Never Too Hot
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“You must be Andrew.”
“Yes. I didn't realize my parents were renting out the cabin. How have you enjoyed being there?”
Strange how different this conversation with Connor's father was from any she'd had with his son. Connor didn't waste words, whereas his father struck her as extremely smooth. And yet, neither of them knew Helen and George had decided to rent out the log cabin. Not the closest family in the world.
“Poplar Cove is wonderful, thank you. And, yes Connor's staying here, but he just went out.”
Somewhere, anywhere to get away from her. Because everything she'd said reminded him of his own pain.
“Could you tell Connor I called? That I'd very much like to speak with him?”
She wondered if she were hearing things that weren't there, the hint of desperation in Andrew's voice. “Of course. I'll tell him.”
After hanging up, she pulled a sticky note off the fridge and wrote, “Your father called,” on it. Quickly deciding he might not find it on the fridge, she headed upstairs with the note and down the hall to his bedroom.
She paused at the threshold, thinking of what had happened in the room not twenty-four hours ago, her body responding with a flood of desire. Of longing.
She wasn't blind to all the reasons not to fall for Connor. She wanted kids and family. He didn't. She was looking for balance. He'd given his whole focus to fire and only fire. But every time she was with him, she couldn't help but see not only how different Connor was from her shallow ex-husband, but how different he was from anyone she'd ever met before.
He was a hero and yet he couldn't forgive himself for not being the man he once was. Everything in her ached to heal his pain. His regret. To pull him into her arms and hold on tight until he could finally let it all go.
As she put the note on his pillow, even as she tried, one more time, to remind herself that she hadn't come to the lake to get involved with an off-limits man, she felt as if she were watching a crash about to happen in her rearview mirror. And there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Because she wasn't sure she wanted to.
GINGER RAN all the next day from back-to-back shifts at the diner, to a private art lesson at the home of one of her favorite students, and finally to the Thursday Night knitting group at Lake Yarns on Main.
Her friends were there already. Rebecca and Sue from the Inn. Kelsey taking a few hours away from her little girl. A couple of mothers she was on the school art board with, one of whom was complaining about being pregnant for the fourth time.
“I actually cried when I found out,” the woman confessed. “Here I thought I was out of diapers, that they were all going to be in school during the day, and bam! Those dreams all went up in smoke.”
Ginger was glad everyone else was talking at once, alternately consoling and congratulating the woman, because she simply couldn't speak around the bitter lump in her throat.
God, it shouldn't sting so much to watch someone else get everything she wanted. Not just one child, but four.
But any way she tried to reframe it, it still stung like crazy.
Once the wine had been poured, the brownies passed around, and they'd all finally pulled out their various works in progress, Rebecca turned to her on the small couch the two of them were sharing with Kelsey.
“Did you do something with your hair, Ginger? You look different.”
It was funny, when she'd looked in the mirror that morning, she'd done a double take herself. She fumbled her needles, one of them clacking to the floor.
“No. Everything's just the same as always.”
Only it wasn't. Not at all.
Kelsey glanced up from the scarf she was working on, a knowing sparkle in her eyes. “Really? Exactly the same?
Even with Connor staying with you?”
Ginger couldn't control the flush that hit her smack in the middle of her cheeks. “How do you know about Connor?”
“He picked up one of Tim's cars.”
“And I met him at the Inn,” Rebecca added.
Ginger had a crazy urge to stick each of her friends with a needle.
“Stu was going to give him the couch in his room until the bride from hell left, but-”
Kelsey finished her sentence, “I guess he got a better offer.”
“He didn't tell me about Stu's couch,” Ginger said. “He made it sound like he was going to have to go all the way to Piseco.”
Rebecca's grin grew bigger. “Can't blame a guy for stretching the truth a bit.”
“Not when he looks like that, anyway,” Kelsey joked.
This time, Ginger couldn't resist a jab in each of their arms.
“Ow!” they chorused.
“You're testy,” Rebecca said. “Something's definitely up.”
Thirty-three years of feeling one thing and saying another had her on the verge of holding her friends at bay again with a Really. Nothing's up, nothing at all.
But this wasn't her old life, these weren't her old friends where everything was supposed to stay on the surface. These were women that she'd bonded with over too many margaritas in a party boat. They'd shed tears together over their past mistakes, which was how she knew Rebecca's past hadn't exactly been rosy either.
Her friends wouldn't judge her. And maybe, if she talked through what she was feeling with them, they could help her get her head back on straight.
Still, she didn't want everyone else in the yarn shop to know her business, so she lowered her voice and kept her head down over a half-finished sweater.
“You're right. Something has changed.”
She'd been thinking all day about this, yet it was still hard to figure out how to put it into words. “All my life I've done the safest thing, followed everyone else's rules. The only impulsive thing I've ever done was marry Jeremy, but that was just a weird blip on the radar screen, something I think I did more to piss off my parents, to show them I could make my own decisions. And then it was ten more years of safe. Of boring.”
“Safe doesn't always work out, does it?” Rebecca murmured, her fingers flying over wool and wood tips as she asked the question.
“No,” Ginger said. “It's never gotten me anywhere. The best thing I ever did was chucking it all in and coming here.”