“Huh, I’d heard nothing about you until yesterday.”
Her jovial expression dies a little.
I revive it with a big, fake smile. “But it’s nice to meet you. Clearly, my dad thinks highly of you. I’m sure I will too.”
I won’t. It seems unlikely that she has the big dick I predicted, but I think I’d prefer it to perky breasts and an ass that could be on the cover of a glorious glutes exercise video.
“This is just like I pictured it,” Dad says, dissolving some of the tension as he glances around the outside of the house.
“Come in. Mi casa es su casa.” She hugs his arm and nuzzles his neck like I did just a few moments ago—minus the neck nuzzling.
“Can Swarley come inside?” I ask.
“Of course. I love animals. All life really. Especially this one right here.” She bops her finger on my dad’s nose then kisses it.
He grins and tips his chin to capture her mouth. It’s a quick peck, followed by another, and that leads to a deeper kiss.
“Mmm …” Dad moans.
I cover my mouth to keep my mini vomit from coming out. Sydney’s in Disney World, where dreams come true, and I’m stuck in a nightmare, where my father’s engaged to a woman young enough to be his daughter, and they’re getting ready to make a porno right here in the entryway.
Clearing my throat, I take a step back toward the door. “Swarley and I are both a little restless after the long car ride. I’m going to take him for a walk before dinner. Then you two can …” Have strange we-met-on-the-internet sex beneath God’s damning eyes, which is better than in front of me.
Deedy rubs the lipstick from my dad’s mouth with her thumb while my dad adjusts himself. Wow. As if Anthony licking chocolate mousse off Kim’s naked body wasn’t enough punishment for some unknown crime I’ve committed, I now get the pleasure of watching my dad deal with a boner.
“Take the main road two blocks north, and you’ll find a strip of shops and waterfront restaurants. I’ll get dinner started after I show your dad around his new house. Our house.”
Aaannnd … I’m out of here. Even if Swarley tries to rip my good hand off my arm, I’d prefer that pain to this nauseating nightmare.
We follow Deedy’s suggestion and walk two blocks north to the quaint shopping area hugging the water’s edge. Swarley tugs on my arm as his tongue drags along the ground, straight toward a water dish among tables in front of a familiar cafe.
Sage Leaf Cafe
We have one in L.A., but I don’t go there often. It’s a vegan restaurant, and I’m a lean-meat-low-carb kind of girl, but sometimes walking down the street with a green juice in hand will attract the eyes of sexy guys who spend their entire day perfecting their bodies. I never cheated on Anthony, but who doesn’t like to get the look?
Swarley laps up the rest of the water in the dish.
“Beautiful dog … and thirsty.” A young woman in shorts and a Sage Leaf Cafe tee smiles at us as she wipes down the outdoor tables.
“Thanks. He’s not mine.”
She collapses the sunshades on the tables, her dark, curly hair escaping the messy bun that looks like it’s had a long day. “You steal him?”
“Hardly. He’s my sister’s dog.” I release the leash and let him scrounge for scraps underneath the tables.
“Motorists on this street can be a little crazy.” She eyes Swarley on the loose with his leash dragging behind him.
“He won’t run into the street.” Unfortunately. I check my phone for messages. There’s a dozen from Sydney. She’s pissed off I won’t call her back. She knows something catastrophic has happened for me to have packed up her dog for a road trip.
I text her back the standard message.
I’m good. He’s good. Have a good time.
“Half off The Kermit if you’re interested.”
I slip my phone back into my rose Hermes mini bag. “The Kermit?”
“Dandelion greens, romaine, apple, lemon, ginger, turmeric.”
I shake my head. “I don’t see any hot guys. No need to accessorize right now.”
“Well, there’s one inside making half-priced Kermits.”
“I’m not in the market for any guy. I’ve had my hand and heart destroyed in the past five days by the male species.”
“Totally.” I nod.
She shrugs. “It doesn’t hurt to just window-shop.” Her head snaps toward the door to the cafe.
I focus on Swarley.
The young woman pulls out a chair and takes a seat. “I’ll watch him. Go tell Jake you want The Kermit, half the dandelion, extra apple.”
