“Bye-bye.” I didn’t take my eyes off Reece. What was he doing here, at two thirty in the morning? It wasn’t the first time I’d stepped out of the bar late at night and found Reece waiting. Back before “the night thou shalt not repeat,” he used to do it every once in a while, when he was working the night shift and was taking lunch.
But it was something I hadn’t expected him to do again.
The sound of Nick’s motorcycle rumbling to life echoed throughout the otherwise silent parking lot. I needed to say something, because we were standing there, a few feet between us, staring at one another. “Hi.”
Well, that was spectacular.
One side of his lips kicked up as his gaze dipped. “What . . . ?” He laughed, and there was a flutter deep in my belly, like a nest of butterflies had suddenly taken flight.
“What does your shirt say?”
I glanced down, trying to stop the smile tugging at my lips. “It says ‘Ladies’ Man.’ What’s wrong with that?”
Long, thick lashes lifted and then he laughed again, that nice and light laugh that wrapped around me. “You are . . . you’re something else, Roxy.”
Shifting my weight from one foot to the next, I bit down on my lip. “I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a run-in-the-other-direction kind of thing.”
He took one step closer, his arms loose at his sides—his right arm brushing against the handle of his duty gun. The star on his chest seemed shinier than possible, and was eye level with me. “It’s . . . yeah, it’s a good thing.”
I sucked in an unsteady breath as a balmy breeze tossed a strand of hair across my face. What in the world was happening here? I glanced around the empty parking lot and to the line of cars beginning to stream out of the strip club across the street. “Are you . . . on lunch?”
“Yeah. I work until seven in the morning,” he replied, and then he moved so quickly, I didn’t register what he was doing until the tips of his fingers grazed my cheek. He caught the wayward hair, and as the breath literally got lost inside me, he tucked the strand behind my ear. His touch, it lingered briefly along the sensitive skin behind my ear, drawing out a sweet shiver.
My pulse was somewhere in cardiac territory. “What . . . what are you doing here, Reece?”
A slight smile graced his poetic lips. “You know, I really didn’t know at first. I was out driving around, knowing I needed to take my lunch, and I found myself pulling into the parking lot. And I thought about how we used to do this.”
My insides got all mushy, because it was dumb, but I was amazed that he actually remembered doing this. Here I was thinking that I was the only person who held on tight to those memories. I looked up at him, feeling dizzy, and it had nothing to do with the heat or his height. “And?”
That wasn’t an answer to my question, but I shook my head. “Nope.”
His eyes, such a deep blue they appeared black in the low light, fixed on mine. “Well, I got to thinking. Crazy thoughts.”
My brows rose. “Crazy thoughts?”
He nodded as his grin went up a notch. “Crazy insane thoughts, such as why can’t we just start over?”
“Start over?” I was turning into a puppet that repeated everything he said.
“Yeah, you and me.”
I’d figured that much.
“And I think it’s a damn good plan,” he continued, and he was somehow one step closer, which put him as close as Nick and I had been standing earlier, but I’d felt nothing earlier. Now, there was a riot of sensations invading my system, shorting out my nerve endings. “I’m hoping you agree.”
He reached out again, this time fixing my glasses. “Let’s forget about that night. I know we can’t really pretend it never happened, but you said I . . . that I didn’t do wrong by you and I know you wouldn’t lie about that,” he went on, and my heart dropped to my navel. Lie? Me? Never. “But we can move past it, right?”
“Why?” The question blurted out of me, and one of his brows arched. “No. I mean. Why now?”
A heartbeat passed. “We were friends, and I’m going to be real up front with you, babe, I miss that. I miss you. And I’m tired of missing you. So that’s the why behind the now.”
My heart did a round of hopscotch. He missed me? He was tired of missing me? Oh my God. Now my brain was spazzing out. I had no idea how to respond. I’d literally spent eleven months cursing at him and hiding from him, and now I was simply speechless. He regretted that night that kind of didn’t happen, wished it never happened, but he was here, wanting to start over.
And hope—oh man, there was a spark of hope in my chest, flickering to life. It was like being fifteen again, when he first smiled at me across the lawn. Or when he used to walk me to class at school. It was like the hug he’d given me upon his return.
It was most definitely like the night I’d given him a ride home.
And it was the same hope that I’d thought I’d extinguished over the course of eleven months, but it was obviously still there, blazing through self-preservation, confusion and the guilt.
“Is that a good enough reason for you?” There was a teasing tone to his question, one that made me want to smile, but I was floored.
I needed to tell him what really happened that night. I knew I did, but he wanted to start over, and how could I start over by delving back into the past—into the night he wanted to move on from the past?
Reece lifted his hand once more, and this time, his fingers found mine. He threaded them together. My heart was done with hopscotch and had moved on to back flips. Maybe a roundoff. He gently tugged on my arm. “What do you say, Roxy? Eat lunch, dinner, breakfast—whatever you want to call it at three in the morning—with me?”
How could I say anything other than yes?
Sitting with Reece in the all-night diner down the road from Mona’s was familiar . . . and yet strange. It was like slipping into someone else’s life I was intimately acquainted with.
The diner was virtually dead with the exception of a table of college guys who were trying not to appear too drunk while in the presence of an officer and a few truckers. Coffee was delivered for Reece and sweet tea for me with a quickness. We’d decided on getting breakfast.
Things were a wee bit awkward at first. I sat across from him, Indian style, in the harsh overhead lights, my hands fidgeting crazily in my lap. I didn’t know what to say or do, and I kept focusing on the low conversation that crackled through his shoulder radio every five seconds.