I didn’t come out of my room until Andrew left. I don’t know what he told my parents, and I really didn’t care, I just wanted him gone. When I rejoined my family downstairs, my dad seemed rather confused. So, I took him into his office and explained what I had told my mother; that it had been a huge misunderstanding and I was seeing someone else. Someone I had very strong feelings for and someone that wasn’t going to be leaving the picture anytime soon. He took it all in stride, being a bit disappointed because he had liked Andrew so much, but he said he was looking forward to meeting Alex. He told me the heart can’t help who it loves and that it was okay that Andrew and I weren’t together. Then he asked when I was going to bring Alex over.
I still wasn’t too sure myself when I could introduce them all, but I knew it needed to be soon. Though, I didn’t think showing up at the visitation that night was appropriate. Maybe we could do it on Tuesday, there wasn’t much going on other than welcoming more family and friends that were coming from out of town for the funeral on Wednesday. I didn’t want him to meet my entire family, but definitely my parents, Mimi, Grasyon and Candace. Maybe a nice dinner out somewhere would work.
So, I told my dad that I would speak with Alex and let him know what we decided. I hadn’t mentioned a word of what had transpired upstairs between Andrew and me and I didn’t think I needed to. Much easier to just forget the drama and move on then relish in it and make it bigger than it needed to be. Andrew was gone, Alex was here and things were good.
The visitation also went well, as good as it could. There weren’t any unexpected surprises and I handled things better when people began to question what I’d been up to for the last few years. I was also able to explain to my aunts, uncles and cousins that Andrew had left and we were truly just friends. My mimi didn’t hide her disappointment well, but she cheered up when she found out I had been seeing someone else. There were a few curious looks, some whispers and questions from the others, but all in all, things seemed to have finally bowled over and died down. Now, I just had to worry about arranging a time for my parents to meet Alex.
I had wanted to drive over to the hotel and see him after we got back from the funeral home, but it was late and my mom really wanted me to stick around, so I did. And then when I finally headed up to the bedroom to retire for the night, I called him.
He answered on the second ring, “Hello.”
I couldn’t help the smile that graced my face. “Hey.”
His tone told me he was smiling as well. “Well, hello there, beautiful. How are you?”
“Tired, but much better now that I’m talking to you.”
“Ooh, well I’m glad I could be of service.”
I giggled at that and settled myself into the bed. “I missed you today.”
“Aww, I missed you too, baby.”
“I talked to my parents.”
“Mmhmm,” I gave a nod, studying the swirled patterns on the ceiling, “I talked too Andrew, too.”
“Ooh,” he paused a moment, “how’d he take it?”
“What’d he do?”
I thought back to his angry outbursts. “Um….well, first he called me a liar, then he yelled at me and basically accused me of leading him on, and when I tried to explain what had happened, he got all …” I searched for the right explanation, “snarky and just…weird; started calling you a punk and asking if I liked bad boys.” I intentionally left out the part with him making an unwanted advance on me.
“He’s an ass.” I could hear his snort through the phone. “I’m sorry, baby, but I’m glad it’s done with.”
“Me too, though I don’t think we’ll ever be talking again.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing.”
“Yeah, you know, my mom actually thought maybe Andrew and I were meant to be.”
There was a pause.
I blinked then wanted to smack myself. “She didn’t really know about you yet, Alex.”
“Hey, you don’t have to explain. I saw what he looked like. Compared to me, he was fine wine and caviar.”
“I don’t care if he was sushi and chocolate; he isn’t you.” I peeked to the phone. “She was just saying that because he showed up out of the blue, every time I tried to explain what was really going on, someone interrupted me, he has a good job, he’s polite with good manners and Dianna thought we’d be good together.”
He hesitated. “Why did Dianna think you’d be good together?”
I gave an inward groan and pulled a pillow over my head. I had never told him about being set up on the blind date. “Well, you know how I told you that he wanted to date me?”
“Yeah,” his response sounded on edge.
“Well… that’s cuz we kind of went on one date. Back, before I met you, Dianna set us up on this blind date. But I wasn’t feeling it and told him I just wanted to be friends.”
“Ooh, it all makes more sense to me now.”
I chuckled low and pushed the pillow away. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that.”
“Hey, it’s okay. Just long as you don’t have any other secrets.” I knew he was teasing me.
“No, I think you know everything else.”
“Good.” I could hear him stretching some. “So, your parents took the news well?”
“Better than my grandmother.”
“Uh oh,” he laughed low, “what happened?”
