“Hey, thanks guys.” Aspen knelt with us and began to unload the basket.
Finally, Noel joined in to help her, but the contention he’d started remained in the air. As desperate and determined as I’d been to get Noel to include Oren in the family, I’d also been completely naïve. They were both miserable. Noel wouldn’t talk except to pierce glares Oren’s way, and even as respectful as Oren was being back to him, I could tell by his own uncommon quietness and politeness that he wanted to be anywhere else but here.
Forcing them together had been a mistake. What had I been thinking, pushing them at each other in the hopes they’d make up?
Brandt and Colton chattered as we ate, and Aspen joined in. I was too busy casting worried glances between the two ex-best friends.
When Oren met my gaze, his brow knit. He leaned in close. “What’s wrong?”
I shook my head. “Nothing.” But when I glanced away, he caught my arm and made me lift my face again.
“Hey,” he said, his eyes full of sincerity. “I’m fine. All right? There’s nothing to worry about, baby. It’s all good.”
I looked him over. The seriousness on his face as he lifted his brows to assure me he wasn’t suffering only made me love him more…and yet it reassured me my worry was completely founded. He was definitely in a bad way.
But then he went and pointed past me, saying, “Shit, look at that.”
I glanced over, but couldn’t figure out what he was trying to show me. “Wha…?” When I turned back, he had half a deviled egg in his mouth. Knowing he’d eaten his own already, I zipped my gaze to my empty plate and gasped. “Is that my egg?”
Still holding the last half of it up to his mouth, he grinned and commenced to chew. “You weren’t eating it.”
Shock made my mouth fall open. “I was saving it for last. Nothing tastes better than Aspen’s deviled eggs.”
“Then you should’ve eaten it first…like I did. I mean, what if something happened before you reached the end of your meal? You could’ve choked and died on your sandwich? A tornado could’ve come along and blown it away? Or someone could’ve...stolen it?” Like he had.
I gritted out, “I want my damn egg.”
“Here.” He smiled way too congenially and held out the half he hadn’t finished yet. “I’ll share with you.”
I snagged it from his hand and popped the entire thing into my mouth. As I chewed, he grinned. But I jabbed him in the gut. With a groan and then a laugh, he clutched his belly and fell backward onto the blanket we shared with Colton. At the last second, he caught me and dragged me down with him.
“Oren,” I yelped. But he already had me neatly stretched out on top of him.
“If you wanted more, honey, all you had to do was say so.”
He kissed me, thrusting his tongue immediately. I’d always been drawn in by his mouth, so I kissed him back. I forgot where we were and who else was around until Noel rudely cleared his throat.
I jerked away from Oren’s mouth and rolled off him to sit up, red-faced and embarrassed. As I discretely ducked my face and wiped my lips, Oren lifted his head to send Noel a frown.
“Why? Did you fart?”
Noel wasn’t amused. “Do you really have to kiss her in front of me?”
I held my breath as Oren went still. He stared back at Noel before shrugging and lying back down on the blanket as if to gaze up at the clouds. “Guess not,” he answered.
I touched his arm in gratitude, thankful he hadn’t engaged my butthead big brother in an argument. In response, he reached out and caught hold of my knee. With his eyes closed, he began to rub my calf, from knee to ankle and back again. That seemed to enrage Noel even more though. His jaw hardened and eyes narrowed as he focused on nothing but the movement of Oren’s hand, his hand which wasn’t even going above my knee.
Needing a break from the tension, I grabbed Oren’s fingers, stopping him. “Let’s go to the waterfall.”
His lashes flickered open and he immediately sat upright. “Okay.” A warmth spread over me, reminding me what we’d done the last time we’d been there. But as we went to stand, Noel straightened in surprise.
“Where do you think you two are going?”
I sent him a scowl. “We’re going for a walk.”
Noel motioned with his hand. “Colton, why don’t you tag along with them?”
I set my fists on my hips. “Really?”
Noel glanced at me innocently. “What?”