The Substitute(7)

By: Lindsay Delagair

He knocked again.

Her pulse took off like a rocket. She opened the door and gave a weak smile.

He looked petrified. “Are you ready?”

She glanced toward the bedroom then back to Gabe. “I think so,” she said picking up her travel bag.

“Here, let me get that for you,” he said taking it from her shaking grip, but then pausing. “If you don’t want to do this, I understand, Jen. I’m not the guy you’re in love with.”

“No, but you’re a—a really wonderful friend—to both of us. Yeah, I’m ready.”

“Where’s he at?”

“He didn’t want to see us leave.”

“Jen, are you sure he’s okay. I mean I know this was his idea, but I’d never—I’d never do anything to hurt either one of you.”

“I know that. He’s okay. It’s just hard.” She stepped out the door and headed for his truck.

Andy had reserved them a cabin on the river. It was a charming one bedroom unit with a fireplace. She had to laugh a little when she saw it. He’d always told her he wanted a house with a fireplace. It was hot outside, almost muggy near the water, but the air conditioner had been turned down to seventy inside.

Gabe carried in their bags, handing her a grocery bag. She opened it to find a bottle of red wine, cheese, crackers, fruit and chocolates.

She shook her head. “Look, I appreciate the whole seduction thing with the wine and goodies, but I’m thinking we’ll just get in bed, have sex and then you can take me home.”

It surprised her that he honestly looked hurt. But, she felt like she had to keep her guard up. She started unbuttoning her blouse.

“Whoa, Jen,” he said backing up a few steps. “I can’t do it this way.”

“What way?”

“I can’t just strip you down and do this like a freaking robot.”

“Well, I don’t know if I can do this any other way.” She was afraid to let this be anything other than mechanical. If she gave herself over to the idea of actually making love with Gabe instead of letting this just be about the sex, her heart might get tangled somewhere in those broad muscles.

“Let’s have some wine and at least talk a little bit because I don’t know if I can go through with this or not.”

She was shocked. She believed that she had been the only one with second thoughts. Perhaps Gabe was a little deeper than she’d always assumed.

Hours later in the early twilight, they were seated in front of a crackling fire, the bottle of wine nearly spent as they laughed, relaxed, and talked about their high school days.

“You must have shagged every girl at Eastside,” she laughed. The wine caused her legs to feel a little tingly and her stomach to radiate with a warmth that calmed her earlier nerves, loosening her tongue.

He actually blushed. “Nah, I didn’t make it with a girl until after graduation.”

“You’re kidding,” she said pushing his thick shoulder. “You were always chasing girls.”

“Chasing is a little different from catching them. I liked the chase, but when things got too close, I’d take off after another one just to keep them guessing.”

“Really? Well you sure fooled me. The way you kissed….” She stopped for a moment remembering the first time he kissed her. It had been passionate enough to make her melt inside. “I—I wanted you to be my first, but you….”

“I know. The problem was that you were different from the other girls and I knew if we took that step, I was going to fall for you—hard. That was when I told Andy to try for you, so I wouldn’t fall in—in love with you.”

She was speechless. Gabe had felt that strongly about her?

“I always wondered,” he continued. “If we had, do you think you’d have fallen for me?”

She couldn’t tell him. This was getting too deep. This was becoming exactly what she feared as this handsome man stared at her.

“I—I want to go home now,” she said and started to get up, but he grabbed her arm. Before she could fathom what was happening Gabe was kissing her. She started to pull away, but the kiss was so good that she found herself giving in. Every tense muscle released as she melted into his warm chest.