My husband once had to call a woman who had been flirting with him and ask her to stop. He made the call in the presence of his supervisor. Now that’s a man worth keeping.
Cami jogged until Petey saw the figure on the towel. He skidded to a stop in the sand. The hair on his back rose and he growled hoarsely, from deep in his throat. She tugged on the leash but he refused to follow.
“What’s wrong with you?” She looked ahead at the person on her towel. “Petey, it’s Paige. Come on.” The dog seemed focused on someone else, someone farther down the shore. She pulled again and the dog capitulated. Paige stood as they approached. The other person turned and jogged away. Petey must have gotten confused.
“I thought this was your stuff. I recognized your car in the parking lot.”
“What are you doing here?” Cami asked.
“Lunch meeting at the café. What’s your excuse? Isn’t Grant’s surgery today?”
“Yes.” Cami paused, but decided not to elaborate.
“Why aren’t you at the hospital?”
“His mom is there. She called me after the surgery. I’ll go see him tonight.”
“Non-responsive. The question was why are you here, and not there?”
“Honestly, Paige. You make it very difficult to …”
“To what? Lie?”
Paige laughed. “What are you trying to evade?”
“Nothing. At least I hope it’s nothing.” She sat down so she wouldn’t have to meet Paige’s eyes. “When I got to the hospital, Delia had beaten me there. And I really didn’t want to share a waiting room with her.”
“I don’t want to share a planet with her, much less a small, confined place. What did Grant have to say?”
“I didn’t wait to find out. I picked up Petey and came here. I’ve been thinking, praying, and writing in my journal.”
“What are you thinking about?” Paige sat next to her, brushing sand off her calves.
“What God is doing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t had a relationship with any man except my dad and brother in years. Then God brings this great guy into my life and I don’t know what to do. Or think. I really care for Grant, but we’re both carrying some burdens. I’ve got the past, he’s got the present.”
“Have you talked to him about it?”
“A little. He blows it off, says we’ll work it out.”
“Here is a great guy who is wild about you and willing to do what it takes to be a part of your life and you’re not sure? Do you realize how crazy you sound?”
“I know. I do, really. But…What if…” She dragged a finger through the sand, drawing a circle inside a circle inside another circle.
“What if what?”
“What if God brought him into my life to wake me up? And I’m misreading it to be something more?”
“That might be true if Grant wasn’t interested in a relationship, but he is. I think it’s clear that God is behind this whole thing.”
“Okay, that’s another thing. God. Grant isn’t a Christian. Or at least not one who’s interested in growing in his faith. And I would never counsel a friend to get involved with someone who wasn’t on the same spiritual plane.”
“That’s the first valid point you’ve raised.”
“And what do you think?”
“Me? What do I know? I haven’t had a date since I took my nephew to see the last Winnie-the-Pooh movie. Sorry, girlfriend. You’re on your own with that one.” Paige got to her feet and picked up her leather satchel. “I’ve got to get to the cafe. Call me later and let me know how Grant’s doing, okay?”
Cami waved good-bye and moved to her beach chair. Petey remained standing and watched Paige walk to the parking lot. His tail slowed its wagging until it was a gentle sway.
Cami put the journal and pen back into her bag and pulled out the latest Dee Henderson thriller. She stretched in the sun. Petey flopped beside her and began snoring in two minutes flat.
Cami pulled into Grant’s driveway for the second time that day. She’d spent most of the afternoon at the beach, returning home for a quick shower and to change into shorts and a peasant top. Peg had called saying Grant was eager to see her, so she’d agreed to come by after dinner.
She rang the bell and heard footsteps approaching.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Peg said as she opened the door. “He’s been asking for you.”
“How’s he feeling?”
“Not too bad. Better living through pharmaceuticals, you know.” Peg closed the door and they moved into the great room. Grant was in the recliner with a sling around his shoulder.
“If you’re okay, I’m going home,” Peg said to her son. “I’ll be back in the morning.”
She let herself out as Cami sat on the overstuffed couch. “Are you in much pain?”
“It’s secondary to what’s really bugging me.”
“I hear you came to the hospital and let Delia run you off.”
“She was the last person I expected to see and it totally threw me.”
“You thought I wanted her there?”
“The thought crossed my mind. A part of me knew better, but I still reacted by running.”
He winced as he shifted in the chair to face her. “Cami, what will it take for me to convince you that it’s you I care about? Not Delia.”
“I don’t know. I felt stupid letting her get to me, but I couldn’t sit there with her smirking, thinking she had outsmarted me in some contest for your affection.”
“I may be a lot of things, but I’m no trophy.” He reached out to Cami where she sat and took her hand in his. “And I hate that Delia has made me into some prize that she’s competing for.”
She traced a finger around his knuckles. “I’m pretty sure she could kick my fanny in almost any contest of womanly wiles. I don’t know how to dress like her, or move like her, or -”
“If I wanted someone like that, I’d be dating Delia. Part of what I like about you is that you’re different.”
“Can I ask how she ended up at the hospital? She said she drove you there.” Cami looked up, meeting his gaze.
“That’s an exaggeration. She did come here this morning with a limo. She claimed the team had asked her to escort me.”
“She changed her story when an assistant coach with the real limo arrived right behind her. I rode with them, but she must have tagged along.” He leaned back, releasing her hand.
“I should have realized it was something like that. I guess I don’t think that manipulatively. Can you forgive me for running?”
“Miss Henderson is asking my forgiveness?”
“Don’t push it, or she’ll change her mind.” She settled back on the couch, jiggling her legs loose from the sticky leather.
“Of course I do. But you should know me better than that. In fact, that’s the only thing that really concerns me. I thought you trusted me, but a part of you believed Delia.”
So he had seen it. The truth she’d barely acknowledged to herself. “I’m sorry.”
“I’ll have to keep working on that – getting you to trust me.”
“How are you feeling? What did the doctor say?” Maybe a change of subject would help her pounding heart to slow.
“I’m trying to take only enough drugs to keep the pain dulled. I have an appointment with a physical therapist tomorrow.”
“Yep. I need to get back to work as quickly as possible. They’ve called in a rookie from our farm team in Fresno. He’s good. Too good, so I’ve got to heal before he takes my job. And I know what you’re doing.”
“What?” She feigned an innocent tone.
“You’re changing the subject so I’ll forget we were talking about you trusting me.”
She flushed. “You’re good.”
“I am the Slugger. Now, please hand me the phone and the directory under it.”
She complied. He tried to juggle both, but ended up handing the phone back to her while he looked up a number. He mumbled it to himself as he dialed and took possession of the receiver again. She could hear the soft ring as the connection was made, then a woman’s voice answered.
“Delia. It’s Grant.”
If Petey were there, his ears would have pricked up. Cami’s ears couldn’t swivel like a dog’s, but they did go on full alert. She could hear the pleased tone of Delia’s voice, but Grant interrupted her.
“I called to tell you that I’m seeing someone and I want you to respect that.” Cami heard silence, then the voice continued with a different timbre to it. Grant spoke into the receiver while looking into Cami’s eyes. She tried to look away, but couldn’t. His gaze held hers like iron filings on a magnet.
“I’m not interested.” His manner was firm. More silence, then a click. Grant placed the receiver in its cradle. “I don’t know what else to do, except spell it out. And hope she understands plain speaking, because she sure wasn’t picking up any of my hints.” Grant took her hand once more. “I hope you will never feel threatened again by Delia or anyone else.”
Her grip tightened. “I won’t.”