"She got so sad and talked about how now she wouldn’t get to see wine country and go out on a sailboat. I felt so terrible cuz she’s already going through something pretty bad and I had to give her more sad news.”
“She wants to go to wine country and sailing?”
“Yeah, when she comes out to visit me. But, she understands and cheered up a little when I did tell her there was someone else. Then she asked if you had a sailboat.”
“I don’t have a sailboat, but I have some friends that do. When your mimi comes to visit, we’ll take her sailing and then up into wine country. You can tell her I said that.”
I felt the smile growing. “Really?”
“Absolutely. Whatever she wants, we’ll do.”
I giggled low. “Have I told you how wonderful you are, yet?”
“Hmm, no, I don’t think you have.”
“Well, you are; absolutely wonderful. And I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I could hear the warmth in his voice and knew he meant it.
“You better, because my parents want to meet you tomorrow sometime.”
He hesitated. “They do?”
“Yes, and Mimi. I’m sure the rest of my brood does too, but I’m not really ready to thrust you into the lion’s den.”
He chuckled. “Please don’t do that.”
“So, I’ll just settle with my parents, Mimi and maybe Grayson and his wife.”
He let out a breath. “And they wanna do this tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I sat up some and fluffed a few pillows behind me. “I think tomorrow would be best. I don’t want them to meet you officially at the funeral on Wednesday and we don’t have too much going on tomorrow other than welcoming more family and friends. So, maybe we could slip away for lunch or dinner and meet up with you somewhere.”
“I guess that would be okay.”
I glanced to the phone. “You guess?”
“I’m just nervous, baby.”
“Aww,” I pouted some for him. “What are you nervous about? They’re going to love you.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I do and they don’t have any reason not to.”
“I’m not exactly what parents have in mind when it comes to who they want dating their daughter.”
“Maybe not, but after the way you’ve helped me and how good you are for me, they’re going to shower you with praise.”
“You really think so?”
I couldn’t help but smile. “I know so. All either of them has wanted for the last couple years is for me to smile again, be happy and move past Hugh; get on with my life. And because of you, I’m doing that. They’re going to be so grateful and absolutely adore you.”
He gave a little sigh. “Well, I’m really glad you think so, but it still makes me nervous.”
“I know, but I’m going to be there every step of the way.”
“I’m glad.” He paused a moment, his tone softening, “You know, I’m finding out that I need you as much as you need me.”
That made my heart melt. “You do?”
“I do. And after having you in my bed all night last night, I don’t wanna sleep alone tonight.”
My eyes drifted to the clock. “Me either.”
“But it’s too late, right?”
I sighed some and rubbed my forehead. “Want to sleep over? I could sneak you in the back door, I think everyone’s in bed.”
“And come right into the lion’s den? What about in the morning?”
“Maybe breakfast would be a good time for you to meet them.” I shrugged. “Or, we could wake before everyone else does and I can sneak you back out.”
That made him chuckle. “I feel like we’re in high school.”
I giggled and peeked to the phone. “I know right, but I don’t care. We’re adults and I really want to see you.”
“I want to see you, too.”
“Then come over, you can climb up the trellis and into my window.”
“And break my ass when I fall.”
“Aww, I don’t want you to do that. Okay, we’ll use the back door.”
He chuckled low and then spoke the words that made my heart soar, “I’ll be right over.”
That night we slept in each other’s arms. Nothing freaky happened and that was fine with me, I just liked being held close and listening to the sound of his breathing and waking in the morning to see his beautiful face. I had set my alarm for 5:30 in the morning, hoping that’d be enough time for Alex to slip back outside and make his getaway. It went off too early in my opinion and the groan from beside me told me he felt the same way. Pushing myself up on an elbow, I reached over and shut it off, falling back against the pillow with a sigh.
“Damn… is it time already?” His voice was thick and laced with sleep.
“Mmhmm.” I rubbed my eyes then rolled to face him, wrapping my arms around his chest. “Don’t go.”
“I don’t want to,” he smoothed his hand to my back, “but if I stay, your family is going to find out.”
“So?” I had my eyes closed, my head tucked against his chest listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat.
“You don’t want us to meet at dinner?”
I nuzzled my face against his chest. “No, I do…but I don’t want you to leave. You could stay here in my room all day long and then sneak out just before the dinner.”
He laughed at that then kissed my head and gently slipped me off his chest. “I could look through your panty drawer.”
I giggled and watched him sit up. “Tonight, I’ll try to make it to the hotel.”
