad’s wedding?” Pru asked. “Because I’d just as soon wear jeans. ”

  “You’re not wearing jeans,” Honor said. “And don’t wear jeans tomorrow night, either. You have to wear black or white. ”

  “Don’t get your panties in a twist. Faith made me buy a dress. You guys are so bossy. Okay, I gotta go. Just wanted to check on you, Honor. ” She bent down and planted a kiss on Honor’s head. “See you tomorrow. Oh, hey! Guess what Carl and I did last night? Pumpkin pie has never been so sexy. Wanna hear about it?”

  “Nope,” said Honor.

  “Never,” Faith said at the same time.

  “Fine, fine. No one ever wants to hear my stories. ” The front door opened, and there stood their brother. “Hey, Useless. What’s up?”

  “Hey, guys,” Jack said, leaning down and hacking off a piece of blueberry bread. “Honor, I heard you were an idiot and went onto Ellises’ pond. ”

  “Yep,” Honor said. “But I rescued your doggy niece, so show a little gratitude. ” She pointed to the sleeping Spike.

  “You need to get a life. ”

  Faith, Honor and Prudence all snorted at once. “What?” said Jack.

  “Pot,” Honor replied. “Kettle. Black. And I’m living with someone, soon to be married, so shut it. ”

  “At least I don’t wander out onto partially frozen ponds and then wonder why the ice breaks. ”

  “Thank you, Jack. ”

  Tom’s voice made them all jerk around.

  He wasn’t smiling, and his eyes bounced off her and went instead to her siblings. “This is very nice, all of you coming over to check on your sister, but I hope you won’t mind if I ask you to leave. ”

  “I personally wanna stay,” said Pru. “Heard you were very heroic and manly, Tommy boy. ”

  “Yes. ” He allowed a slight smile. “But you still have to go. ”

  “I will if you’ll take off your shirt,” she said.

  “Get out, Pru,” Honor said.

  “Oh, come on! I’m married to Carl. Throw me a bone. ” She eyed Tom appreciatively. “Faith got to see him when he was boxing with Levi. It’s my turn. ”

  “Let’s go,” Faith said. “Don’t mind her, Tom, she’s having a hot flash. ”

  “I have been having a lot of those lately,” Pru said thoughtfully. “I had to lie in a patch of snow today. Felt like simultaneously murdering someone and crying. ”

  “Why do we always have to talk about female problems?” Jack asked.

  “Shut up, you big baby,” Prudence said, grabbing her coat. “Fine. See you, kids. ”

  “Take care,” Jack said, shaking Tom’s hand. “Thanks for saving our idiot sister. ” Faith stood as well, and started to gather up the cartons of Indian food.

  “I’ll take care of that, Faith, but thank you,” Tom said.

  “Okay,” she said, going over and smooching his cheek. “We’d be lost without her, you know. ” She hugged Honor for a few beats, her cheek soft and plump, her nice Faithie smell enveloping Honor. When she stood up, her eyes were wet. “See you tomorrow,” she said. She kissed Spike on the head, then dragged Blue out from under the table and left.

  The house seemed much bigger without them. Tom sat down in the chair opposite the couch and looked at her, his face blank. “How are you feeling?”

  “Fine. Thank you. ” It was hard to look at him for some reason. Probably because he’d kissed the stuffing out of her in the shower. When she was naked. And then he’d left.

  Faith was right. Men were not in touch with their emotions. “Why’d you kick out my family?”

  “I wanted to apologize. ”

  The words made her bones melt.

  “I’m sorry I kis
sed you. ”

  Oh, snap. Men were jerks. Even if this particular specimen had saved her doggy’s life.

  “Yeah, whatever,” she said

  “And I’m sorry I lost my temper. ”

  We love this guy, said the eggs. “Shut up,” Honor muttered.

  “Excuse me?”

  “Oh, um, nothing. Not you. ” She sat up a little straighter and adjusted Spike, who sighed and wrapped a tiny paw around Honor’s thumb. “Don’t apologize, Tom. You saved us both, and I really, really appreciate it. ”

  “Yes. ” He paused. “I want you to promise me something. ”

  “What’s that?”

  “You won’t ever risk your life for an animal again. Even Ratty. It’s not worth it, Honor. ”

  Ratty’s—er, Spike’s fur was soft under Honor’s hand, and she could feel the dog’s fragile rib cage moving up and down with each breath.

  “Promise?” he said.

  “No. ”

  He straightened. “Honor—”

  “No. I’m sorry, but no. I can’t. ”

  “Don’t be an idiot, Honor. ”

  “Look, Tom, I’m sorry you had to come in to help me. I really am. I didn’t start the day off thinking, ‘You know what? If Spike ever goes through the ice, I’ll definitely risk my life to save her. ’ I just. . . acted. I didn’t plan it, and I’m sorry you had to be involved. ”

  “You should be grateful I was! Since you would’ve died without me, don’t forget!” He took a deep breath, and when he spoke again, his voice was calmer. “But you can’t risk your life for a dog. She’s not a child. ”

  “I know that. But she means a lot to me. ”

  “Too much, obviously. ”

  Honor stroked the top of Spike’s bony little head. “You know, I was like you. I always thought people were kind of dopey about their dogs. But I never had one before Spike. I mean, we had them growing up, but I never had a dog of my own. ”

  Tom said nothing.

  “I proposed to Brogan, did I tell you that? On my birthday. I figured what the hell, I was tired of waiting, so I just did it. You know what he said?”

  “He turned you down. ”

  “Yes. He said I was like an old baseball glove. Something you kept, but not something you needed every day. ”

  “That’s the worst metaphor I’ve ever heard. ”

  “It’s a simile, and thank you. But I wasted years on him. A decade of my adult life, waiting for him to really see me. He never did. If anyone had ever described that same relationship to me, I’d have said the woman was being deliberately blind to the fact that she was being used. But every time we were together, I thought, This is the time he’ll say what I’ve been waiting to hear, that he’d finally realize he loves me and I’m special and perfect for him and he wants to spend his whole life with me. ”

  The memory was still humiliating. . . all those years, all those other men she measured against a man who didn’t really love her.

  “He never said those things, obviously. ” She sighed. “So I was watching Faith and her dopey dog one day after he turned me down, and I called the vet and asked if they knew of any dogs who might need a home. ” Her throat tightened. “They were treating a dog who was maybe going to make it. Someone had poured gasoline on her. Her fur was mostly missing, and she was deaf in one ear and she was just getting over a broken leg. ”

  Tom rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “Honor, I—”

  “When I got to take her home, they had to wrap her in gauze and put her in a special bag, because it hurt her too much to be lifted. And when I was walking to the parking lot, this firefighter came over, Gerard. And Gerard is six foot five and can probably pick up a car, and you know what Spike did? She growled at him. She was protecting me. Five pounds, all beat up and abused, wrapped in gauze, and she was defending me from a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound stranger. She loved me from the minute I saw her. No questions asked. ”
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