Page 26

Trying to keep from laughing, I grab my plate and walk out the door while biting my tongue. Peter follows after me with a shocked expression on his face. When we're at the swing, he sits next to me and says, "She threw us out."

I start laughing loudly and shove his shoulder. "You are such an ass."

"Sidney, focus on something besides my ass. I think we just pissed your aunt off. She banished us to the yard with the bird." Mr. Turkey chooses that moment to creepily saunter forward, looking for food. I toss him Peter's bacon. "Oh, you did not just do that."

"I believe I did. What you gonna do about it, Professor?" I tilt my head to the side and fold my arms across my chest.

Peter laughs and lunges at me. My plate of food goes flying with half of it landing on me and the rest falling to the ground under the swing. "You suck!"

"So you've said." Peter pushes me back so I'm lying on my back on the swing and he's leaning over me. He doesn't pin my wrists, so I don't freak out. Plus there's egg yolk dripping down my forehead like I've been shot in the head by a chicken. Peter dips his finger in the yellow goo and trails it down to my cheeks and makes a heart.

I squeal, kick, and laugh. I manage to push him off and Peter falls off the swing. I roll and land on top of him. Grabbing the fallen food, I take some scrambled eggs and try to shove them in his mouth—grass and all. "Eat it, Ferro. Come on, open wide."

A horribly wicked grin crosses his face, which makes me go still. "Sidney, please, it's not coffee time yet." He starts laughing so hard that his whole body shakes with me on top.

"Say that again. I dare you."

"Talk dirty to me—" Peter doesn't finish the sentence because I shove the eggs into his mouth. He's grinning at me. Instead of spitting the fallen food out, he chews it and says, "It's a little crunchy."

"Hey!" Dad yells from the back porch. "You get off of him. Don't make me get the hose, Sid!"

My face turns beet red and I slip off of Peter and sit down hard next to him. Peter can't stop grinning. He looks back at my dad and waves. My father shakes his head. "You don't want to be on my list, boy. It ends with a shovel and a long car ride, if you know what I mean. Get her knocked up and I'll ruin your life, kid." Dad walks inside without waiting for an answer.

Peter and I look at each other and we both start laughing like crazy. After a few minutes Peter lies back on the lawn and says, "I didn't knock you up, did I? Just for the record, I need to know that kind of thing so I can buy you and the baby a house and run like hell when your father finds out."

"I'm not pregnant, Peter. I'm on the pill. I've been on it since stuff happened with the asshole." I pull my knees into my chest and wrap my arms around my ankles. "So do you want the 2.5 kids, the little house, and the whole picket-fence thing?"

"Maybe." He grins so hard that I know he's teasing me and means hell yeah. "What about you?"

"Maybe. It probably depends on who's knocking me up and buying the house, you know. Little things like that."

"Me." Peter's voice is deadly serious. "What if I was the one who held you at night, every night? What if I was the father of your children? And the surrogate parent of your vulture? What would you think of that?"

I tap my finger to my lip as if I'm pondering the thought. "Would there be dancing?"

He nods. "Always. Would there be bacon?"

I laugh. "Of course. What's the American dream without bacon?"

"You'll have to promise to love me with love handles, because your aunt's cooking and the massive amount of bacon will result in plumpness." Peter tucks his hands behind his head. There isn't anything plump about him, and he eats like the vulture.

"Only if you promise to love me forever and give me a lifetime supply of coffee. It turns out that I really like the coffee." I wink at him and can no longer contain my smile. It spreads across my face and seeps inside of me. "The past few days have been so hard and so wonderful, too. I don't want you to go, but I know you have to. Things can't stay this way forever."

"Who says they can't?" Peter looks at the food all over the ground. Mr. Turkey has returned and is pecking a piece of sausage over by the eggs and muffin remains. Peter scrambles over to the spilled food, shooing the bird. He lifts the muffin that I tried to eat several times and brushes it off. "I planned this whole romantic thing, but let me ask you this—will you marry me?"

I think he's kidding. I tuck my hair behind my ear and tease him. "You like the coffee, too, admit it."

Peter walks toward me on his knees and hands me the muffin. "I love the coffee. I love you."

I take the muffin and look at it. "What?"

"I know we both can't eat food that fell on the ground, but how about you look for the surprise inside?"

