Miranda lifted a hand out of the tub, letting the water trickle down her arm and sighed. She loved this old claw-foot bathtub. It had a high back, claw feet, and an old fashioned faucet complete with porcelain handles. She felt like a real lady with her hair piled on top of her head and the water fragrant with lavender bath salts.
Everything had worked out perfectly. She had Vin and Drew and Suzie and herself all together in one house. Ben was a great addition, but as far as Miranda was concerned his presence was pure icing.
At last she would have the sense of family that had always eluded her.
Lord knew her alcoholic mother never made much effort to provide Miranda with a home. She had no siblings, and a father she’d never meet. The only time Miranda felt welcomed and supported, like a member of a real family, was when she hung out with Suzie.
And now she could hang out with Suzie all the time!
A momentary twinge of conscience bothered her. She hadn’t meant to make things hard for Suzie. Of course Miranda would help with the cooking and cleaning. They would all help out, just like a real family would.
Miranda splashed like a little kid, happier than she’d been in a long time. Now that she had everyone together nature would take it’s course. She’d end up with Drew and Suzie would end up with Vin and they’d all live happily ever after.
“Miranda?” Vin pounded on the door. “You about done in there?”
“Use the downstairs bathroom,” she called back with only a touch of irritation.
“I want to talk to you.”
“I’ll be out when I’m good and ready.”
There was silence from the other side of the door for several seconds. Then a sigh barely loud enough to be heard through the door. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Promise you’ll come down.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” she yelled merrily. Not two minutes later she noticed how pruney her fingers were and got out of the tub.
She didn’t bother dressing, merely dried off then shrugged into her silk robe before trotting downstairs to the kitchen.
Vin stood at the counter, running the blender. As she watched he poured vodka on top of what looked like a slushy snow cone.
“What are you making?”
“Café au frisson. Cindy showed me how to make it.”
“Cindy? The girl in the apartment next door?”
“Yeah.” Vin grabbed the coffee pot out of the coffee maker and poured some into a mug. Bottles of Kalua, Rompope, and brandy sat on the counter.
“Since when have you been hanging out with her?” Miranda crossed her arms, pulling the robe in a way it wasn’t designed, but also catching Vin’s eye.
He looked her over with a flattering level of appreciation and a charming smile. “Jealous?”
“Pft! You wish.”
His jaw tightened, but he didn’t say anything. He put some to the contents of the blinder into the mug.
“Are you sure that’s the way you’re supposed to do it?”
“Yes it’s the right way to do it.”
“I’ll bet if Cindy was here she’d tell you you’re doing it the wrong way. Looks good. Mind if I have some?” She gave him a little smile.
He smiled back, looking hopeful and doubtful at the same time. And warm and brotherly too. “Sure.” He took a sip out of his mug, then handed it to her, challenge in his eyes.
She went around him and took a mug off the rack. She put the contents of the blender in first, then added coffee.
“You’re supposed to put whipped cream on top, but I didn’t see any in the frig.”
“Suzie always makes it fresh.” She took a sip, then rolled her eyes and sighed. “Perfect.”
“Are you wearing anything under that?” Vin had his gaze on her chest with a look of longing on his face.
“What did you want to talk about?” She said it a bit more sharply than she might have, with a cynical tone under the crackle and a hint of the world weary. It wasn’t really how she felt, but she knew it would keep Vin at bay.
“I want to know why you pushed so hard to get me and Drew to move in. Don’t tell me it’s for Suzie’s sake. It’s more than obvious she isn’t thrilled with the whole thing.” He leaned back against the counter, crossing both arms and ankles. His eyes narrowed a bit. “So what’s in it for you?”
Miranda was at a loss. She and Vin went back several years now. He was almost as close a friends as Suzie, and Miranda didn’t have that many friends. Besides, he was part of her household. It wasn’t like she tricked him into moving in.
“I just thought we could be… you know….” She shrugged. “One big happy family.”
“One. Big. Happy. Family.” Vin sucked his lips in and nodded pensively.
“Yeah.” Miranda was starting to feel a bit more defensive. “You think I’m lying or something?”
“That’s all you want? For us to get along?”
“Yeah. Sure,” she said without conviction.
“All right, if we’re one, big, happy family then tell me this. Who’s the daddy?”
“What do you mean?”
“Clearly Suzie is the mommy in your little script. She does the cooking and the cleaning, all that housewife stuff. And you’re a little brat sometimes so you must be one of the kids. So who’s the daddy? Is it me or Drew? Am I your daddy? ‘Cause that isn’t how I feel.”
“No!” Miranda huffed a wry chuckle. “You aren’t father material.”
Drew drained the last of the contents on his mug then set it in the sink with a bit more force than strictly necessary. Not bothering to look at her again he stalked toward the door. Right before leaving, he turned back, spearing her with the anger in his eyes.
“One last thing. You can’t marry daddy. If Drew is the daddy, then leave him alone.” His eyes raked her with so much heat that he made her shiver as he walked out.