It Happened One Summer Chapter-10: Piper was stuck in a nightmare in which giant mice with twitchy little noses chased her through a maze while she wielded a flaming frying pan. So when she heard the knock on the door the following morning, her waking thought was The mouse king has come for me. She pinwheeled into a sitting position and soundly smacked her head on the top bunk.
“Ow,” she complained, pushing her eye mask up to her forehead and testing the collision spot with a finger. Already sore.
A yawn came from above. “Did you hit your head again?”
“Yes,” she grumbled, trying to piece together why she’d woken up in the first place. It wasn’t like much sunlight could filter in through their window and the building next door. Not when a scant inch separated them and the neighboring wall. The apartment was all but black. It couldn’t even be sunrise yet.s
A fist rapped twice on the door, and she screamed, her hand flying to the center of her chest. “Mouse king,” she gasped.
Hannah giggled. “What?”
“Nothing.” Piper shook off the mental cobwebs and eyed the door warily. “Who’s there?”
“Oh.” She glanced up and knew she was trading a frown with Hannah, even though they couldn’t see each other. What did the grumpy boat captain need from her that couldn’t wait until normal-people hours? Every time she thought they’d seen the last of each other, he seemed to be right there, front and center. Confusing her.
She hadn’t been lying about not knowing how to act in his presence. It was usually easy to charm, flirt, flatter, and wrap men around her pinky. Until they got bored and moved on, which they seemed to do faster and faster these days. But that was beside the point. Brendan had robbed her deck of the pretty-girl trump card, and she couldn’t get it back. He’d had too many peeks behind the curtain now. The first time they’d met, she’d been a drowned rat and offended his beloved Westport. Meeting two, she’d blasphemed his dead wife. Three, she’d almost burned this relic of a building down . . .
Although eating with him had been kind of . . . nice.
Maybe that wasn’t the right word.
Different. Definitely different. She’d engaged in conversation with a man without constantly trying to present her best angle and laugh in just the right way. He’d seemed interested in what she had to say. Could he have been?
Obviously, he hadn’t been instantly enraptured with her appearance. Her practiced come-hither glances only made him grumpier. So maybe he wanted to be friends! Like, based on her personality. Wouldn’t that be something?
“Huh,” she murmured through a yawn. “Friends.”
Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she slipped her feet into her black velvet Dolce & Gabbana slippers and padded to the door. Before she opened it, she gave in to vanity and scrubbed away the sleep crusties in the corners of her eyes. She opened the door and craned her neck in order to look up into the face of the surly boat captain.
Piper started to say good morning, but Brendan cleared his throat hard and did a quarter turn, staring at the doorjamb. “I’ll wait until you’re dressed.”
“Sorry . . . ?” Nose wrinkled, she looked down at her tank top and panties. “Oh.”
“Here,” Hannah called sleepily, tossing Piper a pillow.
“Thanks.” She caught it, and held it in front of herself like a puffy shield.
Hold on. Was this man she’d judged as little more than a bully . . . blushing?
“Oh, come on, Brendan,” she chuckled. “There’s a lot worse on my Instagram. Anyone’s Instagram, really.”
“Not mine,” Hannah said, voice muffled. A second later, she was snoring softly.
For the first time, Piper noticed the tool kit at Brendan’s feet. “What’s all that for?”
Finally, Brendan allowed his attention to drift back to her, and a muscle wormed in his jaw. The pillow covered Piper from neck to upper thigh, but the curve of her panty-clad backside was still visible. Brendan’s eyes traveled over that swell now, continuing up the line of her back, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. “I changed the lock on the door downstairs,” he said hoarsely, his gaze ticking to hers. “Came to change this one, too. It’ll only take a few minutes.”
“Oh.” Piper straightened. “Why?”
“We leave this morning for three nights. Last fishing trip before crab season. I just . . .” He crouched down and started rooting through his box, metal clanging so she could barely hear him when he said, “Wanted to make sure this place was secure.”
Piper’s fingers tightened on the pillow. “That was really nice of you.” “Well.” Tools in hand, he straightened once again to his full height. “I saw you hadn’t done it. Even though you’ve had two days.”
She shook her head. “You had to go and ruin the nice gesture, didn’t you?”
