“Peter’s upstairs being a crab,” Mae told Jack dramatically.
“Oh,” Jack replied knowingly and exchanged a look with Mae that I couldn’t read. She just bit her lip and shrugged, then hugged me a little tighter. “Peter is such a jackass.”
“Oh, he is not.” Mae had taken to stroking my hair gently, and that alleviated some of my tension and shame.
“Peter!” Jack shouted up at the stairs at him.
“I am reading a book!” Peter growled down.
“Peter!” Jack shouted again, growing more irritated.
“I am reading, Jack!” Peter responded, and I winced at the anger in his words.
“Jack.” Mae shot him a look. “Let him be.”
“Whatever.” He relented, but he didn’t look happy about it. Then he turned his attention to me and smiled. “So, Alice, wanna have some fun?”
“Sure?” I replied hesitantly. His eyes had a mischievous glint, and I hadn’t decided whether or not I should trust it.
“I don’t have a suit.” This was true, but I was sure they would have a solution for it. I had a feeling that Mae and Jack would have a solution for nearly everything.
“Oh, I have the perfect one for you!” Mae smiled, her earlier excitement returning.
She ushered me down the hall towards her room. We went into Mae’s room, where Jack proceeded to flop back on the overstuffed bed. She opened the doors to her closet, and it was larger than my entire bedroom. She started searching through her multitudes of bathing suits, making me nervous.
Once she found one she liked (a pale blue two piece with a ruffled skirt around the bottoms), she insisted that I go into their adjoining bathroom to try it on. It fit, and it was more flattering then I had expected it to be, but it also felt incredibly revealing.
When I came out, she gushed over how amazing I looked. I might’ve believed her if she hadn’t already changed into her own bikini in the closest, and I looked like nothing compared to her. Jack didn’t say anything, but the approving way he looked at me made me blush.
Jack was a typical guy and decided that wearing just his black boxers would suffice. I took a moment to admire the perfection of Jack shirtless, but I did it as discreetly as possible.
We went outside through the French doors, and the cold stung. Mae and Jack didn’t appear to notice it, but that didn’t surprise me.
I climbed into the hot tub. The way it instantly warmed my entire body reminded me of the way that I had felt when I looked at Peter. Then I remembered the ice in his voice and tried to push thoughts of him out of my mind.
We spent quite a bit of time in the hot tub, and when I finally let myself relax and enjoy it, I did. Matilda lay sprawled on the patio next to us, and Jack tried to splash her until Mae made him stop.
I just sunk in the water, trying to forget all the stuff about Jack that didn’t make sense, and the fact that my brother hated me, and Peter’s piercing green eyes.
“It’s getting late,” Mae announced and looked sadly at me. “I really enjoyed having you over, and I do hope you come again. But you probably should get home before it’s too late.”
“It’s never too late,” Jack grumbled, dipping his head back under the water as if that could block out the truth in her statement.
“No, she’s right.” Using most of my strength, I pushed myself from the warm, comfort of the tub and felt the frigid air on my skin. “Oh my gosh, it’s freezing!”
“I brought out towels,” Mae gestured to a pile of plush white towels lying on a nearby chair, and I rushed over to them.
When I picked up a towel, I happened to glance up, and I saw Peter standing inside the kitchen, staring through the French doors at me. The towel had unrolled in front of me, but I just stood there, holding it, unable to actually start drying myself. The cold was painful, but Peter had captivated me.
One of his arms folded across his chest, while his hand rested on his chin. His brilliant green eyes were giving me a look that could kill, and my heart felt eager to please, so it completely stopped beating. It might have stopped forever if Mae hadn’t interrupted and pulled me from the trance he’d put me in.
“Peter! Would you care to join us?” Mae called at him. Still glaring at me, he shook his head, then turned on his heels and stalked off. “Don’t mind him, Alice. He’s really not so bad.”
“It’s okay,” I lied, then suddenly started feeling the cold again and wrapped the towel around myself.
“You make him nervous,” Jack whispered, suddenly standing directly behind me.
“Why?” I asked numbly.
It didn’t make any sense that I could make someone as composed and perfect as Peter nervous. I was inconsequential in every way. Naturally, Jack didn’t answer me. He just shrugged and walked into the house.
“Hurry up before you freeze to death!” Jack yelled, and I rushed in after him.
By the time I had gotten dressed, Jack was waiting by the door for me. He twirled the car keys on his hands and whistled a song that sounded suspiciously like “Walking on Sunshine.”
At the door, Mae hugged me tightly and reminded me that I had to come visit her soon. Looking rather pained, she apologized for Peter’s behavior, and I wondered what he had done that had offended them so much.
“Which car are we taking?” I had followed Jack out into the garage, but he looked like he was walking all the way down to the other end, so I already knew what it was.
“The Lamborghini, of course.”
“How do you decide which car you’re going to take?” Now, with a million other questions burning in my mind, this was the only question I wasn’t afraid to ask.
“I only take this when Ezra’s gone,” he explained sheepishly as he hopped in the driver’s seat. When I got on, he started it and adjusted the stereo. “He thinks it’s too flashy. And my Jeep is fun but it’s not as fast, so I usually just take Mae’s Jetta. The Lexus is Ezra’s ‘every day’ car and the Audi is Peter’s.”
“If you like the car so much, why didn’t you just get one?” I asked as Jack backed out of the garage.
“Ezra says we don’t need to stand out that much.”
“Well, then why did he even bother buying this car? And you live in a house shaped like a castle and he drives a Lexus. How is any of that inconspicuous?” I looked at him skeptically, and he grinned at me.