“Nana…” I start.
“Shopping is hunting for my mom. She’s in Paris right now.”
His lips have compressed, a tightness in his eyes. She didn’t come to his first game? I frown. That sucks. It’s his senior year.
Nana mulls that over. “I can turn you into a country boy in no time, show you how to put a worm on a hook or shoot a squirrel. Serena hid my shotgun, but I’m gonna find it one of these days… You interested?”
“I swear we aren’t hillbillies,” I tell him.
He chuckles, his face softening. “I’m game.”
Buster trots over, sniffs around Dillon’s sneakers, and then inexplicably puts his paw on his shoe and looks up at him.
“Buster hates everyone.” Nana studies Dillon, and I can already see the wheels turning in her head. One night after dinner, I overheard her on the phone asking Turo if his son’s divorce was final “because Serena needs a good seeing to”.
She goes on. “So you’re the one who brought her home from the Pig? She should have called me, but I was deep in my bingo game and, well, Turo was there, and I’ve got my sights set on him. She assumed I wouldn’t want to leave, and she was right. He’s Italian.” She takes a breath, gearing up for more. “Serena’s a good girl. She’s been through a lot, putting others first, trying to raise her sister. She was my little angel—until she fell in with that musician. He was a sexy devil, sings with a forked tongue probably, but bless, he was a pile of dog poo, as useless as a screen door on a submarine. I reckon if you want to see her, we need rules. First rule is, when she starts spouting off random stuff, just listen. Her looks make up for it, and it does grow on you. Second rule is, she needs to get hers first, if you know what I mean—”
“Nana,” I interrupt, my face growing hot. “He doesn’t need my life story. He’s dating three other women.” I can’t resist throwing it in.
“Just two,” chimes in Sawyer with dancing eyes. “Chantal jumped ship. Something about the Winter Soldier, tequila, and Neanderthals. I couldn’t keep up.”
“Good for her,” I murmur.
“I’m not dating other women. I’m in a contest,” Dillon says to Nana. “But Serena keeps turning me down.”
She bats her eyes. “Call me Nancy, boys. I’m a football fan, you know. Now, since you’ve been sweet to my Serena, do y’all want to stay and have some chicken and waffles?”
“Nana!” I interject as unease spikes. I’m not ready for Dillon to sit across the table with my family and me. Yes, we shared some confidences in the locker room, but… “I’m sure they have places to go—”
“Heck yeah,” Owen says. “I’m starving!”
“I’d love a home-cooked meal,” Sawyer murmurs.
Dillon studies my face, frowns, then says, “Thank you for the offer. Some other time, Nancy. The rookie and I have a meeting with the quarterback coach anyway. Sawyer, you need to watch game tape.” He pauses. “I’ll see you at the next game?”
I nod. “Yeah.”
He hesitates, as if he might say more, then moves past me, his hand briefly brushing against mine, and my traitorous eyes track the slope of his broad shoulders, his trim hips, the flex of his long muscular legs—
“Are you really going to let that hot piece leave?” Nana hisses as soon as he’s out of earshot.
“Yeah,” Romy says under her breath, adding her two cents as she slides in next to me. “You haven’t had a man in eighteen months, and I, for one, am tired of you harassing my love interests because you’re jealous—”
“Of Tree Boy?” I hiss. “Please. He gave you a hickey!”
“His name is Liam, and I prefer love bite. You should see the one I gave him.”
“He has braces! Doesn’t that hurt? Never mind, don’t answer that,” I mutter. “If I was Daddy, I’d snap a switch off the tree he climbed down and tan your hide—”
“You’d never,” she snips. “You don’t approve of corporal punishment, and you hate to see me cry.”
“‘Spare the rod, spoil the child,’” I quote. “Starting to see the value in that.”
“Be quiet, both of you. The football players are leaving, and I think you need to be polite and give a proper thank you to that handsome young man,” Nana says.
She isn’t wrong.
“Wait!” I call out and dash over to Dillon, and he pauses before opening his door. He turns to look at me, and my breath feels rushed as I speak. “Thank you for the battery. That was kind and it’s been, um, a while since someone did something that sweet for me. You never said how much it was…”
“Nah, I don’t want money.”
“What do you want?”
An uncertain look flits over his face. He stares at me long enough that my face grows warm. “A kiss. Promise me a kiss.” He dips his head, hiding his eyes. “Um, is that okay?”