I turned to see Maddox coming down the hall with his younger brother, Noah, several steps behind.
I swallowed. I’d only seen Noah a few times over the years, with the most recent being Christmas when he’d come to visit his mom. I think I’d managed three words. And right now, with his skin tanned golden and his deep green eyes looking amazing beneath the sandy flop of his sun-streaked hair, three words would have been hard to come by.
“Oh hey,” Maddox said to us as he came into the room, a paper bag of groceries in his arms. Dark as his brother was light, Maddox took after their father, while Noah had his mother’s hair and eyes – though with their height and muscles, they both looked like crosses between surfers and bodybuilders. Maddox set down the bag. “When’d you all get in?”
“Just a few minutes ago,” Baylie said, grinning as Maddox came over and gave her a hug. “You guys went shopping?”
“Eh, well, you know. Gotta help out occasionally.” He smiled at me as Noah gave Baylie a hug as well. “Hey Chloe.”
“Hey,” Noah added to me, twitching his chin in greeting.
Feeling something of an idiot, I looked back to the view beyond the windows, hoping the glare hid any treasonous blushing my face might have decided to do. It was stupid. There were plenty of decent-looking guys that I saw every day back home. Of course, they were local boys and most of them knew me as that girl with the weird parents – which, obviously, wasn’t particularly appealing.
And besides, Noah went way beyond decent-looking, straight on to hot.
I could feel my face getting red. Taking a deep breath, I focused on watching the water rolling in.
“So you boys want to get the grill started up?” Diane suggested.
“Sure,” Maddox said. From the corner of my eye, I saw him head for the patio door, and Noah followed.
Air escaped me and when I looked back toward the kitchen, I found Baylie watching me curiously.
I pushed a smile onto my face. “Want to get unpacked?”
“Alright,” Baylie said.
She headed for the stairs, motioning me to follow.
“You okay?” she asked as we left the kitchen.
She didn’t look convinced. And I didn’t really want to explain.
“So what one are we in?” I asked as we reached the second floor. I glanced at the doorways lining the hall, trying to cover for the awkward moment.
Baylie led the way to a large bedroom at the end of the long hall. White carpet covered the floor, the same as in the hallway, but the walls here were pale blue. Sheer curtains hung over the window that faced out onto the backyard and the ocean, and two queen-sized beds flanked it. A woven chair stuffed with pillows sat to one side of the room, while a dresser stood nearby, fashionably flaked and vintage-looking paint covering it. Starfish and seahorses were nestled in corners of the ceiling, as were fishermen’s nets, while twin skylights let the sun shine down on each of the beds.
“Wow,” I said.
“Diane loves decorating almost as much as cooking,” Baylie replied with a grin.
I felt like repeating myself, and settled for nodding appreciatively. We headed for our bags, which had been set on the beds. Unzipping my backpack, I hesitated over the contents, and then drew out a sundress. A couple days in a bag hadn’t done it any favors, and I glanced toward the rest of my meager wardrobe, trying to recall if I’d stuffed anything else appropriate in there.
My gaze caught on the window. Through the glass, I could see Noah and his brother getting the grill prepared.
Baylie cleared her throat. I flinched.
“Uh-huh,” she said.
“What? Noah’s pretty cute.”
There was something weird in her voice. My brow furrowed.
Baylie grimaced. Casting a glance back to the open door, she sighed. “It’s just… Look, Noah’s great. Really. But lately…” She shook her head. “I don’t know. He’s not like he used to be. He’s… quieter.”
I gave her a skeptical look. I couldn’t understand how that was a bad thing. At least, not to the degree that she seemed worried about it. “Quieter?”
Appearing uncomfortable, Baylie shrugged. “It’s probably nothing.”
Her expression belying her words, she went back to pulling clothes from her bag.
I looked to the window. By the grill, Maddox said something, and Noah nodded, his eyes on the horizon. And then he turned, glancing directly at the window behind which I stood.
Alarmed, I stepped back, and then scowled at myself for being so excitable. There wasn’t anything odd about what he’d just done. He’d just happened to look up at where I was standing, right when I happened to look down at him.