“What did his parents say?” Emma asked.

“They just asked him why he put Gerry in his pants and he told them he just wanted to take him home so he could have a gerbil. No other reason.”

Luke called out, “Well, Leah wins most interesting day, hands down.”

Sadly, no one disagreed.

With that conversation over, Emma and I talked for just a couple more minutes and hung up, but only after I promised that we would be at Mom and Dad’s for Sunday breakfast. That was something we’d always done, but since the group had grown so much and everyone had their own things going all the time, we didn’t do it as often, but Mom had put her foot down and said she was reinstating Sunday breakfast, or else. We didn’t ask or else what. We knew the answer.

Because she said so.

Chapter 7

I stood in the doorway to Ian’s office, completely dumbstruck by what I saw.

It was Friday once more, and the week since the “incident” as we were calling it had passed without event. I was grateful for that…until now. I’d come down to Ian’s office, which I did from time to time, just to see him, especially when I knew he’d be there and not out on a job.

But it wasn’t Ian in his office chair.

Nope. Far from it.

And as I stood there, frozen to the spot, unable to say a word, though rage was working its way through my body, coursing through my veins until they were almost boiling, I felt warm hands circle round my waist, pulling me back against a hard chest.

The velvet, deep voice that I so loved spoke in my ear, saying, “Hey, baby…”

That’s when his eyes followed my gaze and his whole body stiffened. “Fucking hell!” he roared, gently pushing me to the side out of his way. He strode into his office, reaching for the zippered hoodie he had hanging on a hook just inside the door and threw it at Victoria, who was lounging in his chair, feet propped up on his desk.

Naked. With the exception of a hard hat and high heels.

“Get the fuck outta my chair and cover yourself!” Ian growled, clenching his fists and glaring at the woman.

She just giggled and slowly lifted herself out of his chair, taking her time wrapping herself in his shirt. “Hey, lover!” she said, cheerfully. “I came by to surprise my boyfriend at work but,” she paused and turned to look at me.

I’ve never been scared of Victoria. Nothing about her had ever given me pause that maybe, just maybe, she was a little more dangerously unhinged than we thought…until that moment.

The moment her eyes hit me, chills raced down my spine and goosebumps crept along my skin. There was a deeper calculation in her eyes that I’d never seen before, and it didn’t get any better when she spoke. It was like a totally different woman from the one I’d been dealing with for the past year.

“But, someone obviously can’t take the hint that we’re together,” she continued. She turned to Ian then and said, “You know, I’ve let you have your fun, but don’t you think it’s time you were done sowing your wild oats? I’m ovulating, so it’s the perfect time to start our family, and your mom has been holding your grandmother’s ring for you to give me. I even had it sized already, so it’ll fit perfectly when you finally propose.”

She preened and minced over to Ian, reaching up and running her hand down his t-shirt covered chest. She pouted when he flinched away, knocking her hand down.

The shock wore off enough that I finally found my tongue. “Don’t touch him!” I said, sharply. She turned to look at me again, a disturbing gleam in her eyes. “Get your shit and get the fuck out of here. You aren’t wanted here by anyone, Victoria, especially Ian. Get it through your fucked-up head,” I said, my voice low with warning.

She only tossed her hair and giggled again, her eyes never leaving mine as she stepped forward, deliberately moving toward Ian, who backed away from her advance, hands still clenched at his sides. She kept going, watching me as she backed him into the wall and pressed herself against him, rubbing her chest against his. She dropped my gaze long enough to lean forward, aiming her lips toward Ian’s face and, when he turned his face away, licked along his jawline until she pressed her lips against his cheek, leaving a bright red imprint of her lips behind before he brought his hands up and cupped her shoulders, gently but firmly pushing her away from him.

In that moment, I wished, just for a second, that Ian was the type of man to hit a woman. Because there was no woman on the face of the planet who deserved it more right then.

Unable to control myself, I stepped forward, my hands fisted at my sides so I wouldn’t jerk her away by her hair and pound her in her face until she was unrecognizable. “Bitch,” I said, tightly, but I didn’t get any further.

Ian moved away from her, grasping my arm and pulling me into him, his arms wrapping around me for two obvious reasons. One, to keep me from attacking, and two, to show Victoria, again, that he was choosing me.

His words, when he spoke, were sharp and brutal. He pulled no punches this time, all thinly veiled attempts at niceness completely out the window.

“I’ve told you time and time again that there is nothing between us. There never will be. Any schemes that you have with my parents, or even on your own, that you’ve cooked up in that Godforsaken bubble of a brain, just forget them. It’s NEVER going to fucking happen. Do you understand?”

I could feel him trembling against me, knew he was beyond pissed.

Victoria cocked a hip and pouted, sticking her lip out comically, like a five year old would. Her eyes filled with tears and she stood there staring for just a second before she stomped her foot and shrieked in her throat, literally throwing a temper tantrum.

I couldn’t help it. Disbelieving laughter bubbled from my lips. I mean, seriously, was this 30 year old woman really acting like a toddler?

As soon as she heard me laughing, the pout left her face and I bit my lips, all traces of humor gone in an instant because that cold calculation was back in her eyes. She drew Ian’s hoodie close around her and walked to the door, swaying her hips exaggeratedly. She stopped in the doorway and looked over her shoulder at us.

“I tire of these games, Ian. I’ve overlooked all of your little affairs over the years, knowing that you just had to get it out of your system before we got married and started our family, just like our parents have always planned. But this one? She’s overstayed her welcome. I’ll give you six months to deal with this…this…” she waved her hand at me, her face twisted in disgust before she continued, “girl. But then I expect you to come home to me. And trust me, I’ll be checking in in the meantime to make sure that you’re scraping her off.”

After delivering her ridiculous ultimatum, she flung her hair over her shoulder and strode out.

I glanced up at Ian and saw him staring out the doorway, a muscle in his cheek twitching. I slid my arms around his waist and buried my face against his chest, shaking my head, utterly baffled by what had just happened.

I felt Ian pull me closer, then his head came down and he rested his cheek against the top of mine. He held me like that for a moment, then lifted my face to his with a gentle finger under my chin.

“You know that she’s completely delusional right? There’s no way in hell that I knew she was going to be waiting here in my office…”

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