More Texts With Ian

Me: Can we talk about what happened?

Him: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Me: Just tell me. Are you seeing someone else?

Him: Would that matter?

Me: Of course it would matter.

Him: It wouldn’t matter.

Me: Stop it. It would make a difference. Wouldn’t it make a difference if I was seeing someone?

Him: I know about you and Boss.

Me: I know you know. I told you.

Him: No. I know how you feel about him.

Me: Mind telling me, since you’re so in the know?

Him: You like him. You have feelings for him.

Me: I have feelings for you.

Him: He has feelings for you.

Me: How would you know this? He acts like he doesn’t like me very much.

Him: He does like you very much.

Me: What does that have to do with you and me?

Him: He’s my brother. It has everything to do with me and you.

Me: What if I told you I didn’t want to date him?

Him: Is that really true? You don’t want to date him at all? You’re not curious about the two of you?

Me: Honestly?

Him: I hope.

Me: Honestly, I don’t know.

Him: He told me you’ve had a crush on him for years.

Me: He knew that?

Him: Apparently. You’ve known me for a couple of months. You’ve known him for years. You’re not curious?

Me: I….This is irrelevant.

Him: It’s not irrelevant. I can’t date someone my brother is in love with.

Me: HE’S NOT IN LOVE WITH ME.

Him: I really don’t think it could possibly work between me and you. There’s too much…stuff.

I didn’t answer him because I was too busy screaming.

All Over Again

Ian and I were sitting in front of the TV eating Thai food and watching more Flight of the Conchords. It was his last hour with me. He was driving back to Portland, and I didn’t know how to tell him how much he meant to me.I was trying to figure out a way to tell Ian that I wanted to be more than friends, but every time I got near him, or tried to grab his hand, or look at him, he would step back or turn away. He acted like he was allergic to me. But the weekend was amazing anyway. We went for ice cream and bike rides and sat in the sun and talked and talked and talked, and I remembered what it was like to be with him. It was being with my best friend who made me laugh and who told the best stories, and I never wanted to go to sleep when he was around.

I worked up my nerve and cleared my throat. “Ian?”

“Mmm?” He was still not looking at me. Of course he wasn’t.

“I was wondering if I could talk to you about something important.” I fiddled with the zip on my hoodie and stared down.

He sighed and said, “I have to talk to you about something important, too.” This time he looked at me and put his hand on my knee, making it tingle instantly from his touch. He pulled his hand back immediately and frowned like I was disgusting him.

“Oh? What’s that? You go first.” I said.

I had a feeling he was going to tell me he was dating someone and that my pathetic attempts to catch his attention over the weekend were futile. I fidgeted with my zipper some more and looked away from him again. I was sitting too close. I’d forgotten how being near him and smelling his smell made me feel weak in love. I didn’t want to be weak, and I didn’t want to be in love with him. I wanted someone available, and in Seattle, and who wasn’t about to tell me about his fabulous new girlfriend. I was glad he was going first, so I didn’t have to embarrass myself.

“I got the feeling this weekend that maybe you were dropping hints about us.” I wondered if he got that from me taking him to where he told me he loved me and lingering on the spot, or biking back to the beach where he first kissed me. I’m subtle like an armored truck. I knew it was dumb, but I was also a little desperate. A lot desperate. The more time we spent together, the more I realized I was a complete idiot to be apart from him.

I looked away from him.

“I don’t think we should date, Aust3n.” He looked at me with this earnest expression. I knew he was trying to let me down easy, but there was just no way to do it. I felt my face go hot and my eyes water.

“Oh,” I said. “That’s fine.” I got up quickly to go hide in the bathroom, and I heard Ian knock on the door once I’d locked it and slumped to the ground.

“Aust3n?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s not what you think. It’s that I think there’s someone else out there for you who’s more–there’s someone else for you. Believe me. I know.”

I didn’t know what to say, and I was crying, so I wasn’t going to attempt speech anyway. He wasn’t telling me about his new, sexy girlfriend, but I knew.

