Chase felt embarrassed when Brooke’s daughter said, “Ew.” He had thought nothing of finishing the donut, but he wondered if he should not have done it. Meeting her eyes, he felt the pull of attraction.
He finished the fritter and wiped his hands on a napkin. “That might become my new favorite donut.” He winked at Brooke and she blushed.
“Daddy and I don’t like apple fritters, do we, Daddy?” Maddie’s expression was stern as she met Chase’s. Uh-oh. His daughter was a little jealous? She had that same expression that Lisa used to get when another woman talked to him or smiled at him. He hadn’t been a flirt. Well, he had been, back in high school, before he got serious about Lisa. He had been faithful to her during their dating years and all throughout their marriage.
But Lisa had a jealous nature and read something into every conversation he’d had with other women. It hadn’t stopped her from flirting though. He recalled how jealous he had felt.
His eyes met Brooke’s again. “Sometimes it’s good to try something new.”
She smiled. “Sometimes it is.”
There was an awkward moment as they stood in the parking lot. Chase broke the silence.
“Can I call you again, Brooke?”
It was obvious the girls got along, and he could see them spending more time together. But he also wanted time alone with Brooke. He hoped she wanted to spend time with him, to continue getting to know each other.
He had surprised her. He thought she might turn him down, but she smiled, instead.
“I’d like that.”
“All right. It was nice seeing you again, Brinley.”
“It was nice meeting you, Maddie,” Brooke said.
Maddie turned and raced to Chase’s pickup
When they were on their way home, Maddie said, “I like Brinley.”
Chase decided to press the issue a little. “Do you like Brinley’s mom?”
Maddie shrugged. “She’s okay, I guess. She’s not as pretty as Mommy.”
Chase wondered if his daughter could even remember what Lisa looked like, but of course she would feel that way. He thought Brooke’s fresh beauty was a welcome change to Lisa’s heavy makeup that couldn’t hide the effects of alcohol abuse. He didn’t think Brooke had worn make up this morning, although he remembered that last night and the night of the reunion, she had. He thought she was pretty either way.
He had it bad, he realized as he pulled into his mom’s driveway.
Dustin’s truck was there. He would expect the scoop on the date and the donut date this morning.
Dustin stood in front of the garage, putting gas in the riding mower.
“You don’t have to do that,” Chase said.
“I think it’s my turn.”
The three brothers took turns mowing the three acres out of twenty that his dad had kept mowed.
“No, I think it’s my turn this week.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you can do the weed whacking.”
“Okay. I’ll change first.”
Chase started towards the house.
“Oh no, not so fast.”
Dustin waited, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
Chase leaned against the garage. Although he had gone out with Brooke on Friday and had donuts with her this morning, he was already counting down the time until he could see her again.
“She must be. She’s got you dating again.”
“Yeah, well, maybe it was time.”
“Maybe it was good timing, meeting her at the reunion.”
“I hope it’s good timing for her.” Chase felt the pressure to know how Brooke was feeling.
“What did Maddie think of her?”
“I think she is a little jealous,”
“Like her mom?”
“Leave Lisa out of this.”
“Lisa is a big part of this. You haven’t been interested in dating since she left you.”
“We never divorced.” After he confronted Lisa about the affair, she had moved in with her boyfriend. She had been ready to file for divorce when she was diagnosed with cancer. Then her boyfriend had dumped her. Chase had let her move back in, and became the dutiful husband. He had taken care of her during her illness.
Three years after the affair, he was still having a hard time forgiving her. Dustin knew that more than anyone.
“No, but she would have moved on. It’s all right that you do, too.”
Chase snorted. “Great advice coming from someone who broke off his engagement with a great girl.”
“Yeah, a friend of Lisa’s, if you remember. She knew about Lisa’s affair. She didn’t think it was important enough to me to tell me. I couldn’t trust her after that.”
Chase straightened. It was time to put his anger to rest. He hadn’t been ready to let go of the past, until he saw Brooke at the reunion.
“Enough talk about Lisa. You’re right, it’s okay for me to move on. And Brooke is worth taking a chance on.”
“Just take things slow.”
Chase grinned. “Again, not taking advice from you.”
“Actually it’s Mom’s advice.”
“What? You were talking about me with Mom?”
Dustin shrugged. “She brought it up. She is afraid you are moving too fast.”
Chase didn’t say anything. Was he moving too fast? He had met up with Brooke one week ago. He had called her two days later to ask her on a date. Dinner last night, donuts this morning? Maybe he should slow down. But when he pictured the warmth in her smile and the light in her eyes that seemed to reflect his own interest, he was sure that he was on the right track.
He changed and did the weed whacking. Dustin stayed for lunch. They got out the quads and drove through the woods, checking out the trail cams. Deer hunting season wouldn’t start until November, but there was a youth hunt in September. Chase and Dustin would be teaching the hunter’s safety class in a few weeks, and he was letting Josh hunt this year.
Their older brother, Darrick, came over for supper, bringing his son with him. Trevor and Josh ate and then disappeared into Josh’s room, where the video games were.
Chase brought up the subject of Brooke’s bookkeeping experience with Darrick.
“I thought you might want to interview her.”
“Why, because you are dating her?”
Chase frowned at Darrick’s harsh words. “No, because I believe she is a qualified bookkeeper. At least, she seems to know what she is talking about.”
Their mom spoke up for Brooke. “She worked as a bookkeeper for a number of years. I don’t think she went back to work after her husband passed away.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, hiring someone you are dating.”
Chase’s eyes narrowed as he tried to read Darrick, to see how serious he was.
“If I wasn’t dating her, would you consider it?”
Darrick shrugged. “I would interview her, at least.”
Chase sat back. “All right, then. I’m asking you to give her an interview. If you don’t think she has what it takes, or if you are still worried that it would not be appropriate, then don’t hire her. At least you’re giving her a chance.”
“Is she ready to work?”
“She is.” Again their mom spoke up. “Her mom and I talk, you know. She has mentioned that Brooke was going to be looking for a part time job when the kids start back to school.”
“She probably needs the money.” It was Dustin who said this. “She’s a single parent.”
Chase shrugged. “I’m not so sure it’s about the money. I get the feeling that she would like to work again.”
“I’ll call her Monday and have her come in for an interview. Against my better judgment.”
Chase felt satisfied that Darrick was giving her a chance. “I won’t say anything to her about your calling her. I’ll leave it up to you.”
Darrick’s mouth curved slightly. “I appreciate that you won’t interfere with my job.”
“Yeah, well, I appreciate you giving her a chance.”