The perfect match, p.50
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       The Perfect Match, p.50

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
Page 50

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  Honor sighed and extracted her hands. Patted Brogan’s knee. “Look, Brogan, you’ve had a big shock, and I’m really sorry. But you have things to work out, and I should go. ”

  “I love you. I really do. We’ve stayed friends for a reason, after all. Maybe we should give it a chance. ”

  “This is so uncomfortable. And you don’t mean it. ”

  “I think I do. ” With that, he leaned forward, hesitated and kissed her.

  She could’ve stopped him. Maybe she just wanted to see if he still had any hold over her. Maybe it was just years of reflex, accepting whatever affection Brogan had seen fit to bestow. Maybe her brain was just too slow to react. Whatever the case, she kept her mouth firmly closed, and didn’t feel anything at all. Well, no, that wasn’t true. When she’d been in seventh grade, she’d practice-kissed the cement pole in the church basement. It felt rather like that, a cold nothingness.

  Brogan pulled back. “See?” he said.

  “Hallo, darling. ”

  And then she did feel something, oh, yes indeedy.

  Tom’s face was dangerously calm. That face, which could convey more in the quirk of an eyebrow and the slightest smile, had nothing on it now, and Honor felt ice wrap around her heart. “Hi,” she said. “Um, how are you?” Great question.

  “Didn’t mean to interrupt. Your phone was off. ” His eyes were as cold as the lake in December.

  “Listen, man, I’m sorry you had to see that,” Brogan began.

  “Not at all. It was quite educational. ” He looked at her for another beat, but his eyes were blank. “Right. ” With that, he turned to leave.

  “Tom,” Honor blurted, “it’s not what you think. ” Her heart was jangling in her chest, panicked and cold. “Tom, I—”

  But he was gone, the door closing quietly behind him.

  “I’m sorry, On,” Brogan said. “I’m all messed up. I didn’t mean to make trouble for you. Well, I guess I did, maybe. I don’t know. I mean, I do care about you. Maybe it’s for the—”

  “Oh, shut up. ” She grabbed her purse and hurtled up the aisle toward the doors.

  “On, what do you think I should do about Dana?” Brogan called.

  “Figure it out yourself, Brogan! I have problems of my own. ”

  But by the time she reached the parking lot, Tom was already gone.




  TOM WASN’T HOME. Honor threw some food in a bowl for Spike and dashed back out, then ran back in, wrote a note that said “Please call me ASAP” and taped it to the front door. Called his cell. He didn’t answer. She didn’t blame him.

  Should she go to Wickham? Better yet, maybe she could call before driving all the way up there.

  “Dees ees Dr. Dragul speaking,” came the voice. “How may I help you dees evening?”

  “Oh, Droog, hi, it’s Honor Holland. I’m looking for Tom. Is he there, by any chance?”

  “Ah, Honor, how nice to hear your voice! No, I em afraid that Tom is not here, but I veel tell him you called eef I see him. I must talk to him myself, as a metter of fact, but I heff date tonight. A luffly young woman named Clarissa, and I feel very—”

  “Good luck,” she said, cutting him off. “Gotta run. Sorry, Droog. See you soon. ”

  She bit her lip.

  Okay, this was all very juvenile—she hadn’t really been kissing Brogan—but her heart was pounding so hard she thought she might levitate. Tom would understand once she explained things to him.

  She just had to find him, that was all.

  Just then, her phone rang, making her jump so much she dropped it, causing Spike to pounce on it. “Give that back,” she said, pulling it free of her dog’s tiny mouth.

  “Hello? Tom?”

  “Hey, it’s Pru. When’s your wedding again?”

  “Um, I’ll call you back. ”

  “Fine. I’ll just ask Tom. I meant to, but I was distracted when he took off his shirt. Those tats do something to me. I wonder if Carl would get one. ”

  “Okay, I’ll— What? When? Where did you see him?”

  Prudence paused. “You okay? You sound weird. ”

  “Where’s Tom, Pru?”

  “He’s in the bottling room, fixing something for Dad. ”

  “Talk later. Bye. ”

  A few minutes later, Honor pulled into the parking lot of the vineyard. Tom’s car was there.

  Maybe he wasn’t mad, after all. He was here, being a good almost-son-in-law. He probably understood. How mad could he be?

  Very, apparently.

  He was lying on the floor in jeans and a T-shirt, and Pru was right. It made a very nice picture indeed, her college professor gone all handyman on her. “Hi,” she said.

  He didn’t look up. Twisted a wrench, undid a coupling, then sat up in one neat movement.

  “I should explain what you walked in on,” she said as he brushed past her. He didn’t pause, just went down the stairs into the cask room, where some of the wiring from the bottling machines ran. Honor followed, twisting her hands.

  She wasn’t used to men being jealous. It was a freakishly new sensation, and not one hundred percent bad, if she was being honest. Seventy-five percent bad, sure. Twenty-five percent thrilling, in a guilty sort of way.

  The cask room was dim, as always, even with the lights on, the hulking barrels standing guard on one side, the stone walls giving off their pleasant, limestone smell. Tom was already reaching up for a wire that laced under the floor of the bottling room and into the cask room’s ceiling. He took a knife out of his pocket and stripped away the rubber sheath.