I heard him slide down on the other side of the door. “Aust3n, this weekend was fun. It was great to see you again. We can still be friends, right?”

I didn’t answer. We couldn’t. I had too many feelings for him. I wanted him too much. This was too embarrassing.

“Aust3n?”

When I didn’t answer again, he sighed and said, “I’m going to go, OK? But I’ll text you. I wish I could explain myself better, but it’s something I know you’ll figure out soon. And you know I think you’re incredible, and this weekend was one of the best ever, and I’ll never forget it. You know that, right?”

After a few minutes of silence, I heard him walk away from the bathroom door, and shortly after I heard my front door open and then close. So he was gone, and that was it.

 

And Also? I Wish Sarah Would Tell Me What She Knows

“So Ian is coming here now?” Sarah asked while I folded a blanket and put it at the end of the sofa. I nodded at her but avoided eye contact. “And he’s going to sleep on the sofa?” I nodded again. “And you’re just going to be friends?” She said, this time her voice dripping with disbelief.

“Stop it! I get it! You don’t think Ian and I can be friends!”

She shook her head. “No, I don’t think Ian can be friends with you. I think you can be friends with him.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that he’s crazy about you. Why isn’t he staying with his brother?”

I shrugged, because I didn’t have an answer.

“It’s because he’s crazy about you.”

“I think he has a thing with this girl in Portland.”

“The blonde hipster? No.” Her mouth puckered.

“Do you have some kind of inside scoop into his brain that I don’t know about?”

Sarah looked away and bit her lip while remaining quiet. She seemed oddly nervous. “Sarah?”

“So, what are you two going to do as ‘just friends’?” she asked while making air quotes.

“I thought we’d go out to eat and maybe I’d cook and we’d hang out on the sofa and watch some movies. And talk. I dunno, nothing big.”

“So he’s coming up from Portland to hang out on your sofa and watch movies and talk with you, and he sends you romantic texts, and you don’t think this is weird at all?”

“He doesn’t send me romantic texts!” I screamed, completely frustrated. “Besides, he told me there’s something important he wants to tell me. I think that’s the real reason he’s coming up.”

“I hope he just gets it over with, or leaves you alone completely. This in between is driving us all nuts.”

“In between WHAT, Sarah?” I gritted my teeth and said, “Ian and I are not dating. It didn’t work. It was a disaster, OK? It was nice for about five seconds and the rest of the time it was me not telling him things and him not telling me things. Ever since we decided to be friends it’s been fantastic. Stop pushing it, OK?”

“OK,” Sarah said, her hands up in the air as if surrendering. “Just…just do me a favor?”

“What?” I asked, suddenly very tired of this conversation.

“Ask him what he wants to do, not what he feels like he should do.”

“What does that mean?”

“Just ask him?”

“OK,” I said. I glanced at my phone and saw a text. Ian was in the city and less than ten minutes away, and my heart beat picked up at the thought of seeing him so soon, and then my stomach twisted at what Sarah had said. Weren’t we better as friends? Or should I push for more?

Wish You Were Here

“I have a problem,” Molly whispered to me as we stood in line for gelato. I stared at her from the side and silently cursed how even pregnant she was still thinner than me, with a tiny bump protruding from her shirt. She looked like she’d eaten three too many chips, not that she was 16 weeks pregnant.

“What’s your problem?” I asked, annoyed.

“Chris wants to come to the ultrasound appointment.”

“Oh,” I said as I frowned at her. “That is a problem. Have you seen him since you two broke it off?”

She shook her head and then asked, “I was wondering if you could come with me, too. To the appointment. I know it’s in the middle of the day and I already asked Sarah and Michael, but neither of them could. I figure since you’re on such, uh, good terms with Boss, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

I stared at her for a minute and wondered if I should be horrified by her words. Did she really think I kissed Boss to get favorable treatment at work? “Well, when you ask like that, how can I say no?” I said through my clenched teeth.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry. Aust3n, you know I’m terrible at not putting my foot in my mouth. I need you there. I didn’t want to ask you but I really need you there.”

I nodded my head to her and we stepped forward to order our gelato.

