Clarification

Published August 15, 2011 by Christa Maurice

Want to start at the beginning?

 

Dan stepped out of the shower and toweled off quickly. He didn’t want to leave her alone too long. Her outburst at the beach worried him a little but it also felt good. He’d always thought it was awful to leave a woman alone all night to worry when he was on the job. He’d once had a girl break up with him because she couldn’t stand the anxiety, but she’d been a little squirrelly to begin with. Colleen seemed to understand the drill. She didn’t worry about him at work and he didn’t worry too much about her closing the store at midnight. She’d been okay when he came out of the water. He’d seen that playful smirk on her lips when the guys were teasing him about being Superman, saving the day. But then she’d started crying. She’d been worrying about him. And it felt good.

Which was an excellent reason to get out there.

He didn’t want to give her too much time to dwell on imagined dangers. He wanted to sit on the couch holding her while the early movie played. If he got really lucky she might want to stay for the late movie, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. Before he dropped her off, he was definitely securing a third date. How experimental would she be? Would Saturday at the firing range be too much? Maybe he should save that for a later date. What about Saturday morning at the beach? Was she a bikini girl? Maybe he should invite her over to swim in the pool instead.

Dan walked out to the kitchen with visions of Colleen in a bikini dancing in his head. “Coffee, ready?”

Colleen jerked, spilling coffee down her skirt. She looked wild-eyed and Dan thought he might have left her alone too long. “I’m not sleeping with you, you know.”

Dan raised one eyebrow, whole new images flickering against his retinas. “I didn’t think you were.”

I just thought – you know – there might have been some miscommunication.” She didn’t even seem aware of the coffee puddling at her feet.

No. No miscommunication.” At least she hadn’t been dwelling on phantom dangers. “Honey, you spilled your coffee.”

Colleen glanced down at herself. The sight of coffee dripping off the hem of her skirt only seemed to puzzle her. She looked up again intent on her subject. “I’m seeing someone else too.”

Okay.” Dan wondered if she’d gone a little squirrelly while he showered.

Colleen fluttered her hand to her forehead. “I’m sorry. I’m a little stressed. It’s been kind of a weird few days. And I guess I’m not handling it too well.”

It happens to everybody,” Dan said. Maybe she hadn’t handled his little adventure tonight as well as he thought. Or maybe she’d just figured out how serious he felt about her and she wasn’t ready for it.

Women. Who knew what was on their minds?

Why don’t I get you a change of clothes?” Dan asked. “Did you burn yourself?”

Colleen shook her head. “I’m sorry I’m being so nuts. I understand if you don’t what to see me any more.”

Dan studied her face. She seemed genuinely distressed at the idea, so this wasn’t a ploy to chase him off. At least, not a conscious ploy. “I don’t scare that easily.” Dan hesitated. Maybe it was an unconscious ploy to get rid of him. She was dating another guy, did she like him better? He decided that he better straight with her. “Unless that’s what you want?” He hated the question in his voice. Competition he didn’t mind, but being eliminated before he knew he was competing would bug him.

Honestly Dan, I don’t know what I want.” She sighed. “Things have just been so confusing since last fall that I don’t know which end was is up.”

Well, I think first I would want a change of clothes.” Dan smiled, warmly he hoped. On the job he could stay calm and neutral, this he wasn’t so good at.

Colleen looked down at herself again. “Oh dear, neither one of us made it through this date tidy.”

No, we didn’t.” He did think he sounded pretty even this time.

So maybe we should just plan something dirty for Saturday.”

Dan couldn’t keep himself from grinning. That was definitely a hopeful sign. “I’ll work on that. Let me get something for you to change into.” He led her down the hall. Thankfully, other than the clothes he’d just pulled off and dropped on the floor, the bedroom was clean also. Colleen peeked into his office on the way past. Good, she was curious about him so she must still be interested. He found a pair of sweatpants that had always been too small and a sweatshirt. He put them on the foot of the bed before leaving her alone. He wanted to kiss her cheek again as he walked out, but, being in the bedroom, he thought it might be too intimate. She obviously wasn’t ready and on the second date he shouldn’t even be thinking like that.

Except here, on the second date, he was already thinking that he really liked her and that he not only wanted more intimacy and more time, he wanted more commitment. He only met her just over a week ago, but he already wanted to grow old with her, painting the bathroom on his days off and house hunting. All that stuff he used to torture Jackson about. He walked into the kitchen for a towel. When she spilled her coffee, she spilled all of it. There was a puddle on the floor. He bent down to mop it up.

She had been awfully upset at the idea that he might expect something because she volunteered to come here tonight. Had something happened to make her think he might force her? There were guys who thought that any woman who would go inside their apartment was agreeing to sex. It was hard as hell to get a conviction, but it was against the law. Had some jerk trapped Colleen in his place and attacked her? Had she been too ashamed to come forward? Was that why she broke off her engagement? Because her fiancé thought she’d cheated on him because she was raped? Or had the fiancé been the rapist? Or was it the other guy she was dating?

Dan found himself hoping that if she had been raped it was the other guy she was seeing. That guy he could hunt down and break into toothpicks.

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