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Authors: Delaney Diamond

Tags: #seattle, #billionaire, #friends to lovers, #family series

Just Friends (6 page)

BOOK: Just Friends
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She settled into a chair on the front porch
and idly perused the menu, although she knew it by heart. She
needed to kill time since Terri was late, as usual. Right as she
decided to have the croque monsieur, Terri bounded up the stairs
and sashayed over in a pair of tight, worn jeans.

Terri had the kind of shape that made
anything remotely fitted look indecent, but had no qualms about
showing off her body. She owned her figure, and Alannah envied her
I-don’t-give-a-crap attitude.

Blond braids hung over one shoulder, and as
she walked, her ample hips caught the attention of the male half of
a couple exiting the restaurant. The man turned his head to stare
at her butt and was popped in the back of the head by his female
companion. Terri missed the entire episode unfolding, but Alannah
was used to seeing men react to her in that way.

Terri spread her arms wide. “Hey, honey, how
are you?”

Alannah stood and gave her a warm hug.

Terri grinned. “I love the hair. The color
turned out fabulous.”

Alannah blushed. “Thanks.” The stylist in
Arizona had used the specific color Terri had recommended.

“How was your trip?” Her friend settled into
a chair and picked up the menu.

“It was nice to get away and see my parents
again.” Alannah gave Terri a quick rundown of her activities while
on vacation and then set a snow globe on the table. “Voilà. I
brought this back for you.” The souvenir had
Arizona
across
the bottom and inside a cactus and a man on a horse.

Terri’s eyes lit up with delight. “You didn’t
have to bring me back anything.” She snatched up the souvenir and
caressed it the way a fortune-teller rubbed a crystal ball.

“Now you can add it to your collection.”

“Thank you.” She slipped it into her purse
and then crossed her arms on the table. “You know, you never told
me what Trenton thinks about the new you.”

Before Alannah could go into details, the
waitress arrived and they placed their orders.

Afterward, Terri set her chin in her hand,
her expectant expression making Trenton’s lackluster response even
more embarrassing to share.

Alannah schooled her features into an
expressionless mask, even though heavily disappointed. “His
reaction was pretty nonexistent. He doesn’t really care one way or
the other how I look.”

“He didn’t say anything at all?”

“Only that the changes were ‘nice’ and
‘different.’ Whatever that means.”

“Oh.”

“He doesn’t care, Terri. Stop trying to be a
matchmaker. We’re friends. That’s it.”

A car passed by slowly. The driver cast his
eyes back and forth, looking for parking on the crowded street.

“So what’s next?” Terri asked.

“I’m going to continue my summer makeover. I
feel so much better about myself because of the changes.”

Terri folded her arms on the table. “How can
I help?”

“Going shopping with me will help. Trenton
met me at the mall yesterday and it was a total bust.”

“What happened?”

Alannah gave her a quick summary of their
short trip to Macy’s.

“Yikes,” Terri said, frowning. “You two have
the strangest relationship, but don’t worry, mama’s here.” She
patted Alannah’s hand. “What exactly are you looking for?”

“In general, new clothes. I found a few
outfits in Arizona when my sisters dragged me to the mall, but I
need more. Clothes that are nothing like the frumpy crap I’m always
wearing. I want to show off my figure. What little figure I do
have.”

“You have a great figure.”

“I have no boobs. You, on the other hand…”
She stared with envy at Terri’s ample chest.

Her friend waved away the remark. “Honey,
these things are a blessing and a curse, believe me.”

“More of a blessing,” Alannah muttered,
noting the way Terri’s cleavage peeked out the top of her
neckline.

“Tell you what, you can have my breasts and
I’ll take Trenton as my best friend, because friendship has its
privileges.” She looked pointedly at Alannah’s car parked across
the street.

Heat filled Alannah’s cheeks. “I didn’t ask
for it.”

“But you love it, don’t you?”

“I thought it was too much when he gave it to
me.”

“Yet you didn’t turn it down?”

“How could I? Once I drove it, I couldn’t say
no. The leather is so comfy and plush, there’s a start/stop button,
massaging seats…” She sighed. She could never have afforded such an
expensive vehicle with all the options Trenton had tossed in. To
give her peace of mind, he’d even covered maintenance and repairs
on the car.

