Until There Was You

Page 30


“Jon! Help me,” Posey hissed, turning away from the crowd. Brie stood on her other side, shielding her. Elise, too, waddled close around.
“We should go to Victoria’s Secret, right?” she said, cocking her head as she gazed at Posey’s chest.
“Oh, boy,” Jon said. “My kingdom for a sewing kit. Does anyone have a cape? No? Crap. Okay, just stand here, and um…don’t move a muscle. Only about a mile to go, right?”
Gretchen and the Osterhagens had resumed their royal duties and called out to their friends and acquaintances, unaware of Posey’s distress. No one was wearing anything that could be used to cover her up.
“Hey. Cordelia.”
Posey looked up, and there was Liam loping out from the sidewalk. He shrugged out of his leather jacket and handed it up to Jon.
A warm, buttery sensation rolled through Posey’s legs. He was saving her. Unfortunately, that also meant he’d seen her rattiest bra, which was less than optimum, but still. “Thanks,” Posey said faintly.
“You’re a prince, Liam,” Jon said, handing over the coat with a pointed look. “A true prince.”
“Liam! Come join us at the beer garden after the parade, dear,” Stacia commanded from her perch up front. “Bring that beautiful child of yours.”
“Will do,” Liam said. He winked at Posey, then headed back to Nicole.
Liam’s jacket was heavy and still warm. It smelled like him, and it felt better than any clothing had ever felt in the history of the world.
“Well, if you weren’t in love with him already, I’ll bet the farm you are today. I know I am,” Jon whispered, waving to some students who were calling his name.
“He totally saved your ass,” Brie said, sounding mildly surprised. “And your boobs.”
THREE HOURS AND five speeches later, Founders’ Day was officially over. Guten Tag’s beer garden was full, Otto had returned from his wife’s bedside and was playing polkas on his accordion, and Posey had yet to take off Liam’s jacket. Given her druthers, she would never take off Liam’s jacket. If possible, she would be buried in Liam’s jacket.
Not that Liam would notice. He was too busy glaring at Tanner Talcott, who was sitting at the next table with Nicole, talking about his English class while Nicole listened and glowed. Officially, Liam was sitting at Posey’s table, though he’d barely seemed to notice her since arriving. She, however, couldn’t stop her brain from chattering away. Hey, Liam, thank you for your jacket. By the way, I actually have several very attractive bras, which I’d be happy to show you later. Also, thank you for the sex, which was sock-knocking, even though I am totally playing it cool. Oh, and are we on for tomorrow? Remember you asked me if I was free on Sunday? I still am, and tomorrow is Sunday, but I haven’t heard from you since you left my bed the other morning.
James and Kate arrived, and a round of hellos was exchanged. “We loved the float, didn’t we?” Kate announced, plunking herself down next to Posey. “It was the best float in the whole parade. James, tell Posey how much we loved their float.”
“So, so much,” James said, cocking an eyebrow.
“You know, I just sat down and right away, I have to pee,” Kate announced, hauling her bulk out of the chair. “James? Want to come?”
“I’m good, Mom,” he said, closing his eyes.
“Hey, I have your book,” Posey said as Kate lumbered away. “You left it at Irreplaceable a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, the birth-parents thing? Cool.”
“Liam! Liam, sweetheart, over here!” From the other corner of the beer garden, Stacia waved imperiously.
“Excuse me a second,” he said, his first words since arriving. He stood up, said something to Nicole, glared at Tanner, then made his way across the rooftop garden. A rather stunning brunette stopped him, putting her hand on his thigh and smiling up at him, and Posey had to drag her eyes off the little tableau.
Wednesday night seemed like aeons ago.
She glanced at Brianna and James, both of whom were watching Tanner and Nicole.
“The golden couple,” Brianna muttered.
“Totally,” James agreed. “Too perfect for the rest of us.”
“You guys are great, too,” Posey chided.
“Yeah. Dare to be different, right, James?” The two teenagers rolled their eyes at the dopey adult. Hey. It had been worth a shot.
