“It’s not too casual?” she asks, not fishing for compliments, but I can tell she wants to be sure it’s okay.
I can only shake my head, taking her in again with my eyes from head to toe.
I get close enough to put my hand on the small of her back as we’re leaving through the front door.
I could let it linger there all night, and a part of me wishes I’d just asked her if I could kiss her, but it’s way too soon for that.
She shivers under my touch, and despite me asking if she’s warm enough, I can see and feel for myself that the cold is the least of our problems.
“Is that your car?” she asks, gasping with amazement at my matte black Mercedes-AMG GT.
“It is,” I inform her, holding the door open for her and making sure she’s inside before closing it again.
I slip into the driver’s side and noticing she’s having trouble with the seatbelt I lean over.
My hand brushed her chest and we both make a little sound before she laughs.
“Sorry. It’s just…”
“I know, I got it,” I whisper, leaning over to clip her in. Felling her warm softness against my own rigid body. Feeling how small she is compared to me, suddenly drunk on the smell of her hair.
I pull back, but let my face stay close to hers, those big blue eyes seem so clear.
“Thanks for coming to see if I was okay,” she whispers. The sudden sound of her voice feeling like it could shatter the sudden hardness in my lap.
I focus on starting the car and driving at a much more relaxed pace this time around.
“How did you know where I live?” she asks after a few blocks, her eyes having been thoughtful since we left, and thankfully not noticed the aching bulge in my pants.
I’m not sure how to answer her, but her cell rings and saves me from having to lie or worse, tell her how I came across it.
“It’s my dad,” she groans, and I encourage her to answer.
“Great, you can tell him you’re on your way back. No need to say you’re with me if you don’t want,” I add. Deciding to leave the awkward return to the reunion with his only daughter until we actually get there.
It’s hard not to eavesdrop, but I try to focus on the road.
Sounds like Mike hardly missed Brooke until just now.
He sounds like he’s made a friend of his own for the evening, and I’m guessing it’s the woman I saw him talking to before I left.
I can hear his voice as clear as Brooke’s through her phone.
The interior of the car is so quiet I can hear myself swallow. Hear my heartbeat.
“Oh, uh, Dean Chambers said he saw you. Said you had to duck out for a moment, I figured you were in the bathroom…”
Brooke starts to say something, but I can tell she doesn’t want to lie to her dad as much as I don’t want her to either.
“What’s that honey? Uh… Breaking up… see you when you’re back in here…”
The phone cuts out as we pass under a bridge and Brooke makes a face.
Half satisfied, half surprised, I guess.
“It sounded like the dinner’s in full swing,” she observes, glancing over to me, making me wonder again just how this is gonna pan out.
We drive in silence for a while, and I know now there’s no rush as far as Mike wondering where his daughter is before she breaks the silence.
“What happened between you and dad?” she asks, catching me off guard but I don’t mind her asking.
There are a lot of things that’ll come out if I have my way.
When I have my way.
“That’s a good question,” I tell her, adding that it’s probably a long answer too. “Maybe we can talk about it another time?” I suggest, then I ask her if she’s asked her dad the same question.
She stifles a sarcastic laugh. “Uh. No,” she exclaims, shaking her head in amazement.
“So why ask me?” I challenge her. Not that I mind her asking. It’s something I haven’t really thought about until all this reunion stuff came up.
Especially now that I know where Mike lives, knowing that Brooke is his daughter.
Knowing too somehow that she won’t be going home to him again if I have anything to do with it. But I’ll have to act fast.
Only one night ahead of us, and I can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to.
I have a million questions for her, but she’s still looking thoughtful about what happened with her dad and me all those years ago.
Before she can answer, I have to ask her something else. I need to know if I’m thinking too far ahead.
“Do you like living with your dad? I mean, you finished college, right? Why stay at home?”