I stood frozen in time, unable to move or think. Yes. If you guessed that Mike’s brother was Corey, you guessed right. Staring at him, I wondered how in blue blazes something like this could’ve happened. There was just no way. Do you realize how many people in California were on the beach that day? Out of all the beaches, and there were a lot, how was this possible?
God was definitely punishing me for my sins!
As the blood rushed from my face, for a second time that evening, I must’ve turned pale white. I hoped and prayed I was dreaming but knew better. It was real. He was here and I was in so much trouble! He stared at my face in confusion. Lord, it was worse than I thought; he recognized me! I almost said his name out loud, which would’ve been bad since no one told me what his name was!
Shaking his head, he arched a brow. “Good Lord, are you okay? You look like you’re about to faint.”
“I… My… Since…” I forgot how to form sentences! These one word beginnings had his eyes squinting at me as if trying to figure me out. What a horrible first, well, technically it wasn’t a first impression, but he didn’t know that! I shook my head, trying to gather my thoughts. “Sorry. Since havin’ Logan, I’ve been dietin’ an’ it makes me a little lightheaded, kinda hard to form full sentences,” I joked at my own expense but he wasn’t laughing… just stared at me as if he half expected me to explode right in front of him. I could be so lucky. “I think I got up from the table too fast because those white fuzzies are comin’ to get me right now… but it’ll be fine when it passes.”
…and the award for sounding like the world’s biggest idiot goes to… yep, bring it on over.
Hesitantly, he held his hand out for me to shake as if he were reaching out to touch a poisonous snake. At this point, I believe he thought I was an escaped patient from the looney bin and felt all the pity in the world for his brother. I looked up into those beautiful blue eyes of his and felt an instant charge of guilt… and here I thought that packed up and left me! Truth be told, I wanted to do a lot more than shake his hand, but I didn’t think that would go over too well.
“That’s fine. I understand.” His voice almost sounded condescending. “You have to be Elyse. I’m Corey. Mom’s told me so much about you and Logan that I feel like I already know you.” He flashed that smile of his that I had yet to be able to forget. “She just adores that little baby of yours and I can’t wait to meet him.”
Stab, stab, stab… the guilt dagger was back.
I glanced down at his hand, and then back up to his face as he wanted me to shake his hand. He didn’t recognize me! What the hell? I wasn’t sure whether I was happy or sad about that. I didn’t look exactly the same as when he first met me, but I still looked like me! Chances were, I’d never fit into that white dress again. In a way, I was happy he didn’t know I was the same woman that he couldn’t keep his hands off of, but I was also a little annoyed.
Arching a brow, pursing my lips, I struggled over keeping my tone level. It wouldn’t do any good to bitch him out for not remembering me. My husband was there and that would be hard to explain. Hell, it happened to me and I still didn’t understand how it happened.
Realizing I was being ridiculous, bi-polar in fact, I smiled, putting my hand in his, shaking it a little too enthusiastically. “Well, hello there! It is really nice to meet you. Though, I have to tell ya, I was never told about you, so I’m a little shocked an’ confused on what I’m supposed to say, or how I’m supposed to act, so… yeah.”
Yep, open mouth, insert foot. I just couldn’t shut up!
I heard Mike calling out behind me. Most likely, he heard all the idiotic shit that was spilling out of my mouth. “Honey, are you okay?”
I glanced over my shoulder, looking at him. “Yeah, just lightheaded, I guess, from all the dietin’. I’ll be fine.”
“I told you that you weren’t eating enough.” He shook his head, looking at his mother. “She’s been doing this diet, mainly fruits and vegetables, where she barely eats enough to keep a bird healthy.”
I turned back around, staring at Corey with that stupid look on my face. He continued looking at me as if trying to figure out if I was crazy or not. I barred the entrance to the house so it wasn’t like he could get around me. Most normal people would’ve offered him in at this point. Not me. Oh no. I just kept shaking his hand with what must’ve been a scary expression on my face. I could tell that much by look he gave me.
“May I… come in?” He gave me that award winning smile of his. “I like to shake hands as much as the next guy, but I think we’re good now.”
Lord, please, strike me dead.
“Oh…” I laughed, pulling my hand back, sheepishly. I hadn’t realized I was still shaking his hand. Going for the record there! “I’m sorry. After the baby, I’ve been tryin’ to get my original shape back so I’ve been dietin’.” I already said that! “It causes a little lightheadedness, which makes me a little stupid at times.” Stupid? “Well, not stupid like, ‘stupid is as stupid does’ stupid, but ya know it’s like my brain decides to take a little vacation at times.” A vacation? “Not a real vacation like on a beach or anythin’.” I blinked as I said that. What was wrong with me? I was digging my grave. “More like a desert where there’s no water to nourish it.” What? Oh, I kicked myself in the ass for sounding like a complete moron. “Yes, please, come in,” I rambled, opening the door wider.
He walked in, shaking his head, widening his eyes with an odd look on his face.
I wanted to just beat my head into the wall and see if that might help get back my senses. He didn’t know who I was. Provided he didn’t figure it out, I was in the clear. However, to do a whole dinner with him, sitting at the same table, with my husband that was a bit much for me to handle. I was going to snap before it was all over. That damn guilt dagger – it was back and making up time missed – was stabbing me so much I was sure I was leaking blood everywhere I went.
He went to the dining room table, directly to his mother, still shaking his head. No doubt he thought of me as the insane person in his family. Hell, I thought the same damn thing! As she stood to hug him, he wrapped his arms around her. “Mother, as always, you’re more radiant than the moon itself. I’m sorry I am so late. I got held up with business.”
Maybe they wouldn’t notice if I made up some excuse about Tania having a crisis that needed my immediate presence and left until this thing was over. I struggled with the flee idea, but then figured that might throw up too many red flags and curious questions. I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to talk.
“You’re such a charmer.” Maureen giggled, as he set her back down. “I’m just glad you could join us. It’s about time you came to see me! I can’t believe I have to use your nephew as a means to get you to come and visit your aging mother.”
“Oh mother, you’re far from aging!” He laughed. When he turned looked at Mike, his face took on a darker expression. “Mike.”
Mike shared the same gawk and angry tone. “Corey.”
I could tell there was a lot of bad blood between the two. I needed to find out why. Not now, but later I would drill Mike about it. It was something bad enough to tear a family in two leaving Maureen stuck in the middle.
I couldn’t have picked the worst stranger, that looked like my husband, to have a baby with. I would’ve preferred to run into him at the grocery store, instead of at my mother-in-law’s. I was so doomed I could almost hear someone playing Taps for me.
All I had to do was get through dinner.