I shook Bennett’s hand and nearly fell over when he said, “You would have done us all a favor if you’d asked Jensen to join the Mile High Club.”
Sara gasped, Hanna reached over and smacked Bennett’s arm, but I coughed out a laugh. I looked at Jensen. “Is that right? Should you have followed me to the loo?”
He laughed, shaking his head in amusement. “I try not to have sex with women who won’t remember it later.”
I grew mildly light-headed from the flirtatious lean to his words. “Too worn out from that mistress in the London flat?”
“And the gorgeous wife in the brownstone down the street?”
“Again,” he said, stifling a smile, “you’ve given me quite a fantasy life.”
“Well.” I clapped my hands. “This just means you’re free to shag the entire two weeks we drink our way around the East Coast vineyards!”
Jensen turned bright red. A few people—Chloe, Sara, and Niall—barked out surprised, delighted laughs.
“Oh my God,” Sara said, placing a delicate hand to her throat. “Jensen, you look like you just swallowed a plate. Wow, am I sorry I’m going to miss this.”
And it was true. He looked exactly like he’d swallowed a plate.
My poor put-together seatmate was rather surprised to find himself the subject of all this attention.
This trip would undoubtedly be fun.
“Pippa is exactly as I described, isn’t she?” Ruby said to everyone and no one, smiling at me fondly.
I put my arm through hers and grinned up at her. “Now, introduce me to all the little ones. Your friends are quite the breeders.”
“I don’t know why you don’t work at a daycare,” Ruby said. “You’re so cute with kids.”
I tickled little Annabel’s tummy and pretended to shriek in surprise when her younger sister, Iris, jumped out from behind the playhouse, yelling, “Boo!”
“Because,” I answered, my voice going muffled when Iris and Annabel hugged me around my face simultaneously, “I’d be plastered day and night.”
Gently prying them off me, I gave them a task: “See if you can find Auntie Pippa some carrot sticks!” and then turned back to Ruby when they sprinted over to the table laden with food. “Besides, I make more money working at R-C. It’s hard to leave.”
She pulled up a blade of grass, grumbling, “Not that hard.”
“Well, not for you. Especially not when you have one Niall Stella in your bed, and a position at Oxford waiting in the wings . . .” I bumped her shoulder, smiling at her when she looked over at me.
She gave me a grudging laugh. “God, that whole time was so crazy. It’s two years ago—can you believe that? It feels like yesterday.”
It wasn’t easy to forget Ruby’s harrowing experience at the end of her tenure at the engineering firm where we met: Richardson-Corbett, where Ruby fell in love with Niall, Niall eventually noticed—and quickly fell in love with—Ruby, and then he ruined it all by being a coward when she was told to choose between her job and her relationship.
I forgave him not long after she did, but occasionally like to throw a quietly muttered “Wanker” at him whenever it comes up.
He takes it in the good spirit it’s intended.
Speaking of the devil, Niall appeared, finding a spot between us on the lawn and handing Ruby a glass of wine. I watched, grinning, as he leaned close and kissed her.
“That will never get old,” I mumbled.
“What won’t?” he asked, pulling away from her to turn to me.
“Seeing you be affectionate in public. You used to go into your office and close the door so you could retie your shoes in private.”
Ruby laughed. “It took a while to train him.”
He shrugged without protest, sipping his beer. The change in Niall Stella since he’d met Ruby was fascinating. He’d always been confident but also carried the air of formality with him when he moved. Now he was just . . . calm. Now he was perfectly, obviously happy. It made something swell inside me, a flower blooming in my throat.
I watched Sara in the distance, holding her one-year-old, Ezra, in an airplane position across her full pregnant belly. “Your brother nearly has four children already. When are you two going to try for kids?”
Turning back, I caught Niall just as he put a fist to his mouth, coughing and working not to lose his swallow of beer.
From the other side of his long torso, Ruby groaned. “Pippa.”
“Aw, come on then,” I said, poking Niall’s ribs. “I get to ask all of the inappropriate questions because I’m your wife’s best mate. See also: How’d you get that scar on your face? How awkward were things after your first shag? Are you going to try to get pregnant soon?”
This earned a laugh from Niall, and he wrapped an arm around me, pulling me in to kiss the top of my head. “Don’t change, Pip. You keep things interesting.”
“Speaking of,” I said, sitting back up. “What is the plan for this trip? Aren’t we leaving in the morning? It occurred to me as I was sexually harassing Jensen back there that, while I am happily crashing your holiday, I don’t actually know where we’re going.”
Ruby waved her hand in the air at someone across the yard, and I turned to see that she was flagging down Hanna. “Let’s ask the brains behind the operation. I’ve done nothing—literally, we’ve just written checks and shown up. Hanna and Will have taken care of all the details.”