Alex and I arrived back in California on Friday. He had left his SUV in the long term parking so he dropped me off at my place and promised to be back over sometime Saturday. He needed to go check on his dogs and get some things in order. I didn’t really want to spend the night alone, but I understood and had my own things to take care of; like collecting Daisy, chatting with Dianna and going through my mail. Work was expecting me back on Monday and I knew I needed to get a hold of Anna sometime over the weekend and catch up on what I had missed.
It was a tearful goodbye with my family. My grandmother had hugged me so tight and for so long I didn’t think she was ever going to let me go. She made me promise to call her and not stay away for that long again and then she said she would be figuring out a time for her to come visit. She reminded Alex of his promise to take her up to wine country and then hugged him then me again. My mom cried, which was expected, and my dad tried to stay strong for everyone. He also said they’d be coming out to see me sooner than later and told me to take care of myself. Thursday morning he’d taken Alex out golfing; the two seemed to be getting along rather well, much to my delight. I did find out later that they’d had some pretty serious conversations about him, me, our relationship and making sure I was being taken care of. It was sweet my dad was still looking out for me, and Alex told me he’d assured my dad that he had only the best of intentions when it came to me.
Grayson and Candace had gone on back to New York the day after the funeral, but they promised to give me a call once they got out to Arizona and settled in their new place. Of course, Grayson wouldn’t be living there too often, but Candace said I was more than welcome to come on out even if he wasn’t there. I figured it’d probably be a little while before I did that. I had just gotten back from being gone two weeks; I probably needed to stick around home for awhile at least.
I had probably only been inside my place not even ten minutes when Dianna showed up.
“Morgan! You’re back!”
I looked over from where I was opening some windows to air the place out to find her letting herself in my back patio door. “Yeah, I just got back.”
“How was your trip?” She had a stack of my mail in her hand and I knew she was probably adding to the mounting pile on my kitchen table.
“Yeah, well I wasn’t expecting great or fun, considering what you were there for.” She shut the door securely behind her.
I straightened the curtain over the open window then stood right again. “How’s Daisy?”
“She’s doing great.” She smiled then set the mail on the coffee table before crossing the room and enveloping me in a warm hug. “I’ve missed you, girl.”
I chuckled and returned the hug. “I know, I’ve missed you, too.”
“You’ll have to tell me about your trip; how it went with your parents, how things went with Alex.” She pulled back and sent me a knowing smirk.
I felt the blush creeping up over my cheeks. “I knew you’d be dying to know about that.”
“Can you blame me? He showed up here that night with Daisy and I knew the minute I told him and gave him the information he’d be there.” Her eyes searched my face. “He was so concerned for you.”
I blushed more then motioned her to follow and headed down the hall and into the kitchen. “Things are really different now.”
“Oh yeah?” She followed then settled herself at the table while I went about making up some coffee for us both.
I put a new filter into the coffee maker and dumped in the fresh ground coffee beans. “Yeah,” I hesitated then thought to hell with it, “I love him.”
“What?” Her eyes widened.
“Yeah,” I busied myself with adding the water and making sure the pot was in the right position, “I do. He’s really helped me with a lot and he’s just,” I searched for how to describe it, “he’s just what I need.”
“Wow, Morgan, you leave and go home and come back a whole new person.” She offered a pleasant smile. “How does he feel about you?”
I got two mugs and saucers from the cupboard. “He loves me, too. He’s really been through a lot and I think I’m what he needs as well.”
“I am just…wow, speechless.” She laughed some and rubbed her forehead.
I chuckled. “I figured you would be.”
“I am; you were so against dating again and scared to let yourself get attached to someone else, and now…” she trailed off.
“And now, I’m in love with an amazing man and moving on with my life.”
“I am so happy for you, Morgan,” she chuckled, “and relieved. I was worried you were gonna stay sequestered away.”
I gave a little nod and leaned against the counter, waiting for the coffee to brew. “I know you were, and I really appreciate everything you’ve done. Thank you for sending him out to Connecticut.”
“It’s nothing,” she waved a hand to dismiss it, “I thought you both needed to see each other. He was so worried and I knew you needed someone other than your parents or grandmother.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
Her dark eyes watched me with curiosity and concern. “How are things with your parents?”
“Better.” I met her gaze. “We talked and things are gonna be okay.”
“Yeah, they’re going to be coming out to visit me soon. And my grandmother is coming sometime in the fall. I think everything’s okay now.”
“Oh, Morgan, that’s wonderful.”
“Yeah, it really is.” I smiled then slipped the pot from the coffee maker as it finished brewing.
“Did you get the flowers Manuel and I sent?”
I poured the coffees then set the pot back on the warmer. “We did and they were beautiful. My mom is going to be doing the thank you cards so I’m sure she’ll send you one.”
“Oh, she doesn’t have to do that.”
I set the mugs on the table along with cream and sugar. “I know, but she and Mimi want to.”
“After the coffee you can walk back to my place and collect your dog. She’s gonna be ecstatic to see you.”
I sank down into the chair and took the creamer, adding it to the scalding black liquid. “I can’t wait to see her. I’ve missed her so much. Has she behaved herself?”
“Of course, except that day she disappeared and I about had a heart attack.”
I chuckled low. “Weird how she ended up at Alex’s.”
“She did that on purpose.”
I glanced over to my friend and neighbor and she nodded her head.
“She knew something was going on and she knew the effect he had with you. Dogs have that sense about them.”
I tilted my head and stirred the cream into my coffee. “So, you’re saying that she knew I needed him and sought him out for me?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“How would she know I needed him?”
“Dogs have that sense, Morgan. They can tell when something isn’t right. And she knew that Alex was someone that calmed you so she sought him out and brought him over.”
I chuckled low at that thought. “Well, she’s a sneaky little thing, isn’t she?”
Dianna laughed then took a sip of her coffee. “It worked out for the best.”
I gave a little nod and blew gently into the steaming mug. “So, when are you and Manuel getting a dog?”
“We’ve looked at a few places.”
I lifted a brow. “Oh yeah? Are you really going through with it?”
“He wants to. I’m not so keen on the idea, but he’s promised to be the one in charge of its care.”
I chuckled some and watched my friend. “You’re going to fall in love with this dog before you know it and want to help out just as much.”
“Heh,” she rolled her eyes in a playful manner, “I’m going to want to throw him outta the house the minute he gets underfoot. And he better not even get a hold of my shoes.”
“Ooh, he will; at some point of another. They all do.”
“Oh great. What a wonderful thing to look forward to.”
I giggled. “You’re going to love that dog, no matter what they do. Like with kids.”
“I’m going to have a four footed kid, that’s just wonderful.”
“You’re going to love it.”
Daisy was glad to see me and wouldn’t leave my side for the rest of that night and well into Saturday. When Alex came over, she practically knocked him over trying to say hello. Then she moped around a bit because he hadn’t brought Bernie. Who, by the way, was still recovering nicely from the surgery. The doctors remained hopeful he would beat the cancer, urging Alex to continue with the medicine, special diet and whatever treatments they thought would help. So far, Bernie’s attitude hadn’t changed and on Sunday I took Daisy to his place and the two laid together outside on the patio, basking in the sun and enjoying each other’s company.
Alex spent that afternoon telling me more about his career; showing me awards they’d won, letting me listen to their cd’s and even let me watch a few music videos. Then he told me what touring was like, what a relationship with someone like him was like and he was truthful with how demanding a job he had and how difficult it might be to stay with him. I wasn’t swayed though. After everything he’d done for me, everything he meant to me and how we both needed the other, I wasn’t going anywhere.
I stayed at his place Sunday night, left Daisy with them for the day and was back to work bright and early Monday morning. Everyone greeted me warmly and wished me their condolences. I immediately threw myself back into the work and began scheduling open houses and meetings and working on offers and loans and returning calls that had come in while I was away.
Anna had taken over my client list and three out of the five had made offers and agreed to the sale. Surprisingly, I was still one of the top in the office and nearly in the lead for the Hawaii trip. Thankfully, Anna was the leader and Dixon was nowhere near catching up to us. One less headache I had to worry about.
I worked through lunch, but did take a few minutes to visit with Anna and tell her about my trip home, and Alex. She had been ecstatic for me, claiming she knew I would find someone again and that she couldn’t wait to have us both over for dinner one night. I told her to slow her roll and we would love to come over, but give it a few more weeks. I wanted more time with just us, in our own environment, before we began making it public.
And that’s just what we did. Over the next couple weeks we were together nearly every day. Either he would come over, or I’d go to his place. We’d try to bring the dogs whenever we could and found that Bernie seemed to be acting more like himself the more he was around Daisy. And Alex and I were only falling more in love. We would go to dinner, the movies, the park, one weekend we drove along the coast and spent the day collecting sea shells, having a picnic on a secluded beach and watching the sunset over the ocean. It was crazy how in love with this man I was and my strong desire to have him near me always. If I let myself think about that, it scared me, but thrilled me at the same time.
Part of me was waiting for the other shoe to drop. My life was going too well it seemed. My relationship was Alex was blossoming and continuing to grow daily, I was in touch with my parents every few days and I would call my grandmother two times a week. They seemed to be doing better, each day got a little easier. I had even talked to my brother a couple times; they were getting moved and settled into the new condo and continued to insist I come out and see them shortly.
At work, I was still continuing to do well with selling and buying homes. A few of my satisfied clients recommended me to their friends and soon I found myself in the middle of a hectic month of planning and showing and bartering and inspections, liens, loans and more things that made my head swirl. Unfortunately, Dixon was doing just as well and his name continued to creep up on the board closer to mine. I managed to avoid any face to face conversations with him, however, and just concentrated on my own clients and work, trying to put him to the very far corner of my mind.
The one person that I probably should have been thinking about, I wasn’t. And it smacked me in the face one Wednesday evening upon arriving home from the office.
Andrew Holden was waiting on my porch for me, sitting in one of the wrought iron chairs I had decorated it with. He rose to his feet as I stepped from my car and I felt my tummy pitch. The last couple weeks I had completely forgotten about him and now I was wishing I hadn’t.
“Andrew.” I carefully closed the door to my vehicle, having a brief thought to dive back inside and drive away.
“Hey.” He rose to his feet, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans.
“I um, I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I know.” He motioned towards the front door. “Can we talk?”
I didn’t move from my spot. “How long have you been here?”
“Maybe half an hour.” He checked his watch then gave a nod. “Yeah, not long.”
“What…um, what do you want to talk about?”
He gave a heavy sigh and I saw the regret in them. “I owe you an apology.”
Yes, he did, but I didn’t voice it aloud.
He hesitated and then spoke again when I didn’t respond. “I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. It was uncalled for and I’m not going to try to justify it. I said things and did things that scared you and I haven’t been able to get that out of my head.”
I wet my bottom lip, trying not to let my sympathetic side come through. “You really flew off the handle at me.”
“I know, and I’m so sorry.”
Giving a sigh, I rubbed the back of my neck and finally took a step closer. “I suppose you’re not completely to blame here. I…should have spoken up about Alex well before it came out and I didn’t. So…I’m sorry, too.”
He shrugged a shoulder. “You were just trying to spare my feelings.”
“Yeah, but at what expense? I mean, look what happened. I would never have kept it from you had I known things were going to snowball and end up like they did.”
He shook his head and moved from the porch. “Can we just forget about that? Can we start over? As friends?”
I watched him come closer and took an involuntarily step back. “I…don’t know.”
“Morgan, please,” he stopped when I moved back, “just friends, that’s all.”
“Yeah, we were supposed to be just friends all along and look what happened.”
“Well, I know now. You’re with someone and you’re happy,” he hesitated, “besides, I’ve met someone.”
I blinked. “You have?”
“Yeah, in New York. Her name’s Lana and she’s an architect, like myself.”
“Oh,” I couldn’t help the relived and thankful grin that came over my face, “that’s wonderful, Andrew.”
He smiled too. “Yeah, I really like her. She’s so great and we have a lot in common.” Then his face grew serious again. “I just want to be your friend. I really enjoy spending time with you and I don’t want to lose that.”
I sighed, mulling it over in my head. “I…I don’t know.”
His shoulders slumped some, but he gave a nod. “I understand. I’m sorry again, Morgan. I never meant to hurt you or scare you.”
Part of me wanted to console him and the other half wanted to tell him to get off my property. Instead, I settled for somewhere in the middle. “I’ll think about it, okay? It’s not no, but it’s not yes either.”
“Hey, I’ll take maybe.” He smiled again then moved closer and touched my elbow. “Think it over and give me a call if you want to. No pressure.”
I flinched at his touch, but managed not to pull away. “Yeah, sure.”
“Great.” Then he brushed his lips over my cheek in a friendly gesture and headed for the street where his black Lexus was parked. How had I missed that?
I waited until he was gone before heading up to the porch and getting out my key. Could I maintain a friendship with Andrew? Did I want to? He really had freaked me out and angered me with his behavior back in Connecticut, but I was partially to blame as well. And if we did decide to be friends, there wouldn’t be any more misunderstandings or situations like what had arose. Maybe he’d taken these last few weeks and put it behind him like he wanted me to do. Not to mention, he was seeing someone; Lana whatever her last name was. Obviously that meant he had moved on. If I did decide to be friends with him again maybe we could even double date. Of course, that meant I could never tell Alex what had happened upstairs in that bedroom. So maybe it was time to put the past in the past and move ahead to the future. I was doing that with my family, Hugh, my relationship with Alex. Would it be so hard to do it once more?