Here is an excerpt from the chapter Believed Him.
“Do you want some help planting your flowers?” he asked her after they both had eaten their fill and the leftovers were wrapped up. Pepperoni for him to take home, mushroom for her left in the fridge.
“I guess I could use some help,” she said coyly.
“So I’m making it past the second chance date?” He fought back his laugh when she choked on her wine. Sometimes knowing each other so well might not be the best thing, at least in her eyes.
When she was done coughing, she said, “I guess so.”
He knew all about her second chance dates. She had a rule that every person deserved a second chance. He never knew why, and never really asked. But plenty of instances she would tell him about the horrendous first dates she went on and then told him she would schedule a second one.
It made no sense to him at all. Really, the only thing he thought of at the time she brought them up was that he was glad he wasn’t on the dating scene. The thought of the things she encountered would be enough to make him go into seclusion.
“I can work around your schedule,” he offered.
“That’s nice, but I’m pretty swamped this week still. They’re getting plenty of light in the mudroom, and I’ll keep them watered. I’m thinking sometime this weekend. I’m flexible if you have plans.”
“I can be available for whenever you want me.” He didn’t miss the dilation of her eyes at that statement, the double meaning reaching her.
She nodded her head, then placed her empty glass of wine on the table. Her second and last one, she’d said earlier. And here it comes, he thought. “We need to figure out where we go from here,” she said, looking in his eyes and holding his stare.
“Do you need it in writing?” he asked, trying to make light of the situation. It wasn’t funny to him, but he didn’t see the need to plan it all out either.
“Of course not.” She smiled back at him. “I guess I need some guidelines. We keep talking about the way we were before, and about moving forward. What are we? Friends, dating, something in between?”
“We will always be friends. I think it’s more than dating. It’s way beyond that for me, at least. It always was, if you want to be honest. I asked you before what you wanted from someone out of a relationship. I understand not wanting to lay it all on the table, but I need to ask if you even want to be in a relationship right now?”
He watched her eyes wander over his face. Then she reached up and placed her hand on his cheek, gave him a soft caress, then dropped her hand away. That action, the softness in her, all those things he longed to see directed toward him filled him with emotions deeper than he thought possible. “I want to be in one, yes. But I don’t want to lose your friendship. You mean a lot to me. Your whole family does. I’m unsure of where to go, or how to handle this if something goes wrong.”
Those thoughts had crossed his mind also, but then he brushed them aside. He wasn’t looking for something to go wrong, not when he had been waiting for this for what seemed like forever. He refused to even consider the possibility of it.
It wasn’t the time to say that, not yet anyway. “You will never lose my friendship. Or my family. There is no worry there. Whatever happens to us, I will always be there for you, Sophia. I can promise you that.”
Her eyes watered and a gentle expression crossed her face. “Thank you for that. Your family means the world to me. You know enough about my family life to know I’ve never had anything stable before. I don’t want to risk losing the one stable family in my life.”
“You won’t.” He pulled her off her barstool until she was standing between his legs and held her close, his arms wrapped tightly around her, trying to reassure her.
A moment later she sat back down. “I’ll make the same promise to you.” She picked up her napkin and blotted her eyes, then laughed. “Great, you’ve seen me cry on only our second date. That’s a wonderful impression.”
He chuckled. “We aren’t dating,” he reminded her. “I’ve seen you do more than cry.”
There was no way to miss the shiver that ran through her body with that statement. “So you have.”
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