She knows that’s what I want, and she pointedly ignores me. “Walsh wants to name her Daenerys.”
I blink at Jory. Blink again. A few more times.
She just stares back.
“Wait… from Game of Thrones?” I ask incredulously.
Jorie grimaces in pain. “Yup.”
My chin pulls inward, and I shake my head. “I hope you nixed that.”
She snickers loudly, then leans across the table toward me. “He thinks it will be cute. We can call her Dany. He wants her crib to look like a dragon.”
“Your husband is twisted,” I drawl in disbelief. “What do you want if it’s a girl?”
Now is the time for her to seal our bond as best friends.
I frown. Not Elena? Not even something reasonable.
“From Game of Thrones again?” I ask.
“You are both entirely too weird for me.”
Jorie snickers and I laugh, having had our fun. I truly don’t care what she names the baby as long as he or she is happy and healthy.
After taking a sip of her water, Jorie gestures in a circular motion. “Okay, enough about baby names. Spill it on your stuff. What’s going on?”
I poke my straw up and down in my water, watching the ice cubes bob around. Where to begin? What to tell her without giving away too much?
“You’re stalling,” she presses.
I toss my straw down into the water, meeting her gaze. With a huff, I lean back in my chair and say, “Okay, fine… I’m sort of seeing someone.”
As expected, this gets Jorie’s attention. She shoots straight up in her chair, spine straight and eyes sparkling with interest. “Who?”
I give a wave of my hand. “No one you know.”
That, at least, is the technical truth. She didn’t know Benjamin when she saw him at her birthday party, and I doubt she knows him now.
“But that’s not important,” I continue before she can press me for details I don’t want to give just yet, especially since he’s a friend of Walsh’s. “See here’s the thing… well, he’s sort of piqued my interest.”
Jorie leans forward, resting her elbows on the table and putting her chin in the palm of one hand as she drawls dramatically. “Oh, do tell.”
Her dreamy, hopeful expression has commenced.
“Well, he’s the guy I hooked up with on the fantasy app at The Wicked Horse. Remember?”
She jerks in surprise. “Hot-wax guy?”
“Yeah, and well… we’ve been seeing each other pretty frequently since then. Mostly at the club, but he came out to my house last night.”
This completely gets Jorie’s attention because she knows me well. Her eyebrows shoot straight up. “You let a man come to your house? The notorious ‘I’m only in it for casual sex, and I’m a strong, independent woman who needs no one, hear me roar’ person?”
Shaking my head, I try to explain. “It’s not like that. He doesn’t ask me for anything. He doesn’t pull on me. In fact, I don’t think he needs anything from me, including sex. I mean, he wants it… but I don’t think he needs it. For some reason, that is so liberating.”
The expression on Jorie’s face transforms. It’s like a light bulb went off within her. She’s had an “aha” moment, which is why I decided to tell her a little bit about Benjamin. I knew she would eventually have some advice. “And that’s why you like him. Because he’s not showing any signs of codependency. He’s a little aloof with you, right? Now you’re even more intrigued by the man.”
I nod, knowing she’d understand because she gets me. “But I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. For his true colors to come out. Part of me wonders if he’s pulling me in, making me drop my defenses, then, boom, before I even realize it, he’ll be ensconced on my recliner, eating my food and telling me he lost his job but he’ll find one soon.”
Okay, I’m confident Benjamin would never do that. He’s a neurosurgeon, for Pete’s sake, but still… There are many ways to manipulate a woman other than just monetarily bilking them.
“So what’s the problem?” Jorie asks, the confusion in her tone apparent. “I mean, you know the signs to look for. You know the losers. A lot of it usually has to do with socioeconomic background. The people who go to The Wicked Horse have money. I’m sure this guy you are seeing has money. You know he’s not going to try to use you like that.”
“I know,” I admit. “But it’s not always about money. It’s about the draw on me and the pressure to be responsible for their happiness. With men, that’s sometimes tied up in money and creature comforts. Other times, it extends to emotional manipulation. And yes, while I don’t think this man needs me for that, it doesn’t mean I won’t be preyed upon.”
Jorie leans forward with a serious expression. “You do realize not all men are like that, right? That there are some good men out there? Surely you can’t be that jaded.”