Ashton jumped from the couch and hurried after her. Michelle stomped onto the back patio and Ashton closed the door behind them. He wasn’t prepared for the fire in her eyes.
“You set me up.” She poked her finger into his chest.
“What? Are you ashamed to admit you’re a member of the church?”
“Of course not.” Her voice rose an octave. “But that’s not the kind of thing you talk about the first night you meet someone.”
“Why not? Seems important, don’t you think?” Ashton took a drink of his beer before setting it on the edge of the deck railing. “Your faith is kind of an integral part of who you are.”
“I want people to get to know me before they judge me for what religion I belong to.” Michelle’s voice wavered. “They already think I’m little-miss-priss. You think I’m stupid? You think I don’t know you’re all laying wagers about who’s going to take advantage of sweet, innocent Michelle?”
“We are not laying wagers. That’s silly.”
“How do you know so much about my church, anyway?” She narrowed her eyes.
Ashton shuffled his feet and stuck his hands in his pockets, shifting his gaze out toward the ocean.
“You quoted that scripture right along with me… how?” Michelle pulled his arm and forced Ashton to look at her. “You were raised Mormon, weren’t you?”
Ashton just cleared his throat and glanced over at his beer, still sitting on the edge of the railing.
“You’re still a member of the church, aren’t you?” Michelle whispered. Ashton finally met her eyes and knew he couldn’t hide the truth. Her voice was cold and hard when she spoke again. “Bet you wish you’d chosen the Dr. Pepper tonight, huh?”
Michelle turned on her heel and her formal dress swished behind her as she stormed off the deck and back through the room where the guys were all still sitting around waiting for her to come back in. Ashton could hear her through the still-open patio door.
“It was nice to meet you all, but the party’s over for tonight. Your At-First-Sight love letter has already been written and should be arriving shortly. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Ashton shook his head and turned back around toward the ocean. Seeing his half-empty glass of beer still sitting on the railing, he picked it up and threw it as far as he could down the hill.
“Nice move, idiot.” Ashton mumbled.
“I’ll echo that.” Victor came up behind Ashton and startled him. “What were you thinking? That she was going to feel some sort of connection to you when you recognized signs that she was faithful to her church?”
“I don’t know. I was so caught up in the moment.” Ashton leaned against the railing. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve been to church. I’m surprised I even remembered that verse.”
“That’s what happens when they indoctrinate people in their youth.”
“I’m not indoctrinated.”
“Hey guys,” Kimball called from inside. “The At-First-Sight love letter just arrived.”
Ashton pushed away from the railing and followed Victor back into the living room. Kimball’s shoulders slumped and he held the letter out in front of him.
“It’s addressed to you,” Kimball said.
Ashton started to reach for the pink envelope but noticed the name on the outside.