Page 46 of Wild Night

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Which should have made walking away from Colm very, very simple.

She’d sworn off men, determined to focus on getting pregnant, on motherhood, on setting her feet on a path she knew—beyond a shadow of a doubt—would bring her happiness.

The same couldn’t be said of Colm. She was a relationship disaster. He was a commitment-phobe, determined to fuck his way freely all the way to forty.

And that was just separately. Together, they were oil and water, Harry and Voldemort, Hamilton and Burr.

In truth, the whole thing was a no-brainer. Shake off the one-night stand with Colm and move on, move forward.

So why wasn’t it simple?

Chapter Nine

“Alright! They did it!” Kelli high-fived Colm, both of them grinning widely over the Ravens’ big win.

“They’re going all the way to the Super Bowl this year,” Colm said. “I can feel it in my bones.”

The two of them stood up, stretching after sitting through the game and overtime. Kelli did a little victory dance, bumping her hip against Colm’s as she laughed. She looked adorable in the Ravens jersey he and Paddy had bought her for Christmas a couple of years ago. She was as big a die-hard fan as anyone in his family…and that was saying something.

Of course, when he considered it, it made sense. She’d been watching Sunday football with his family for close to two decades.

He’d been way too happy when she’d arrived a few hours earlier, chips and dip in hand, just like always, grabbing a seat with him and his cousins, ready to watch the game.

Colm considered it a victory that she’d shown up without him having to go get her. Now it was time to scale the second wall because, while she was here, she was working overtime to resume their previous trash-talking frenemies relationship.

Kelli was about to figure out there was a new norm.

He watched as she started gathering up the dirty paper plates and empty beer cans. Knowing her, she was a few minutes away from saying goodbye and trying to escape, but her good manners wouldn’t let her leave without offering to tidy up.

“What do you say we go down to the pub and celebrate with Pop Pop and Guinness?” Oliver suggested. The youngest of Colm’s cousins, the poor boy had spent too many years longing to be a part of the older cousins’ group, bemoaning the fact it had taken him forever to turn twenty-one so he could start hanging out at the pub with them. Unfortunately, now that he’d finally arrived at legal age, the cousins he’d wanted to go club-hopping with were now married and starting families.

Colm felt sorry for the kid—as the family called him, much to Oliver’s annoyance—and tried to pick up the slack as much as he could. Not that it was a hardship. Oliver was exactly like his father, Sean. Laid-back, up for anything, live and let live. He was quick to laugh, told great stories, and had never met a stranger.

Of course, Colm figured that probably described at least half the members of the Collins clan.

Gavin, Oliver’s best friend and foster brother, stood up immediately, all in. He grabbed the empty wings platter, nothing left but a pile of bones and globs of barbeque sauce, and carried it to the kitchen.

“Sounds like a great idea,” Kelli said, as she continued to clean up.

Colm grinned. She was taking great care, making sure they didn’t end up alone together.

She was going to lose that battle.

She’d been sitting next to Colm on the couch all afternoon, their legs pressed against each other’s as they shared the space with Oliver, Gavin in one recliner, Darcy—who’d left at halftime for some reason she didn’t seem willing to share—in the other chair.

Once Darcy left, Oliver claimed her spot, but he and Kelli hadn’t separated, hadn’t put so much as an inch between themselves.

He wondered if she was feeling the pull. Now that the truth about Halloween was out, Colm was hard-pressed to resist the need to—God—have her near him, to touch her.

“Kelli and I will clean up and meet you guys down there in a little while,” Colm said, spying a way to steal a few minutes alone with her.

Kelli flashed him a suspicious look but didn’t reject the idea.

Oliver and Gavin—no fans of housework—took them up on the deal.

“See you in a few,” Oliver said over his shoulder as they walked downstairs to the pub.

Kelli grabbed some more trash and carried it to the kitchen. He followed her with the roll of paper towels and half-eaten bag of chips.

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