She paused outside Molly’s room and only debated for a second before deciding to walk in without knocking. Molly wanted them to be like real sisters after all.
She swung the door open wide, stepped inside, saw Molly under the covers, Hunter lying beside her and…Holy shit! she thought as everything registered.
Jessie bit her bottom lip and wondered what to do. Didn’t take a college degree to figure out she should back out quietly and pretend she hadn’t barged in, but what fun was there in that?
“Ahem,” she said loudly.
Hunter groaned and turned over so his face was buried full in the pillow. Molly, however, jumped halfway to the ceiling.
“Jessie!” She lowered her voice when Hunter grumbled, still asleep. “What are you doing in here?” Molly hissed.
Jessie took a long look at Hunter, who’d begun to snore. “What’s he doing in here?” she shot back. “I was just trying to figure out a way to get you to let me borrow some of your funky clothes in the suitcase in the closet. Suddenly, I’m thinking blackmail.” She clasped her hands behind her back and grinned at her half sister. “What do you think?”
Molly closed her eyes for a quick second. “I think you’re a pint-size brat and we’ll talk about this later. Now shoo.” She waved her hand toward the door.
Jessie frowned but she was sure she’d win in the end since Molly looked annoyed but not angry. “Can I take the bright yellow cardigan first?”
“Out!” Molly said, this time pointing a finger.
Jessie rolled her eyes. “I’m going, I’m going.” She walked out the door, laughing as she went.
Suddenly, living with Molly was actually fun.
MOLLY FLOPPED BACK against her pillows, realizing her head was sore but the throbbing was gone. “Tell me that didn’t just happen.”
“It happened.” Hunter rolled to his side and propped himself up on one hand.
“You’re up?” She turned to Hunter.
His hair was rumpled, razor stubble darkened his cheeks and he looked extremely sexy lying in her sheets, staring at her with dark, bedroom eyes.
“I’m up but no way was I going to let Jessie know it. How’s your head this morning?”
“Not perfect but better. Thanks for staying with me,” she said softly.
His heavy-lidded gaze met hers. “My pleasure.”
She ran a hand through her hair, wondering how bad she looked. The damp washcloth had probably left her hair standing on end and her makeup in dark circles beneath her eyes. It couldn’t be pretty but Hunter didn’t seem to be running for cover, she thought wryly.
“I guess we should get up,” she said halfheartedly and didn’t make an attempt to move.
“How about we talk first instead?” He levered himself against the pillows as if settling in for a long conversation.
Her defenses immediately went on high alert. “About?” she asked warily.
There were any number of subjects he could choose to tackle, from her lie about her father and Sonya, to Ty’s news about her father’s case. Coming off the migraine, Molly wasn’t ready to have an argument with him.
“Your clothes. Why are they packed away in the closet?”
She blinked. “What? Why in the world would you care about that?”
“Back when we were in law school, do you know why I noticed you in the first place?”
She shook her head. She only knew why she’d noticed him. Like her, he’d been the one to close the law library night after night. His study habits and determination to succeed had matched hers. That, and his brooding good looks.
“It might have had something to do with the miniskirts you wore to class.” He tipped his head and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
She grinned. “When we started classes it was ninety something degrees!”
“It also might have had something to do with the hot colors you wore on top. Or the matching bright colored scarves you tied around your neck or your waist. No matter what outfit you wore, you had one piece that stood out in a bold color. When you walked into a room, you made a statement.”
She knew where he was going with this conversation and she didn’t want to talk about how she’d changed since last year. She also knew he wasn’t going to let the subject drop. “Color is fun,” she said defensively.
“Then why have you buried your more colorful things in a suitcase in the closet?”
“My headache is coming back,” she muttered.
“Liar.” He spoke softly. Gently. His tone was so understanding a lump rose in her throat. “Molly, I fell for the woman who made a statement. Who wasn’t about to let anyone dictate to her at all, including her choice of clothing. So what happened when you moved here?”
Molly remained silent but Hunter wasn’t about to let the topic go. He already knew in his gut why she’d buried the boldest part of herself, but he wanted to hear her admit it. And then he wanted the old Molly back. He supposed he had Jessie, the pint-size brat, to thank for giving him the opening he’d been seeking.
“I can’t imagine the commander with her eggplant-colored hair complaining about how you dressed,” Hunter said.
“She didn’t.” Folding her arms over her chest, Molly stared straight ahead, not meeting his gaze.
He wasn’t deterred. “Is it the general? Is he that ultraconservative?”
She shrugged. “About some things.”
“But he’s so happy to have you in his life, I can’t really see him caring what his adult daughter wears. Robin does her own thing and is rarely home, and you couldn’t give a shit what Jessie thinks about you, so what gives?” he asked, covering her hand with his.
“You already have me figured out. Everything’s about my family. About not losing my family. When I came here I wanted to be accepted so badly, I’d have done anything to fit in.”
“Including burying your identity.”
“It’s not that drastic.”
“It most certainly is. If not for those f**k-me red cowboy boots, sometimes I wouldn’t even recognize you. Don’t you miss being you?”
She didn’t answer but he could see the tears in her eyes and he knew he’d hit a nerve. Good. That meant maybe she’d think about what he was saying. He knew he missed the kick in the gut he got every time he saw her in another of her bold color choices. It was what made her unique. Special.