Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 24

Michael seemed like a decent enough guy. He was one of Will’s friends from college who’d just moved to the area, and Will wouldn’t set her up with a creep.

And yet, she hadn’t heard from him once since he’d first called to ask her out, despite his promise that he’d call with more details. He’d probably forgotten, since, being a guy, he had about three wardrobe options to choose from instead of a thousand.

She glanced at the clock on her nightstand. She had two hours until he was supposed to pick her up. Would it scream “high-maintenance” if she called and asked where they were going? A restaurant was a restaurant, but what if he was one of those creative types who had planned a picnic? She certainly wouldn’t be able to think about getting romantic if she had the Seattle spring breeze blowing up her cute skirt.

Screw it. Finding his number in her phone’s address book, she took the plunge.

The creaky voice that picked up was so unlike the masculine voice she remembered that she had to double-check that she’d called the right number.

“Michael?” she asked.

“Yeah?”

“Hey, it’s Sophie Dalton.”

A pause.

“Oh shit.”

Sophie closed her eyes. “You’re sick, huh?”

“More like half-dead. I haven’t moved in two days. I completely forgot about our date.”

Sophie began hanging up dozens of shirts. The only thing she’d be wearing tonight was her sweats. “No worries,” she said. “You can’t help being sick.”

“Still, I should have called,” he said with a nasty cough.

“Please. You sound like a tuberculosis patient. I’m sure you had other things on your mind.”

Like dying.

“I’ll call you later this week for a reschedule?”

“Absolutely,” she said with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. “I hope you feel better.”

Sophie tossed her phone into the pile of clothes and sat on the edge of her bed. She waited for the expected rush of disappointment.

It didn’t come.

If anything, she was bummed that it was the first sunny Saturday of the year and she had no plans. But she was oddly indifferent to being dateless. Michael was probably a nice enough guy, but if she was honest with herself, she’d only agreed to go out with him for one reason.

To forget The Kiss.

It had been almost two weeks since she’d nearly jumped Gray’s bones in the office, and the two of them had been circling each other like wary cats. He’d retreated behind a mask of ice, and Sophie had responded like a petulant four-year-old, needling him in every way that she could.

But neither one had mentioned what happened that night. Just like they hadn’t mentioned the dinner at his house, or the emergency room visit that had followed. It was like two eighth graders who couldn’t have a straight conversation and needed a mutual friend to pass notes.

Except there was no mutual friend in this case. And they weren’t immature eighth graders. They were scarred, wounded, emotionally crippled adults.

Who could not be more wrong for each other.

Sophie’s phone began to vibrate, and she groaned as she dug it out of the pile of halter tops and miniskirts. Probably her mother calling to remind her not to swear on the first date. Or any date.

Finally finding her phone, Sophie stared down at the name and number.

Definitely not her mother.

“Hello?” she asked. This had to be a pocket-dial.

“Sophie.”

Not a question. He’d called her intentionally.

“Gray,” she replied, relieved that her voice sounded calm. “I am not coming into the office on a Saturday, I don’t care how far behind you are on your plan of taking over the world.”

“That’s not why I’m calling.”

“Oh,” she said, flopping back on the bed. “Finally got up the courage to use my call-girl service, then, huh? I’ll have you know, I’m not cheap—”

“Would you like to come to a dinner party tonight?”

All of Sophie’s snark flew out the window and she sat up in confusion. “You mean like a date?”

He cleared his throat nervously. “Well, I mean, there’d be other people there. My friend Ian and his wife. Maybe their son, although I think he might be off at a birthday party or something.”

Sophie stared at the generic flower print hanging above her dresser in disbelief. “You want me to come with you to your friend’s house? For dinner?”

“That’s what a dinner party usually means.”

She pulled the phone away from her ear and frowned at it briefly. “This is sort of out of nowhere for someone who had his tongue down my throat and then didn’t talk to me for two weeks.”

“You didn’t talk to me either, Sophie. And don’t think I don’t know you swapped my coffee for decaf and pulled all the cheese off my sandwich before giving it to me. Very mature.”

Yeah…not her best moves. She’d been desperate to provoke him.

“All right, I’ll go,” she said simply.

“You will? You don’t have plans?”

“No,” she said on a sigh. “I was supposed to have a date tonight, but he got sick.”

“You were going on a date?”

There was something low and menacing in his voice, and Sophie couldn’t hide a smile. Maybe the man wasn’t so indifferent after all. “Yes, Grayson. A date. But he has consumption, so I’m free now.”

“What?”

“Never mind. What time?”

“Is an hour too soon for me to pick you up?”

“Gee, I’m glad I wasn’t a last resort or anything.”

He was silent for several seconds. “It took me this long to work up the courage.”

“Oh.” The admission melted her annoyance slightly. Okay, it melted it completely. She was practically mush. “I can be ready in an hour.”

“Great,” he said, not bothering to hide the relief in his voice. “Bring a sweater or something. Ashley is insisting we sit outside even though it’s barely sixty degrees out.”

“Honey, in Seattle, this is practically beach weather,” Sophie said, pulling out a pair of blue capris, a white tank, and a yellow cardigan she’d stolen from Brynn. “Now go away. I need some time to don my hooker gear.”

“Don’t forget the boots,” he said before hanging up in her ear.

Sophie did a ridiculous little happy dance when she hung up the phone, before taking a deep breath and telling herself to pull it together. It was just a dinner party. With chaperones. Not a marriage proposal.

But it was the first time that Gray had been the one to initiate spending time together. And for a man whose emotions needed a wheelchair, that had to mean something.

* * *

“Holy crap,” Sophie said as she took in the treelined drive of Ian’s house. “Is it a requirement that all of your friends be fellow CEOs or pirates?”

