Don't Hex with Texas
“It’s just on the edge of town.”
Mom jumped right back into action. “Oh, why don’t you ride with him, Katie? I’m sure someone can get your truck home for you. You wouldn’t want him getting lost, now, would you ?” There she went, emphasizing words again. This time, I was fairly sure she was telling me not to let this one out of my sight, ever.
Owen didn’t need any encouraging to get out of the store. As we settled into his rental car, he said, “I see you moved to New York for the peace and quiet.”
I laughed, and the strange tension between us eased. “I’ve missed you,” I said. I might have hugged him, but he was driving and I had the strangest fear that he’d dissolve into a magical mist if I broke the spell by touching him.
“Which way do I go?”
I directed him back through town toward our house, trying not to feel stung by the way he’d ignored what I’d said. “You’re probably going to regret staying with us. You’d have been much safer, and you’d have had more privacy to work if you’d gotten a room at the motel.”
“It didn’t sound like I had much of a choice.”
“No, you probably didn’t. She might have kidnapped you from the motel. Then again, it might not have been such a good idea to give her any sense that we might be involved.”
“How else were you going to explain me being here? It doesn’t look like there’s much to do here on business, and it’s not a tourist center. The only reasonable explanation for my presence is if I’m your boyfriend.”
It was the first time he’d ever used the b-word with me, but it wasn’t the best context for it. This was definitely not the way I’d imagined our reunion. Of course, I’d tended to picture us running toward each other across a flower-dotted mountain meadow or him walking into the store, sweeping me off my feet and carrying me away, so my ideas of the reunion were highly unlikely. Still, even my sanest, most rational versions of the reunion fantasy had been nothing like this. I’d been rather partial to the one where I secretly went back to New York, then showed up at a meeting at work as though nothing had happened, much to his shock and delight.
I’d had a lot of time for daydreaming over the past few months, and I’d spent it well.
“Okay,” I said, nodding as though we were agreeing on a business deal. “You’re my boyfriend here to visit me from New York. How do we explain the fact that I’ve never said anything about you?”
“You met my mother. Would you tell her anything?”
“And you thought your folks were scary.” His foster parents had been a little intimidating, but they weren’t likely to give anyone a nervous breakdown, unlike my family.
“I guess I must have broken your heart, which sent you running back home to your family, and you kept it a secret because you didn’t want pity for your heartbreak.”
“But that still makes you sound like a bad guy, if you broke my heart so badly that I had to run home.
That wouldn’t go over well with my brothers, and that would certainly get in the way of you getting any work done. How about something closer to the truth, that we’d just started getting to know each other when I had to leave because of work, and then you realized how much you missed me and came to see me?”
“That works, too. Okay, let’s go with that one.” Great, I could finally call him my boyfriend, and it wasn’t even for real. Fate could be really cruel sometimes.
I pointed him toward the road to our house, and it was silent in the car for a long moment. “It was the exact opposite, you know. I mean, about you breaking my heart,” I said softly.
“I know.” I had a feeling there were layers of meaning in those two words. It kind of sounded like he meant that I wasn’t the one whose heart had been broken.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was trying to help you.” He didn’t respond to that, and I chewed on my lower lip the rest of the way to our house. When I spoke again, it was to direct him to turn in at the driveway and then park in back.
As he got out of the car, he looked admiringly at the house. “Wow. And you were impressed by my house,” he said. Our house was a rambling Victorian farmhouse with wraparound porches.
“It’s just a farmhouse,” I said.
“Is that a historic marker?”
“Anything in Texas that survives more than a few years is considered historic and gets a marker. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that my grandmother has one tattooed somewhere on her body.”