Worth the Wait (St. James #1)(2)

by Jamie Beck

Heat raced to her cheeks.

“I’ll go find something for us to watch on TV.” Cat stood, peering over Vivi’s shoulder. “Come find me when you’re done.”

After she left, David asked, “How do you like Wilton so far?”

“It’s nice . . . prettier than Buffalo.” Darn it, she’d messed up his jawline. She erased a bit and concentrated on the page in front of her.

“Does sticking the tip of your tongue out of the corner of your mouth help you draw better?” David teased in a good-natured way.

Wincing, she sucked her tongue back inside her mouth and glanced at him. “Apparently.”

He crossed his arms, chuckling, and continued to watch her work. Within another few minutes, she was finished. She examined the image, wearing a scowl. Portraits were a lot harder than ceramic roosters.

David reached across the table and tugged at the pad. “Let me see.”

Reluctantly, Vivi released it and watched for his reaction.

“It’s amazingly good for such quick work.” A slow grin spread across his face as he intently studied her drawing. “You made me much better looking than I really am.”

“I did not!” She hadn’t, had she? Oh God, how embarrassing.

“You did, I think.” He tore the drawing from the pad and set it to his left before sliding the previously discarded bowl closer. “Thanks.”

Vivi reached out for the picture, but he swatted her hand. The contact sent tingles up her arm.

“That’s mine.” He then spooned saffron rice into his mouth. “In fact, sign it so someday I can prove I knew you when.”

Although Vivi knew he was kidding around to be nice to his baby sister’s friend, she loved every minute of his undivided attention. Unfortunately, it lasted only seconds longer, thanks to Jackson.

“Hey, bro. Hurry up, or we’re going to be really late.”

David glanced at the clock with surprise. “Sorry,” he said to Jackson. “I’ll be quick.”

He set his bowl in the sink and then took the drawing from the table. “Nice meeting you, Vivi. Thanks for this.”

“I think Cat is in the family room waiting for you,” Jackson told Vivi as he followed David out of the kitchen.

“Oh, thanks.” Vivi meandered out of the kitchen, feeling a bit light-headed.

She sank onto the sofa cushion beside Cat, who had chosen the movie Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford. Vivi couldn’t remain interested in the story, because her mind kept fantasizing about seeing David again at breakfast.

“What’s with the goofy grin?” Cat asked.

Oops. Vivi covered her private thoughts with some version of the truth. “I’m happy you invited me over.”

CHAPTER ONE

Block Island

Present Day, Late July

The choppy water of Long Island Sound pitched the ferry, but Vivi knew that wasn’t why she was in danger of losing her lunch. Her fingers gripped the edge of the bench seat while her knee jiggled at the pace of a hummingbird’s wings. It had been eighteen months since her heart experienced this particular kind of workout.

“You look green,” Cat said. “Are you feeling okay?”

Snapping from her daze, she turned toward Cat, who had extended Vivi the last-minute invitation to vacation with her and her brothers at their family’s Block Island summer home.

“I’m fine.” Vivi quelled her nerves and sat upright. “Just really ready for this ferry to dock.”

And even more ready to see David, who’d been the object of her affection for more than a decade. The accumulation of years of correspondence, movies and museum outings, afternoons in Central Park, and private jokes had convinced her of their destiny. Until recently, the fact that her sentiments had been unrequited had never deflated her hopes. No surprise, considering life with her dad had taught her not to demand much of love.

Cat leaned toward her. “I’m sure you’re eager to see David, but he’s different now. He’s distant.”

Vivi stared at the floor. When he’d moved to Hong Kong after his mom’s death eighteen months ago, she’d noticed a change. A sudden, mysterious withdrawal from everyone.

“He’s never explained his radio silence, not even to your father?” Vivi asked.

“Especially not to Dad. Ever since Mom died, they barely speak to each other, although neither will tell us why. Maybe things will improve now that he’s home.” Cat grimaced. “Who would’ve guessed I would’ve missed him so much?”

Vivi would have. While others might describe both Cat and David as somewhat aloof, she knew them to be fiercely committed to and protective of their close friends and family.

She glanced out the window, over the ocean. The last time she’d visited Block Island had been several months before Mrs. St. James’s cancer diagnosis. A lifetime ago, now. “Thanks for inviting me this week, Cat.”

“I’m glad you could come on such short notice.” Cat smiled.

“The big perk of being a teacher—a wide-open summer schedule.”

“What about your singing gigs?” Cat asked.

Vivi shrugged. “Seeing that I’m maybe one step above an anonymous coffee-shop performer, I doubt I’ll be missed this week. There are a handful of singers who rotate through the schedule at the bar, so I’m covered.”

“You’re at least two steps above a coffee-shop guy,” Cat teased. “But I’m glad you made it work. I’ll have much more fun with you than I would’ve with Justin.” Cat’s expression turned grim at the mention of her tumultuous relationship, which had apparently just gone south yet again.

“For sure!” Vivi winced as the words left her mouth, realizing they weren’t the most compassionate.

“My life is so screwed up lately, it’s driving me crazy. I really need this time away from work and Justin. I don’t want to think of either for the next several days.” Cat clamped her hand on Vivi’s thigh. “Promise you’ll help keep me sane.”

“God, Cat, if you’re counting on me for sanity, you really are screwed up!” Vivi laughed.

“Good point,” Cat joked. Then her phone rang. She frowned at the screen and then pouted. “Justin.”

“Don’t answer.”

Cat frowned, then mouthed “sorry” as she answered his call. She immediately stood and walked away, which left Vivi free to anticipate seeing David again.

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