“Finn. I want him to be happy.”
Jake was shaking his head. “Not your deal.”
“But it feels like my deal,” she said. “Everyone else is happy, even his brother, Sean. I have to try and help him.” Then she told him about the wish and he stared at her like she’d lost her marbles.
“He’s going to fall for you,” he said. “You know that, right? You have to tell him the truth before that happens, you have to tell him who you are first.”
She snorted. “He’s not going to fall for me.”
Jake smiled, and this time it did reach his eyes. “Believe me, chica, you flash those eyes on him, that smile, some sass . . . he’s as good as flat on the ground for you. And you know how I know?”
She shook her head.
“Because I’ve been there, done that.”
“But you didn’t stay flat on the ground.”
Something flashed through his eyes at that. Regret. Remorse. “That’s on me, Pru, not you. And you know it.”
Jake didn’t do love. He’d told her that going in and he’d never faltered, which wouldn’t change the fact that he intended to keep her in his life. He’d proven that by being there for her through thick and thin, and there’d been a whole lot more thin than thick. She’d been there for him as well and always would be. But there were limits now, for both of them.
“Tell me about Finn,” he said.
“You already know. He runs O’Riley’s. He’s loyal to his brother, he’s protective and good to his friends, and . . .”
“And?” Jake asked.
And he kisses like sex on a stick . . . “And he works too hard.”
“And you think what?” he asked dubiously. “That you’re going to change that?”
“He needs a life,” she said far more defensively than she’d meant to. “He was robbed of his.”
“Not your fault, Pru,” Jake said with firm gentleness.
“Well I know that.”
“Yes!” she said, not gently.
“Then why are you working your way into his life?”
A most excellent question.
“You didn’t work your way into the life of any of the others,” he said. “You did what you could and you stayed back, letting them move on without your presence. But not here, not with Finn. Which begs the question, chica—why?”
Again, a most excellent question. But she had the answer for this one, she just didn’t want to say it out loud.
Finn was different.
And he was different because she wanted him in her life in a way she hadn’t wanted anyone for a very long time.
“You know what I think?” Jake asked.
“No, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to tell me.”
“I think, Smartass,” he went on undeterred by her sarcasm, “that he’s different because you have feelings for him.”
No kidding. And she could have added that she was thrown off balance by that very thing. Confused too, because she’d never felt this way about anyone and she didn’t want to hurt him. She didn’t, but that left her digging a pretty damn big hole for herself. “I said I don’t want to discuss this with you.”
“Fine. Then discuss it with him.”
“I will. Soon. But I can’t just spit it out, it’s a lot to throw at someone. It’s only been a few days, I’ll get there.”
Jake just looked at her for a long beat. “I was at the pub last night.”
She froze. “What? I didn’t see you.”
“I don’t see how you could have, since you didn’t take your eyes off Finn.”
“I saw you with him. I saw the look on your face. And I saw the look on his. People are falling, Pru. Denying it is stupid, and one thing you aren’t and never have been, is stupid.”
“Okay, now you’re just being ridiculous.” But then she remembered Finn’s unexpected kiss, that amazing, heart-stopping, gut-tightening, nipples-getting-happy kiss, and folded her arms over her chest. “Seriously ridiculous,” she added and then paused. “You really think he could fall for me?”
Jake’s eyes softened. “Any guy with a lick of sense would. But chica, you’ve got to—”
“—tell him, yeah, yeah, I know.”
“Before it goes too far,” he pressed. “Before you sleep with him.”
“I’m not going to—”