Tempting Love - Haley & Eddie (Crossroads #5)

By: Melanie Shawn

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Emily’s soft voice snapped Haley out of her obsessive replaying of Eddie’s parting shot. “Hales, I miss you too.”

He does?!

She still wasn’t completely convinced that those five words hadn’t been a figment of her overactive imagination. The more she played it over in her head, the more it seemed like a very un-Eddie like thing to have come out of his mouth. And even if he had in fact uttered those lovely words, what did that mean exactly? Missed her how? Did he miss her like he missed Emily or his sister Chelle? Oh lord, she hoped not.

“Do you?” Emily asked again, her tone more insistent.

“Oh sorry, sweetie. I was zoning out for a minute.” Haley took a deep breath as she continued running the brush through Emily’s wet hair, which hung to the middle of her back. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. Do youuu?”

Emily whipped her head around and looked at Haley like she’d just bit into a lemon. “Eww, no. That’s gross!” Then, turning back around, Em pulled her knees up to her chest and focused her attention back to the movie that starred transforming cars.

Haley bit back a smile. She remembered exactly what it had felt like to think boys were gross. In fact, she’d stayed in the boys-have-cooties stage much longer than all of her friends. Which was sort of odd because she was very much a romantic, always had been.

Part of her late blooming had had to do with the fact that Haley had what everyone had always referred to as an ‘old soul.’ When she was growing up, her favorite pastimes were reading and shopping for antiques. Not a whole lot of crushing usually happened during those activities. With the exception, of course, for book boyfriends. She’d had—still had!—a serious thing for Gilbert Blythe. The summer of her sixth grade year, she’d read Anne of Green Gables at least twenty-five times.

That same summer, she’d also spent every weekend trying to convince someone to take her antique shopping. Not that she’d had any real money to spend. She’d always just loved being around antiques. She would make up stories in her head about the furniture, knick knacks, and jewelry. Where it had been. Who its previous owners were.

The other reason that she seemed to have skipped the pitfalls of a boy-crazy adolescence was because she’d been raised side by side with five older male cousins. The boys had really been more like brothers to her. Growing up, she’d had a front-row view of all the disgusting things boys did. Seth, Riley, Jason, Alex, Bobby, and their friends had given her a look behind the curtain and it was not a clean, sanitary place, to say the least.

Not only had she seen firsthand how smelly and dirty boys could be, her dating life had also been hampered by the fact that her cousins intimidated the crap out of all the boys that had shown even a slight interest in her. It wasn’t as bad for her three little sisters since three of her cousins had gone into the military right after high school. She had definitely received the lion’s share of the overprotective-older-brother treatment.

After using almost an entire bottle of detangler, Haley was finally able to pull the brush easily through Emily’s hair. “Do you want a braid, Em?”

“Yes please!” Emily bounced up and down with excitement as she clapped her hands together.

Haley’s heart filled to the brim with love. She felt so honored to be able to share these little moments with Em. It was the little things—braiding her hair, doing their nails, tucking her in—that caused Haley’s heart to swell. Those were the moments that Haley treasured the most. The day-to-day routine stuff.

“Did your mom used to braid your hair?” Emily asked, her voice edged with a little sadness.

“Sometimes.” Haley smiled at the memory even as her heart broke for the little girl sitting between her knees.

Lately, Emily was having a tough time dealing with the fact that she’d never met her mom. She’d been asking Haley a lot of questions about what it was like to have a mom. Also, she’d asked if Haley had known Emily’s mom Lacey.

Of course Haley had tried to answer her as honestly as possible—without putting in her own narrative on what kind of a person Lacey was—and basically just be there for Em when she needed someone to talk to. But lately, the “mom” topic had been coming up more and more, and Haley thought that it was probably time to let Eddie know. Haley at least needed to find out how he wanted her to handle the dreaded ‘Lacey’ questions.

Haley’s fingers twisted and wrapped a ponytail holder around the bottom of Emily’s braid. “All done, sweetie pie.”

Emily’s hand immediately reached back and her slim fingers ran down the center of her braided hair. Then she excitedly turned and looked up at Haley with big brown eyes, asking, “Can I braid yours now?”

“Of course,” Haley agreed happily as the two switched places. Haley now sat crisscross-applesauce on the floor in front of the couch with Emily perched on the cushion behind her.

As they watched the movie and Emily brushed out Haley’s hair, her mind wandered to what Eddie was doing right now. And who he was doing it with. She knew that logically she should feel upset, and of course there was a small part of her that wished he were here with her instead of out there with…whoever he was with. But that had more to do with the fact that she missed him, not that she was jealous over his hook-up.