Home > Meet Cute(12)

Meet Cute(12)
Author: Helena Hunting

“There’s a good part to all this?” Holly asks.

“Beverly’s offered me partner for taking this on, and she’ll waive the buy-in.”

“Holy sh—sugar balls!” She’s obviously in the office. “That’s awesome, Kay! We need to go out and celebrate.”

“There’s nothing to celebrate yet,” I mutter bitterly. “I only make partner if I can get Daxton to come over to Whitman, which means I’ll have to work with him. Not directly, but I’ll be subjected to his face every day.”

“It’s a nice face, though, right?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” I spot the diner about a hundred yards up the street. “I have to go. I’m meeting Daxton and his sister for lunch, but I’ll talk to you later. Oh, any recent updates on the Lipsons? I need some good news right now.”

“They’re fantastic. Little Hope is a crawling machine. I have cute pictures I can show you.”

“Excellent.” That makes me ridiculously happy. Hope is freaking adorable. “And what about that new foster case?”

“That’s a story for another time.”

“Uh-oh, well, if you need my help, I’ve been given permission to take on another pro bono.”


“Super seriously. What are you doing tonight? Maybe you could fill me in over dinner or something?”

“Or you could come with me to the SPCA. It’s kitten adoption day.”

“Hit me right in the soft spot, why don’t you? I can’t bring home another one. Linus has just stopped humping Shirley on a daily basis.”

Holly laughs. “I told you to get a girl cat, didn’t I?”

“Well, it’s too late for that. I’m attached to both of them and I worry adding another one would only give Linus more humping options.”

“I’ll pick you up at six? You can vent all you want about Daxton Hughes while you snuggle with pussies.”

“I knew that was coming. I’ll see you tonight.” I end the call, slip my phone into my bag, and take a deep breath, buoyed a little by the good news about Hope.

Daxton and Emme are already seated at a booth when I enter Earl’s Diner. Since their backs are to me, I take a moment to watch them before I’m spotted. I recognize Daxton’s hair and broad shoulders—which is odd, I realize, since I’ve only seen him twice in the past five years. But then we had multiple classes together for three years. If I made it to class after him, I would sit behind him and his friends, mostly so I could indulge my crush undetected. Which means I still recognize the set of his shoulders and the small cowlick on the right side, which only appeared by his ear when his hair grew too long. I’m so glad I’m not that silly, fawning girl anymore. Mostly.

He’s sitting on the inside of the booth with Emme beside him. Both of their heads are bent, so I assume they’re looking at the menu. I take a deep breath, preparing myself for the full force of his stupidly gorgeous face, and approach their table hoping to appear open and friendly.

Daxton is first to look up. His smile is warm and makes my scalp prickle, along with other, less appropriate body parts. Freaking teenage crushes die hard.

“Thanks a lot for meeting us here.”

“It’s really no problem. I needed to break for lunch anyway and they have the best milkshakes.” I slide across the bench opposite them and turn what I hope is a warm and welcoming smile to his sister since she’s the reason I’m here. Well, that and I want to make partner.

Emme’s oversize hoodie is black and frayed at the cuffs. She has the same color hair as Daxton but with brown eyes instead of blue. They also share the same wide mouth and full lips. She’s tiny, shorter than me even, and I’m just over five feet tall. Thank God for heels. It would be easy to mistake her for his daughter, despite how young he is, based on her size alone.

Emme’s eyes light up. “Oh my God, the milkshakes are the best! They’re all so good!”

“Right? How many have you tried? It’s my life mission to get through all of them at some point.”

“Me, too! I think I’m through half the menu, but then I get stuck on my favorites and it’s hard to move on,” she admits.

“It happens to me all the time.”

“I’m Emme.” Her hand shoots out and I take it, my smile growing wider. She’s freaking adorable.

“I’m Kailyn. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Dax said you went to school together.”

“We did.” I glance his way, wondering what else he’s told her about me.

