The woman was tall, wearing stretch leggings and a big red bulky sweater. Even though it was thick, it left no doubt that she filled it out a lot better than I filled out mine. Dolly Parton to my . . . well, let’s just say that the greatly endowed wagon had passed me by. Her blonde hair was cascading in glorious waves around her shoulders instead of hanging in tight curls like mine. She no doubt knew her way around a curling iron.She was resting a hand on Aunt Sue’s shoulders like they were the very best of friends. I couldn’t explain it, but I took an immediate dislike to her. Probably because Brad couldn’t take his eyes off her and was starting to drool. “Hey, everyone, this is Cynthia,” Aunt Sue announced, like we should all care when I definitely did not. “She’s staying at the condo next to yours. This is my niece, Kate, my nephew, Sam, and their friends.”“It’s great to meet you all,” Cynthia said a little too breathlessly, her voice having a little squeal to it, like she was trying really hard to sound sexy but she just came across sounding like a cat whose tail had been stepped on.
A snowball unexpectedly and painfully pounded hard into the back of my head. “Ow!”Putting my hand back there, rubbing the sore spot, I spun around and could hardly believe my eyes. My irksome brother was standing on the deck, a huge cocky grin plastered on his irritatingly handsome face.Why had I gotten stuck with the red hair and freckles like Mom while he had not a freckle in sight and had inherited Dad’s dark hair? I tried to take consolation in the fact that he wouldn’t hold on to that beautiful thick hair forever. Eventually, hopefully, it would start to disappear like Dad’s was now doing.“You’re building a snowman? What are you, like, two years old?” he taunted.I was stunned. My brain wouldn’t function, no words would come forth. Because standing right beside him, grinning as well, was . . .Brad Connor.“You’re one to talk,” I finally tossed back at him when my brain kicked into gear. “Throwing snowballs. What are you, like, one?”Okay, so maybe my brain was still in lock-down mode. It was trying to putter along, but it obviously wasn’t warmed up yet.“God, Kate, your comebacks are sharp enough to . . . well, heck, I guess they aren’t sharp.
I mean, Joe hadn’t bothered to thank me once for all I’d done for him that afternoon. And he was a lousy patient. Most guys are from what I understand. But he became the worst after he woke up from his nap, like he was trying to drive me away. Adjust the afghan, bring me some water, bring me some juice, hot chocolate, apple cider, turn up the TV, turn it down, change the DVD. Honestly, you’d think he was completely helpless.Okay, so he was pretty helpless. I’d actually spent some time in my bedroom moving around using only one leg, trying to raise my sympathy level when I got really frustrated with him.
You know, Kate, I’m here for you if you ever need me.”The strange thing was, I knew he meant it. Sure, he was usually clueless, but he was my brother, and I knew he loved me—as much as I loved him.“Thanks, Sam.”He stood up and tucked the part of the quilt he’d borrowed around me. “Don’t stay out here too long. Don’t want to find you here in the morning, a frozen statue. Who’d cook me breakfast?”“I love you, Sam.”“Course you do.” He gave me his usual arrogant grin. “What’s not to love?”Before I could start listing all the things, he disappeared into the condo, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I realized there were times when Sam wasn’t half bad as a brother. So maybe I could understand why Allie had hooked up with him. Of course, I’d never tell him that!
Seriously, you’re okay with me and Allie?”“I question her taste in guys, but yeah, I’m okay. Is that the reason you weren’t acting like a couple tonight? Because you thought it would freak me out?”“I was a little uncomfortable. Stupid, I know. But it’s a little strange liking someone who stays up all night whispering to my sister about personal things. I mean, admit it. You talk a lot about guys.”“Sure, we do, but not the really personal stuff. She won’t reveal your secret handshake.”“It’s not my handshake I’m worried about.”“Pretend it is, because as far as I’m concerned, that’s all the two of you do. Shake hands. Even if I see you two kissing? In my head, I’m going to tell myself that you’re shaking hands.