Beautiful Sacrifice (Maddox Brothers #3)(8)

A knock on the door startled me, and I leaned up on my elbows, looking around the bedroom as if that would help me hear better.

“Falyn!” Kirby said from the other side of the door. “Gunnar is going to be late! Let me in!”

I groaned as I crawled off the comfy mattress, and I crept out of my room and across the living area to the front door. Just after I rotated the dead bolt, Kirby pushed through the door, still in her apron and holding a to-go cup half full of soda.

“Is it possible to love everything about someone, except for everything about him?” she growled, slamming the door behind her, narrowly missing my face. She sipped on her drink and leaned against the closest thing to the door, the side of my refrigerator. “This is the second time he’s been late this week.”

“Maybe you should stop letting him borrow your car,” I said.

“His truck is in the shop—again.” Kirby’s eyes scanned over my purple cotton nightgown, and she puffed out a laugh. “What a sexy nightie you have, grandma.”

“Shut your face,” I said, taking a few steps to face the large mirror on the wall. It was basically an oversized T-shirt. There was nothing grandma about it.

I padded across the worn carpet, inviting her to sit. I grabbed a section of my still damp hair, mindlessly using both hands to twist the ends. My hair was camouflage, falling in soft waves over my shoulders, long enough to cover my breasts if I were ever stranded in a lagoon without clothes. It would keep my hands busy when I was nervous or bored. It was also a cloaking device. With just one tuck of the chin, a tawny veil would be lowered between me and an unwelcome stare.

Whether a man would mention my hair or my eyes first was a toss-up. My eyes weren’t as closely set as Kirby’s, but they were the same almond shape, only slightly hooded. No matter how many YouTube makeup tutorials I’d watched, eyeliner was a waste of time. Makeup in general was a waste of time because I had never mastered the art, but for some reason, the shape of my eyes plus their bright green color were something my regulars would comment on often. That was only slightly more frequent than the mentions of the splash of freckles over my nose.

Kirby made herself at home, sitting on my sofa and leaning back into the cushions. “I love this old thing. I think it’s older than I am.”

“Older than both of us put together,” I said.

The loft had come furnished with all but the bed. I’d slept many nights on that sofa until I could save up enough to buy a frame and mattress. I deemed a headboard unnecessary. My tips were spent only on the bare essentials.

I sat in the scratchy orange swivel chair beside the sofa, watching Kirby frown as she sipped from her straw.

She turned her wrist to glance at the delicate black leather watch on her wrist, and then she heaved a dramatic sigh. “I hate him.”

“You do not.”

“I hate waiting. I feel like that sums up my entire relationship with Gunnar—waiting.”

“He adores you. He is taking all these classes to get a good job and give you everything you want when you’re his wife. It could be worse.”

“You’re right. He is the hottest thing in town—besides your new toy. Are you really going to let him take you to dinner?”

“A free dinner? Of course.”

“You can eat for free downstairs,” Kirby deadpanned, the tiny diamond stud in her nose glinting in the light.

Kirby’s dainty nose went with the rest of her petite features, including her size five-and-a-half feet. She was built like a high school cheerleader and smiled like Miss America. She could be a model or an actress, but instead, she was a waitress in the Springs.

“Why are you still here?” I asked, ignoring her point.

She made a face. “God, Falyn, sorry. I’ll wait downstairs.”

I reached out to her as she stood to leave. “No, dummy!”

I pulled her down, and she sat with a frown.

“I mean, why haven’t you bounced out of this town yet?”

Her face smoothed. “I like it here,” she said, shrugging. “And Gunnar is still in school. His parents will foot the bill as long as he stays home and helps with the ranch.”

“He’s still going to apply for the physician’s assistant program in Denver?”

“That’s why he’s staying close to home, doing his prerequisites for pre-PA at UCCS, and then he can transfer super easily to CU Denver.”

“You mean, he’s staying close to you.”

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