He took Gloria’s elbow and led her to a private corner where they could talk without being overheard. “I’ve been meaning to call,” he said, hearing his lame words for what they were.
“We’ve never played games before,” she said, her voice light and chiding despite the hurt he noticed in her eyes.
He acknowledged the truth with a tilt of his head.
She let out a breath of air before continuing. “I didn’t grow up in Hawken’s Cove but as a waitress, I’ve heard the town gossip over the years. And I know Lilly Dumont’s back home.”
Ty opened his mouth, then shut it again. He wasn’t sure where Gloria was going with the conversation, since he’d never discussed Lilly with her or with anyone for that matter. Not in years. His heart beat rapidly in his chest, not wanting to hurt this woman who’d been good to him, any more than he wanted to continue with their relationship. Since Lilly’s return, he understood there wasn’t room for anybody else in his life, even if she didn’t stay there.
“In fact, I hear Lilly’s living with you. Or she was until the fire.” Gloria reached out and touched his arm. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she said softly. “Even if I do want to throttle you.”
“Gloria, I really am sorry.”
“But you never promised me anything more than what we had. I get it.” But a sad smile lifted her lips. “I’ve been here for a while watching you.”
“I didn’t realize.”
She shook her head. “You wouldn’t have. You were too busy watching her. And I suddenly understood exactly why I could never get through to you.” Looking tired, she leaned to the side, propping one shoulder against the wall. “It was because your heart belonged to someone else.”
He was surprised she could see him so clearly. “You and I had some good times.” The words were lame but true. “I thought we were both looking for the same thing in a relationship.” Which was why the fact that she was hurt surprised him now. He’d genuinely believed they both wanted an easygoing thing that was convenient when it happened to work out.
“That’s the problem with men,” Gloria said with a dull laugh. “You take words at face value. Of course I said it, because that’s what you wanted. But deep down, I was hoping I’d be the one to break through those walls of yours, you know?”
“I guess that’s the problem. I didn’t know,” he said, feeling somewhat betrayed by the lie, even as he understood the reasoning behind it. If she’d admitted what she’d really desired, he’d have walked away fast.
She shrugged. “I wish you well, Ty. I really do.” She turned and walked toward the door.
He’d caught the glimmer of tears in her eyes and so he let her go. There was no reason to call her back. No way he’d give her false hope.
She was right. Lilly owned his heart.
LACEY PASTED a smile on her face and tried to focus on what Molly was saying, something about the great sales at the mall next week. But Lacey couldn’t think beyond today let alone seven days from now. Every time she tried to plan ahead in her mind, anxiety raced through her.
Still, she knew she couldn’t stay away from work much longer. She’d already been in Hawken’s Cove too long.
Long enough to confirm her feelings for Ty and the direct conflict they posed to her established life at home. It wasn’t that she’d denied her feelings for the last few days, but she’d refused to dissect them, wanting to live in the moment. Living for the moment was easier than making difficult choices. Choices that might rip them apart again, this time forever.
Unfortunately, this moment also included Ty deep in conversation with a woman at the far end of the room. Lacey couldn’t tear her gaze away. She’d watched the pretty dark-haired woman make her way to the bar and talk to Ty. He’d mixed her a drink and a second later, he’d come around to where she stood, taken her hand and led her to a secluded corner of the room.
Nausea nearly suffocated Lilly at the sight. But as hard as she’d tried to concentrate on Molly, her gaze kept straying back to them.
“Now I see what has you so distracted,” Molly said, snapping a finger in front of Lacey’s eyes.
“What? Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention,” Lacey admitted. She refocused her attention on Molly, telling herself whatever was going on between Ty and that woman was none of her business.
It was a lie and she knew it.
“You haven’t been paying attention to me for a while.” Molly laughed, her good nature coming through.
“How’d you know?”
“The scowl on your face gave you away. Nobody frowns over a good clothing sale!” Molly laughed but quickly sobered, her stare traveling to the couple in the corner. “You have to realize she’s no competition for you.”
Heat rose to Lacey’s face. “I can’t believe you caught me watching them,” she said, mortified.
“It’s human nature to be curious.” Molly snagged a peanut from a dish on the bar and popped it into her mouth. “But what I said about her not being competition is true. I’ve seen the way Ty looks at you and whew! ” She fanned her face with a small napkin.
Lacey couldn’t deny Ty’s heated looks, but she’d noticed something disturbing—an intimacy—
when she’d watched him with the other woman. “They’ve slept together.”
“And you know this, how?” Molly leveled her with a curious stare.
“Woman’s intuition.” Lacey shivered and folded her arms across her chest.
“Even if you’re right, it’s over now,” Ty said, coming up behind her.
“Caught again.” She covered her face with her hands and groaned.
Molly chuckled. “I think this is where I excuse myself. I see some friends from work. It’s time for me to join them.” She waved and walked away, leaving Lacey to face the music.
“I’m sorry I was spying on you.” She bit the inside of her cheek.
“I’m not. I’d have told you about our talk anyway.” He pulled out the stool Molly had used and seated himself next to Lacey.
She swallowed hard. “But you hadn’t told me yet. In fact, you never mentioned her at all while I told you all about Alex.”
For all that she and Ty had been close, she realized now there were still things they didn’t know about one another. There were still secrets between them.