Firefly Lane Page 31


"Yes," was all she could say.

She rolled onto her side, slid her naked leg over him. "Is it always like that?"

When he turned to her, she saw something in his blue eyes that confused her: fear.

"No, Katie," he said after a long time. "It's not."

Kate woke in Johnny's arms. They both lay on their backs, with the sheets puddled around their hips. She stared up at the planked ceiling, feeling the heavy, unfamiliar weight of his hand between her naked breasts.

Dawn's pale glow slanted through the open window, collecting in a buttery smear on the hardwood floor. The endless slapping of waves against the pilings echoed the slow and steady beat of her heart.

She didn't know what she was supposed to do now, how she was supposed to act. From their first kiss, this had been a magical and unexpected gift. They'd made love three times during the night, the last time only a few hours ago. They'd kissed, they'd made omelettes and eaten in front of the fire, they'd talked about their families and their job and their dreams. Johnny had even told a series of extremely stupid jokes.

What they hadn't talked about was tomorrow, and it was here now, as much a presence between them as the soft sheets and the sound of their breathing.

She was glad she'd waited to make love, even though waiting for the right guy was unfashionable these days. Everything about last night had rocked her world, just as the poets predicted.

But what if Johnny didn't think she was the right girl? He hadn't said he loved her—of course he hadn't—and without those words, how was a woman to put passion in context?

Was she supposed to get dressed and sneak out and pretend it never happened? Or should she go downstairs and make breakfast and pray to God that last night was a beginning and not an ending?

When she felt him stir beside her, she tensed up.

"Morning," he said in a gravelly voice.

She didn't know how to play coy or act indifferent. She'd loved him too long to pretend otherwise. What mattered now was that they didn't just get up and go their separate ways. "Tell me something I don't know about you."

He stroked her upper arm. "Hmmm. I used to be an altar boy."

It was surprisingly easy to picture him like that, a young, skinny boy, with his hair slicked back from his face with water, walking carefully up the aisle. The image made her giggle. "My mother would love you."

"Now tell me something about you."

"I'm a science fiction geekess. Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune. I love them all."

"I would have pegged you for a romance reader."

"That, too. Now tell me something that matters. Why did you quit reporting?"

"You always go right for deep water, don't you?" He sighed. "I think you've figured it out anyway. El Salvador. I went down there like some kind of white knight, ready to shine my light on the truth. And then I saw what was happening . . ."

She said nothing, just kissed the curl of his shoulder.

"My folks had hidden so much from me. I thought I was prepared, but you can't be. It's blood and death and body parts being blown off. It's dead kids in the street and boys with machine guns. I got captured . . ." His voice faded away; he cleared his throat and reinforced it. "I don't know why they let me live, but they did. Lucky me. I tucked my tail between my legs and ran home."

"You didn't do anything to be ashamed of."

"I ran like a coward. And I failed. So now you know it all, why I'm in Seattle."

"Do you think it changes how I feel about you?"

It was a moment before he said, "We need to take this slow, Katie."

"I know." She rolled over, so that she was pressed against him. She tried to memorize everything about his face and how he looked first thing in the morning. She saw the shadow of a beard that had grown in their sleeping hours and thought: Already, changes.

He tucked the hair behind her ear. "I don't want to hurt you."

She wanted to say simply, Then don't, but this wasn't a time for simple answers or pretense. Honesty mattered now. "I'll take the risk of getting hurt if you will," she said evenly.

A hint of a smile played at the edges of his mouth, but she didn't see it in his eyes. In fact, he looked more than a little worried. "I knew you'd be dangerous."

She didn't understand. "Me? You must be joking. No one has ever thought I was dangerous."

"I do."

"Why?"

He didn't answer; instead, he leaned forward just enough to kiss her. She closed her eyes, waiting for it. She wasn't sure, but maybe, just before his lips touched hers, he said, "Because you're the kind of girl a guy could fall in love with."

He didn't sound particularly happy as he said it.

Outside her front door, Kate paused. Only moments before she'd been flying high, reveling in the night spent in Johnny's arms, but now she was back in the real world, where she'd just slept with a man her best friend had slept with first.

What would Tully say?

She opened the door and went inside. On this gray, rainy morning, the apartment was surprisingly quiet. She tossed her purse on the kitchen table and made herself a cup of tea.

"Where the hell have you been?"

She turned, flinched.

Tully stood there, her hair dripping wet, wearing nothing but a towel. "I almost called the cops last night. Where—You're wearing the suit from yesterday." A slow, knowing smile crept across her face. "Did you spend the night with someone? Oh, my God, you did. You're blushing." Tully laughed. "And I thought you were going to die a virgin." She grabbed Kate's arm and dragged her over to the sofa. "Talk."

Kate stared at her best friend, wishing she'd come home after Tully had left for work. This needed thought, planning. Tully could ruin it all with a word, a look. He's mine, her friend could say, and what would Kate do?

"Talk," Tully said again, bumping her.

Kate took a deep breath. "I'm in love."

"Whoa there, Penelope Pitstop. Love? After one night?"

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It was now or never, and though never sounded good, there was no point in putting off the inevitable. "No," she said. "I've loved him for years."

"Who?"

"Johnny."

"Our Johnny?"

Kate refused to let the pronoun wound her. "Yes. Last night—"

"He slept with me, what? A few months ago, then wouldn't stop calling. He's on the rebound, Katie. He can't be in love with you."

Kate tried not to let the word rebound find purchase, but it did. "I knew you'd make it about you."

"But . . . he's your boss, for God's sake."

"I quit. I'm starting a job in advertising in two weeks."

"Oh, great. Now you're giving up your career for a guy."

"We both know I'm not good enough to make it at the networks. That's your dream, Tully. It always was." She could see that her friend wanted to argue the point; she saw, too, that any argument would be a lie. "I'm in love with him, Tully," she said finally. "I have been for years."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was scared."

"Of what?"

Katie couldn't answer.

Tully stared at her. In those dark, expressive eyes, she saw everything: fear, worry, and jealousy. "This has disaster written all over it."

"I didn't trust Chad all those years ago, remember? But I put it aside because you needed me to."

"Speaking of love disasters."

"Can you be happy for me?"

Tully stared at her, and though she finally smiled, it wasn't the real thing and both of them knew it. "I'll try."

Rebound. The word, like the image it represented, kept springing into Kate's mind.

He slept with me, what? A few months ago . . .

. . . can't be in love with you . . .

As soon as Tully left the apartment, Kate called in sick to work and crawled into bed. She hadn't been there more than twenty minutes when a knock at the front door startled her out of her thoughts. "Damn it, Tully," she muttered, pulling on her pink velour robe and slipping into her bunny slippers. "Can't you ever remember your key?" She opened the door.

Johnny stood there. "You don't look sick."

"Liar. I look terrible."

He reached forward, untied the belt, and pushed the robe off her shoulders. It fell around her feet in a poufy pink puddle. "A flannel nightgown. How sexy." He closed the door behind them.

She tried not to think about her conversation with Tully—

rebound

can't love you

—but the words chased one another across her mind, tripping every now and then over his: . . . don't want to hurt you.

She saw now, suddenly, the danger she'd accepted so naïvely. He could shatter her heart and there was no way to protect herself.

"I thought you'd be happy to see me," he said.

"I told Tully about us."

"Oh. And was there a problem?"

"She thinks I'm a rebound girl."

"She does, does she?"

Kate swallowed hard. "Do you love her?"

"That's what this is about?" He swept her up into his arms, carrying her toward her bedroom as if she weighed nothing at all. Once they were in bed, he began unbuttoning her nightgown, planting kisses along the way. "It doesn't matter," he whispered against her bare skin. "She didn't love me."

She closed her eyes and let him rock her world again, but when it was over and she was curled against him again, the uncertainty returned. She might not be the most experienced girl in the world, but neither was she the most naïve, and there was one thing of which she was sure: it mattered whether Johnny had loved Tully.

It mattered very much.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Falling in love was everything Kate had dreamed it would be. By the time spring came again, painting the landscape with vibrant color, she and Johnny were an honest-to-God couple; they spent most of their weekends together and as many weeknights as possible. In March she'd brought him home to meet the parents and they'd been ecstatic. A nice Irish Catholic boy with a great career and a good sense of humor who liked to play board games and cards. Dad called him a "good egg" and Mom declared him to be perfect. "Definitely worth waiting for," she'd whispered at the end of the first meeting.

For his part, Johnny had fit into the Mularkey clan as if he'd been born into it. He'd never admitted it, but Kate was certain that he liked being part of a family again after so many solitary years. Although they didn't talk about the future, they enjoyed every minute of the present.

But that was all about to change.

Now she was in bed, staring up at the ceiling. Beside her, Johnny lay sleeping. It was just past four o'clock in the morning and already she'd thrown up twice. There was no point in putting off the inevitable any longer.

She peeled the covers back gently, careful not to wake him, and got out of bed. Barefoot, she crossed the thick pad of carpet and went into his bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Opening her purse, she dug through the clutter and withdrew the package she'd purchased yesterday. Then she opened the package and followed the directions.

Slightly less than two hours later, she had an answer: pink for pregnant.

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