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Page 35

“Oooh, a limo,” Lisa drawled, her eyes resting on Gavin stepping out of the vehicle. “Nice touch.”

Emily looked at Gavin and smiled. “Yeah. He definitely has his ways.” Dragging her attention from the man who couldn’t even begin to know how much he was already making her Christmas bearable, Emily placed her hands on Lisa’s shoulders. “I’m starving. Is dinner ready yet? Oh, and please tell me you made mom’s casserole.”

“It is, and I did. But before we go in, I have to tell you something.”

Emily stared at her sister’s face that’d suddenly taken on a look of distress. “What’s wrong?”

“Phil’s here,” Lisa whispered.

“What?” Emily asked, exasperated. Keeping her voice low, she stepped closer. “Lisa, why didn’t you tell me he was going to be here?”

“I didn’t know he was coming. He stopped by on his way through to see his parents in Laguna Beach. He literally called five minutes before showing up.”

Emily sighed and shook her head.

“I know. Talk about awkward.” Lisa frowned. “But he’s not staying the night.”

“Thank God for that.”

“Thank God for what?” Gavin asked as he approached the women, his and Emily’s luggage in hand.

Biting her lip, Emily battled whether or not to tell him about Phil. Not that she could hide it from him, the real question was whether or not to tell him exactly who he was. Emily cleared her throat, deciding to take the plunge into complete honesty. “Uh, someone I used to date is here.”

“Oh,” Gavin said simply. Snapping his eyes between the two sisters, a smirk lifted the corner of his lips. “Should we be expecting Dillon for dinner as well?”

Emily’s mouth dropped open as Lisa let out a gut-belly laugh. “No, Gavin.” Lisa pulled him in for a hug. “It’s good to see you again, and absolutely not. Dillon won’t be attending dinner tonight.”

“It’s good to see you again as well, and it’s refreshing to hear I won’t have to break bread with, excuse my language, the biggest fucking asshole I’ve unfortunately had the dishonor of knowing.” Lisa nodded in agreement as Gavin snaked his arm around Emily’s waist. Leaning into her, he whispered, “So, how serious were you with the unnamed gentleman in your sister’s house? Did you sleep with him?”

Emily let out a breath, her eyes wide. “No, Caveman, I didn’t sleep with him. He became a little… obsessed with wanting to date me.”

“Obsessed?” Gavin questioned, his brows furrowed.

“Phil’s a good guy, Gavin,” Lisa interjected. “A little quirky, but nonetheless a decent guy. I went to college with him, and we became best friends. He took my sister out on a few dates. That’s all. But let’s just say after her interest in him faded, he didn’t give up so easily.”

Gavin smiled one of those killer, sexy smiles known to drop panties. His blue eyes lit up with raw humor. “Ah well, who am I to fault the man for that? Your sister brings out an honest fight in any warm-blooded creature. As long as he didn’t develop stalker tendencies, since I’m the only Caveman allowed to get like that with Emily, I see a very enjoyable evening in our future.”

Again, Lisa laughed as Emily let out another breath.

Gavin shot Emily a wink, his lips grazing her ear as they followed Lisa to the house. “You know I’m going to have a little fun with this guy if he pushes the wrong buttons, right?”

“You?” Emily playfully questioned as they stepped into the foyer. She closed the door and cupped Gavin’s cheek. “You’re not only known for your stalker-ish tendencies. I’ve come to know you as one of the biggest wiseasses I’ve had the pleasure of loving. Just don’t be too hard on him, okay?”

After setting down their luggage, Gavin dipped his head and kissed Emily’s lips. “I’ll try. But I promise nothing.”

She rolled her eyes and looped her arm through his, leading him into the kitchen where Phil was leaned against the counter while her brother-in-law helped Lisa set the dining room table. When Phil saw Emily, his face lit up, his smile more than showing he was happy to see her again. Emily flicked her gaze to Gavin, his smile more than showing he was definitely going to have his share of fun with Phil.

Headed right in her direction, Phil’s smile widened. “There you are, kiddo. I had no idea you were coming out until Lisa told me.”

Before he reached them, Gavin leaned into Emily’s ear. “Kiddo? What are you, twelve years old? I already feel like smacking him across the back of the head. Please tell me I have your permission. I’ll be quick. I swear to God I’ll be quick.”

“He’s nine years older than me,” she quickly whispered, nudging his ribs… hard. It was Emily whose smile widened when she heard Gavin release an audible “oof.” Looking at him, she shot him a wink this time. “Be nice.”

Rubbing his rib, Gavin mocked severe pain for a second and then grinned. “Whatever you say… kiddo.”

“Hi, Phil,” Emily said as he approached. “Yes, it was kind of a last minute trip.”

Phil smiled. “The one who got away from me. It’s been way too long. You look absolutely beautiful. Actually, you look stunning.” Sweeping his gaze from Emily, his eyes landed on Gavin. “And who do we have here?”

“We have here this stunning woman’s boyfriend.” Gavin held out his hand. Phil shook it, and Gavin found his grip weak. Yeah. He’d easily be able to knock him around. “I’m Gavin. It’s a pleasure meeting you, Phil. Emily’s told me a ton about you. It’s always good putting faces with the names of men she got away from.”

Stepping back, Phil rubbed his chin, carefully analyzing Gavin. “Odd. She never once mentioned your name the last time I spoke to her.”

“Which was over a year and a half ago,” Emily blurted out, staring at Gavin who now had his eyes narrowed on Phil. “I wasn’t dating anyone at the time.”

“Right. Right,” Phil agreed, his eyes locked on Gavin’s. “That would make sense, I guess.”

Gavin was far from an asshole. He could tell the guy was trying to ruffle his feathers. Time to pluck some feathers from the fucking turkey. “I knew you looked like a smart man, Phil,” Gavin said calmly, sweeping his arm around Emily’s waist. “I can spot them a mile away.”

“Talent of yours?” Phil questioned.

Gavin lifted a brow, a smirk toying at his mouth. “One of many. Ask Emily. She seems happy with my… talents. I’m pretty sure I can keep her from getting away.”

Oh Jesus. If Emily had a knife, she could’ve cut right through the alpha-male tension filling the air.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Michael approached the group, his jovial voice music to Emily’s ears.

Tension deflating like a balloon, Emily leaned into her brother-in-law’s embrace, hoping he could bring a little balance to the semi-heated situation. She let out a weighted breath. “Hey, big brother.”

“Hey, little sister,” Michael laughed, releasing Emily from his bear hug. “Looking good.”

“You’re not looking too bad yourself,” Emily said, her smile growing by the second.

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