“This house is all bathrooms and fireplaces,” a velvety voice grumbled, and my heart stopped at the sound. It was coming from the bedroom across the hall from Jack’s room, and completely unabashed, I took a step towards it.
This room had been styled much closer to the rest of the house, with wood floors, and a four-poster bed made with white linens. There was a large white rug in the center of the room, and the French doors leading out to the balcony were open, letting the cool breeze ruffle the thick curtains.
Books lined the walls, and someone sat in the white chair in the corner. An aged copy of a German book covered his face from me, but just the sound of his voice had already mesmerized me. He wore faded jeans and a close fitting sweater.
His slender fingers were deeply tanned, but they seemed to be gripping the book unnaturally tight. I wondered if I was irritating him in some way, so I took a step back, trying to sneak out of his room, but I bumped right into Mae.
“Alice, this is Peter. Peter, this is Alice,” Mae introduced us. Maybe it was just my imagination, but her voice seemed to have filled with a sense of self-satisfaction. He grunted something but didn’t lower the book. “Jack told you that she’d be coming over tonight.”
“I remember.” Peter definitely sounded annoyed, so I tried to edge my way out of the room, but Mae, who either chose to ignore or didn’t notice his growing irritation, blocked my path.
“You could at least say hi to our guest.” Mae reprimanded him, but her tone was playful. “It’s the polite thing to do.”
“Hello,” Peter sighed and finally lowered his book.
At first, I could only see his eyes. They were an intoxicating shade of green and captivated me. His thick, chestnut hair landed just above his shoulders, and he tucked it behind his ears. His jaw had tightened, strong on his features.
He breathed in sharply, and his lips parted. It wasn’t his intention, but there was something so seductive about that. He was stunningly perfect in a way that made him almost painful to look at.
“Aha!” Mae exclaimed quietly behind me, but I was too preoccupied with Peter to figure out what she meant.
“Shouldn’t you continue your little tour?” Peter asked icily, and his eyes dropped from mine.
I suddenly remembered to breathe and tried not to gulp down air the way my lungs requested. My heart pounded wildly, and I felt the blood burning my cheeks.
“I think we’ve seen all the main points,” Mae looped her arm through mine, and the combination of her soft voice and reassuring touch calmed me down. “Would you care to join us, Peter?”
“I’ve seen the house.” He lifted the book again, hiding his exquisite features from me.
“Peter’s always a grump,” Mae explained, but she sounded a tad disappointed when she started leading me away from Peter’s room. “Come on, love. There’s still more for us to see.”
“Well?” Jack appeared at the bottom stairs, looking up expectantly at us. There was something anxious and almost protective about him. Mae and I walked slowly down towards him, and I couldn’t meet his gaze, afraid he would see what a fool I had myself of over his brother.
“Well what?” I asked, feeling dazed.
“What do you think?” He waited until I was at the bottom of the stairs, then I felt him inspecting me. The dog came over and licked my hand, and I absently started petting her.
“The house is amazing.” I tried to force a smile to prove how spectacular I thought everything was, and I hated that that sudden random confrontation with his brother had distracted me from all my other pleasant feelings about the house and Mae.
“Peter’s upstairs being a crab,” Mae told Jack dramatically.
“Oh,” Jack replied knowingly and exchanged a look with Mae that I couldn’t read. She just bit her lip and shrugged, then hugged me a little tighter. “Peter is such a jackass.”
“Oh, he is not.” Mae had taken to stroking my hair gently, and that alleviated some of my tension and shame.
“Peter!” Jack shouted up at the stairs at him.
“I am reading a book!” Peter growled down.
“Peter!” Jack shouted again, growing more irritated.
“I am reading, Jack!” Peter responded, and I winced at the anger in his words.
“Jack.” Mae shot him a look. “Let him be.”
“Whatever.” He relented, but he didn’t look happy about it. Then he turned his attention to me and smiled. “So, Alice, wanna have some fun?”
“Sure?” I replied hesitantly. His eyes had a mischievous glint, and I hadn’t decided whether or not I should trust it.
“I don’t have a suit.” This was true, but I was sure they would have a solution for it. I had a feeling that Mae and Jack would have a solution for nearly everything.
“Oh, I have the perfect one for you!” Mae smiled, her earlier excitement returning.
She ushered me down the hall towards her room. We went into Mae’s room, where Jack proceeded to flop back on the overstuffed bed. She opened the doors to her closet, and it was larger than my entire bedroom. She started searching through her multitudes of bathing suits, making me nervous.
Once she found one she liked (a pale blue two piece with a ruffled skirt around the bottoms), she insisted that I go into their adjoining bathroom to try it on. It fit, and it was more flattering then I had expected it to be, but it also felt incredibly revealing.