Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 3

“What’s up with your mom? She’s high-strung tonight,” Will said, busying himself once again with the shrimp.

“Just tonight?” Sophie asked with a snort.

“You know what I mean. More than usual,” he corrected, snagging another shrimp.

Sophie shrugged. She’d stopped trying to figure out what made her mother tick. Other than lecturing her daughters and spying on the neighbors, of course.

“Have you told your parents you quit your job yet?” Will asked as he tossed a shrimp tail in the garbage disposal.

Sophie winced. “Eh…not exactly.”

Will shook his head and reached for the croutons. “Well, warn me before you do so I can clear out. Having an unemployed daughter in the house is going to go over about as well as a zit before prom.”

Sophie made a grab for the wine bottle and topped off her glass. “Best friends are supposed to be encouraging.”

“They’re also supposed to be honest,” Will replied. “But if you need a little ‘bright side,’ how about this: your parents are going to be thrilled that you’re not serving up Irish car bombs at Stump’s anymore. Once they get over the whole lack of health insurance and 401(k), that is. Oh wait, you never had either of those in the first place.”

Sophie groaned. “They’re going to kill me.”

“Pretty much,” Will agreed. “I know you’re all for spontaneity and shit, but quitting a job without having another lined up? Ballsy. What brought it on?”

Oh, now, let me see, what’s changed?…I got mistaken for a freaking streetwalker, that’s what.

But Sophie hadn’t even told Will about the Las Vegas incident. Not that he’d judge her for it, but the whole episode still felt too fresh. Talking about it would be like rubbing lemon juice in the wound and then adding a little salt for good measure.

“Just needed a fresh start,” she replied. One that doesn’t involve stinging humiliation and pleather boots.

It wouldn’t make sense if she tried to explain it, but after the sting of Las Vegas, Sophie needed this change. It was as though that uptight as**ole in the elevator had held up a mirror and forced Sophie to face her life.

She wasn’t twenty-two anymore. Being a cocktail waitress and every-night party girl wasn’t just a rebellious phase. It had become a career.

A career as a waitress was fine.

A career as an aging sorority girl in thigh-high boots and with no goals? Not so much.

So…she’d quit.

“You need money?” Will asked quietly.

Sophie melted just a little at the support in his familiar blue eyes. She did need money. “Savings account” had not exactly been her middle name over the past few years. But she wouldn’t take it from Will. She’d just have to find a job. A respectable one. ASAP.

“Not taking your money,” she said with a wave of her hand. “But I don’t suppose you’d want to hire me?”

Will gave an apologetic grin. “Uh-uh. You know how I roll. No employees, no overhead.”

“I know, I know,” she grumbled. Will was a wildly successful entrepreneur, but he operated completely on his own. Being a boss wasn’t in the cards for him.

“Sophie, don’t slouch,” her mother scolded, returning to the kitchen. “Men don’t find poor posture attractive.”

“What do they find attractive, Mom?” Sophie propped her chin on her hands and pretended to look fascinated. “I mean other than Mary Janes, corsets, homemade jam, and the ability to sew dust ruffles.”

“What’s a dust ruffle?” Will asked.

Marnie hesitated, clearly torn between wanting to explain dust ruffles to her favorite pseudo-son, or lecture her least-favorite daughter about being single.

Since Sophie was related by blood, she got the short end of the stick.

“Honestly, Sophie,” her mother said with a sniff. “When will you learn that the marrying kind of men aren’t going to be attracted to your caustic humor and…”

“And what, Mom? I’m learning so much tonight!” Sophie said as her mother broke off and began furiously chopping a cucumber. “What else won’t men be attracted to? My foul mouth? Big hair? Lack of savings account? The fact that I don’t have a dust ruffle?”

“Dust ruffle,” Will muttered around a crouton, still sounding mystified. “I’ve gotta look that up.” He pulled out his phone and started typing.

“Sophie, I don’t want to fight,” her mother said with a long sigh. “You know I do my best not to pester…”

Will

snorted.

