“No they won’t. You’re exhausted and you were ill yesterday and I still don’t think you’re at your best. I noticed you didn’t eat much breakfast and you were lagging on the run.”
She sputtered and glared at me. “I was not lagging on the run, you ass!”
One thing about Brynne? She’s as competitive as they come. I swear she could hold her own in drive and determination with some of the blokes I knew in the SF. And never insinuate she’s weak physically. It makes her spitting mad.
Damn, but she’s beautiful when she’s riled.
I bit my lip to keep from laughing outright and held up my hands in surrender. “Okay, you only lagged the tiniest little bit,” I soothed with kisses. “There’s nothing wrong with that when you were sick last night, baby. Your body needs to recover. Have a rest and feel better.” I nodded. “I want you to.”
She looked down at the blanket and plucked at it distractedly. “What are you going to do while I’m sleeping?”
“I have a date with a local beauty.” I shrugged. “She’s a real heartbreaker. Dark hair, big blue eyes, absolutely stunning. Very short, though.” I gestured with my palm. “Has a particular taste for ice creams.”
She laughed through yet another yawn. “I’m sorry I’ll miss seeing you on your date eating ice cream with the local beauty. She’s adorable. Take a picture from your phone for me?”
“I will, baby.” Another kiss. “Now go to sleep.”
My girl was already out like a light when I left the room.
“Why are fish so smart?” Zara asked me.
I shrugged exaggeratedly. “I have no idea why fish are so smart. Do you know why?”
She nodded seriously. “Because they are always in schools.”
I laughed at her smug little face, smudged with strawberry ice cream, and tackling a new angle on her melting cone.
“Want some, Rags?” She offered her treat to the golden retriever sitting loyally beneath the outdoor table.
Rags took a couple of healthy licks with his long pink tongue and I scowled. Zara looked up at me to see what I would say, the little demon that she was. I shrugged at her. “I don’t care if you want slobbery dog germs on your ice cream. Do what you want.”
She giggled at me and kicked her dangling legs in the chair. “Brynne talks funny.”
“I know. I’ve been telling her that for a long time, but she doesn’t listen.” I shook my head sadly. “Still does it.” I pulled out my mobile to take some pictures of her and got canned poses the instant she understood what I was doing. Zara cracked me up something fierce. Her parents were in for it once she became a teenager. Good. God.
More giggling. “She talks like the words on SpongeBob SquarePants.”
My mouth fell open in mock surprise. “You know, you’re right! Will you tell her?”
She shrugged. “She’s nice and I think she can’t help it.” Zara gave me a look of censure and went back to her strawberry ice cream. Something along the lines of: Only a real dickhead would make fun of how someone talks, you idiot. She was so her mother’s daughter.
“Nice one, E. Letting your niece share with the dog. I saw the whole thing from the window of the shop.” Hannah looked disgusted with us both as she joined us. “I step away for two minutes—”
“He said he didn’t care, Mummy,” Zara interrupted, selling me out with no trouble at all.
“Oh, Raggsey is pretty disease-free, I think.” I gave the dog a nice pat on the head. “And you are a little traitor!” I pointed a finger at Zara. “So sue me, Han. I’m just the uncle here. Letting them run amuck in wild abandon is my role.”
“Yeah, well, I haven’t had the indulgent auntie role . . . yet.”
I shot her a look and discerned something in her expression. Not sure what, but I knew suspicious in my sister when I saw it. Her mind was busy.
“What does that cryptic comment mean?”
“You and Brynne.” She shook her head a little. “This is really serious isn’t it? I’ve never seen you like this.”
I looked out at the sea with its millions of reflecting ripples and adjusted my sunglasses. “I want to marry her.”
“I thought so . . . Well, I guessed you were heading there with her. Talking to her this morning pretty much confirmed it, and then today when she needed a nap I started putting it all together.”
What does Brynne having a nap have to do with anything? “So you approve?” I asked.
Hannah looked at me curiously. “Approve of you and Brynne getting married? Of course we support you. I want you to be happy and if you love her and she loves you . . . well then, it’s meant to be.” She reached for my hand over the table. “It happens that way sometimes. Nobody’s perfect. Fred and I started out the same way, E, and I wouldn’t change a thing about us or when the babies came. They are a blessing.”
I picked up her hand and kissed it. “They really are, and someday maybe, but a family is not anywhere in the equation right now. I’m just trying to get her used to the idea of getting shackled first.”
Hannah looked relieved. “Oh, good. I like her even more now. I must admit I was worried you might be trapped into it and I hated to think of that for you, little brother. I’m glad for you if it’s something you want.”
I snorted. “Right . . . she’s the one that needs trapping. Brynne’s hard to pin down and having a relationship is scary for her. I’ll be lucky to get her to the altar in a year from now. I’m trying to convince her that a long engagement will work best.”
Hannah nodded slowly like she was absorbing it. “So you’ll wait until after to have the wedding? That’s one option, but Dad’s going to hate it. Remember how he was when Freddy and I jumped the gun with Jordan. Dad had us married within a month.” She mocked my father’s words at the time, “ ‘No grandchild of mine will be born a bastard! Your poor mother would be heartbroken if she were here to see—’ ”
“What?!” I gaped at her. “Brynne’s not . . . I mean, you’re greatly mistaken if that’s what you’re suggesting.” I glared at Hannah, shocked at her speculations. “You thought . . .” I shook my head vigorously. “No, Han! My girl is not preggers. No way. She’s been very careful with her pills. I see her take them every morning. Hell, I’m sure I heard her in the bathroom this morning getting her pills.”