I woke with a start, disoriented, as the truck turned and bumped over something. Sitting up, I realised Ryan had pulled into my parents’ driveway; the headlights illuminated the pots on the front porch.
“I’m home,” I said stupidly, brain clogged by sleep.
Ryan was grinning beside me. “Yes, unless you moved and forgot to mention it. You fell asleep, you know.”
“Baaaaah.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and pulled my tote up into my lap. “I was tired.”
“Did you know you snore?”
“I do not!” Actually, I did know that. Not loudly. Just a little. Not that I was going to admit that to Ryan. Erik had always been after me to get the doctor to give me something for it; he’d hated it. My mouth twisted at the thought.
“It’s cute,” he said. “It’s just a little catch — ”
“Shut up now, please,” I said, opening the door. Epitome of grace that I am, I promptly tripped on the step and tumbled out of the truck. My tote hit me over the head on the way down. Sighing, I sat on the driveway and examined my hands. No blood, just loose skin and damaged pride. And wet clothes.
“You okay?” Ryan asked, extending a hand.
“I’ll survive,” I said, letting him pull me up. “Nothing broken. Just bruises. At least this time I’ll know where they’ve come from. I’m always waking up with odd bruises and no idea where I got them.”
He turned my hands over and brought them up level with his eyes. “Hmm,” he said. “I think you’ll live. Are you always this clumsy? Or is it just my presence that makes you trip over your own feet?”
“Smartarse,” I muttered, snatching my hands away. I discovered a hole in the knee of my tights and bent to examine it so I could avoid looking at him. “I’ll have you know your truck is a danger to humanity.”
“Good thing I haven’t invited humanity to ride in it, then,” he replied, sounding amused.
I glanced up. He was smiling down at me, and I suddenly felt tongue-tied in a way that hadn’t happened since, oh, god, high school. With him. Shit. “I’m always clumsy,” I said, just for something to say, and then added, “Would it be imposing too much to ask you to help bring my stuff inside? I know you’ve probably got somewhere to be, but I can probably offer you a cup of tea. I know, terribly tempting, but — ”
“How British of you,” he said, turning and starting to undo the knots on the tarp. “It’s not a problem. I’m not collecting the dog from the neighbour until tomorrow, so I’m not in any hurry to get home.”
I dragged the first suitcase up to the door and went hunting in the underbrush for the spare key. Where the hell had Dad hidden it? Oh, right. It wasn’t in the underbrush at all, it was behind the loose brick. Why couldn’t I have a father who hid the spare key under the mat like a normal person?
“You know,” I said over my shoulder as I unlocked the door, “I forgot to ask where you live. It’s not awfully out of your way to bring me home, is it?”
“I live in downtown Olympia,” Ryan said, lifting my remaining two suitcases up the steps with enviable ease and setting them down on the front mat. “I’m renovating the apartment above Wind Up Here.”
An image of Ryan sitting in Wind Up Here surrounded by toys popped into my head and I burst out laughing. “Is the location choice for convenient access to the toys?”
“Why else?” He stepped past me into the front hall. “I have to find some way to amuse myself when I’m not in the store. Where do you want these?”
“Ugh. Set them down anywhere. I have to go through and dig out a ton of stuff before I can take them upstairs.” Shutting the door, I wandered through to the kitchen. I stopped and stood for a moment, soaking in the feeling of home. Mum’s kitchen was blue and yellow and brown and always smelled of fresh-baked bread. I had a sudden craving for pot roast and quickly disguised this fact by calling out to Ryan, “What kind of tea can I get you?”
“I’m not much of a tea drinker,” he said, joining me in the kitchen. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any coffee?”
Good question. Had Dad finally stopped drinking coffee? I opened the cupboard beside the stove and rummaged around. “Hmm,” I said. “Let’s see. Nope, that’s flour. Ground chocolate. Coconut flakes — coconut flakes? What the hell?”
Ryan appeared at my shoulder. “Do you actually know what coffee looks like?”
“Thanks, your confidence in my ability to find coffee in my own kitchen is reassuring. Here.” I thrust a bag of Batdorf and Bronson coffee at him. “You’ll have to make it, as I’ve no idea what one does with coffee to make it drinkable. You do that and I’ll go put on pajamas.”
He paused in the process of scooping coffee into the press, one eyebrow lifting. “It’s only eight o’clock.”
“It’s four in the morning in England, I’ve been awake for almost thirty hours, and I’m exhausted.” I smiled cheerily and went to dig pajamas out of my tote bag. Oversized flannel pajamas, rock my world.