She hadn’t been fishing for compliments, but his certainty about her abilities sure felt good. “Thanks for your confidence in me. I feel the same way about you, Nathan. You’ve got this.”
He swept his hand up her back and into her hair. “Then I guess we’re both going to kick some ass, aren’t we?”
She gave him a smile. “Hell yes we are.”
He brushed his lips across hers, lingering for a few seconds and making her breath catch before he pulled back to take a swallow of coffee.
“So . . . about last night.”
She tilted her head. “What about last night?”
“In the car on the way to the party. I thought you were texting a guy.”
“Oh.” Her lips curved. “I wasn’t. I was texting your mom.”
“Yeah. Well, when I thought you had a date, I didn’t like it.”
She tried to fight the smile. “Okay.”
“So I’d like you to be with me, Mia. Just me. Try me out for a while. I know you’ll like me.”
She laughed. “I’m not seeing anyone else, Nathan, and have no intention of doing so. And I already like you.”
“Good. And ditto. I’m not seeing anyone else, either. And this is different from what we were before. Now we’re dating. In a relationship. Ya know?”
His broad grin made her melt. “Yes. I know. We’ll try it out for size and see how it goes.”
So now they were officially in a relationship. Which was weird since they’d been friends for years. She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping this worked out between them without ruining what they had.
MIA HAD PACED AND PONDERED AND THOUGHT AND agonized about this, tossing the idea around in her head and throwing it away multiple times. But she was running out of time and she needed to make a decision. Or at least ask the damn question. Which she wished she had asked a couple of weeks ago. But their status had changed only a few days ago, and oh, why was she worrying about this?
She finally grabbed her phone and called Nathan Tuesday afternoon. He picked up.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Are you busy?” she asked.
“Nah. Just doing some things around the house.”
“I need to ask you a question, and you can feel free to say no.”
He paused. “Okay.”
“My brother Barrett is getting married this weekend in Texas. I need a date for the wedding.”
He paused again. “I don’t know anyone in Texas, but if you give me a few hours I’m sure I could rustle someone up for you.”
“So you’re asking me to be your date for the wedding?”
She liked that he made this easy for her. “Yes, I would really like it, if you’re not busy this weekend, if you’d come with me and be my date for my brother’s wedding. It’s super last minute and all and you can feel free to say no.”
“I’d love to come with you, Mia.”
She exhaled. “Thanks. I hate going to these things solo and I would have asked you sooner, but our relationship just changed recently and before that I was going by myself. But now you and I—you know—God, I’m not making any sense.”
He laughed. “I said I’d be happy to go, babe. Just text me the details.”
“Great. I’ll make the travel arrangements. We’ll go up Thursday night and come home Sunday night if that doesn’t interfere with anything you’re doing.”
“Right now I’m only doing gym time and a few meetings. So my schedule is clear.”
“Perfect. I really appreciate this, Nathan.”
“Not a problem. I’m sure it’ll be fun. I like at least one of your brothers, and your parents.”
She laughed. “You’ll love my entire family. I promise.”
They hung up and she felt as if a giant weight had been lifted off of her. She went to her office window and looked out over the bay. It was foggy today, and she wanted nothing more than to be outside to feel the salty spray on her face.
She didn’t feel it was necessary to have a date for the wedding. She didn’t. She was an adult and a businesswoman. She didn’t need a man to feel complete. It was just that a lot of her friends would be there. A lot of her married friends who would then ask her endless questions about her dating life. That was what she didn’t need.
But now she was dating Nathan. Which would likely bring about a whole new set of questions. Then again, no one would have to know if they didn’t tell anyone.
She rubbed her forehead with her finger.
Relationships were fraught with baggage, both external and internal. She was going to have to have a discussion with Nathan about whether or not to discuss their relationship while they were with her family. Did she really want to get into it with her parents? Her brothers? God, her brothers. The inquisition could be mind-boggling, both for her and for Nathan. And right now things between Nathan and her were so new, so tenuous, the last thing she wanted or needed was for her family to insert themselves into the middle of it all.
No. Absolutely not. She’d let everyone believe they were still just friends and leave it at that.
Now that that was out of the way, she made Nathan’s flight arrangements to coincide with hers, and called her mother.
“Mia, it’s so great to hear from you.”
“How goes the wedding planning, Mom?”
“It’s all under control over here. Harmony’s mother, Diane, and I have been on the phone daily going over the checklist, and we have everything covered. Harmony and Barrett will be in town soon and we’ll do final dress fittings, and pick up the tuxes, and oh, by the way, I’ll have your dress here.”
“Thanks, Mom.” It was so sweet of Harmony to ask her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. And even sweeter that she had chosen the most beautiful dresses to wear. Not all bridesmaids were that lucky.
“So what’s up?” her mom asked.
“I’m bringing someone with me to the ranch.”
“Oh? And who’s that?”
“Nathan Riley. You remember him from college?”
“He’s a friend, so separate bedrooms for us.”
“Okay. I’ll jot his name down on the guest list.”
She loved that her mother didn’t ask probing questions.
At least not yet. She imagined her mother would want to get a feel for her relationship with Nathan. Then she’d ask the probing questions.
Which was fine. Her mom could ask all the questions she wanted.
Mia intended to divulge nothing.
NATHAN PULLED INTO THE DRIVE OF THE DOUBLE C ranch.
“One hell of an impressive place,” he said to Mia.
She sighed. “To me, it’s always been home.”
“It must have been great to grow up here.”
She unbuckled her seat belt and turned to him with a smile. “It didn’t suck.”
They were surrounded by barking dogs of all shapes and sizes when Nathan exited the rental car. He bent and petted all of them, until a whistle sent them scurrying. He recognized the man on the porch right away. It was Easton Cassidy, football legend and Mia’s father.
“Hey, Dad,” Mia said, making her way to the front porch to give her father a hug.
“Hey, baby girl.” Easton surrounded his daughter with a tight hug. “It’s been forever since I’ve seen you.”
She laughed. “Only a few months. You look good.”
“So do you.”
Nathan stood on the ground, waiting.
“Nice to see you again, Nathan,” Easton said.
“You, too, Mr. Cassidy.” Nathan made his way up the porch steps to shake Easton’s hand.
“I’ve told you before. Call me Easton. How’s your dad doing with his retirement?”
“He seems fine with it. He’s happy to be able to spend time with my little brother.”
“I’ll bet he is. I’ll have to give him a call and tell him all the fun things he can do now that he’s retired.”
“Like buy a ranch?” Mia asked with a teasing smile.