And with that, Pippi thought, the ball was back on her court.
Pippi: It goes both ways, you know.
Pippi: I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.
Pippi fell asleep waiting for Acheron to answer, and her dreams were those of the unspeakable and the forbidden. But just when it was getting to the hottest and wettest part, Pippi dreamt of hands grasping her shoulders to shake her back into reality.
“Wake up, Pi!”
“There’s a clown at the front door!”
A clown? Pippi stubbornly kept her eyes closed. She was clearly dreaming something new, but she didn’t want it. She wanted the old dream back, and hopefully it would pick off exactly where they last left off, and she already had her shirt unbuttoned—
“Pippi, will you just wake up?”
Someone yanked the pillow under her head, and Pippi’s head bounced against the mattress. “Owwww!” She forced her eyes to open and swallowed a yawn as she saw a trio of expectant faces grinning down at her. “What?” The grins widened, and she suppressed a groan. Were they serious? Why did they have to wake her up now, of all mornings, for a stupid prank?
Pushing herself up, she asked grouchily, “What time is it anyway?”
“Six,” Rue answered.
“And there’s a clown waiting for you downstairs,” Mynt added.
A clown at their house at six in the morning? Pippi shot her sisters a look that told them to drop dead, but this only had the three girls exchanging mischievous looks. “Come on, guys. Don’t you think it’s too early for a prank?”
Vik smirked. “It’s not a prank.”
Pippi snorted. “Yeah right.”
“It really isn’t,” Mynt insisted, “and if you don’t want to believe us, come see for yourself.”
And then the three were dragging Pippi out of her bed and down the stairs.
“What – wait – come on!”
The first thing Pippi saw in the kitchen were Astrid and Pippi’s great-aunts having tea…with a clown?
Pippi rubbed her eyes, but the clown persisted in being real, and now Pennywise – no, It – oh, get a grip of yourself, Pippilotta Jones!
The clown in the kitchen had risen to his full height as he turned to look at her. He was the weirdest-looking clown, a walking, outlandish contradiction between his garishly painted face and an expensive, familiar-looking suit.
The clown started for Pippi, a deadly look in his eyes, and she vaguely heard her sisters laugh when she took an unconscious step back. What if this was a nightmare? She pinched herself hard, but nothing happened. “Will someone please tell me what I’m supposed to do?” The clown in a suit was coming closer and closer, and she was starting to feel more than a little nervous.
The clown towered over her.
“Someone just please tell me—”
The clown bent his dark head, and just as her heart jumped out of her chest, his mouth moved dangerously close to her ear for a whisper. “Kaliméra, Pippi.”
Half an hour later, and a still-grumbling Pippi was being waved off by her family. Bloody traitorous family, to join forces with an outsider just to prank her.
As Acheron opened the door for Pippi, Rue rushed out to whisper impishly into her sister’s ear, “Try not to lose your virginity until the third date.”
Acheron’s swift reflexes were the only thing that kept Pippi from losing her footing on the front steps, and when she looked up, the billionaire asked, “Everything okay?”
If it had been any other time, she would have cracked a joke about the irony of him asking such a thing. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, since he was the one who had showed up on her doorstep wearing clown makeup while dressed in a four-thousand-dollar suit?
It was what she truly intended to say…until she saw his face, and she remembered the last thing she had asked him the night before.
“You know…” She hesitated, worried about overstepping her bounds.
“What is it?”
Unable to muster enough courage to look at him, she instead focused her gaze on the knot of his tie as she mumbled, “You have the saddest eyes for a clown.”
There was a long moment of silence, and then she heard Acheron say, “I missed a call from an old friend last night.”
Pippi hadn’t expected Acheron to confide anything at all, and that he had made her feel like she had been entrusted with the care of the crown jewels. She took her time answering, trying harder to read between the lines.
“And you’re…bothered because you weren’t able to answer it?”
“Then…it’s never too late to return the call.”
“It’s more a problem of whether I should.”
Which most likely meant his “old friend” had something to do with the darker side of his past, Pippi interpreted. “If he hasn’t done you any harm in the past, then I don’t see why you can’t at least listen to him.”
A second later, and he was cupping her chin, and she had no choice but to look into his eyes.