Anger propelled me out of Dee’s apartment and to the stairs where I stopped and sat down. What the hell had happened? How had we gone from an amazing night where I would have sworn we had connected emotionally to… to what? Dee’s bitter laughter rang in my ears, my own disappointment at her reaction to the idea of dating me a visceral ache in my chest.

And why? Because I hadn’t had the guts to tell her what I wanted. I’d tried to show her with my body, my touch, my actions. I wasn’t a morning person but I’d hauled ass to get her coffee and breakfast, wanted to surprise her. I guess I’d done that but not with the food. Why couldn’t I just say what I wanted?

I pictured her when I’d suggested we date. Surprise, shock, doubt had played across her face then she’d given me the out, the suggestion that I meant it as a cover up. And rather than be a fucking man, I’d gone along with that bullshit Then I’d compounded it with that rubbish about Mark. What the hell was wrong with me?

Stupid question, I knew the answer. I was scared. Scared of losing Dee . So I went along with what she wanted. Again. Well fuck that! “Fuck that!” I said out loud as I stood up and turned back the way I’d come. Fucked if I was going to go on, watching her flirt with other men, walk out with other men. I didn’t give a good fuck about the rules any more, fuck this, fuck this whole fucked up situation!

I hit Dee’s door twice with the side of my fist then braced a hand on the wall and waited for her to open it. She stared up at me with confusion, her robe wrapped securely around her.

“So the answer is no,” I said as a sense of calm, a feeling of certainty settled on me.

Dee frowned, obviously having no idea what I was talking about. “No?”

“No, I don’t want to date you to get everyone off my back.”

“Oh.” She nodded but her eyes told me she still didn’t know why I was there.

That was fine, I was about to make it perfectly clear for her. “I don’t want to pretend to date you, I don’t want you to be my cover up.” Saying the next part was going to hurt but hell, what was love without a little pain? “I don’t want to be your fuck buddy anymore baby.”

“What?” She stiffened, her head tilting back in challenge as her eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you come in so we can talk- ”

“Nope.” I cut her off. “Nothing to talk about. Here’s what I want. I want to date you for real.”

Dee was usually pretty inscrutable, her emotions hard to read and this time was no different.

“For real?” she echoed and shook her head with a frown. “What the hell does that mean Jay?”

“Simple.” I shrugged then laid it out for her. “I want to ask you out, pick you up and tell you how beautiful you are. I want to flirt with you over dinner then walk you to your door and wonder if I’m going to get a good night kiss. Then I want to send you texts to make sure you’re thinking about me until the next date. I want to tell my friends about the amazing woman I’m dating, I want my family to met you and for you to like them as much as they like you.”

That frown still on her face she said, “I already know and love your family. Your friends are my friends. I don’t understand.”

I smiled because of course she didn’t. Dee had so many walls in place, so many concrete beliefs that she couldn’t see beyond. “Ahh, but they know Dee the friend. I want them to get to know Dee the woman, the potential girlfriend.”

“The what?” She blinked and I could almost see her processing what I was saying.

“You heard me.” I grinned then, because she hadn’t said no to anything I’d said. But would she say yes? “So what do you say Dee? Can I take you to dinner?”

“Dinner?”

“You know that meal you have after lunch but before bed,” I said helpfully, biting back a laugh at the confusion in her eyes.

“Funny Jay,” she snapped then with a scowl and I knew it was time to retreat.

“Tomorrow night? I’ll pick you up at seven,” I said and took a step back.

Her mouth opened and I was sure she was going to protest so I cut her off again. Her eyes shot sparks because she hated that.

“Unless you’re saying ‘it’s a date, see you then’, I don’t want to hear it Dee.”

“But-”

I shook my head, set on my path and taking her along whether she liked it or not. “We can talk over dinner. Okay?”

She made me wait for a long minute before she nodded and softly said, “Okay.”

I didn’t let her see the relief that flooded me at that one word. I nodded to acknowledge her agreement and said, “See you tomorrow.” Then I turned on my heel and walked away, smiling so hard my face hurt. I had a date, an actual date with Dee. Which meant I had some calls to make to organise things. It was our first date after all, I wanted it to be perfect.

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