***

“My question is,” my therapist asked me, “why are you spending so much time obsessing over relationships, both yours and your friends?”

I shrugged at her and then glanced at my watch. Molly’s ultrasound was in less than an hour, but I also didn’t want to rush out and piss off Mary. I was a little scared of her.

“Think, Aust3n. Why do you keep putting all your energy into men instead of into yourself?”

“I’m not putting energy into men. It’s just happening.”

She raised an eyebrow at me and said, “Really? You dating brothers just happens?

“You make me sound like a slut! I haven’t even slept with either of them!” I huffed. It was a partial truth, anyway. “And yes, it just happens. At least with me.”

“OK, let’s assume that this just happened, that you’re right,” she said with a disbelieving tone. “But what do you want from these men? Marriage? Children? What?”

I looked at her, totally bewildered. “I never thought of myself as the marrying kind.”

“Why’s that, Aust3n?”

“Because marriage is for…” I trailed off, trying to think of the right words that would let her release me to go to the hospital and see Molly.

“Marriage is for?” Mary stared at me.

“Marriage is for better people than me,” I muttered.

“Oh?” she said right as her timer went off. She looked at it with a glare, like she was angry. “We need to continue right back at this point next week, Aust3n.”

“Um, about that. I can’t make next week’s appointment because Ian will be visiting me, and I promised him I’d hang out.”

She didn’t need to say anything for me to know she was unhappy with my decision. I would have cared more, except right then my phone buzzed. Ian had sent me a photo of himself. He was laying in the grass with his sunglasses on, smiling up at his phone in a way that made me melt. I still barely recognized him without his beard and his shaggy hair, but there was no denying he was always going to be very, very good-looking. Underneath the photo he’d typed, “Wish you were here.”

I wished I was too.

Texts with Ian

What are you and your brother doing right now?

The Portlandiest things I could think of.

Oh?

Drinking Stumptown coffee while eating maple bacon bars from VooDoo Doughnuts and sitting in a kayak on the Willamette.

Got it.

Something wrong, Aust3n?

Nope. 

Sure? Are you weirded out by me and Boss hanging out right now while I’m texting you?

A little.

But we’re all friends.

Right. Friends.

Aren’t we friends, Aust3n?

I took a deep breath and tapped into my phone: I don’t know. 

He didn’t type anything for a few minutes. Then: Do you want us to be more than friends?

I don’t know.

I live 150 miles away from you.

I know.

And you broke up with me. And dated my brother.

I know. I don’t know if I quite get why you even want to be friends with me, honestly.

Isn’t it obvious?

Uhh…no.

Because, Aust3n.

?

Did you know that despite the awkwardness of Boss and I kissing the same girl, we both still can’t stop talking about you?

You can’t?

It’s weird, I’ll admit.

But you and your brother are…OK?

You’re not going to drive a wedge between us, if that’s what you’re worried about.

I think Boss might hate me.

Trust me, he doesn’t hate you.

Oh?

That’s all I’m allowed to say. He’s glaring at me.

He knows what you’re typing?

Yeah.

And he wants us to be friends?

Definitely.

And he still wants to be friends with me?

Mmmhmmm.

OK, then. I guess.

Aust3n?

Yeah?

Could I come visit you next weekend?

…as…friends?

Yes. Definitely.

And stay at my place, you mean?

Only if it’s alright with you. I can stay with Boss, but I’d rather hang out with you.

Oh.

Aust3n? Is it OK? Or not OK? You’re allowed to say no.

OK. I don’t know. Would it be weird if I asked Boss?

No.

No it wouldn’t be weird? Or no, this whole thing is weird?

This whole thing is weird, but that makes sense.

I think…I think I have to talk to Boss first. OK?

He’s not your boyfriend.

Trust me, I know. But he seems to hate me.

He doesn’t hate you, Aust3n.

OK.

OK. Talk to Boss. Get back to me.

 

He didn’t type anything else, and neither did I. And if we’re just friends, why do I feel like I just got into a big argument with my boyfriend?

