"So, you haven't seen Sophie around this morning?" Chris asked, doing his best to sound totally casual.
Matt shook his head as he carried the box over to the microwave. "Nope. Why?"
"I'm going to ask her out for coffee. You know, to catch up." Chris smirked and waited for Matt's reaction.
Matt didn't disappoint him. "You want to ask her out for a date?" He scowled and shook his head. "No way."
"Why not?" Sophie had been one of his best friends since Chris was ten years old, but that's not why Chris was bristling now. He added, truthfully but mostly to rile Matt up a bit more: "Like I said, she's hot. And she hasn't been around since two Christmases ago…that's like a year and a half, dude."
Matt crossed his arms over his chest and scowled at Chris.
"Because you're not interested in her that way," he declared flatly. His hazel eyes narrowed. "You're not serious about dating her, right?"
Chris hadn't been…until Matt asked that question, his jaw set in a stubborn Swanson line.
At that moment, he totally looked like a younger version of his dad, Dane, who was the Swanson clan enforcer.
"It's just coffee. Chill," Chris advised.
Matt sighed. "Look, you know how I feel about her. I've been waiting for her to come back home. My bear…well, it's interested in courting her."
Chris had suspected something like that was going on, especially considering how depressed Matt had been in the weeks after Sophie's departure for Todos Santos.
"Look, seriously, Matt. I just want to catch up with her," Chris assured his best friend and housemate. "I mean, yeah, she's totally hot, but I've friend-zoned her. Okay?"
Matt nodded slowly. "Thanks."
The microwave beeped, and Matt turned away to retrieve his breakfast and pour himself a mug of coffee from the pot Chris had brewed earlier.
Chris turned his attention back to his own breakfast, which consisted of pan-roasted duck with green curry noodles and fresh vegetables, and debated with himself.
Matt was right—making a move on Sophie would be a bad idea. When Chris had started this conversation, he'd mostly just wanted to acknowledge her hotness and maybe poke at Matt a bit.
But he couldn't help thinking about how much he wanted to kiss her, and even better, put his hands all over her body.
Too bad Matt will blow a gasket if that ever happens.
Chris sighed softly with regret, and eyed his housemate's broad back as he fixed his coffee at the counter.
Growing up in Albuquerque without any other shifter kids around, Matt had been Chris's other first real friend in Bearpaw Ridge, someone who'd quickly become a brother to him. Chris liked to give Matt a hard time, but he didn't want to hurt his friend…or do anything that might blow up their long friendship.
Sophie is off-limits, he told himself, trying to suppress a pang of resentment. Totally off-limits.
But I'm still going to ask her out for coffee.