Home > Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1)(7)

Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1)(7)
Author: Pippa Grant

Tucker slows.

Wyatt scoops him up and puts him on his shoulders like he’s light as a feather. “We’ll check it out later.”

“Why are you doing this?” I murmur. “I don’t need a fu—freaking escort. I’m fine.”

“Your brother would kick my ahem if I didn’t get you back safe and sound to his house tonight, and we both know it.”

“I know everyone in town, and I’ll get a ride. Go away.”

“Not until I see who’s driving you home.”

I pause outside Crow’s Nest, the local bakery, as I spot the owner just inside the open door, wiping down tables in a pirate costume, complete with eye patch.

Just as he’s supposed to be. “Hey, Grady. You ready?”

I smile, and he smiles back, and for the first time since Wyatt walked in on me in the bathtub, I know tonight’s going to be okay.

“You bet, hot stuff. Give me two seconds to toss this rag.”

Wyatt looks at me.

Then at Grady, who’s six solid feet of dependable, adorable muscle and dimples, topped with a thick mop of dark hair that even his hairnet can’t fully contain.

“What the f—fudge is going on here?” he growls.

“Just picking up my date. Who will also drive me home.”

“Your date.”

“Mm-hmm. Like I said, go about your business.”

Cooper, Grady’s brother, strolls out of the bakery and rubs my hair. Not because he’s older than me, but because he’s taller than me. “Still heartbroken you didn’t pick me, Calamity Ellie.”

“You’re unreliable,” I reply, earning a laugh.

“Dad. Dad,” Tucker whispers reverently while Wyatt continues to glare. “Daaaad.”

“I’m still handsomer,” Cooper points out.

I pretend to study him, then shake my head. “Nah.”

He puts a hand to his heart like he’s wounded. “Aah, Ellie. What’s a guy gotta do to get your affections?”

“You have to pick up your phone when she calls, idiot,” Grady tells his brother as he steps outside, sans the hairnet under his pirate hat. He offers me an arm. “Shall we, Calamity Ellie?”

“Who the hell are you?” Wyatt snarls.

“He’s—” I start, but I’m suddenly squished in a bride-scented hug with a fake parrot smashed into my face.

“Ellie! There you are. Why aren’t you answering your phone?” Monica demands. She’s dressed to the hilt as a pirate captain, with her honey blond hair tied back in a low ponytail under her pirate hat.

“It’s recovering from a swim,” I tell her.

“Daddy and Miss Ellie took a bubble bath together!” Tucker announces as I pull back.

Monica’s hazel eyes dart from me to Wyatt to Tucker up on Wyatt’s shoulders, going round as a pirate steering wheel by the time they’re back on me.

Grady drops his arm and takes a step back, brows raised, a slow smile spreading like he’s coming to a conclusion.

Shit.

Shit on a cannonball. This is not how today is supposed to go.

Behind Monica, Patrick, tall, blond, and usually affectedly bored, narrows his eyes like I’m still his business. “A bubble bath? Together?”

“They were all covered in bubbles,” Tucker says with a giggle.

I laugh too, way too high. “And isn’t it dinner time?” I interrupt, because I am not going to dinner solo with my ex-boyfriend and his perfect girlfriend and once again, Wyatt Morgan is fucking up my life. He’s going to ruin my carefully crafted date routine with Grady for the week. “We should get down to Crusty Nut before the parade starts.”

The crowd’s getting thicker, so I’m not wrong.

But Monica, Jason—her fiancé, who’s dressed like a first mate but usually looks like a surfer—Patrick, and his girlfriend, Sloane, don’t move.

“You’re dating again?” Patrick asks, again like it’s his business.

“Dude, I didn’t realize,” Grady says, backing away while Cooper shakes with silent laughter at his brother’s expense.

“Wyatt and I are friends,” I say lightly in a tone that leaves my answer open for interpretation.

Wyatt lifts a brow at me while holding onto Tucker’s legs, because whatever we are, we’ve never really been friends. More like people with opposing personalities who sometimes cross paths in social circles since my brother has always thought he could do no wrong.

But if he’s screwing up my fake date for the week, he’s going to be something other than my friend.

“Why doesn’t your friend join us for dinner?” Patrick says tightly, and that’s right, you dumping asshole, I have men fighting over me.

Sloane angles closer to him. “They’re not in costume,” she points out.

Like all of us, she too is dressed like a pirate. Her costume has red-and-black striped pants loose around her thighs but fitted to her calves, a white blouse, and a leather strap over her shoulder holding her scabbard and fake sword. A matching bandana covers her hair, and she’s sporting skull and crossbones earrings.

Patrick’s costume is nearly identical, except he’s missing the earrings.

