There had been other “hook-ups,” both during break-up times and since Promise’s death, but he had never given serious thought to waking up with anyone he slept with—at least, not on a consistent basis. No one ever asked or expected him to be faithful. No one called him her boyfriend. No one admitted they had to pee like a racehorse—it was as if the women he’d been with didn’t have bodily functions other than orgasm.
Not that exclusivity was a problem. It wasn’t at all.
“I don’t need you to fall in love with me or promise me lifelong loyalty or any of that. I don’t even expect you to consider our relationship a…well, a relationship, but I’m not much into that kind of adventure, either.” She grinned sheepishly. “I know I sound like a prude, but so be it.”
He knew she was no prude. She was exciting and sexy and so much fun he sometimes he went days on end thinking he might actually be able to live without Promise. Not just exist, but live, with a large part of his heart intact.
“I want to be your boyfriend,” he said. “No class ring—I hocked it to buy beer when I was a freshman in college. But we’ll sit together at all the Little League games and the Cup and Cozy and I’ll even buy—if I have any money. When you’re taking care of Reese and pretending you’re not, I’ll pretend right along with you. What do you think?”
“I think you have your eye on my Mustang.”
“Nah, it’s too little—hurts my knees—though I probably look good in it. Not as good as I do on a motorcycle, but not bad. I’ll be an excellent boyfriend.” He lifted her hand, turning the chain he’d given her round and round. “Boyfriends give charm bracelets.”
“Well, since you did give me the bracelet and I love it, it’s okay with me if you’re my boyfriend. For the summer anyway.” She leaned in to kiss him, her hand on his shoulder, and he caught her wrist just to touch her. He loved her skin.
“You don’t think I’ll stay in Peacock, do you?” He held her gaze.
“No.” But she didn’t seem unhappy—not even a little bit sad. “You’re too—I don’t know—intense, maybe. You move too fast. No one does that here. You know that. Besides, you’ve been gone too long. Other than a few weeks some summers and the awful time while Promise was sick, you haven’t actually lived here since you left for Vanderbilt. And I don’t think you’ve wanted to, have you?”
She was right—until this summer, he hadn’t wanted to come back here. But that was before finding Miss Abigail’s. Before Jamie Scott died.
“Dillon was away for years,” he said. “He didn’t even come and visit after his folks retired to Arizona, and look at him now. You couldn’t pry him off Lawyers Row with a crowbar.”
Carol shook her head. “Dillon came home and found Grace. Had she not been here, he wouldn’t be either.”
But you’re here. Steven didn’t say the words out loud. He was startled to have even thought them.
She checked the clock on the oven. “It’s time for me to go. I told Grace I’d pick them up at ten. When are you guys leaving?”
“As soon as everyone kisses his wife goodbye. I’ll follow you into town and kiss you at the same time so you won’t feel out of place or anything.”
She went to the sink, rinsing the coffee carafe and their cups and draping the dishcloth neatly over the sink divider. “That’s really big of you. You’re not going to throw your cell phone away or anything like they did in that movie, are you?”
He picked up her suitcase to follow her out the door. “Nope. Why? Are you going to worry about me?”
“Heavens, no.” She opened the Mustang’s trunk for him. “I’m not your mother.” She gave a little toss of her ponytail. “I’m your girlfriend.”