“Just tell me when you’re dressed.”
With my back to her, I pull up my gym shorts, sans underwear, halfway up my legs. “I’m basically there.”
“Okay—oh! Oh, oh, oh! No! You are not dressed yet.” She slaps her hands over her face, fumbling to get her mask back down over her eyes. “Why would you do that?”
I slide my shorts up the rest of the way and pull on a T-shirt before hunching down in front of her to peel her hands away from her face.
Avery exhales in relief until her gaze meets my T-shirt.
My heart has no room for you,
but the trunk of my car definitely does.
“Nice shirt. You know, a lesser woman would be offended by you wearing it in her presence.”
“But you’re definitely not a lesser woman, are you?”
“No.” Her timid reply holds no conviction.
“Well, I’m calling it a night.”
Her head jerks back. “It’s not even nine.”
I grab my toothbrush. “I’m an early riser.”
“Ugh! Not me.” She wrestles with her sleeping bag. “We need to stop and pick me up a blowup mattress. There’s no way in hell I’m sleeping on the ground from here to L.A.”
“Noted.” I brush my teeth and fall like a tree onto my sleeping bag while she fumbles with her shitload of stuff.
Somewhere between her bitching about the temperature in the tent and the lumpy ground, I fall asleep.
By six the next morning, she’s snoring loud enough to wake every animal within a five-mile radius. Naturally, I take a video of it with my phone. At some point, I will have to bring her to heel, and I think this little piece of cinematography will do the trick.
“Rise and shine. It’s time to hit the road.”
She grumbles rolling to her side. “Oh my back …” Peeking out from under her eye mask, she inspects me. “Did you shower?”
“Bathed in the creek after my jog.”
“You’ve jogged already?”
“Yes. Get up. Let’s go.”
“I need a bathroom. A shower.”
“The creek feels amazingly refreshing this morning.”
Avery sits up, fiddling with her hair again. “I’m not bathing in the creek.”
“Then you can grab a shower at the next stop. Campgrounds with facilities.”
“Pee! I need to pee, Jake! Why do you make me spell everything out for you?”
“Oh …” I hold up a finger and retrieve a gift for her from my plastic container.
“What the hell is this?” She frowns as I hand her the gift.
“It’s a feminine urination device. You can use it to stand up and piss. Basically, it’s a portable penis.”
She pulls it out of the tube and looks at the directions. “Huh … looks pretty simple.”
I nod with pride.
She grabs her pink silk robe and slides her feet into heeled slippers with feathers on the top. In all fairness, when she packed for her trip to visit her dad, she probably never expected to be sleeping in a tent, but seriously … heeled slippers?
Brushing by me, she sniffs. “You smell good, like soapy good.”
“I used liquid Castile soap in the creek.”
“I’m not bathing in that creek. There’s no way to get clean in dirty water.”
I shrug. “Well, you sure think I smell clean.”
“Humph.” Avery takes off to find a spot behind a tree to pee.
After a few expletives, she returns, flicking the funneled device at me. I let it fall to the ground since it’s covered in urine, just like her inner thighs and silk robe.
“I’ve got pee all over myself and THERE’S NO SHOWER!”
I bite back my smile as she marches over to the creek. “Wanna use my soap?”
“Yes, get the fucking soap and throw that stupid practical joke in the trash. Clearly a cruel man invented that.”
After she simmers off in the creek and dresses to the nines again for the second day of our trip, I load up the pickup while she pouts in the front seat, messing with her tangled and ratted hair.
“I need a shower so bad …” she says for the hundredth time. “I’m disintegrating from the outside in.”
I glance up and cringe as my friend, Addy, walks our way from the house.
“You forgot your razor.” She holds up her hand with my razor.
“What the fuck?” Avery whispers, kicking open her door the rest of the way.
“Oh.” Addy’s gaze flits from me to Avery. “You have a guest?” She holds out her hand to Avery. “I’m Addy. Jake didn’t mention you were with him. Did you need to shower inside too?”
