Home > Charming as Puck(18)

Charming as Puck(18)
Author: Pippa Grant

Loki leaps onto the counter, flings open a cabinet, and starts throwing spice jars all over the marble countertops.

Ares gives him a look, and he hangs his head and starts shoveling it back in.

“He’s okay with your pregnancy?” I ask Felicity, because it’s a legitimate concern.

Her brows crease. “Mostly.” She lowers her voice. “I think he might need a special friend.”

“He’s getting to that age,” I murmur back.

Loki turns big, suspicious monkey eyes on us.

“Can I borrow your monkey for one of my videos?” Alina asks. “He’s fucking adorable.”

My phone rings while Felicity laughs. “Sure. But you’re only getting one take and you have to use whatever he does.”

“Deal. Whoa, that’s a face.”

I rise and tilt my head toward the hallway. “Mind if I use your spare bedroom for a minute?”

“Yes,” Felicity answers.

“Is that Nick?” Maren demands.

“Is that Muffy?” Alina asks.

“Sit,” Ares orders me.

I sit while I swipe to answer, because if I don’t, they’ll all follow me back to the bedroom. And if I don’t answer, they’ll ambush me for my phone to figure out who was calling. “Hey, Muffy.”

“I know it’s last minute, but you can’t say no, because I’ve really got it this time. He’s perfect, Kami. He loves animals and he speaks French and he’s very well-endowed.”

“Wait. How do you know that?”

“Hang up,” Maren hisses.

“You are not going on another Muff Matchers date,” Alina agrees.

I have to dodge the monkey, who’s been sent to sic my phone.

“And how did he come to hire you?” I add.

“He’s my neighbor!”

While I process that information, I pause long enough that Loki manages to get on my shoulder and shriek right into the phone.

And my ear.

“Whoa, are you on a date you didn’t tell me about?” Muffy demands.

I twist, trying to grab Loki while holding the phone, which means I’m basically dancing solo over the living room rug, or possibly playing charades single-handedly with no idea what I’m acting out. “No, I’m hanging with Felicity. Are you talking about the cute neighbor? The one with the black truck that he washes without his shirt on every Saturday through the summer?”

“Yes! And he needs a last-minute date to a wedding.”

“A wedding?”

“Yeah. Like right now. You have to get changed right fucking now. Where are you? Are you downtown? I’ll bring a dress.”

“You’re not going to a wedding on a first date,” Felicity orders.

“Absolutely not,” Alina agrees.

Loki screeches again, steals my phone, and dashes for the hallway.

I chase after him, shrieking, “Yes! I’ll do it!” to Muffy, and “No! Not in the toilet!” to the monkey.

I’m suddenly three feet in the air, gripped by my arms, while Ares picks me up and sets me aside. He races into the bathroom—he’s quick for a big guy—and rescues my phone at the last minute.

So there I am, standing in a bright, cheery bathroom with Ares, Loki, and Muffy still squeaking on my phone. “Stay right where you are! I’ll be there in forty-five with everything you need!”

Ares pins me with a look. His reflection does too.

“What do you want?” he asks.

I gulp, because even though I know he’s a big ol’ teddy bear, he’s almost a foot and a half taller than me and that’s not his friendly face.

It’s not his I eat weak hockey players for breakfast face either—I’ve seen that plenty on TV and the videoboard at Thrusters games—but it’s not harmless.

“More,” I tell him. “I want more.”

He studies me another minute with bright blue eyes that are way more intelligent than most people would give him credit for.

“He misses you,” he finally says.

I resist the urge to roll my eyes, and Ares gives me a small grin.

“But you should go,” he finishes.

He hands me back my phone, picks Loki up and hands him a cookie—no, I don’t know where he got a cookie, and since it’s Ares, I’m not going to ask—and I back up so he can get out of the bathroom.

“On the date?” I ask.

“No what-ifs,” he replies as he heads down the hallway back to join Felicity, Maren, and Alina. “Go.”

Well, that’s not confusing at all.

Nick misses me, but I should still go on this date.

I’d ask him what Felicity would think of his advice, except I think I know.

She’d say I should go too. I’ve met Muffy’s neighbor. He’s always been kind, he’s attractive, and he’s age-appropriate.

I dial her back quickly despite the warning signal my phone battery is flashing at me. “You mean your neighbor Josh, right?”