“You think your fam will be okay with that? What time is your grandfather’s funeral?”
“It’s at 11, but you’re coming with so we can just meet everyone back here at the house beforehand. I think the limo is arriving to pick us up about 10:30.”
“Okay,” he smiled down at me then leaned over and brushed his lips over my forehead, “but lemme get dressed and get outta here before anyone stirs.”
“Alright,” I pouted, but relented.
A few moments later he was dressed and ready to go and we quietly snuck down the stairs to the first floor.
I peeked around the banister and towards the hall that led into the kitchen, but didn’t see or hear anyone. “I think it’s clear.”
“You sure?” He leaned around the stairs above me, peering down the hallway.
“Yeah, c’mon.” I took hold of his hand and quickly tiptoed towards the foyer.
We made it safely and I undid the latch and quietly opened the door.
“So, you’ll give me a call after you find out what time we’re doing dinner?”
I glanced back from checking the stairs again to face Alex. “Of course. If they don’t want to go until later, I just may come over or something. I don’t really want to sit around here.”
“That’d be great.” He smoothed a hand to my cheek and dipped his head, meeting my mouth with his.
I melted against him as our tongues smoothed together and he nibbled at my bottom lip. He had this uncanny knack for making me weak at the knees and he was casting it over me as his hand slipped into my hair and he pulled me closer. I could feel the air around us warming and forced myself back before I lunged at him and didn’t let him leave.
He gave a low chuckle, knowing that’s exactly what I was doing. “Yeah, I need to go.”
I nodded, feeling my lips tingling from his kiss.
“But, we will definitely finish this later.” He brushed his lips lightly over mine then kissed my cheek.
“Kay.” I reached up and touched his neck as he pulled back. “Drive safe.”
“Always, baby. Love you.”
I smiled. “Love you.” Then I watched as he slipped out onto the porch and hurried across the yard to his car.
Giving a sigh, I turned to head back to the stairs and gave a yelp at the person standing in the entryway to the living room.
“Gina!” I grabbed my chest. “Damn, you scared me.”
“Was that AJ?”
I glanced towards the front door then back to her. “Um…”
“It was, wasn’t it?” She moved further into the foyer, clad in a pair of blue pajama pants and a grey tee. I had totally forgotten that she was sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room.
“Wha...um...how much did you see?”
She shrugged. “Not much, just someone leaving. What was he doing here so early?” Then her eyes widened. “Ooh! Did he stay the night?!”
I blushed then tugged on the edge of my tank top. “He just came by to say hello.”
“At 5:30 in the morning? Right.” Her eye roll proved she didn’t believe me.
My blush deepened and I quickly moved to her, tugging her further from the living room where her sister was still sleeping, hopefully. “Shh, keep your voice down.”
“He did stay the night, didn’t he?” She giggled and squeezed my arm. “This is so awesome! You and AJ McLean!”
“Shh!” I hushed her again. “Don’t wake anyone up.”
“Sorry,” her voice immediately lowered. “So, how serious are you two?
“Um…pretty serious.” I wasn’t totally comfortable with telling my cousin about our relationship, but a few tidbits couldn’t hurt. Just no details.
“Aww, that’s so great! When do I get to meet him?”
“I… don’t know…” I really wasn’t sure when, or if, they’d get to meet.
“You said yesterday that I probably could.”
Crap, I had forgotten about that. “Okay, you’re right. He’s going to be at the funeral with me, so afterwards at the dinner, you can meet him officially.”
She gave a quiet cheer and wrapped her arms around my neck, hugging me tight. “Ooh, this is so awesome! No one is going to believe me when I tell them, but who cares!”
I laughed low. “Can I go back to bed now?”
“Of course.” She took a step back. “I’m too excited to go back to sleep.”
“I’m sorry; we didn’t mean to wake you.”
“No, it’s okay. It wouldn’t be long before we were wakened by the others anyway.”
“True.” I gave a little nod and then blinked. “Hey, don’t tell anyone that he was here, okay? I’m not ready for everyone to know what’s going on between us,” then I blushed at the innuendo. “Not that anything is going on, we were just sleeping, that’s all.”
Gina laughed and her eyes twinkled. “Uh huh, you really think that’s gonna work on me?”
“It’s the truth.”
“Sure, and I’m the Queen of England.”
“Then, it’s nice to meet you, Your Majesty.” I gave a little curtsy. “But if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to retire again to my bedroom chambers.” Then I turned and headed back up the stairs, leaving my giggling cousin behind.