Home > Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1)(8)

Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1)(8)
Author: Pippa Grant

Tucker gasps.

“She’s teasing,” Wyatt tells him quickly.

Monica smiles.

It’s an ugly smile.

I like it.

Wyatt smiles back.

It’s a tight smile.

My life is going to be hell as soon as I get back to Beck’s place tonight.

“Can you drive me home?” I ask Monica. “Tucker has an early bedtime.”

“Of course!” she squeals.

Patrick’s still glaring.

And since Patrick’s glaring, Sloane the wonder nurse is also glaring.

Only Jason, Monica’s laid-back fiancé who’s been watching all of this with an amused smile, is still blissfully unaware of all the weirdness.

It’s remarkable that Patrick and Jason share genes, because that’s the only thing they have in common.

“You’ll drive safely,” Wyatt informs Monica.

She rolls her eyes at him. “First one to the hospital. I got it.”

He finally releases his grip on me.

“Go on, get that spot,” I tell him. “Tucker, you’re going to love the parade.”

“Can we all have a bubble bath tonight?” he asks.

“No,” Wyatt and I answer together.

The adults lining the parade route all chuckle with Grady, Cooper, Monica, and Jason. “You are adorable,” Monica informs Tucker. “We’re going to be good friends this week.”

She’s not going to see them at all this week if I have any say in it.

Far better to have a boyfriend who’s an amazing single dad from afar than to have to put on a show for my friend and my ex-boyfriend anyway.

Maybe this will work out after all.

“Enjoy the parade,” I tell Wyatt. “I’ll see you back at the house.”

His lips twitch, because Wyatt and I don’t do see you later.

We never have.

As kids, we’d part on me shouting shut up and let me do it my way to his fine, do it your way and lose, you crazy buttwipe. As adults, there’s less shouting, but generally more eye-rolling.

Until that last time.

Over Christmas.

He bends down and kisses my cheek. “I’ll miss you, schmoopsy-poo.” Quieter, he adds, “And we’re discussing this later.”

“I’ll miss you too,” I say breathlessly.

Monica loops her arm around mine and tugs gently, prodding me into falling into step beside her.

Well, limp.

These shoes were a terrible idea.

I give Grady a quick, “Sorry about that,” over my shoulder, but he just grins and waves me off.

“Good to see you happy, Ellie.”

I don’t look at Wyatt.

I can’t.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me he was hot?” Monica asks, because she came into my life after Wyatt was already gone in the military, and I realize with a start that she’s never actually met him.

“Most of my life, I didn’t look at him that way,” I answer honestly.

“I’m gonna need this bubble bath story.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing you’ve never done yourself,” I reply.

“Your leg hurts, doesn’t it?”

“What’s pain when I look like a million Spanish galleons?”

She rolls her eyes, then glances back.

I look back too, and spot Wyatt buying a foam sword for Tucker from a passing street vendor.

Except he’s not buying just one.

He’s buying two.

He swings Tucker down, squats and holds his sword in the ready position, and then staggers in mock pain as Tucker gets him in the gut.

“Right,” Monica murmurs, fanning herself. “Not hot at all.”

That’s right.

He’s not hot at all.

I just have to pretend he is.

It’s only four days. And barely a few little lies.

It’ll all be just fine.

Six

Wyatt

I don’t like leaving Ellie in Shipwreck, but she’s a grown-up, she’s with friends, and one of the guys from the bakery—Cooper? Fuck, I haven’t kept up with the Fireballs this year—came out to chat for a while during the parade, and while I won’t admit it to Ellie, he passed my gut test.

Seems like a decent guy.

So does his brother, Grady, who apologized again for the mix-up and told me I was a lucky guy.

So she has good people looking out for her in a safe small town, and she’ll be okay.

But after I read six bedtime stories with Tucker, promise we’ll go miniature golfing and try to dig up pirate treasure and look for the hidden peg leg that’s supposed to come with a treasure of its own tomorrow, and hug him tight because it’s so damn good to be able to hug him—video chat and phone calls aren’t the same, and now that he’s starting soccer and baseball, there’s less time to talk—I head to the living room to wait for Ellie to get back.

It’s possible she won’t come back tonight.

