“I was surprised but happy to see you when I walked in. I’d regretted not getting your number. It was like I had a second chance.”
A second chance? At what? He was in love with Bliss. He wasn’t looking for someone else. “What were you hoping for exactly?”
He stared out at the water and gave a small lift of his shoulders. They were nice shoulders. Broad muscular shoulders. I was sure he got plenty of female attention. I was one of many. “I’d sworn off women for a while. Needed a break to clear my head. I was doing good too. I was focused. Getting things done. Running more. But then you walked in. I had been midsentence arguing over beer with my friends and I wasn’t able to look away. That hasn’t happened to me . . . in a long time.”
That almost eased the sting from him forgetting we’d had sex. Almost. It did help.
“I leave here soon. Probably tomorrow. At the latest Monday.”
He didn’t look pleased about that. “I know. You’ve got that adventure to experience. But while you’re here I’d like to be part of that adventure again. Maybe on your way back you might stop by and tell me how it all went. I just, I’d like to get to know you.”
There were a lot of things I could say here. But the only thing that came out of my mouth was “Okay.” I surprised myself with it.
The smile that crossed his chiseled face was nothing less than beautiful. He wasn’t hard on the eyes that was for sure. And he may be in love with an almost married woman, but he was kind. He’d drunk too much, that didn’t make him a jerk. I might have gotten completely drunk too if I loved someone who wouldn’t ever feel the same way about me.
“What are your plans the rest of the evening?” he asked hopefully.
“I was going to decide my route, but that’s it. I haven’t spoken to Bliss and Nate. I don’t know what they were planning on doing.”
“It’s Saturday night. Come back to Live Bay with me. I’d like to enjoy dancing with you sober. Then we can take a walk I do remember. I’ll even buy you some bar food that you can eat with flatware. It’ll amuse my friends and possibly charm them the way it did me.”
He was very good with words. I was smiling despite everything else. “If Nate and Bliss don’t have plans where I am involved, that would be nice. Let me check with them first.”
He nodded to the notebook in my lap. “Is that your adventure?”
“Where is the next stop?”
“Nashville or New Orleans,” I told him.
His eyebrows shot up. “New Orleans is dangerous for a girl traveling alone.”
I’d already considered that. “I know. But what is an adventure without danger?”
“You want to live to tell about it.”
I did. “I’m just thinking about it. The idea for this trip was to take off and not have a plan. But I like to know where I’m headed.”
“I’m glad this was your first stop.”
Maybe I was too.
LILA TEXTED ME two hours later to tell me she was free tonight. I told her I’d pick her up at six and feed her, and then we’d go dancing. The front part of Live Bay was an actual restaurant with good food.
When I knocked on Bliss’s door, it was the first time I didn’t have a knot of regret or sorrow in my stomach. I’d never been honest with her about my feelings, but now it was too late. She was happy and in love. She’d never looked at me the way she did Nate.
Bliss opened the door and gave me her usual bright smile. “I was just about to call you. Come in. I need to talk to you about something.”
She wasn’t aware I was here to pick up Lila apparently. It was normal for me to stop by. Although not this frequently. “Okay,” I said walking inside the door and scanning for any sign of Lila.
“I’ve been battling something,” she laughed then. “Nate said I can do what I want. It’s our wedding, and we don’t believe in rules. I like that idea. No rules. Do it our way. You know?”
Bliss wanted to talk about her wedding? Seriously? I just nodded.
“Do you want a drink? I’ve got bottled water in the fridge,” she said sounding nervous.
“No. I’m good. Thanks,” I replied studying her. She was fidgeting. Like she was worried about what she had to tell me.
“Okay, well, you want to sit? We don’t have to stand here. I was just so anxious to talk to you after making my decision. Then you showed up, and I knew it was right.”
She had no idea I was here to pick up Lila. I glanced around again to see if Lila had heard us, but she was nowhere in sight.
“We can stand. I’m not here to stay awhile,” I told her.
She nodded. “Okay. Right. Okay,” she was babbling now like she only did when she was nervous. What the hell was wrong with her? How could anything having to do with her wedding affect me?
“I want you to be my best man,” she blurted.
“What?” came out of my mouth before I could stop myself.
“My best man. I don’t need a maid of honor. Who would that be anyway? You’re my best friend. So I should have a best man beside me. Not a maid of honor. You can’t very well wear a dress,” she laughed and then continued. “And you can’t stand on Nate’s side. You’re my friend. His dad is going to be his best man. I just . . . I want you to be a part of my big day. You’ve been a part of all my big events in life. This should be no different. I won’t have bridesmaids. We just decided on both having a best man. Then Jilly will be the flower girl of course. It sounds crazy, but it really isn’t. It makes sense. You know?”
As much as I understood what she was saying I didn’t think I could answer her. How was I supposed to stand up there and watch the girl I’d imagined I’d marry all my life marry someone else? When she had been sick, and I wasn’t sure if she’d survive, I’d feared we’d never get a chance to live a life together. Getting married. Having kids. But she had beat cancer. And she was going to get married. Just not to me. But she wanted me to watch it up close and personal.
“Please, think about it. This will make my day complete. Having you up there just sounds right.”
I had arrived without the knot in my stomach, but it was back now. Stronger than ever. “Yeah, okay, sure. I can do that.”
I don’t know how I managed to get the words out.
Bliss broke into a huge grin. “Thank you! This means the world to me.”
It meant a form of hell for me. But I didn’t say that. “Thanks for asking me.”
“I need to tell Nate.” She reached to pull her phone out, then her head snapped back up to look at me. “Wait, you came to see me. I took over the conversation. Were you just here to visit or did you need something?”
“Lila. I’m here to get Lila,” I replied still reeling from what I’d been asked.
That brought back her smile. “So you’re her plans for tonight. That’s wonderful.” And she meant it. Bliss wanted me to date someone. Find someone like she had. “Well, I’ll just go on up to my room and read until Nate gets home. Y’all have fun,” she said then gave me a quick hug. “Thanks again.”
I didn’t turn to watch her leave. I just stood there staring straight ahead. Letting this all sink in. I was so lost in my thoughts I didn’t hear the footsteps until Lila had walked right past me and toward the liquor cabinet. I watched as she opened it, then glanced back at me over her shoulder. “Vodka or tequila?”