“You’re still a mess,” she says, kicking off her heels and taking a seat on the bed. He comes to settle in the chair by the desk.
“But you still like me, admit it.”
“Never. It’ll only make your head get bigger. So, how’ve you been?”
“I’m glad. You look it.”
And he does. His hair has grown out, and he’s lost weight. The impish grin is back and he looks happier. Healthier.
“So, what are you up to later?”
“Sleep,” she tells him honestly. It’s been a long day. They pulled in last night, jumped three time zones, and it’s been nothing but back-to-back interviews and panels. They leave tomorrow morning to resume filming. This was just a momentary break.
He looks disappointed.
“Don’t do that. You know I can’t take your pitiful eyes.” The hand on his cheek is comforting. Soothing. He looks up at her as she smiles at him, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet.
“Come on, Kangaroo boy. Sleep with me.”
It’s all she’s ever let him do, despite years of trying. Paula Patton had pretty much ruined whatever may have been between them. And she’s kept him at arms-length ever since. He’s wanted to get close again, but it’s a road he’s been down before, and he knows where it ends. So this is what he settles for.
She’s been a good one, though.
“What’s really bothering you? I know it’s not just because you miss us.”
He shakes his head and when she looks at him closely, she knows. Her heart aches for him. It really does. Because she knows exactly what he wants. And it’s something she’s not willing to give. Not to him, not to anyone. What he needs—it’s not her. She can’t work miracles and she’s not about to just drop everything.
He’s just strolling along familiar paths already trodden.
This whole day has been a walk down memory lane for him.
It was meant to be fun. And cheeky. Only a few people knew the plan and he’d intentionally kept her out of it. But the second he wrapped his arms around her on that stage and inhaled her smell…he was fucked all over again. She has always felt just right in his arms. Nothing and no one has ever come close.
She’s his dream girl. But she’s already told him in no uncertain terms that it’s all she is. His dream.
There’s no going back. He ruined it, as he’s done the rest of his relationships. One fell harder than the other. She had let him down gently but he landed hard, and his rebound…well…that too ended badly.
He’d been an idiot to bring the other woman to Ireland. An idiot to bring his rebound to set, and an idiot to do it all in front of her. She hadn’t said anything, just shook her head, and carried on. And her silence hurt worse than her words ever could.
But when it all blew up in his face, as it always does, she was there for him.
She’s always been there for him.
A friend. A former lover. But never again anything more than that.
It was fun in his 20’s. And in his 30’s too. But looking at 40 is like looking down the barrel of a gun and he knows he’s wasted way too much time. All he wanted was a family. All he can see is a future alone.
So this, laying in the bed beside her, is what he has to settle for.
His dream died a long time ago. He killed it. And there is no resurrection.