Tucking his phone back in his pocket and zipping it closed, Will said, “I think it’s pretty genuine, though he is adding in some humor. She’s completely different. Those two had a particular dynamic, and now that there are one-point-five of her, it’s off-kilter.”
“Do you wish you were in New York to see more of it?”
“Actually, yeah,” he said, bending to the side to stretch his back. “It’s really weird. But entertaining.”
We stretched in silence like we’ve done a hundred times—quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes—and the sounds of the morning echoed around us. Horses munched on grass in a neighboring field, and a hammer pounded nails somewhere on the property, but it was quiet and peaceful as we stood and made our way to the head of the trail.
I set the timer on my watch and we started off, moving from dirt trail to sidewalk to road. Our feet landed rhythmically over the pavement, and I kept my breaths steady, my eyes on the path ahead.
“How’s work?” I asked. Will was an investor, and Max his partner. Together they owned Stella & Sumner, a venture capital company, with Max in New York City and Will now back home in Boston.
“Pretty good,” he said. “There’s a small Australian pharmaceutical company doing some great cancer work. I’m flying out to talk to them next month. Oh, and Max turned my old office into a crafts room for the days he has Annabel with him at work, so I’m going to have his redecorated the next time he’s out of the country.”
“Yeah. Disco ball, pink faux leopard on his couch. Maybe a stripper pole right in the middle.”
He laughed. “The last time I was in the city I spent the week at the reception desk, sharing a computer with his mom. This should about even the score.”
“Didn’t Bennett’s eyebrows just grow back from the last time one of you tried to ‘even the score’?” I asked. “Remind me to stay out of New York.”
“One eyebrow lost, not both,” he clarified. “So what about you? Good to be away?”
“Yes and no,” I admitted. “I can see how badly I needed this, but it doesn’t mean I’m not constantly worrying about what’s going on while I’m gone.”
“Because you’re a control freak,” he said, smirking in my direction. “It’s a Bergstrom family trait. I’m thinking of having you all tested to find the genetic locus.”
“Really it’s because I’m good at my job,” I corrected, then quietly added, “And maybe just a little of that other part.”
Will laughed and we made a left onto South Jamesport Avenue, a rural two-lane road lined with trees and the occasional house.
We ran in silence, side by side at an even pace. But the familiar calm a good run always brought seemed to evade me. My thoughts were still all over the place, a sense of needling anxiety twisting in my gut.
“So what do you think of Niall and Ruby?” Will asked a few minutes later.
“They seem great,” I said, happy for any conversation that might get me out of my own head. “Niall is so much like Max, and yet not?”
“That’s exactly what I thought when I was with them both in New York,” Will said. “Ruby must be really good for him because he seems so much more relaxed now. Happier. Though I have to admit it tickles me to imagine uptight Niall working alongside both Pippa and Ruby. Those two are the enthusiasm twins. That must have been something else.”
“It’s a wonder anything ever got done.”
“Well, and I must say,” he said slyly, “it’s been nice seeing you and Pippa get along.”
The mention of Pippa’s name made something tense inside my stomach. “That’s because she’s nice, and I clearly just caught her in a bad moment on the flight,” I said. “Though I’m not sure I’ll ever get my foot out of my mouth. I can still hear the sound of her guffaw echoing through your kitchen.”
“I am really sad I missed that,” Will said.
“Well stick around, I’m sure I’ll find another way to do something equally horrifying.”
“You’re not the first person to say something stupid in front of someone they like, Jens. The shit I used to say in front of Hanna was unreal.”
I slowed as we passed a large piece of property surrounded by white rail fence and a few horses. The need to talk this out a little pushed up in my chest, forcing the words out.
Will slowed beside me, glancing over. “Yeah . . . ?”
The streets were mostly empty at this hour, but we moved to the side of the road as a car drove past us.
“Look. You’re right. I do like her,” I said, “but it feels really loaded. I feel like we’re in a fishbowl.”
“Who cares? Hanna is invested, yeah, but that’s also what sisters do. Ignore her. Pippa is exactly what I would have pegged as your type back in school. She’s funny, a fucking mathematician for fuck’s sake, not to mention gorgeous. And if it isn’t that great, she’s here for a few weeks, and then will live across the ocean. Am I missing something somewhere?”
With his hands on his waist, he stopped and leaned against a wooden fence to catch his breath. “Listen, I told Hanna I wasn’t getting involved with this, but in college you would have seen this for exactly what it is: an awesome vacation with family and new friends, one of whom happens to be single and smoking hot.”