The sun was down by the time Andrew got home, stewing in frustration. For someone who had told them she wanted to move their focus toward town history and away from rituals, Iris certainly had them doing an awful lot of rituals lately. And now, on Andrew’s first day off of magical grounding, they’d been doing another ridiculous one. The most recent one just HAD to be done on New Year’s Day, when they’d been swamped with customers all afternoon. Plus, it involved crystals, which immediately made Andrew frustrated and angry on Olivia’s behalf again.
After the shop had closed at four, they’d taken an hour to do this new ritual. He’d had to lie on the floor of the shop yet again. But this time, he had to be shirtless. With a crystal sitting on his chest. And then spend far too long staring at this little crystal on his hairy chest. And as he should have been opening his mind up to forces beyond their comprehension, he’d been trying not to think about the deeply unflattering angle from which he was looking at his body.
The whole ritual had been a bust, ending with solid contact at the town line. Even knowing full well that the spell hadn’t worked, Andrew couldn’t help that little bit of hope as he walked toward the boundary. And then there was the disappointment and anger that he was even angrier at himself over. Because, after over a year, how had he not expected that to happen?
Even before the ritual, Andrew had been frustrated by the shift he’d had at Iris’s shop. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. So between that, the ritual, and a very particular witch out of Ware, he was ready to go home, have a beer, and go to bed.
So of course, Jude’s stupid little car was in the driveway behind Noah’s truck. Andrew wasn’t proud of how much he disliked Jude. At first, he’d thought maybe it wouldn’t be as bad since it wasn’t like he’d be foolish enough to come into New Winslow. But that was before he’d found out Noah met him at the Christmas tree lot. And then he’d been in Noah’s flat when Andrew had gone upstairs and embarrassed himself by stammering nonsense in the doorway before fleeing.
But even as he tried to be a mature adult and tell himself he didn’t care who Noah shagged, it wasn’t his business, he still felt that sour pang in his stomach whenever he saw Jude’s car in the driveway.
If he and Noah weren’t dating, then why the hell was he here so often?
Andrew pulled Olivia’s car in beside the truck and got out, closing the door a little too hard as he did. Fine, whatever. He wasn’t planning to see Noah tonight, anyway. And it was Noah’s business, as long as he kept it to his fucking self.
Andrew stepped into the dim hallway and kicked off his snowy boots. Then he opened the front door and his heart sank as he saw Jude and Cleo sitting on the living room sofa, chatting animatedly. Both smiled at him as he walked in.
“Andrew!” Cleo called over with a wave.
Jude smiled. “Nice to see you again,” he said in that infuriating California way.
“Yeah, hi,” Andrew said, trying to smile back. “Cleo, I didn’t know you were around tonight.”
“Yeah, actually Noah hooked me up with Jude to discuss some of the licensing requests I’ve gotten.”
“So you’re a lawyer, then?”
Jude laughed. “She’d better hope so.”
Andrew wanted to jump on that, wanted to tell Jude not to destroy his friends’ lives. But then Liv came out of the kitchen. “Hey,” she said, steering Mia toward her bedroom. “There’s some leftover fried chicken in the kitchen if you want it.”
“Cheers,” Andrew said, distracted as Jude and Cleo put their heads together over a sheet of paper on the coffee table. “Where’s Noah?”
“Working,” Jude said. “He said he got some hours doing some cleanup at a farm? I’m not entirely sure. But I’m meeting him here when he gets out.”
“Ah,” Andrew said. “Grand plans?”
Jude shrugged. “You could say that.”
Sex then. Did Noah know that this guy wasn’t interested in a future? “So you’re dating, then?”
Jude laughed, and Andrew wanted to hit him. “No,” he said. “No, we are not.”
Both Cleo and Olivia glanced at them, neither looking comfortable with where this conversation was going. “So what do you want from him, then?”
Jude raised his eyebrows and Andrew knew he was being a prick, but he didn’t care. Who the hell did this man think he was? “Um, you mean tonight?” Jude asked. “I was thinking about dinner and a Bruins game? If that’s alright.”
There was a challenge in his tone, underneath that maddening politeness. “Right, then,” Andrew said.
Jude looked at him again. “Anything else?” he asked. “Or can we get back to…”
He motioned to the paperwork in front of them. “Yeah, of course,” Andrew said, hoping he didn’t sound as flustered as he felt.
He walked into the kitchen, desperate to be anywhere else. He wasn’t being fair and he knew it. Andrew was the one that turned Noah down so he didn’t get to have feelings about Jude. Even if he was a smarmy git.
Andrew jumped and turned around to see Olivia in the kitchen doorway. She walked into the room, slinging a dish towel over her shoulder. “Yeah, fine,” he said.
“You know Noah doesn’t need you to protect him,” Olivia said.
“And if he wants a fuck buddy, that’s his business.”
He waited for Liv to say more. To tell him this was his fault. Or maybe that he should talk to Noah if he was going to be like this. But instead, she just clapped him on the shoulder and started washing dishes.
He wanted to go to his room, but that would involve walking back through the living room, and Andrew wanted to save the last remnants of his pride. So instead, he picked up a towel and started drying dishes as Liv set them on the drying rack. They worked silently for a few minutes and Andrew could tell Liv had things to say, but was keeping them to herself. And for that, he was grateful.