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It shouldn’t have been obvious. But watching Melodie’s gaze travel around the living room, Amethyst was afraid it was. The tablet that wasn’t hers, sitting on the round maple table by Jas’ chair. The coaster he’d set his glass on last night after dinner… Every little thing seemed to have flashing neon arrows that said, ‘Jas is staying here!’
Then again, it could be just her guilty conscience.
“I booked the one o’clock snowboarding lesson,” Jas said, crossed to the coat closet and took out their coats—both their coats. “Give the day a chance to warm up.”
Melodie shot Amethyst a look, her brows giving an upward twitch.
Nope. It wasn’t just Amethyst’s guilty conscience. Melodie knew. Amethyst met her look and gave a ghost of a shrug.
Jas, holding her coat, noticed the interchange. Most guys never picked up on subtle female communications. But of course Jas would be the one who did. She shrugged at him, too, and slipped into her coat, her puffy, rich purple cold-weather one.
Marl, Melodie’s husband, certainly seemed oblivious, chatting about what a perfect day it was and how they’d hardly need coats. Or it might just be that he was laboring to keep the atmosphere light. So far, Melodie was keeping her promise to be civil. But she wasn’t making an effort to be friendly, either. Amethyst was surprised to find herself a little squirmy about it. And they still had a 45-minute drive up to the ski area.
She drove her Subaru, Jas beside her, Melodie and Marl in the back. The city gave way to sparsely-vegetated granite slopes, then to low-rise woods of piñon and juniper, and those to towering pines as they climbed. Snow appeared, first only in the shade, then as a white blanket.
Amethyst had to admire Jas’ composure. The mood, while not hostile, was definitely cool. But Jas stayed as pleasant and friendly as if Marl and Melodie were a couple he looked forward to getting to know.
The Sandia Peak ski lodge rose from the parking lot above its bright red double staircases. Skiers in equally bright gear trooped up and down the stairs, moved across the snowy landscape, rode the lift to the top of the ski trails.
As soon as they’d unloaded, Melodie grabbed Amethyst’s arm.
“Let’s go check it out,” she said. “We’ll see you guys up there.”
Amethyst didn’t have a chance to read the look on Jas’ face before Melodie tugged her away across the snowy parking lot. Sighing, Amethyst let herself be towed up the stairs, into the lodge and through a door onto a side deck.
Melodie found a relatively private corner and rounded on her. “Tell me Jas Harker isn’t living with you.”
Amethyst raised her chin and crossed her arms. “Jas Harker isn’t living with me.”
“Amethyst, I’m your best friend. Do not lie to me.”
When Melodie used her real name, Amethyst knew she was serious. “I’m not lying. He’s not living with me. He’s staying with me.”
Melodie shook her head. “Ah, semantics. You gotta love ’em.”
“It’s the truth.”
“Look,” Melodie said. “I don’t want to cause trouble—”
“—but a week ago you wanted to throw the man under the bus. Now he’s living—excuse me—staying with you.”
“You were the one who told me I’d better think twice before I shut him down.”
“And I’m feeling a little uncomfortable about that now.”
Ah-ha, Amethyst thought. She took Melodie’s hand. “Don’t feel guilty, Mel. It’s not like you think.” Yet. “We’re having wizard problems. We discussed it, and decided this was the best way to handle them.”
Melodie held up a hand. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wizard problems. What kind of wizard problems?”
Amethyst sighed. “Hopefully not the kind that put me in the hospital again. So you see why Jas doesn’t want leave me on my own.”
Melodie put knuckle to lip and studied her a long moment. “You know, every time I want to think the worst of him, he turns around and does something like that.”
Amethyst grinned. “I know, huh? Leave that gorgeous place of his up in the foothills to camp out in my guest bedroom, help with the dishes and everything. He even gave ol’ Heather the brush-off when she fired up the charm.”
Melodie made a face. “And we all know how hard that is. So these wizard problems—”
“It’s just some guy who keeps showing up. He’s probably harmless, but I’m not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Okay. So…” She gave Amethyst a worried look. “Are you okay with it? The close quarters and all?”
Amethyst gave a rueful laugh. “I’m hopelessly confused. I don’t think I can expect any better than that.”
“Well, I guess I’ll get to see up close and personal today if Jas is worth all the agony.”
Amethyst hadn’t thought about it that way. “I know it sounds crazy,” she said slowly, “but I’m beginning to think he might be.”
Melodie studied her again as if trying to decide if she really was crazy, then sighed. “He’d better be, for his sake.”
Amethyst hugged her. “Thanks. You’re the best kind of friend. There aren’t many who’ll ask if you’re being stupid.”
“Hey, you know me,” Melodie said. “Anytime.”
Amethyst laughed and went back inside, Melodie following.