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.
Reece broke the awkward sauce though. “So I saw that Thomas added another piercing to his arsenal.”
Moving one hand to fiddle with the cool glass, I nodded. “Yeah, he got the eyebrow piercing last week. Every time I see him, I want to take a chain and connect the piercing above his eye to the one in his nose and then to the one in his lip.”
He chuckled lightly. “I’m pretty sure he’d be down with it. Your dad was calling him ‘Metal Face.’ ”
I shook my head. “Thomas is turning eighteen in a few months, and he has our parents convinced that he’s going to get a facial tattoo. Something to do with a zipper on the back of his head that starts at the nape of his neck and ends between his eyebrows?”
His eyes widened. “He’s not serious, is he?”
I laughed. “I don’t think so. He’d have to cut off all those pretty curls, and I don’t think he’d do that. I think he’s just messing with them. Well, for the . . .” I trailed off as a loud thunk traveled across the diner.
Leaning against the red cushioned seats, Reece tossed his arm along the back of the booth as he glanced over at the college table. Someone had spilled a drink, and apparently it was insanely funny to the entire table, because they sounded like a pack of hyenas. My gaze darted back to Reece. He gave great profile. It was the jawline, I decided, that really just made his face exquisite. Capturing the hard line would be so easy with a stroke of a paintbrush or with charcoal. Ah, I could totally do his portrait in charcoal! Wait. I was pretty sure I’d added the whole “stop painting his face” to the priority list.
I really sucked at that priority list.
Reece’s gaze slid back to mine, and I felt my cheeks heat. Because I was totally staring at him, and he totally caught me. The grin that tipped up his lips was full of boyish charm. There was a flutter in my chest. “You’re still taking graphic design, right?”
Huh? It took me a moment to realize he was talking about college. “Oh, yeah. I’m doing online classes. Only two this semester.” I shrugged. “Those damn classes are expensive.”
“How much longer do you have?”
“A couple of more years.” I took a drink of tea. Ah, sugar. “Since I’m only taking two classes a semester, it feels like I’m taking the scenic route, but when I’m finished, I’ll . . .”
I opened my mouth, but then I frowned. “You know, good question. I really have no idea. Guess I need to figure that out.”