Joy Palmer was avoiding him. What should have been obvious after two phone calls didn’t hit him until he’d made four.
Ted was in sad shape. Real sad shape, not to have recognized that sooner. He’d kissed her, and it was as if his common sense had taken a flying leap out the proverbial window.
He’d liked Joy from the first. The woman enthralled him with her unabashed enthusiasm for life. The basketball game had cinched it. Even now he wasn’t sure what had prompted him to tail her to her father’s garage. From there the rest was history.
Unfortunately there was the small problem of Blythe. He needed to talk to her, but when he’d phoned she’d abruptly canceled their date without offering an explanation. He wondered if she’d heard about him and Joy but decided that was impossible. He would clear up matters with Blythe, but he’d wait for her to contact him. She would, he knew, and soon.
Ted left the office ten minutes late, trying to decide what he was going to do about Joy. From the office he headed directly to the Wilshire Grove Retirement Center. He smiled when he found Edith parked in her usual spot. On impulse he walked over and patted the Chevy’s hood.
"There’s no escaping me now,” he told the vehicle, and was confident that if Joy did decide to leave, her car would be most uncooperative. After all, Edith had brought them together.
Ted went directly to Joy’s office. He found her secretary in the outer office. "Joy Palmer, please,” he said as if he had a long-standing appointment.
His method worked as the young woman, who looked like a volunteer or a trainee, flipped through the pages of the appointment book. "I’m sorry, but Joy isn’t here.”
"May I ask where she is?”
Once again the assistant sorted through a variety of pages and then looked up with an apologetic expression. "It says here she’s meeting with the library committee, but—”
"Thanks.” Ted didn’t wait to hear the rest. It wasn’t necessary. With his grandmother as president, he knew more than he ever cared to about her precious committee. No doubt they were meeting in the library.
He found the committee members gathered around a table there. Since his grandmother loved her work so much, he recognized each woman in her small group by name. There was Emily and Thelma, Vera and Lois, Mary Frances, Justine, Dorothy, Joyce, Rachel, and a couple of others who had their heads turned away from him so he couldn’t see their faces.
Joy was one of those.
His grandmother was speaking—quite vehemently, he noted—when she saw him. Surprise caused her to falter, something he guessed didn’t happen often.
"Ted,” she said, recovering quickly.
Ted stepped into the compact room. "I’m sorry to interrupt you ladies,” he said, and his gaze found and connected with Joy’s. He loved the way the color rose up her neck and invaded her pale cheeks. "I need to speak with Joy Palmer, if that would be possible.”
"I’m in the middle of a meeting,” she protested, and looked to Catherine for support. She should have known better.
"It’s all right, dear,” Catherine said ever so sweetly. "We’ve already taken far more of your time than we intended. You go on and talk to your young man.”
This part about the "young man” was said as if she hadn’t a clue who Ted might be.
"Thanks, Grandma,” he said, and winked.
Catherine returned the gesture.
Reluctantly, as if this were the last thing she wanted to do, Joy stood. It took her another couple of minutes to gather her notes and pencils.
By the time she joined him in the hallway outside the library, her face was fire-engine red. "Just exactly what are you doing here?”
"We have a dinner date, remember?”
"I broke it.”
"I got your message. There’re two things you need to know about me, Joy Palmer. Number one, I don’t take ‘no’ easily, and number two, if you have something to tell me, I’d prefer you did it to my face.”
"All right,” she said, squaring her shoulders. "I can’t go to dinner with you.”
"Why can’t you?” he pressed. He wouldn’t make this easy for her, if that was what she assumed. He’d meant what he said about not taking "no” easily.
She stiffened and knotted her hands around the pad and pen she’d clenched against her chest. "Can’t you just accept the fact I changed my mind?” she pleaded, her back pressed against the wall. "Take Blythe.”
"I’m more interested in taking you,” he told her simply. "I can’t and won’t accept the fact you’ve changed your mind.”
Briefly she closed her eyes. She seemed to have gathered some inner strength, because when she opened them again, Ted saw something that hadn’t been there earlier.
"I don’t want to see you again, understand? That shouldn’t be so difficult, should it?” Her voice was cool and unemotional, unlike everything he knew her to be.
"It wouldn’t be so hard if I believed it.”
"What do I have to do to convince you? My word should be enough.”
"Not this time.” He backed her against the wall and loomed above her. Her huge eyes followed his movements.
"Let me go,” she insisted indignantly.
"In a minute,” he promised. This wasn’t what he’d planned, but then he didn’t really have a plan. There was only one way he could think of to convince Joy she was lying to herself as much as him. And that was to kiss her.
"S-h-h,” he whispered, lowering his mouth to hers. His kiss was gentle and lengthy and convincing.