I nod thoughtfully and take another bite of the sweet fruit. “I know you’re right, but I can’t help but wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.”
“Why does it have to?”
“It doesn’t it’s just…” I push my hand through my hair and scrub my scalp with my fingertips. “What if something happens, like a job or something that takes her away again?”
“You still think she’d choose dance over you.”
Hearing Luke voice my deepest fear makes my mouth go dry. All I can do is jerk one shoulder up in a shrug.
“Part of learning each other is also learning to trust each other. Only time will do that.”
“I’m not a patient man.”
“I don’t know, you’ve been more patient than I would have been.” Luke grins and leans on the counter. “Enjoy her. Bring her for dinner some time. I always liked her.”
“I like her too,” Nat says as she joins us in the kitchen. “I got to page five in Ferdinand and Livie fell asleep too, so I get to have a grown up conversation now.”
“How are you, beautiful girl?” I ask and kiss her cheek. Luke’s eyes narrow and I can’t help but sling my arm over her shoulders and grin smugly at him.
“I’m good,” she says and hugs me around my waist.
“She likes me more,” I inform Luke.
“She tolerates you,” he says. “Like we all do.”
“Pshaw. I’m everyone’s favorite.” I kiss Nat’s head and then back away when Luke growls.
Even I know where the line is.
Natalie stands on her tiptoes and kisses Luke, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding on tight. When he comes up for air, she grins and says, “You’re the sexiest man I’ve ever seen.”
“She’s just saying that.”
Luke flips me off and kisses his wife, and I’m suddenly aware that with two sleeping kids, this is an opportunity for them to have some time for just them.
“I’m gonna head out. Mer should be just about ready.”
“Bring her for dinner next week. Monday?” Nat says.
“She’ll be in LA early next week,” I reply and ignore the way my stomach clenches with nerves. “Then we have Vegas next weekend.”
“Well then I’ll get to chat with her in Vegas.”
“Sounds good. Bye guys.”
They’re giggling before I even close the front door. They’ve been together for a few years now, and are as much in love today as they were the day they got married.
My brother’s a lucky bastard.
But so am I.
I park on the street outside the studio and walk inside and the sight before me steals my breath.
A popular Starla song is blaring on the speakers and Jax and Mer are dancing, perfectly synced with each other, looking into each other’s eyes.
They didn’t hear me come in. I lean back on the desk and watch avidly as they sway and drift around the floor, watching themselves in the mirror.
“Watch your arms!” Jax calls out, scrutinizing Meredith.
Her arms look good to me.
The song is haunting, about love gone horribly wrong, and the dance has been translated to reflect it, portraying abuse and betrayal. The choreography is flawless, and when Jax moves like he’s hitting Mer across the face, it looks almost real.
My hands and jaw clench as they continue through the dance, and suddenly Jax lifts Mer up over his head and throws her, and she falls on her ass.
“Son of a mother fucker!” she yells, surprising the hell out of me.
“You’re not concentrating,” Jax says and stops the music. “We did this same move four years ago during the “Love’s Kiss” routine.”
“Not with the combination that comes before it. I can’t get my bearings in time for you to throw me like that, Jax, and I’m telling you, Starla won’t either.”
“What if we cut the half turn right before it?”
She leans her elbows on her knees and thinks it over for a minute. “Yeah, that could work.”
“Again.” Jax holds his hand out for her and lifts her to her feet. The music begins from the top, and they begin the routine again.
They are magnificent. The love and friendship they share shines through in their dance. They trust each other.
Part of me is jealous that I’ll never have this connection with Meredith, and the other part of me is just so fucking proud of her and thankful that she’s found this with Jax.
They approach the throw and change up the steps leading up to it, so when he throws her this time, she lands on her feet and they finish the routine flawlessly.
“Yes!” she yells and runs into Jax’s arms, hugging him tight.
“There we go,” he says and hugs her back. “God, you’re so good, cupcake.”
I begin to applaud in earnest, smiling wide and they glance over in surprise.
“Oh my God!” Mer runs to me and jumps in my arms, her arms and legs wrapped around me and kisses me hard. “I didn’t see you come in.”
“You were busy,” I reply.
“I landed the throw!”
“I saw. It’s awesome.”
“I can’t wait to show Starla. She’s going to go ape-shit,” she says excitedly and kisses me again then buries her face in my neck and takes a deep breath. “You smell good.”
“You… don’t,” I reply with a chuckle.
“I know. I’m going to go take a quick shower and then I’ll be ready.” I set her down and she jogs to the back of the building.
“It’s a great routine, man,” I say to Jax.
“Thank you. She’s a dream to work with.” Jax wipes his face and bare chest with a towel then loops it around his neck. “Gonna keep her out again all weekend?”
I prop my hands on my hips and watch the man before me for a long moment. “Yes.”
He nods once and begins to walk away, but I decide to confront this here and now.
“What’s the problem?” I ask quietly.
He stops in his tracks, his back to me and slowly turns to face me. “I don’t know you,” he begins and keeps his eyes trained on mine.
I have to respect a man who maintains eye contact and isn’t afraid to stand his ground.
“I don’t know what your intentions are. You say you love her. You spend every waking moment that you aren’t working together.” He frowns as though he’s searching for the words and I cross my arms over my chest, waiting. “She’s consumed by you right now and—”