So I wanted yellow fingernail polish. Bright yellow. For nerdy fangirl reasons. But I held the bottle up to my skin in the store and there are not words for how sallow my paste-white hand looked beside the yellow. So I went with blue instead: Sally Hansen Blue Away. I like it; I'm determined to try every shade of blue there is. I painted them yesterday and then went to pick up a copy of Fix You...and realized my nails were the exact shade of blue on the cover.
It's a small coincidence; meaningless, really. You're sitting there wondering why it matters, and, truly, it doesn't. But small coincidences tend to snowball, so I pay attention to them. So I opened up the book and flipped through it, eyes catching at passages. This was the book I almost didn't write; by the time I got around to it, I was convinced adding another volume to an unknown series was supremely stupid. The words fought me at every turn. But going back through it, a month after I set it aside for the last time, I was overwhelmed with a peaceful sort of gladness that I'd written it. It was different. They weren't star-crossed and inseparable like Tam and Jo, but there was something about Jess and something about Chris that I wanted to explore, and I'm glad I took the time to, whatever the ultimate outcome for the novel.
Chris went on a lot of first dates. He went on a much smaller number of second dates, even fewer thirds, rarely ever a fourth, had been only serious about a girl once – and that had been before the Army – and had never been in too much danger of loving anyone. He supposed he and his brother were more alike that he wanted to think, in that respect. But the first dates he had down to a science; even if lunch with his employer wasn’t a date, per se, he’d never had so much trouble buying a woman a meal before. She’d fought him tooth and nail about paying for her salad and Coke until he’d bluntly reminded her how much change she’d dropped at Kitchen World just twenty minutes before.
She was still sore about the comment, he figured, as they sat in their window booth in not so companionable silence.
Summer sunlight came through the plate glass window and turned Jessica’s honeyed hair to molten gold, her eyes to bright emeralds. She picked at her salad with dainty bites and watched the cars inching through the drive-through line, not paying him a bit of attention.
Grappling for something benign to say, because she looked too lovely and forlorn across from him to leave alone, he finally decided her sister would be the least offensive topic. “How’d you talk your sister into all this?” he asked, and the glittering jewels of her eyes came to him.
She was not, he saw, upset. Her expression, a touch guarded, was otherwise relaxed. There was no animosity sparking behind the expertly-crafted, fine china face she presented to him. She started to smile, but didn’t. “Jo put up a fuss about it, but she was looking to get out of the nine-to-five grind anyway. She wants more kids and Tam’s got a decent job now…” She shrugged and glanced away from him, a frown threatening like she thought she’d said too much.
Chris wasn’t ready to give up, though. How could he at least not try when she sat there looking like she did? All flawless face and long legs and calculating green eyes. He’d reached an age at which the women he attracted were either his age or older – divorced with teenage children – or much too young and stupid as a box of rocks. It was rare that a beautiful thirty-year-old had lunch with him. Even rarer to be so blunt with a woman – like he had been back at the store – and it not blow up in his face.
“She’s younger than you, right?” he asked.
“By five years,” she said to the window.
“But you guys are close.”
Slowly, her head turned and her gaze came to his face, the barest hint of a humorless smile touching her perfect bow lips. “You do get that she has a husband, right? And they are nauseatingly in love with each other. So…” She lifted her pale brows and the meaning was clear: back off.
Damn. Not the direction he’d been headed. “Oh, no, I know,” he said quickly. “No. I’m not chasing after your sister.”
He swore she looked straight through his skull and knew exactly who he was chasing after; her smile stretched, laughter creeping into her eyes. “Good. Tam would murder you.”
He thought of Jo’s black-haired, blue-eyed husband; the guy was probably about six feet even, but of average build. Chris wasn’t afraid for his life. “Take a swing at me maybe,” he countered, “but murder? Nah.”
Jess’s eyes moved over him and he knew she was sizing him up, pitting his six-two frame against her brother-in-law. Her smile twisted in a direction he didn’t follow. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, you know,” she quoted the old adage.
With a silent grin he reached into the throat of his Polo shirt and withdrew his dog tags on their long chain.
Jessica’s tightly controlled smile gave way to blank shock, her brows jumping. “It does make a difference if the dog has tags, though,” she said, and dipped her head. “You win.”
“I’m not after your sister,” he said again, tucking the tags away, “I swear. I was just trying for a line of conversation that didn’t get you all mad at me again,” he admitted, and softened it with a smile.
Like back at the store, the bluntness bounced right off of her without appearing to offend her in any way. “Touché.” She stabbed at her salad, spearing a tomato. “Okay, then. So…you’re ex-military?”
“Tell that to my old man and big brother,” he said with a snort. “They were in the Corps.”
“There’s a freakshow in every family,” she said with another smile that was really just a hint of one. “I’ve just gained that title in my family, so you’re in good company.”
“I would have said that anyway,” he said, knowing it was cheesy. He was right, though.
Her elegant little nose scrunched up as she said, “That wasn’t dorky or anything.” And Chris made a mental note to buy Jordan Walker a really nice bottle of Scotch to thank him for introducing him to his “not cool,” completely infatuating sister.