“Dax said he was an idiot in school.”

I laugh. “Is that so?”

She nods. “He said all boys are stupid, especially in high school and college, but I think they’re all pretty stupid now, and I don’t start high school until next year.” Her nose wrinkles and she looks at her brother, as if checking to make sure it’s okay for her to share.

Dax gives her a solemn nod. “It gets worse before it gets better, kiddo. Might as well stay away from boys altogether until you’re closer to thirty.”

Emme rolls her eyes. “Anyway, my favorite milkshake is Oreo, but they have a peanut butter chocolate one that’s just as good, so I have a hard time deciding.”

“Hmm.” I tap my lip. “Those both sound amazing. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

“Yeah, but the good thing is you can’t really go wrong. My dad takes me here all—” She jolts as if she’s touched a live wire. “I mean, he used to take me here.” Her head drops and she brings the sleeve of her hoodie to her mouth. Her thumb pushes through a tear in the fabric.

Daxton puts his arm around her and pulls her into his side. He gives me an apologetic smile as he rubs her shoulder and whispers something to her. Her small frame shakes, and she nods into his chest. After a few more seconds she excuses herself and slips out of the booth.

Daxton watches her disappear into the women’s room, worrying his bottom lip before slowly turning back to me. “Sorry about that. It comes in waves, you know? One second she’s happy and laughing and the next she’s in tears.”

“How are you managing?” I ask. Dark circles ring his eyes, and although he’s put together, his exhaustion is obvious.

“It’s a learning curve. She has to go back to school tomorrow and she’s nervous, and frankly, so am I. She’s going to have to deal with all her friends and the questions, and of course our aunt works there, so there’s added stress. The whole custody thing just threw us for a loop, especially so soon after our parents—” He pauses and clears his throat. “I’m hoping that us talking will alleviate some of her anxiety about possibly having to move.”

“How much have you told Emme?”

He fiddles with his napkin, smoothing it out. “That Linda would like her to come live with her, but that I’d like her to stay with me, so we need to figure it out.”

“And what did you tell her my role is?”

“I told her you were kind of like a bank manager and referee. You make sure her trust is safe and that she has what she needs while I work on keeping her with me.”

I’m about to ask if that’s what Emme wants when she returns to the table, effectively shutting down the discussion.

We order our meals and milkshakes when the server comes around. She’s a woman in her early twenties, and she makes goo-goo eyes at Daxton whenever he speaks. I get it, he’s a hottie, but she needs to tone her simper down a notch. Or ten.

While we wait for the food to arrive I explain the parameters of the trust and my new role in Emme’s life.

“But I still get to stay with Dax, right?” She pokes at her milkshake with her straw.

“That’s right. Everything stays exactly the way it is for the time being, apart from me being involved in more than just your trust.”

“Okay.” She nods, as if this makes sense, but then chews on the inside of her lip.

“Do you have any other questions? I know it’s a lot of new things happening, so I’m here to help however I can.”

Emme looks to Daxton, as if seeking his approval before she speaks. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s wary of me, or of his reaction to whatever questions she has. At his nod she clears her throat. “So if you’re responsible for me, does that mean you have to move in with me and Dax?”

Daxton’s eyes go wide and his gaze darts to me. I’m not capable of speaking, though, since I’m coughing up the french fry I almost choked on.

“No, Em, it’s not like that. It’s still just you and me,” he replies.

“Oh. Okay. ’Cause, like, that might be a little weird, but at least you and Dax were, like, friends before, right? And Dax doesn’t have a girlfriend or anything, so it wouldn’t be that weird. Except if Kailyn had to stay in your old room.” Emme’s eyes light up and she leans in closer, as if she’s about to tell a secret. “His bedroom is full of stuff from his old TV show. Posters and everything.”

I glance at Daxton and then back at her. “Is that right?”

She nods. “Dax said we can clean it out and I can put all the stuff on eBay and decide what I want to do with the money.”

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