He rubbed his chin in her hair and breathed in the scent of her shampoo, marveling that he’d never smelled anything so wonderful. I should leave the word “idiot” off.
His phone vibrating in his breast pocket was an unwelcome interruption. He shifted Jeisa slightly to one side and checked the caller ID.
He turned off his phone and slid it back into his pocket. Jeisa tensed in his arms.
“You could have answered it,” she said slowly, straightening away from him.
“It wasn’t important,” he said, watching Jeisa’s expression tighten with emotion.
“Was it Alethea?”
He didn’t bother to deny it. “Yes.”
“Is there a reason you feel that you can’t talk to her in front of me?” Jeisa turned on the couch and hugged her legs to her chest.
Only about a million. “I thought now was a bad time.”
“I know you still work with her. I’m not a fool. I know that means you have to talk to her. Ignoring her phone call doesn’t make her go away.”
Jeremy reached for Jeisa’s hand but she scooted back, away from him. “I can call her back if you want.”
Jeisa stood and turned her back to him. “No, I don’t want you to call her back.”
Jeremy went to stand behind her. “Then I’m confused.”
She spun around, hands on her hips, and said, “And how do you think I feel?” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I can’t do this. I thought I could do this, but I can’t. I’m losing my mind.”
He reached out for her but she stepped back. “Jeisa . . .”
“No, don’t touch me. When you touch me I forget how much the rest of this hurts.”
He pocketed his hands and rolled back on his heels. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her. He’d thought they were having the kind of first date people shared a secret smile about together on their fiftieth anniversary. Had he misread the situation that badly? “I don’t understand.”
She covered her eyes with one hand, hugging herself with her other arm. “I can’t have sex with you anymore. Not like this.”
What did she mean like this? “I thought you said it was wonderful.”
She lowered her hand, her eyes now shiny with tears. “It was wonderful. Too wonderful. I came here because I love you. Today was amazing—all of it. You showed me how good it could be between us. I can’t help falling deeper in love with you, and it terrifies me.”
“Because you think I don’t love you?” he asked with relief. That was easy enough to rectify. “Jeisa, I do.”
He wasn’t prepared for her angry denial of his admission. “Don’t. Don’t say it now. Not when I just told you that I’m not having sex with you anymore if you don’t. How am I going to believe you? I’ll always wonder if you only said it because I forced you to.”
“But I do love you.”
“See, I don’t believe you. You’re only saying it because I cornered you into it.”
Man, women are a puzzle. Jeremy sought clarification before deciding how to proceed. “So, let me get this straight. You slept with me because you love me. It was so good that it made you love me more, but you don’t want to sleep with me again. Ever?”
Jeisa’s face flushed with anger. “I didn’t say ever. Don’t twist this all up.”
I’m trying to untwist it, he thought. “Okay, so the problem is that you don’t think I love you.”
“No, the problem is that I let myself get tangled up in a situation that was wrong for me from the start. I shouldn’t have taken that job at Corisi Enterprises. I should have never lied about my typing skills. I should have called my father and told him the truth. Then I wouldn’t have met Mrs. Duhamel and started working with you.” She waved an angry hand in his direction. “I came here because I wanted to be a strong, independent woman. And look at me. I’m lying like a teenager and practically begging some man to love me while I try to quit yet another job that I’m not qualified for anyway.”
Jeremy grasped onto the only part of her tirade that made sense to him. “What are you lying about?”
“You. Me. Everything. My father thinks I’m an au pair.”
Amusement made the sides of Jeremy’s mouth twitch as he suppressed a smile. “You told him you’re babysitting me?”
“No,” she sighed angrily. “It’s a long story and one that I don’t want to get into right now.”
“Are you sure it wouldn’t help if I told you again that I love you?” He instantly regretted defaulting to humor in the midst of a confrontation. She glared at him and began cursing in Portuguese.
She took a deep breath and calmed herself. “Fine. Joke about it. I should be grateful to you for making the decision easier.”
Jeremy ran a hand through his hair. “What decision? Jeisa, I didn’t mean . . .”
With her lips pressed in an angry line, she announced, “I won’t be going to Thanksgiving with you. I don’t need to wait until then to know that we can’t work this out.”
Jeremy paced in front of her, hating how his inexperience with women was likely the reason the situation was going from bad to finished. WWDD: What would Dominic do? Asking himself that question had successfully guided him through the rest of his transformation. Perhaps he’d been wrong not to apply it to his relationship with Jeisa.
Women don’t respect weak men.
“You will come to Thanksgiving with me.” He felt a rush of pride when his tone held just a hint of a warning.
Jeisa cocked her head in surprise. “Are you threatening me?”
“I don’t make threats,” he mimicked what he’d once heard Dominic say.