Brendan grunted and set to work, apparently having decided to ignore her. Fine. Just to spite him, she let the pillow drop and went to make coffee. On her sister’s trip to the record store with Fox, Hannah had found a mom-and-pop electronics shop, purchasing the kind of one-cup brewer you’d normally find in a hotel room. They’d been selling it for ten dollars. Who sold anything for ten dollars? They’d rejoiced over Hannah’s bargain hunting the way Piper used to celebrate finding a four-thousand-dollar Balmain dress at a sample sale.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Piper asked Brendan.
“No, thanks. Already had one.”
“Let me guess.” After adding a mug of water, she lowered the lid on the maker and switched it on. “You never have more than a single cup.”
Grunt. “Two on Sundays.” His brows angled down and together. “What’s that red mark on your head?”
“Oh.” Her fingers lifted to prod the sore patch. “I’m not used to sleeping with another bed three feet above mine. I keep whacking my head on the top bunk.”
He made a sound. Kept frowning.
His visible grumpiness made the corner of Piper’s mouth edge up. “What are you going fishing for this time?”
She rolled her eyes at his abrupt answer and leaned back against the chipped kitchen counter. “Well, Hannah and I talked it over and we’re running with your suggestion.” She picked up her finished coffee, stirred it with her finger, and sipped. “We want to enjoy our time in Westport. Tell me where to go. What to do.”
Brendan took another minute to finish up the lock. He tested it out and replaced his tools in the box before approaching her, digging something out of his back pocket. She caught a tingle on the soft inner flesh of her thighs and knew he was checking her out, but she pretended not to notice. Mostly because she didn’t know how to feel about it. That familiar burn of a man’s regard wasn’t giving her the obligatory thrum of success. Brendan’s attention made her kind of . . . fidgety. He’d have to be dead not to look. But actual interest was something else. She wasn’t even sure what she would do if Brendan showed more than a passing notice of her hotness.
And he was still wearing his wedding ring.
Meaning, he was still hung up on his deceased wife.
So she and Brendan would be friends. Definitely only friends.
Brendan cleared his throat. “You’re a five-minute walk to the lighthouse. And it’s still warm enough for the beach. There’s a small winery in town, too. My men are always complaining about having to go there on date nights. They have something called a selfie spot. So you should love it.”
“I also brought you some takeout menus,” he said in a low voice, slapping them down on the counter, and with him standing so close, it was impossible not to register their major size difference. Or catch a whiff of his saltwater and- no-nonsense deodorant.
Friends, she reminded herself.
A grieving widower was not fling material.
Swallowing, Piper looked down at the menus. He’d brought three of them. She pursed her lips. “I guess it’s too early to be insulted.”
“This isn’t me telling you not to cook. These are fallbacks.” He opened the first folded menu, for a Chinese restaurant. “In each of them, I went ahead and circled what I order every time, so you’d know the best dish.”
She hip-bumped him, although thanks to him being a foot taller, her hip landed somewhere near the top of his thigh. “You mean, the only one you’ve ever tried?”
A smile threatened to appear on his face. “They’re one and the same.”
“You have your phone handy?” Brendan asked.
Nodding, she turned on a heel, took two steps, and picked up the discarded pillow, holding it over her butt to end his suffering—and to let him know she’d gotten the friends-only message. She collected her cell from its place of honor beneath her pillow, then pivoted, transferring the pillow once again to block her front. When she turned around, Brendan watched her curiously but didn’t comment on her sudden modesty.
“If you and your sister have any problems while I’m gone, call Mick.” He dipped his chin. “That’s my . . . my father-in-law.”
“We met him yesterday,” Piper said, smiling through the odd tension at the mention of Brendan having a father-in-law. “He’s a sweetie.”
Brendan seemed momentarily caught off guard. “Ah. Right. Well, he’s not too far from here. Let me give you his contact info in case you need something.”
“Yes, Captain.” She clicked her bare heels together. “And after that, I’ll swab the deck.”
He snorted. “She uses a mop once . . .”
Piper beamed. “Oh, you noticed our spruce job, did you?”
“Yeah. Not bad,” he commented, glancing around the apartment. “Ready?” Piper humored him by programming Mick’s number into her phone as he rattled it off. “Thanks—”
“Take mine, too,” he said abruptly, suddenly fascinated by one of the menus. “I won’t have reception on the water, but . . .”
“Take it in case I need cooking advice when you get back?”
He made an affirmative sound in his throat.
