But then even she disappeared, because the woman in front of me commanded every bit of my attention. Pippa’s hair was down and fell over her shoulders. Beneath her jersey dress, her body was easy to imagine, and I reached forward, sliding a hand around her waist to pull her just a little closer.
I knew that in part it was the wine, and the beer, and the heady sense of freedom in a small town where I knew no one, but I also knew that in no part was that feeling about Becky.
Pippa bounced against me, singing terribly into the mic—perfect for the song, really. Her earrings cascaded down from her ears, nearly touching her shoulders. Her bracelets clanged on her wrist. Her lipstick stained her lips a seductive fire-red, and it made her happy smile seem boundless.
The song ended with a dissonant strum of the guitar and Pippa stared up at me, breathless. I rarely did things without thought, but leaning forward to kiss her wasn’t for show or because anyone was watching—it was because, in that moment, I couldn’t think of anything else.
We returned to the table and were met with Will’s slow clap, Hanna’s goofy grin, Ruby and Niall’s wide eyes, and Becky’s watery smile. Cam was playing on his phone.
“You guys are really cute together,” Becky said.
“You really are,” Ziggy agreed, and for some reason, her opinion meant something here.
I felt faintly restless, like I did sometimes in a pointless meeting that went long or at the end of a never-ending conference call. Pippa slid her hand into mine and watched as Becky and Cam replaced us by the karaoke machine, selecting an old Anne Murray tune. One of her slow country songs.
“An odd choice to follow, maybe?” Pippa asked, her head on my shoulder. “Though I suppose ours was an odd choice to begin.”
I turned a little closer so she could hear me over the volume of their song. “Her dad died when she was a teenager. He loved Anne Murray. It’s sort of a thing for her.”
She tilted her head to me. “Ah.”
This is how it begins, I thought. Not in a huge rush of information, but tiny tidbits. Cam could know all these little things about Becky now—and more.
I could learn that Pippa didn’t need to look at the video prompt to sing the Violent Femmes. I could learn that she dances like a muppet, has two mums, and likes to scream in the rain.
My mouth came over hers again, and when I pulled away, I could see a question in her eyes.
“What?” I asked, brushing a strand of her hair out of her face.
“Are you drunk?” she asked me.
“Yeah, of course. But that felt like a real kiss.”
I opened my mouth to answer but felt the shifting of bodies beside us at the table and looked up.
“This place is pretty dead,” Will said, standing and pulling on his jacket. “Let’s hit the wine bar at the hotel.”
Glancing at my watch, I realized it was only ten.
I stood, helping Pippa with her coat, and we silently paid our tab and left Duke’s.
Only once we were stepping into the B&B did I realize we’d left in the middle of Becky’s song, and we hadn’t even said goodbye.
The moment of truth was upon us.
I could feel the call of the room upstairs even as we filed into the small wine bar at the B&B. Were we putting off the inevitable—an awkward dance around a tiny bed—or were we searching to find the fun in our night again?
“I feel like we need to have a team summit,” my sister said, plopping down in one of the plush chairs. “We need to seriously discuss whether we stay on this tour or just head up to the next stop.”
“I thought this Becky thing would be no big deal,” Will said, nodding. “I thought your fake marriage would be funny, and we’d all get a kick out of it, but as the buzz wears off and the night goes on, it’s a little weird the way Becky can’t stop watching you.”
“It’s true,” Pippa said, looking at me. “Do you notice it?”
I shrugged, pulling my sweater off in the heat from the fireplace. “This is probably weird for her, too.”
“Cam seems like a good-looking lug nut,” Ruby said.
I closed my eyes, leaning back against the couch. Reality time: seeing Becky again had been more exhausting because of my constant anticipation of weirdness rather than any actual weirdness that had occurred.
“I’m honestly okay either way,” I said. “I’m fine staying, I’m fine leaving.”
“The person who seems to be handling it the best is Jensen,” Ziggy said. “I sort of want to go off on her whenever I see her.”
“Well, it’s been one hell of a day and I have had far, far too much to drink,” Will said. “Who was responsible for me? Was it you?” He leaned into Ziggy with a goofy smile. “Hi.”
“Okay, I think someone is ready for bed,” she said, smiling when he pressed his face against her chest. “Maybe we should talk about it in the morning? I’d have to rearrange some things for us to check in to the cabin early. Maybe we should sleep on it and see if we still want to murder Beck—” Hanna stopped and smiled mischievously. “Oops, my bad. I mean see how we feel tomorrow.”
“Excellent plan,” Niall said, and stood from the table. Ruby hugged everyone, and after a round of good nights and see you in the mornings, they headed in the direction of the elevator.
I looked at Pippa and found her watching me. Had the realization that we had one room and a single bed to share between us resurfaced for her, too?