“Can you blame me?” I said. “My daycare center is fabulous. It breaks my heart to think of everything we could lose.”
“So, ribs?” he changed the subject quickly. “Which sides do I want?”
“Potato salad, slaw, and the fried peaches. Trust me.”
“I will,” he said. We placed our order, and I went over to the bar to say hi to Sarah Jo.
“How’s my favorite baby girl?” I said.
“Teething. Only at night. Kill me,” Sarah Jo said, but she was grinning. “Looks like you’re hanging out with the corporate spy after all. Was he worth all the angst?”
“The jury’s still out on that,” I hedged.
“You seem pretty sparkly and happy for someone who hasn’t made up her mind. Look, if you like him, we’ll like him. I promise.”
“I thought if I brought him here for the ribs he might fall in love with the place and keep the plant open.”
“That is a stupid plan, Mags, but considering how he’s looking at you right now, you may have convinced him to fall in love with something around here,” she teased.
“No way. He’s not wired like that. Total city boy, travels for work, no interest in settling down with the kick-ass chick who runs a daycare,” I protested.
“You seem awfully sure about that. For a woman who’s trying to woo him with ribs.”
“I’m trying to win him over so he’ll—”
“Like his dinner so much he decides to lose his job for falsifying reports? Get real, Maggie. You know how this is going to turn out. We all do. You’re here with him because you want to be, and that’s okay. Just let yourself enjoy it despite the factory situation,” Sarah Jo said.
“Sometimes your no-nonsense attitude is a pain in the ass,” I grumbled.
“Yeah, whatever. Love you,” she said and went back to the kitchen to help out.
I slid back into the booth and met Jeremiah’s eyes. He put down his phone and smiled at me.
“How is everyone?”
“Baby’s teething. Sarah Jo had some dire predictions for me.”
“You’ll close down the plant, and I should know that by now. That I was wasting my time trying to convince you to love this town,” I blurted out.
“I don’t consider what we have to be a waste of time. She’s entitled to her opinion, but if she’s going to make you feel badly—”
“Don’t. She’s my best friend and she’s right. I should have quit after the potluck.”
“Then you wouldn’t have had mind-altering sex with me or petted the baby goats at that farm,” he said.
“Don’t be funny. It just makes things worse,” I said miserably. “I’m smarter than this usually. I run my own business, very successfully I might add. So why did I have a blind spot when it came to you?”
“Probably the same reason I have one when it comes to you. Chemistry.”
“Yeah. Chemistry. That must be it,” I said ruefully.
Jeremiah looked so at home here. Leaned back in the booth, longneck in his hand, shirt open at the collar. Okay, so he looked like an expensive and much hotter than average person acting at home here in town. I could not let myself imagine that he’d consider staying even for a moment. But the temptation was so strong it made my teeth hurt from gritting them. He wouldn’t move here, wouldn’t stay because of me. I wasn’t about to swallow my pride and ask. I was an independent woman, and I didn’t beg unless an immediate orgasm was involved. The potential for future orgasms didn’t count, not as a long-range plan and not as a reason to ask him for anything.
“The ribs are great, like you said.”
“Great? They’re phenomenal. You are damning with faint praise,” I said.
“Says the woman who hasn’t even tasted her dinner,” he pointed out.
“I had things on my mind. And I like to anticipate things.”
“I’ll keep that in mind later, spend lots of time on the build-up for you,” he said.
Just like that all the breath whooshed out of my stupid lungs. All I could think about was a slow, sensual, endless night between the sheets with Jeremiah Leeds.
Defiantly I swallowed hard and tried to eat my ribs. They seemed tasteless compared to the rich fantasy unspooling in my mind. I drank my Diet Coke and tried not to make crazy eyes at him and scare him while he ate. But I knew damn well where this was headed, and he’d better not be thinking about ordering dessert.
“I’m not that hungry,” I said, clearing my throat.
“I thought you looked forward to this because you missed last month. You had to cover the late hours at the Fun Factory and Cooper got Fifths Disease which is really contagious—”
“You listen, that’s for sure. So hear this. There’s something I want more than the once a month ribs from paradise at Cecil’s.”
“Please say it’s me and not more farm animals,” he said.