Logan, Paige and Nate joined Chase. Nate looked ready to punch him.
“I thought Brooke didn’t want to dance.”
Logan elbowed Nate. “She just didn’t want to dance with you.” That only made Nate angrier.
Chase shook his head. “You guys are acting like we are still in high school.”
Logan grinned like he had just won the lottery. “Way to go, Reed. I haven’t seen you dance with a woman for a long time.”
“I think the last time was at your wedding.”
“Five years is too long, man. It’s a good thing you came tonight.”
Nate studied him for a moment. “You like her.”
Chase felt his face grow warm and knew he was turning red.
Logan rescued him. “What’s not to like? She’s looking hot tonight. Ow—” Logan rubbed his shoulder where Paige slugged him. He looked contrite. “Sorry, Babe. I’m just thinking of her for Chase.”
She smiled. “You’d better be. Take me back out there and dance with me again.”
Logan and Paige went back out on the dance floor.
Nate looked at Chase. “Huh, you and Brooke. I never would have thought it.”
“It was just a dance.” It hadn’t felt like it, but he wasn’t about to let anyone know that dancing with Brooke had been a big deal.
“More like three or four dances,” Nate said.
Brooke joined Megan and Mike at the bar. She ordered another iced tea, feeling overheated. It wasn’t just the workout from the dance, though. Dancing in Chase’s arms had felt as wonderful as she had always dreamed it would. For three songs, she’d felt like she was back in high school dancing with the most popular football player. Then reality had set in. He was just being kind, since she was widowed like he was.
Megan looked as excited as Brooke felt inside. She hoped she was mature enough not to show it. “So you and Chase danced.”
Mike snorted. “I don’t know why that’s such a big deal. It’s not like we’re in high school anymore.”
Megan’s face turned red. “I guess it was no big deal. Just surprised, that’s all. He hasn’t dated since his wife died.”
“He didn’t ask me on a date. He asked me to dance. And he was just being nice.”
Megan started to make a comment, but looked at Mike’s disgusted face and stopped.
Ben and Barbara came off the dance floor and both looked angry with her. “You told Nate you didn’t want to dance,” Barbara said with an accusing glare.
“I told him I wasn’t much of a dancer. I told Chase the same thing.”
Ben ordered a drink, then faced her. “You told me that, too. But you wouldn’t dance with me. I guess I’m still just a geek to you, while Chase is still the hot football player.”
The music had stopped as the DJ took a break. Brooke worried that everyone could hear him. “Ben, be reasonable. You’re a married man.”
“Nate isn’t,” Barbara pointed out.
“No, but Nate has a reputation,” Brooke said.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with Nate or me. You were just waiting to dance with Chase. I see how it is,” Ben said angrily.
Brooke’s insides twisted.
“It’s not a big deal, Ben. Let it go,” Mike said.
Ben gulped his drink. “I didn’t think you were that way, Brooke. Just goes to show that you’re still as superficial as you were in high school.”
Brooke felt a hand at her elbow and turned to see Chase.
“You got a problem with something, Ben?”
Ben took a fighting stance. “Yeah, I’ve got a problem with you!” He jabbed a finger in Brooke’s direction. “And you. You turned everybody else down so you could dance with the homecoming king.”
Chase took a step closer. “Why don’t you go cool off? Don’t be disrespectful to Brooke.”
“Oh, yeah? I guess you’re going to stand up for her, aren’t you? You going to make a move on her now?”
Brooke felt like crying. “Ben, please. You’re married.”
Ben downed the rest of his drink and stomped off in the direction of the restrooms.
Brooke felt miserable as she glanced around the room. Everyone had stopped dancing to stare at them.
“Are you going to be all right, Brooke?” Megan asked.
“I’ll be fine.” Brooke looked at Chase. “I’m sorry, Chase.”
“No, he should be sorry, not you.”
“Do you want me to take you home?” Megan offered, but it was obvious she wasn’t ready to leave yet. She was still hanging onto Mike’s arm. He hadn’t walked away when Ben did.
