“I see you started partying without me,” Nick said, setting down his overnight bag just inside the sliding glass door and sauntering over to the patio. Adele’s sisters were in or near the pool with Nick’s brothers. Adele and her oldest sister, Ruth, were lying facedown on lounge chairs wearing skimpy bikini swimsuits.
Nick did a double take and quickly averted his eyes. Ruth’s bikini top was untied, presumably to avoid tan lines. She was at least thirty by now, not exactly a temptation for a twenty-two-year-old guy, but still. Awkward.
Thankfully, Adele was mostly covered when she raised her head and glanced at him through her dark sunglasses. “Hey there, handsome.”
He pulled up a lounge chair and kicked off his dress shoes. Before leaning back to be closer to Adele, Nick pulled his socks off and rolled up his slacks.
“Feeling better?” Adele asked in a playful tone.
“Not exactly,” Nick admitted. “I may have to go change.”
“How was your flight?” Adele’s asked.
“Not long enough for the nap I need.”
“Wow, you’re in a great mood this afternoon.” Adele sat up and swung her legs over the side of her lounge chair to face him.
“Oh… my… gosh.” Nick turned completely away from Adele, overwhelmed by the lack of fabric covering the woman who had replaced the girl he once loved.
“What’s the matter?” She reached her hand out and touched his arm. “Are you okay?”
“Nope.” He kept his eyes squeezed shut and shook his head. “Not even a little bit.”
“Did something go wrong with your business deal in Dubai?” Her voice was laced with concern.
“Dubai was fine. We destroyed my friend’s life with the stroke of a pen.”
“Babe, I’m gonna need you to put on a cover-up or sweatshirt or something in order for me to concentrate.”
“You’re such a prude, Nick.” Adele chuckled but rummaged through her bag. He sensed rather than saw her wrap a chemise around her shoulders. “Better?”
He peeked open one eye and breathed a sigh of relief to see her fully covered. “Much better.”
“Now, what were we talking about?” Adele asked. “Something happened in Dubai?”
“We’re just a little bit wealthier than we were yesterday, that’s all.”
“Oh, is that all?” She leaned her head back and laughed playfully.
“Will you marry me?” Nick asked.
“My dad wants me to get married, and you’re the only girl I’ve ever loved, so I figured, why not you?”
“Why not me?” Adele’s jaw dropped, and she lowered her sunglasses. “You run into me out of the blue after not calling me for four years and suddenly think we should get married?”
“It’s only logical,” Nick said.
“Logical? You think marriage is logical? Is this just because you saw me in a swimsuit?”
“I’ve seen you in a swimsuit,” he said. “Not quite as filled out as you are now.”
“How dare you!” Adele stood suddenly. All conversation stopped around them. “Four years, Nick. You haven’t spoken to me in four years!”
“You’re the one who ran off to college, not me.” Nick rose to meet her heated gaze. “The phone works both ways, darling.”
“You’re still jealous that I got to go to college, aren’t you?” She balled her hands into fists.
“Why would I be jealous? You were crammed into a dormitory the size of my walk-in closet while I flew around the world in my private jet, getting real-world experience that can’t be duplicated in your ivory towers.”
“You pompous, self-righteous jerk!” Adele pushed him backward, and he waved his arms in a circle to right himself. “This is about my graduation speech still, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nick lied.
Adele laughed heartily. “You’re jealous that my college entrance exams were higher—”
“Barely,” he coughed into his hand.
“—and I got to give the graduation commencement address.”
“Five points, Adele. Five. That’s it. Yours were five points higher than mine.”
“And you couldn’t have just been proud of me?” She pushed him again.
“I was proud of you.” Nick scrambled to maintain balance. “I’m still proud of you.”
“Proud?” She stepped closer.
“Yes.” He relaxed his shoulders,
“And jealous?” she asked.
“You’re an idiot, Nick.” With one little nudge, Adele pushed Nick backward into the pool.