Home > 99 Percent Mine(8)

99 Percent Mine(8)
Author: Sally Thorne

He always knows when I need him to change the subject. “And what happened to your hair? Your mom broke the news.”

“I think she called everyone she knows. Hysterical, over a freakin’ haircut. Oh, Princess, why?” I mock, trying to keep my movements casual as I pass my fingers through it. It feels like a boy’s head now. I cross my legs and my tight leather pants squeak. I smooth them with a black-nailed hand. I have never been less of a princess.

If Mom knew I have a nipple piercing now, she’d give me the lecture about how my body’s a temple. Sorry, Mom, I hammered a picture hook into myself.

“She rang me, crying. I was up on a roof. I thought that you … anyway.” Tom’s forehead creases at the memory. “Imagine my relief that Darcy Barrett had just cut her plait off. You went to a barbershop?”

“Yeah, I got an old barber to do it. What? I wasn’t going to a women’s hairdresser. They’d give me a pixie cut or something nauseating like that. I specifically wanted a World War Two pilot’s haircut.”

“Okay,” Tom says, amused. “So, did he know how to cut it?”

I slap at a mosquito. “Yeah. But he changed his mind and didn’t want to do it.”

Tom looks at where my hair used to be. “It was kind of special.”

I didn’t know he thought that. Goddamn it. “He’d forgotten lady hair was soft. He begged but I made him. The sound of the scissors going through it …” I still get goose bumps. “It sounded like he was hacking through sinew. He prayed in Italian. It was like being exorcised.”

Tom is wry. “Making scared men pray. You really, really haven’t changed.”

“Amen.” I stretch my arms up to the sky and my humid clothes barely move with me. Sitting around with Tom Valeska has given me one hell of a lust-sweat.

The urge to take it too far always overwhelms me. It has since we both hit puberty.

“I love it when they pray in Italian,” I whisper, sexyhushed, and he won’t meet my eye. “Please, please, Signora Darcy, don’t make me.”

“Signora means you’re married, doesn’t it? You’re not married.” His voice is faint and when I study him sideways, the hairs on his forearms are raised. How interesting.

“Yeah, who’d marry me.” It’s now my turn to slouch down, pick at my boot, and change the subject. I do it clumsily. “Hey, does everyone assume one day they’re going to get a call that I’ve dropped dead?”

He doesn’t know how to answer that, so I guess it’s a yes.

“Mom’s good at dramatic phone calls and forwarding photos. I got a Mom Special about you.” I refuse to look at him now. I wrap my arms around my knees and growl. “Goddamn it, Tom. What the hell.”

He knows exactly what I mean. “I’m really sorry.”

Tom’s engaged! Finally, it’s been so long! His mother is fit to burst! Two carats, can you believe? Darcy, say something, isn’t it fantastic?

If I’d been up on a roof, I would have ended up in traction. Instead, I went out and drank twenty toasts to the beautiful couple. It was a bender eight years in the making.

I woke up to a photo of a sugar-lump diamond on a perfectly manicured hand and puked. I was late to the wedding I was shooting. One of the main courses at the reception was sea bass and the room stank like a wharf. After the bride articulated her opinions about my lack of professionalism, I threw up in an umbrella stand by the door.

And meanwhile, Loretta was going out into the garden to hide her coughing fits from me, and Jamie was applying for fancy jobs in the city and spending less time with me. That entire year was one massive vomit, and the taste is still in my mouth.

“I don’t accept your apology. You never called me yourself, you jerk. Do we just use my mom as a communication method these days? Aren’t we pals?” I kick his boot with my smaller one, more gently than I want to. “Am I gonna be blinded by this ring when I see it?”

It’s as close to Congratulations as I can manage. Or, When’s she getting here? Hey, I sent them a card. They probably laughed their asses off picturing Darcy Barrett in the Hallmark section.

Tom opens his mouth to answer but is distracted by a car that grumbles past the cottage at a walking pace. It’s a muscle car, heavy and low to the ground. Its engine thrums as it rolls up to the curb.

I have a bad feeling I know who this is, and Tom doesn’t like him.

Chapter 4

Tom begins to stand, and the car accelerates and squeals off. Oh, to have such a big scary silhouette. Life would be so easy.

“Who was that?” Tom sinks back down.

It was Vince, coming around here like a tomcat. “No idea.”

I put a marshmallow in my mouth so I can’t talk anymore. Tom knows I’m lying, and when he begins to argue, I stuff a marshmallow in his mouth, too. He’s annoyed and amused. I felt his lips on my palm. This night isn’t all bad.

As his eye fixes onto my boot, the streetlight creates a black blade under his cheekbone. I’d click my camera right now. Now, as he looks at my legs and his lashes create a dark crescent shadow. Now, when those eyes cut to mine and there’s a spark of light in them, and another thought about me in his head. Then he looks away.

One second is all it takes to get my heartbeat flipping like a fish in a net.

I blurt, “Can I take your photo yet?”

“No,” he replies, soft and patient, like he has every time before. He doesn’t understand his own face. He has to be dragged into the Christmas picture, posed behind Megan with an unconvincing smile that looks more like concern.

Oh, that’s right. I’m a prime candidate to be taking pictures of him in a suit at the altar.

“That’s okay. Human faces aren’t really my bread and butter these days.” I link my fingers together and try to dredge up some self-control.

Get it together, Darcy. It’s not his fault he was born with your favorite kind of bones. He’s a sweet shy solid-gold human. Someone’s fiancé. You’re a teenage dirtbag. Leave him alone.

He’s clammed up completely. We’re running out of topics. Work is a safe zone. “So you’re finally your own boss. How did Aldo take it?”

Tom huffs a relieved laugh. “How do you think he took it?”

“He’s going to have to do some actual work himself. Yeah, I’d say it went badly.” I feel myself inflating with overprotectiveness. Bigger. Darker. “Do I need to go and make him apologize to you?”

Tom laughs at whatever I look like. “Don’t get growly.”

“I can’t help it. People take advantage of you. Even us.” Us means the twins.

You guys don’t take advantage of me.” He’s braced back now with his palms flat on the porch, endless legs splayed out. I lean back too, just to feel how our bodies compare. My hand is positively Chihuahua-sized next to his Valeska paw. My boot is halfway down his shin. I turn my head. My shoulder? It’s an upturned mug sitting beside a basketball.

I’m not a particularly petite woman, but he makes me feel like I’m soft. Little and light. A princess. I frown, sit up, and force myself back into a geometric shape.

“Aldo wanted to bump your house for a bigger, easier job. I said it couldn’t wait any longer. If you guys have changed your mind about renovating, I’m kinda screwed,” he says, barely joking. “I took most of the crew with me.”

“Don’t worry, we’re all good. Make the place beautiful and get me out of here.” He took the crew? I cannot imagine him making that kind of power move. I look at his brute frame in my peripheral vision, and maybe I can. “Take it from me, it’s weird not being on a payroll.” I nudge his shoulder with mine, resisting the urge to rest against him. “Thanks for choosing us over him.”

“Well, thank you. For, ah, employing me.”

“Oh, I’m your boss now?” Just as a dopamine surge fills me and I think of so many sleazy, funny responses that I could go with, the image of Megan’s face makes me bite my lip shut. Teasing him is my Olympic sport, and I can only compete once every four years. But he’s going to be her husband soon. “Think of us as business partners.”

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)