Hannah didn’t tell her mother about the date.
She was half scared, half excited about the
prospect of spending a whole evening with Joe.
Because there was no denying the anticipation
tap dancing in her belly. Sitting across the table
with him, talking to him, thinking about the
Which was why she choose her best underwear
and sprayed a generous amount of perfume.
She gave herself a quick head to toe. Fitted
black shirt with tiny black flowers embroidered
on it. Her good black jeans. She looked about as
good as she was ever going to.
Her mother was chopping vegetables at the
kitchen counter and she looked surprised when
Hannah appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“You’re going out? ”
“Yeah. Sorry . I meant to tell you, but it kind of
slipped my mind, ” Hannah fibbed.
Her mother took in her loose hair and good shirt
in a single gaze. “Not a problem. Have a nice
Hannah suspected her mother knew exactly
who she was going out with. She simply
shrugged and headed for the door. Joe was
waiting by his car already, his head damp from
the shower. He looked good in a dark brown
shirt and black jeans. Maybe a little too good —
one look at him and her palms got clammy.
“Hi, ” he said.
“You look great, he said, his gaze running
appreciatively over her body. Shall we get
going? I booked us a table at an Italian place, ”
Joe rounded the car to open her door for her.
She muttered thanks as she slid into the car.
She wasn’t used to having men wait on her.
Once they arrived they were seated in a corner,
a fat candle on a small wooden table casts a
warm light over them .
They ordered a bottle of red and some food.
With the ordering out of the way and
wineglasses in front of them, they stared across
the table at each other.
“This is nice, ” she said lamely.
“Yeah. Place seems good ”
“Listen, ” they both said
Hannah laughed awkwardly. “You go first, ”
Joe cleared his throat. “I was just going to say
sorry if I’m a bit rusty. Haven’t done this sort of
thing for a while. ”
“Well, incase you hadn’t noticed, I ‘m not
exactly a social butterfly myself, I ‘ve kind of
been keeping a low profile lately. ”
She took a deep breadth, then let it out again.
She hated telling anyone about the wedding,
but he was bound to hear it from someone
“I was engaged last year, but the wedding was
called off at the last minute, ” she said before
she could change her mind.
There was a short pause before he answered.
“That must have been tough.”
“It was called off because my fiance fell in love
with my best friend. ”
His expression didn’t change: he simply nodded
“You already knew, didn’t you? Who told you?
“Your mom. ”
“Bloody hell. Is nothing sacred?
“Not where moms are concerned.” Was that
who you were talking to at the coffee shop?
“Yeah. Wanted to tell me my friend is pregnant.
Joe went still, then swore under his breadth. “I
hope you told him where to get off.”
She liked that he was angry on her behalf. “Not
exactly. I congratulated him. I ‘m not going to
waste the rest of my life being angry with them.
“You a Buddhist or something? ”
“Nope. Just sick of feeling like I want to punch
He smiled and she found herself smiling in
“I have a big trip planned. Soon I will hit the
road. Just need to wait for the owner of the
garage to find someone to take over from me,
buy some gear then I ‘m off. ”
There was a small silence. When she glanced up
he looked. … disappointed. That was the only
way she could describe the mix of frustration
and regret she saw in his eyes. Then he blinked
and it was gone.
“Ruby’s going to miss you, ” he said.
What about you? Will you miss me? Hannah
secretly thought in her heart.
“I’ll miss her, too.
Their gazes met across the table.
“So, where are you heading for first? ” he said
breaking the small silence.
Hannah spent the next twenty minutes
detailing her planned route to him.
“So you’re going to camp most of the time?” he
“If I can. The weather is good and I think its the
best way to see the country. ”
“Not going to miss hot and cold running water
and all the mod cons? ”
She cocked her head and raised an eyebrow.
“Not a fan of the great outdoors, Joe? ”
Me? I love it. Always have. Beth couldn’t stand
it. Had to have a roof over her head, air –
conditioning, running water, you name it.”
The name came out of his mouth so casually, so
naturally, but they both stilled. It was the first
time he ‘d ever mentioned his wife to her. “Beth
was my wife, ” he said.
“How did she die? ” she asked, trying to make it
easier for him since he seemed determined to
address the issue.
“It was a car accident. I was up north on the rig
and she was driving to collect Ben from karate
practice. A driver ran a red light, smashed into
her car. ”
His knuckles were white, she reached across
the table and la!d her hand over his.
“Its okay. We don’t have to talk about it.”
He stared at her, his expression bleak. Then
something in him seemed to relax. “Its more
that I’m out of practice. Its been two years. And
people don’t exactly line up to talk about it. ”
“I can imagine, “she said drily.
“The worst of it was that she didn’t die
straightaway. She had massive head and
internal injuries. They operated while I flew
down from the rig. She died before the plane
She tried to imagine the torture of sitting on a
plane, hoping against hope that her loved one
would survive, willing the plane to fly faster, get
there sooner, only to arrive to the worst possible
“I ‘m so sorry. That must have been a terrible
thing to come home to.”
“Tough memories. ” he nodded.
Watching the grief on Joe ‘s face, it had
suddenly hit her that he was still hung on his
dead wife. And that meant that anything that
happened between them was, by definition,
doomed to failure.
The buzz of a cellphone interrupted her
thoughts. Joe pulled a face and reached for his
“Sorry. I told the sitter to call if there were any
She fiddled with her cutlery, not wanting Joe to
think she was eavesdropping, but it was hard to
avoid overhearing his conversation even though
he was talking quietly. It quickly became
obvious from his tone and what he was saying
that he was talking to Ruby.