Gretchen’s laugh cut across the crowd, and Posey looked up. Liam had made it to the Osterhagens, and Gret was fluttering her fingers over her boobage, just in case Liam hadn’t noticed it jutting out like the prow of a ship. He smiled, Max said something, and they all laughed.
“I have my DS downstairs in my backpack,” James said to Brianna. “Want to play ‘Dragon Master’?”
“Sure,” Brianna said. “Is that okay, Posey?”
“Oh, yeah. You two have fun. I’ll tell your mom where you are, James.”
“Don’t feel you have to,” he said, grinning.
The two left, and Posey offered a quick thanks that James had become Brie’s friend. Brianna, she knew, was lonely. Her family situation, cheap clothes and the fifty extra pounds she was packing didn’t make high school easy. James seemed happy enough, despite Kate’s constant attempts at symbiosis. And hey. Kate was doing a great job. James was gentle, wry and kind. Not your average teenage boy, and God bless him for it.
Well. Posey looked around. Here she was, alone at a table for eight. At least there was a giant plate of potato dumplings in front of her. But just as she felt the initial squirmings of awkwardness, Henry and Jon came over. “How are we?” Jon asked, setting a beer in front of her.
“We’re fine,” she said. “How was the hospital, Henry?”
“Oh, it was fantastic,” her brother answered. “Total BKA. Gorgeous.” At her look of confusion, he added, “Below the knee amputation. It was a crushing, right, so it was a mess, and not to blow my own horn, I did an amazing job. Want to see? I took pictures.” He fumbled in his pocket and withdrew his iPhone.
Posey duly admired the photos—she was used to it, after all—while Jon shielded his eyes.
“So, how was the float this year?” Henry asked.
Posey and Jon exchanged a look. Posey went first. “It was… Well, it was…”
“Sort of a Chagall nightmare theme,” came a voice. It was Liam. He set a glass of soda down in front of his daughter, then made his way around to Posey’s table and sat next to her. Their knees bumped under the table, and Posey felt her cheeks burn.
“A Chagall nightmare,” she said. “Aren’t we cultured.”
“I lived in L.A. I’m incredibly cool,” he said, his eyes dropping to her mouth, and her toes curled in her silly shoes.
“Oh, dear. Mom’s gesturing,” Jon said. “Come, Henry. We’re needed.”
“I just sat down,” he protested.
“Come! Be a good son. See you two later.” Jon leaned down to kiss Posey’s cheek. “Don’t eat dumplings in front of him. That detachable jaw of yours is scary,” he whispered and then pulled his partner away.
Liam stared at his kid, and Posey tried not to stare at him. But it was hard. He was undeniably the best-looking guy on earth, and she couldn’t really blame the women who cut glances his way, or waved or called hello.
“Thanks again for your jacket,” she said after a minute or two had passed. “I’ll give it back to you tomorrow.”
“Sure,” he said, nodding at someone.
Posey realized abruptly that her regular clothes were downstairs, and she could change right then and there…indeed, she should’ve changed already, but clearly part of her wanted to hang on to the jacket, because apparently she was still the dopey teenager she’d been fifteen years ago.
“Dad? Can Tanner and I take a walk around the block?” Nicole asked.
“No,” Liam answered.
“Daddy, it’s broad daylight, and downtown is mobbed. Totally safe. Right, Posey?”
“True enough,” she said, earning a smile from the girl. Tanner wisely stayed silent.
Liam cut his eyes to Posey’s. She smiled. He didn’t. A little chilly, those eyes. Then he looked back at his daughter. “Fifteen minutes. And bear in mind that I can see halfway around the block from here, and yes, I will be watching. Got it, son?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Murphy. Fifteen minutes.” Tanner practically knocked his chair over, he got up so fast.
“I’ll be watching,” Liam repeated.
“Thanks, Daddy!” Nicole fairly skipped away, and Liam took a slow, deep breath.
“Good boy,” Posey said.
He grunted, then stood up to peer over the wall of the beer garden. “Great,” he said after a minute. “They’re holding hands.”
