We walked into Darcy’s, and I was quickly reminded why I’d never taken a woman I was serious about to this place—the ghosts of one-night stands and ex-girlfriends seemed to lurk in every shadow.
“Right this way, Dr. Brandt. It’s good to see you again.” The hostess smiled at me, her bronze eyes peering into my soul. She probably remembered me from the last time I was dumb enough to take a woman home from this place.
I snatched Jessa’s hand protectively into mine and kept her close. I don’t know why I was feeling nervous. Who gave a shit if an ex showed up? It would suck, but not enough to park that concern in my head when I had this beautiful woman walking by my side.
We were seated, and I ordered us a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet, one of the finest wines from Napa Valley. Of course, I had to keep my game smooth, and my woman impressed, so what came out of my mouth after I ordered the wine I never expected.
“So, when will you stop acting like Bella from Twilight and get rid of that piece of shit car?”
“Bella from Twilight?” Jessa said, her head snapping up from where she’d been looking at the candle’s flame dancing in the crystal in the middle of our table. She covered her mouth, rightfully stopping herself from laughing out loud. “Since when did you start reading ladies’ vampire novels, Cam?”
The wine arrived, and I dismissed the waitress after she poured it. That woman had enough dirt on my ass and surely didn’t need this shit, too.
“Since you and I became friends only, and I stopped dating women,” I said, happy I could recover myself.
“You stopped dating women?” she asked, taking a sip, her smile knowing more than she was saying.
“Yep,” I proclaimed proudly. I took a sip of my wine, happy that I could make it clear that I’d locked up Hotel Brandt for good because my heart belonged to this woman and this woman alone.
“So, if you stopped dating women, and you and I are friends only, then I guess you’re into guys now?”
I choked on the wine as it tried to run smoothly down my throat.
“So, did your new boyfriend introduce you to the Twilight series?”
Oh, this was straight-up bullshit. Jessa wore the cute little expression, knowing I was nervous, and she was kicking my balls for trying to be cool. But, hell no, I wasn’t going down this easily.
“First off,” I held my hand up, pausing while the waitress placed hot bread and butter in front of us and then dismissed herself until we were ready to order. “I’m not gay, and one doesn’t have to be gay to enjoy a good vampire book.”
I defended myself against this cute little doe-eyed vixen sitting in front of me.
This book series had better be identical to Interview with a Vampire. It has to be. There’s no fucking way Collin and Jake would know shit about a chick-flick book.
“Really?” she questioned. “So, you like the Twilight series, then?”
“You’ve heard of it, I’m sure.”
“Don’t know too many people who haven’t,” she said.
I wasn’t backing down.
“So, then you’d understand why I compared your shitty car to Bella’s,” I recovered, taking another sip of wine.
She challenged me with an arch of her eyebrow, to which I laughed but kept my game pulled in tightly.
“My car is nothing like hers,” she said.
I reached into the basket for the bread, buttered a piece, and handed it to Jessa, “It’s everything like hers. It’s like, she had that car just because Edward had money—”
Jessa’s eyes squinted in humor, and she covered her mouth with her napkin after looking out the windows to the right of our secluded table.
Something wasn’t right. What the fuck was so funny?
Her face dropped into her hands, and something told me I wasn’t proudly defending a vampire novel near as hardcore as Interview with the Vampire.
“My God, Cameron, I love you. I really do,” she said, tears in her eyes as she shook her head. “But please stop acting like you’ve read and loved Twilight, or I’ll lose my shit and choke on this bread and die or something.”
“At least I know that acting like a jackass is what brings the words I love you out of your mouth,” I said, folding my arms and finding my adorable Jessa more beautiful with this laugh and humorous expression than anything in the world. “Now, please tell me what this book series is about.”
“You honestly don’t know?”
“I remember the craze or whatever, but I was buried more in medical terminology books than best-selling books at the time,” I said. “Are the vampires gay or something?”
She lost it, and I wanted to read the fucking books to figure out what Collin and Jake read with their wives more than ever.
“Who compared my car to Bella’s truck in that book? Which, by the way, it’s a pretty damn good comparison. I didn’t see that until now, but who told you that?”
“Collin and Jake. They’ve made it sound like all I had to do was read that with you, and voila! I’d have my beautiful woman back.”
Her eyes grew serious, but she quickly recovered her expression. “First of all, they’re right.” She smiled warmly at me and reached her hand across the table, and I quickly responded by placing my hand out to cover hers.
“Second?” I questioned, not knowing if this would get serious or funny again.
“Second, the vampire thing has a lot to do with Collin and Elena getting back together. Well, not Twilight, but The Vampire Diaries. Elena told me how Collin was just as clueless with that series as you are about Twilight. Anyway,” she said, speeding through this explanation, “Collin got into it after Laney’s accident, and then he and Jake admitted to everyone they were closeted teen vampire junkies. It got Collin through some pretty dark times, I guess. But,” she squeezed my hand, “since that show was Collin’s help while Elena was gone, I’m going to assume that Twilight was your comfort while I’ve been gone.”
“I’m never living this shit down, am I?” I questioned. “I’ve never read it, Jessa. So, I don’t even know who anyone is.”
“Well, no better time than now to prove your love to me,” she teased.
“And what will Jackson think about his mother and father reading Twilight alone in their room?” I said, feeling more confident, relieved, and happy than I had in over a year.
The look in Jessa’s eyes, the smile on her face, and the slow way she rubbed her thumb over my hand let me know the love of my life was back.
“Our room, eh?”
“I love you, Jessa,” I said, feeling it in my core. “I can’t go another day, not knowing if I will ever really have you back. Not knowing if you truly love me or not?”
“It’s been a very interesting year, you know? Learning what I wanted for myself. I made huge decisions on my own, purchased station wagons like Bella’s, and did not know where my future would lead me. Would I be single or in another bad relationship that I trusted would be good? I didn’t know. I learned that my heart has always been yours, Cameron,” she said, and my own heart nearly stopped. “I just needed to learn to love and trust myself before I could trust you, or anyone else, with it again.”
“So, you’re giving me a third chance?” I said, standing up and walking over to her. “For the first time in my life, I honestly don’t know what to do.”
“Tell you what,” she said, pulling the napkin from her lap and placing it on the table, “take me home, and we can figure it out from there.”
I helped her from her chair and paid for what we’d hardly nibbled on and drank at this dinner. I couldn’t get her out of here fast enough.
I had no intention of ever losing her again, and I planned to prove that the second we walked through the door once we got to my place in Malibu.
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