"What are you talking about?" I laugh and look over at him. What did he do? I start pulling the muffin apart until something hard hits my finger. After brushing away the crumbs, I'm left holding a diamond ring between my fingers. I look at the ring and then back up at Peter. "You're really asking me?"

"Yes, I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy. Will you marry me, Sidney?"

My face scrunches into the worst expression I can imagine. Laughter and tears blur together and I bleat like a sheep. Peter smiles uncertainly, waiting for my answer, but I can't speak. I throw my arms around his neck, practically knocking him over, and shake my head. "Yes, yes!"

Peter picks me up and spins me around. We both shriek and laugh until he sets me down. Then Peter hollers at the back door, "She said yes! You can come outside now!"

I glance at him, surprised, and then at the door. My aunt rushes toward us with a weepy smile on her face and the spatula still in hand. She hugs both of us at the same time and is a mess of incoherent babbling.

When we pull away, Daddy is standing there looking stern. "I meant what I said. You take care of her."

"I will, sir." Peter shakes Dad's hand before he turns to me and hugs me so tight that my head pops off.

Sam is behind them, looking Samish. He's pouting today because Dean decided to move on a whim. Like the guy packed up his stuff and fled. When Sam told me that, I was so glad that I had trouble hiding it. There's no chance of seeing Dean again at all. After Sean and Peter finished with him, Dean ran off with his tail between his legs. Dean didn't tell Sam anything, just that he'd had it with this hellhole and had to take off for someplace better.

Sam tries to feign happiness. "Congratulations, Sid. I'm happy for you." He gives me a quick hug and then walks over to Peter. "Don't make me kick your ass if you mistreat her."

I watch to see Peter's reaction and hope he doesn't knock Sam's head off his shoulders. Sam always says the wrong thing and now is no exception. Peter gives my brother a lopsided grin and pulls him into a bear hug like the one my dad just gave me. "Wouldn't think of it, kid. And I'd always wanted a bouncing baby brother like you!" Sam pulls away with a funny look on his face while the rest of us laugh. Sam finally smiles and offers his hand to Peter. They shake and lean in, saying more things that I can't hear.

"I knew she was after your money, Pete. Why else would she say yes?" I turn quickly on my heel. Sean is standing behind everyone, looking smug. He's got that leather jacket and biker boots, and looks beyond scary with his helmet under one arm. I'm sure my dad is glad that I picked Peter and not Sean.

"Jackass!" Peter says proudly, "You came!" Peter's got his brother in his arms in two seconds. They slap each other on the back and then on the face, like they've done that since they were kids.

"Of course I came. When you said you were giving her a ring, I wanted to make sure she didn't eat it by accident. Who puts a ring in a muffin?" Sean shakes his head in disapproval, like it was a stupid way to propose.

"Are you ever polite?" I ask and fold my arms over my chest, glaring at him.

"Are you seriously asking me that question?" Sean tries to hide a smile as he walks toward me and hands me a little box. "Here."

I glance around. "If Mr. Turkey's heart is in here on a pillow—"

"Just open the box, wiseass." Sean turns away, but the hostile looks he's getting from Dad and Aunt Beth make him turn back again.

I pull away the paper to reveal a little black box. Honestly, I'm afraid to open it. I glance at Peter. "Do you know what it is?" He shakes his head and steps closer.

"People typically find out the answer to that sort of question by removing the lid." Sean's gaze catches mine. His expression is almost daring me to open the box, which totally freaks me out. I look around for my turkey, seriously concerned this time. "For God's sake." Sean reaches forward and lifts the lid. There is a pillow inside the little box. Attached to the pillow is a little bow that's holding a brass key in place.

I untie the bow and lift the key. "What is this?"

"The little house with the white picket fence, minus the two kids, because I'm not doing that with you." Sean's snarky tone makes Peter reach out and smack his brother on the back of the head.

I stare at the key. "You bought us a house?"

"Yeah, I thought you'd like it." I shake my head and try to hand him the key, but Sean steps back, saying, "No returns, Sidney."

"Well." I don't know what to say or what to ask. The gift is way too much and extremely unexpected. I think of a hundred reasons why I can't accept it, but something about the way Sean's standing lets me know how hard this is for him, that he's really trying to patch things up, but he knows that he completely sucks at it. The whole situation is awkward. Sean's been a prick since day one. I don't know what to do with this version of Peter's brother.