It wasn’t Ellie. That was for damn certain.
It was Georgina.
My eyes were semi-adjusted to the darkness and apparently hers were not. Because her figure, outlined just vaguely in moonlight, hair wet and dressed in loose pajamas, snuck into the guestroom. The door closed softly behind her, and she unknowingly sat down on top of me. Her body made contact with mine for a mere fraction of a second before she jumped away as if I’d electrocuted her, disappearing into the shadows of the room.
“Hello?” she yelped. “Who’s there?”
“Georgie, it’s me,” I said as gently as possible, trying not to scare her further.
“Oh,” she exhaled. It was a soft sound, but loud against the quiet night. “Sorry. I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“You didn’t wake me. Are you okay?”
I’d known her since she was a kid, and we’d never had a one-on-one like this conversation before. I couldn’t even see her face, but for some unexplainable reason my heart was racing.
She was hardly that little kid anymore.
“I’m okay,” she answered. “It’s just…I didn’t want to sleep upstairs. I’m sorry. I’ll leave.”
Swinging my legs over the edge of the bed, I stood up so fast I nearly gave myself whiplash. “No. You sleep here. I can sleep out on the couch.” I didn’t give her a chance to protest as I speedily left the room, the sweet scent of her shampoo filling my nostrils as I hurried past her. Before she could stop me, I shut the door behind me.
The table lamp had been left on and the light blinded my unadjusted eyes. I turned it off and then made myself comfortable (or rather, uncomfortable) on the couch. My legs were a good two feet longer than the damn thing and no blankets could be found—but I was too confused by my brief conversion with Georgie to care. She didn’t want to sleep upstairs? I guess I understood that. Her dead brother’s room and the bathroom she tried to commit suicide in were upstairs. I wouldn’t want to be up there either. But why was my heart still racing?
After a few minutes the pounding slowed and exhaustion washed over me. This day had been strange, the last half hour stranger, but I finally started to drift off to sleep. Except, the moment I did, Georgie’s voice cut across the room—startling me all over again.
“Noah,” she called softly, my name sounding different coming from her. “I’ll never sleep knowing you’re out here on that tiny couch. Trade me, please.”
“No,” I told her firmly. I might be a lot of things, but I sure as fuck wasn’t about to make a girl sleep on this couch.
She didn’t go back into the room. “Seriously. Please.”
“No,” I repeated, hoping I didn’t sound like an asshole. “If we trade, then I wouldn’t sleep.”
“Then…” Her voice faltered but after a long pause she finished her thought. “Then maybe you should share with me. It’s a big bed. I don’t mind. And I’ll keep on my side—promise.”
What?! Good sense told me not move, but that was not what happened. I stood. My feet carried me across the room and briskly past her before I could even comprehend what I was doing. She silently followed. I knew nothing was going to happen, but this sure wasn’t how I ever expected to spend my night. Through the dark grayness I watched her move for the left side of the bed.
“No, I have to have that side. Take the right,” I told her even though my insides were now screaming with apprehension. Seriously, what the fuck was I getting myself into?
Dammit, this girl was more drama than I ever bargained for. It didn’t matter, though. Because maybe, just maybe, she was going to be worth everything to me.
I retraced my footsteps, followed the stone stairs from the sand up to the deck, and found the table where everyone, minus Georgie, still sat.
“Where is she?” I demanded, not bothering to be polite.
Three blank faces and one smug face stared back at me.
“Nine minutes,” Ellie answered, checking her phone. “Booyah. Someone owes me a Coke.”
“I’m serious, Ellie. Where is she?”
Ellie took a giant breath. Then she pushed out her chair and made a big show of standing to her feet. That easygoing, shit-eating grin that always lingered on her face—it vanished. And a stern face, one I hardly recognized, replaced it. “Sit down your ass down, Noah.”
What? “Why?” I asked, leery.
“Because I have something to say.”
She meant business and Ellie never meant business. So I sat my ass down.
She sat back down in her chair, as well. “Here’s the deal,” she said, the entire table drawn into our conversation. Even Rhett seemed mesmerized. “You’re my best friend, Noah, but Georgie…she’s my baby sister. I love you, but if you’re not one-hundred bazillion percent sure about her—right now, right this moment—then you need to stop this. I can’t see her hurt. Never again. It would crush me.”
My jaw tightened. “That’s not what I want and you already know that.”
“I know,” she muttered, her voice cracking. Shit. I never meant to upset her.
And then I glanced up. Something across the room caught my eye. Georgie. She was talking to her asshole ex or current boyfriend or whatever the hell he was. I already knew Logan. He was Ben’s friend. I just hadn’t made the connection between him and Georgie earlier. Before this moment, based on my past knowledge of the guy, I’d already pegged him as a decent man. But he instantly became an asshole in my book—because what kind of fool would give up on such an amazing girl like Georgie? A real fucking asshole—that was who.
Ellie noticed what I’d seen and our conversation ended. All conversation at the table ended. Georgie stood there talking to the asshole for what felt like forever. I didn’t charge across the room or do anything stupid—because, frankly, that had never been my style. I knew when to shut my mouth, and I knew when to bide my time. And I also realized I knew Georgie a little better than I thought.
At work earlier, I’d spent a full thirty minutes studying her, memorizing that sexy little body of hers. When she felt comfortable, she had an easygoing, playful way about her. Not too unlike Ellie. But the Georgie I observed now, had her arms crossed tightly over his stomach and a rigid posture. She was wildly uncomfortable and possibly in pain. And every ounce of my being, every bone in my body, tingled with the need to go save her—to interrupt her conversation with the asshole, swoop her up in my arms, and just carry her out of this place.
I was about to go do exactly that because I couldn’t take another nanosecond of this torture. But then she jetted out her hand and he shook it. Well, that was a fucking relief. A handshake was about the last thing I’d ever want Georgie to offer me. It spoke volumes. It told me all I needed to know.
Logan gave her a small, cringe-worthy hug and they parted ways. Georgie back in my direction and Logan off in the other direction. And as Georgie turned around, I noticed a little falter in her step as she spotted me across the room. Heat scorched through my body as her eyes collided with mine.
That moment had come—the moment where I couldn’t go another minute without knowing what those sweet, plump lips of hers would taste like.
“I’m one-hundred bazillion percent sure,” I whispered to Ellie, standing, while my eyes stayed focused on Georgie. I left the table, crossed the room, and gave her the kiss my whole damn body was aching for.