He started to shake his head, to interrupt, but I held up my hand to stop him. “Honestly. I’ve never spilled my life story to anyone like that before. I presumed I’d never see you again, and I could . . .” I shook my head. “I don’t know, perhaps just unload it all in the hopes that it would wipe my mind free of it.”
“Not as such.” I smiled a little at him. “Instead it just made for a very unpleasant trip for both of us. Lesson learned. It would have been best for me as well if I’d never seen you again, but here we are.”
He nodded to the empty spot where Hanna’s map had just lain. “I think this trip will be fun.”
“You don’t mind being coupled off with me?”
He deflected this with a little laugh. “Happy to be your leaning post for the drunken stumble back to the van.”
I shook my head, marveling. “The? You think there will be only one drunken stumble? Did you already forget the number of wineries on that route?”
He opened his mouth to answer with a smile already curling his lips, but we both startled when his name was called from across the lawn. And my heart drooped a little, inexplicably disappointed to see it was Will, needing Jensen’s help hanging the piñata.
“Why would he ask me, and not Max or Niall?” Jensen playfully grumbled, pushing to stand.
The answer was very clear: Max was busy giving airplane rides to a line of squealing three-year-olds. Niall was busy snogging Ruby over in the shade of the porch.
But as Jensen left, Niall looked up, moving into action and following him.
Ruby scrambled over to me, tackling me with a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
I fell back on an elbow under the sheer length of her slim torso, laughing. Once we were both upright again, I agreed. “I’m glad to be here.”
“It’s going to be so fun,” she whispered.
I nodded, looking at where Jensen and Will were stretching their arms over their heads, wrapping the piñata’s rope around the branch of a large elm tree. Will’s T-shirt slipped up, exposing a tiny stretch of inked skin.
Jensen’s sweater shifted up as well but, sadly, did not show me anything. He had another shirt there, carefully tucked into his trousers.
“And single,” she said. “And funny, and responsible . . .”
“And fit . . . and related to Hanna. Which means he’s awesome.”
Turning to her, I asked, “What’s that about? Why is he single?”
“I think he works a lot,” she said speculatively. “I mean, a lot, a lot.”
“Loads of people work a lot. Fuck, look at you and Niall. But you manage to shag daily—” I held up my hand when she opened her mouth to agree. “And I really don’t want to hear confirmation of that, I’m just being rhetorical.” She closed her mouth and pretended to button it shut. “But I don’t get it. Is he kinky?” I glanced at him again briefly, wondering if I preferred that possibility. He and Will were done, and laughing at the slightly skewed lean of the papier-mâché pony hanging from the tree. “Think he might be into blokes?”
“I’m not so sure,” I murmured, looking at him. “He’s awfully well dressed.”
Ruby smacked me. “Okay, so here’s what I’ve heard.” She angled her body to face me, keeping her back to the rest of the party. I watched the thrill of gossip briefly light her eyes. “He was married in his twenties. Hanna told me it only lasted for a few months, though.”
I imagined this Jensen, in his blue cashmere sweater and neatly pressed black trousers at a child’s birthday party. I tried to imagine Jensen from before—perhaps he met this girl outside on a rainy day, when her groceries spilled from a torn sack. He bent to help her, and later they were a tangle of sweaty limbs, sheets on the floor. They had a shotgun wedding, something scandalous and wild . . .
“He was with her for nine years,” Ruby said. “From college until after they’d both finished law school.”
My fantasy wilted. “Oh.” So I was right: he wasn’t likely the type for a wild weekend, then.
“I guess pretty soon after the wedding she told him she didn’t think they were right for each other.”
“She couldn’t have done that before they exchanged vows?” I asked, pulling up a blade of grass. “That’s shite.”
“You’re not the first person to ask that.” All the color drained from Ruby’s face, and I immediately recognized Jensen’s voice.
“Oh, fuck,” I groaned, turning and looking up at him. “I’m sorry. We’ve been caught talking about you this time.”
He laughed, reaching for his wineglass, which sat, empty, beside us.
I winced, madly searching for the right thing to say. “I hardly think it’s fair for you to know my entire life story, and here I know nothing other than there is no London mistress and no wife in the brownstone.”
“Well couldn’t you have been a bit less efficient with the piñata?” I asked, trying to cover my embarrassment with humor. “Honestly, you hardly gave me any time to get the dirt on you.”