by Christiane France
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-401-4 (Electronic)
RELEASED TODAY - MARCH 24, 2013!
...Talking with Maggie had renewed my excitement about being entrusted with a job of this importance. So what if it wasn’t rocket science and I didn’t need to wear a three-piece suit or take clients to lunch? I was doing something I loved, and I made a silent promise not to do anything that might make Maggie regret taking me on.
Between deciding what to put where and checking with Kreber’s on availability, the rest of the week passed in a flash. I hadn’t seen Cole since the night I ran into him in the Falls. If he regretted our conversation and was avoiding me, fine. I might not agree with his reasons, but it was his life and his decision.
Friday morning, Maggie called to say she’d be over around ten. About a quarter to the hour, I heard a tap-tap on the door. Figuring she was early, I yelled, “Come on in. It’s open,” only to look up and find Cole standing there, looking smart and delicious in a charcoal suit, pale blue shirt and patterned tie.
“You doing anything for lunch today?” he asked.
“No. Why?” If I sounded suspicious, I was. “I thought—”
“I know. The thing is I’ve been thinking, so hear me out, okay?”
He shuffled his feet, as if he were nervous about something. Then he smiled, a shy, tentative smile that once again made me want to rush right over and give him a hug. Again, I resisted.
“After I left the club the other night, I drove around for a while and thought really hard about what you’d said. You were right. I knew my family was scared I’d do something to embarrass them, and I took the easy way out by going along with it. I figured it was only temporary and that once Carla came home… Then I recalled you saying what if she doesn’t? That was something I hadn’t even considered.”
“So? You come to any conclusions?”
“That Carla has a life to live same as me. You were also right when you said I needed to forget about my family and concentrate on my own life. So that’s what I’m trying to do. If someone has a problem with us having lunch together that’s too bad. ”
“Okay, but one small step at a time, huh?”
Before Cole could reply, the phone rang, and I picked up.
“Hi, TJ. It’s me, Maggie. I’m afraid there’s been a slight change of plan. I can’t get there until sometime between noon and one. Is that okay with you?”
“It’s fine. See you then.”
I replaced the receiver with a sigh and looked at Cole. “How about a rain check for lunch?”
“That was Maggie. She was supposed to be here at ten to finalize our order for the plants. Now she says she can’t make it until noontime. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, the job comes first.” He reached out and briefly touched my shoulder. “You want to go for a drink later?”
“You mean here in town, after work?”
“I think you need to slow down. Lunch is one thing, Cole. You hired The Birds to supply the plants for the building, so it could even be explained as a working lunch. What you’re suggesting is something else. It’s like a date. It’s like making a major statement to the entire world. What if someone sees us and your family finds out?” I couldn’t believe I’d just said that, but I wanted Cole to step back and think what could happen.
“I’ve thought about that, too. If I lose my job and my mom wants me to move out, that will be their decision. This one is mine. If I’m to have the kind of life I want, I can’t keep putting it off. I have to start somewhere, and this is it, TJ. With you at my back, I’m ready to take this first step. We can have a drink or two, and hang for a bit. Maybe later go get something to eat. You cool with that?”
I high-fived him, swallowed the sudden surge of emotion that made my chest tight and my eyes blurry and finally gave him a hug. He smelled delicious and his body was hard and sweet as rock candy just waiting to melt and mold against mine. He started hugging me back, so I cut things short before things took off in the direction I knew we both wanted to go. “You betcha, babe! Although, there are a couple of things you should know. Like you, I live at home, and right now I don’t have wheels...”
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