What’s wrong with me?
I legitimately have nothing to be gloomy about.
Yes, my best friend is gone, but in the past two years I’ve been through emotional therapy as well as physical therapy. I’ll always miss Claire like a phantom limb, but I’ve moved through the most vicious stages of grief. Now, I can think of her with fondness and love, turning memories of us over in my mind like treasures I want to savor instead of painful objects with sharp edges that will wound me if I look at them for too long.
And yes, Chad, my rehab boyfriend, turned out to be a jerk, just like all the other guys I’ve dated, but I wasn’t in love with Chad.
So what’s my problem?
I sigh heavily, drawing a strange look from a rollerblader breezing by me on the park path. He stares and keeps staring, nearly tripping on a rock beneath his wheels before he finally turns back around.
I frown, wondering what his problem is, triggering a twinge of discomfort near my eyebrow as the pie-sticky hairs pull against the skin beneath them.
I’m covered in pie.
Of course, other people only see red goop congealed over me. For all they know, I could be a murderer fresh from the scene of my latest crime.
In my head, I swear I hear Claire’s laughter. She would find this completely hysterical too. Just like her brother will.
Jesse’s the only one who seems to remember Claire with the vividness that I do.
And I love that—sharing memories with him, keeping her with us even though she’s gone.
I take a right at the next exit leading out of the park, my feet finding their way into Flatbush and moving through bustling streets to the garage a block off the main drag, not far from where the streets become fully residential, where Jesse makes the magic happen.
Magic—a great way to describe him. So is “dreamboat,” a term my mother would use, because she’s adorably old-fashioned enough to say things like “dreamboat” without a hint of irony.
I step through the open garage doors into the airy space inside the shop. Jesse looks up from the other side of a vintage Harley he’s rubbing down with a shammy. A voice in my head breathes, “fuck me,” and I desperately wish I were an antique automobile.
We’re just friends—always have been, always will be—but I can’t deny a part of me would like to be rubbed down by Jesse Hendrix.
A part of me would like that very much.
Maybe that’s your surprise.
I bite my bottom lip, shoving the dirty thought from my mind.
Bad, Ruby. Bad.
But this is the best I’ve felt all day. Here. With him.
How’s that for trouble?
I don’t discriminate much when it comes to fruit. Especially on a pretty woman who needs it wiped from her face.
Though I’m glad Ruby’s not wearing a banana cream pie or something gross like melons—is melon pie a thing?
I fucking hate melons.
Peach is my favorite fruit.
Raspberry is a close second.
But I don’t object to strawberry.
I don’t object to Ruby either.
Damn, she’s looking good this afternoon. But then, she’s always looking good—great, with her dark, nearly black hair and sweet, tight curves, which is exactly how I like curves to be.
But more importantly, she has a pretty heart. She cares about being a good person, loves to laugh, and goes out of her way to show people she cares. Ruby is a people pleaser in the best way, with a gift for spreading happiness.
Trouble is, she doesn’t look happy, and she hasn’t for a long time. Not deep-down happy. Not the way she used to look.
I don’t know if that has to do with the lingering effects of the accident or something else. All I know is her big brown eyes look lost a lot of the time, like she’s trying to remember something she’s forgotten. But whatever it is, she never seems to be able to settle on an answer.
Which is why it’s time to help her. Because friends don’t let friends get lost in their own lives.
“I see you brought dessert,” I observe dryly as I cross to meet her by the front desk.
She gives a cute shrug, a little coy, a little winsome. “I thought you might want some pie.”
I grin. “I was hoping you’d bring one with you.”
She swipes her hand across her cheek. Lifts her finger. Shows a smear of red. “Just . . . not on my face?”
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