Motion (Page 22)
Abram released an audible breath, shifted in his seat, and then finally said, “They’re retired.”
“What did they do before they retired?” I lifted my eyebrows expectantly. When he didn’t answer, I suggested, “Run a grow house?”
I peeked at him, found him grinning and trying to hide his grin by covering the bottom half of his mouth with his hand, his elbow propped on the window sill. He was giving me an amused side-eye.
Finally, he answered, “My dad was a general contractor and my mom ran the business part. They had my sister late, and me even later.”
“Oh.” I made a right. “How late?”
“Mom was forty when she had me and dad was forty-seven.”
“Oh.” I made another right, scanning the scrolling numbers on the side of the mailboxes. We were four houses away. “How old are you?”
That’s right. Gabby had said something about him being three or four years older than us.
“So she’s sixty-four today?”
“Oh.” I slowed as we approached the address, studying the two-story yellow house.
I found myself swallowing against a pang of longing as my gaze greedily noted the details of Abram’s childhood home. Navy shutters, white drapes, maroon door, and a wreath of pink and white flowers. No picket fence, but it did have a stone path leading to the front door which was lined with abundant rose bushes, all fully in bloom.
Forget that other house. I want to live here.
“Is this why fate brought us together?” I mumbled another of my anytime-phrases, the one I typically reserved for inanimate objects I desired.
“What?” Abram’s question brought my attention back to him.
“It’s so pretty.”
His eyes narrowed. “What?”
“Your parents’ house. It’s so pretty.”
His eyes narrowed further, moving over me in a way that felt apprehensive, like he didn’t believe me, or he thought I was making fun of his family, or he was waiting for me to add a but, or a for a plebeian’s house, or something equally judgmental and pretentious.
Shifting my gaze back to the house, I allowed the envy in my features tell the truth of my words; tall yellow rose bushes flanked the porch; adjacent were several shorter bushes with lavender-colored blooms.
“Are those Blue Moons?” I lifted my chin toward the purple flowers. I didn’t know all the different varieties of roses, just a few of my favorites: Princess Anne, Boscobel, Blue Moon, but Eden was my absolute favorite. They smelled like how heaven must feel.
“I honestly don’t know. But my mom will.” Abram seemed to hesitate, and then mildly surprised me by placing his hand on my bared leg, drawing my gaze back to his and causing an immediate swirling heat low in my stomach.
But not alarm. Interesting.
When I looked at him, I found his eyes were uncharacteristically—insomuch as I knew his character—somber. “Hey, one more thing. And promise me you won’t freak out.”
I lifted my eyebrows at the irony of the situation: here I was, trying to ignore how very, very nice the heat of his hand felt on my thigh and he was asking me to not freak out. Meanwhile, I’d usually be freaking out about an uninvited hand on my leg.
But I wasn’t. I liked it. And I was just barely holding the door closed on all sorts of odd, inappropriate hopes. Like maybe he’d pull the hem of my skirt just a little higher, or reach underneath . . .
Pushing those thoughts back behind the closed door, on a rush I said, “I can’t promise you I won’t freak out until you tell me what I’m not supposed to freak out about.”
His lips quirked to the side. The left side. My gaze dropped to the dimple I felt certain would make an appearance. I wasn’t disappointed, even though it was promptly hidden again.
“Okay, makes sense.” He breathed in, he breathed out, his fingers flexed on my leg and I swallowed thickly. “Here goes: my sister, who is probably already here, is a journalist.”
My eyes cut to his. All inappropriate heat and hopes extinguished. A journalist?
“Pardon?” My single word was sharp.
“My sister, Marie. She’s an investigative journalist.” He seemed to be watching my reaction closely. “Leo said you guys—your family doesn’t like journalists.”
An investigative journalist? Of the exposé variety?
I didn’t freak out, outwardly. I freaked out inwardly. “What does she investigate?”
“Whatever she finds interesting or whatever she’s assigned.” He shrugged. “She’s freelance, part of the AP, so she does all kinds of things.”
