Oblivion (Nevermore #3) - Chapter 122
“Hey,” he said, withdrawing something pink from his pocket—Isobel’s cell. “Want to invite your friend?”
She gave him a small smile, marveling at how Gwen had been able to do it again.
Never in her life would Isobel understand that girl’s odd way with people, her crazy ability to weasel into favor just as easily as she fell out of it—if not more so.
“He likes ice cream, doesn’t he?” her dad asked as he tossed the phone onto her bed.
Isobel’s mouth popped open wide.
Seconds flew by as she tried to catch up with what he’d just said, to wrap her mind around his meaning. Then she scrambled for her cell, finding her wits and her voice in the same instant.
“Yeah,” she said. “Actually, he does.”
Sweet Surrender Dessert Café
Two Years Later
“How do you know she’ll be home?” Isobel asked.
Breaking her stare on the condominium complex across the street from where they sat, Isobel clutched her oversize coffee mug between both hands.
“I don’t,” Varen replied, before taking another bite of the slice of German chocolate cake that he and Isobel (mostly Isobel) had all but destroyed.
A small, sad smile touched Isobel’s lips, and, lifting her mug, she watched Varen from over its rim. Then, deciding she didn’t want the last sips of her mocha, she set the cup down again.
“Are you worried?” she asked.
“No,” Varen said, his voice carrying that low monotone drone that coated his words whenever he wanted to sound like he didn’t care. “She probably won’t know who I am anyway.”
“It’s your birthday,” Isobel said. Reaching across the table, she placed a hand over his. “Who else would you be?”
His fingers caught hers, and his jade eyes flicked up. “You tell me, cheerleader.”
An infinitesimal smirk teased one corner of his mouth.
That sly half smile, combined with the faint scar that still marred his cheek, caused her heart to stammer a beat.
Every so often, he had moments like these. Flashes when that other side—that other self—showed through. Though they often caught her off guard, they no longer scared her.
Quite the opposite . . .
“I know we’re here now,” Isobel said, giving his hand a squeeze. “But . . . you can still change your mind if you want to. Whatever you decide, I’m right there with you. You know that, don’t you?”
Varen leaned back in his chair. He peered out the window toward the condo complex.
“I do,” he said. “And whatever happens next, this is all extra, you know. The part after the ending.”
“After the happy ending,” Isobel corrected. “The afterword!” she added, perking up in her seat.
“Epilogue,” Varen said.
“Wait,” she said, suppressing a smile, “I thought that’s what the talking was called.”
“Dialogue,” Varen replied, affecting a stern glower as he played along. Folding his green-jacketed arms on the table, he hooked the handle of his mug with a finger and lifted his coffee—black—to his lips.
Isobel tried hard not to laugh. The moment felt like one relived from the past, a throwback to those first days. But when Varen lost his seriousness before he could take a sip, smiling in spite of his efforts to keep a straight face, Isobel grinned too.
When the bells on the café door rang, Isobel’s gaze strayed over Varen’s safety-pin-studded shoulder. But her smile fell fast when she took in the pair who had just entered from the street.
Varen’s expression sobered with hers. Setting his coffee cup in its saucer, he twisted to look at the young girl and her mother.
“Here to pick up the German chocolate,” Madeline said after approaching the counter. “You’re holding it under the name Alexander.”
Isobel drew in a sharp breath, recognizing Varen’s middle name.
As if sensing Varen’s penetrating gaze, the girl, who couldn’t have been much younger than Danny, turned her head to stare at him, blond braids flying.
“Veronica,” Madeline said, nudging the girl as the clerk disappeared into the back room. “It’s not polite to stare.”
Quickly Varen turned toward Isobel again, his face white.
Tense in her seat, Isobel switched her focus between the woman—who after accepting a white cake box from the returning clerk, took her receipt—and Varen, who, mouth slightly agape, lip ring glinting in the late-afternoon sun, gripped the edge of the table.