“That might result in some painful burns, so I don’t recommend it,” I say, and my mood improves tenfold at the sound of her giggle. “And anyway, there’ll be plenty of leftovers.”
“Save me half the pan!” She grins. She looks just like her father when she smiles like that. The reminder of him used to make me sad, but I’ve long made peace with the fact that my daughter spent the first ten years of her life in a one-parent household.
“Of course,” I promise, returning her smile. “How was school?”
“Good, but I just want it to be spring break already.” She wriggles with excited energy.
“Just a few more days.” I do my best to sound cheerful, but it’s hard. She’s spending her spring break and her birthday at Disney with her dad, and I’m dreading an entire week without her. “How’d your math test go?”
“It was easy, but Kellan got caught cheating off Mia and had to sit in the principal’s office until his parents came to have a talk about it.”
I wrap my arm around her shoulders, and we head to the front door. We carpool to dance classes, and it’s my week off. “That’s why it’s never a good idea to cheat.”
“He’s dumb, though, Mom.”
“Don’t say that. Everyone has something they struggle with in school, Miss Smarty Pants. Just because you haven’t found yours yet doesn’t mean you won’t.”
“No, I mean he’s dumb because he cheated off Mia, who’s doing independent math and doesn’t even take the same tests. He said he did it because he likes her. How does that even make sense? Why do people get stupid when they fall in love?”
Good question, sweetie. “He’s ten. He’s more likely infatuated than in love.”
She shrugs. “Whatever. He’s still dumb.”
“Can I walk you down tonight?”
She tenses. “We agreed that you wouldn’t! No one’s mom walks them to carpool anymore. We’re not six.”
I want to push, but I know what it’s like to be a kid hungry for some freedom. I promised myself the day she was born that I wouldn’t be like my parents. I kiss her forehead. “Have fun at dance. I’ll see you when you get home.”
“Bye, Cami!” Julian calls from the kitchen.
“Bye!” she shouts over a shoulder. “See ya, Mom.” She opens the door and bounds down the hallway toward the stairs.
“I love you,” I call after her.
“Love you too!” she shouts, and throws me a kiss.
I toss one back at her and go to the window to look down at the street, where her friend’s mom waits in their red minivan. I watch until Cami pushes out onto the sidewalk and climbs in.
“Finally alone,” Julian says as he comes to join me in the living room. He wraps his arms around me from behind and trails kisses up and down my neck. “I’ve been thinking about you all day.”
I stiffen and then force myself to relax. This is my future husband. “It smells great. I might cheat and have just a small bite.”
He hums against my neck. “It needs another forty minutes in the oven.” He gathers my skirt in one hand and strokes my hip with the other, tracing the edge of my underwear. “Care to pass the time with me in the bedroom?”
I squeeze my eyes shut, but all I can see is Marston looking at me with those hot eyes when I sucked the latte foam from my finger. “Are you trying to turn me on because you want me to fuck you against that desk or because you want to torture me?”
I shiver at the memory, and Julian shifts his hips and grinds his erection against my back, no doubt thinking my reaction was for him. “Julian, I can’t,” I whisper. “My mind’s a mess right now.”
“Just relax. This is exactly what we need.” He cups me between my legs, and I jerk forward out of his grasp.
“Stop.” I spin around to see him backing away from me, hands in his hair. “I’m sorry,” I blurt, but I instantly want to take the words back. I don’t need to apologize just because I’m not interested in sex right now. Swallowing, I offer an apology I won’t resent later. “I’m sorry about how I handled that, but I’m not in the mood. It’s been a long day, and I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
He sinks onto the couch, rests his elbows on his knees, and looks up at me with narrowed eyes. “Is that really it? A long day, or you’re thinking about him?”
“What if I am?” I press my hand against my stomach, where I’m pretty sure the nerves and stress of the last twenty-four hours have burned a hole. “What if I’m sick to my stomach because I married someone and can’t even remember it? What if my fear and embarrassment over my future—our future—has made sex the last thing on my mind?”