Jessica Brookfield - age 25.
Patrick Clark - age 24.
Rosalind Clark (BFF and sister) - age 25.
Setting - Los Angeles.
“Jess, thank God! Where have you been? Never mind—I need to call in a BFF chip.”
“Slow down, Ros. What’s wrong?” It had to be big if she was calling in a best friend favor.
“Patrick lands in an hour and I’m stuck in
“Ricky’s coming to town? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Uh, ‘cause work has been crazy and I forgot? I need you to give him a place to crash.”
“Okay, I can pick him up and he can sleep on my couch until you get home.”
“That’s not the favor. Jess…”
Uh-oh. “Spit it out, Ros.”
“My building is closed for repairs, as you know. I’m living out of hotels. Patrick got a job that asked him to be in
L.A. in three days, so he’s moving here with no time to find an apartment. Do you see what I’m getting at here?”
I sighed. “You can’t host your little brother until he’s on his feet so you’re making me do it.” The BFF chip was a pact we made in seventh grade. Name it and the best friend had to accept the favor, as it was meant for emergencies. We’d never used it as adults.
“I love you, you’re the best. I’m sure he won’t be any trouble! I’ll forward you the flight info so you know where to pick him up.”
“Wait—” But she’d already hung up. I tried calling her back and it went to voice mail. Bitch.
My phone buzzed, telling me I had a new e-mail. Patrick’s info. I grabbed my purse and headed to LAX to meet him in Baggage Claim for his terminal. Ros owed me big time for this.
Last time I saw Patrick—Little Ricky to family—was high school graduation night for me and Ros. That was seven years ago.
He was an oops, born eleven months after his sister, and a nerdy, skinny, quiet kid. Since Ros and I had been BFFs since kindergarten, Ricky had tagged along on many occasions, until we reached high school. You know how it is. Last thing Ros wanted was to be seen on school grounds with her decidedly uncool little brother.
Went through the nightmare of parking at LAX, then searched for the right terminal. I’d found a piece of paper to write his name on the back in case we didn’t recognize each other. Been a long time, after all. As one of the biggest and busiest airports in the country, LAX was a zoo except in the middle of the night, so I was doing my best dodging dance around people and luggage. I’m not a big girl. People running into me tend to knock me over.
I ducked to avoid a tall man’s backpack only to get my legs run into by someone else’s cart, and landed on my butt. A large hand appeared in my vision and I accepted the hand up before looking at who it was attached to.
“You alright, miss?” asked a deep voice.
Tilted my head up—and up. The guy must’ve been six-foot-three at least. “Thanks, yeah.” Thick frame glasses, the curly hair… “Ricky?”
His eyes widened. “Jessica. Did you come with Rosalind?”
I was staring. Anyone could see it. I couldn’t help it. In place of the scrawny kid barely taller than me was a hunk of hotness too yummy to be real.
“Jess?” That voice saying my name…dear God, there was no way he could stay with me arriving with all of that.
“Sorry. You, uh, you look different than…um, no, Ros isn’t here. She’s in
Chicago. Surprise… She asked me to pick you up.”
“I see. Well, I haven’t picked up my suitcase, yet, so we should—”
“Right, the carousel.” Pivoting on my heel, I led the way to where other passengers were waiting for their belongings. Get a grip, Jessica!
I could do this. I could get my best friend’s surprisingly hot younger brother—never think of him as little again—to a meal and a place to stay. Easy-peasy, right?
Patrick grabbed a large black suitcase that matched his carry-on. “You’re parked nearby?”
“In the closest parking structure, yup.” God, everything out of my mouth right now sounded idiotic. “So…Ros said you got a job here?”
“Yes, as a System Analyst.”
“I have no idea what that is.”
“It’s an IT job.”
“Oh. Computers. You were always good with ‘em.” Shut up, shut up!
“I appreciate you coming to get me on assuredly short notice, so you can drop me off at Rosalind’s apartment and I’ll be out of your hair.” Where I’d had to dodge all the people coming and going, the crowd naturally parted for Patrick. Tall guys had all the luck.
“Yeah, that’s…not possible.” He quirked a dark brow. Why did I keep looking at him? “Ros’ building has some code violation and they’ve temporarily evacuated all the tenants.”
“And she’s in
“Right. Stuck. Probably weather or something. She called me an hour before you were supposed to land and asked for a favor. Sorry.”
“I’m guessing she asked for more than giving me a ride.”
Oh, I’d ride him alright—augh, no! Bad brain! “You know your sister.”
We reached my car and I pressed the unlock button on my fob, then popped the trunk. Patrick heaved his luggage into the compartment with ease. Where had all those muscles come from? IT guys usually didn’t look like they went to the gym. Shaking my head, I opened the driver-side door and sat down. The trunk lid closed, then he sat next to me a couple seconds later, and moved the seat back so his knees weren’t hitting the glove compartment.
“Jess, I don’t want to be a bother—”
“You’re not! Of course not. We’re practically family. Ros is the PITA, not you.”
“Okay…well, normally I’d ask you to drop me at a motel, but…this is embarrassing to admit—”
“I can’t afford one,” he said quietly. Color tinted his cheek.
“Oh. Because the new job hasn’t—”
“Started. Yes. Rosalind was supposed to—”
“I understand.” Better than I did when she called, now.
“Thank you. I assume Rosalind has somewhere to stay while her apartment is under repair. Do you have a key?”
Curse Ros’ lack of communication. “There’s no key. She’s been living out of hotels, since she travels a lot for work, anyway, so I have nowhere to take you but my sofa.”
Take you…sofa…geeze, I was a total gutter brain around this guy.