“…but sometimes I just don’t understand your choices. For example, what are you wearing? Did you intentionally pull out your oldest clothes for our nice family dinner?”

“Let me know when the ‘nice’ part starts,” Sophie muttered as she dug her finger into the hole in her jeans.

“I think Sophie looks great,” Will said loyally. “Some men like the unfussy look.”

Marnie perked up slightly at the prospect of Will finding Sophie attractive. It was her lifelong mission to see Sophie married off to her oldest friend. And Marnie was impervious to Sophie’s constant assurances that she and Will were so never going to happen. Ever.

Not that they hadn’t tried way back when.

On paper, Sophie and Will should have had the typical high school puppy-love story. He’d been the cocky, senior football star. His perfectly messy hair and blue eyes had sent many a teenage girl’s virtue out the window.

As for Sophie’s part, she’d been the dewy underclassman princess who’d blossomed over the summer, getting boobs and highlights. (To this day, she wasn’t sure which she was more grateful for.)

Dating had seemed like a logical step, and it had been mutually beneficial. Will had gotten obligatory high fives for “nailing” the newest cheerleading recruit. And for Sophie, everyone knew that getting asked to prom by a senior was the high school equivalent of the Holy Grail.

The rest should have been yearbook history.

But the oddest thing had happened. They’d been two attractive, horny high schoolers without a speck of sizzle.

Sophie and Will had tried to pretend that the boring, clumsy first kiss beneath the bleachers was just a fluke. He’d blamed his distraction on the C he’d gotten in physics, and Sophie had claimed PMS. But after prom night had ended with a platonic game of Go Fish instead of dry humping in his Lexus, they’d been forced to admit it: no physical chemistry. Not even butterflies. They could talk for hours, laugh at the same jokes, and had dozens of mutual friends. But the hand-holding was merely tolerable, and the kissing was downright awkward.

So they’d done the teenage unthinkable. They’d become friends. Real friends, not like the usual high school friends of the opposite sex that claimed they were “best friends,” but really were just stalling until one of them finally admitted their true feelings.

And perhaps because Will and Sophie had become friends without any of the usual hormonal complications, their friendship had actually lasted. Despite Will going to college three years before her, he’d kept his promise to stay in touch. And when Sophie had headed off to Stanford, putting even more distance between them, they’d e-mailed regularly and been nearly inseparable over their Christmas breaks.

Everyone waited for the inevitable moment of romantic realization, but here they were several years later, still completely platonic as ever.

Will had practically become a part of the family after his own parents had moved out of state without much of a backward glance. As with the fledgling high school romance that had started it all, the dinner arrangement was mutually beneficial. Will got the chance to eat something other than takeout, and Sophie had someone to help distract her parents from their constant meddling.

The only person who didn’t like the arrangement was Brynn.

Sophie’s older sister wasn’t exactly the forgive-and-forget type, and when Brynn had been a freshman in high school, Will had been responsible for her 32A bra finding its way up the football field’s flagpole. At the homecoming game.

It had been the start of a beautiful hatred, and their dislike had only increased over the years. Even Sophie’s knack for easing awkward situations hadn’t been able to resolve their animosity.

Realizing that her sister still hadn’t arrived, Sophie glanced at the clock. Brynn was late. Something that happened…never. “Where’s Brynn?” Sophie asked her mother.

Dinner was always served precisely at seven, but Marnie encouraged (or mandated, depending who you asked) that everyone get there around five thirty for her aperitif hour.

“Oh, she won’t be here until six,” Marnie said cheerfully as she seasoned the chicken.

Had the tardy daughter been Sophie, a lecture would have been in order. But when perfect Brynn was late, there was always a good reason. Sophie took another sip of wine and tried not to care.

Sophie’s dad wandered into the kitchen, having finished up his phone call. A recently retired doctor, Chris Dalton was struggling with what he interpreted as the “utter uselessness” of retirement, and was loving the fact that some of his former staff still called to ask for his opinion.

