I came so close to telling her the truth, getting right up the edge, my seed demanding it after I learned that she does want kids.
But then I talked about her future partner, a way to hide my desire for it to be me.
When she asked me if I knew what love was now, I almost told her yes.
It’s us. It’s the relationship we’re building together.
Danni’s got her hands on her stomach again as if she can sense the future we’re going to build together.
I didn’t plan on telling her about Christine. But she needs to know that I’ve never had a great romance in my life, never had this feeling that consumes me every second.
It’s all for her, my Danni.
She turns at Jasper’s insistent whine, smiling as she reaches over and strokes him.
“Are you excited to meet your new friend?” she asks.
I smile, but she doesn’t see, her attention focused on the Corgi.
Then I take out the paperwork from the glovebox, reviewing it one more time.
Jasper’s able to have a playdate without risk since he’s fully vaccinated. We have the paperwork from the vet the breeder used…it seemed he only went through the process with the ‘sellable’ dogs, which is why we have to be careful with Shelby around other dogs.
He’s still in his inoculation period.
It isn’t just the paperwork, though, since that can be faked.
I visited the vet myself, interviewed several of them, and learned for a fact Jasper is safe.
“Is it weird that I’m a little nervous?” Danni says, turning to me.
“It will be fine,” I tell her. “I’ve already done the inspection. Our job is to wait and see if the dogs get along. Or that they don’t take an immediate dislike to each other, at least.”
“Still….” Her hands spread across her stomach again, flooding me with possessive thoughts. “My first home visit.”
I don’t want to tell her this, but I know it could come up, and it’ll only make her feel more awkward if she’s blindsided.
Her expression drops, telling me my tone must be darker than I realized.
“What’s wrong? What is it?”
I reach over, taking her hands, aware I should be more careful. All it would take is one of Elizabeth’s other friends walking by, spotting us and reporting back to my daughter.
And then everything shatters.
But as I felt the warmth of her hands, I knew I had to do this, to offer her some support.
“The woman, Matilda, she made a pass at me the last time I was here.”
Danni’s hands tighten on mine, nails jabbing into me.
“I told her no. And I meant it. I’ve got no interest in her. None at all.”
“To get her to back off, I told her I had a girlfriend. And I told her my girlfriend’s name was Danni.”
Her hand gets even tighter, her eyes snapping wide open. It’s like a thousand emotions are fighting for her expression, her lips trying to smile and frown simultaneously.
“Why?” she whispers.
“Because you’re the only person I can imagine being my girlfriend,” I say fiercely, without letting myself think about it. “I didn’t plan it. It just came out.”
“You can imagine us being boyfriend and girlfriend?”
I lean close. As I do, time seems to slow, giving me long seconds to think about Elizabeth, about how unfeasible this is.
“Is that so surprising?” I say. “I’m quickly getting obsessed with you.”
I added the getting-obsessed part so she doesn’t think I’m coming on too strong. But I’ve been obsessed since yesterday morning when she wandered into the living room.
I answer her with a kiss. We lose ourselves in it, which is so achingly easy to do. She moans, and that’s when I have to move away to force myself to stop.
We’re in public.
Jasper’s whining eagerly from the back seat.
“I didn’t want her to surprise you with it. She probably won’t bring it up. She seemed pretty embarrassed by the whole thing.”
“That’s okay.” Her smile has returned. “I can pretend to be your girlfriend. For a little bit.”
I would tell her she is my girlfriend – and so much more – if it wasn’t for the specter of Elizabeth hovering over us.
“Shall we head in?” I ask.
Danni nods. “Sounds good. I’ll grab Jasper.”
I climb from the car, waiting as Danni attaches the leash to his harness. Jasper must be able to smell the dog inside the house because he begins pulling excitedly.
“Easy, boy,” Danni says, giving him a little tug.
Jasper slows down a touch, but his bubbling enthusiasm doesn’t fade.
When we’re at the door, Danni suddenly reaches over, taking my hand.
I look down at it, feeling her pressure, her warmth, and I can’t help but smile. Widely, like I never have before.
This is what it would feel like to be together, not to have to worry.
“Is this too much?” she asks, and then the door opens.
Matilda is wearing a short dress again, looking like she’s visited the tanning salon since yesterday.