Anticipation(2)

By: Sarah Mayberry



“If it’s too big, I can get it adjusted,” Blue said.

“I said no presents. I insisted Rafel add that to the invitation,” Maggie said.

“I know. I am just a total bitch when it comes to things like acknowledging my friend’s special day. Sorry,” Blue said, utterly unrepentant. Maggie was the bee’s knees, and no way was Blue letting her birthday pass unmarked. If life had taught Blue anything, it was to value the good people around her.

“It’s enough for me that you’re all here,” Maggie said. “I don’t need presents. This is too much, Blue.”

“Okay. I’ll take it back.”

Blue reached for Maggie’s wrist, but Maggie jerked her arm out of reach.

Blue grinned at her. “Ha. Admit it, you like it.”

“Are you kidding? I freaking love it. It’s so gorgeous, I almost swallowed my own tongue when I opened the box. But you still shouldn’t have.”

Blue looked her friend in the eye solemnly. “It was my pleasure. I saw it, I thought of you, and I knew it had to come home with me. Enjoy.”

Maggie blinked a couple of times, then suddenly she was hugging Blue, her cheek pressed against Blue’s.

“Meeting Rafel is the best thing that ever happened to me, but you and Eddie are the second best. I love you, Blue.”

The unfamiliar sting of tears burned at the back of Blue’s eyes as she returned Maggie’s embrace. The L-word wasn’t something Blue threw around like confetti at a wedding — never had been — but she didn’t hesitate. “Love you, too,” she said, her chest tight with emotion.

She’d known Maggie for only eighteen months, but in that time Blue had come to appreciate her friend’s smarts, kindness and generosity. Maggie was a keeper, the sort of friend a woman took to her grave.

“Wait until it’s your birthday. I am going to spoil you rotten in retaliation,” Maggie said. “Once I find out when it is.”

Blue smiled mysteriously. She didn’t do birthdays. Hadn’t for a long, long time. Consequently, none of her friends knew her birth date, and she liked it that way.

“Come on. If you don’t tell me when it is, I’ll just make up a date.”

“You can try.”

“Blue.”

“Maggie.”

Their stand-off lasted all of five seconds until Rafel Oliveira swooped in on his woman, wrapping his arms around Maggie from behind and nuzzling her neck by way of greeting.

Blue looked away to study her leather biker boots. She didn’t begrudge Rafel and Maggie their happiness — the opposite, in fact — but it was hard to watch two people who were so patently, incandescently in love. A little like staring at the sun — there was definitely the risk you might go blind if you looked too long.

“Doing your best to blow out the bar tab, I see,” Rafel said when he’d finished mauling Maggie’s neck. Unlike his identical twin, Rafel’s hair was cut in an edgy short style, a fashion choice which made it easier for the rest of the world to tell him and Eddie apart. It didn’t make any difference for Blue — she’d always known which brother she was talking to, from the moment they first met.

“You’re the fool who handed over his credit card,” she said.

The truth was she’d been going easy on the vodka until she’d seen Eddie on the dance floor with the blonde. Now, getting drunk seemed like a good plan for the evening. Or maybe getting laid. Or both.

It had been a month or so since she’d called Reid, her current friend-with-benefits, but she was pretty sure he’d be up for a booty call if she dropped him a line. She thought about his big, highly developed body. The man had muscles on his muscles, and he knew his way around the bedroom. Yeah, a few hours of sweaty, mindless sex would surely cure what ailed her. Then by morning, tonight’s ridiculous jealousy and sensitivity would be a thing of the past, and everything would be back to normal.

Amen.

“Scuse me a sec, just need to make a call,” she said, easing away from the bar and pulling out her phone.

Reid was a former client who had never made a secret of his admiration for her while she worked on the full back tattoo he’d commissioned. All the same, she’d allowed a respectable six months to pass before she took him up on his offer of a good time, and they’d hooked up half a dozen times since on a completely random basis. He answered on the second ring, and his “Come on over,” was gratifyingly unhesitating and eager.

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