Gray gave her a sidelong glance before parking next to an enormous fountain. Yes, an honest-to-God fountain. At someone’s house. Sophie was suddenly relieved that she’d had the foresight to be waiting on her front porch when Gray had picked her up. No way was he going to see the inside of her studio apartment now. His best friend probably had showers bigger than her entire home.

“Ian’s an attorney,” Gray said as they climbed out of his car. “He owns his own practice.”

“Jeez, no wonder my parents didn’t want me to drop out of law school. Do these people have their own stable? A carriage house?”

Sophie didn’t know much about real estate, but Ian’s address alone screamed “money.” Medina was one of Seattle’s richest suburbs, with many of its homes located near the water. It was minutes from downtown, and yet far enough away to have a view of downtown.

In other words, rich-people heaven.

Not her scene.

“Quit being a snob,” Gray said, as he led her along the walkway toward the front porch.

“I’m not,” Sophie said, trying not to squirm when he briefly set his hand on the small of her back. She wished she better understood what this was. A dinner party at his college friend’s could hardly be considered a date. But he’d invited her. Not Brynn, not some perfect potential girlfriend.

That had to mean something. Damned if she knew what. He’d barely spoken to her on the ride over. An open book he was not.

“I’m not a snob,” she said again, resisting the urge to see if the perfect hedges were fake. “It’s just intimidating, you know?”

“You weren’t intimidated at my place.”

“Well, sure, but your place, while nice, is hardly on par with this,” she said, gesturing to the enormous grounds and slice of waterfront view poking around the right side of the enormous white house. “No offense.”

“I don’t have need for all this space,” Gray said distractedly. “Not for one person.”

Sophie paused and stared at the back of his gray polo shirt. “Are you telling me you could afford this? If you wanted to?”

Gray

glanced back and gave her an exasperated look. “What is with you? I’ve seen your parents’ house. It’s nearly as big as this. I’m guessing you hardly grew up on food stamps.”

“That’s my parents’ money,” she said defensively. “I’m not sure if you’re aware, but cocktail waitresses can’t exactly afford Bentleys. And it’s not like Brayburn’s paying me all that much. Perhaps we should discuss a raise.”

Gray grabbed her hand and pulled her none too gently up the brick steps to their front door. “Just behave. Please.” He gave the door an impatient knock.

Sophie ran a finger over the door frame. “White. How is this possible? How can they have a perfectly white front door without a single scuff or speck of dirt?”

The pristine white door in question swung open, and Sophie’s first thought was that Gray was right. She had been a prejudging, stereotyping snob.

Ashley Porter was wearing cuffed jean capris, a plain white T-shirt, and those boat shoes that Sophie thought only people in the Hamptons wore. But the shoes were well worn, and the T-shirt had some sort of red stain near the hem. Hardly the immaculately groomed housewife that Sophie had been fearing.

The woman herself was beautiful in a completely unintimidating sort of way, her dark brown hair worn in a short pixie cut that only woman with perfect features could pull off. She had clever, friendly brown eyes and a wide mouth completely devoid of lipstick.

“Took you guys long enough,” she said as she ushered them in. “We were wondering how long you were going to stand in our driveway arguing.”

Sophie blushed, but the other woman’s voice held no accusation.

Ian wandered into the foyer with a beer in hand and gave Sophie a friendly hug as though they were old friends instead of total strangers. “Good to see you, Sophie. I see you’ve met Ash, my nagging shrew of a wife.”

Ashley shook Sophie’s hand before giving Gray an enormous hug, looking a bit like a friendly fairy cuddling up to a grumpy bear. Then Sophie glanced at Gray’s face and almost stumbled. Not only was he enduring the hug, he was actually smiling. And the relaxed affection was unlike anything she’d seen on his face before. She felt a sudden liking for these people she barely knew for being people he could relax around.

“You have a beautiful home,” Sophie said as she followed them into the kitchen. The inside was even more stunning than the outside. Ashley’s decorating taste ran toward soothing neutrals, which perfectly accentuated the floor-to-ceiling windows and the stunning view of Lake Washington.

“Thanks,” Ashley said with genuine pride. “I wish I could say it’s always this clean, but the truth is I took advantage of Ryan’s slumber party today to get everything back in order. Gray mentioned we have a six-year-old son?”

Sophie nodded.

“We lucked out and got a calm one, but that doesn’t mean my life doesn’t revolve around tripping on soccer balls and pulling action figures out of the sofa cushions.”

Her voice lacked any real irritation, and Sophie felt a spurt of jealousy. Ashley seemed to have it all. Handsome, successful husband, great kid, beautiful home. And even in her casual clothes, she had an air of confidence that Sophie had spent years trying to fake.

“Ian, did you fix the grill yet?” Ashley asked distractedly as she wrestled with a corkscrew.

Ian caught Sophie’s eye and shook his head before turning back to his wife. “I certainly did. Gray, come admire my skills. I just need a quick detour to the garage to grab my tools.”

“Ian!” Ashley said. “You said you’d have it fixed by the time they got here.”

“Ash, I’m thinking maybe the grill isn’t meant to work until Memorial Day. It’s a sign that we should be eating indoors.”

“We’re eating outside,” Ashley said as she poured two liberal glasses of white wine for herself and Sophie. “That’s why we have the heaters. Which are working, right?”

But Ian had already disappeared into the garage. Gray shot Sophie a glance. “You okay if I go help Ian?”

“Don’t worry, I promised Ian I wouldn’t interrogate her,” Ashley said, handing Sophie a glass.

“Just like he promised to fix the grill?” Gray said with a rare grin.

Ashley pointed to the French doors leading out to an enormous patio. “Go. I need girl time.”

“Don’t scare Sophie off,” Gray said with a small smile.