“The spider’s not going to hurt you, honey,” he
said. “Its probably more afraid of you than you
are of it.”
Joe flicked her an apologetic glance, but she
shook her head to indicate she wasn’t fused. His
kids needed him, she had no issue with that.
Joe smiled as he listened to his daughter.
“Okay, how about this? You bunk down on the
couch and I’ll check your room when am back
from my meeting? How does that sound?
Joe said good night to Ruby and ended the call.
“Sorry. Ruby had a spider in her room. She is
terrified of things. ”
Hannah nodded. She told herself to ignore what
she’d heard (meeting) , but she couldn’t help
herself. “You didn’t tell her about our date? ”
He looked uncomfortable for a moment, “I
haven’t dated anyone before and I wasn’t sure
how she ‘d react. I know she loves you, but I
didn’t want her getting the wrong idea.”
Hannah stared at him, wondering what he
thought the wrong idea was.
She shook her head slightly. “Who are we
He raised his eyebrows. “Sorry?”
She gestured towards the table, the candle, the
wine. “All this, what happened the other
night…… I’m about to head off for months.
You’ve got your kids. We’re both walking
wounded. This was never going to happen. ”
He looked arrested for a moment, then his
shoulders visibly relaxed. “You’re probably right.
I’m not exactly the best catch at the moment. ”
They shared stories and had great laughs. They
lingered over coffee. By the time they were
walking back to Joe’s car, Hannah was feeling
warm with goodwill and a mouthful of coffee.
They bantered some more in the car on the way
home, the radio playing softly in the
background. She was surprised when the car
pulled into the street.
“We’re here already. ” she said stupidly when
he pulled into the driveway of his house.
“Seems like it.”
“Huh ” she reached for her seat belt and slid it
free. She started to frame a thank you in her
mind, but she didn’t want the evening to end
yet. If she wasn’t living with her mother she’d
invite him in for coffee. But she was. And he
had kids and a sitter at his place …..
“Well, I had a great night. Thanks.” She said.
“We’ll have to do it again sometime.”
“Yeah. Although I’ll probably be pretty busy
getting stuff ready for my trip.”
“Right. I ‘d forgotten that for a moment. ”
His face was in shadows and she couldn’t read
his expression, but there was a note of regret in
his voice. Or maybe she was imagining it,
because suddenly she was wishing all over
again that things could be different between
“Anyway, thanks, ” she said again.
“It was my pleasure. ”
She didn’t consciously think about her next
move, she simply leaned across to press a quick
kiss to his cheek. Except he turned his head,
and she found herself kissing the warmth of his
mouth. He tasted of coffee and the touch of his
tongue against hers sent a thrill all the way to
her body. Desire pierced her so sweet, he
tugged on her shirt until he was pushing it
open, his gaze taking in her b0s0ms with a
single minded intensity that made her feel like
the most desirable woman on the planet.
She was panting, mindless. His body was
bowed towards her, tense with desire and need.
The sound of the car horn cut through the
night like a siren. They both started and
Hannah jerked away from the steering wheel.
“poo,” she whispered.
The porch light came on. She had a sudden
vision of a sleepy eyed Ruby or Ben coming out
to see what was keeping their father from
Joe must have shared her vision because they
both scrambled for her shirt buttons at the
She was still twisting around, her fingers
working furiously at her buttons when the front
By the time the front door opened she was
“The babysitter, ” Joe said as a young girl
stepped onto the porch and looked curiously
towards the car.
“Grace Kelvin, ” Hannah said, recognizing the
teenager from across the street.
Joe gave Grace a reassuring wave and the girl
went back into the house. He ran a hand over
his face and exhaled loudly.
They stared at each other for a long time. She
held out her hand.
“I had a nice time. Thanks. Part of it were
exceptional, but I’m marking you down for
failure to complete. ”
“You’re the one who sat on the horn.”
“Don’t I know it.”
He laughed at her, took her hand, his fingers
closed around hers, warm and firm. “There we
go with the bad timing again. ”
She slid her hand free. “Good night, Joe.”
She exited the car, closing the door quietly. She
let herself into the house and walked on her
toes across the tiled floor, in case her mother
was still awake. She didn’t want to talk now.
She was still buzzing with arousal,
disappointment and frustration. She reached
her bedroom and eased the door closed. For a
moment she simply stood there, her back
pressed against the door.
Heavy with regret, she got ready for bed.
Joe felt like a kid. A Hot, dumb, inarticulate kid.
He keep telling himself that Hannah was a dead
end, still yet he couldn’t stop himself from
wanting her. But the fact still remains that she
is going away, he was staying. There was no
point pretending otherwise, even if the physical
chemistry between them was hot enough to
launch a rocket.
But the fact remains, he can’t help the feelings
building up in him, more especially when she is
He kept staring at the ceiling all Sunday night
wondering if he is the only one it left an
If only she wasn’t going away ………..
It was on his mind to ask if she really had to go,
if maybe she couldn’t delay her departure,
hang around and explore this feeling between
But she’d been planning this trip for a long
time. She’d told him over dinner how she’d
already put it off once for her ex – fiance. He
couldn’t ask her to put it off again for him.
What did he have to offer, after all? Neither of
them had any idea what the future held. He
couldn’t ask her to delay her dream on the
chance that things might work out between
them. And what were the odds of that? Her
broken heart, his blighted one. His kids. Plus all
the usual problems most couples dealt with. It
will be a miracle if they lasted a week.
Hannah didn’t tell her mother about the date.