Texting With the Enemy (Digital Dating #1) - Marika Ray



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If cringing was an Olympic sport, I’d be medaling right now. Silver at least. Probably gold.

That was what happened whenever Mom decided to forget her woes and responsibilities—and the fact that she was nearing sixty—and ‘live every day fully.’ It was also what happened when she’d had too many tiny plastic glasses of wine.

“Your mom is killing it,” my friend Chad observed at my side.

The DJ was playing “Uptown Funk,” a song I wasn’t sure Mom had ever actually heard before, and she was doing some combination of what looked like the Funky Chicken and a pantomime of being trapped inside a box. My brother Dalton was out in the middle of the grassy lawn with her, encouraging her insanity with his own ridiculous moves.

“That’s one way to put it,” I muttered, swallowing down what was left in my own tiny plastic glass. “She really needs to get back to her table,” I said, glancing around at the steadily growing crowd of afternoon food and wine lovers gathering in the grassy park where the annual North Valley Wine Mixer was in full swing.

“She’s having fun, man. Let her blow off some steam. She deserves it.” Chad threw back his own wine like a shot and then slipped a flask from his back pocket and refilled with something that clearly wasn’t wine. “Hooch?” He offered, holding the flask out to me.

I could feel my brows lower as I glared at him. “Who brings ‘hooch’ to a wine event?”

“Who’s got two thumbs and loves a good roll in the hay with a random chick I’ll never see again?” Chad returned.

“Right,” I said as Chad slipped his flask back in his pocket and indicated himself with both extended thumbs, managing to keep hold of his cup in the process.

For me, this was a work event, and I couldn’t really afford to get hopped up on whatever Chad carried in his flask or lose my mind (and my self-respect) out on the dance floor with my mother. The crowd was full of customers, and as one of the biggest wine distributors in Northern California, I needed to spend the day schmoozing, not partying.

“I need to have a couple meetings,” I told Chad, confident my buddy would be fine without me. Chad and I had been best friends since elementary school, which was the only reason I put up with a lot of his more douchey behavior now. In high school, he’d morphed from awkward skinny kid to All-American blond football god and gotten a little big headed with all the sudden attention from the ladies. In the meantime, I’d stayed just about the same, but then I’d never had a tough time with girls. My singlehood was a choice, not a problem.

And work didn’t leave time for dating anyway.

I wove between the bodies moving around the grassy makeshift dance floor to where my mother and Dalton continued embarrassing the family, now doing some kind of one-on-one limbo competition even though the music playing was a country ballad.

“Hey,” I said, taking Mom gently by the arm. “Let’s go grab something to eat, and then we can spend a little time letting some people taste your wine.” As I talked, I steered her off the dance floor and toward a shady table covered with mini-charcuterie trays.

“Party pooper!” Dalton called from behind us.

“Honey, I was just having fun. I’m working too,” Mom said, shaking her arm free of my grip. She picked up a little tray and a bottle of water and walked at my side back to the Cunning Ham Winery table, which she’d basically deserted to go dance with my little brother.

“Mom, you can’t just walk away from the wine,” I pointed out, seeing her back to her spot behind the tasting table we’d set up for her fledgling winery.

She looked around as if searching for someone. “Well, I didn’t. I left your brother here.”

“You were just dancing with him.”

“Not that one. Lincoln. Where’d he go?”

Who knew where Lincoln had gone? The guy was so easily distracted—he was not a safe bet if you needed to rely on someone. Perform some complicated math? Sure, Linc was your man. Explain in ridiculous detail how the latest Mars lander worked? You bet. Figure out the exact heritage of some dessicated grapes hanging on the vine? Definitely.

I shook my head and helped Mom tidy up the tasting table.

“Maybe it’s time to hire some real help here,” she said. “I’ll need someone in the tasting room anyway.”

“That’s true,”