“Seriously?” I laugh and sip my coffee. “That sucks.”
“It’s her money.” Isaac shrugs as if he just can’t figure her out. “I’d like to wrap that one up so we can move on to the next.”
“How are Stacy and the kids?”
“Perfect,” he replies easily with a satisfied grin. For the first time in my life, I’m jealous of Isaac and our brothers and their families. “Stacy is beautiful and busy with Soph and Liam.”
I nod and watch as some of the crew begins to pull in, gathering their tool belts and other gear from the beds of their trucks.
“You coming to Will’s on Sunday?” Isaac asks.
“What’s happening on Sunday?”
“Last minute family cookout.” He shrugs and then chuckles. “The weather is heating up, so I think everyone wants to take advantage of being outside.”
“Sounds cool.” I pause and then decide fuck it. “Think it’s cool if I bring someone?”
Isaac’s head whips around and his eyes are surprised when he asks, “Who?”
“An old friend,” I reply softly and then swear under my breath, uncomfortable as fuck at the way he’s watching me. “Meredith.”
“Since when do you bring women to family functions?” he asks incredulously then laughs. “I so want to bust your balls about this, but I’ll be the mature one and simply say, yeah. It’s fine. Will and the others will not let you off the hook so easily, my friend.”
“I don’t care.”
And it’s true. I don’t. I just want her with me.
Jesus, I’m getting way ahead of myself here. We haven’t been out on a date yet.
Patience never was a virtue I possessed.
“I’ll invite her,” I say and crush my empty coffee cup in my fist.
“Is she the reason?” he asks softly and doesn’t turn his head to look at me. He doesn’t clarify, not that I need him to. He just sits quietly and waits for me to answer, watching the cup in his hands.
“Yeah.” My voice is quiet and I sigh deeply. “Once upon a time, she was everything.”
“Good luck, man.”
I nod and stand with him as the others join us on the steps.
“What’s on tap for today, boss?”
“Doors and windows,” I begin and push thoughts of Meredith aside for later as I get to work.
I knock on Mer’s apartment door and shift back and forth on my feet. I haven’t been this nervous since the very first time I picked her up for a date early in our Junior year.
I’ve come a long way since then.
Suddenly the door is wrenched open and Jax is standing there with a wide smile.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hi. I’m here to pick up Meredith.”
“Mr. Delicious is here for your date, tootsie roll!” Jax yells.
“I’m right here, dork,” Meredith says as she slips under his arm out into the hallway. “Ignore him. He has horrible manners.”
“Have fun,” Jax continues, leaning on the doorjamb with his arms crossed and watching us walk to the elevator. I brace my hand on the small of her back and feel the electricity travel up my arm and down to my groin. After all this time, the chemistry is still here. “You have her home at a decent time, now. I’ll leave the light on.”
“Shut up, Jax,” Mer says with a laugh.
“Use condoms!” He calls just as the elevator arrives.
“Oh my God! Shut the hell up, Jax!”
He laughs as the doors close and I can only smile in delight down at her. Her cheeks are pink with embarrassment. Her hair is pulled up in one of her signature messy buns and she’s in jeans and a blue sweater the same color as her eyes.
Jesus, she’s fucking gorgeous.
“You look amazing,” I say and rub a large circle over her slender back.
“So do you,” she murmurs and looks up and down at my plain black T-shirt and jeans. I threw a plaid button down over the T, but her eyes travel to my arms anyway.
She always did have a thing for my arms.
“Thanks for coming out with me tonight.”
“Thanks for inviting me,” she replies with a grin. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” I lead her out to my Jeep, help her in and jump in the driver’s side. Before pulling away, I look over at her and consider pulling her in for a quick kiss, but I know that once I start kissing her, I won’t want to stop, and there’s too much to say before we go there.
If she’s interested in going there.
“What’s wrong?” she asks as she clutches her black handbag tightly in her lap, as though she’s as nervous as I am.
“Nothing at all,” I reply with a shake of my head and pull out into traffic toward our old neighborhood. We drive in relative quiet, both lost in our own thoughts, and maybe a little nervous about what we should say. I have so many questions, but for now I’m content to have her next to me as I pull into our special place and cut the engine.
“Our pier,” she whispers softly.
“Yeah,” I reply and turn to her. “I brought dinner. I thought we could sit out here and talk, if that’s okay.”
“It’s going to get cold,” she begins, but I cut her off with a shake of my head.
“I brought extra blankets. We’ll be warm.”
She bites her lip, looks out at the water and the homes along the lake and then back at me with a watery smile. “I love it.”
I brush my knuckles down her cheek and then reluctantly pull away. Jesus, I just want to keep touching her. Everywhere.
I grab the cooler full of dinner from the back and lead her to the end of the dock that we sat on for hours on end more than ten years ago.
“God, how many hours did we spend out here?” she asks, mirroring my thoughts.
“Hundreds,” I reply and spread a thick quilt over the wooden pier, right at the edge and gesture for her to sit. It’s just starting to get dark and the lights around the lake are twinkling. A sailboat drifts by slowly and we wave at the captain. “Are you hungry?”
“Starving,” she says with a smile. “What did you bring me?”
“Salmon with salad and water and chocolate cupcakes for dessert.”
I chuckle and plate her meal, then my own and we eat in silence, watching the water.
“Still quiet out here,” she says.
“Mm.” I nod and watch her as she finishes her fish and salad and sets her plate back inside the cooler then takes my empty plate to join hers. “How are you, M?”