“You’re not wearing your engagement ring,” Todd’s statement held a little sarcasm, but more curiosity than anything. Gail was standing in the doorway, still dripping wet from swimming. Todd handed her a towel.
“I can’t swim with it on,” Gail replied, wrapping the towel around her and trying to stop the majority of the water from hitting the floor before it made too much of a mess in his kitchen. “Could you imagine if I lost it? Ugh. That would be awful.”
“Yeah, your fiancé must have spent a lot of money on it.”
“Why are you being so sarcastic tonight?” she asked, heading for the bathroom. He didn’t answer her question, just walked back over to the kitchen counter where he’d been making smoothies.
“Do you want bananas in it?” he asked, calling to her over his shoulder.
“Of course,” she called back through the bathroom door. She was getting way too comfortable at his house. She laid her swimsuit across the tub, changed into the clothes he’d laid out for her, and wrapped the towel around her head. He was just finishing with the blender when she opened the bathroom door. He handed her a glass with a big straw stuck into it like he always did. She collapsed onto the sofa, tucking her legs up under her. It was too warm for a fire in the fireplace, so the room seemed very quiet.
Todd sat down on the chair across the room. The cottage wasn’t big enough for the space between them to be very far, but the point was clear. He didn’t want to sit next to her. He sipped his smoothie and said the last thing she would have expected.
“Did you know that I’m rich?”
“What?” she asked, sitting up a little.
“Yeah, I’m very wealthy. Probably more so even than your dad.”
“What are you talking about?” she demanded. She shook her hair down from the towel and looked up at him. “And where did this come from?” She didn’t mean, where did the money come from. She meant, why were they having this conversation. But he answered the other way.
“My parents left me a lot of money when they died,” he sat back and looked at her, a little smug.
“So,” it was more a question than a statement.
“So, after I sold their house up in South Bend, I had even more money.”
“Was it a…big house?” she asked, kind of glancing around at the small cottage where they were sitting. Her voice had dropped almost to a whisper.
“Really big. This is the cottage they would come to in order to ‘get away from the corporate world’ as my dad liked to say.”
“Okay…so why are we having this conversation?” she asked him, more directly this time.
“All I’m saying is that I’m not impressed with the fancy ring, and the fancy guy you’re supposedly engaged to.”
“Todd,” she sat forward a little, not really meaning to, it just sort of happened. “I like you the way you are. You don’t have to be rich, or poor, or anything in between. I just like you.”
“But you love him, right?”
Gail stumbled with an answer, not really sure what he was implying. No…knowing exactly what he was implying. Her breathing quickened again, and she wasn’t thinking about Stephan at all. She was thinking about Todd. She’d been thinking about Todd for a long time. Way more than she was willing to admit to herself. She looked away from him and got up off the couch. She walked to the sliding glass door and looked out into the night, out toward the cove. She couldn’t really see much, with the lights on inside the house, and no prominant moon outside. For a minute, she stared at her own reflection and took a drink of her smoothie absentmindedly.
Suddenly, he was there behind her. He took her drink from her hand and set it down on the table. His hands wrapped around her waist and his face came down to her neck. She felt him kiss her very gently and she melted back into his arms. It was the most amazing feeling she’d ever felt.
There was that yearning inside of her that she’d been waiting for all these years. She knew it now. She felt it now. It became very clear that if she married Stephan, she was making the biggest mistake of her life, of her existence. He gently took her shoulders and turned her around. His hands reached up to her face and lifted it to his. He kissed her once, twice, very softly. She almost fell over. She closed her eyes and let him hold her like that for a long moment, his face just inches from hers. She could feel his warm breath, and knew that his breathing was faster than normal. Hers was too. When she opened her eyes, he was looking down at her, searching her eyes for the answer he knew was there. She didn’t love Stephan, and he knew it. She loved Todd, and he knew that too.
“I’m going to take you home now, okay?”
“Okay,” her voice was no more than a whisper. He let go of her shoulders and she practically stumbled to the bathroom to change. She didn’t want to give him back the clothes. They smelled like him. He drove her home in silence and she trudged up the hill, grabbing her shorts and t-shirt from where she’d left them by the seawall, and carrying her sandals. She didn’t make it to the house before she collapsed onto the grass at the edge of the lowest terrace. From there, she could look across the cove and saw the lights from his cottage. She listened for his truck as he drove along the coastline, probably going too fast for the tight curves of the road. She waited long enough that he had probably arrived home. A few minutes later, she saw a light shut off in the kitchen. The light in the living room didn’t turn off for a long time. She wondered how long she’d been sitting there.
Read the first chapter of The Cove here: Excerpt from The Cove: Chapter One
Read the next excerpt from The Cove here: The Funeral
My next novel, The Farmer’s Daughter is almost complete! Check out an excerpt:
Excerpt from The Farmer’s Daughter…I told you that I tip well