“Veal. That’s what I usually have.”
“But…isn’t veal baby cows?” My brows draw together.
“Jesus, I’m not eating baby cows!” I screw up my face in disgust. “I’ll have the steak instead.”
Carrick sputters out a laugh. “You won’t eat baby cows, but you’ll eat adult cows? Where’s the logic, babe?”
“They’re babies!” I gesticulate. “It’s just wrong!”
“But it’s okay to eat the mammy cows?”
Fuck. He’s got me there.
“Fine. I’ll have the crayfish.”
“But what if that’s a baby crayfish?”
Carrick’s eyes are filled with mirth. Even Owen is choking back a laugh.
I narrow my eyes at Carrick, and then my gaze goes back to the menu, quickly scanning. “I’ll have the spinach ravioli.” I slap my menu shut, jutting out my lip.
“Aw, babe, I’m just teasing. Have the steak.”
“No, I’m oddly off it now.”
“Don’t sulk.” He tugs on my pouting lips with his thumb and finger.
As if I could stay mad at him.
“I’m not sulking. Promise.” I smile easily. “I’m good with the ravioli.”
He smiles back at me with such warmth that I feel it coat my skin like the sun is shining on me. He hangs his arm around the back of my chair.
As I turn my face forward, I see Owen watching us with obvious interest.
It makes me wonder if Carrick is always this affectionate with women in front of his dad. Owen doesn’t seem surprised by it, so maybe Carrick is.
Then, I have the thought of whether he was like this with Sienna, and I suddenly feel ill.
I’m glad when my glass of wine appears in front of me. I take a deep gulp.
“Are you ready to order?” the waitress asks.
Carrick slides me a grin. “Yeah, we are.”
We place our orders and settle back into a comfortable conversation.
Owen asks me about my family, but I artfully dodge any conversation about my dad with Carrick’s help. Then, Owen asks me about my time in stock car racing. He seems genuinely interested.
And I’m feeling relaxed. Maybe that was the point. Relax the prey and then swoop in for the kill when it’s least expected.
“I’m just gonna go to the restroom,” Carrick says to me, a wicked gleam in his eye.
If he thinks I’m leaving this table to join him, he’s got another thing coming.
Not that I’m adverse to public restroom sex with Carrick. I’m just adverse to it while we’re out to dinner with his dad.
“Okay.” I give him a sweet smile. “Don’t be long.”
He playfully narrows his eyes, and then he surprises me by taking my chin in his hand and kissing me softly on the lips.
“Back in a few.”
I watch him go, the feel of his kiss still lingering on my lips. Then, I turn back to the table.
Owen is watching me. And something in his expression has changed. He looks harder now. And it leaves a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“He likes you. A lot.”
“I’m glad. I like him a lot, too.” I smile, but it feels forced.
Owen sits forward, elbows on the table. “Did you know that Carrick’s mother left when he was only a young’un?”
“Yes, he told me.”
He seems surprised at that.
“Well, because of her leaving, he doesn’t trust people easily. He doesn’t let them close. Especially women. Hence, the way he’s lived his life, jumping from one woman to the next. Until you. For some reason, you’re different. He trusts you. He’s let you in. And I’d be glad for that—relieved, to be honest—because all I want for him is for him to be settled with a good woman. And you are lovely, Andi. You’re not like your average girl. You’re smart and beautiful, but…”
And there it is. The but that I knew was coming.
“I see it in you, what was in my ex-wife. You have the exact same look in your eyes that she always had—the look of flight. Hers was because she thought there was more out of life to be had than she would get with Carrick and me. She was always looking for bigger and better things, running toward what she thought that was. But you…” He shakes his head, his eyes assessing me. “You look to me more like you’re running from something rather than toward it.”
I feel winded. He can see right through me, and in this moment, I feel the most vulnerable than I ever have.
He lifts a hand stopping me. “I reckon I know what you’re gonna say, and you don’t need to. All I’m asking of you is, if you don’t think you can make it for the long haul with Carrick, then leave him now. Break his heart while he can still recover from it and not years down the line when it’s too late, and he’ll never recover.”
I feel like he just punched me in the chest. I’m fighting for air.
And what do I say?
That he’s right. That I know each time watching Carrick race, my fear is growing exponentially. That one day soon, it’s going to explode and take control of me, and I’ll run from him.
That I wake up each morning, looking at Carrick’s face, knowing how weak I am. Knowing that, one day, I’ll hurt him, and I won’t be able to stop myself from doing it.
That I know I’m not good enough for Carrick, and I never will be.