She could only imagine what would happen if they were ever stupid enough to try to swallow each other’s tonsils again. Her vagina might actually go up in flames . . .
But they wouldn’t be stupid enough for that. Or at least he wouldn’t. After all, he’d been the one to put the brakes on. And he’d not even looked back.
Which made that the second time. She didn’t usually keep score but she really needed to remember that the next time he appeared behind her eyelids in the night. He wasn’t right for her. And he was never going to be right for her.
And if that thought hurt, she shoved it away, shoved it deep. She was good at that, real good. She’d shoved deep lots of bad before. Such as giving up on ever having anything that resembled a “normal” family. She’d never known her dad and she’d walked away from her mom a long time ago. She’d had to do the same with her sister, although that one had been a lot harder and still haunted her.
So Archer not wanting her? Right in her wheelhouse.
Halfway across the courtyard, she ran into Kylie standing at the fountain. She stood there in skinny jeans that emphasized her toned, petite body. She had a tear in one knee and another across her opposite thigh, was wearing a tool belt and a fleece-line leather bomber jacket, and was looking both incredibly feminine and badass at the same time.
Elle loved the look, although she thought Kylie could use a little lip gloss. Not to please a man or anything like that. Just because she seemed pale today and needed a little color.
Kylie blew out a sigh like the day had been hard and long, and shoved back her long, wavy brunette hair, leaving a streak of sawdust in it.
“Um,” Elle said, pointing to it but Kylie waved her hand like she didn’t care. She had her little rescue pup, Vinnie, on a bright blue leash at her side. Four months ago he’d been all head and ears, small enough to fit into her pocket.
He was still all head and ears, and might still grow up to be either a very big rat or a French Bulldog. It was anyone’s guess.
In any case, Vinnie was wearing a bolo tie—clearly ready for country night at the pub. He looked up at her, his warm brown eyes dancing with the kind of excitement for life only a dog could muster.
“You look very handsome, cowboy,” she told him.
Vinnie panted happily and melted to the cobblestones to expose his kibbles and bits.
“Just like a man,” Elle said on a laugh but dutifully bent down to scratch his belly. She looked up at Kylie. “You’re staring down that water like it’s your mortal enemy. What gives?”
Kylie shrugged. “It’s going to sound pretty stupid to you.”
“Okay,” Kylie said. “I’m trying to decide if I trust love enough to actually wish for it.” She revealed the quarter in her palm.
“Is that what you’re doing out here?” Elle asked. “You’re trying to get the balls together to wish for love?”
“Well, yeah.” Kylie looked at her. “Both Pru and Willa found love as a direct result of their wishing.”
“You really believe that?”
Kylie bit her lower lip, watching as Willa and Keane came out of the stairwell holding hands as they made their way through the wrought-iron gate to the street and vanished. “I want to believe.” She looked at Elle. “You really don’t ever feel tempted?”
Maybe for a teeny-tiny second . . . but she was over that now, not that she’d ruin someone else’s dream. “I don’t know. But I do know this—I wouldn’t want to have to wish for it. If it were to happen, I’d want it to happen organically.”
Kylie blinked at her. “Wow. I didn’t see that coming from you. You’re a closet romantic.”
Elle hadn’t seen that coming either, but it was unfortunately true. She let out a low laugh and shook her head. “In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s what you think that really matters.” She took the quarter from Kylie’s hand and tossed it into the water. “Bring Kylie true love,” she told the fountain. She looked at Kylie. “There. It’s out of your hands now. It’s done.”
Kylie flashed a grin. “Because you’ve deemed it so?”
Kylie shook her head, still smiling. “Does the whole world always do exactly as you command?”
She got that question a lot. “When it knows what’s good for it,” she quipped.
Kylie smiled. “So are you going to laugh at me if I say I really want to believe the wish will come true?”
“Well, not to your face,” Elle said. “Are you hungry? Because I need Finn’s chicken wings in the worst possible way and you don’t even want to know how badly I need a drink to go with them.”
“Yes,” Kylie said fervently.
“Okay, then. But first . . .” Elle pulled as much of the sawdust from Kylie’s hair as she could.
The pub was crowded. Luckily for them, Finn always kept the far side of the bar open to the people who lived and worked in the building. Pru, Haley, Willa, and Keane were already there, in varying degrees of “cowboy” attire.
Kylie sat, but Elle remained on her feet as they dug into the chicken wings. She’d been sitting all day and she feared getting a flat ass. She wasn’t ready to concede her curves just because she was working her ass off for a better life than she’d ever had before.
She wanted the good life and her curves, dammit.
“There’s one unhappy cowboy,” Pru said, gesturing to one of the dining tables, where a family sat with two little kids wearing more barbeque sauce than their food. The two-year-old was wailing at the top of his lungs, the slightly older one grinning from ear to ear.
Elle shuddered. “Can you imagine?”
“Yes,” Pru said with a soft smile.
Willa nodded, looking a little sappy. “It can’t be harder than having pets. At least kids eventually learn to use the toilet.”
Her boyfriend, Keane, laughed. “Such a romantic.”
“Always,” Willa said. “Maybe we should go practice procreation.”
Keane leaned in for a kiss. “Anytime.”
“You too,” Finn said to Pru. “You just say the word. I could practice the shit out of procreating.”
Elle watched the kids another minute. Small children tended to make her nervous. They were like little ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. “I don’t know if I see myself with kids,” she admitted.