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4 | The Offer
Seeing Glen again rattled her more than a herd of Halloween goblins. And now she had to push through the noise in her heart and be coherent with Mark. An explanation would imply that she wanted to expand their relationship, when now more than ever she wanted to close herself off to everyone. She opened her eyes and decided to be strictly business by gathering up her papers. “I’m sorry to have drawn you into that. I used you for an easy out.”
She kept her eyes averted as she spoke until his hand wrapped around her wrist and caused her to pause. “I was happy to help, but I do intend on buying you lunch. What do you like here?” His skin was warm, and goosebumps erupted on the sensitive underside of her forearm.
“That’s okay. I need to go home and do laundry.”
“Please, Sienna. I won’t push for an explanation about Glen, but I owe you an apology for last night. I should’ve realized who the date was with and never gone.”
Sienna relaxed and quit trying to figure out how to get out of his grip, but he let go as she dropped the papers, so she drew her hand to her lap. “It’s okay. I’m sure you never would’ve thought she’d invite the whole school to show off her catch.”
Mark laughed and said, “She tried to play it off as a coincidence.”
Sienna couldn’t help but laugh too. “I don’t think you can call writing on the teacher lounge whiteboard ‘Happy Hour this Friday at The Cellar’ with little hearts all around it a coincidence.”
“I thought it was weird, but now I know why she did it.” She felt his gray eyes staring at her even though she kept her gaze on her folders. She should get up and leave, but instead she said, “I like the Havarti spinach sandwich.”
She heard his intake of breath before he said in a silky voice, “Can I get you another latte?”
She nodded and felt the shift of the cushion as he got up to order. Immediately she piled up all the folders for a quick getaway. Lunch with him was better than going home to wallow in renewed anger and betrayal. At least Mark seemed to know he’d done something wrong. Glen was pretending he’d never broken up with her.
“Planning your escape,” said Mark, sitting next to her again and placing a new latte in front of her. She loved the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled.
“No offense, but all men are bastards, as you proved last night. I make sure I can cut and run at any moment.”
“I think you did mean to offend, but I can take it. I’ll make sure last night was the last evil deed I do to you.”
Sienna shook her head. “You say that now, but it’ll happen eventually. Maybe you could do me a favor and make it sooner than later.”
Mark drew his eyebrows together, looking perplexed. “You talk like men have a personal vendetta against you.”
“Don’t they?” Sienna didn’t know what she was saying anymore. Seeing Glen again followed by a lunch date with Mark had her more off balance than a kindergartener trying to grab a rock off the ground in hopscotch. “Nice guys complain about being forced into the big brother role, but nice girls are taken advantage of until they’re tossed into the trash like a used condom.”
Mark retreated to the edge of the couch and said, “Do you teach my son with that mouth?”
Sienna knew her face must be bright red. She mumbled an apology and was grateful that Chloe showed up with the sandwiches and latte for him right then. When Chloe walked away, Sienna said, “I really don’t talk like that around the kids.”
Mark laughed and said, “Forget it. I was just teasing, and okay, a little shocked. You do have the pure-as-the-driven-snow school teacher look going for you.”
“Well, I’m not. So you can get that out of your mind right now.”
Mark shook his head, “Nope. Can’t do it. I like the contrast of how you appear and how you are. Say something dirty again.”
“No.” Sienna took a big bite of her sandwich and found herself both charmed and relaxed. When she swallowed she said, “So you asked me hiking. Is that something you do a lot?”
The conversation headed into regular date talk after that. Sienna didn’t have to push back unwanted thoughts of Glen because her mind was too engaged by the moment. She’d thought conversation with Mark might turn out to be difficult because of the age difference, but nothing awkward came up. He spoke with enthusiasm about his architecture projects and listened in turn to her joy of teaching.
At some point after the sandwiches had been finished and forgotten, she noticed that they sat face to face with their shoulders leaning against the back of the couch and their bodies only inches apart. She wanted him to hold her hand again and wondered how he’d react if she took his. She was allowing her heart to wander down the latte lined path of romance once again, despite her earlier argument with herself that she should stick with strictly physical relationships.
And then her phone rang inside her purse.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just any ring: it was the ringtone she’d set long ago for Glen. She ignored it.
“Do you need to get that?” asked Mark.
“No,” said Sienna. Her heart collapsed and hardened all in one breath.
It rang a couple more times and Mark said, “Are you sure?”
“I should go.”
“Hey,” said Mark, stopping her with a hand on her shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t do this again. I can’t have you romance me and fall in love with you and end with a terrible break-up. I’d rather we fuck and be done with it.” She bit her lip and cursed herself. She couldn’t believe she’d just said that to a parent. From the look on his face, she could tell he couldn’t believe it either.
The phone finally quit ringing as she gathered up her folders and left. She expected him to call out to her, but then remembered men were bastards. Of course he wouldn’t.
Outside, embarrassment hit as if the heat of a summer sun shone on her instead of the chillier fall rays. She ran to her car, not hearing the footsteps pounding behind her because her ears were filled with the beating of her own heart.
She set the folders on top of her car. Before she clicked the lock with her remote, hands grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. Mark stared into her eyes for one moment then pushed her back against the car with his body against hers. He kissed her with a passion she’d never felt, even from Glen, and it made her body tremble. His hands roamed down her arms and to her hips, and she felt his erection against the crevice between her thigh and her abdomen. Her insides pulsed with desire that only strengthened when he ended the kiss and spoke, his lips brushing her ear.