“Just telling you good morning the nice way,” he replied, leaning down to brush his lips gently across mine.

“Well, good morning to you, too. Again,” I said, lifting my head to increase the pressure of my lips against his.

When he lifted his head again, I smiled up at him. “Breakfast in bed and a morning make-out? Damn, how’d I get so lucky?”

Chapter 4

“Ian,” I muttered, but that’s as far as I got.

It was Monday, the last day of my lovely three day weekend. Sunday had been perfect; how could it not have been with a kickass wake-up from Ian that included breakfast in bed, and then we’d spent the day together, just the two of us. We’d driven down to the huge flea market off 75, spent some time walking around, and then made a pit stop at the new casino they’d built, before I’d made him take me to Mellow Mushroom for dinner. It’s my all time favorite pizza place.

But, unfortunately, that perfectness had ended about half an hour ago when we’d left the house. This was because we were at Ian’s parents’ house for a ‘backyard get together’, and that doesn’t make for a great day. Ian had agreed to go because, well, because they were his parents and he loved them and they loved him. Even if they didn’t quite understand each other.

Honestly, though, that’s not even the reason it wasn’t a great day. What made it a not-so-nice ‘get-together’ was the fact that his parents had advised that (what a shame!) the Jones family would not be able to make it as they were vacationing on the (no joke) French Riviera…normally good news. However, they’d neglected to mention that Victoria, their daughter and the current bane of my existence, had not gone with them and would be very much in attendance.

Case in point? The she-bitch was currently standing chest-to-overflowing-chest with Ian, her arms lifted and wrapped securely around his neck as she cooed her hello in his ear. Yes, his face was annoyed, and yes, I could see him trying to pull away from her.

But did it irk me that his hands were around her cinched-in waist, perfunctorily returning her embrace even as he tried to push her away? Hell to the yes.

“Aw, how cute are they?” Ian’s mom, Margot, preened, clapping her hands in delight as she came to stand by me in the foyer. “They’ve been friends for so long, you know,” she said, turning my way.

I braced myself. The cattiness was coming and we hadn’t even been in the door for ten minutes.

“Everyone always assumed they’d end up together, which would only cement the long-standing companionship our families have enjoyed for so long.” She sighed and waved a hand. “Oh, well. I guess some things just take time…” she paused for effect, “or just aren’t meant to be.”

Aaaand there it was. The disappointed resignation that thinly veiled the sharp barb of disapproval, tipped in poison to garner the maximum sting.

“Mother,” Ian rebuked tightly, finally free of the octopus, moving close and taking my hand in his.

With a vague smile, she turned and gestured for us to follow her. We moved through the large, ostentatiously decked-out house to the back porch where about a dozen and a half people milled around, all very overdressed for a backyard “get together.”

She paused, looking me up and down before she said, “Well, I suppose you’ll do.” She then proceeded to call out, announcing our arrival to everyone milling about on the back deck area.

I stiffened immediately, feeling very self-conscious as every eye turned to look at us, and not one of those eyes seemed friendly. I smoothed the skirt of my sundress down and wished that I’d had the foresight to wear something a little dressier. Not that there was anything wrong with what I was wearing; at least, I hadn’t thought so. The dress was baby pink and spaghetti-strapped with a fitted bodice, and the skirt flared out a bit at the hip, stopping at my knees. It fit my petite frame perfectly, accentuating my curves in a flattering way. I’d paired it with white platform wedges (I needed the height since Ian’s 6’3” and I’m a measly 5’2”), and braided my long, wavy, dark brown hair over my shoulder. My makeup was light, but I’d played up my eyes, making the bright, jade green of them pop.

But all the women standing on the deck were perfectly coiffed, dressed in head-to-toe designer couture, dripping jewelry, and holding champagne flutes as if they were accessories. They looked like they’d just stepped out of a magazine, and I...didn’t. I hadn’t thought anything when we’d come in because Ian’s mom always dresses to the nines, and of course, Octopus-Girl looked high-end whorish, as always, but no one ever looked askance at her because she belonged. She was one of them.

Clearly, I wasn’t, and Margot and all her little minions weren’t going to let me forget it.

I heard Ian sigh beside me and stepped closer to him, knowing that he wasn’t happy with the situation. He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me into his side as we walked out among the crowd, moving toward his dad, who was standing at the railing, overlooking the lush green yard that backed up to the lake. It was beautiful and, given different circumstances every time I’d been there, I could envision myself enjoying the house and the view. Just needed better company.

“Ah, there’s my son, the hard-working, building man!” His dad boomed out, reaching for Ian’s hand and shaking it vigorously while his other pounded him on the shoulder, jostling both of us. “You ready to retire, live the life of luxury, yet?”

“Cut the boy some slack, William, he’s still young enough to want to sow his wild oats before he settles into the life of investments like we have. He’ll put his tools down eventually and settle with Victoria, and then you can train him in the game,” one of Ian’s dad’s cronies retorted.

“Sure, sure,” Ian’s dad answered, jovially.

“Dad,” Ian said, nodding toward his father, ice coating that one word thickly. He then turned to the gentleman standing beside his father, the one who so kindly planned out Ian’s future for him in two brief sentences.

“Mr. Cline.” He pulled me closer to him and replied, “Dad, I’m sure you remember Leah Jensen, my girlfriend. Mr. Cline, I don’t know that you’ve had the pleasure. Leah, Charlie Cline, my dad’s co-worker and he’s the investment broker for my parents.”

I inclined my head in greeting but didn’t get a chance to reply as Ian excused us tersely and moved quickly through the crowd back towards the house. He pulled me through to the kitchen and stopped where his mother was directing the catering staff on where to set up.

“Mother, a word.”

She turned to him, a small smile quirking the corner of her lips as she asked, “Yes, dear? Is something wrong?”

“We’re leaving. I don’t know why I do this to Leah, making her come here when you and Dad have done all you can to make her feel uncomfortable. I told you the last time to stop the snarky comments, but both of you continue to be rude and to entertain these ridiculous notions that I’m going to marry Victoria. It’s not happening, and I won’t put up with this anymore, nor will I subject Leah to it.”

“Ian, what on earth are you talking about? Of course the girl is welcome here, and I do apologize if we’ve made her uncomfortable. How on earth would we have done that?” She played the part to the hilt, laying her hand against her chest and tilting her head towards him in confusion.

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