“You didn’t go out in London at all, did you?” Ziggs said, turning to face me. “Not once?”
I thought back to the lead attorney on the London side of our team, Vera Eatherton. She’d come over to me just as we’d wrapped up for the day. We’d talked for a few minutes and then I’d known the second her expression shifted, eyes turned down to the floor with an air of shyness I had yet to see from her, that she was going to ask me out.
I’d smiled at her. She was very pretty. A few years older than I was, she was in great shape, tall and slender with great curves. I should want to grab a bite later. I should want to grab a lot more than that.
But putting aside the complications from a workplace standpoint, the idea of dating—even of a simple night of sex—exhausted me.
“No,” I told Ziggy. “I didn’t go out. Not the way you mean.”
“Where’s my player brother?” she asked, giving me a goofy grin.
“I think you have me confused with your husband.”
She ignored this. “You were in London for a week and spent all your free time in your hotel. Alone.”
“That’s not entirely accurate.” I hadn’t been in my room, actually. I’d been all over, visiting landmarks and taking in the city, but she was right about one thing: I’d done it alone.
She raised a brow, daring me to prove her wrong. “Will said last night you need to get a bit of the college Jensen back.”
I glared at her. “Don’t talk to Will about how we were in college anymore. He was an idiot.”
“Will was head idiot,” I said. “I just followed him around.”
“That’s not the way he tells it,” she said with a grin.
“I’m weird? You have lights on a timer, a Roomba to keep your floor clean even when you’re out of town, you unpack within minutes of entering your house—and I’m the weird one?”
I opened my mouth to answer and then shut it, holding up a finger so she wouldn’t let loose another playful tirade.
“I loathe you,” I said finally, and a giggle burst free from her throat.
The doorbell rang, and I went to grab the takeout, then brought it into the kitchen. I loved Ziggy. Since she’d moved back to Boston, seeing her a few times a week had admittedly been good for both of us. But I hated to think she worried about me.
And it wasn’t just Ziggy.
My entire family thought I didn’t know they bought extra gifts for me at Christmas because I didn’t have a girlfriend putting presents under the tree. They always left the plus-one question hanging when they invited me over for dinner. If I brought a random stranger into my parents’ house for Sunday dinner and announced I was going to marry her, my entire family would lose their minds celebrating.
There was nothing worse than being the oldest of five children and also being the one everyone had to worry about. Making sure they always knew I was fine, totally, completely fine was exhausting.
But it didn’t stop me from trying. Especially because when I’d pushed Ziggs to get out into the world more she’d met up with Will, of all people, and their story was a happily ever after I couldn’t begrudge either of them.
“Okay,” I said, bringing her a plate of food and sitting back down beside her on the couch. “Remind me about the party. What time?”
“Eleven,” she said. “I wrote it on your calendar on the fridge. Do you even look at that, or did you immediately throw out the Post-it note because it marred the perfectly stoic surface of your lonely refrigerator?”
I quickly swallowed a sip of beer. “Can you put the lecture on pause for a second? Come on, honey, I’m tired. I don’t want to do this tonight. Just tell me what I need to bring.”
She gave me an apologetic smile before shoving a forkful of rice and green curry in her mouth. Swallowing, she said, “Nothing. Just come over. I got a piñata and a bunch of little-girl stuff, like tiaras and . . . pony things.”
She shrugged, laughing. “Kid stuff! I’m lame! I don’t even know what they’re called.”
She smacked my arm. “Whatever. Yes. Oh! And Will is cooking.”
“Aw, yes!” I fist-pumped. My best friend had recently discovered a love for all things culinary, and to say we were all benefitting from it would be understating the extra hour I had to put in at the gym every night to compensate. “How is our little chef? Catching up on episodes of Barefoot Contessa? He does fill out an apron quite nicely, I’ll admit that.”
She looked at me sidelong. “You better hope I don’t tell him you said that, or you’ll be cut off from dinners. I swear I’ve put on five pounds since he got into this pastry obsession. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”
“Pastry? I thought he was on a Mediterranean kick.”
She waved me off. “That was last week. This week he’s mastering desserts for Annabel.”
I felt my brows furrow. “Is she an especially picky eater?”
“No, my husband is just insane for his goddaughter.” Ziggy slid another bite of food into her mouth.
“So if everyone’s in town, I’m guessing you’ll have a full house tomorrow night,” I said. Between our sister Liv’s two kids and our friends Max and Sara in New York about to have their fourth, the adult contingent would soon be outnumbered by adorable rug rats. Ziggs loved having the kids over, and I was willing to bet money that Will would have at least one of them attached to his leg for the majority of the weekend.