My balls crawl up into my body for protection as Avery slowly turns toward me.
Avery plots my long, torturous death with one single look before returning her attention to Addy. “I’m Avery and I would love a shower. I would be forever in your debt for a shower. I’m certain I would sell my soul for a shower.”
Addy laughs. “The shower is free. You can keep your soul and leave here debt free.”
“Sorry.” I offer both women a tight smile. “Where are my manners? Addy, Avery. Avery, Addy. Sounds like a rhyme.”
Addy smiles. Avery does not.
Swarley whines. That’s basically all he does. He spent most of the night under the outside cover to the tent, probably to avoid the warm fuzzies between Avery and me. He whined, Avery told him to get inside the tent. He refused.
I stayed out of it.
Not my dog. Not my problem.
“Have you eaten, Avery? Can I get you something?”
“Avery’s on a water fast.” I pull out her suitcases, not knowing which one has her bathing shit.
Avery lets Swarley out of the back of the truck since we’re clearly not leaving for awhile. “I was yesterday, but I’m breaking the fast this morning. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I’d be happy with a banana or a handful of crackers. I’m starving.”
Addy nods toward the house. “I think I can do better than a banana and a handful of crackers. I’m a little surprised Chef Matthews didn’t offer you something from his stash.”
I roll my eyes as Avery tugs her suitcases toward the house.
“Jake, manners. Don’t make her lug those suitcases.” Addy punches me in the arm.
“Avery’s very independent.”
Avery releases the suitcases and keeps walking without a glance back. “I’m really not. Swarley, go lie down.” She points to a shady spot before the steps to the front door.
Addy snickers as I grab the suitcases, holding my breath to keep from grumbling.
“Top of the stairs to the left, Avery. Towels are in the warmer. Help yourself to soap, shampoo, absolutely anything. I’ll start making breakfast.”
“Thank you so much.” Avery gives Addy a genuine, I-owe-you-my-life smile, but when her gaze lands on me nudging her toward the stairs, she narrows her eyes, jaw muscles working overtime.
I smirk. “I’m not claustrophobic. You can tie me up before you kill me. Have you ever tied a man up, Avery?”
In spite of her obvious hatred toward me at the moment, her lips fight what I know is a grin.
“Anything else?” I set her suitcases just outside of the bathroom door.
After making a slow inspection of the bathroom, she turns back to me. “Your friend has good taste in decor.”
I lean against the doorframe. “She does.”
“Except when it comes to friends.” Avery crosses her arms over her chest. “You are a terrible person. The king of scumbags. I don’t know how someone as nice as her ever befriended you.”
I nod, biting my lips together. “I’ll be downstairs. Take your time as long as it’s less than twenty minutes.”
“Asshole.” She grabs the door.
“Princess.” I step back just as she slams it in my face.
I turn toward the familiar Latin accent. “Yes, Quinn, unfortunately I’m still here.” I head down the stairs as Addy’s husband follows me.
“Gentlemen.” Addy eyes us both with her have-you-been-playing-nicely look as her hands stay busy preparing food in their gourmet kitchen.
“Beautiful.” Quinn presses his chest to her back, kissing her neck and whispering something in her ear that makes her blush.
She nudges him with her elbow and clears her throat. “So, Jake, you’ve found a good match, huh?”
I pull out the barstool and slide onto it as Quinn pours a glass of juice. “Avery?” I chuckle. “Just met her. I’m giving her and the dog a ride to L.A. for a friend.”
“Wow!” Addy’s eyes shoot open wide. “That’s how you treat someone you just met? You must really like her.”
“What?” I jerk my head back.
“You’re pretending that she irritates you, when what really irritates you is that she does in fact rub you the wrong way for whatever reason, yet you’re still attracted to her.”
I glance at Quinn. He eyes me over the rim of his juice glass.
“I hated Quinn … seriously hated him.” Addy twists her lips.
“Thanks a lot, baby.” He sets his glass in the sink. “I’ll be in my office. Let me know when the kiddos wake up.”
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