“Hey, there. Beautiful and made coff—“ Caleb stopped in the doorway.
Dahlia was drinking a coffee but her eyes looked strained, her mouth tight. “Good morning,” she said.
He didn’t need to look at her twice to know she was upset. And to know—almost certainly—that it was with him. Had that weirdness between them been more than he’d felt? Had it been a real rift?
He moved carefully, not wanting to make anything worse. Grabbing a mug from the cabinet he went to the coffee pot and noticed, as he poured, that it was full. And yet she was drinking coffee.
Caleb repressed a sigh. This was laughable, really. He’d never gone for any kind of drama. Even the low level I’m-angry-at-you vibe would be too much and he’d cut a woman loose. With Dahlia he felt the first subtle stirrings of unease in his gut. Which made him even more confused.
“I see coffee all the way to the top of the pot and coffee in your hand.” He turned to her, tried on a smile. Backup plan…joke with her. “Is this a magical coffee pot? Tell me the truth now. Because if it is we could be rich. We’d never have to work for people like Jasmine again if we could figure out how it works.”
“Save it,” she said. She turned her back on him and began to rummage through the cabinet. Caleb watched her, stumped.
“Dahlia? Can you tell me what’s wrong? I know we had a moment last night on our way back from the Rice Barn but I thought it was just one of those weird boy-this-is-progressing-fast freak out moments. Which I’ve heard about but never had, FYI. But you seem really angry at me and I’m at a loss as to why.”
There. That had sounded sane and adult, right? Having never done it before he wasn’t sure. But that had been the intent. He hoped it had worked.
When she turned to him she was smiling. But it wasn’t genuine. It was, in fact, the kind of smile Bob used to call the serial killer smile. The one Belinda would turn on him when he’d royally pissed her off and he feared that if he closed his eyes she’d be sneaking up on him with a kitchen knife. Caleb had heard many tales of the dreaded SKS, but now he was witnessing it in person.
“What?” he said.
“Would you like an egg?”
“What?” He tried very hard not to let his mouth fly open in surprise.
“Would you like an egg?” She enunciated every word.
Since he’d been working like a dog since he was about fifteen, Caleb’s eyes automatically went to the clock. “We don’t have time for an egg,” Dahlia. “We’re pushing late as it is. Which is why I wish you’d talk to m—“
“Don’t worry,” she said, going to the fridge. She pulled out the carton and then began to rummage the kitchen for a bowl, a whisk, butter. “Jasmine said I could be late today what with the shock of finding her here in the guest house in her nightgown with her hair all messed up coming down the hall from your room…”
He felt his stomach fall like he was riding an elevator. “Dahlia—“
“Actually, she just said I could be late due to the shock. Or was it surprise?” She waved a hand and he almost flinched worried that whisk was going to come flying his way. “Either way, I can be late. Now would you like an egg?”
There was a long pregnant pause.
“You fucker,” she added. “Literally.”
Dahlia cracked eggs into a bowl and began to beat them. She had to beat something. Caleb came toward her, reached for her.
“Don’t,” she said.
But he ignored her. She knew he would. His hand closed around her wrist and despite her anger a stab of arousal moved through her. Which only made her angrier. She wanted to hit him. And truth be told, if it had been any other man she probably would have. But something about Caleb tamed that aggressively independent nature in her.
It was an unsettling ability he had.
“Listen to me, Dahlia. Nothing happened between me and Jasmine regardless of what she might have implied.”
She snatched her hand away and beat the eggs again. “She was wearing a nightgown. No,” she went on, slamming down the bowl and the whisk. “A negligee if you want to get specific.”
“And her hair was a mess.”
“And she came down the hall from your room.”
She put her hands on her hips. “I’m confused. So…why am I not supposed to be upset?”
“Because nothing happened.”
“Caleb, I’m not an idiot.”
“I agree. But I’m not a liar and I’m telling you nothing happened. I woke up and she was in bed with me.” He caught her hand up again and she let him.
“And that’s your defense?”
“No. It’s not a defense. Let me finish. I woke up and she was in bed with me and I thought she was you. I thought you’d come in to crawl into bed for a bit before work. I was happy…”
He was watching her intently and she felt her cheeks flush. The heat in her skin was embarrassing. Her gut wasn’t reacting negatively to his explanations. She looked him in the eye and he met her gaze directly. His eyes clear and uncluttered by deceit.
“I was happy until I realized it was Jas. And then I put a stop to it. And nothing happened. Which is why she was pissed. Her hair looked like that from me using it as a leash to keep her off me and probably due to the fact that I pushed her out of bed. Onto the floor.”
A small half smile twisted his lips. She was returning the smile before she could stop herself.
“For real,” Caleb said. He caught up her other wrist and stepped closer to her. “You listen to me, Dahlia. I don’t talk about my father…my family. I don’t tell my tale to just anyone. If I told you that, all of it, I trust you. Which means you can trust me.”