“I’m the one who spotted him,” Dorrie said. “He looks like he’s been out in the wilderness for days, so prepare yourself. To be perfectly honest, Sasquatch is what comes to mind. But—”
She broke off, noticing Stuart and Jubilee. “Stuart’s with a girl,” she whispered in a voice loud enough to bring down a house.
“I know!” I whispered back. I grinned at Stuart and Jubilee, who both turned as red as Dorrie’s hat.
“Hi, Dorrie,” Stuart said. “Hi, Tegan.” He put his arm around Jubilee and patted her shoulder, half nervously and half just plain sweetly.
“Gabriel!” Tegan squealed. She rushed over and scooped Gabriel from my arms, which was lucky, as my muscles were wobbly. My whole body was wobbly, because the bell on the door was jingling again, and it was Jeb, and he was a total mess, and sobs rose inside me, and laughter, too, because he really did look like Sasquatch, with straggly hair and wind-chapped cheeks and his strong jaw shadowed with stubble.
His dark eyes darted from person to person, then landed on me. He strode over and crushed me in his arms, and I hugged him with every bit of myself. My cells sang.
“Oh, man, Addie, it’s been a crazy couple of days,” he murmured into my ear.
“Yeah?” I said, soaking in the glorious, solid realness of him.
“First my train got stuck. Then there were these cheerleaders, and we all ended up in the Waffle House, and they kept making me help them with their lifts—”
“Their lifts?” I drew back so I could see his face but kept my arms circled around him.
“And every single one of them left her phone on the train so she could focus on spirit, or something. And I tried to use the Waffle House phone, but the manager was like, ‘Sorry, no can do. Crisis mode, dude.’”
“Ouch,” Tobin said, cringing.
“See what happens when boys get obsessed with cheerleaders?” Angie said.
“Although it’s not fair to be prejudiced against all cheerleaders,” Jubilee said. “Just the ones whose names rhyme with showy. Right, Stuart?”
Stuart looked amused.
Jubilee waved at Jeb. “Hi, Jeb.”
“Julie,” Jeb said. “What are you doing here?”
“Her name’s not Julie, it’s Jubilee,” I whispered helpfully.
“Jubilee?” Jeb repeated. “Whoa.”
“No,” Christina said, and all eight of us turned to look at her. “I am the one who gets to say whoa here, and I’m saying it right now, okay?”
No one responded, so finally I said, “Uh, okay. But come on, it’s not that weird a name.”
She looked pained. “Addie,” she said, “I need you to tell me right now: Did you bring a pig into my store?”
Pig in store . . . was there any way to put a spin on this?
“He’s a really cute pig,” I said. “Does that count for anything?”
Christina pointed to the door. “The pig has to go. Now.”
“Fine, fine,” I said. “I just need to give Tegan a cup to put him in.”
“Think Flobie’ll ever dip into drinkware?” Stuart said to Jubilee under his breath.
“I’m sorry, what’s that?” I said.
Giggling, Jubilee elbowed Stuart and said, “Ignore. Please.”
Dorrie stepped closer to me. “You did good, Addie,” she said. “I doubted you, but I shouldn’t have, and . . . well, you did good.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“Hello?” Christina said. “Did anyone hear me when I said the pig needs to go?”
“Someone needs a refresher in customer service,” Tobin said.
“Maybe Don-Keun could help?” Angie said.
Christina glared, and Tegan stepped backward toward the door. “I’m leaving, I’m leaving!”
“Wait!” I said. I released Jeb long enough to grab a snowflake mug from the shelf, which I handed to Tegan. “For Gabriel.”
“If the regional manager stops in, I’m fired,” Christina said hopelessly. “Pigs are not part of Starbucks policy.”
“Here you go, sweetie,” Tegan said, tilting Gabriel so that he slipped into the mug. He scrabbled a bit, then seemed to realize the mug was just his size and made a decent house, actually. He sat on his haunches and oinked, and every one of us gave a collective awwww. Even Christina.
“Excellent,” Dorrie said. “Now come on, we better go before Christina plotzes.”
I grinned at Jeb, who grinned back. His gaze shifted to my hair, and his eyebrows went up.
“Hey,” he said. “You changed your hair.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. It seemed like a lifetime ago. That blonde-haired boo-hoo-hoo girl who spent Christmas feeling sorry for herself, was that really me?
“Looks nice,” he said. He rubbed a lock between his thumb and forefinger. His knuckles slid down, grazing my cheek.
“Addie, I want you,” he whispered, and heat flamed to my face. Did he honestly just say that? That he wanted me, right here in Starbucks?
Then I realized what he meant. He was responding to my e-mail, the part where I said, If you want me, I’m yours.
My cheeks stayed warm, and I was glad no one in the store had ESP, because that was a classically self-absorbed misinterpretation. But even if they did have ESP—and how would I know, anyway?—it was certainly no crisis.
I rose on my toes and wrapped my arms around Jeb’s neck.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” I warned him, since I knew how he felt about being mushy in public.
“No,” he said, gently but firmly. “I’m going to kiss you.”
His lips touched mine, and a ringing filled my head, sweet and silver and pure. It was probably the bell on the door, jingling as Dorrie and Tegan went out. But I was far too busy to check.