Home > Once Upon a Sure Thing (Heartbreakers #2)(15)

Once Upon a Sure Thing (Heartbreakers #2)(15)
Author: Lauren Blakely

She laughs then beckons for me to lean closer as she whispers, “Come at 12:35. I return from my lunch then, but the office doesn’t reopen till 12:45. We’ll get you in and out quickly.”

“You’re a goddess, Beverly.”

She smiles, and Jackson says thank you.

As we take the hallway to the exit, Jackson looks at me as if I’m wearing a cape and rippling with muscles. Well, I do have muscles.

“Dude. That was majestic.” He holds up a palm for a high-five, and I deliver. “Did you do that with the Skittles to get a better appointment?”

I shake my head, laughing. “No. I had no idea she’d be so cool. I just like making conversation.”

“With anyone?”

“Think about how her day must be—cranky people asking the same thing over and over. It’s as easy to strike up a conversation as stand there staring at my phone, and nicer for everyone.”

“You are the master.”

“Tell that to my mom. When I was a kid, she said she couldn’t get me to shut up, so I’m glad someone finally appreciates my gift for gab.”

“I definitely appreciate it,” he says as we reach the door. “When do you go back in the studio again so I can start recording? I’m antsy to make some videos.”

“Tomorrow,” I tell him, and I’m fired up for Jackson. Watching this kid grow from a boy to a man over the last ten years has been an incomparable joy. He’s learned to navigate a world that’s been merciless to him and his family. He’s tackled it with his camera and his wits, and now he’s just steps away from being the first in his family to go to college.

I’m fired up for other reasons too. I cannot wait to start making new music again. For the last week, since we decided to duet together, Ally and I have been planning our song list and writing some new ones, and already I feel invigorated.

But there’s more. A reason I haven’t made sense of yet.

I’m excited for the chance to get up close to Ally again. Maybe to dance together, to see how our chemistry plays out the second time. To look into her eyes, and to feel that wild spark.

I want that for the sake of the music, of course.

Not because my heart was on fire when she sang sweet dirty words to me from inches away.

Once we’re back in the city, I say goodbye to Jackson and head to Dr. Insomnia’s to meet Ally and Chloe.

Note to self: don’t let on you just thought about how Ally’s lush body would feel pressed against you.

Dammit. Now I’m thinking about how she’d feel pressed against me naked.

The answer?

Spectacular.

Maybe I need a red Skittle to enter an artificial reality where I’m not inappropriately attracted to my best friend.

Chapter 14

Ally

At Dr. Insomnia’s, I study the close-up image of the chalk-covered sidewalk.

“This is Washington Square Park?”

Chloe nods. “Can you tell where I took this from?”

I peer more closely at the image on her laptop, where she’s showing me the pictures she shot and edited for her photography class. Then, a burst of clarity. “You shot the picture from the ground, right?”

She wiggles her eyebrows, like a delighted cartoon character. “The teacher challenged us to work on different and unusual angles. I went down on my belly and took the picture from there.”

My smile widens. “Brilliant. That’s a fantastic approach, and I love that it makes me think about the park in a new way.”

She clicks to the next one. It’s a close-up of a water pipe in black-and-white, with a drop of water falling from the opening. “It has a very spooky feel. Is that what you were going for?”

She thrusts a victorious fist into the air, shouting yes. “That’s exactly what I was going for,” she says at a more normal volume.

“Do you like taking pictures of spooky stuff?”

“I like shooting weird things. Different things. I like finding new angles. When we were taking pictures in the park, I did a super close-up on an empty swing at the swing set.” With the lightning speed of Generation iPad, she flicks through her photos to find the swing in question.

In the image, she’s zeroed in on the chains of the swing as it twists in the wind.

It’s evocative and unusual, but it’s definitely creepy. Enough that I wonder—is this a sign that Chloe has issues? Is she trying to tell me something? I’m no expert on parenting, but my approach with Chloe has always been to be direct. To talk to her. To ask her.

I lean on that. “Level with me. Should I be worried that you’re taking pictures of creepy things?”

“You think I’m going to go even more emo on you?”

I laugh lightly. “I’m a little worried.”

“I thought about it,” she says, drily. “But I decided I’m done with the emo phase. I’m going to work on my Wendy phase.”

I furrow my brow, laughing still. “What is a Wendy phase?”

“Aren’t all happy girls named Wendy?” She taps her chin. “Well, that girl who takes our orders at the Chinese place is super happy, and her name is Wendy.”

“I like this Wendy phase. And if you decide to revisit the emo days, please give me a heads-up. Like a note on the fridge?”

“You don’t want me to Snapchat you the news?”

“Preferably not. But skywriter is acceptable.” I nod to the screen. “What else do you have, Annie Leibovitz?”

She clicks to the next shot. It’s a completely goofy selfie where she sticks out her tongue, tilts her head sideways, and makes her eyes bug out. “Oops. I wasn’t supposed to show that to you,” she mutters, covering the screen with her hand as she navigates away from the image.

“Why?” I ask curiously.

She mumbles, “It’s for your Christmas present.”

And my heart melts into a huge puddle. I wrap an arm around her and squeeze her shoulder. “I won’t tell Santa you’re giving it to me. I love it.”

“You do?” she asks, both hope and worry in her tone.

“Of course. It’s amazing. In fact, I can’t think of a thing I’d rather have.” I mean it from the bottom of my heart. This is the perfect gift. Because she knew I’d love it. Because she did it for me. Because she’s smiling, and being silly, and knowing I love her.

“Are you enjoying your photography class?” I ask as I take a drink of my honey-drenched tea. I need to keep my vocal cords well-lubed since I’m asking them to do more heavy lifting than usual.

She pushes her glasses higher on the bridge of her nose. “It’s a lot of fun. You should take a photography class.”

“You think so?”

She shrugs. “Or take whatever you like. If you could learn something just for fun, what would it be?”

I consider that for a minute, and the answer arrives as Chloe moves her mittens away from her hot chocolate.

“Knitting,” I say with certainty. “I’d like to take my knitting to the next level.”

“I love your mittens though,” she says, holding up the red and gray pair I made for her last year.

“But I want to learn cool patterns and stuff. And I want to make sassier hats. All I make are these standard ones.” I tap my seashell-pink hat.

“Sassy Hats,” she says, as if she’s testing out the words together. “Sassy Hats by Ally.”

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