Let's Get Textual (Page 31)

I blink a few times, sitting there staring at him like I don’t know who he is.

But he knows who I am. He knows me, and my heart is soaring right now. I can feel it; it’s awakening, telling me I could love him, that he could be the one.

Zach leans in. “See, Delia, I know you.”

I nod, my throat full of emotion. I’m scared that if I try to speak right away, the tears I’m barely holding back will flow.

And that s**t will only freak him out.

“I know you too, Zach.”

“You do?”

“Oh yeah. You have this smile that lights up your face and a whole different one, a naughtier one that lets your dimple poke through.” I give him a suggestive grin. “That one is my favorite. You also like to have the last word—guess we’re screwed there. You tend to tip the corner of your mouth up when you’re amused, and even though you act cocky, you’re secretly worried everyone will judge you for your nerdiness.”

As predicted, his dimple pops out. “Huh.”

“Huh.”

“So you think you know me?”

“Oh, I know you, Zach. I know you.”

His lips are on mine. It’s a slow, mild kiss, but sensual all the same.

Pulling away, he whispers, “I’m glad you do, Delia.”

The back door swings open and out comes Jack.

“Hey, go help grab your brother’s things. He brought laundry.”

Zach sighs at his father’s request and pulls himself off the swing. “Which is so weird because I’m certain we have laundromats down south, right, Delia?”

“I’ve used one or two myself.”

He turns to Rose and pretends to crack his neck and knuckles. “Don’t worry, I’ll work him over for you.”

“Just don’t bruise his face—it’s all he has going for him,” she jokes, following him inside and leaving me alone with Jack.

“This is a beautiful home you have, Jack. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Oh no problem. It’s great to see Zach happy. I always worry he spends too much time alone in that basement of his, especially since his last breakup, but she was no good for him anyway.”

A shiver races through me at the mention of Zach’s basement and the moment we shared down there.

“You’ve raised a terrific man—very full of himself, but a great man.”

“He gets that from Rose. I can’t imagine myself being so vain.” He winks and I laugh.

Rose comes back outside, a tray of drinks in hand, still wearing those pajamas. I stand to help her but she waves me off.

“Nonsense,” she says. “You’re a guest. Sit.”

“I was warned I’d need to change for dinner,” I say. “Something about an eating contest?”

“Every year since the beginning.”

“Have you ever polished everything off before?”

They both nod enthusiastically.

“Several times. It’s usually when one of the boys brings a guest, but it’s been a few years now. Neither of them have brought anyone home lately, which I guess is a blessing,” Rose says, smiling at me. “They save the important ones for the holidays.”

My face heats up and I think back to what Zach said about my blushing often. Huh.

He comes strolling back out on the patio, pointing at the house. “He’ll be out in a minute. He’s using my phone because his is dead and he needs to return a phone call to his agent.”

“Agent?” I question.

Jack nods. “Sports agent. Baseball. He’s damn talented.”

“Your son or the agent?”

We all laugh.

“Slu—”

“You guys talking about me?”

Holy crap. I recognize him.

It’s Shep—the Shep.

My eyes fall to slits as I stare at him, pissed as hell.

After Zoe’s dreamy date with him, Shep continued to woo her, leaving flowers and notes on her car, sending her the sweetest texts. She was smitten. He was different, she had said.

Zoe saw him two more times and after their third date, she slept with him.

And there hasn’t been one peep from him since.

When she cornered him in the campus parking lot, he said he “didn’t have time for another clingy girlfriend right now.”

If there’s one thing Zoe isn’t, it’s clingy.

Her heart has been crushed ever since.

“We were talking about that big head of yours,” Zach says.

“Funny coming from you,” I tell him.

Shep glances my way, finally. “Hey, who’s this?”

I want to roll my eyes, want to scream, You f****d my best friend and then f****d her over, a*****e! But I don’t.

Instead I stand and extend my hand his way.

“Delia. We go to college together.”

His eyes go wide. “Caleb’s girl, right?”

“Ex girl, but yes. We’ve hung out at a party or two.”

“And you’re here with”—he points to his brother—“this one?”

I nod and peek back at Zach, who’s sitting there grinning at me. “You dated Caleb? He was the ex you talked about?”

“Do you know him?”

He shrugs. “I’ve met him a few times. I wasn’t expecting your ex to be a big fancy baseball star.”

I take a seat next to him and lean in close. “I haven’t always had a thing for nerds.”

“Until me?”

I grin. “Until you.”

Nineteen

“Want to hear a funny story about your brother?”

We’re up in the bedroom now. I’m changing into my Thanksgiving outfit—my pajamas—while Zach feeds Marshmallow and lets him roam about the room.

“Oh god. Will this piss me off? What’d the little s**t do now?”

“It involves Zoe.”

“Let me guess, she made him wait for the sexy times, he wooed her, and she gave in. Then he bailed and said he was ‘too busy for a clingy girlfriend’ or some s**t like that.”

I pause, my shirt thrown over my arms, and stare at him. “That’s exactly what happened.”

Zach sighs heavily. “That’s his M.O. I’ll have a chat with him. We’ll communicate using our fists.”

I slide my shirt over my head, thankful I thought to pack a matching pajama set. “Don’t bother. Zoe will be fine. She’s a tough girl.”

“But what about all the other girls?”

I grin. “Oh, I’ve witnessed a few of them getting their shots in.”

Zach chuckles. “Good. But, really, I need to teach him a few manners. It’s all this baseball s**t going to his head. He wasn’t like that in high school. He had a steady girlfriend and everything.”

“Maybe she broke his heart and now he’s taking his revenge on the entire female population?”

“You might be onto something.”

“Why does he have a different last name?” I ask.

“He kept his father’s. He’s the only one in the family who isn’t a Hastings.”

“That has to be…”

“Weird? Sometimes. I think he feels like an outcast because of it, but he decided to keep the name, so that’s on him.” He sets a full Marshmallow back in his crate and glances over at me. “Are those really your pajamas?”

I glance down, seeing nothing wrong with them. “Yes.”

“And you’re wearing those to dinner?”

“Yes.”

He shakes his head, grinning. “My mother is going to love you.”

“Zoe had them designed for me, hand drew the picture and had them printed last Christmas.”

“She can draw?”

I nod. “She’s an art major.”

“Shut up. I had no idea.”

“She’s weird and doesn’t like to talk about it. I don’t know why, though. She’s talented as hell.”

He points to my outfit. “Clearly.”

“Dinner!” Rose yells up the stairs.

I eye Zach. “Race ya?”

“One…two…”

He bolts out the door.

“Cheater!” I shout, following closely behind him.

We rush down the stairs then skid around the banister and into the first living room where my inner child gets the best of me and I shove Zach.

He goes toppling over, landing face down on the floor, groaning.

“Ughhh.”

He doesn’t move, and I start to feel a little bad for pushing him.

I backtrack to kick him gently with my foot. “You good?”

I can’t make out what tumbles from his lips. Bending over, I get close to his still form. “What?”

He lifts his head. “I said…you’re evil.” Then he grabs my leg out from under me and before I know it, I’m pinned beneath him. “But I’m winning this race.”

He presses a quick kiss to my lips and takes off, leaving me stunned and still lying on the floor.

I can hear his chair slide across the floor and I know he’s won.

Groaning, I make my way to the dining room, where I find Zach patting himself on the back for his performance. Jack’s grinning at us both.

“Did you need to make a speech for the Academy?”

I take a seat next to him as Rose pushes through the door holding the turkey.