He nods. “I went on the mission trip with the church, and she fell into someone else’s arms and wanted out of our marriage. But by then she was pregnant with my baby.”
“If she showed up today and wanted to try again, what would you say?” I hold my breath and wait for his answer.
“I would tell her I’m head over heels in love with his cute little chick named Finny who has filled up all the cracked spaces in my heart.”
My breath catches. That’s just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.
“Do you want to be a mom?” he asks softly.
“I never really liked babies very much,” I admit. It’s true. No need to hide it.
“Oh,” he says. He lets out a heavy exhale.
“But I love yours. So if you’re asking me if I could love him like a mother would love a child, the answer is yes. I could.”
“Do you ever feel shafted because of your adoption?” he asks.
I snort. “I feel shafted that I have a mother who is mentally unstable. But adoption? No. No shafting there.” I take in a deep breath. “Marta has proven to me that a mother can love a child who doesn’t share her DNA. Without reserve and without prejudice. She’s my mom, and I love her and she loves me back. That’s all there is to it. I hope whoever you marry will be the same thing for Benji.”
I get up off the bed because I’m feeling sort of lost after this conversation.
“Finny,” he calls out as I head to the bathroom.
I hesitate, still feeling raw and exposed. “Yes?”
“I know this has gone really fast, but I want to be with you and see where this thing goes.”
“I do too,” I whisper. I don’t know if he hears me or not.
“Finny,” he calls again. I turn back, but this time I meet his eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asks.
“I’m just feeling really…sad all of a sudden.”
“I thought you were happy,” he rushes to say as he gets to his feet.
“But you said whoever I marry.” He bends down so he can stare into my eyes.
“Whoever gets to be Benji’s mother will be a lucky woman,” I tell him, then I go into the bathroom and close the door.
I turn on the shower and stare at my reflection in the mirror while the water warms. What if I’m not meant to be Benji’s mother? What if Tag can never love me like he loved Julia? What if…what if the world keeps turning and I want to get off?
“This is what falling feels like,” I say to the mirror.
My reflection stares back at me.
Suddenly the door bursts open and I step back in the small bathroom to dodge the bump of it.
“What did you mean when you said that?” Tag demands to know. “Are you telling me that you don’t want to be with me?”
“We really just met–”
“We met months ago,” he corrects.
“No, we fucked months ago,” I say.
He freezes. “Is that why I can’t get you off my mind? Because it was just fucking? Is that why you gave me what I needed today when you took me to church? Is that why you are in my head and in my heart and so damn deep in my soul?” He pulls me hard against him. “Tell me to go away,” he growls.
“I can’t,” I whisper. Then I draw his head down to mine and kiss him. It’s a fear-filled, lust-ridden gnashing of teeth and tongues, and my breath stutters in my chest. I push him back. “I can’t think when we do that,” I complain. “I can’t tell you to go away but I can’t tell you to kiss me, either. I have no idea what to do with you.”
“Just love me,” he says. “Or is that the problem? Am I simply unlovable? If that’s the case, just say so.”
I cup his face in my palm and stare into his brown eyes. “You’re not unlovable. I’m just not sure I’m worthy.”
“What?” He covers my hand with his on his cheek.
“What if I’m not good enough to be a wife and a mother?”
“You’re good enough. Better than good enough. You’re so much that you make my heart stop just looking at you.” He squeezes my hips. “Then I touch you and I lose all reason.”
He clears his throat. “That first night when you pulled your top down and sat in front of me with your tits out and no shame at all, I thought I wanted you then. And when you took me to church and you brought your whole family to support me, I knew I needed you then. When you cried on my son’s shoulder on the Ferris wheel, and you held him close and protected him, I knew I loved you then, because that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But now, right this second, I want you and I love you and I can’t live without you, Finny. If you tell me to walk away, I will. But please tell me to stay. I understand if you don’t feel as strongly as I do yet, but just give me time to make you love me.”
“Why did you come to this hotel room?” I hate that I need to know, but I do.
“Because I wanted to hold you all night.”
“That’s the only reason?”
He looks directly into my eyes. “Yes.”
“You had no expectation of sleeping with me?”
He grins. “I hoped I would get to sleep with you, Finny, I won’t lie. But if you’re not ready, I’ll settle for whatever you’ll give me.”
I kiss him then, and he kisses me back. It’s soft and tender and slow. Then I turn my back, pull my shirt over my head, and ask him without words to unhook my bra, simply by looking over my shoulder at him. His lips touch my shoulder as he works the clasp. The straps fall away and I let the bra drop over my arms. I kick my shoes off, yank off my socks, push my pants down along with my panties and step out of them. The screech of the shower curtain when I pull it back is loud.