“How sweet,” Posey couldn’t resist saying.
He gave her a murderous look, then sighed. “By the way,” he said in a low voice, “I’d rather not have Nicole know we’re…hanging out.”
Hanging out. Horrible term, meaning absolutely nothing. “Of course not,” she said, looking away.
“So, what else happens this weekend?” Liam asked.
“There are tugboat races tomorrow,” Posey said. “Sunday.” As in Sunday. As in You free on Sunday?
“Cool.” Another few beats passed. Men. As perceptive as cement walls.
“Your mother’s definitely trying to fix me up with Greta,” he said, and Posey felt a nearly painful burst of love. He got Gretchen’s name wrong! So sweet!
“Well, Mom thinks the entire world should be married,” Posey said. Then, aware that her statement sounded leading, she added hastily, “But not everyone’s meant for…you know.”
There was another silence. “I think I’ll go wait for Nicole,” Liam said, standing. He looked down at her, almost as if seeing her for the first time today. “See you tomorrow? I could pick you up around noon.”
Posey couldn’t suppress a smile. “Sounds good.”
He leaned down, and for a second, she thought he might kiss her, right here in public, but he just stuck a few bills under a plate for the busboy. “You looked cute on the float today,” he said, and it was so unexpected that she was actually speechless. Then he smiled and left, and Posey sat there for a few long, delicious minutes, the glow in her chest nearly painful.
“HAVE FUN, SWEETHEART,” Liam said the next day, kissing Nicole’s forehead. “Thanks, Daddy!”
“Don’t go crazy with Grandma’s Amex, okay?”
“I won’t,” she said.
“This is a shopping spree, sweetheart. You can get whatever you want,” Louise said, giving Liam a cool look as she ran a hand over Nicole’s hair.
“Within reason, Nic.” He’d had to talk to her the last time there was a spree—they’d bought her a purse that cost eight hundred dollars.
“Darling, go out to the car, all right? Grandpa’s waiting. I have to ask your father something.” Nicole obeyed, regressing to age six and skipping down the hall. The elevator doors opened, and she blew him a kiss, which Liam caught. Baby Girl was happy today.
The second the elevator doors closed, Louise raised her chin, giving him the assessing, disapproving look he’d been getting since the first time he knocked on their door to take Emma to the movies. “Liam, George and I would like to talk to you about spending more time with our granddaughter.”
Liam felt a tightening in his gut. “Well, you do see her quite a bit already. Dinner once a week, Sundays, the occasional sleepover. Seems like a lot to me.”
“We’d like more. Every other weekend and at least once a week after school.”
“That’s…that’s not gonna happen, Louise. I mean, we love seeing you—” a lie “—but Nicole has a lot of school things going on. And she and I do things on the weekends, too, so we’ll just play it by ear, okay? But if something special comes up, you definitely talk to me.”
“She’s our only grandchild. Our only piece of Emma.”
It wasn’t a plea…it was an accusation, as if Liam had somehow caused Emma’s illness. And no matter how much they loved Nicole, Liam would always be the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who’d knocked up their princess. If there’d never been a Nicole—if Liam had simply been their late daughter’s husband—he doubted the Tates would have ever spoken to him again.
“I know that, Louise,” he said, as gently as he could. “And we moved back here to be closer to you.”
“We appreciate that, Liam. But we’d still like to have more time with her.”
He nodded. “Summer’s just around the corner. I’m sure Nicole would love to spend some time with you then.”
Her face tightened. “Also, we’d like to buy her a car for her birthday. A Mercedes. Excellent safety record.”
“Absolutely not.”
“Why?” she snapped. “Liam, you never let us give that child anything! We wanted to take her to London last year, and you said no to that as well.”
“You wanted to take her to London for a month. During the school year, Louise. As for the car, no. She won’t even have her license until next fall.”
“Fine. You’re the father.” She spit the word like it was a curse.
“Thank you,” he said, forcing his voice to be pleasant. “If you could have her back by eight, that’d be great. It’s a school night.” If he said eight, they might make it before ten.