When Brooke picked up the kids at her mom’s house the next morning, she answered a few questions about the dance. She did not mention Chase, or the fact that he drove her home. And she certainly wasn’t going to tell her mom that she had invited him in for coffee. That had been so unlike her, that she did not want anyone to know.
After they left her mom’s house, her son, Devon, grumbled about how bored he had been. Brinley was full of excitement, though. Most likely bouncing off the walls from the amount of sugar Brooke’s mom had fed her.
“What are we going to do today?” Brinley asked.
“I just want to play video games,” Devon said.
“I have to stop by the grocery store.”
“Can’t you drop me off at home first? It’s on the way.”
In Detroit, Brooke had never left Devon alone. Now that she had moved back to their small town, she let him to stay home by himself while she did errands right in town.
“Keep the door locked and don’t answer the door for anyone.”
He rolled his eyes. “I know, even if it’s Grandma or Grandpa.”
“I’ll bring home McDonald’s.”
His eyes lit up. He looked so much like Carl that it hurt her heart for a moment.
She stopped at the grocery store, and was surprised to run into Barbara.
“You left pretty early last night.” Her tone was accusing.
“Yes, the fun went out of the evening.”
“That’s not what Megan said. She said Chase took you home. Maybe the fun was just beginning?”
Brooke did not like the insinuation. “He felt badly about Ben’s outburst, I think.”
“Ben was a jerk. He got pretty drunk and obnoxious.”
“I’m surprised at how he acted. He was always so nice in high school.”
“I think he was really angry that you blew him off and danced with Chase.”
“Yeah, I got that. So did everyone else there.” Brooke would rather forget about the whole incident, except for the way Chase stood up for her.
“So Chase just dropped you off.” Barbara looked at her like she couldn’t believe it.
Brooke tried not to blush. “Just dropped me off,” she lied, but she did not know if Barbara believed her. She knew Megan would be calling her later. She planned to lie to Megan also. They would make such a big deal out of Chase having coffee with her, in her home.
Actually it was a big deal, she acknowledged as she haphazardly threw groceries into the cart.
“Mom, can I have this kind of cereal?” Brinley asked, holding up a box. Brooke told her yes without even looking.
Brinley tried again at the freezer section. “Can we get ice cream treats?”
“Um, ice cream? Sure, why not?” Brooke felt like she was in a daze. She hurriedly paid for her groceries and they left the store.
It was only after they were unloading groceries in the kitchen that she realized how distracted she had been. Sweetened cereal and ice cream treats? She mentally shook her head and fixed a cup of coffee. That only worked against her, though. As she waited for the mug to fill, she couldn’t help picturing how Chase had looked in her house last night. Reality set in. It had been wonderful, but she didn’t expect it to ever happen again. He had taken her number and said he would call.
She laughed. The valedictorian and the homecoming king?
“Not in this lifetime,” she said aloud.
As Brooke had predicted, Megan called later that afternoon.
“What happened when Chase took you home?”
“He dropped me off.”
Brooke wasn’t sure she sounded believable. If Megan knew that she had invited Chase in for coffee, then everyone in town would soon know it. She wondered what he had told his friends. He would probably be embarrassed if word got around that he had accepted her invitation for coffee. He was just being polite. She wasn’t his type, and he had been nice to offer to give her a ride home. He had taken her phone number. But she didn’t really expect him to call.
Her lie must have convinced Megan that nothing had happened after the ride home. Megan didn’t question her any further. Megan had been the hard sell. Well, she hadn’t counted on running into Barbara. It had been obvious that Barbara didn’t believe her, but Brooke and Barbara were not close friends. She did not really care what Barbara thought.
On Monday, Brooke couldn’t seem to get Chase out of her head, no matter how busy she kept herself. After scrubbing her house until everything was shining, she decided to tackle the project she had in the garage. She had picked up a dresser at an estate sale for Brinley’s room. It was a dark brown wood and pretty scratched up. She had picked out a turquoise paint that would match the color in Brinley’s unicorn bedspread and curtains. It required the tedious work of sanding down the dresser first, but it kept her mind off from the reunion.
Well, it should have kept her mind off from Chase, she corrected herself, as she stopped for the umpteenth time in the process of sanding to ponder their time together. She was still shocked at herself for inviting him in for coffee. How forward had that been! Sure, they had joked about it being sympathy coffee, but the reality was she hadn’t wanted the evening to end.
This was Chase—in high school, he had been out of her league. He was a football player, good-looking, cocky. A jock. She was a bookworm, a band geek, a straight-A student. Sure, she’d had a crush on him. What girl in their school hadn’t? He had been polite to her when they were paired up as chemistry partners, but those were the only times she remembered having conversation with him.
She had felt that schoolgirl crush when he asked her to dance. And it had been nice to dance. She hadn’t been held in a man’s arms since Carl had passed away.
