Desire faded from her eyes. “Sure you want to take me there?”
He’d forgotten about the last time they been in Poor Boy’s. She’d flirted, he’d snapped, and neither had spoken to the other for two months. Not until he’d driven past her on Highway 13.
“Need a ride?” he asked, his truck keeping pace with her strides.
She tilted her nose in the air, hiked up her purse on her shoulder, and walked faster. “Does it look like it?” Then she stopped suddenly, bent over, and retched.
He put the truck in park, hopped out, and was by her side in an instant. Gathering her hair back, he held it while she finished. “I have some water in the truck—haven’t even twisted the cap off.”
“Isn’t that convenient?” She grimaced, and then breathed through her mouth. “Always showing up at just the right time, like my own true knight in shining armor.” Once again, she was pushing him away.
He let her hair fall, looking around at the fields that had been turned over for an early spring planting. “I’m no one’s knight,” he said and moved back to his truck. He reached inside the open window, grabbing the bottle of water and a couple of loose napkins. “I’m giving you a ride into town as an apology.”
“Fine.” Her spine straightened as if steel had been poured, and then cooled inside of it. “I need to go see Dr. Reed.”
He placed his palm over her forehead, a gesture his mother made whenever he or his brother and sisters were sick. Her skin was clammy, not feverish. A fine sheen of sweat glistened along her cheeks. “What’s wrong, Summer?”
There was the barest hint of tears surrounded by anguish before she blinked, clearing everything away. “I’m pregnant.”
The bottle of water fell to the asphalt, but it was his body that felt the impact.
Gabriel gave himself a mental shake, and then smiled at Summer. “It’s all in the past, and I’m ready for the future.”
“A date,” Summer said to her reflection.
“Yes, a date,” Jemma Leigh said, walking up behind her and placing her hands on Summer’s shoulders. “All you need is some lipstick, and you’ll be ready to go.”
Summer smiled faintly, accepting the tube from the woman who seemed to be bound and determined to be her friend, whether she liked it or not.
“Gabriel’s gonna die when he sees you.”
Summer made a little noise. “Gabriel will probably order me to change.”
“If by change, you mean put on some sexy lingerie, then I have some you can borrow, too,” Jemma Leigh said with a conspiratorial smile. “That man won’t know what hit him.”
“You know Gabriel Edwards as good as I do, and we both know that will never happen.”
Jemma Leigh pursed her lips. “You have to stop thinking that way about yourself.”
Easy enough for someone like Jemma Leigh to say. “I’m stating the truth.”
“Then why did you bother inviting me over?”
Summer leveled her with a look. “The devil made me do it.”
“I’ve never been called that before,” Jemma Leigh said wryly.
Earlier in the afternoon, Jemma Leigh had caught Summer in another weak moment, and invited her to coffee again. Over caramel lattes, Summer had blurted the news. Okay, so if she was honest, she hadn’t blurted it. She had wanted Jemma Leigh to know, and not just because she would spread the news around town, but because Summer was nervous. With a capital OH DEAR GOD, WHAT HAD SHE AGREED TO?
And that’s how she ended up with Jemma Leigh helping her get ready at Carolina Dreams. Rose’s office had served as a dressing room, while Jemma Leigh had served as makeup artist and stylist by rushing home and back again with clothes, makeup, and anything else she could find. The room looked like a department store had exploded inside of it.
Summer plucked at a bead on her shirt. It was hot pink (naturally), with tiny, silver-colored beads along the sides. The sleeves were short and capped, and the white miniskirt with more pink and silver beads made her feel like she was bedazzled to the max. Matching silver and pink earrings dangled from her ears.
Overall, she looked nothing like herself and everything like the woman standing behind her, but Summer didn’t have the heart to tell her so. Mostly because she didn’t have a heart in the first place.
However, the makeup Jemma Leigh had applied was another story. Summer had never been able to pull off really dark or bright colors, at least not in her opinion, so she felt like a clown, even if she didn’t remotely resemble one.
“Could we tone down the eye shadow a bit? The hot pink at the top seems a little—”
Jemma Leigh’s face fell. “You hate it, don’t you? I bet you hate the entire outfit.”
“No!” Summer all but screamed, and Jemma Leigh’s smile returned in full force. “I don’t have the bones for this, not like you do…so I think we need to go a little neutral on the eye makeup.”
Striking a pose, as her new friend had been doing in front of the mirror she’d brought over all afternoon, Jemma Leigh tapped her chin. “You might be right. I thought with your attitude that you could carry it off, but the more I think about it….the more I see what’s underneath.”
Summer’s eyes widened, and she turned around to face Jemma Leigh. “Underneath what?”
“Underneath all that attitude. You can’t fool me, Summer Holland, but I won’t tell a soul.” Jemma Leigh winked at her. “Now, go wash that pretty face and we’ll take it from the top.”
Gabriel took one look at the woman walking toward him and forgot how to breathe.
Summer wore a pale blue sundress, a string of dark blue beads, and silver sandals. Her pale hair flowed down her back in big, bouncy curls. Brown eyes with the longest, blackest lashes he’d ever seen gazed at him, without malice, anger, or even scorn.
In fact, Summer looked nervous.
But how could she? It wasn’t her palms sweating. It wasn’t her heart pounding against her chest. It wasn’t her knees that were weak. It wasn’t her brain reminding her of the last kissed they shared, of how she felt in his arms and pressed against him. Oh no. That was all him, with all his body parts and brain conspiring against him.
“Let me take a picture,” Jemma Leigh said. She rushed around the counter, phone in her hand, and waited for Summer to join him.
“Do you mind?” he asked as she moved to stand beside him.