And even if I knew Pippa wasn’t a real prospect for me, I’d had casual relationships before. I didn’t love them, necessarily, but I wasn’t a monk.
I smiled and wrapped an arm around Ziggy’s shoulders. “I am having fun,” I told her, and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Thanks for making me come.”
She looked up at me, blue-gray eyes narrowed slightly, and I wondered when my little sister became so fucking smart.
The first wine was a sauvignon blanc: nice, mildly acidic, not too intense. I watched as Pippa picked up her glass, brought it to her nose, and inhaled before taking her first sip.
I worked on the mental transition: Don’t fight it. Don’t overthink it. Just . . . enjoy it.
“So you worked in a place like this?” she said, oblivious to my inspection.
I blinked away, down at the slice of bread in my hand. “I did, uh, yes. In college. During the summer.”
She gave me a cute little grin. “Meet a lot of women? I’m imagining you in college and swooning a tiny bit.”
“Your ex-wife?” she asked, and I met her eyes.
I let out a short chuckle, a small burst of air. “To be fair, she’s more ex-girlfriend than ex-wife.”
Pippa laughed not unkindly at this. “Oh. What a horrible realization.”
I glanced over to where she was settled against the arm of a sofa, one leg tucked beneath her as she enjoyed her glass of wine. The fire crackled behind her, the air warm with just a touch of smoke.
Taking another sip, she swallowed and asked, “Was the winery a lot like this?”
“It was less cozy and more commercial than this, but yeah. Same general vibe.”
“I don’t know if I’d use the term love,” I said, easing onto the couch. “But it was cool to see the process from vineyard to cellar, why they made certain wines, and how even the slightest fluctuations in temperature or humidity affected the final product.”
“Plus, you know—free wine,” she said, lifting her glass in salute.
I laughed and raised mine, too. “I didn’t have quite the appreciation for it that I do now, but that aspect certainly didn’t hurt.”
“I can’t imagine you and Will at uni together. You’re both functioning adults now, but I can look at you and see the shadow of the insanity.”
“Your wild side lurks just there,” she agreed, smiling back as she drew a circle over my head.
“Here I thought I had everyone fooled with my pressed dress pants and sweaters.”
Conversation flowed around us, and I could feel my sister watching us from where she sat across the table.
I rubbed a finger over my brow, working to not feel self-conscious. “Once I moved in with Becky, we weren’t so crazy,” I said. “But before that, I have no idea how we got through each weekend without an arrest or our parents murdering us.”
“Tell me more about college-aged Jensen,” she said, delighted.
The next bottle of wine was opened and Pippa took the offered tasting glass with a quiet “Thanks.” I took a sip of my own selection, a peppery zinfandel, already feeling the effect of the first one. My stomach was warm, my limbs a little looser, and I leaned in a little more, close enough to smell the subtle citrus of her shampoo.
“College-aged Jensen was an idiot,” I said. “And for some reason he seemed to go along with most of Will’s terrible ideas.”
“You can’t say something like that and not elaborate,” she prodded.
I thought back to the summers Will spent at my house, the holidays. I suspect Will was just as wild in high school, but add in being away from home during college and having the ability to purchase alcohol—all bets were off.
“Sophomore year, Will talked me into smoking a bong out on our balcony, and then didn’t realize the door had locked behind him. I should mention it was about two a.m., in November, and we were both in nothing but boxer shorts.”
“This might be better than the dart trip,” she said. “Though I can’t imagine you high.” She considered me for a moment. “The boxer shorts are easier to visualize.”
I laughed at her easy flirting. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t as awesome as you might expect, given the laid-back partier I’ve become,” I said, gesturing to my dress shirt and polished shoes. “Most people relax or laugh or snack when they’re high, right?” She nodded. “When stoned, I become neurotic.” I paused, grinning. “More neurotic.”
“So how did you get back in?”
“We had a new, cute neighbor in the apartment with the adjoining balcony. Will found a few little pebbles, a beer cap, and a soda can, and threw them at her window until she finally came out. Then he flirted with her until she said she would help us.”
“Obviously wary about letting two half-naked guys climb onto her balcony, she offered to just call someone to let us in. Unfortunately, we didn’t really want to explain to campus security why we were locked out in our underwear with a bong and a bag of weed. I was totally freaking out. In my head I’d skipped forward two years to us serving time in prison for smoking a bowl, me with a sugar daddy named Meatball.” I shook my head, remembering. “Anyway, our neighbor was also pre-law, and made us plead our case before she’d agree to let us over. I’ve never seen either of us hustle like that—before or since.”