Home > Only Him (One and Only #2)(8)

Only Him (One and Only #2)(8)
Author: Melanie Harlow

“Everyone looks happy.”

“We are.”

He glanced down at me. “I’m glad to hear that.”

Our eyes met, and something happened in my chest that made me back away and head for the kitchen. Put a little distance between us. “I’m thirsty. If I go into the other room to get us something to drink, are you going to leave without saying goodbye?”

“Depends. Are you gonna keep giving me shit about what I did?” He trailed me into the kitchen, which was small and narrow.

“Maybe.” I took two bottles of water from the fridge and handed him one. “You’d deserve it.”

“Fair enough.” Leaning back against the counter, he twisted the cap off the bottle and drank.

Standing across from him, my back against the fridge, I watched, mesmerized by the motion of his throat as he swallowed. When I caught myself staring, I looked down at my water and unscrewed the cap. “So where do you live now?”

“Portland.”

“Wow. That’s a ways from here. What do you do there?”

“I’m a tattoo artist.”

I had to smile. “Of course you are.”

He smiled back, and the first genuinely warm current passed between us. “And you have a yoga studio?” he asked, gesturing toward my clothing.

“Yes.” For a moment, I was self-conscious about my appearance. I touched my messy bun, wishing I’d taken a moment at the studio to redo it. “I taught this morning. Then I came home and took a nap, so I’m —” Then I realized something. My arm dropped. “Hey. How do you know what I do?”

“Um.” He looked at the ceiling, laughing a little. “I may have drunk-Googled you once or twice.”

I gasped. “What? That is so unfair! You’re not even on social media, so I had no clue about you.”

“Does that mean you drunk-Googled me, too?”

“No.” I sniffed and drank some water before going on. “I sober-Googled you.”

He laughed again. “I think that might be worse.”

I kicked him gently in the shin with one bare foot. “At some point, I just wanted to know you were still alive, you big jerk.”

“I’m alive.”

“I can see that.” Now that we were through the heavy stuff, I wanted to know more about him. “So fill me in on the last twelve years.”

“Not much to tell. I graduated from boarding school. Tried college for a year or so but didn’t take to it. Drifted a while. Ended up in Portland and apprenticed at a tattoo shop there. Liked it well enough to stay. The end. Now what about you? You quit ballet?”

“Yes. I went to New York after high school, had an apprenticeship with ABT, which was—”

“You did? Maren, that’s fucking amazing. That’s exactly what you wanted.”

“Thanks.” I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “It was what I wanted, but it turns out I wasn’t really suited for that life. Or life in New York City.”

“Too cutthroat?”

“I guess. I came back to Michigan and went to college. Got my degree in kinesiology and health with a minor in business and opened the studio a couple years later. The end.”

“Never been married?”

“Not even close. But I like being a free spirit.”

“Me too.” He studied me for a moment, that crooked grin taking over his mouth, almost like he couldn’t control it. “You look good, Maren.”

My face warmed. “Thanks, but I’m kind of a mess right now. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Yeah, I thought about calling first, but I was afraid you might not want to see me.”

“I’m not sure what I would have said, to be honest. But now that you’re here, I will admit to being glad you came.”

“Good.”

“So how long are you in town?” I lifted my water to my lips.

“Not long. Really I’m just passing through on my way to Boston to see my brother.”

“Finn?”

“Yeah. He’s a neurosurgeon, teaches at Harvard Medical School.” Dallas’s tone was flat, as if he wasn’t happy about his brother’s impressive credentials. I remembered how he’d always felt that Finn was his parents’ favorite and figured some of that resentment still lingered.

“That’s nice,” I said carefully.

“Yeah.” He swallowed the rest of the water in his bottle in long gulps and put the cap back on it.

“Here, I’ll take that.” I reached for his empty bottle, and when he gave it to me, our hands touched. I might have done it on purpose.

Turning my back to him, I opened the pantry door and tossed both empties in. My stomach was doing something dangerously twisty, and I put a hand over it. Took a steadying breath. When I turned around again, he was looking at me with a gleam in his eye.

“What?” I asked, immediately on guard. I recognized that expression. It said I’ve Got an Idea.

“You should let me take you out for dinner tonight. For old times’ sake.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not? Do you have a hot date?”

“Uh … no.”

“Do you have something against dinner?”

“No.”

“Do you have something against me?” He touched his chest with his hand. God, those hands got to me. Somehow they were strong and graceful at the same time. Masculine, yet elegant. So much talent in them—it was sexy as hell.

And he’d certainly known how to use them on me.

Something fluttery happened between my legs, and I squeezed my thighs together, crossing my arms over my chest. Briefly I wondered if I’d plugged my vibrator in to charge. I was going to need it tonight. “No. It’s nothing against you.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

The problem is that you still do something to me. But I couldn’t say that out loud.

“Come on,” he cajoled. “I’m only in town one evening, and I’ve got no one to spend it with. I’ll probably never be back this way, so what do you say you and I catch up a little over dinner? And tomorrow, I’ll be out of your hair.” He opened his arms as if to show me he had no secret weapons or tricks up his sleeve.

I wavered. After all, he wasn’t suggesting anything other than dinner. I had the whole weekend off, and it’s not like I had any firm plans. Plus, spending time with him might be just what I needed. If the nightmare truly was related to unfinished business between us, then maybe I should take this opportunity to consciously say goodbye. Maybe then the door would open, and I’d be free to move through it.

He’d have his redemption, and I’d have my closure. The end.

“Okay,” I said.

His grin widened. “Great. Where should we go?”

“You can choose, since this is your last Detroit hurrah. I’m sure there will be something on the menu I can eat.”

One of his eyebrows cocked up. “Are you a vegetarian or something? Because you used to eat like a hog. I never did know where you put it all.”

I kicked him again. “Very funny. No, I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat very clean. You know, organic if possible, non-GMO, whole foods.”

“I get it. Portland is full of people like you.”

“I take it you’re not particular about what you eat?”

He shrugged. “A burger is a burger to me. As long as it tastes good, I’m happy. I’m easy like that.”

“I guarantee a burger made from grass-fed, free-range, locally-sourced beef tastes better than one made from animals pumped full of hormones and antibiotics kept in feedlots full of their own excrement and processed in filthy industrial meatpacking plants.”

Dallas held up his hands in surrender. “You win. Now please stop talking or I will never enjoy a hamburger again.”

I smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. I studied nutrition in college and learned a lot about the benefits of responsible, sustainable farming versus industrial agriculture.”

“You can tell me all about it over our responsible, sustainable dinner. I’ll pick you up around eight?”

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