Piper pressed her lips together to hide a smile. She’d seen Brendan with his friend Fox. How they needled each other like brothers as a means of communication. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that making new friends didn’t come naturally to him. “All right. Give me those digits, Captain.”
He seemed relieved by her encouragement, reciting the number as she punched it into her phone. When she hit dial on his number, his head came up as if trying to figure out where the sound was coming from.
“That’s your phone,” she said and laughed. “I’m calling you so you’ll have my number, too.”
“Oh.” He nodded, the corner of his mouth tugging a little. “Right.”
She cupped a hand around her mouth and whispered, “Should I be expecting nudes?”
“Jesus Christ, Piper,” he grumped, straightening the takeout menus and signaling an end to the discussion. But he hesitated a second before striding for the door. “Now that I’m in your phone, does this mean next time you break into a rooftop pool, I’ll be on the mass invite?”
Brendan winked to let her know he was joking. But she couldn’t help grinning at the mental image of this earthy giant of a man walking through a sea of polished LA social climbers. “Oh yeah. You’re in.”
After one more almost imperceptible sweep of her legs, Brendan coughed into his fist and turned again. He picked up his toolbox and started down the stairs. Just like that. His work was done and the formalities were stupid. Piper followed, looking down at him from the top of the stairs. “Are we friends, Brendan?”
“No,” he called back, without missing a beat.
Her mouth hung open, a laugh huffing out of her as she closed the door.
Hannah sat up and asked, “What the hell is going on there?”
Slowly, she shook her head. “I have no freaking idea.”
The jail was a cold, dark place.
Piper stood in the very center of the cell shivering and hugging her elbows so she wouldn’t accidentally touch anything that might require a tetanus shot. Until this moment, the word “torture” had only been a vague description of something she’d never understand. But trying to not pee in the moldy toilet after roughly six mixed drinks was a torment no woman should ever know. The late-night Coachella bathroom situation had nothing on this grimy metal throne that mocked her from the corner of the cell.
“Excuse me?” Piper called, wobbling to the bars in her heels. There were no guards in sight, but she could hear the distinctive sounds of Candy Crush coming from nearby. “Hi, it’s me, Piper. Is there another bathroom I could use?”
“No, princess,” a woman’s voice called back, sounding very bored. “There isn’t.”
She bounced side to side, her bladder demanding to be evacuated. “Where do you go to the bathroom?”
A snort. “Where did the other non-criminals go.”
Piper whined in her throat, although the lady guard went up a notch in her book for delivering such a savage response without hesitation. “I’m not a criminal,” Piper tried again. “This is all a misunderstanding.”
A trill of laughter echoed down the drab hallway of the police station. How many times had she passed the station on North Wilcox? Now she was an inmate.
But seriously, it had been one hell of a party.
The guard slowly appeared in front of Piper’s cell, fingers tucked into her beige uniform pants. Beige. Whoever was at the helm of law enforcement fashion should be sentenced to cruel and unusual punishment. “You call two hundred people breaking into a hotel pool after hours a misunderstanding?”
Piper crossed her legs and sucked in a breath through her nose. If she peed herself in Valentino, she would voluntarily remain in jail. “Would you believe the pool hours weren’t prominently posted?”
“Is that the argument your expensive lawyer is going to use?” The guard shook her head, visibly amused. “Someone had to shatter the glass door to get inside and let all the other rich kids in. Who did that? The invisible man?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out,” Piper vowed solemnly.
The guard sighed with a smile. “It’s too late for that, sweetheart. Your friend with the purple tips already named you as the ringleader.”
Had to be.
No one else at the party had purple tips. At least, Piper didn’t think so. Somewhere between the chicken fights in the pool and the illegal firecrackers being set off, she’d lost track of the incoming guests. She should have known better than to trust Kirby, though. She and Piper were friends, but not good enough for her to lie to the police. The foundation of their relationship was commenting on each other’s social media posts and enabling each other to make ridiculous purchases, like a four-thousand-dollar purse shaped like a tube of lipstick. Most times, those kinds of surface-level friendships were valuable, but not tonight.
That’s why her one phone call had gone to Hannah.
Speaking of whom, where was her little sister? She’d made that call an hour ago.
Piper hopped side to side, dangerously close to using her hands to keep the urine contained. “Who is forcing you to wear beige pants?” she gasped. “Why aren’t they in here with me?”
