“For a while,” Walter said, stretching his legs over his cream-colored leather sofa, “I thought it would get better. That it would be easier to come home and see the pictures, her things. They say it takes about a year. They lie.”
An empty bottle of wine sat on the coffee table next to a ceramic bowl filled with grapes. The fire rolled gently in the fireplace. I couldn’t see the clock, but I imagined it to be somewhere near midnight.
“One day I packed all her stuff up in a rental truck and hauled it down to storage. I haven’t been there since.” He took a sip of his wine and then gestured with his glass toward the pictures on the mantel. “Those are mostly of my sister and her kids.”
I nodded, trying to think of an appropriate comment, something that showed my sensitive side. I drew a big fat blank.
Walter looked up on my silence and smiled. My heart lurched in my chest at the sight of him in the firelight, loose tie and rolled-up sleeves giving him that sexy disheveled look. Damn Elizabeth and her damn self-awareness. Let’s talk about your feelings, Wanda. Pfffft. I took a sip of wine.
“Let’s move on to something more interesting than my sob story,” he said, bringing me back into the moment. He popped a grape into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully for a few moments. “Let’s talk about that day in your apartment.”
“Hmmm?” I said, wincing as a few drops of wine cut through my throat. I choked briefly, then looked up at Walter through misty eyes.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I croaked. “Wrong pipe.”
“Ahhh.” He looked down at his glass, then back at me. “If you don’t want to talk about it, then…”
“No,” I said, recovering. “We can talk about it. I’m just not sure what there is to say.”
His eyes flickered at me. “You’re not?”
“No. I mean, I kissed you, and then I thought we were going to have sex, but you kinda freaked out, and then I grabbed your crotch, and you screamed like a girl—”
“I know what happened,” he said, holding up a hand to shut me up. “Any chance we can wipe that ‘screamed like a girl’ thing off the record?”
I smiled and shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
“Fine. Look, we both know what happened. What I want to talk about is…” He paused, huffed a short laugh at whatever was going through his mind, and stared into the fire as he went on. “I just think we should talk about why it happened.”
“You wanna talk about why?”
He met my eye. He was dead serious. “Yeah. Why did you kiss me?”
My throat tightened, and my breathing kicked up a notch. “I don’t know. I thought you were cute, I’d had a few drinks…”
“I see,” he said with a brief nod.
“Dammit,” I said. “I didn’t mean that it was just because I’d been drinking. I meant… ugh!” I slammed my fist down on the sofa cushions. “Why are you asking me this?”
He sat forward, put both of our glasses on the coffee table, and took my hands in his. My entire body buzzed at his touch, and my jury was out on whether I was going to jump him or run screaming from the room.
“I think it’s time we talked about it.” He brought his eyes up to meet mine and smiled his crooked smile. Made of kryptonite, that smile. “I think there’s a thing going on here between us. I just want to make sure it’s mutual before…”
“Before…?” I knew what he was going to say, but I had to draw it out. It had to be on paper before I’d believe it.
He held my gaze. “Before I act on it.”
I dropped my eyes, felt my cheeks blazing. “So you think we’ve got a thing?”
He let go of my hands. “You don’t?”
I shook my head and lied through my stupid lying teeth. “No.”
He looked at me, reading me. He had to know I was lying.
Please, Walter, I thought, can’t you just save us both the pain and see through me?
He stood up, picking up our wineglasses. “Okay. My mistake, then.”