Alex tipped over sideways until his head was in my lap. “So your brother’s buggered off to France to chase tail.”
“That’s a delightful way to put it,” I said, running my fingers through his hair. “God, your hair is soft.”
“I condition,” he said, laughing.
I stroked his beard. “Do you condition your beard as well?”
“Nope, that’s just naturally silky. Bit selfish of Mark, though, isn’t it? To fly off without so much as a word?”
I sighed. “That’s just how Mark is,” I said. “He can be the most thoughtful person on the planet. I remember I was sick once and Mum and Dad were on holiday and he made me soup — from a tin, but he was well chuffed that he’d managed it since at the time I think he was about sixteen and he wasn’t exactly a hand in the kitchen — and ran out and bought me tissues and cough syrup and more cold meds than I knew what to do with. He can be an absolute sweetheart — and then he can be such a nightmare and just go off without telling anyone where he’s gone or what he’s doing. I reckon he’s just sort of normally selfish and it’s just really occasionally that he’s actually a lovely generous person.”
“Any idea who it is he’s shagging, then?”
I whacked him across the side of his head. “I don’t ask. I’m sure I don’t even want to think about how many girls he’s slept with.”
“What, do you reckon it’s more than you’ve shagged?”
“Girls?” I grinned down at him. “Oh, most definitely. As far as guys I’ve shagged…meh. Definitely fewer than him!”
“That would have been my assumption,” he said, looking up at me sleepily and closing his eyes. “On both counts. Since I’m guessing your brother’s been shagging anything with tits that moves for the last four or five years, while you’ve been tied up with Nate.” He cracked one eye and squinted at me. “Unless you were shagging other people and neglected to tell me.”
“Nope,” I said. Kissed, on the other hand… “Just Nate.”
He closed his eye again. “Thought as much.”
We sat in companionable silence for several minutes before Alex’s wriggling jammed my hip into a rock.
“Ow,” I said. “Shit.”
He lifted his head off my leg. “Should I get up?”
He hauled himself to his feet and offered a hand to help me up. “Guess we should go crash,” he said.
“Yep,” I said. “At least I’m not sixteen and trying to sneak in without Mum or Dad noticing.”
“You used to sneak in when you were sixteen? I’m shocked.”
I rolled my eyes and teetered on the edge of the curb. “I was such a wild child, you have no idea.”
Alex laughed. “Liar.”
“Yep. Bet you were a nightmare.”
He belatedly covered a yawn and said, “I can’t say I didn’t cause Mum all kinds of trouble, but never anything serious. Compared to Cat, I was an angel.”
“How is your sister?” I asked as we turned onto Walton Street.
His expression turned more serious. “She’s okay. She’s been having some problems, but she’s okay. She’s living with my brother at the moment, at least until she finds a job. I offered her our spare room a couple months ago, but she doesn’t like Faye so she said no, she’d rather stay with Patrick.”
I dug my keys out of my pocket and fumbled around until I found the right one. “I guess at least she’s somewhere safe?”
“Yeah,” he said, taking the key from me and fitting it into the lock. “Better than when she was living with the bloke in his fifties with no job and serious problems with drugs.”
“Well, goodnight,” I said. “You know where Mark’s room is.”
“Yep. See you tomorrow morning.” He leaned down and gave me a kiss on the cheek, which sent a shock of warmth down to my stomach, where it fizzed pleasantly as I dragged myself up to the loft bedroom and got ready for bed.
“No, no, no,” I told myself firmly under my breath. “It’s a bad idea for so many reasons. Starting with the fact that he’s still good friends with Nate and ending with the fact that he’s dating Sarah. Plus about a million other things.”
I flopped back on my bed and dragged the duvet up to my ears. “Don’t you dare dream about him,” I told my brain sleepily, and then fell asleep.