Cooper wasn’t shy with information, and while Tucker raked in candy, pirate rings, fake gemstones, and more from the floats passing by, I found out Ellie’s in town for her best friend’s wedding. Most of the wedding party is staying at the Shipwreck Inn. Her ex-boyfriend—I thought the Blond Caveman looked familiar—is the best man and brought the woman he dumped her for just before her accident. Ellie’s been in town a lot the last six months—especially while she was recovering at first—and Cooper’s glad Beck sent someone to keep an eye on her while she’s feeling so lost.

That last part is what has me dialing my buddy, even though I think he’s somewhere in Europe on a photo shoot and it’s probably two in the morning at the earliest wherever he is.

Hell, I don’t even know if his cell number works in Europe.

But, because he’s Beck, he answers on the second ring.

“Wyatt, my man, what’s up? How’s the house?” Beck says in my ear.

I glance at the mess in the kitchen, and I shove up to tackle it, because it’s annoying me. “Occupied.”

Beck laughs. “If you’re there, it must be.”

“Ellie’s here.”

There’s silence, and for half a second, I think he’s going to pull the Connection’s breaking up card, but then he simply says, “Huh.”

Not like he’s surprised.

Not like he’s not either.

I stack up plates, cups, mugs—someone likes tea, it seems—silverware and dirty napkins from the dining room and carry them into the kitchen.

I don’t have room to call Beck on any bullshit—it’s my fault his sister was in a car accident that put her in the hospital for a month and still has her limping—but if he wants something from me, he damn well needs to come out and ask before I fuck this up.

Again.

“Ryder…”

“You remember that year we played Trivial Pursuit over Christmas break and you and Ellie ended up having a ranch dressing fight in the snow?”

“She called me a cheater.”

“Bro, you did cheat.”

“I did not.”

“You memorized the cards.”

“There was nothing else to read.”

“Whatever. The point is, think of all the good memories. How about that time she went apeshit because you were using her art projects for target practice?”

“You brought them out and didn’t mention they were—”

“Good times, good times.” He sighs happily. “Man, I wish I could be there with you guys. Wonder if you’d wrestle me over Frogger again like that time—”

“What the fuck are you smoking?”

“Fresh air, man. The best fresh night air Spain has to offer. You ever been to Spain? It’s fucking gorgeous.”

Fucker’s avoiding my questions.

He knew Ellie would be here. And he knows we can’t stand each other. I stifle a growl of frustration while I plug the sink, squirt soap in, and flip on the faucet.

“I found her in the bathtub,” I grit out. I can tell him I found her in the bathroom, but I will not confess to my best friend that we’ve gone a lot farther than that.

Being friends with Beck Ryder saved my life, and it doesn’t matter if we go a few months without talking, that will never change.

Nor will I ever do anything to potentially fuck it up again.

I keep waiting for Ellie to tell him, for him to turn on me, but apparently she either doesn’t remember or doesn’t want him to know.

So I’m not going to tell him either.

“You found her in the bathtub? Doing Jell-O shots or something?”

Beck might play the egotistical, idiot underwear model, but I’ve known him for too many years for me to fall for this bullshit. “Naked.”

“Ah. Yeah, that makes more sense. Were you naked too?”

“Christ on a butter knife, you jackass. Who asks that?”

“Wyatt. You’re my bro. You think we’d be friends if I didn’t think you were good enough for my sister? Nah, man. I’ve seen how you two look at each other. Far be it from me to interfere.”

I’m momentarily speechless, because I didn’t think that was how the bro code worked. And Beck and a few other guys we grew up with made a name for themselves as the band Bro Code for a lot of years.

So don’t tell me the bro code isn’t important to him.

It’s everything.

He’s gotta be fucking with me, so I go with the easy response. “She looks at me like she’d like to slice out my kidneys and roast them over a campfire.”

“Young love, man. Young love is beautiful.”

“Ryder.”

“Dude. It ever occur to you that maybe it would mean a lot to me if one of my best buddies could finally just suck it up and get along with my sister? Is that too much to ask?”

I briefly consider Levi or Davis or one of the Rivers brothers asking Ellie on a date, and I decide it doesn’t matter that they, too, are like brothers to me, I’d smash all their faces in.

   
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