Worth the Wait (St. James #1)(13)

by Jamie Beck

Ten minutes later, she loaded a heaping serving of freshly made French toast onto Jackson’s plate. He dipped his finger into the excess syrup spilling over his plate before sucking it into his mouth.

Vivi was helping herself to seconds when David and Laney strolled into the kitchen. She examined Laney’s pressed outfit, glossy lips, made-up eyes, and her pin-straight, silky red hair neatly tucked behind a navy headband. With some surprise, Vivi noted the severe hairstyle made the sharp angles of her face look graceful rather than harsh.

Had David waited for her to primp? Did he enjoy watching her perform her feminine rituals?

Glancing at her own wrinkled, mismatched pajamas, Vivi laughed to herself. No wonder she’d never captured his interest. Elegance and poise weren’t words anyone associated with her. Swallowing a sigh, she forced her gaze up to greet them.

David’s hopeful expression practically begged her for some sign she’d forgiven him, so she took pity and offered a slight smile. He winked, but then Laney cleared her throat and stared at him until he proceeded to make her a cup of coffee.

He opened the cabinet to retrieve a cup and then wandered away in search of a spoon. His bad habit of leaving cabinet doors hanging open had always annoyed his mother. On the other hand, Vivi loved his little imperfections. Pathetic.

After stirring cream and sugar into the coffee cup, David handed it to Laney. Vivi couldn’t decide if seeing him act like a trained seal made her jealous or utterly disgusted. Maybe it just made her mad. She’d always treated him like a king, unaware he apparently preferred the role of servant.

Jackson’s eyes slid back and forth between David and Vivi. Crap. Jackson was monitoring the situation after last night’s fiasco. He didn’t know about the midnight rendezvous in the backyard. Sucking it up, and dedicated to moving forward with her own life without David, Vivi forced herself to be cheerful.

“Would either of you like French toast?”

“No, thanks.” Laney patted her washboard stomach while she flashed a polite smile. “I’ll stick with coffee.”

“Suit yourself.” Vivi shoveled a giant bite into her mouth. “David?” Her tongue darted out to lick a dollop of syrup from her bottom lip.

She watched David’s eyes widen before he grinned. “Given your appetite, I’d be shocked if you left any food behind.” He shook his head in jest and joined everyone at the table. “I’ll grab something in a bit, thanks.”

Laney wandered over and sat on his knee. Although he spoke with Hank, David’s arm automatically wrapped around her waist, and she rested her hand on his forearm. The casual intimacy of the scene threw darts at Vivi’s heart.

She yanked her gaze away and fought off a fresh wave of revulsion. Obviously it would take some time for her heart to catch up to her brain when it came to getting over him. Vaulting from her seat, she rinsed her dish and announced, “I’m going hiking with my camera while the morning light is still soft. Anyone care to join me?”

Hank’s head shot up. “Give me five minutes and I’ll go.”

“Okay.” Vivi smiled at him. “Cat, join us.”

“Nah, I’m on vacation from work and exercise. In fact, I may slink back to bed now that you won’t be chirping at me.” She slid off the barstool and followed Vivi down to their room.

While Vivi changed her clothes, Cat nestled back under her blanket and eyed her.

“So, what’s the deal with Hank?” Cat asked. “Are you interested in him?”

Vivi wouldn’t confess to enlisting his help during their walk on the beach yesterday. Thankfully, he hadn’t been insulted by her plan to involve him in a conspiracy to convince everyone she was over David. After getting to know Hank, however, she thought he’d be a great catch for Cat. Cat wasn’t ready to give up on Justin yet, but Vivi hoped to pique her curiosity.

“He’s cute, isn’t he?” Vivi tied her sneakers, trying for subtlety.

“Blondes aren’t usually your thing.” Cat didn’t meet her eyes.

“Well, I’m not blind.” While braiding her hair, Vivi hid her face to conceal her intentions. “His eyes look like sea glass, which you know is a favorite of mine. And that body! And best of all, he’s super kind.”

“He’s too nice.” Cat studied her fingernails as if she were bored. “No zip.”

“Nice trumps zip in my book. Did you know he’s the oldest of five siblings? He’s helping to pay for his youngest sister’s education. And aside from all that goodness, he’s got a tool belt. Come on—a tool belt is hot!”

Cat snorted, so Vivi turned toward her. “What?”

“Nothing.” Cat sat forward. “Ignore me.”

“Come with us.” Vivi walked across the room and sat on the edge of Cat’s bed. “It’ll be nice.”

Cat hesitated, but then her phone trilled. In the blink of an eye, Vivi lost her to Justin. She wanted to stomp on Cat’s phone so they could enjoy the week together without that maniac’s constant interruptions.

“Justin, I told you to stop calling.” Cat sat upright in bed, back pressed to the headboard. After a short pause, she asked, “What Facebook tag?”

Vivi’s stomach dropped upon hearing Justin’s irate voice emanating from Cat’s phone. Please don’t let this be about the picture I posted from last night’s dinner.

“Oh, for God’s sake. ‘The blond dude’ is Hank. He works for Jackson. He is not here with me. I brought Vivi,” Cat said, shooting Vivi a questioning look, “who must’ve posted one of the pictures she took at dinner last night.”

Vivi mouthed “sorry.” Cat waved her away, already focused on defending herself to Justin.

Defeated and feeling guilty, Vivi left Cat behind. When she returned to the living room, she found David waiting for her. His obsidian eyes held her gaze. Just what I need now.

“That camera is as big as you.” His shy grin distracted her. “Can you hike with it?”

“Hank can carry it for me.”

“Of course.” David’s ghost of a smile vanished. “Does your invitation extend to Laney and me?”

“Oh.” Vivi blinked. No! “Laney hikes? Er, I mean, it doesn’t seem like her kind of thing.”

“You’re right. It’s not.” He shrugged. “You know, I only invited Laney because Cat said she was bringing Justin. If I’d known you were coming, I would’ve come alone so we could’ve spent time together like normal.” He shook his head and placed his hands on his hips. “I’m trying, Muñequita. I’m truly sorry about my behavior last night. Please tell me you don’t hate me.”