“You are! You totally are. I can see it. And pfft you. You were just lying to me about not having experience dating.”
“Any current experience.”
“Whatever’s going on between you and Nate is current. You’re a liar.”
She was right.
I sighed and then told her everything. Almost everything. I kept back the part where he got mad at his friend last night.
She looked like she was having a hard time breathing.
I raised an eyebrow. “You okay?”
“I know I shouldn’t, but I’m imagining having sex with that man, and I’m about to come right here.”
She started laughing, half falling out of her chair.
I couldn’t fight my own grin.
Then she sobered and straightened back in her chair. “You need to listen to what I’m about to say to you and understand that it’s coming from someone who loves you. Go with him.”
“You said you’re worried he’ll want to take Nova to Boston. If he does, go. Seriously. Get away from here. Get a new start, a fresh start. Get away from your dad. If you’re here, you’re going to always feel him over you.”
“But my mom and Graham…”
“They’re here, and they love you, but I know you. You’re almost glowing, and that has to do with Nova and Nate. Stick with what’s making you happy. You can dance there if you want to keep dancing.”
“There’ll be people there who can help.” Her mouth curved down. “I will miss you, but you can visit. You can fly back, see me, see your mom, Graham, whoever. See Calihan if she pulls the stick out of her ass.”
I’d never considered the thought of going with him if that’s what he wanted.
“Nate hasn’t said anything. I might be creating a problem that’s not even there.”
“I’d say it’s there. He’s seriously close to his friends, and they’re there. He’s only here because of Nova. He can work from everywhere, right? He invests in companies? That’s what he does.”
I nodded. “Yeah. He does really well.”
“What about his family?”
“He doesn’t seem close to his parents, but he is to his sister.”
She set aside her coffee and leaned over the table, taking my hands. She linked our fingers, and she gave me a solemn look. “Just promise me that you’ll consider it. I like the happy look you have going, and I want you to keep it.”
My throat closed up with emotion suddenly, but I swallowed it away and nodded. “I will.” I squeezed her hands. “You’re a good friend.”
She snorted. “I’m the best kind of friend there is. I get to regale you with stories of my online dating adventures, and you get to tell me what it’s like falling in love with someone like Nate Monson.”
Her words were teasing.
I didn’t think she meant them.
But I stiffened at hearing them because she was right.
I knew I’d been falling for him, but it was done and complete.
I was in love with Nate Monson.
Logan and Taylor headed back to Boston, and Quincey had been quiet through the rest of the week. She was quiet normally, but it felt like more. Dinner with Nova was a bit more subdued, and even bath times, she was there. She was active. She was tickling and making Nova laugh. She was holding her when Nova wanted to be held. She was doing everything right, but… it was like she was pulling inside herself.
I didn’t like it.
I hated it, actually.
I tried to draw her out in bed, and it worked. She’d come alive in my arms, but once I shifted out of bed, she was withdrawing. She was a shell of herself.
I had no idea how to stop it.
I brought it up in conversation, and at first, it sparked her back to me, but that waned after a few days. Her mother and stepfather came over for visits. They reached out this week more as well, wanting to see Nova. I waited, but Quincey was the same with them. I was toying with the idea of having Graham stop by for a surprise visit, but I didn’t want that to backfire on me.
I worried it was dancing, but she was the same on her rest day, too.
Her premiere was coming up, so maybe it was that?
God. I was hoping it was because I was wracking my brain, and I had no clue what it could be. The more she pulled away, the more I became fixated on keeping her here with me.
I was at a loss, so I was on the phone with my sister.
“I don’t know what to do.”
I ran it down for her already.
She was quiet for a moment, a long moment. “You’re sleeping together?”
“Yeah.” I explained that.
“And you had the talk about where you guys were as being together together?”
I frowned. I hadn’t explained that. “Err, no.”
She expelled a snort. “You gotta talk to her.”
“I did. I tried.”
“Aspen, you don’t get it. She’s not—”
“She’s female. Sometimes, you have to try more than once.”
Why was I fighting my sister on this?
“Try. Again.” She sounded exasperated. Then “Hey!”
A rustling sound.
I gritted my teeth, hearing my brother-in-law on the phone. Not because I was hearing Blaise, but because he’d taken to using my full name, and I wasn’t a fan of my full name.
He grunted. “I’ll accept that.”
“Blaise!” From Aspen. She wasn’t amused.
His voice sounded from afar. I was guessing he turned away. “I’m a dude. You are not, and thank God you aren’t, but let me explain it to him real simple. Nate.” His voice was clearer. “Chicks want groveling. They want to be princesses. It’s not their fault. They were taught to want that before they’re out of the womb, man. You need to pamper her, and I’m not talking wining and dining. I’m talking you make them feel loved and cherished and respected. They’ve got like a Mason jar of feelings, and depending on your chick, it could be clear, or it could be all muddied up. I’m betting yours is muddied up from what Aspen’s shared with me, so you’re the rag. You gotta get in there and wipe that jar clean. Make it sparkle and shine and all that jazz, and when it is, typically, your chick will love you forever. You want her to love you forever?”