I am the most pathetic person in the world.
There. I’ve said it. I don’t want to be anymore and, therefore, I’m over Joshua Parkerson.
He’s not interested. He’s made it abundantly clear that I’m not the girl for him, and that means I’m moving on.
Just as soon as I figure out how to stop staring into those blue eyes and wanting to weep.
“Delia?” my best friend, Jessica, snaps her fingers in front of my face. “You there?”
She watches me, her lips pursed, and then sighs. “If it’s any consolation, I believe he has feelings for you. He’s just stubborn.”
That really isn’t any consolation because nothing will ever change. We dance around our attraction, pretending we don’t want each other—or well, he does. He kisses me, then leaves. He looks at me like he wants to devour me and then runs away, acting as though I’m crazy.
Well, I’m not going to be like this anymore. I’m so over him.
It’s his fault, really. If he hadn’t been so damn sweet the night we talked for hours, I never would’ve loved him.
But he was, and these are the consequences.
It only got worse over time. He was older, smarter, funnier than all the stupid boys I met. Since Alex Parkerson was my best friend, I was also around Josh all the time, and that made my stupid heart his.
That time is over though. Josh doesn’t want me, and I am done chasing him.
“It doesn’t matter,” I reassure her. “I’m over him.”
That earns me a laugh. “You are?”
“And when did this revelation happen?”
I shrug, looking down at the birthday cake on the table. “Just now. I’ve decided enough is enough.”
“Well, I hope this one lasts longer than the last time.”
I would love to tell her off, but the reality is . . . she’s right. I’ve been down this road before, and I was doing fine until his broody, sexy ass showed back up in Willow Creek Valley. Since then, I’ve been back on the love train that always stops in the station of loneliness.
But today is not a day for me to think or worry about Josh and his issues. It’s a really special day, it’s Grayson’s daughter’s birthday. Today we celebrate Amelia and all her wonderfulness. Jessica has outdone herself planning this shindig for her new stepdaughter that she loves.
“Can you carry this cake for me? I swear I can’t smell it without wanting to be sick,” Jess explains as she pushes it toward me.
“Wasn’t the sickness supposed to end?”
“It was,” Jess says, rubbing her swollen belly. “I started to feel better, and then last week, it was hell again. The smell of vanilla is what’s really killing me, which is a load of fun since everything has some hint of it.”
I am so freaking happy I will most likely never have kids. Being pregnant looks miserable. Jessica’s back hurts, she puked like crazy, and she has mood swings—really fun ones.
Amelia bounces in. “Jessica! Did we get vanilla cake? I love vanilla. It’s my favorite cake. When my new sister comes, I’m going to feed her cake and help her with her homework.”
Jess forces a smile, but she pushes her lips tight. “Mm-hm,” she hums without opening her mouth.
“Can we have it now? Daddy said it’s time to sing.”
Jess clamps her hand over her mouth. I laugh a little and step in to save her. “How about I carry it in for you, Melia?”
I nod. Amelia digs me. I’m the cool one who gives her treats when Jess and Grayson aren’t looking. We also bonded over our shared hatred of the dance studio owner. Amelia is just mischievous enough to push her limits. If I ever did have a kid, I’d want her to be like this.
“Ready?” I ask as I lift the cake.
Melia goes off in front of me, yelling for everyone to come sing to her. I walk into the dining room area, look around to make sure this is where we are going to sing, and Josh is right in front of me.
I shift to the left, and he does too—in the same damn direction, and there’s nowhere to go. I try to twist, but it’s too late. Instead of the cake going to the table, it ends up smashed between us, plastering both our shirts.
“Oh my God,” I say quickly.
Josh’s eyes move down as parts of the cake fall to the floor. “What the . . .”
“It’s okay, right? I mean, it’s not that bad.”
He raises one brow. “We’re wearing her cake.”
I stay calm because that’s the only option. “She’s going to kill me.”
“She’s going to kill us both.”
“Don’t move,” I say with my eyes closed. “Maybe we can salvage this.”
I put my hands lower and lean back, praying to God that the cake is still sort of a cake.
When I look, it’s worse. It’s a disaster.
I groan. “Nope. Not a chance.”
“I was her favorite,” he says almost to himself.
“No, we all know Ollie is.”
Josh huffs. “Well, this will solidify it.”
“She loved me too.”
Just then, Amelia barrels into the room. Her eyes go wide, and her little hands fly to her mouth. “My cake!”
“I’m so sor—”
“It was my fault,” Josh cuts in. “I ran into Delia on accident and broke your cake, Monkey.”
Her lip quivers, and I swear I’m about to break down in tears. “It’s okay, Uncle Josh.”
