The door led to a private backyard highlighted by a large covered stone patio and nice grassy area that would be perfect for relaxing or dining outdoors all year round. “Wow. I really like this.”
“You can relax out here while I cook, if you want. Would you like a glass of wine?”
“I’d love some. Whatever you have that’s light and sweet.”
“I have a Riesling or sauvignon blanc. Which do you prefer?”
“Either is fine.” She watched him go back inside and close the screen, and then walked over to the edge of the patio and leaned against the railing. She stared out over the yard and thought about how much she liked Brandon, how much she enjoyed being with him…and how she was going to tell him that she couldn’t see him anymore.
Brandon decided that they would eat on the patio since Faith seemed to enjoy being out there. All the time while cooking, he took peeks at her, watching her calm expression as she relaxed in one of the loungers and sipped her wine. She was only the second woman he’d brought to his home and he had been leery about inviting her. The last woman he’d invited over shortly after moving in had all but ordered furniture and wanted to rearrange his bedroom, claiming that it needed “a woman’s touch.” Brandon had cut short the plans he had for the evening and the only touch she got was when he held her hand to walk her out to her car and out of his life. He had immediately blocked her number and email address. His name was the only one on the deed and that meant he, alone, decided what did or did not go in his house.
He added chopped tomatoes, spinach, minced garlic and a dash of crushed red pepper to the pan containing sautéed shrimp and stirred. Brandon turned the heat down, drained the fettuccine pasta and added it, along with butter and a little lemon juice to the pan. Bending, he opened the oven door to check the French bread. His mother made the best bread and she had done a couple of loaves for him that he’d picked up yesterday on his way home. All he had to do was bake them for thirty minutes. The bread had another few minutes, so he stood in the doorway with his own glass and observed Faith as she slept. Her half-empty wineglass sat on the small table next and she had one hand resting across her stomach and the other one above her head. He imagined her in his bed, lying naked just this way.
She hadn’t offered her opinion at all and respected his answer about when he’d get furniture without question. It was one more reason, on a growing list, why he liked her. And for the first time in three years, he contemplated them having a relationship beyond what they’d originally agreed upon. Brandon planned to ask her at the end of the evening and hopefully by then he would have made it hard for her to say no.
Going back to the oven, he removed the bread and placed it on a wire rack to cool. Then he went out to the patio to wake Faith. He squatted next to her and placed a soft kiss on her lips. “Wake up, beautiful. Dinner is ready.”
Faith’s eyes fluttered and opened. She gave him a smile that made his heart clench. “Hey.” She sat up and stretched. “I guess being in the sun wiped me out more than I realized.” She swung her legs over the side.
Brandon stood and pulled her to her feet. The evening temperatures had cooled some. For him it was perfect, but he reasoned it might be too chilly for her. “Do you want to eat out here or inside?”
She rubbed her arms. “I really want to eat out here. Let me get my jacket.” He let her precede him into the house. “Oh, my. It smells good in here.” She scanned the kitchen. “Is that homemade French bread?”
“It is, indeed…courtesy of my mom. All I had to do is bake it.”
“I’m impressed.” Faith grabbed her jacket from the bar stool where she’d left it and slipped it on. “Do you need me to help with anything?” He shook his head. “Well, if you show me where everything is, I can fix my own plate.”
Brandon folded his arms. “What you can do is go sit at the table and I’ll bring everything out.” She gave him a look and he added, “Yeah, I know. I’m bossy.” He kissed her. “Just for tonight, will you let me do this for you, baby? You can go back to telling me about myself tomorrow.”