Those were not the only reasons she had enjoyed her dances with Chase. She had felt some kind of physical attraction, but they had also connected somehow. Maybe because they were both widowed and had children the same ages. Whatever the reason had been, it had left her longing to spend more time with him.
Her phone rang at five-fifteen on Monday night. She knew without looking that it was her mom.
“Don’t ‘Hi, Mom’ me, Brooke. Why didn’t you tell me about Saturday night?”
Had Chase told his mom about taking her home from the reunion? If so, had he told her about her invitation for coffee, and his acceptance?
“I didn’t think it was important. And how did you find out?”
“You forget I work with Barbara’s mom.”
“Oh, yeah. I had forgotten.”
“It’s pretty much all over town that you danced with Chase, and he took you home.”
“Yes, I danced with him. He asked me to, and I didn’t see any reason why not.”
“After you turned down two other guys?”
“Wow, Barbara didn’t leave out any details, did she?”
“No, she didn’t. She said Ben got upset because you danced with Chase and not him, and Chase made a big deal out of it.”
“No, Ben made a big deal out of. And it shouldn’t have mattered to him. He is married anyway.”
“Well, I’m glad Chase stood up for you and brought you home. It must have been some night for you.” Her mom’s response wasn’t what she expected.
“Chase is nice. And we have a lot in common. But it was just a dance. Just a drive home.”
“Sure it was.” Brooke knew her mom did not believe her, but she did not press for any more details.
Later that evening, her sister, Michelle, called, with the same story and the same questions. “It’s all over town now, Brooke.”
“I guess I shouldn’t have moved back to a small town where everyone knows my business.”
“Then you wouldn’t have been dancing with your old crush.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“Still, Chase gets better looking as he gets older. Especially with that beard he has going, and those muscles.”
“Sounds like you wish you were dancing with Chase.”
“I wouldn’t mind.” Michelle laughed. “I know, I am a happily married woman. But you are not married any more, and neither is he. This might actually be the start of something good.”
“Don’t count on it,” Brooke said. “I’m not.”
Chase took the kids to McDonald’s for lunch on Sunday as usual. Unfortunately, Logan was in the order line. A glance through the restaurant showed Paige seated in the play space with their kids. There was no avoiding Logan’s questioning look.
Chase touched Josh’s shoulder. “Take Maddie and go find a table, Josh. I’ll grab our food and be there in a minute.”
“I want to place my own order,” Maddie said.
“Come on, Maddie. Dad wants to talk without us listening.”
Chase stepped into line behind Logan. He might as well get this over with.
Logan smirked. “So you gave the hottest girl at the reunion a ride home.”
Heat crept up the back of Chase’s neck. “How did word get around town so fast?”
He should have known. Megan was the town gossip. “She came out of the building when Brooke and I were leaving.”
“She came back into the reunion and told her friends very loudly that you offered Brooke a ride home. Nate went up later and asked her about it. She said you gave Brooke a ride home in your pickup.”
Chase grimaced. “What else would I have given her a ride in? And what does that have to do with anything?”
“Apparently Brooke needed help getting into your truck. Megan thought that was a cute gesture. By the way she said it, it sounded like you had your hands all over her.”
Chase remembered lifting Brooke into his truck, and how great that contact had felt. His cheeks started to burn.
Logan laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Looks like Brooke got to you.”
There was no use denying it. “Yeah, maybe she did.”
“Hey, you always were smooth with the ladies. Nice to see you haven’t lost your touch.”
Later that afternoon, Chase had to hear about the incident again from his younger brother, Dustin, when he came over to watch the football game.
“So something happened between you and Brooke at the reunion?”
At least with Dustin, whatever he said would not be turned into gossip. Still, Chase wasn’t going to give up any information willingly.
“It was no big deal.”
“You bet it’s a big deal. You dancing after all these years, and with Brooke?”
“Why is it such a big deal that it’s Brooke? She’s great. I don’t see what the problem is.”
“They said she was looking hot on Saturday. A couple of guys asked her to dance, and she turned them down. Then she danced with you.”
“We were both standing there alone, and the music was playing. It felt natural to ask her to dance.”
“They say you got into an altercation with Ben. Who is a married man, by the way.”
“That’s his problem, not mine. And everyone is making it out to be something more than what it was.”
Dustin put his hands on his hips and looked at Chase. “You gave her a ride home. They said you had your hands all over her.”
Realizing how carried away Megan’s gossip had been, Chase grimaced. “Whoever they are, I would like to get my hands on them for spreading rumors.”
Dustin pinned him with his gaze. “Did she invite you in for a drink?” At that, heat flamed in Chase’s face. “Oh-ho!” Dustin let out a whoop.
“No just about it. A drink is a drink.”
“Can you keep that a secret? I don’t want Brooke’s reputation to be questioned. It was an innocent invitation, and I left after I drank the coffee.”
“I’ve got your back, man. My lips are sealed.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”