Three Little Words(7)

By: Susan Mallery



“No,” she admitted. “But mine is half a world away, so I can pretend to be tough.”

“So could I, when I was on another continent. Now I’m back.”

She almost felt sorry for him. Almost. “I’ll make you a deal,” she said impulsively. “You stop talking about how you seduce women in the name of being a good soldier, and I won’t bring up your mother.”

“Done.”

They looked at each other. Isabel was still conscious of his strength and chiseled good looks, but she was a lot less nervous now. Maybe because she’d figured out his weakness. That knowledge would keep the playing field even.

“So we’re good?” she asked. “The letters, my sister, your mother, all of it?”

He nodded. “The best.” His gaze sharpened. “You didn’t apply, did you?”

She grinned. “To be your wife? No, I didn’t. Technically, I wasn’t qualified. What with me not staying in town permanently.”

“Lucky you.”

She pretended concern. “Oh, Ford, don’t worry. I’m sure she’ll find someone for you. A nice girl who appreciates your giving nature.”

“Very funny.” He paused and the grin returned. “About that shower...”

“Thanks, but no.”

She waved and started for the door. The meeting hadn’t gone at all like what she’d imagined, but she was leaving with the belief that Ford wouldn’t avoid her in the future. Assuming he ever had. And she didn’t have to worry that he thought she was stalking him.

She stepped into the hallway. Consuelo walked out of the locker room, a gym bag in one hand, her car keys in another.

“You two finished?” her friend asked.

“Order is restored.”

Consuelo was one of those petite women who always made Isabel feel as if she were all arms and legs, with massive boat-long feet. The fact that Consuelo could easily wrestle an alligator into submission should have helped Isabel feel more feminine, but oddly it didn’t. Maybe it was because on Consuelo, muscles looked sexy.

“Should I believe you?” Consuelo asked. “You’ve been avoiding Ford for most of the summer.”

“I know and it was silly of me. I should have talked with him before.”

“Uh-huh.” Consuelo sighed. “You’re not going to start following him around now, are you? Women tend to do that. They also show up in his bed without an invitation. Not that he usually sends them away.”

“I heard about that. Not the women, but that it’s his patriotic duty to satisfy them.”

“You don’t sound upset.”

“I’m not. The guy I had a crush on wasn’t this Ford. He was sweet and funny and caring. This more mature version is all that and sexy, too.”

Consuelo waited.

“Not my type,” Isabel said. “Too flashy. I like quiet guys who are thoughtful and smart. The whole sexual-attraction thing is highly overrated.”

Except for the chance at seeing Ford in the shower, she thought briefly. That would be exciting. But she was sure her interest was more about curiosity than temptation.

“You’ve had sex, right?” Consuelo asked. “More than once?”

“Of course. I was married. It’s fine.” Sort of. “But I don’t see it as a driving force in my life. Ford’s the fling guy and I’m not a fling girl. Not that he was asking.”

Consuelo looked her over. “He would have been. Eventually. He might not be your type, but you’re sure his.”

“He likes blondes?”

Consuelo’s mouth twisted. “He likes women.”

Isabel had friends in New York who were all about the thrill of the chase. Sex was important to them, which was fine. But she was different. She wanted someone she could talk to. Someone she could hang out with. Which was probably why she’d ended up with Eric, she thought sadly. They got along great, had the same interests. Their relationship had been one incredible friendship. Unfortunately, they’d both mistaken it for more.

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