Gabe tells Maddie why the men are there. She asks if she should be scared, but he tells her that he hopes she won’t be—then he kisses her. It’s just a light, fleeting thing, but Clayton (and pretty much everyone else) sees.
Clayton and Madison had grown up together, their mothers were best friends. They’d slept in the same crib, played in the pool and even had baths together. Maddie and Clayton had shared their first official kiss when they were fifteen. She should be like a sister to him, but she wasn’t.
Yeah, maybe when they were little kids, but he was a man now and he had very different feelings for Madison. She didn’t date much and was completely innocent, something that couldn’t be said of many girls. She had a certain naïveté that made her virtually irresistible to many men. She was completely unaware of her charms, and that made her even more fascinating. None of the guys were immune to her, but none of them were as interested in her as Clayton—except for Gabe. Deciding he probably didn’t stand a chance in a competition with the young Mexican man, Clayton attacked the wall with abandon, slathering on the plaster like the wall had done him an injury.
“What’s eating your balls,” Brad asked as he sidled up to his friend.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
“Could it be that you also witnessed that almost kiss?” He nudged his friend.
“Didn’t see a thing.” Clayton picked up a trowel full of mud and dropped it on Brad’s shoes. “Ooops.”
“Hey! I’m not the one to get mad at,” Brad growled. “It’s not my lips on her. If you don’t want her making out with another guy, maybe you should tell her how you feel.”
“I don’t feel anything.”
“Yeah—okay. You’re ready to kill that guy for doing something you’re too chicken to do.”
Clayton shoved Brad into the wet wall and stomped away.
“I’ll get you for that!” Brad yelled after him.
Clayton dropped his hawk and trowel, heading in the direction of the church.
“Don’t wander,” Jose yelled after him.
Clayton waved to acknowledge that he’d heard, but didn’t slow down.’
Maddie noticed his passing and she saw how angry he was. She didn’t know why and wasn’t sure he’d tell her anyway.
Gabriel saw the glare that Clayton shot in his direction. He knew exactly what the problem was. Not wanting to step on another man’s game, he decided he’d better ask a few pointed questions.
“How long have you known Clayton?”
“Literally our entire lives. He and I were born a few days apart and our moms were in the hospital together. Army wives, they bonded. When our dads mustered out, we all moved back to mom’s home town together. In fact, Clayton’s family lived with us while their house was built—next door.”
“So, you two dating?”
Maddie made a disgusted noise. “Me and Clayton? Don’t be ridiculous. We’re like brother and sister.”
© 2015 Dellani Oakes
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