Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(25) by Susan Mallery
Elissa stepped in to give their guest a break. “It was Zoe’s birthday present. She’d talked about wanting to see the play and when the touring company came here, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
“Have you seen the play?” Zoe asked.
“No,” Walker told her.
“You should go. It’s magic.”
“So you said.”
“Eat, honey,” Elissa urged, feeling a little guilty for trapping Walker into dinner.
“Okay.” Zoe took a bite of her spaghetti. She chewed, then looked at Walker again. “Do you have any pets? We want to get a dog, but we’re not home very much. Mommy says a dog needs a lot of attention. We could get a cat….” Her voice trailed off.
“We’re not really cat people,” Elissa told him. “I know their independence is supposed to be noble and all that, but if I’m buying the food, I want a little gratitude from my animals.”
“I’m scared of the claws,” Zoe whispered.
“A girl in her class got scratched up pretty badly. She’d been teasing the cat, so it was sort of her fault,” Elissa said. “But it looked awful and it had to hurt. How’s dinner?”
He paused in the act of tearing off a piece of garlic bread. “Good.”
He seemed to be inhaling his food. She wanted to tease him about going for the land speed record in eating, but knew that wasn’t fair. She’d put him in an uncomfortable situation. Not a great way to thank him, despite what she’d said earlier.
Why had she messed with the status quo? Why him? Why now?
“I’m sorry,” she said, aware of Zoe listening. “For, well, you know. I shouldn’t have done it.”
“Why did you?”
“I don’t know. I thought it would be nice. I thought we could be friends.”
Zoe stared at him. “Don’t you like Mommy?”
What had been charming a few seconds ago suddenly became uncomfortable. She regretted allowing Zoe to guilt him into staying for dinner. “Zoe, don’t ask questions like that. Walker has been very good to us and to Mrs. Ford. We’re grateful for that, but we don’t want to keep him too long.”
Walker felt like shit. He’d been surprised by the manipulated circumstances, but not offended or angry. He hadn’t meant to make Elissa feel bad.
“It’s okay,” he said, putting down his fork. “Everything is really good.” He glanced at Zoe, who watched him warily. “Yes, Zoe, I do like your mother. She’s a very caring person and she knows how to cook. I’m looking forward to the brownies you frosted.”
Elissa shook her head. “You don’t have to—”
“I want to.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Now you’re reading my mind?”
He wasn’t sure why he was doing this. The easiest thing in the world would be to walk away. To take the escape she offered and go back upstairs. Only he hated the darkness he saw in her eyes and he wanted to listen to Zoe chatter about The Lion King or her friends or dogs. He didn’t have much normality in his life and he appreciated the chance to experience it, even from a distance.
“Let it go,” he told Elissa. “Eat your dinner.”
She hesitated, then nodded. “All right. Thank you.”
Walker turned to Zoe. “Tell me more about the play. What did the people wear?”
TWO HOURS LATER WALKER stood and stretched. “It was a good story,” he said.
Elissa smiled at him. “I can’t believe you were willing to sit through The Lion King.”
He glanced at the sleeping child curled up on the sofa. “I’m sorry she didn’t get to see the end.”
“This was only her four billionth time,” Elissa said, aware of the quiet of the evening and the closeness of the man.
“Want me to carry her to bed?” he asked.
“You’ve done enough of that for one day,” she told him. “I can manage.”
She followed him to the door. Once there, she drew in a breath. “I’m sorry about what happened. I shouldn’t have used Zoe to coerce you like that.”
“Do you really think I’m not strong enough to resist a five-year-old?”
“She’s pretty adorable.”
“I agree, but I’m a big, bad Marine. At least I was.”
He might be big, but there was nothing bad about him. As far as she could tell, he was one of the good guys.
And she wanted him. Oh, sure, there were a lot of reasons why that was a mistake, but they didn’t erase the truth. Her knees trembled at the thought of his body against hers and she knew that if he didn’t at least kiss her, she wouldn’t be able to sleep for hours. Of course if he did kiss her, she wouldn’t be getting much sleep, either.
She could feel her body swelling, readying and nothing had happened. What would happen if he ever did touch her?
Apparently, she wasn’t going to find out anytime soon.
He smiled, thanked her for dinner and stepped out into the night. She stood by the open door and listened to him climb the stairs.
“Be careful what you wish for,” she told herself as she closed the door. “You just might get it.”
THE BEST PART of Elissa’s day was seeing her daughter when she got home from work. A very close second to that was taking off her very sensible shoes and wiggling her bare toes on the area rug in her bedroom.
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