“I know how you like to ruin surprises. Why do you think we met at Mom’s last night instead of today?” She gives me a little shoulder bump, just as Travis interrupts us.
“Barbecue is almost ready. We have everything set up on the patio,” he tells everyone.
Courtney grabs Buddy by the collar and walks him into the bedroom with food and water and I hear the door click closed. I’m sure she didn’t want all the people to scare him. She returns and walks over to Kayla and I can’t keep my eyes from her.
Breaking my attention, Tyler clears his throat and hands me a gift bag.
“You didn’t have to.”
“Dude, you’re my partner. I do have to,” Tyler insists. “It’s nothing big.”
He glances over his shoulder then back at me. “Dude, who’s the brunette?”
“Viola? My sister?” I ask, not even thinking.
“No, the other one.” He turns and looks at Kayla, and I instantly glance over at Logan who’s standing stiff at the edge of the room drinking a bottle of water. I give him a smile and all he does is nod.
“That’s Kayla, one of Courtney and Viola’s friends.”
His eyes are wide and I know what’s coming. “So, she’s single?”
I nod, but still wonder if she and Logan will ever have a chance because I know she’s interested, but he acts like he’s not.
“Go on, go talk to her.” I encourage him, because it’s not fair to Kayla otherwise.
I walk over to chat with Logan while Tyler introduces himself to Kayla. Logan eyes them as he takes a long pull from his water.
“That’s cute,” he says, unamused, looking straight at them. Kayla is smiling and being polite but when she looks up, she makes eye contact with Logan, which is awkward.
“I thought you weren’t interested.”
“I have other things to focus on at the moment.” I can see sadness in Logan’s eyes when he speaks, and I want to push him but I know better. He’ll change the subject and go stone cold. Before I can even attempt to dig deeper, a hard knock pounds on the door. We all stop chatting and look around and Courtney walks over. When she looks through the peephole she whispers, “oh my God.” Immediately, I start thinking the worst, hoping Mia didn’t actually have the balls to show up here, right now, on my birthday. Courtney takes a step back and opens the door and that’s when I realize how wrong I was when Jackson comes barreling in with his big country accent, a bag swung over his shoulder, and a small box with a ribbon in his hand. Courtney takes the gift from his hand and he wraps his arms tight around her until she squirms to get away from him. After he gets her worked up, he comes to me and gives me another firm handshake reminiscent to the one we shared the first time we met. Jackson sticks out like a sore thumb, wearing a velvety black cowboy hat, a flannel shirt, blue jeans with natural rips and tears, paired with boots that are probably made from reptile skin.
“You’re not here to kick my ass, are you?” I ask with a smile, knowing how many threats her brothers threw my way while I was in Texas.
“Nah. Me and my girl have been havin’ some issues, so I thought I’d jump on a big ole plane and come see my little sister and make it a double surprise birthday party,” Jackson says, looking at me with those Bishop eyes.
“I didn’t invite you,” Courtney says firmly, behind his broad shoulders.
“Yeah, well Mom told me what you were up to and I wanted to go visit those stars on the cement in LA, so I thought I’d make a pit stop beforehand.”
Courtney rolls her eyes. “Los Angeles isn’t even close.”
“California’s not darn near as big as Texas. I think I can handle driving six hours,” he says matter-of-factly.
“Next time I’ll have to tell Mom not to tell you. Because you’re too…too…Jackson.”
“That’s the best you got, Court? Losing your special smartass touch, I see.” Jackson crosses his arms and gives her a smirk. Before Courtney is completely riled up, I speak.
“I’m happy you’re here. You’re welcome anytime.”
Jackson smiles and Courtney narrows her eyes at me.
“See, now that’s a little bit of that Southern hospitality you’ve forgotten, Court.” Jackson shoots her an evil grin, and I know she wants to strangle him.
“Food is ready,” Travis says from the backdoor, and everyone begins following outside.
“Please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends,” Courtney demands between gritted teeth as we walk toward the patio.
“You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the boy. Embarrassing my lil’ sis is my specialty. Even when we’re old folks with missing teeth and hair, I’m gonna drive you crazy.”