The beatific smile on Vin’s face took Miranda’s breath away. He was always charming in his boyish way, but the triumphant joy on his face as he sat on the edge of the bed made her painfully aware of how appealing he could be. Stupid man.
“I’m ready. Let’s go home.” He stood, drawing Miranda’s gaze from head to toe.
“There’s blood on your shirt. Is that a hole?!”
“If I wait for one of you to get around to bringing my clothes, I’ll never get out of here. I’m wearing what I had on when I was shot. So shoot me.” His eyes flashed and he his chin came up to a stubborn angle.
“No, Honey-bear.” She touched his shoulder lightly in reassurance. “It’s all right.”
Vin grinned. Miranda winced. If she could take the endearment back she’d crawl across the Wal-Mart parking lot on the morning after Thanksgiving to do it. Between her little slip of the lip just now and the kiss a few days ago – which could also be considered a slip of the lip – Vin must have all kinds of misconceptions. Like, that she cared about him.
“We should get going.” Drew glanced at his watch. “Suzie wants to take lunch over to the school for Ben.”
Suzie nodded, but Miranda ignored her. If Miranda didn’t make eye contact, maybe Suzie would be too busy to notice what was going on with Vin. If Suzie noticed, she’d be bound to put in her two cents, which could be something really scary like, “go for it.”
Miranda reached for Vin’s arm, then realized he was supposed to go out by wheel chair. That was close. She could easily imagine Vin putting his arm around her shoulders and using his condition as an excuse to lean on her. She didn’t want that. Of course not. Miranda went to see about a wheel chair.
The nurse with the wheel chair was right outside the door. Vin looked a little disappointed when Miranda wouldn’t hold his hand the whole way to the car, but brightened considerably when she sat next to him in the back. She let him hold her hand then.
It was only because she was so relieved that he was all right. He might not be recovered all the way, but it wouldn’t be long until he was back to the same, old, happy-go-lucky Marvelous Marvin that she… um… liked.
If he looked a little hard and long at the cars they passed, scrutinized the people on the sidewalk, and lost his smile far more easily now, Miranda shouldn’t be surprised. He’d been through a lot. She’d be a bit jumpy too.
Drew pulled the car onto the grass in the back yard so the rear door where Vin sat lined up with the steps into the back door of the house.
“Wait in the car until I get the door open,” Drew said. He hopped out and dashed up the steps with his keys out.
“You locked the door?” Vin asked.
“We’ve had to make a number of changes since the guy who shot you showed up at the house. We keep the doors locked even when we’re home now,” Suzie said in her quiet, contained way.
Miranda gave his hand an extra squeeze for reassurance. “Looks like the coast is clear.” She glanced around a second time to be sure.
“Since when have you been special ops?” Vin smiled to take the bite out of the comment, but the smile didn’t make it to his eyes.
No one bothered to answer. They got him into the house as quickly as they could. Suzie busied herself in the kitchen. Drew went through the house room by room, though he didn’t draw his gun this time. That left Miranda to help Vin.
Just as she feared, he put his arm across her shoulder, pulled her close, and leaned in. Worse, he sniffed her hair, taking a deep breath.
“You smell good,” he said.
“Don’t you dare say anything about me smelling like a woman should.”
They crossed through the kitchen and the central hall to the living room, which was in the middle of the house between the bathroom at the very back and Suzie’s little office in the very front. It was a good sized room with a couple of seating arrangements.
“Despite what you might think, I’m not your girlfriend.” She tightened her grip around his waist as they worked their way around the couch toward an easy chair in front of the TV. ”Nothing has changed between us. We’re still just friends.”
He let go of her, leaving her feeling momentarily abandoned. Momentarily because she refused to let the feeling stick around. Vin collapsed on the sofa, ignoring the easy chair, and managed to scoop up the remote as he settled.
“Ah. That’s better.” He looked up at her, his expression calm, but serious. “Miranda, one thing HAS changed. I may be out of the hospital, but I haven’t recovered yet. You’re going to have to nurse me for a while.”
“If you think I’m going to wait on you hand and foot just because you got yourself shot…”
“I expect everyone is going to be giving me a hand now and then. But tonight you feed me.” He still looked so serious, as if the bullet had killed his sense of humor.
Miranda visualized spooning baby food into his mouth. No way she was going to coddle him. “I don’t think so.”
“Of course you are. It’s Friday.”
“It’s your turn to cook.” He grinned the old gotcha grin, and Miranda breathed a sigh of relief.