  “Okay, here’s the deal,” Honor said, figuring he could at least listen. “Um, it’s not what you think. ”

  “Yes. So you said earlier. Funny, that phrase. Everyone uses it when trying to excuse their bad behavior. ”

  She pressed her lips together. “I didn’t do anything that can be construed as bad, Tom. ”

  “Darling, just because you and I have a business arrangement doesn’t mean I like it when you go off snogging your old boyfriends. ”

  “We weren’t—”

  “Your mouth was on his, Honor. Looked like snogging to me. ”

  A hot blast of irritation surged unexpectedly through her. “I’m not the type, Tom. I’ve never flirted with another woman’s boyfriend. I’ve never littered, never broke the speed limit and I certainly never even entertained the idea of cheating on you. ”

  “Really. So kissing the great love of your life—”

  “I have to say, I’m a little surprised you noticed. Since you’ve been ignoring me this past week. ”

  “Is that grounds for cheating?”

  “I didn’t cheat on you! I would never do that. ”

  “It looked rather convincing to me. ”

  “Maybe you could just listen. ”

  “Why?” he snapped, yanking a wire down from the ceiling. “So I can hear how you accidentally kissed him? This is what you wanted, isn’t it? Your best friend stole your man, and now you’ve got him back. ”

  “No! That’s not it at all. I don’t want him back. I never had him to begin with, and honestly, he’s very upset about something—”

  “Poor lamb. ”

  “And he kissed me! There’s a difference. ”

  “You sound bloody ridiculous. ” He yanked down some more wire and practically attacked it.

  She took a breath. “You don’t understand, Tom. I’ve been friends with him since I was nine years old, and I can’t just—”

  “I know the whole story, darling, and I certainly don’t want to hear it again. ” His voice was cold and calm now, and he still wouldn’t look at her.

  “So you haven’t talked to me in eight days, and now you won’t listen. ”

  “I believe I spoke to you this very morning. ”

/>   “To ask if I wanted coffee. You know what I’m talking about. Something happened with Charlie, and you won’t tell me anything. What kind of a relationship is that?”

  “A business relationship. Remember?”

  Irritation unfolded and grew. “You know what your problem is, Tom?”

  “I love when women start a sentence that way. Please, go on, tell me. ”

  “You’ve got this huge part of yourself locked away, and every once in a while, something shows through, and then you race to lock it away again, and I have no idea who you really are. And I think that’s much more of a problem than stupid Brogan stupidly kissing me because he was upset with stupid Dana!”

  Tom tossed down the wrench with a very satisfying clang. “And I happen to think it’s a problem that every f**king turn of our relationship has come about because of something your Brogan has done. ”


  “You only met with me that first time because you were desperate to get over him. The first time you slept with me was when he told you Dana was pregnant. You agreed to marry me to show him you weren’t mooning over him, and the night of that ridiculous ball, you slept with me again because you were heartbroken seeing them dance. And now the first chance you get, you let him kiss you. So yeah, I’ve got a problem. This is not what I signed up for. ”

  “Oh, I’m well aware of that. A single U. S. female citizen willing to commit marital fraud was what you signed up for. We don’t have an audience, Tom, so save the jealousy act, okay?”

  Tom strode across the room, heading for the stairs.

  No. Not for the stairs.

  For her.

  He grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her, her breath leaving in a squeak of surprise. He pushed her against a giant barrel, his mouth hard and hungry and demanding, yes, yes, finally. His arms pulled her against him, his body hard as oak, and all the pent-up frustration of the past week burst out, and she kissed him back just as hard. Her mouth opened under his, taking as much as she was giving. He was hers, damn it. They belonged together.

  His hands drifted down to her ass and lifted her against him, one hand groping under her skirt, and holy porno, it was hot and tawdry and wonderful. She wrapped her legs around his waist and buried her hands in his short hair, wanting him in an overwhelming throb, right here, right now.

  It was hard and urgent and so, so good, his breath rasping out of him, the muscles in his shoulders bunching as he lifted her, and yes, she was so definitely that type.

  When they were done, he stayed against her, which was good, given that her legs were water and Honor was positive she’d collapse if he let go.

  Sex in the cask room.

  Who knew she was that kind of slutty person?

  We were hoping, the eggs said smugly.

  Her legs, wrapped around his waist, were shaking. She pressed a kiss onto the side of Tom’s sweaty neck, and it seemed to bring him out of his fog.

  He stood up, smoothed her hair away from her face, his eyes on her mouth, rather than her eyes. Then he stepped back a little and pulled down her skirt, then buttoned his jeans. “Sorry,” he said.

  She sure as hell wasn’t. “No apology necessary,” she murmured, swallowing. A repeat performance, however, would be most welcome.

  He turned away, rubbing the back of his neck. “No, I’m sorry, Honor. You deserve better. ”

  “I don’t think better exists. ”

  He wasn’t smiling. “I don’t love you. ”

  The words were like a slap, and yes, that did take some of the sheen off the moment. Tears stung at her eyes, and she swallowed.

  “I wish I could. I’m sorry. ” He started to say something else—once, twice—but then closed his mouth. “I’m sorry,” he said again, and with that, he went back upstairs and resumed fixing the bottling machine.
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