Home > The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)(8)

The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)(8)
Author: Noelle Adams

He raised his eyebrows. “Would you?”

“Yes. You have a lot more patience than I do.” Feeling rather uncomfortable at having seen so much of what felt like Charles’s soul, she cleared her throat. “Anyway, you still want to do this?”

“Yes. I do. Have you changed your mind?”

“Nope.”

“Good.”

There was a longer pause before Taylor brushed the emotional discomfort away. She wasn’t the kind of person who got hung up on things like sympathy and understanding. “Where do you want to go? I don’t want to drive all the way to Azalea, but we can go to my place if you want. Or a hotel is fine with me if you prefer the impersonal.”

He was silent as he thought that through with impressive (and adorable) gravity. “I’d rather not do a hotel, so your place is good if you’re okay with that.”

“I’m fine with that. You wouldn’t be the first guy I had over.” She flashed him a quirk of a smile. Genuinely curious, she asked, “Does that bother you?”

“Why would that bother me? Do you really think I’m that judgmental?”

“No, I guess not. You’re just well-behaved. And sometimes well-behaved people are kind of self-righteous.”

“I’m neither self-righteous nor particularly righteous. People who think they are righteous are always wrong.”

She chuckled, both at his words and his disapproving frown. “That’s true. Sorry I painted you with the wrong brush. You’re not self-righteous at all even though you do use nor correctly in conversation, so that’s something. You want to just follow me over to my house?”

“That’s probably the easiest.” He was still frowning, and she could see he was trying to remember how and when he’d used the word nor.

She’d never known she would like him this much.

She’d never even imagined doing so.

“Okay. My house is 111 Sycamore, just in case I lose you along the way.”

Charles nodded and got into the driver’s seat of his car while Taylor headed for hers. They were only about ten minutes from her little brick house in an established residential neighborhood. If she’d gone with a town house or a condo, she could have gotten a nicer and newer one, but she didn’t like having neighbors that close, and her older house had a good-sized yard for Toby, her five-year-old pug.

Toby was just as grumpy and antisocial as she was, so they were a good match.

When they reached her house, she parked in the garage like normal while Charles parked in the driveway and walked into the garage where she was waiting.

“This is very pleasant.”

“Pleasant?”

“Yes.” He nodded. “It doesn’t really seem like you.”

She snorted. “Thanks a lot.”

“I thought you didn’t like people to sugarcoat conversation.”

“I don’t,” she admitted, letting them into the house through the garage. “I’m not a pleasant person, so I don’t fit in my pleasant house. Perfectly true, and nothing wrong with saying that.”

“I didn’t intend it as an insult.”

She checked his face and saw he was telling her the truth. “And I wouldn’t have been angry if you had.”

He nodded, clearly believing her too.

“This is nice,” he said when they walked inside, looking around at the old-fashioned kitchen and shiny hardwood floors. He was about to say something else, but Toby came charging and yapping at him just then, so he had to deal with the dog, who’d been surprised from his nap by a stranger in his sacred kingdom.

“Toby, no,” she said sharply.

Toby stopped barking and dropped to his belly in reluctant submission, but he snarled at Charles to prove he wasn’t cowed.

Charles chuckled and leaned over to offer the dog his hand. “How do you do, sir? I’d admire your defense of your home, but I’m not going to be a threat.”

Toby eyed him suspiciously, but then the wrinkled face smoothed out into his normal aggrieved expression.

“He’s not a very friendly dog, but he doesn’t bite.”

“You’ve got him well trained.”

The comment was mild and sounded sincere, and it made Taylor want to preen (ridiculously).

“You want something to drink?” she asked to hide her reaction.

“I wouldn’t say no to some water.”

She grabbed two bottles out of the refrigerator and carried them into the living room where Charles had wandered. He was now inspecting the antique chessboard her Uncle Robert had given her for her twenty-first birthday.

“This is beautiful,” he said.

“Thanks. It was a gift.”

“Do you play?”

“Why else would I have a chessboard sitting out like this.”

“I don’t know. Some people use them as pretentious accessories, but obviously you’re not one of those people. Are you any good?”

She shook her head at the unsmiling question. “I’m not bad.”

“You’ve never struck me as a chess player.”

“That’s clearly a sign that you haven’t known me very well.”

“That’s likely true.” He sat down in one of the two chairs at the small game table and nodded toward the other. “Let’s go then.”

She let out a surprised huff. “You want to play chess right now?”

“I’ll take that as an indication that you’re not as good as you claim.”

“Oh my God, you’re the weirdest man.” She sat down opposite him. “If you think chess is appropriate foreplay for a one-night stand, then so be it. And I assure you I am better than you think.”

“That remains to be seen.”

 

 

three

 


AN HOUR AND FORTY MINUTES later, Taylor smiled as Charles tipped over his king with a sigh of resignation.

She’d won two out of three games with him, and she’d had to play her ass off to do it. He was good. Better than most of her opponents (with the exception of her father and uncle). She hadn’t expected to have to work so hard to get the better of him.

She’d had the best night she could remember, and they hadn’t even gotten into the bedroom yet.

“Damn it,” Charles muttered. “You’re fantastic.”

“I know.”

He gave her a mild eye roll to show what he thought of her sardonic comment. “Why weren’t you on the chess team in school? We could have used you.”

“I’m not a team person.”

“Why not?” His expression made it clear that the question was serious.

“Really? You know me, right? I mean, we’ve known each other since we were kids. Obviously I’m not a team person. I don’t like people.” She glanced over to the corner of the room where Toby was snoring on his dog bed. He’d gone to bed about five minutes after they’d arrived, refusing to let their inexplicable doings interrupt his night of sleep.

“Yes, you do,” he replied softly, shaking his head with what looked like faint impatience. “Why do you say things like that? You’ve had friendships that have lasted decades. Of course you like people.”

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