“No, you don’t have to do that. I’m just going to step outside and get some fresh air.”
“I’ll walk out with you,” Chase said.
It embarrassed Brooke to have Ben’s rude comments heard by almost everyone there. Having Chase stand up for her was a good feeling, though. And it felt good to have him walk out beside her, his hand at her elbow. Once outside in the warm starry night, she moved away from him.
“Are you all right?” Chase asked. She could see the concern in his eyes.
“I’m so ashamed. He really thinks that I was holding out for you to ask me.”
Chase reached out and touched her shoulder. “I know you weren’t. I know you were surprised when I asked. I even surprised myself.”
“I don’t dance. I don’t know why I said yes to you.”
He grinned and dropped his hand away. “That really flatters a guy’s ego.” His tone was joking, but she felt bad anyway.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
She took out her phone.
“Are you calling someone?”
“I don’t want to go back in there. But I rode with Megan. I’m going to have my sister come and pick me up.”
“Why don’t I take you home?”
“You don’t want to leave this early.”
“I’m not going to enjoy myself if you leave after that. I wasn’t going to come tonight, but I wanted to see you. It was worth it.”
She thought he must be joking, but the look in his eyes was genuine. “Thank you, I think.”
“So, how about a ride?”
It would get her out of a sticky situation. And why wouldn’t she want to ride home with Chase? He never would have asked her in high school. She could still feel a little of that schoolgirl crush that she’d had on him, along with every other girl in their class.
“I would appreciate it.”
“Do you want to go back inside and tell Megan?”
“I’ll text her.”
“I’ll bring the truck around. You don’t want to walk through the parking lot in those shoes.”
After he disappeared, she texted Megan. Megan responded by coming outside, looking excited.
“Are you serious? Chase is giving you a ride home?”
Brooke held her giggles in check. They weren’t teenagers anymore, talking about the popular football star.
“Don’t read anything into it. He’s just being nice.”
“I didn’t know he was ready to – well, date.”
“It isn’t a date. It was a few dances,”
“And a ride home.” Megan smiled with a conspiratorial look. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“That gives me lots of leeway,” Brooke said dryly. Megan stepped back as Chase pulled up in his truck.
Chase walked around the truck and opened the passenger door for Brooke. She looked at the step up and wondered how she would manage it in her dress and high heels.
Chase put his hands on her waist and lifted her into the truck. She felt her face burn as he grinned at her before shutting the door.
He walked around the truck and slid in behind the steering wheel. He had a wry smile on his face when he looked at her. “Not exactly a sports car, is it?”
He had owned a Camaro in high school, another reason the girls were crazy about him and the boys were jealous.
“I remember your car. What happened to it?”
“Josh was born, and we switched to an SUV. Then after Lisa passed away, I traded in the SUV for this.”
She looked at the electronic dash. “It’s nice.”
“It gets me from point A to point B.” He started the engine. “Now, where do you live?”
“I rent a house over by the elementary school.” She told him the street name.
“That was Miss Jennings’ house, wasn’t it, the school librarian?”
“Yes, it was. My mom bought it when it came up for sale a few years ago and turned it into a rental. The last renters made a mess of it. She spent some time remodeling and hadn’t rented it out yet. That helped my decision to move home.”
“You said you wanted to give your kids a small-town life.”
“Yes. Carl was from Detroit, and that’s where we have been living.”
“You met Carl in college?”
“Yes, freshman year. He was a junior, and he asked me out the first week of school.” She had never quite figured out how she had caught an upperclassman’s eye so quickly.
“Did you graduate from Michigan State?”
Chase seemed quite interested in her life, which surprised her.
“I got an associate degree, then I got married and had Devon. I did not go on to get a bachelor’s. I think my parents were pretty disappointed.”
“I’m sure they are proud of you, anyway.”
“Maybe. They’ve been pretty good to me since Carl passed away. They wanted me to move home right away, but I stayed there, not wanting to uproot my kids. And Carl’s father passed away in the crash, so his mom was alone. She clung to me.”
“Is that why you moved home?”
She smiled. “Part of it. Here’s my street.”