A member of the Associated Press? She was the real deal. So many questions, none of which I could voice, and most involving worst-case scenarios.
What if this is a setup? Unlikely. His mother’s birth date wasn’t something Abram’s sister had any control over.
But, what if his sister knows who I am? Or, I’ve met her before now? What if she’s interviewed me? What if this benign birthday party leads to exposing Lisa’s arrest? Like most professions, the world of professional journalism was a lot smaller than people realized.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“Marie Harris. She’s awesome, and I told her she wasn’t allowed to ask you anything on the record.”
“Hmm . . .” The name didn’t sound familiar, but that didn’t mean anything.
“Also, she just broke up with her boyfriend recently, a few months ago. He was a chef in Chicago, kind of a dweeb, actually. She deserves a lot better. Don’t bring up anything related to that. I think she’s still sensitive about it.”
I was only half-listening to him. Leo had been right. My family had a love/hate relationship with the media. According to my parents, none of them could be trusted. Ever. But they served a purpose.
For my part, I hypothesized that there were three types of journalists: those who wanted to do another fluff piece on music’s most beloved power couple’s “odd-ball, genius daughter” (say that ten times real fast), or those who wanted dirt, or those who wanted both.
Having been interviewed countless times, the interviewers always seemed content to follow the same, predictable path, painting me using the same brush, prosaic questions the brush strokes: What’s it like to be so smart? What’s it like to have DJ Tang and Exotica as parents? Are you dating anyone? Blah blah blah.
However, having been interviewed countless times and having never been surprised meant I rarely remembered the interviewers’ names. In summary, I’d never met a journalist who pleasantly surprised or impressed me.
“Any stories on, uh, the children of celebrities?”
Abram shook his head. “No. Politicians are more her speed.” His gaze lost some of its focus as it moved over my shoulder. “She also writes some weird stories too. Stuff that gets her in trouble.”
“Yes.” His gaze came back to mine and he smirked. “Ask her about bodybuilders.”
“Bodybuilders.” I relaxed. A tad. My gaze flickered over him. “Okay. So . . . what are we going to tell her? What’s the story?”
“The story?” He turned a little in his seat. His hand slipped from my leg and he pushed his fingers into his hair, moving the dark mahogany strands off his forehead.
“What’s the story about why I’m here? With you? What are we telling your sister and parents?”
“Uh . . . the truth?”
I sat up straighter while having a minor heart attack. “The—the- ”
“That you’re Leo’s sister and you came home while I was house-sitting your parents’ place in Chicago. We’ve shacked up together for the summer, you’re my muse, and I’ve fallen madly in love with you over the last—” he grabbed his phone from the dash, glancing at the clock “—forty-eight hours.”
With that tornado of an esoteric suggestion, Abram opened the passenger door and exited the car. Unhurriedly unfolding his long form from the Civic, he stretched. I stared at the band of back, side, and stomach skin (and muscles) left exposed as he lifted his arms over his head and twisted at the waist—first left, and then right.
In love? Muse? Is he . . .?
He’s . . .
I shook my head in an effort to rouse my brain. Tearing my stare from his body, I chuckled and rolled my eyes.
He was joking, of course. Oh, Ahab.
I decided right then, that whenever Abram said or did anything nutso, I would think of and refer to him as Ahab.
“Ha ha ha,” I said to myself, adding for good measure, “And then the wolves came.”
I guess we were winging it. I didn’t like the idea of winging it, but I trusted Abram . . . insomuch as I was capable of trusting anyone I’d just met two days ago.
Finished stretching, Abram sauntered around to my side while I turned my attention back to the likelihood of having met Marie Harris in the past, talking myself into, and then out of, a freak-out.
Worst-case scenario: She’d interviewed both Lisa and me at some point, but so what? If she had, it had been only once. How much could a person remember from a ten-minute interview? And what could she do? Call me Mona and sew a scarlet M to my chest? Nah.