“Have you looked in a mirror lately—at all?” Patti asked.
“So, what do you see?”
“A scrawny guy who needs a haircut. Why?” His tone grew defensive.
“Because I don’t. I see a guy who lacks confidence, but who’s just as hot as the guy over there. The difference is, that guy doesn’t lack confidence. That guy sees exactly what you see—a pretty girl who wants to be kissed. And you know what she sees when she looks at him?”
“Yeah, a guy who isn’t like a brother. If she could see past the fact we’ve known each other our entire lives….”
“She sees,” Patti interrupted. “A guy who’s got balls enough to show her what he wants. Do you have balls, Clayton?”
“Confidence, bravado, chutzpah. Do you, Clayton Ash, have chutzpah?”
“Pussy.” She rolled her eyes in disgust. Rising from the ground, she took her chips and sandwich from him.
“Hey!” Clayton stood. “You’re going to insult me and steal my food?”
“Take it back.” Patti held it away from him, behind her back.
“That’s insane. I’m not going to fight you for food. I’ll go get more.”
“Okay. And while you’re at it, tell the woman you love—that you love her. She doesn’t need some week long fling with a doomed long distance relationship to follow. She needs you, Clayton. Yeah, he’s hot and sexy, but so are you!” She stamped her foot at him, nearly spilling her food.
“Okay! Okay. You talked me into it.” He shuffled his feet. “Can I have my sandwich back?”
Laughing, Patti handed it to him. They walked back to the trees together.
Gabe sat next to Maddie. Very close. Clayton could barely see daylight between them. He was sharing her plate of chips and pico de gallo. Maddie rarely shared her food. Clayton bridled when he saw them. Patti’s hand on his arm made him relax a little. Taking a deep breath, he walked toward Maddie, grabbing a Dr. Pepper from the cooler as he passed.
“Hey, Mads. Need a beverage?”
Maddie looked up, puzzled. “I’ve got one, Clayton. Thanks.”
Clayton popped open the can. It spewed all over him, bubbling and frothing. Fortunately, he was already damp, so the additional fluid didn’t matter. Had he been dry to begin with, it would have made him look like he’d wet his pants.
“You’re gonna want to wash that off,” Gabe advised, glancing up at him. “The wasps and ants really love that stuff.”
“Thanks. Yeah.” Shaking Dr. Pepper off his hands, Clayton went to the back of the building and turned on the garden hose, rather than the fire hose. He had no intention of spraying himself into oblivion.