“I’m the sexiest thing you’ve ever laid eyes on, but you don’t want me?” I ask with uncertainty because I am beyond confused.
Walsh closes his eyes briefly, taking a deep breath in that flares his nostrils wide. When he releases it, his eyes open to pin me in place. “You are Micah’s little sister and I just can’t.”
“But that’s stupid—”
“It’s not,” he says softly but with absolute surety.
“I don’t get it. You’ll have to do better than that because we are both adults. I need a better explanation, Walsh, because what we did last night… I never—”
“Just don’t,” he snaps again as he spins away. “I don’t need the reminder.”
“Was it bad?” I ask, because that’s the way he’s acting right this moment. Good God, he’s confusing the shit out of me.
Walsh looks over his shoulders at me, shooting me an exasperated look. “That’s about the dumbest question you’ve ever asked me, and trust me… you had some stupid ones growing up.”
I take my own deep breath, trying to calm my nerves and my annoyance. “Okay… please just tell me why me being Micah’s sister should stop us from having a relationship?”
“I don’t do relationships,” he says icily. “Only no-strings fucking.”
“I’m down with that,” I say with a shrug. Truly that’s not really the way I operate as I’m more of a traditional girl, but hey… my husband kicked me out of our house so maybe I need to reevaluate my personal norms.
“God, Jorie,” Walsh says with a pleading voice. “Why can’t you just accept—”
“I’ll accept it if you give me a good reason, Walsh,” I tell him with sincerity. “Just take a few moments and explain it to me. We’re both adults.”
“Fine,” he says as he jerks his head toward a chair that sits adjacent to the couch. I take a seat there as he silently requested. He sits back down on the couch, elbows on his knees as he looks me right in the eye. “Micah is more than my best friend. He’s like a brother to me.”
“I get that,” I say quickly. “Your parents did more raising of him than my dad did.”
Walsh nods. “But that’s not the only reason, Jorie. I watched you grow up. No, I more than watched. I had a hand in helping you to grow up. Every time Micah had to watch you, I was there, too. I watched you learn to crawl and then walk. I watched you get scraped knees, play with dolls, and score soccer goals. Christ, you even made Micah and me have tea parties with you. Then I watched you develop into a beautiful girl who crushed on boys along with Elena. I watched your heart get broken, and I beat two guys who hurt you to bloody pulps. Yes, Micah’s like a brother to me, but Jorie… you’re like a sister, and I just can’t.”
Complete disappointment floods through me as I had not considered this at all. I thought this was a bro thing, which I can argue against all day long. Micah would never begrudge me a relationship with Walsh, assuming Walsh was open to one. He has made me question that, but first…
“When was the first time you had a dirty thought about me?” I ask, changing the conversation to throw him a little off balance.
Never in my life have I seen Walsh embarrassed. First, it would be hard to tell given his olive skin—passed down to him by his Greek mother—but second… Walsh is just one of the most self-possessed people I know. He doesn’t blush.
Except right now, I can see red clearly staining his cheeks.
“When?” I press upon him.
“Doesn’t matter,” he says as he stands abruptly from the couch. “You wanted an explanation and I gave it to you. I need you to accept it and move on from this, Jorie. What happened last night was amazing. You’re amazing and Vince is wrong about you. But it’s not going to be me who helps you along this journey of self-discovery. It can’t be me.”
I don’t stand right away, but merely study him for a moment so I can assess how strongly he believes his own words. Judging by the hard set to his jaw and the concrete determination focused right on me, I’m guessing he believes it deeply.
“Fine,” I say as I stand up and walk toward the elevator. “I just hope it’s not awkward if we run into each other at The Wicked Horse again.”
“It won’t be,” he grits out, the muscle in his cheek jumping again.
Hmm… I thought that little threat might get him to budge, but he’s calling my supposed bluff.
Here’s the thing, though. Walsh hasn’t seen me for a long time. I’ve grown in ways he’d have no idea about. He’s judging me based on an image of a little girl.