Warm in her bed with very pleasant dreams, it would have taken a canon to wake Lauren up if the doorbell hadn't rung. That sound however had her instantly alert. Jake had said he'd be over in the morning, but surely not this early. She looked at her clock and saw that it was only 8:00. It had to be someone else. But then she heard the distant, but unmistakable tones of his voice. It sounded like he was talking to Bethany. She strained to hear what they were saying. The thought of seeing him again so soon after last night had her heart pounding like a jackhammer.
“I'm not getting up! He can just go away!” she said quietly to herself. But the thought of him doing just that had her scurrying to find her bra and slippers. She paused after putting them on just long enough to comb her hair and brush her teeth before walking into the kitchen, trying desperately to look calm.
She wasn't aware of making any noise, but Jake immediately turned towards her. The look he gave her could have pinned her to the wall. She probably would have stood there with her mouth hanging open if he hadn't looked away almost immediately to answer something Bethany had just asked him.
“No, I wouldn't go out if I were you. Schools are cancelled for a reason. I had enough trouble driving this morning and I have four wheel drive.”
“OK, but Ashley's going to anyway, I bet. She's such a workaholic that she'll probably go in if she has to slide on her butt all the way.”
Justin laughed and turned casually towards Ashley to say, “Good morning, sleepyhead. Nice pj's.”
Only then did Ashley realize that she was wearing her red chile pepper pajamas. The top said, “Too hot to handle,” and had flames shooting out everywhere. She decided that if he could act normally, so could she. She replied lightly, “Yes, corny, but true.”
“I never argue with a woman who hasn't had her breakfast yet.”
“Very wise, Cooper. I've learned the wisdom of that myself living in a house full of girls.”
“Arguing is out, but there's no reason not to discuss things.”
Her eyes threw daggers at him, but he smiled innocently at her. Bethany was looking very confused, apparently sensing that there was more to his last remark than she could make sense of.
“Um, I'm going to go see if Ashley's planning to go to work,” Beth told them and headed for the stairs.
“Tell her I'll give her a lift if she wants one,” Jake called after her. He softened his voice and leaned closer to Lauren to say, “It will give us a chance to talk.”
He leaned against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest. Even slouched down a little as he was, he was still so much taller than her that Lauren stood on her tip toes and hissed at him, “Don't you dare!”
His face grew serious. “Believe me, that's the last thing I want to do, but don’t think I didn't notice that you didn't promise to talk to her yourself last night. Frankly, I don't think you have the nerve, so I've decided that if you won't do it, I will.”
“That would embarrass the heck out of her!”
“Then do it yourself.”
“I will, but I haven't had a chance to. Besides, what's the rush? Why can't I wait for the right time?”
“Because I want to kiss you right now, but I can't because someone might walk in. I can't even touch you, and believe me, my patience is wearing thin. I should just kiss you in front of everyone and let her get the message.”
“Who says I'd let you?”
“Oh, you'd let me. You want me to right now. It's written all over your face.”