Want to start at the beginning?
Colleen walked into the room tugging the hem of his sweatshirt down as close to her knees as she could. He hadn’t realized how small and delicate she was until he saw her in his clothes.
“Colleen, did some guy rape you?” Dan asked, still on his knee on the kitchen floor. He hadn’t meant to be so blunt, but the question had popped out of his mouth the moment he saw her. Thank God he hadn’t still been thinking about marriage.
Colleen stopped just inside the doorway. She seemed to have calmed down, but this brought some alarm back into her eyes. “No, why?”
Dan stood, dropping the rag in the sink. He put his hands on her shoulders. She didn’t shrink away which he took as a good sign. “It’s still rape if you know him. If you say it’s no, it’s rape.”
“Dan, I swear I was never raped.” Colleen frowned. “Why?”
“I don’t know…I just…” Dan let go of her and turned back to the coffee. He was losing perspective. This wasn’t a crime scene and Colleen wasn’t a victim. Maybe it was just like she said. She’d had a rough time lately and it was all catching up to her. She didn’t need a protector. She was just looking for a boyfriend. “You seemed so upset I thought something might have happened before.”
“No. Nothing like that.” Colleen bit her lip. He’d noticed that she did that when she was nervous. “I just don’t want to get serious right now. I just want to date casually for a little while so I can figure out what I want.”
“Which is why you’re dating two of us at once.”
Colleen blushed, “Oh, yeah, I guess. I was afraid you’d remember that out of everything. But that was kind of an accident.”
“I look forward to hearing how you end up dating two guys at the same time by accident.” Dan poured each of them a cup of coffee. “You take cream and sugar, didn’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“I just wiped it up off the floor.”
Colleen’s blush had been fading, but it came right back up. “Oh. Yeah, heavy on the cream and one heaping spoon of sugar. Thanks.”
He walked her out to the couch. She sat with the cup cradled in her hands and her feet tucked under her. He went for the opposite end facing her with one knee cocked between them. It was more for his comfort than hers. He hoped if he had his knee between them he wouldn’t be able to do anything too familiar. This was only the second date and since he wanted there to be more, he didn’t want to screw things up. “So, about this accident…”
She scowled playfully at him. “I think I’m going to have to call you Bulldog because you never let anything go.”
“Thank you. What’s the story?”
“I met both of you almost at the same time. He came in to do the fire inspection and we kind of hit it off so we made a date. Only Laura had invited me over to meet you and…”
“We made a date.”
“Yes. Actually, the reason I had to take off that day was because I was meeting him.” Colleen smiled nervously.
“So, he’s a fireman.”
“I see.” This whole turn in the conversation was better. Part of her general upset before must have been guilt about dating two guys at the same time. She struck him as naturally guilty, but she seemed pretty happy now that she’d confessed. “And how many times have you been out with him?”
“Twice, not counting a getting to know you coffee.” She smiled less nervously now, In fact, she looked down right challenging. “You’re even right now at two dates, one introduction and a professional visit.”
“But he visits you at work.”
“Just the one time. We do give the police free coffee when they stop in though.” Colleen leaned her head against the back of the couch. She’d taken her hair down when she changed and it slid loose over her shoulders. Most of the women Dan dated had short hair, the others kept theirs tightly controlled. The tightening in his groin reminded him that he had always liked long loose hair on women.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You have to be in uniform, but that never hurts.”
“Because you like a man in uniform?”
“No. I mean, yes, but it helps more for keeping control to have cops stopping in at random times.”
“You have trouble makers on staff?” He didn’t feel the least bit bothered by her use of the word ‘cop’ even though it was normally his biggest pet peeve.
“Ugh.” Colleen rolled her eyes. “I have button pushers on staff. I worry more about the shoplifters. Our shrink dropped by twenty percent as soon as we started offering free coffee because we had uniformed officers showing up at the store at unpredictable times.”
Dan wasn’t sure what shrink was, but if its drop made her happy, then it must be something bad. “So back to this other guy.”
“Why did I know you weren’t going to let that go?” she asked playfully.
“I was just wondering if either one of us has the lead.”
Colleen sucked her cheeks into her teeth. He had to be losing his mind if that was arousing too. “Well, so far, it’s whoever I happen to be with at the time.”
“I see.” Dan reached out and caressed her cheek. “So I guess I should press my advantage while I have it.”
“Maybe you should.” She leaned forward so he could kiss her.
He wanted to pull her against him and run his hands through her long dark hair. Then he wanted to ease her back on the couch so he could feel how her body fit against his. And while he had her like that he wanted to know what her skin tasted like and how it would feel to cup his hand around her waist. He wanted to hear her breathy sign in his ear. He wanted to kiss her until she couldn’t remember her own name, let alone the name of that paramedic.
But she didn’t want to get serious and he didn’t want to scare her off, so he settled for kissing her teasingly and backing away.
She opened her eyes an instant after he moved back. They looked a little glazed and smoky. She smiled, half-tender and half-sarcastic. “So, you want to press your advantage, but not too much.”
“No, that wouldn’t work at all.” He traced his fingers along her throat. “You see, if I press my advantage too much it becomes a disadvantage.”
“Is that how that works? I always wondered.”
Dan smiled before he continued and told her the rest of his master plan up to the point in about a year when she decided that she not only wanted to be serious, with him, but that yes, she wanted to get married. He didn’t even think he had that much to worry about from the competition.