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Page 9

“Come on, Lucy. You know my rule. I take my tea the way I like my men.”

“Dark and strong,” I murmured, giving her a look.

“Yeah, well, at least I don’t take my tea green and earthy like you,” she shot back. “I mean, what does that say about Jude?”

“I sure have missed you, Indie,” I said.

“Of course you have,” she said, checking her phone. “What’s not to miss?”

Indie and I could go another five rounds easy, but I had to get to bed sometime tonight, and, judging from the way she was dressed, she had plans to dance the night away at some club.

“Not to sound rude, because you know I love me a piece of the India pie, but what are you doing here?” I asked, dropping the teabags into a couple of cups. India was a big-city girl. She dodged being in the suburbs like it spelled social ruin.

She lifted a shoulder while texting a quick message. “My brother’s up here for work, and one of his old college lacrosse teammates working for him is hot. And single. And Puerto Rican.” She waggled her eyebrows at me, her eyes sparkling.

“Of course it would be a man who would lure you to the ’burbs. Not your roommate two years running and good friend.” I tapped my finger on the counter, knowing it was useless to try to make India feel guilty. It wasn’t in her DNA.

“Baby girl, no man or friend could get me to the ’burbs singlehandedly,” she said, “but a smokin’-hot man and a snarky good friend could.”

At least I was half the reason she was here.

“How long are you in town?” I asked, guessing she’d be on the red-eye back to Miami in the morning.

“A few weeks or so. Anton is managing a new call center branch here in town, and as the lowly second-born, my job is to stay out of the way and pretend to look busy.” She made a whoop-dee-doo twirl with her finger.

“If you’re going into the family biz, why are you majoring in music?” The teapot started whistling, so I turned off the burner and reached for a hot pad.

“I’m majoring in music because that’s what I love. I’m going into the family biz because I actually want to make money,” she said, huffing. “I figure if I do my time this summer and a year or two after I graduate, Mom and Dad will turn their heads while I live on music and my trust fund for a couple decades.”

I poured the hot water into the cups. “And your first task in this new job is to go party the night away with a cute Puerto Rican?” I said, trying to hide my smile.

“What can I say? I’m living the dream.” Her phone pinged again. It was a noise that went hand in hand with India. Someone was always texting her, at any and all hours of the day.

I grabbed the cups and carried them over to the table.

“Hey, you wanna come with us tonight?” she said, glancing up from her phone. “It will just be me, Anton, and Ricky. We’re going to the best club in town, apparently, which isn’t saying much. I’ll be surprised if they even have a bottle of Cristal for us to celebrate with.”

“The horror,” I deadpanned, setting her cup in front of her. “As madam requested. Dark, and strong enough to knock your panties right off.”

Winking, India lifted her cup to her lips. “In that case, I’ll have another.”

“Thanks for the invite, and a night on the town is exactly what I need, but I’m flying out at the crack of dawn to see Jude,” I said, taking a sip of my green tea.

“Where is the Jude man?”

“San Diego. He had to leave for preseason training a couple of weeks ago,” I said.

Her eyebrows rose. “So if Jude’s in San Diego, what in the hell are you doing here in this rat-infested hole?”

I stuck my tongue out at her, which earned another eye roll. “I’ve got a summer class I’m taking.”

“Summer class? Pul-lease,” she said, making a sound with her lips. “You’ve got so many extra credits you could graduate a semester early if you wanted.”

I made a mental note to not be so open with India when it came to any and all aspects of my life. She’d been born with a built-in BS detector.

“I’m looking for a job, too,” I added, focusing on my teacup.

“Double pul-lease,” she said, making that same sound with her mouth. “Why do you need some sucky minimum-wage job when your man’s the newest member of the millionaires club?”

I sighed. Well, it was more like a groan. “Not you, too, India.” I’d already had to put together a debate team–quality explanation for Jude; I wasn’t looking forward to giving a repeat performance.

Setting down her cup, she studied my face for a moment. “Ah,” she said at last, “I get it.”

“You get what?” I replied, not really caring so long as I didn’t have to explain what I didn’t fully understand myself.

Grinning, she threw her hands in the air. “‘All the women who are independent,’” she sang, swaying in time to the imaginary music.

I chuckled and joined in. “‘Throw your hands up at me,’” I sang back, remembering why I was majoring in dance and not music. I couldn’t carry a tune to save my soul.

“Is that what it has to do with?” she asked softly.

“Partly.”

“And what’s the other part?” she asked, grabbing hold of my hand.