“Fine.” The guard flashed a palm. “On this we can agree.”
“Literally any other color would be better. No pants would be better.” Trying to distract herself from the Chernobyl happening in her lower body, she rambled, as she was wont to do in uncomfortable situations. “You have a really cute figure, Officer, but it’s, like, a commandment that no one shall pull off nude khaki.”
The other woman’s eyebrow arched. “You could.”
“You’re right,” Piper sobbed. “I totally could.”
The guard’s laugh faded into a sigh. “What were you thinking, inciting that chaos tonight?”
Piper slumped a little. “My boyfriend dumped me. And he . . . didn’t even look me in the eye the whole time. I guess I just wanted to be seen. Acknowledged. Celebrated instead of . . . disregarded. You know?”
“Scorned and acting like a fool. Can’t say I haven’t been there.”
“Really?” Piper asked hopefully.
“Sure. Who hasn’t put all their boyfriend’s clothes in the bathtub and poured bleach on top?”
Piper thought of the Tom Ford suit turning splotchy and shivering. “That’s cold,” she whispered. “Maybe I should have just slashed his tires. At least that’s legal.”
“That’s . . . not legal.”
“Oh.” Piper sent the guard an exaggerated wink. “Riiiight.”
The woman shook her head, glancing up and down the hallway. “All right, look. It’s a quiet night. If you don’t give me any trouble, I’ll let you use the slightly less shitty bathroom.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
With her keys poised over the keyhole, the guard hit her with serious eyes. “I have a Taser.”
Piper followed her savior down the hall to the bathroom, where she meticulously gathered the skirt of her Valentino and eased the unholy pressure in her bladder, moaning until the final drop fell. As she washed her hands in the small sink, her attention caught on the reflection in the mirror. Raccoon’s eyes looked back at her. Smeared lipstick, limp hair. Definitely a long way from where she’d begun the evening, but she couldn’t help but feel like a soldier returning from battle. She’d set out to divert attention from her breakup, hadn’t she?
An LAPD helicopter circling overhead while she led a conga line had definitely reaffirmed her status as the reigning party queen of Los Angeles. Probably. They’d confiscated her phone during the whole mug shot/fingerprint thing, so she didn’t know what was happening on the internet. Her fingers were itching to tap some apps, and that’s exactly what she would do as soon as Hannah arrived to bail her out.
She looked at her reflection, surprised to find the prospect of breaking the internet didn’t set her heart into a thrilling pitter-patter the way it did before. Was she broken?
Piper snorted and pushed away from the sink, using an elbow to pull down the door handle upon leaving. Obviously, the night had taken its toll—after all, it was nearly five o’clock in the morning. As soon as she got some sleep, she’d spend the day reveling in congratulatory texts and an inundation of new followers. All would be well.
The guard cuffed Piper again and started to walk her back to the cell, just as another guard called down to them from the opposite end. “Yo, Lina. Bellinger made bail. Bring her down to processing.”
Her arms flew up in victory. “Yes!”
Lina laughed. “Come on, beauty queen.”
Vigor restored, Piper skipped alongside the other woman. “Lina, huh? I owe you big-time.” She clutched her hands beneath her chin and gave her a winning pout. “Thank you for being so nice to me.”
“Don’t read too much into it,” drawled the guard, though her expression was pleased. “I just wasn’t in the mood to clean up piss.”
Piper laughed, allowing Lina to unlock the door at the end of the gray hallway. And there was Hannah in the processing area, wearing pajamas and a ball cap, filling out paperwork with her eyes half closed.
Warmth wiggled into Piper’s chest at the sight of her younger sister. They were nothing alike, and had even less in common, but there was no one else Piper would call in a pinch. Of the two sisters, Hannah was the dependable one, even though she had a lazy hippie side.
Where Piper was taller, Hannah had been called a shrimp growing up and never quite hit the middle school growth spurt. At the moment, she kept her petite figure buried under a UCLA sweatshirt, her sandy-blond hair poking out around the blank red hat.
“She clear?” Lina asked a thin-lipped man hunched behind the desk.
He waved a hand without looking up. “Money solves everything.”
Lina unlocked her cuffs once again, and she shot forward. “Hannnnns,” Piper whimpered, throwing her arms around her sister. “I’ll pay you back for this. I’ll do your chores for a week.”
“We don’t have chores, you radish.” Hannah yawned, grinding a fist into her eye. “Why do you smell like incense?”