“And then there’s that.” Terri pointed to the
one-of-a-kind Marc Jacobs bag on the chair. Made of soft calf
leather, the cashew-colored purse had Alannah’s initials—AB—as a
buckle in solid gold on the front. Trenton knew the designer
personally and had requested he create something special for her
last Christmas. The bag had no retail value. It was literally
priceless, because there wasn’t another one like it in the
world.

“Not to mention all the trips you’ve taken
with him and his family. He takes care of you the way a man takes
care of his wife. You guys are practically a couple already, you
just don’t have the sexual component. So yeah, I’d gladly take him
off your hands. There aren’t too many men doing favors like he does
without expecting something in return.” Terri arched a threaded
brow.

That was the problem. He spoiled her. No
doubt about it. He was very generous, and she had all the benefits
of a relationship—without the relationship.

Alannah swallowed the tennis-ball-sized lump
in her throat.

She’d like to cut herself off from him
completely, go cold turkey, but that would be the equivalent of
getting off a highly addictive drug like meth or heroin. The
results could be disastrous.

“So when do you want to go shopping again?”
Terri asked, recapturing her attention.

“You free next Saturday?”

“Yep.”

“Perfect.” Alannah felt her spirits lifting
already. She held up her glass of water. “To new beginnings.”

“To new beginnings, and bringing out your
inner wild child.” Terri growled low in her throat and tapped her
glass against Alannah’s.

Alannah laughed and swallowed a mouthful of
water. With her friend’s encouragement, she felt confident she’d be
successful with the planned changes. This summer a brand new
Alannah would emerge. And if all went well, she’d be able to leave
her feelings for Trenton Johnson far behind.

Chapter Seven

Alannah had told Trenton to
use his key when he came over for dinner. He entered the townhouse
and paused when he heard a low growl. The sound came from the wall
near the staircase, in the small cage holding her Yorkie, Angel. He
had no idea why the dog hated him so much.

She either barked at him like he was an
intruder, or scampered into the cage to avoid him altogether. Once
she’d even used her paw to pull the door shut. Then she’d plopped
down on the pillow with her back to him, as if she couldn’t stand
the sight of him.

“What the heck is wrong with that damn dog?”
he’d asked Alannah once. “Everybody likes Trenton.”

“Probably because you talk about yourself in
the third person.” Angel had growled at him from Alannah’s
arms.

“That has nothing to do with it. She’s just a
bitch. Literally.”

Alannah had frowned. “Did you do something to
her?”

“No, but I should. Hate that damn dog.”

“Stop.” She’d covered the dog’s ears and held
her closer. “She’ll hear you. And stop calling her ‘that damn dog.’
She’s sensitive. Her name is Angel.”

“Devil is more like it,” he’d said below his
breath.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Right now, Angel stood on the padded floor of
the cage on four stubby legs, body taut, tail straight up in the
air, and lancing Trenton with the meanest face she could.

“I regret the day I bought you, you know
that?” he said in a fierce whisper.

She barked at him and then made another low
growl, as if contemplating his demise.

“Angel my ass,” Trenton grumbled.

He followed his nose to the kitchen, from
where he smelled an enticing scent, which meant Alannah was hard at
work. For years he’d been her guinea pig when she tried new
recipes. He couldn’t wait to taste the new creation.

When he entered the kitchen, he heard Boa’s
“Eat You Up” on low, coming through the iPod speakers sitting on a
corner of the breakfast bar. Alannah smiled when she saw him, and
his heart did an odd little flip that stopped him in his
tracks.

Where did that come from?

He rubbed his chest to alleviate the odd
sensation. “Almost done?”

“Almost. Get ready for a masterpiece,” she
boasted.

She turned back to the stove, which gave him
a chance to take a good look at her. Her auburn tresses were pulled
up into a high ponytail, and she wore a thin black T-shirt that
looked like it was at least one size too small. Something the old
Alannah would have never done. He did, however, recognize the
oversized sweatpants.

She started dancing to the music. “This is
going to be so good,” she sang.

