Jensen nodded and let out a mortified, “Pippa.”
If you had asked me yesterday what I would expect Jensen to do after that flight, I would have said either (a) promptly forget me, or (b) tell someone how dreadful I was, and then promptly forget me.
The fact that everyone was clearly so horrified on my behalf—I looked back and forth between Hanna’s gaping mouth and Jensen’s colorless face—reminded me they had no idea how right Jensen was in saying all of this.
And then there was Ruby and Niall. Ruby had slapped a hand over her mouth to hold in her laughter. Niall stood grinning down at me. Neither was at all surprised by Jensen’s story of my behavior.
I looked around at all of them with a big smile. “My God, people, he’s not wrong.”
Jensen stepped forward haltingly, and I spoke more to him than to the rest of them: “I was . . .” I searched for the right word. “I was a complete maniac. He’s right. I’m so sorry!”
“Not a complete maniac,” he said, slumping a little in relief. Stepping closer to me, he lowered his voice. “Pippa, how rude of me to—”
“It’s only rude because I’m here,” I said, and when his eyes widened in embarrassment, I quickly added, “And how would you know that I’d turn up at this party? Talk about coincidences!”
He shook his head but looked at my smiling eyes. “I guess.”
“And if I hadn’t shown up, and you’d been telling your sister about this awful flight, it would only be a funny story. A funny, very true story.”
He smiled gratefully, and—seemingly on instinct—glanced to the glass of wine in my hand.
“It’s my first,” I assured him, then added, “Alas, it won’t be my last today. Lots of new faces. Liquid courage and all that.” I shrugged, feeling a giddy pull in my belly at the sight of him. “But at least here you have an escape?”
He nodded, finally tearing his attention from my face to look around. Lifting an awkward hand, he said, “So, right, this is my sister Hanna.”
The biomedical engineer; he’d mentioned her on the plane. A lawyer and an engineer? So they were one of those families. I smiled. “I’ve heard so much about you from Ruby.”
“Well, she probably didn’t mention how much I love seeing my brother make an ass out of himself.” She came forward, embracing me.
Like her brother, Hanna was fair and on the tall side. Both were also in great shape. I was graced with thin genes but would likely only run if I were being chased, and even then, it would depend on what was chasing me. Realistically, I stood no chance against, say, vampires.
A gorgeous dark-haired man peeked his head into the kitchen, addressing Hanna. “Plum, can you bring out the second cracker tray? These kids are bottomless pits of—” He stopped when he saw me, and grinned. “Hey! You must be Ruby’s friend who’s coming along on the trip.”
Jensen’s face went ashen again, as though he’d just put that bit of information together, too.
“Pippa, this is my husband, Will,” Hanna said with a grin.
I reached forward to shake his hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Bring her outside,” Will said. “She needs to meet everyone.”
Looking grateful for the change of venue, Jensen placed his glass on the counter and gestured for me to follow Hanna out of the kitchen.
She led us out onto a wide deck, where five other people stood, holding beverages and watching over a gaggle of small children running and rolling on the lawn.
“You guys are not going to believe what—” Hanna started, but Jensen cut her off.
“Ziggy, don’t,” he said, warning in his voice. “Seriously. Don’t.”
She must have seen the same thing in his eyes that I did—sheer mortification—because she smiled, introducing me instead.
“This is Pippa. She was sitting next to Jensen on the plane yesterday, isn’t that insane?”
“Completely insane,” I said, laughing. “As in playing the part of a drunken maniac,” I added, smiling up at Jensen. The poor man looked like he wanted to fall through the deck and never reappear.
“Well, then I love her already,” a pretty—and very pregnant—brunette said from my right.
Another woman, also very pregnant—seriously, was something in the water around here?—stepped forward from where she’d been standing beside a giant man only slightly shorter than Niall.
If I had to guess, I would say he was Max, and she was Sara—Ruby’s sister-in-law.
“I’m Sara,” she confirmed. “Mom to a few of the kids down there on the lawn . . .” Searching for them and seeming to come up empty, she turned back to me with a wry, tired smile on her face. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. Ruby has told us all about you.”
“All good things, don’t worry.” The dark-haired woman who had first spoken to me came forward, hand extended. For a beat she looked as though she might slice me and serve me as Pippa sushi, but then she smiled and her entire face warmed. “I’m Chloe. This is my husband, Bennett.” She nodded to the man at her side, a tall and intimidatingly gorgeous—but frankly quite serious—bloke. Chloe held her stomach. “Soon-to-be parents to . . . this mystery.”