Jack stomped into the kitchen, cold and thoroughly soaked. In any other circumstance he might be in a bad mood, but he was feeling just the opposite. Despite the weather being shit, the work rough and tedious thanks to the rain and wind, Jack's spirit was high. No matter how fucked up of a time Jack had, for Greg it had been ten times worse.
It was juvenile, mean-spirited even, but watching the other man curse in that pansy accent of his while he tried to hammer a nail in the board was better than any cat playing piano on YouTube any day of the week. A fix-it guy Greg obviously wasn't, but even Jack had to admit the professor had been a good sport.
Despite the storm, his obvious incompetence, and his fancy suit that was now just a fancy drop cloth, Greg hadn't quit. He bore through it all with curses and evil glances, but he stayed outside the entire time, doing his fair share. If Greg weren't intent on stealing Jack's girl, the two men might have become friends.
"Hi, honey," he called out to Liv who was sitting at the table reading a book. "We're home."
Liv looked over her shoulder, but when she spotted the two men, she gasped and jumped from her chair. From the horrified expression on her face, Jack knew they looked as wet as he felt.
"Oh my God, you guys are soaked." Liv dropped the book she'd been reading and picked up two thick bath towels from the table. "I brought these from the bathroom, but something tells me it's not going to be enough."
The fluffy pink linen looked like a joke next to Greg and Jack, who both resembled passengers on the Titanic.
"Yeah...I don't think a towel is going to do it for Greg," Jack said with a wicked grin as he shrugged out of his jacket. "You might want to get him a blanket, something for his boo boos, and a trash can for everything else."
"Boo boos." With a concerned expression on her pretty face, Liv rushed to the other man's side, pausing long enough to press the towels into Jack's chest. She didn't even wait to see if he grabbed them before she frantically began to run her hands over Greg's arms and chest, while Greg glared at Jack through slanted angry eyes. "Where are you hurt?"
"Nowhere, love." Greg pushed her gently yet firmly away. "Don't get too close. I'm soaking wet. I don't want you to catch cold."
Brows furrowed, Liv glanced over at Jack, who was trying his best to keep his grin at bay, then back to Greg. "But Jack said you were hurt."
"He was teasing. Now, why don't you get us some more towels, a lot more, before we start a flood in here?"
"Okay, I will. The coffee is warming, make yourself at home," she said as she hurried from the room.
"Will do, Liv," Jack said cheerfully as he tossed one of the cloths at Greg's face, none too gently.
Greg caught it before it could do any damage. "Funny, mate."
"I thought so." Jack grinned.
Without waiting for Liv to get back with the rest of the linen, Jack began to undress in the kitchen. Growing up in a household with one bathroom and three brothers forced any modesty out of Jack. It was nothing to him to undress in front of Greg, especially since it was freezing cold. One by one he began to peel off the layers, first the heavy sweatshirt and then the long-sleeved T-shirt.
When he was topless he glanced over at Greg, who had spent his time slipping out of his coat and jacket. But that was it. His shirt was slicked to his skin, his hair was still wet, his skin a tinge of blue. He looked moments away from hypothermia.
"You all right there, pal?"
He looked anything but. Jack slung his towel around his neck and grabbed a hold of the ends in his hands. "So, are you just going to stand there and catch your death of pneumonia or you going to get out of those wet things?"
"In a hurry to size up the competition?"
Oh, the dick had a sense of humor. Nice. "No, I just don't want to have to spend the rest of the evening watching her feed you soup."
"You could always go."
"And let you have all the fun? Never that."
Before Greg could reply, Liv entered the room. This time her hands were loaded down with towels.
"Here." Liv set the linens on the counter. "Greg, hurry up and get out of those things."
"I warned him."
"Actually, I believe I left my gym bag here the last time I was over."
"Oh you did. That's right." She beamed. "I washed the clothes for you. It's upstairs in my closet."
Jack frowned. Greg had clothes here. Hmmm....not a good sign.
"Great. I'll go take a hot shower then change. Unless you need me to help with something else."
"No. That's a great idea." Liv squeezed Greg's arm and Jack bit his tongue. He didn't like to see those small little gestures from her. At least not directed at another man. Knowing she was seeing someone else, and having it reinforced right in front of him, were two different things. And it was weird for him to feel this way.
Casual was how he rolled. He enjoyed not having someone to answer to, yet at the same time he took pleasure in the sense of home he felt when he was with Liv. The more he saw her, the more he wanted to see her. But unlike Greg, Jack didn't need a year to figure it out. He knew how he felt about her after just a few months. He'd just been biding his time before he made his move.
He'd hoped Liv would see he was the better man, but he knew now he was going to have to step up his game if he wanted to be the man she chose at the end of the day. And there was no time like the present for life-changing decisions. The three of them trapped together during the storm was probably the best thing that could have ever happened.
Jack waited until Greg left the kitchen and Liv turned her attention back to him before speaking again. "So, he's staying?"
"Yes, he is." Liv took a deep breath, as if she might say something more but just shook her head. "You need to get out of those pants."
"I don't disagree." His jeans were plastered to his legs and his boots felt like two bricks at the end of his legs. "But it's not going to be easy."
"But it could be fun."
Fun? Even though Captain Tweed was in the house? Interesting. "I like fun."
"Good. Now sit. I'll help you with these boots."
Jack sat on the kitchen chair, and Liv knelt at his feet and began to pick at the waterlogged laces. "I think I could get used to this."
"I'll make you a deal--you board my windows during every storm and I'll undress you every time."
"Done and done." All kidding aside, there was something the two of them needed to get clear. Jack tilted her chin up so he could look into her eyes. "I know you're happy he's here."
She smiled and reached up to stroke his hand. "I'm happy you're here too, you know."
"And you want me to stay?" Jack almost hated to ask, but he wouldn't stay where he wasn't wanted. "The roads aren't closed yet. I could go."
"Or you can stay." Liv didn't beg, but the look in her eyes told him she wanted him there.
"With the two of us here, together, things could end badly."
Liv flashed him an enigmatic smile. "Or it could be a lot of fun. Try to be positive."
"Oh, I'm positive it's going to end badly."
"Won't you at least try to get to know him better?"
Jack cocked a brow. "How much better are you hoping for?"
"I don't know." Liv gave a nonchalant shrug. She lowered her head and returned to picking at his laces, finally pulling them loose.
Somehow Jack didn't believe her sudden offhanded manner. "I think you do."
"I just meant less homicidally." Liv tilted her head to the side and frowned. "Is that a word?"
"Not sure, but I get your drift. You want me to play nice."
"Exactly." She pushed herself up on her knees and her hands rested lightly on his thighs.
"And if I do..."
"I'll play nice with you."
Now that was a deal he couldn't resist. "Fine..."
The lights flickered for a moment before they flashed out for good, leaving the room bathed in darkness. Liv squeaked and jumped into his lap, her hands clutching at his shoulders. He could feel the warmth of her breath across his collarbone.
Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Jack pulled her in closer to him and smiled. "Let the games begin."