Page 59 of We Were Once

“Catherine? Chloe?”

I know the voice before visually confirming it. Reflexively, I take hold of Joshua’s hand before looking over my shoulder.

Surprise angles my mom’s face. “Trevor, what are you doing here?” Mom has never liked him.

“Brunch with friends.”

She replies, “I forgot you attended Yale.”

“I do. I didn’t expect to see the lovely little Foxes—”

He reaches down to hug her and then turns to me. “Good to see you, Chloe.”

“You too,” I reply automatically. Twenty years of programming is hard to fix.

The table goes quiet as Trevor seemingly just notices Joshua. “Trevor League.”

“Josh Evans,” my guy replies.

Remaining tableside, Trevor continues staring. “You look familiar. Have we met?” Recognition colors his expression, and he snaps his fingers and points. “Wait. Aren’t you the waiter at that diner downtown?”

“I cook and deliver, too.” I hear a note of pride despite Joshua’s temperament hardening.

“He’s also a student.” I’m quick to add.

Putting his hands in his pockets, Trevor makes himself too comfortable for my liking as he asks, “Oh, yeah. Where?”

My mom replies, “Yale.”

Before Trevor can right his surprise, I bump into Joshua. “He’s an economics major, like you.” The pride I feel for him courses through me as well. “And legacy, like me.”

Trevor’s demeanor shifts like he walked into a secret society with a golden invitation. “Legacy, huh? Why are you working down at that dump if you’re legacy, man?” I cringe, feeling sick for Joshua, as Trevor reaches to shake hands as if somehow being legacy earned Joshua the respect he should have been given from the beginning.

Joshua stands still holding my hand. “That dump is my mother’s restaurant. It’s a landmark in this town that she’s busted her ass to run for the past ten years. I’m a student, like you, but I’m also a proud townie. So tell me again how you really feel.”

I stand. “Joshua—”

“Joshua,” Trevor mimics as if he’s memorizing everything about him down to our bonded hands. “You and Chloe are dating?”

“We’re in love,” I blurt before remembering my mom is sitting across from us.

Trevor’s jaw hardens, and then he turns away. “I have friends waiting inside. It was good seeing you again, Catherine.”

“Ms. Fox.”

And that is why my mom is my she-ro.

With a scowl, he glances at Joshua once more, and then me. “Have a good lunch.” He’s quick to disappear. Good.

Palms smack down on the table, rattling the silverware. “Well, that was a bunch of hooey.” Nailing the levity, my mom starts topping off my glass. “He’s an asshole. No wonder you didn’t date for very long.”

“I’m surprised you would date him at all.” Joshua chuckles, but detecting the lack of lightness to his tone, I know it’s for my mom’s benefit. “So, he was . . . typical?” Joshua asks.

I reply, “Yes, for Newport, but he’s not my type.”

My mom adds, “He’s just like his father when we were Chloe’s age. Arrogant snobs, so full of themselves. Only thing that’s changed is the first name, which reminds me why I left that life behind. I’m even more happy that Chloe has.”

She’s not wrong, but I’m not sure I’d realized how right she is. That’s not who I am anymore, or ever was. And I can see why it’s a good thing I’m leaving. Joshua’s hand is still wrapped around mine when he glances over. “I’m glad she has as well.” Shifting, he says, “I need to head to work. I’ll see you later?”

“Yes. Definitely.” I don’t want him to go. I wish he didn’t have to, especially so soon after Trevor’s departure.

My mom gives Joshua a big hug. Then he kisses me before getting up. “Love you,” he whispers.

He remains bent down as I hold him to me. “I know you’re not asking, but I want you to know. It was two dates, and then we were done.”

His smile warms me over. “Good to know.”

“Love you. Say hi to your mom.”

“I will.” When he smiles, my lungs feel lighter, and I breathe easier. God, I love this man.

My mom and I return to my apartment, though I’m trying to recall the state I left it in. I grab Joshua’s cap from the couch where it had fallen off when we kissed for hours last night. My underwear is scooped from the floor where they came off shortly after. At least the towel is gathered to the side, giving us natural light.

She sets her bag on the coffee table and looks around while I sneak into the bedroom to hide the evidence in the hamper. When I return, she’s looking out the window, but she hears me, and her eyes connect with mine. “Maybe I’m late to figuring this out, but seeing you together and kissing on the sidewalk is not the same impression I had of the relationship. You’re in love with him.” There’s no accusation, only curiosity in her expression. “How long have you been dating?”

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance