Authors: Mary Eason
held her close and tried to find the right thing to say to comfort her while Kate fought to control her sobs.
She wasn’t aware of how close they were, of the gentle touch of his thumb as he brushed away her tears.
His fingers stilled against her skin and his lips brushed soft across her trembling mouth. Kate caught her breath and he captured her sobs with his kiss. For a moment, she couldn’t think of anything but responding to Matt’s kiss.
Her response shocked her
e hand tangled in her hair and his lips trailed upward, touching her cheek and resting against her temple as he gathered her closer. Nothing in the world was more right at that moment than being in Matt's arms.
She didn’t want to break this spell. She didn’t want to see just friendship in his eyes.
Are you okay?” he asked.
." She stepped back and he let her go. She didn't know what to say to him.
shot that picture,” he told her quietly. “We’d been over at Denny’s place after church one Sunday. It was a few weeks before…” Kate closed her eyes. His voice held the familiar hardness she'd come to hate.
“It’s a beautiful picture of Sammy. He has your eyes.”
He took the photo she held out to him and placed it into one of the desk drawers.
“Come on. Frank and I are finished up here. What say we find some place expensive and exotic to have lunch?”
The sun was just beginning to set when they reached the outskirts of
The restaurant Matt chose was Italian. Not exactly exotic, but definitely expensive.
At first, she'd been a little embarrassed by the emotions they’d shared, especially the kiss, but by the time dessert arrived, they were back to their earlier comfortable conversation and on safer ground.
Kate found herself telling Matt about the time she’d been to
Denver with her grandmother for a Broncos game.
“Oh yes, Rachel was a huge Bronco fan, wasn’t she? She rarely missed a game on TV. We used to watch the games together
, and she could get downright brutal. So she dragged you to a game when they were still playing at Mile High, huh? That must have been some experience.”
“Oh, it was.” Kate told him how they’d almost been thrown out of the stadium when her sweet grandmother had gotten into an argument with a fan from the opposing team over one of the official’s calls. “It was just ugly.”
She and Matt spent the remainder of the afternoon sightseeing. It was so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the city and forget all of her doubts and uncertainties.
Once they were away from the lights of
Denver, pitch darkness settled in and a dense fog drifted down from the mountains.
Matt’s attention focused on the sharp curves of the road, while Kate sat quietly beside him
watching the darkness pass by while some of her earlier sadness returned.
She was almost grateful that his attention was on
his driving. She didn’t want to talk. She wanted to bury the feelings that were still raw and unexplored as deep and as far from her heart as possible. She wasn’t ready to examine what she really felt for Matt.
The ghostlike fog followed them most of the way back to Silver Mountain. By the time he turned off Main Street next to the diner, he could feel the muscles across his shoulders aching.
He stopped the truck next to Kate’s tiny apartment and
glanced over at her. She was sound asleep.
“Kate,” he whispered, but she didn’t respond. Matt touched her arm and tried again. “Hey
, sleepyhead, time to wake up. You’re home.”
Nothing but a soft moan.
Matt dug keys from her purse and slid out, leaving the vehicle running and the heater on against the chill of the night.
He unlocked her apartment, turned on the living room light and went to the passenger side. Slowly he opened the door, only to be rewarded with yet another soft little moan as Kate turned away.
Gritting his teeth, he unfastened her seat belt and lifted her. Five months pregnant, she still felt too light in his arms.
Don’t think about what you’re doing, just do it.
He almost dropped her in response to the soft touch of her breath against his cheek when she snuggled against him.
Matt laid her on the bed and removed her shoes then pulled the blanket up and dropped her purse on the chair.
He was out the door and almost to the truck before he remembered to breathe again.
She’s nothing but a friend to you. That’s all she’ll ever be.
felt good in his arms, her lips had tasted so sweet, and there hadn’t been anything resembling friendship in the way she’d kissed him back. It was her reaction from seeing Sammy’s photo that made her respond the way she had. Nothing more.
Hours later when Matt finally settled into bed, he could almost hear Amy’s words reminding him of the truth he was desperately trying to deny.
You’re crazy about her.
But she only wanted to be friends.
The sooner he learned to accept that boundary the better off for the both of them.
When Kate woke the following morning it was a long time before she was able to come to terms with how she’d gotten inside her apartment from the truck.
The alarm clock beside her bed announced the lateness of the hour. Kate didn’t have time to worry about what Matt thought about putting her to bed. She was almost an hour late for work.
It was after seven when she unlocked the door to find several patrons waiting.
“I’m sorry.” She apologized to them. “I overslept.”
Kate started the coffee then went back through to the customer area. “It won’t be a minute.”
She had just put the decaf on when Herman and Amy came in. One
peek at the older woman’s expression was enough to tell her everything she needed to know.
Kate had been very careful not to mention the trip to
Denver, but the woman would have seen them leaving together. She tried to ignore Amy’s knowing chuckle.
“You’re awfully flustered this morning. Something I should know about?”
“No.” Kate grabbed the coffee pot and went out to fill the customers’ cups.
The remainder of the morning came with a steady flow of customers, which made it easy to avoid Amy.
Somehow, through the hectic day Kate finally let herself to think of Matt. He needed her faith and her friendship. She believed that God had brought her to this small town for just that reason. Whatever dreams she might be letting go of by remaining here didn’t matter. She owed Matt so much. He’d probably saved both her life and her child’s. Surely, friendship was the least that she could give him in return for that.
Matt was so involved in the program he’d been working on
that the phone ringing on his desk didn’t register at first. Out of sheer reflex reaction, he picked it up.
“What?” he answered
while scanning through the program for errors.
, Matt?” Kate’s hesitant voice brought his attention back to the call.
“Kate? Oh hey, I’m sorry I didn’t realize that was you.” Matt grimaced. Lame. That sounded so lame.
“You’re busy. Oh, Matt, I’m sorry. I’ll call you later when you’re finished. Or you call me back when you can talk—”
. No, I’m not busy, not really. Just catching up on some things. I’m just working through some problems.” He tried to collect his straying thoughts. “Sorry. I’m not busy, in spite of what it sounds like. Actually, I could use the break.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” He glanced down at his watch. It was already three-quarters through the day. Her shift at the diner would have ended hours ago. “I didn’t realize it was so late.”
“I take it you’ve been working so hard that you forgot to take a break even to eat?”
His silence answered the question and he could almost picture her smiling.
“What are you working on that’s so interesting?”
Matt rarely talked about his work, but he found himself telling Kate more than he’d shared with anyone in a long time. After he told her the last in a long line of problems, he decided he’d spent the last half hour giving out details that most people would probably consider boring.
. I forget sometimes that to everyone else but me, this stuff is pretty dry—”
“Are you kidding?” Kate dismissed his apology entirely. “I think it’s fascinating, definitely James Bond. I can’t even imagine doing something so creative. You have a real talent there.”
“Yeah, well, I’m just lucky, I guess.” He liked the easy way she had of making him feel special even when he was rambling on about work. “Did you sleep okay last night?”
“I don’t remember anything at all about how I got to bed. But I’m pretty sure I should be thanking you for that. I definitely owe you and I’m sorry to be such a boring companion, although I did warn you.”
“There’s nothing boring about you, Kate.”
“Thank you for the compliment, and for getting me to bed safely last night. I owe you.”
Hearing her voice made him want to see her. “You know, I think you do
—owe me that is. Can you cook?”
Her response was a
nother strangled laugh.
He decided it was worth taking a chance.
“I skipped breakfast and lunch and I’m starving. You think you could find something for a hungry person to eat?”
Silence rocked between them
as the seconds ticking by.
“You want me to make you dinner?”
“Well, that depends. Only if you can cook. Otherwise, you’d better let me handle it. I can be there in...” Matt was already closing out of the program as he glanced at his watch. “I can be there in twenty minutes.”
He lowered the receiver
, smiling at the sound of Kate’s frantic pleas for him not to hang up. He decided the best way to handle Kate’s hesitation was to ignore it.
Kate was still trying to talk him out of coming when she heard the dial tone. He’d hung up without giving her a chance to refuse.
She glanced down at her jeans and then to the black
T-shirt that fell mid-thigh and decided she couldn’t possibly appear any worse.
She wasn’t trying to attract anyone’s attention.
Amy and Herman had told her that she should feel free to use the diner’s kitchen whenever she wanted
since the diner closed early at this time of year. Since the apartment didn't have much in the way of a kitchen, she grabbed the keys to the diner and headed out to find something to make for dinner.
She'd just gotten the lights on and was searching through the fridge when the she heard
the front door open. She turned in time to see Matt picking his way through the rows of tables. The sight of him, tall, strong, and far too handsome caused her to catch her breath. Did he really have no idea just how attractive he was or how much his presence affected her?
He was smiling as he came close. Then he leaned in
and kissed her cheek.
“You know you never did answer my question,”
he said completely at ease.
“What question?” Kate turned back, confused.
“Whether you can cook. Or am I going to have to prepare one of my few specialties to try and impress you?”
Kate’s grinned at him. “Of course I can co
ok. And you should know that if you knew anything at all about my grandmother. She insisted on it. She was an excellent cook and she taught me everything I know. So, just what would you like?”
“Oh, I remember all right. I would probably have starved to death a long time ago if it hadn’t have been for Rachel’s co
oking.” Matt searched the contents of the fridge. He dug out a couple of steaks and the fixings for a fresh salad, held them up to her, and watched her nod.
“You never answered my other question, either.” Matt said a little while later as he cut a piece of steak and closed his eyes in satisfaction.
“What question? What are you talking about? I don't remember you asking me another question, Matt Stevens. ”
As I recall, I asked you what are your plans were for the future? Are you staying in Silver Mountain or are you going to disappear again?”
Matt expected her to hesitate. She didn’t.