“I’m still trying to figure that part out,” I admitted. Contrary to what I’d thought, it felt good telling someone that I didn’t have a clue why I needed to carve out my own way financially, that I just knew I had to.

“So, what sweet minimum-wage gig are you going to be slaving your summer away at?” she said before taking another drink.

I shrugged a shoulder. “I haven’t found one. Yet.” I was determined I would, though, and if I’d learned one thing in life, it was that Lucy Larson’s stubborn resolve often got what it wanted.

India’s face wrinkled before she put her phone up to her ear. “That’s about to change,” she said.

“Do I want to know?”

She held her cease-and-desist finger up as I heard someone answer on the other end. “I’m on my way,” she barked.

Nice greeting.

“Well, Ricky’s just going to have to wait a little longer,” she cut in before the voice on the other end got more than a few words in. “And you’re going to have to wait, too, big brother.”

“Hey, Anton,” I said, loud enough that he could hear me over India’s voice.

“Yes, that was Lucy,” she replied. “Yes, Lucy Larson, my old roommate.”

“The one and only,” I said, heading over to the stove to grab the teapot. India also drank her tea like she went through men: quickly and voraciously.

“Lucy lives here,” India continued to explain. “No, obviously not year-round, dumb ass. The apartment here is her and her fiancé’s little love shack they do naughty, naughty things in.”

“India,” I hissed, pouring more water into her cup, “control yourself.”

“No, he’s not here,” India said, swatting my butt as I headed back from the kitchen. “He’s got some sort of football training camp thingy.”

“Thingy?” I called out.

She dismissed me with a wave. “I already asked her. She’s got an early flight out in the morning, so she’s taking a pass tonight.”

“Next time,” I called out again so Anton could hear me.

I had yet to meet India’s older brother, but I’d been part of enough of these three-way conversations that I felt like I knew him. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of my brother. He was protective of India, checking in on her almost daily, had a killer sense of humor, and never seemed to run out of things to say. In a word, Anton was charismatic.

“Will you shut your mouth for two seconds so I can get to the reason I’m calling you?” India interrupted after a few moments.

Taking my seat again, I heard Anton reply, “Shutting mouth.”

“Thank you,” India said, settling into her chair. “Are you still looking for an administrative assistant?”

India waited for his answer.

“And how much were you planning on paying per hour?”

India’s face squished when Anton answered. “Tell you what. You make that eighteen dollars an hour and I’ve got you the best damn administrative assistant you could ever dream to find.

“You’d want to interview her first?” she said, lifting her shoulders. “Okay. Interview her.” Lifting the phone toward me, she pressed the speaker button.

“Hey again, Anton,” I said, glaring at India for putting me on the spot. “Sorry my friend’s such a lunatic.”

“Lucy?” he replied, sounding as caught off guard as I was. “Don’t worry about it. Sorry my sister’s such a pushy maniac.”

“No biggie. I’m used to it after three years,” I replied, as I smiled innocently at her. She gave me the finger.

Anton laughed. His voice was so deep that when he laughed, it sounded like more of a rumble than a laugh. “So are you really looking for a job, or has India been eating too many ‘special’ brownies again?”

India glared at the phone.

“I’m really looking for a job,” I said, feeling like I should let him off the hook by saying I wasn’t interested in being an assistant, so he wouldn’t feel obligated to give me the job, but I needed a job, and working for Indie’s brother for the summer was better than about 99 percent of any other jobs I could find.

“Do you have any administrative experience?”

“No,” I said, “but I’m a fast learner.”

India shot me a thumbs-up.

“How many words per minute can you type?” Anton asked next, sounding every bit the professional businessman he’d become since graduating college a few years back.

I motioned to India, looking for help. She mouthed, “I don’t know.”

“Uh . . . some,” I said, grimacing.

Anton was silent for a moment. Probably trying to figure out a way to let me down gently. “What’s your proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite?”

“Well,” I said, trying to keep a level voice. Might as well have a little fun with this impromptu interview. “I’ve danced lead in The Nutcracker three times.”

India slapped her leg, rocking in her silent laughter. I swatted her, ready to burst into my own not-so-silent laughter when the sound of Anton choking on his own chuckles broke through the phone.

“Okay, Mr. Hotshot,” I said, “I’ve never worked in an office setting before, and I don’t know how many words I can type per minute or what my proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite is”—I made air quotes—“but I’m a hard worker. I’ll be there on time, and won’t leave until I’ve typed however many words you need me to. Okay?”

“Anything else?” Anton asked, partially composed.

***

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