“The one and only.”

“Great. I’m totally in.”

Twenty

Kami

Muffy and Aunt Hilda both show up to help me get ready. Maren and Alina are still strongly objecting, but quietly with just dirty looks after Ares tells them to knock it off.

And soon, I’m in a sleek black dress with my hair swept back in a simple knot and my makeup a tad on the overdone side.

“It’s Josh’s boss getting married,” Muffy whispers to me as we stride through the lobby and toward the Lyft waiting outside. “I’d personally never do a Sunday night wedding, because people have to work on Mondays, but I guess that’s when the bride’s family could make it.”

“You look so beautiful,” Aunt Hilda gushes.

She said the same thing to Felicity, Maren, Alina, and Loki before she told Ares she used to be as big as he is, except without the height. He gave her a fist bump, and now she swears she’s never washing her knuckles again.

“I know this is going to work out,” Muffy tells me. “Josh is like the prime beef in my menu. With a side of golden potatoes roasted to perfection.”

“I miss potatoes,” Aunt Hilda sighs.

“And crème brûlée for dessert,” Muffy adds. “I can’t believe I lucked out in being there right when he needed a date. And I never thought he’d come to Muff Matchers, but he did. You’re going to have the best time. Do you think it’s too late to hook up a GoPro to your dress so I can live vicariously through you all night?”

I pin her with a look.

“Right, right. But at least record something with your phone. Even if it’s smushed between you while you dance at the reception. Please? Pretty please?”

I pause. “Muffy…did you want to go with Josh tonight?”

Her face goes cherry and she shakes her head so hard her braids whip at her cheeks. “What? No. He’s not into my type.”

“Energetic and entrepreneurial?”

“She’s too much woman for him to handle,” Aunt Hilda interjects, gesturing to her boobs.

“Mom.”

“What? It’s true. He goes for the smaller-chested women. And he’s not creative enough to truly appreciate your art.”

“You do art?” I ask Muffy.

“She means my matchmaking art. My client list is a little…different. It turns men off sometimes.”

“And women,” Aunt Hilda chimes in.

“If you like Josh—” I start.

“I like matching misfits better,” she declares in her this matter is closed tone.

I don’t ask if that means I’m a misfit, because the fact that I was hung up on Nick since high school and settled for a friends-with-benefits relationship with him instead of asking for more pretty much qualifies me for needing special help.

She shoves me into the Lyft, and she and Aunt Hilda wave as we pull away.

Ten minutes later, the driver drops me at the aquarium, and now I understand the Sunday night wedding. When you want to get married at the aquarium, you take what’s available.

Josh is at the base of the marble steps leading up to the fountain outside the glass building, checking his phone. He’s in a black tux, his sandy hair trimmed neatly, freshly shaven, and while he’s no Nick Murphy, he’s still a catch. I smile as I approach. “Josh? Hi.”

He glances up and does a double-take. His hazel eyes make a quick scan up and down before settling on my face. “Wow. You look—hi.”

He grins a lopsided smile, and my heart melts a little at the edges as he offers me his arm.

Maybe this is it.

Maybe this is finally exactly what I need.

“Shall we?” he says, his gaze still darting from my face to my dress.

“I’d love to.”

There’s something so different about being led up the steps of a public building with a man who’s not trying to keep me a secret.

I like it.

Inside the aquarium, the staff directs us to the Deep Blue gallery. We walk through the glass tunnel beneath ocean wildlife, and emerge into the theater with the floor-to-ceiling window into the giant tank where everything from grouper to stingrays to sharks live.

It’s a small wedding, no more than seventy-five people, and the groom immediately strolls over to greet us. “Josh, Caroline and I are so glad you could make it.”

He’s an older gentleman, maybe in his fifties, and as Josh shakes his boss’s hand, his arm goes tense beneath my fingers.

“Wouldn’t miss it, Bob,” he says, though his tone is tighter than I expected.

I guess maybe Josh doesn’t like his boss.

“This is Kami,” he adds, extracting my hand from his elbow and wrapping an arm tightly around me.

Bob’s graying brows lift as he surveys me. “Well. Hello there, Kami. I was…unaware that Josh was dating anyone.”

“Seemed prudent to keep her under wraps,” Josh replies with something heavy laced in his words and a smile that has more bite than I’ve ever seen on him.

   
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