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Of course, since she hadn’t heard from him in two days, maybe her time with him had already ended. There was no way to know and that was making her a little nuts even though she knew it shouldn’t.

Jillian thought about that night with Jesse and everything she’d said to him. And how much it had cost to squeeze the words out past the knot in her throat. She’d told him it would be better if they both simply forgot that night, while her mind had been screaming at her that she would never forget. What she’d found in his arms was something she’d never thought to have. Knowing it wasn’t hers to keep had torn at her even as she pretended to be untouched by it all.

She didn’t want to love him, so she wouldn’t allow herself to even consider the word. Hadn’t she learned the hard way that men didn’t stay? That love was something you found in a book but only rarely in life? Jillian had Mac to think about now and that was where she would put her focus—and not on the man who touched her heart, her soul, her mind.

Chewing at her bottom lip, Jillian reminded herself that she hadn’t contacted Jesse in the last two days, either. Maybe she should have rather than wait for him. Was it cowardly to stand back and say nothing? But pride had to come into this at some point, right? Why should she be the one to go see him? To call him? He could have come to her. Talked to her. But he hadn’t. And that meant what?

“So what do you think?”

“I think he could have called,” Jillian grumbled. “Or said something.”

Lucy’s eyebrows shot up. “Well, blurted truths are always so interesting. But what I meant was, what do you think of the shop?”

Oh, God. Rolling her eyes, Jillian said, “Sure. I knew that.” She looked around the interior of the shop and smiled. It was clean and had enough room for a few tables and chairs. There was a gleaming glass display case, an old-fashioned cash register and through the swinging door, she assumed, the kitchen. She walked around behind the counter, just to get a feel for the place.

Standing there, she could look out at Main Street and watch people hurrying down the sidewalks. In a few weeks, those people would be coming in here. To her shop. She took a breath and tried to focus on the moment.

“I think it’s perfect,” she said, more to herself really than Lucy. “Of course, I’ll want to paint, make it sort of cheery, and I need to get some tables and chairs for the front here. Maybe tiny bistro size?”

“Okay, let’s have it.”

She looked at Lucy. “Have what?”

“Please.” Lucy snickered. “The kids aren’t here. Jesse’s not here. So talk.”

She didn’t want to talk. If she started, she might not stop and the truth was, what could she say? That Jesse and she had had a few hours together that had completely shaken her to her bones and now it was over? How sad was that?

“Nothing to say, Lucy. Honestly.”

Her friend just watched her. Seconds ticked past. Lucy continued to stare, never saying a word. And Jillian couldn’t take it.

“Fine. Stop the torture.” She sighed and admitted, “I just haven’t seen Jesse in a couple of days and I thought he could have called or something and that sounds so junior high I’m embarrassed.”

“He’s in Houston.”

“What?” Jillian stared at Lucy.

“Jesse had to drive a horse back to its owner. Most of our guys were out checking the herd and Carlos can’t go because his wife is about to go into labor.” Lucy shrugged. “So Jesse’s been gone. I thought you knew.”

“No,” she mused, running her hand over the sparklingly clean white-and-gray marble counter. “He didn’t tell me.” But then why would he?

The more she thought about it, the more Jillian realized that Jesse was talking to her in his way. By not contacting her, he was sending a message. There was no real connection between them. What they had was attraction and some really great sex, but beyond that, they owed each other nothing.

“That’s fine. That’s good, really. Better.” Jillian heard herself babbling and couldn’t stop. “I mean, we’re not a couple or anything. He doesn’t have to check in with me and I don’t have to call him or anything to report on the shop. Business partners. That’s us. That’s it. And I’m fine with this.”

When she finally ran out of steam, the silence in the shop was overpowering. Shooting a look at Lucy, she asked, “You don’t believe me, do you?”


“I’m not making any sense here, am I?”


“So I’m an idiot.”

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