“Please stop,” Trenton said. “You’re the most
uncoordinated black woman—no, black person—I know. The only reason
you still have your black card is because I bribed a bunch of folks
during the appeal process so you could keep it.”

“You’re just jealous of my moves. Bet you
can’t do this.” Alannah performed a very awkward moonwalk.

“Michael Jackson is rolling over in his grave
right now.” He shook his head. “Sorry, Michael. I tried to stop
her.”

She stuck out her tongue and returned her
attention to the stove.

Trenton took a seat in one of the high-backed
wood barstools at the breakfast bar, in front of a tall glass of
lemonade, and watched her work. He licked his lips, mouth watering
from the scent of the rib-eye steak.

On occasion a personal chef cooked his meals
whenever he wanted to eat at home and didn’t feel like cooking
himself, and he also had the option of going to his mother’s house
and eating some fine cooking from Adelina. Yet there was something
about Alannah’s food that always tasted that much better and
brought him comfort.

She was much better than she used to be. He
recalled her failed attempt at making bananas foster.

“What are you smiling about?” she asked. She
set a rib eye on a plate in front of him and spooned blue cheese
sauce over it. His stomach danced in anticipation.

“Thinking about the time you almost burned
down the kitchen trying to make bananas foster.”

She swirled the sauce around the plate. “What
a mess. I can’t believe the towel caught fire like that.”

Trenton chuckled. “Be glad it wasn’t
worse.”

She joined him in the laughter, but kept her
eyes on the plate, concentrating on the artistry of the dish. “I am
glad, believe me.”

“Even with that mess and the panic, the
bananas turned out delicious,” he pointed out.

“They did, didn’t they? I should try that
recipe again. I’ve been too nervous to attempt it because of the
near accident.”

“I’m sure your flambé skills will be much
better now.”

Alannah spooned roasted potatoes beside the
steak. “Then, of course, there was The Great Quiche Incident of
’09.”

Trenton groaned.

“I can’t believe you ate so much of it and
didn’t say anything.” Alannah shook her head in disbelief. “I
gagged once I tasted it myself.”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but
man, that was some nasty stuff.”

“You really took one for the team, and I
appreciate it. Thank goodness for The Best Thai Restaurant.” She
spooned creamed spinach beside the steak and used a paper napkin to
swipe the circumference of the plate for a cleaner look. She
finished by dropping chopped parsley onto the potatoes as a
garnish.

“Oh yeah, that was the first time we ate
there.” With dinner a bust, they’d driven to the restaurant to get
something to eat and had been loyal customers ever since.

Alannah cut into the steak. She twisted it in
the blue cheese sauce and then blew on it. “Tell me what you think
of this.” She lifted the fork to his mouth.

Trenton leaned in, pulled off the meat, and
chewed. Well seasoned and cooked to a perfect medium rare.
Delicious. “Mmm…that’s good.”

She pumped a fist. “Yes! You really like
it?”

“Mhmm.” He yanked away the fork and knife.
She giggled as he cut another piece of meat. “I can’t believe how
good this is.” The creamed spinach and roasted potatoes tasted
perfect, as well. He could have been dining in a fine restaurant.
“This is better than your steak and mushroom gravy.”

“No way. You love that dish. You rave about
it for days every time I make it.”

“I know, you don’t make it enough,” Trenton
said around a mouthful of food, enjoying the dish too much to stop
eating long enough not to talk with his mouth full. He pointed at
the plate with the fork. “But seriously, I’m saying this is even
better, so you know it’s good.”

“Great,” Alannah said with satisfaction. She
skipped back to the stove. “This is good practice, because I’m
serving it to my new guy friend for dinner on Friday night.”

A piece of meat lodged in Trenton’s throat.
With difficulty, he swallowed it and then took a big gulp of
lemonade. He cleared his throat. “You’re cooking for him now?”

She and the mystery man had only been going
out for a few weeks.

Alannah piled dirty dishes into the sink. “I
like him,” she said. As if that made it okay.

“You’re doing a lot for this guy and I
haven’t met him yet.” He tried to keep the edge out of his voice,
but this character was now encroaching onto sacred turf. She hardly
ever cooked for anyone else except Trenton, and when she did, it
was usually family or close girlfriends.

BOOK: Just Friends
5.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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