“Oh.” Piper sniffed her shoulder. “I think the fortune-teller lit some.” Straightening, she squinted her eyes. “Not sure how she found out about the party.”
Hannah gaped, seeming to awaken at least marginally, her hazel eyes a total contrast to Piper’s baby blues. “Did she happen to tell you there’s an angry stepfather in your future?”
Piper winced. “Oof. I had a feeling I couldn’t avoid the wrath of Daniel Q. Bellinger.” She craned her neck to see if there was anyone retrieving her phone. “How did he find out?”
“The news, Pipes. The news.”
“Right.” She sighed, smoothing her hands down the rumpled skirt of her dress. “Nothing the lawyers can’t handle, right? Hopefully, he’ll let me get in a shower and some sleep before one of his famous lectures. I’m walking after the photo.”
“Shut up, you look great,” Hannah said, her lips twitching as she completed the paperwork with a flourish of her signature. “You always look great.”
Piper did a little shimmy.
“Bye, Lina!” Piper called on the way out of the station, her beloved phone cradled in her arms like a newborn, fingers vibrating with the need to swipe. She’d been directed to the back exit where Hannah could pull the car around. Protocol, they’d said.
She took one step out the door and was surrounded by photographers. “Piper! Over here!”
Her vanity screeched like a pterodactyl.
Nerves swerved right and left in her belly, but she flashed them a quick smile and put her head down, clicking as fast as she could toward Hannah’s waiting Jeep.
“Piper Bellinger!” one of the paparazzi shouted. “How was your night in jail?”
“Do you regret wasting taxpayer money?”
The toe of her high heel caught in a crack, and she almost sprawled facefirst onto the asphalt but caught the edge of the door Hannah had pushed open, throwing herself into the passenger side. Closing the door helped cut off the shouted questions, but the last one she’d heard continued to blare in her mind.
Wasting taxpayer money? She’d just thrown a party, right?
Fine, it had taken a considerable amount of police officers to break it up, but like, this was Los Angeles. Weren’t the police just waiting around for stuff like this to happen?
Okay, that sounded privileged and bratty even to her own ears.
Suddenly she wasn’t so eager to check her social media.
She wiped her sweating palms on her dress. “I wasn’t trying to put anyone out or waste money. I wasn’t thinking that far ahead,” Piper said quietly, twisting to face her sister as much as she could in a seat belt. “Is this bad, Hanns?”
Hannah’s teeth were sunk into her lower lip, her hands on the wheel slowly navigating her way through the people frantically snapping Piper’s picture. “It’s not good,” she answered after a pause. “But hey, you used to pull stunts like this all the time, remember? The lawyers always find a way to spin it, and tomorrow they’ll be onto something else.” She reached out and tapped the touch screen, and a low melody flooded the car. “Check it out. I have the perfect song cued up for this moment.”
The somber notes of “Prison Women” by REO Speedwagon floated out from the speakers.
Piper’s skull thudded against the headrest. “Very funny.” She tapped her phone against her knee for a few seconds, before snapping her spine straight and opening Instagram.
There it was. The picture she’d posted early this morning, at 2:42, accused the time stamp. Kirby, the traitorous wench, had snapped it using Piper’s phone. In the shot, Piper was perched on the shoulders of a man whose name she couldn’t recall—though she had a vague recollection of him claiming to play second string for the Lakers?—stripped down to panties and boob tape, but like, in an artistic way. Her Valentino dress was draped over a lounge chair in the background. Firecrackers went off around her like the Fourth of July, swathing Piper in sparkles and smoke. She looked like a goddess rising from an electric mist—and the picture was nearing a million likes.
Telling herself not to, Piper tapped the highlighted section that would show her exactly who had liked the picture. Adrian wasn’t one of them.
Which was fine. A million other people had, right?
But they hadn’t spent three weeks with her.
To them, she was just a two-dimensional image. If they spent more than three weeks with Piper, would they scroll past, too? Letting her sink into the blur of the thousand other girls just like her?
“Hey,” Hannah said, pausing the song. “It’s going to be all right.”
Piper’s laugh sounded forced, so she cut it short. “I know. It always turns out all right.” She pressed her lips together. “Want to hear about the wet boxers competition?”
Read It Happened One Summer Novel All Parts Free Online
It Happened One Summer All chapters: