Randie felt healthy enough on Saturday to be restless. She was tired of watching movies and reading. She wanted to do something, but didn’t have the energy. She was flipping through TV channels, hoping to find something wonderful, when Lucas called.
“My mom just came and got the kids. If you hate this idea, I get it, but would you like me to pick you up in an hour and drive you to your grandma’s house? I thought seeing it might help with closure. And then, if you’re up to it, we could stop somewhere to eat.”
“Somewhere with soup?” She did want to see Gram’s house, but wasn’t sure she could face it alone. It might be nice to have someone with her.
“I’ll try to think of a good soup restaurant. So, are we on?”
“I’ll be ready.”
“An hour from now works?”
“Perfect. And thanks, Lucas.” She meant it. He was so thoughtful.
“Everyone needs a little TLC sometimes. See ya.”
She pushed off the sofa and hurried into the shower to get ready. Even with makeup, she looked pale, but she looked as good as she could when he knocked on the door.
When she opened it, he smiled. “You look like you’re feeling better.”
“I’m over the flu, but it wiped me out. No energy today.” His jeans hung low on his hips, and his long-sleeved T-shirt stretched across hard muscles. His unzipped hoodie looked good on him. Everything looked good on him. A breeze had whipped his black hair so that it looked mussed. She wanted to run her fingers through it and muss it more.
He gave her a sympathetic look. “It takes a minute to build up energy again, so if you get tired and want to come home any time, let me know. I’ll understand.”
She blinked. He was so much more than a hottie hunk. “Are you always this nice?”
“Me? I’d like to say yes, but I have my days, just like anyone else. Ask my brothers. They’re used to me, though, and just put up with me.”
“Well, you seem extra considerate to me, so thanks for taking me to Gram’s house.” Hot and nice—a deadly combination.
“No problem. Let’s go.” He led her to his pickup and they drove across town to its south side. They didn’t talk much on the way, but the silence was comfortable. She didn’t feel the need to force conversation with him. The weather had turned warmer than usual, and it gave a false sense of Indian summer. The trees in the park stretched leafless branches to the sky, but the grass was vivid green.
Lucas turned onto the small road on the park’s far side. He pulled to the curb in front of what was left of Gram’s house. Part of the brick structure still stood, but parts of the walls had crumbled, and the roof had collapsed. The windows were gone, and she could see that the interior was charred black.
She got out of the truck, and he followed. She stood on the sidewalk, staring, and he tucked an arm around her. She liked that. It gave her comfort and balance. “What will they do with it?” It couldn’t be salvaged.
“Probably bulldoze it down and clean up the site.” He studied her. “You okay?”
She nodded, unable to express how she felt. Her future home…gone. What now? She’d never thought about an alternative. Seeing its sad remains hurt. She felt empty inside, but it helped, too. Lucas was right. She needed closure. “Thanks for coming with me. I needed to see it. It’s gone. There’s no saving it.”
“What will you do now?”
She let out a long sigh. What would she do? “Eventually, I’ll look for someplace else. But I’ll stay in my apartment for a while, give myself time to decide where I want to go, if I really want a house or just a bigger apartment.”
He nodded. “It’s not like there’s any hurry.”
Not now. And maybe it was time to expand her vision. Maybe instead of focusing on a house, she’d concentrate on finding a man to share that house with. Rambling around in room after room by herself didn’t appeal as much as it once did.
He tugged her closer to his side. “Ready to move on?”
“I’m starving.” Suddenly, she wanted to leave, to block out what she’d lost, how her views for the future had changed. Too much. She’d put it away for a while and work through it step by step.
He laughed. “Does starving mean something more substantial than soup?”
“Maybe soup and a sandwich.”
He drove toward Rich’s Café. “It’s nothing fancy, but it’s somewhere we might find what you’re craving.”
It was the perfect spot. She ordered potato soup and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. He ordered the goulash special. He told her about his mom leaving to remarry in Florida, and she told him about her brother’s new girlfriend. Their small talk delved deeper than usual, and she loved what she learned about him. The man was always there for people he cared about.
When they finished eating, he drove her home and dropped her off. “We’ve done enough, you probably need to take it easy the rest of the night. I always enjoy being with you. You’re special.”
Her pulse quickened. He liked being with her? She lifted her face for a kiss that didn’t come. Instead, he patted her shoulder.
“Take care. See you Wednesday night.”
And then he was gone. And she stood there, watching him drive away. She wanted more. A kiss. A hug. Maybe a little making out. Was he afraid he could still catch the flu from her? Or didn’t he think of her as sexy? Good Lord, what if he thought of her as a sister? A person to take pity on? He treated his own sister, Dulcey, really well, didn’t he?
She pursed her lips. It was time Lucas Cainer woke up and saw her as a woman. But how far did she want to push that? And how much did she want? To be friends? Friends with benefits? It would be easy to fall deeper and deeper into Lucas’s spell, but he was still a bachelor. Did he want anything serious? Too soon to tell.