“I’m not playing games, Dr. Hunter.”
I backed up until I was leaning on the opposite counter, crossed my legs, and folded my arms against my chest. “Then explain to me why I haven’t heard from you all week. I get it was our first date and it turned into a really shitty night, but I thought we ended on a high note.” Jules’ eyes widened and she bit her bottom lip. Yeah, she thinks it ended on a high note too. “I text, I call a few times, and not once did you think to pick up the phone or text back. I’m the first to admit that I’m rusty in the dating department, actually if you want to know the truth, I haven’t dated since my wife died. I’ve hooked up, not going to lie, but I haven’t dated someone with the intention of getting to know them. You’re the exception. So I’m asking, what’s with the games?”
“I needed a minute.” Her voice was low and trailed off. So much so, I thought I misheard. Then she broke eye contact and scurried away, opening cabinets and drawers for plates and silverware.
“A minute, as in four days?” We apparently had a different definition of a minute, so I needed clarification. Suddenly, the anger I thought I was over began to resurface. “Look, Jules, I’m sorry I don’t have the luxury of tiptoeing around your feelings here, so I’m going to come straight out and tell you that your minute doesn’t work for me. And it sure as hell doesn’t work for my family. I’m not trying to pressure you into anything, but I have kids, kids that already know you. Kids that already like you. This was not news when we hooked up. So if you aren’t into it, into me, or you decided all of a sudden you have an issue with my baggage, I need to know and we’ll end it now.”
Before they get too attached. Liar. Before I get too attached.
Damn, she was making me soft. She froze mid-plate grab and pivoted back around with her eyes squinted together at a peculiar angle. This expression was a new one and not one of my favorites if I had to compare. “Baggage?” She dragged out the word and cocked her head more to one side. Shit. “You think I consider Maxine and Finn baggage?” The tide changed, and I sensed she wasn’t exactly feeling me right at this moment. “Is that what you’ve been thinking all week? Seriously … seriously?” The second seriously hit an octave I’d yet to hear from her and probably could do without hearing again, so I opted to use my northern brain and keep my mouth shut. “How could you even think that? Not for one point one second. Do you hear me?”
Nope, still not answering. That was a trick question.
“Have I ever given you any inclination that I had an issue with Finn or Max, ever? No. Never!” She answered for me, loudly, and she was pissed. “I adore your children, and I’m just as attached to them as they are to me. That’s why we needed a minute. Everything was moving so fast. You don’t even know anything about me and you opened your home to … to me. You called me a natural, for God’s sake. You have no idea. So I didn’t know what to do with that, and you needed time to think about all that. I’m not sure either of us were ready for what we already let happen, never mind more. That’s why I didn’t call.”
Oh, we needed a minute. What were we, French now? I was tempted to call her on it, especially on the half of what she said that made no sense, but the look in her eyes stopped me. There was a vulnerability there, a softness, so I let her have that play. For now.
“Tell me, are you sure now?” I asked with a bite. She turned her back to me and unwrapped and plated the breakfast sandwiches.
Don’t think so, doll. You got your answer, my turn.
I walked up behind her, pressing my front to her back, pinning her in. She involuntarily shuddered, sucking in a bit of air when I kissed the spot where her neck met her collarbone. “Are you sure, Jules?” This time I asked against her skin.
Her entire body stiffened and she whispered, “No.”