“Are you going to give me a chance? Or is this how the whole meal is going to be?” he asked. I was forced to make eye contact with him, which was admittedly difficult. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes on earth, and I was only a woman. Girls were powerless when it came to pretty things.
“There’s no chance to give. If you want to eat, chat, and remain friends, I am completely on board with that, but you had your chance. You were very careful to make sure I knew it wasn’t serious or exclusive between us, and then you showed me just how uninterested you were over and over again. Guess what? I got it.” It felt good to tell him this. I’d bottled up so much that it had started eating at me. Now being able to just blurt it all out and not care if he never spoke to me again was like a weight lifting off my chest.
“I messed up. I’m an idiot. I didn’t want to be exclusive because I don’t know how to do that. Relationships scare me. You scared me. I didn’t want to lose the friendship we have over a relationship gone bad.”
This was an excuse I had heard before. First from Grant freaking Carter, who had met, fallen in love with, and married my half sister. Not a good playbook for Major to borrow from; he needed to do his research. He was calling some plays that had already burned me in the past. “We can be friends. You haven’t lost that. But the sex and dating stuff? That’s over. You can fuck whomever you like . . . but then again, you were doing that anyway.” I actually sounded calm when I said that. The bitterness and anger had left my body. I wanted to do a fist pump, but I knew I’d look like an idiot, so I refrained.
“I don’t want that. I want us. I want you.”
It was a little too late for that.
This would be a good life lesson for him. Next time he liked a girl, he wouldn’t treat her like she was expendable. Now he knew that if she had any self-respect, she’d leave and never look back.
“I wanted that, too, but you didn’t feel the same way. Our timing might be off, but the fact is, I don’t want it now. So let’s just do that friend thing you wanted to do,” I said.
“What can I get you both to drink?” the waitress asked.
“Coffee with skim milk, please,” I replied, grateful for the interruption.
“Coffee as well. Just black,” Major said, but he kept his gaze on me.
He really had a thick skull.
This wasn’t going the way I had expected. She was detached. I’d never seen her this emotionally checked out. I had dealt with her playing hardball before, but usually I could see a glimmer of attraction in her eyes. Right now, I just saw annoyance. Like talking to me was the most bothersome thing she’d have to do today.
“I want more than friendship,” I told her, wondering if maybe that was true after all.
“I know. You want friends with benefits. I don’t. That ship has sailed.”
OK, ouch. “That’s not what I’m talking about. I want us to be more. I won’t run anymore. I swear it.”
She rolled her eyes, and it was like she’d slapped me. “Can you hear OK? I said I didn’t care. I’m over whatever thing we had. It’s friends or nothing, Major. Can we order our food now?”
My ego had never suffered so many blows in such a short time. She just kept on swinging. My chest ached, and I wanted to believe it was because she’d hurt my pride, but the fact that she wanted nothing more to do with me made me sad. I had good memories with Nan. Some were pretty damn phenomenal. After each one of those phenomenal memories, though, I always ran off to get some space. I panicked if we got too close.
This was a direct result of me being a coward and trying to keep things between us from going too far emotionally. Now she was completely done with me. How did I let it get this bad? When we had gone for a run on the beach earlier this week, it had been fun. I’d enjoyed my time with her. I liked making her laugh. Hell, I loved knowing she wanted me there for my company. It meant something. Now I’d lost everything.
“Nan, what can I do to get you to give me another chance?” I asked, as sincerely as I possibly could. Which was pretty damn sincere, because I realized I meant it. I wanted more with her. Dammit, she wasn’t just a job.
“Nothing. I don’t want anything from you, and I don’t feel anything for you. I’m sorry.”
She didn’t offer any more than that. It was a simple rejection, but the emphasis carried so much weight. I had caused this, and I wasn’t sure I was going to get over it. What did you do when you lost something you had come to depend on? My time with her had been special and something I looked forward to. What was I going to do now?
After a lunch filled with Nan’s one-word responses, I wasn’t surprised when she just finished her food, told me good-bye, and walked away. I let her go because there was nothing else I could say that would stop her. I’d tried it all. Every trick I knew had failed with her. This was a first for me.
I leaned back in the booth and let the waitress fill my coffee cup one more time. My plan wasn’t going to work. I waited patiently for Cope to appear. Because I knew he would. I was positive he’d watched it all. He knew she was done with me and that I’d failed at the job DeCarlo had given me.
Was that my fault? They gave me the job because of my looks instead of my talent. I could have taken on a more dangerous job that didn’t involve romancing a woman. Putting me in the pretty-boy role wasn’t exactly fair. I’d started working for DeCarlo because I wanted the excitement of the hunt. Not to pretend to have relationships with women who were part of my family circle.