“How do you know either of us wants to?”
Morgan gave her a get-real look. “I have eyes in my head, don’t I? That man wants you, bad.”
“There’s more to a relationship than sex,” Elle said.
“I suppose,” Morgan said, not overly impressed. “But if a guy looked at me like he looks at you, I’d go for it. You’re lucky, you know that?”
Elle didn’t know how to respond to this.
Morgan rolled her eyes. “Oh come on. If you were able to believe in Santa Claus for like, what, eight years, you can believe in yourself for like five seconds. You got this, Elle.”
“Hey,” Elle said. “I’d have believed in Santa a lot longer if you hadn’t made me stay up that year to watch Mom con our poor clueless neighbor out of his presents to his daughters, which she then put beneath our tree—and, by the way, our tree was a marijuana plant.”
Morgan laughed. “See? I protected you from some stuff.”
“I’m going to make tea,” Elle said. Instead of fight with you . . .
“You and your tea.”
“Do you want some or not?”
Morgan smiled. She’d always been amused by the little habits of comfort Elle had treasured. Tea. The same blanket she’d dragged to every place they’d ever stayed. The book of poems that had supposedly belonged to her father. Elle had no idea if that was actually true or not but her mom had always sworn to it and Elle had decided she had to believe in something.
“Fine,” Morgan said. “I’d love some tea. Really,” she added at Elle’s disbelieving look. “And, Elle?”
Morgan’s smile faded. “Thanks for not hating me.”
Elle sighed. “I don’t hate you, Morgan. And I don’t want anything to happen to you.” She paused. “Well, maybe something little and annoying, like every time you make toast it burns.”
Morgan laughed but sobered quickly enough. “I’m sorry I keep messing up your life.”
A stab of guilt settled in Elle’s gut. “You haven’t.”
“Oh don’t be nice now. We both know I’ve done exactly that. And I keep messing up my own life too. I’m having trouble with my Plan A.”
“Hey, at least there’s a lot more letters after A.”
“Yeah,” Morgan said and then hesitated.
“It’s kinda nice not to be alone in this anymore.”
Elle had been doing her damnedest to hold on to her distance, but it was getting harder and harder because she was starting to understand just how alone her sister had really been. Elle had always thought of herself as being alone too, but that wasn’t really true. She had Spence and Willa and Pru and the others at her back.
And despite his deceptions, she was beginning to realize she also had Archer. And although she knew he was trying to back off and let her be her own strong capable self, the truth was that no one was better at watching her back than him.
“Think we’ll ever get this sister gig down?” Morgan asked.
When Elle didn’t say anything, Morgan’s smile faded. “Oh. Right. We’re not really sisters anymore.”
“Maybe that’s something we can change,” Elle said softly, surprised to find that she actually meant it.
Morgan stared at her, clearly shocked. “Yeah?”
Elle nodded. “Yeah.”
Morgan’s smile was tentative but utterly genuine, and it made Elle’s stomach hurt. Turning away to give herself a minute, she moved into the kitchen to get the tea.
Archer was in his shower. She could hear the water running. She could also feel the low-level hum of awareness skittering through her veins at the thought, which left her nipples hard and achy against the silk of her bra. They hadn’t gotten the message that nothing was happening tonight.
She’d gone through her adult life appreciating great sex when it came her way, but always being able to walk away and move on without too much trouble. Except she was having trouble walking away from Archer. Her problem was that she’d let him in her bed. Or more accurately, in her body and, she feared, her heart. And that was the problem. Because everything she thought she wanted was now sideways and she couldn’t figure out which way was up.
She filled three mugs with tea. She left one on Archer’s nightstand for him, glancing at the big bed tempting her to climb in. Instead she moved back to the living room, turning off lights as she went, before taking the other side of the couch from Morgan, who was already snoring softly. Apparently nothing disturbed her sleep.
A few minutes later Elle’s nipples did their happy dance again and she opened her eyes to find Archer looking down at her in the dark.
She hadn’t heard him coming.
He crouched at her side and set a hand low on her belly. “Why are you warming my couch and not my bed?” he murmured, his mouth at her ear, his warm breath giving her an all-over body shiver, the very best kind.
And there in the dark she felt him smile.
He knew exactly how he affected her.
“I’m not getting into your bed with my sister here,” she whispered.
“But you can’t sleep out here, remember? You end up needing my body. Bad.”
He thought this was funny. “I’ll manage,” she informed him stiffly.
But then he brushed his mouth across hers and her bones melted. Bad, bad bones.
“I’ll be waiting for you, Elle.”
“I’m not coming!”
His soft, sexy laugh ghosted against her lips. “I can promise you otherwise,” he murmured.
She flipped over, giving him her back with a huff that only made him laugh again as he left.
“Oh for God’s sake,” came Morgan’s sleepy voice, disembodied in the dark. “Go after the hot guy, would you?”
“The peanut gallery needs to shut up,” Elle muttered into the cushion.
“Just sayin’,” Morgan said. “I’d leave you alone out here in a hot minute to go have sex if I had the chance.”
“I’m not going to go have sex while you’re out here knowing I’m having sex!”
“Your loss,” Morgan said.
“Oh my God,” Elle said. “Stop talking!”