And I can’t say a thing, because I would’ve dressed us in matching pirate costumes too.

“Grady was coming with me for dinner,” I say, “because Wyatt and Tucker have never seen the pirate parade, and Pop’s less likely to harass Grady if he’s with us. Wyatt, really, that’s an amazing spot to watch the parade. Tucker will love it. And wait until you see Pop. Pop Rock? Grady and Cooper’s grandpa? He dresses up like Blackbeard every year. It’s glorious.”

I point desperately to a minute space between a lamp post and a family of six right at the curb.

“Wyatt…Wyatt Morgan?” Monica asks.

And I’m done. Totally, completely screwed. My master plan for a fake boyfriend this week is unraveling before my eyes.

So I do the only thing I can to save my pride in the face of disaster.

I link my arm through Wyatt’s. “It’s new,” I whisper, telling my best friend of ten years a bald-faced lie that will undoubtedly kick me in the lady nuts very, very soon. Like as soon as Wyatt opens his mouth and bucks away from me. “And I didn’t want to take away from his time with Tucker this week.”

There’s a muscle working in Wyatt’s jaw, but his gray eyes aren’t glaring.

Nope, they’re shifting into neutral. He disentangles himself from my arm, but then wraps his tightly about my shoulders, which is a little awkward with Tucker up on his shoulders, but he manages anyway. Because he’s Wyatt.

Of course he can hold a kid and me.

“I don’t share,” he says with a pointed look at Grady.

Cooper has a coughing fit.

“Dad,” Tucker howls, kicking Wyatt in the pec. “That’s Cooper Rock.”

“I’m free tonight, Ellie,” Cooper says. He winks at Wyatt.

“And you’re staying free,” Wyatt replies pleasantly.

Too pleasantly.

Like he’s bantering with Beck and the guys.

“Wyatt Morgan?” Monica repeats again.

“I know that name,” Patrick says with a frown.

I shrug and put on what I hope is an embarrassed smile, rather than the mortified dread I’m feeling at the farce I’m going to have to pull off all fucking week if I don’t want to be the fifth wheel for my best friend’s wedding to my ex-boyfriend’s brother. “You know what they say about that line between love and hate.”

Monica’s hazel eyes are so wide under her feathered pirate wench hat that she’s in danger of losing an eyeball. “Well, yeah, I mean, I always suspected as much, but…oh my god, Ellie! I’m so fuc—freaking happy for you!”

She tackles me in a hug, babbling about needing all the details while I reel a little, because what the hell does I always suspected as much mean?

“Monica, seriously, this is your week. Wyatt and I are just…we’re taking it slow. He doesn’t really care if Grady comes to dinner with us.”

Wyatt’s grip—yep, he’s still holding on, despite Monica trying to strangle me with a hug too—tightens so hard that if my shoulders were walnuts, they’d be walnut butter. “Yes, I do.”

“DAD, THAT’S COOPER ROCK!” Tucker hollers.

Cooper, who no longer has any shot of anonymity, steps out from behind his brother to offer Tucker a fist bump. “Give it up, little buddy. You like the Fireballs?”

Tucker nods solemnly while he looks at his fist. “Dad says loyalty’s important, even in the face of great loss.”

Cooper pounds his heart twice with his fist. “Dang straight. Your dad’s a smart guy.”

“You’ll get ‘em this year,” Tucker declares.

Cooper winces. Grady winces. Half the street winces.

Since Chicago won the World Series a few years ago, Copper Valley’s pro baseball team has taken over as the sport’s most lovable losers.

And they’re embracing the title with gusto this year.

“They will, won’t they, Tucker?” I say.

“They really will.” He beams at me like we’re going to be best friends, and I think he could be right.

Monica’s frowning. “I don’t know if Crusty Nut can fit two more people at our table.”

“It’s okay,” I tell her quickly. “Tucker will love the parade so much more from right here. He can’t catch as much booty if he’s up on the balcony with us. Wyatt’s okay with this, aren’t you, honey?”

I lift my eyes to his, and that’s a mistake.

Because he’s promising me a lot of retribution in that colorful gray gaze. And if you think gray can’t be colorful, you’ve never pissed off a gray-eyed man.

“Looks like I have to be,” he replies.

“But you have to join us for lunch tomorrow,” Monica announces. She squeezes my hand. “Oh my god, Ellie, I always thought this might happen.” She throws herself around Wyatt too, and the parrot wobbling on her shoulder, stitched to her pirate captain costume, pecks Tucker’s bare calf. “You better be good to her, or I’ll slice your nuts off with my pirate sword and tie a cannonball to your ankles and shoot you over the mountains.”

   
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