Home > 99 Percent Mine(14)

99 Percent Mine(14)
Author: Sally Thorne

“Ah, well …,” Tom says, because he doesn’t have a lie mode.

I’ve got lie mode on autopilot. “I’ve just gotten back from a walk.”

My brother just laughs in response, for a little too long. “Sure. Are you going to stay out of Tom’s way while he gets started on the house?”

“I’m sure I’ll be gone before he even opens his toolbox, don’t worry.”

“That’d be right,” Jamie says, sarcasm dripping. “Skip out before anything hard. Poor Tom’s going to have to do everything himself.”

“Poor Tom is here to do a job and get paid,” Tom reminds Jamie.

I open the box lid and there are two perfect waffles. “Hey, I have to pack the house. That’s plenty hard.” I drown them in syrup and begin breaking them apart with my hands. I feed Patty a tiny piece and myself a huge piece.

“You’ll flirt Tom into doing it.”

“I will not,” I snap, mouth full, licking my fingers. Above me, Tom’s face is partway between pained and amused.

“You will. You’re going to be worse than ever now.” Jamie scoffs. “No doubt your sympathy was completely unconvincing.”

“I’ll be worse why? What does he mean?” I look up at Tom. He shrugs and interrupts our petty flow.

“We’ve got a lot to do between now and next Monday when the crew arrives. Darce needs to pack, and I want you both to agree on the style we’re doing.”

“Modern,” Jamie says at the exact same moment as I say, “Vintage.”

Tom groans and plops down heavily on the end of the couch. I move my legs just in time. He pinches his hand across his eyes. “Goodbye, cruel world.”

“It’s going to be fine,” I assure him through my bite of waffle. “Don’t you worry.” I tear off a chunk and feed it into his mouth.

“Easy for you to say,” Jamie says. “You’re going to be walking around in a random country licking an ice-cream cone while Tom and I do all the hard work. What’s next on your personal reinvention journey, by the way? You’ve done the piercing and the tough haircut. It’s gotta be a tattoo next.”

I step over that, because Tom’s looking for the piercing. Nose? Ear? Eyebrow? Nope. Now he’s averting his eyes, and his mind is running through the remaining possibilities.

I give the phone a glare. “So your hard work will consist of sitting on your ass in your office and occasionally answering Tom’s calls and emails? You’ll pick out a faucet or some tiles online? That’s hard work?”

“It’s more than you’ll do,” Jamie hisses back. Something inside me lights up; I want to retort, like old times, Challenge accepted! But my hungover brain scratches around and comes up empty. Could I pack the house super-fast?

“It goes without saying that I’m doing the hard work, and you’re paying me to do it,” Tom interjects, ever the calm referee. “Does five percent of the sale price work for you, Darce?”

“Math isn’t her strong point,” Jamie says cruelly, at the same time as I say, “Sure.”

“You don’t even know how much that will be,” Tom prompts, unwillingly agreeing with Jamie. “Do you know what the current market is in this area?”

He holds the phone away a little and lowers his voice. “Make sure you know what you’re saying yes to. This is your inheritance, Darce. I’ve got contracts that you both need to sign. Even though we’re all friends, everything is going to be done right. You’re both clients as soon as you sign.”

“Business is business,” Jamie’s voice says faintly from the phone. “I taught you well.”

I’d have said yes to ten. Twenty. Five percent of his heart. Anything.

“What’s the big deal? I trust you. I’m sure it’s fair. As long as the house is restored, that’s all I care about.”

“You’ve got to start caring about money more.” Tom doesn’t look like he’s glad that I’ve got blind faith in him. He looks like he’s feeling sick.

“Hear that, Tom? You’re the only person on earth Darcy Barrett trusts!” Jamie says, a little too exaggerated, a lot jealous. I narrow my eyes at the phone.

“He’s the perfect man,” I say, just to jab at Jamie.

“You’ve got to stop saying things like that,” Tom says in a pained way. To himself, he says, “No pressure.”

“You’ve been telling her the truth about everything, have you?” Jamie says, and there’s a long silence. Endless. The cotton threads on Tom’s body squeak. “Ah, I see,” Jamie says, speculation in his tone. “Yes, I think I know why you’re playing it this way. Smart.”

For the first time, I feel a sliver of doubt. Tom won’t look at me now. “What the hell are you two cooking up?”

“Nothing,” Tom tells me with a heavy sigh. “All right, this is going nowhere. I’ve got a guy coming to look at the foundation. I really need you two to agree on the style before Wednesday. I’ve got to order stuff.”

“Just make it look exactly the same, but new.” I nod. Case closed.

“Make it look like my apartment,” Jamie orders him. “Just deal with her until she leaves and do your standard modern renovation. Like that place you did last year, with the fancy gray feature wall. Do what sells.”

“Gray feature wall? Loretta is laughing until she’s crying right now.” I look around at the beautiful wallpaper. I thought I could trust Tom to take care of this place. “You know that an old cottage like this would look ridiculous done modern.”

“We’ll need to have a weekly budget meeting,” Tom says, persevering, “and any changes once we’ve set the baseline will have to be agreed on by both of you. I’m having this job come in early and under budget.”

“I know you will,” Jamie says, his voice nothing but confidence. I’ve never heard him sound like that. “I’m going to a meeting. Tom, make it modern.” Jamie hangs up. Tom tosses the phone onto the coffee table and leans back. Under the blanket, my feet are pinned by his thigh.

“Modern vintage,” Tom says to himself. “Barrett versus Barrett. I’m not sure how I’m going to pull this one off. You know I can’t make you both happy, right?”

“You just have to decide who you want to make more happy. Hint: It’s me.” I smile at him. As doubt pinches his features, I smile wider, cuter, a nose-wrinkle, putting every bit of spoiled baby sister that I can into it.

“I do like making you happy,” he admits grudgingly, and I’m bumped up. Three percent. I feel like a store’s millionth shopper.

“Why was Jamie hinting about a secret? You can tell me, you know.”

He takes the empty takeout container from me, and I swipe the syrup container and drink the rest. Judging from his expression, that was gross.

“You’re going to get diabetes,” he says faintly. “Or rot your perfect teeth right out of your head.”

Perfect? “Worth it.”

“There are no secrets when it comes to this renovation. I’ll be up front with you both.”

His eyes catch on my mouth. I lick and everything’s sweet. Everything’s heavy. He’s still sitting on my foot and I didn’t know that was a fetish, but hey, what did I know two minutes ago? I sit up with an ab-muscle tremble and it was a mistake, because now we’re closer.

“Do you still live on-site when you renovate?”

“Yeah, I’ve got my camping gear.” One second is up, and he’s passing his palms over his knees like he’s wiping away sweat. “Did Jamie say you pierced yourself somewhere?”

“Yep. And it hurt like a bitch.”

He won’t ask me where it is. He refuses to. “Thought you’ve had enough needles in your life.”

“I needed one more.” I was so cavalier about it, imagining my next heart review and how tough it’d look. It hurt like my entire body and soul had been pierced and I loved it, because in that all-consuming agony, I couldn’t think about diamond rings and my brother’s fury.

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