“Hey,

Dad!” Sophie said brightly. She and her father weren’t close, but he didn’t pester her as much as her mother. In fact, he didn’t pester her much at all. Or even really talk to her.

“Soph,” her dad said, planting a distracted kiss near the side of her head as he plucked a wineglass from the shelf.

She turned to face him. “How’s that golf handicap these days? Mom mentioned you’d—”

“Will!” Chris said, interrupting Sophie and shaking the hand of the closest thing he had to a son. “Just heard that the Ms signed two new pitchers. I think this will finally be their year, no?”

Ugh. Baseball. Not her thing.

“Can I help, Mom?” Sophie asked, watching her mom dredge the chicken br**sts in flour.

“Oh, no thanks, dear. I’ve got it under control. Just some simple lemon chicken paillards, some truffled mushrooms, and a sherry-vinaigrette shrimp and caprese salad tonight.”

Sophie raised an eyebrow at the complexity of the meal. Her mom must have gotten a new cookbook.

“What’s Brynn up to?” Sophie asked, toying with the stem of the wineglass. “I haven’t talked to her all week.”

Marnie looked up, her eyes glowing with the opportunity to share Big News. “Oh, then you haven’t heard? Brynn’s got herself a boyfriend! She’s bringing him to dinner.”

Oh, yippee. The evening ahead was sure to be rife with yawns. Brynn had a knack for finding men that most closely resembled doorknobs and attempting to date them.

At least the unexpected company explained why they were having chicken “paillards” when they normally got overdone pork chops.

“Wow, that’s great,” Sophie said half-enthusiastically.

“A boyfriend?” Will asked. “What kind of loser is she bringing around this time?”

Sophie’s dad snickered, which was a testament to how desperately he wanted Will’s approval, because normally anything remotely close to insulting Brynn was off-limits.

Marnie shot Will a censorious look. “Now, William, you know that guy she brought last time was a nice fellow, he was just a little…”

“He was a dentist,” Will said in disdain. “She’s an orthodontist. What the hell do they talk about, plaque?”

“I don’t actually think orthodontists deal much in plaque,” Sophie mused while topping off her Chardonnay. “I think it’s more about devising new ways to attach metal to teeth while destroying the confidence of middle schoolers everywhere.”

“Just be nice, kids,” Marnie said to Will and Sophie. “And you too,” she added with a sidelong glance at her husband.

“Jeez, you’d think we were going to tar and feather the poor fellow,” Chris muttered to Will.

The doorbell rang, and Will and Sophie exchanged puzzled looks.

“Please tell me my sister isn’t ringing the doorbell to the house she grew up in,” Sophie said. In the years since they started the Sunday dinner tradition, nobody had ever done anything more than wipe their feet on the mat as they hollered, I’m here.

Marnie was so excited she was practically levitating. “This must mean that he’s an important one! That’s her warning that we’re all to be on our best behavior.

“Come on, Chris,” Marnie hissed. “We should meet them at the door and make a good impression.”

“I’m sure the five minutes of waiting on the front porch has already done that,” Sophie called after them.

“Why does she have to ruin a family dinner by bringing another boyfriend?” Will said as he finished the last of his wine.

“What’s the big deal?” Sophie asked, helping herself to more cheese and crackers. “You haven’t even met the guy, and you already hate him?”

Will ignored the question. “I’ll bet he’ll be pasty-skinned, pale-eyed, and blond like the rest of you. It’s like she only dates men who will fit in perfectly with the Dalton family portraits. All the Nordic features and pale coloring is a bit overwhelming.”

Sophie didn’t disagree. Their annual family portraits were a little bit…bland. Nobody ever bothered to ask where she and Brynn had gotten their matching blonde, blue-eyed looks. It was immediately obvious that it came from both parents.

Granted, her father’s hair was more gray than blond, but it only added to his distinguished authority. Not that he needed help in that department. The man never wore jeans and didn’t even own a shirt that didn’t have a collar.