“Oh, honey,” I say quickly as more cake falls from our shirts onto the hardwood floor. Jessica walks up behind me and surveys the scene.
“What the . . .”
“We had a cake incident.”
She gags and covers her nose. “I see that.”
“Go into the other room, I’ll clean it up.”
She takes Amelia’s hand and moves out of the room.
“What was that all about?” Josh asks.
“She has developed an aversion to vanilla.”
Grayson walks in, looks at what was once the cake, and sets down a garbage can and a roll of paper towels. “Only you, Josh.”
“Hey, it wasn’t only me.”
“I had a part too.” I take my share of blame. Had I put the cake down before turning, none of this would’ve happened.
“Don’t worry, Deals, I would never blame you. We all know it’s always Josh’s fault.”
Josh flips off his brother. “Ass.”
Gray ignores him and addresses me. “Listen, I need to help with Amelia since Jess is getting sick, do you think you can clean this up?”
“Of course,” I say quickly.
I grab the paper towels and get to work. First, I wipe everything off my shirt, noting that the pink icing stains will probably never come out. Great. And now I need to go home and change before I head to work in a few hours.
So, I give up on trying to clean myself off and kneel to start wiping up the cake splattered on the floor.
Josh grabs the garbage can and squats. “Here, I’ll help.”
Together, we clean up the mess that was Amelia’s cake while Stella and Gray console Amelia.
Stella enters the room, a smile on her face when she sees us. “You both are a damn mess, but I fixed it. Have no fear. I’m back to being the favorite.”
Josh scoffs. “That’s what you think.”
“I don’t think it, Joshua, I know it. Auntie Stella, Uncle Jack, and Kinsley are going to the store to buy her six different kinds of ice cream and every topping they make since Uncle Josh ruined her cake.”
He rolls his eyes. “Enjoy it while it lasts. I’ll win her back.”
“You better start saving because the only way that’s going to happen is if you buy the girl an elephant.” She waves with just the tips of her fingers. “See ya later, cake killer.”
I laugh, and his eyes meet mine. “What?” I ask.
“Nothing, I just don’t hear you laugh often. It’s beautiful.”
I’m over him. I’m over him.
“I laugh plenty,” I say a little defensively.
“I didn’t mean you don’t, you just don’t do it around me.”
“Maybe I don’t have any reason to laugh then.”
His long lashes fall, and he sighs. “I’m sorry for that.”
I want to rail at him, but I don’t because it’s not worth it. And I won’t expend that much energy on Joshua anymore. “It is what it is.”
We stand at the same time, and I sway. Josh’s arms wrap around me quickly, helping to steady me.
He’s so close.
So close, and God, he smells so good. I close my eyes, inhaling deeply as his cologne mixes with vanilla, which I happen to love. I commit all of this to memory—the heat of his body, the way his hands feel on my skin, and the sound of his deep voice rumbling in my ear.
Then I look up, bad idea that is, and see his beautiful face. The way his blue eyes are intense and piercing. How his jawline is covered in brown whiskers I wish I could feel as I kiss him and run my fingers over the sharp angle of his jaw. There’s a scar above his left eyebrow that he got from Alex when he threw a rock at his head. Other than that, his cream-colored skin is unmarred and . . . touchable.
Josh releases me, and I clear my throat. “Thanks.”
He nods and then glances at his clothes. “Well, this isn’t going to work.”
“No,” I say with a laugh. “Not only because we’re a mess but also because Jessica won’t allow us to sit on any furniture or go near her because we smell like vanilla.”
“Of course, I can’t even change here because Grayson’s clothes are two sizes too small.”
Josh is the tallest of the Parkerson brothers and the broadest. Oh, and he’s the sexiest.
I meant most stubborn. Not sexiest.
Okay, well, he’s both.
“And Jessica is in her maternity clothes. Last week, I helped her move all her regular clothes over to her mother’s since there’s no closet space here. I’m going to head home now and change.”
“Nice that you live close. You get to change and I have to stay in cake for an hour.”
“Think of it as having your cake and wearing it too,” I say with a grin and head out.
Josh’s hand grips my bicep, stopping me. “I’ll drive us.”
“Drive us where?”
His big, blue eyes stare down at me, causing my breathing to falter. “To go get changed.”
What I hear from that is . . . we’ll get naked together.
I mentally slap myself. Not naked. Not we. No us. No nothing.
“I can drive myself. Thank you, though.”
He looks out the window. “Well, you’re boxed in thanks to being the first one here.”
Damn it. “I’ll just wear one of Grayson’s shirts.”
There is not a chance in hell I’m going anywhere with Josh alone. Not because I’ve had about a million fantasies of how this ends but because I will be surrounded by him.
I’m just not doing it.
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