I nod slowly. “Thanks.”
Michael Bublé belts out the chorus to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” over the high-pitched hum of the blender. It’s just like the L.A. location—hippie posters, mismatched tables, everything recycled or reclaimed. I don’t fit in here.
“Cute shorts.” A tall, very Gwyneth Paltrow looking blonde shoots me a welcoming smile as she pours a dark red smoothie into a mason jar, tops it with fruit and mint garnish, and slides it to an older lady sitting at the bar, reading a book.
“Thanks. They’re Paige cuffed denim. And old … I got them at the beginning of last summer. My boyfriend decided to screw his cook before I could acquire a new wardrobe for this summer.”
She laughs. “I don’t know anything about Paige cuffed denim, and my wardrobe is from five years ago, and even then I got it from a secondhand store, but I’m sorry to hear about your boyfriend cheating on you.”
Five-year-old clothes from a secondhand store. I just want to hug the poor thing or take her shopping. “Yeah, all men are lying, cheating, monkey-spanking dick cheese.”
The deep rumble of a man clearing his throat startles me. I didn’t see him over in the corner behind the glass display. He’s all muscly and tatted up—messy copper and golden blond hair. Challenging, dark eyes pin me to my spot as he glances over his broad shoulder, straining the corded muscles in his neck.
The Gwyneth lookalike chuckles. “Jake, you and your fellow men have a new title. I rather like it, don’t you?”
Jake inspects me with wandering eyes. It’s nothing new.
“I’m not impressed,” he says and turns back to cutting vegetables.
Uh … wait just a minute. Not impressed with what? Me? What I said? Me?!? Do I care? No. Yes. Hell no.
Okay … I sort of care.
I have—well, had—a client who teaches motivational classes for women. She’s a bit unconventional or so I’ve heard. One of her classes is called Give No Fucks, Take No Shit. She offered me a free class. At the time I was in love with Anthony Bent Dick Bianchi, taking lots of shit and giving lots of fucks, so I declined her offer.
Now, I’m thinking that was a mistake.
“What can we get you?”
My attention snaps back to the nice person behind the counter. “I was told to ask Jake for The Kermit, half the dandelion, extra apples. But …” My eyes flit to him. He keeps his back to me like I didn’t just say his name. “I think I’d prefer you to make it for me.”
The knife in his hand thunks against the chopping board. Jake turns slowly, a poisonous smile curling his lips. “Bethanne, I’ve got this.”
Gwyneth Bethanne winks at me before grabbing dirty dishes from the counter and disappearing into the back room.
The older lady at the counter slides off the stool. “Bye, Jake.” She takes her drink and gives me a polite smile as she breezes to the door. Does he let her just leave with it? Do they not have to-go cups in Milwaukee?
“Have a seat, Paige.” Jake nods to the vacated barstool.
“Avery not Paige.” I climb up onto the stool. “My shorts are Paige. That’s a brand, not my name. What brand are your shorts?”
Jake shoves greens and other things into the juicer, never taking his eyes off me. “Do I look like the kind of guy who knows what brand I’m wearing without looking at the tag?” he yells over the juicer.
I wait for him to finish so I don’t have to yell back at him. “I don’t know. I’m a preacher’s daughter. You know … thou shalt not judge.”
He slides the glass toward me. I catch it on a gasp, eyes wide, jaw slack with disbelief. Had I not stopped it, I would have green juice all down the front of my shirt.
“Yeah, there’s nothing about you that feels judgmental.” He shrugs. “But what do I know? I’m just monkey-spanking dick cheese.”
I take a sip of the green drink. “Not bad.”
He shakes his head, tipping his chin down to hide his smirk. “Something tells me that’s the equivalent of a glowing review coming from you.”
“Now who’s being judgmental?” I set a ten-dollar bill onto the counter as I stand, grabbing my handbag and the green drink.
“I’m not a preacher’s daughter. The rules don’t apply to me.”
I roll my eyes. “Whatever. Keep the change.”
“Are you drinking that outside?”
“No.” I slide on my sunglasses. “I need to get back to …” Deedy’s? My dad’s house? Hell? “Somewhere.”
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