Back at the Office

I hadn’t talked to Boss since I’d come back to Portland. We’d been studiously ignoring each other since that last kiss. When he stomped by my cubicle in a mood and asked me to talk with him in his office, I nervously bit my lip thinking it would be about Ian or us or that last kiss. I really had to stop replaying it in my head over and over and over again.

“Um, hi,” I said, closing the door behind me. Boss was pacing in front of his desk like he had too much nervous energy.

He didn’t look at me when he said, “I need you to take over for a week.”

I stood there a full minute trying to parse his words, but failed. “Take over…what?”

He stopped then and looked at me and he started to smile, but it was like he thought better of it and stopped himself. He resumed his grumpy look and said, “The office.”

“What?” I said. “No! I can’t do that! Definitely not!”

“I’m going on vacation. I need someone to do my job for a few days.”

“What about Sandy? Or Mark? Or…” I trailed off trying to think of everyone in the office more responsible than me.

“Listen, if you were sitting at my desk and looking at the sales numbers, the times people call in sick, the times someone in the office offers to do a menial job that’s below them…” He looked away from me again as he said, “The most responsible person is you. This isn’t a personal decision. It’s a business one.”

“OK,” I said softly, not knowing what else to say. Obviously he’d made up his mind.

“I’m leaving this afternoon for Portland.”

“Portland? You’re–“

He cut me off and said, “I’m going to visit my brother.” He said, “my brother,” like we were strangers. This was worse than before we’d ever kissed. At least we were friends then. Obviously Boss didn’t think our friendship was worth salvaging. He said, “I’ll send out an email telling everyone to come to you with issues and I’ll forward you a few files.”

Then Boss stared at me like he was waiting for me to leave. “OK, thanks,” I said, and I left, closing the door behind me. I felt like crying, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I was going to be in charge of the office for a few days, or because Boss hated my guts. I didn’t care what Boss thought, did I? My stomach turned at the thought. I guess I still did.

My phone pinged when I got back to my desk. Ian wrote, “Literally just saw a store with birds on everything,” and I smiled back. At least Ian could make me smile, I reasoned, but I still felt the misery radiating toward my limbs.

“What have I done?” I muttered to no one, and when I looked up, I saw that Boss was passing behind my cubicle. He’d heard me and stopped. He looked like he was going to say something, but then he closed his mouth, furrowed his brow, turned around and left. He probably was thinking of an insult to hurl my way.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to him hating me.

Portland, Part Three

“So that’s what Dominique meant about the trashy women, huh?” Ian had just finished telling me about Jen, and about every relationship he’d had back through high school to explain how he met Jen. There were a lot of them. I took a deep breath and sipped my now-cold coffee. It tasted terrible, but I needed to do something to stop my emotions from exploding into a million pieces. I couldn’t believe Ian had such a past and I never knew.

He looked at me with an apology in his eyes. “I’m just not very good at relationships ever since. That’s all.”

“It’s understandable,” I said. Poor Ian. Poor Boss. I thought getting in a car accident was a bad fate. I couldn’t imagine having my mom die when I was a teenager. “That’s alright. I’m not exactly great at them either,” I said.

“I don’t know. You seemed to do well with us.” Was he insane? I was always closed off. I tried to wait for a laugh or a smile to see if he was joking, but his face remained serious.

I shook my head and looked up at him. “I didn’t tell you about my driving, and you didn’t tell me about what happened to your mom, and about all your…er, female friends. Why is that?”

“I just don’t like talking about it. With anyone.” He turned his head to look out the window and started nervously drumming his fingers against the table. I knew this wasn’t true. I knew he talked about it with Jen, and that’s why they were friends. That’s why she looked like a mother bear protecting her cub when she left me with Ian at the cafe. She wasn’t trying to make me jealous. She didn’t care what I thought; she was worried about Ian.

I was lost in thought thinking about teenage Ian and teenage Boss sitting in a hospital waiting room and I didn’t realize I was quiet. I saw Ian staring at me nervously. “So…are you going to tell me about driving?” he whispered.

I stared at my fingers and said, “Sure.” Then I went into the details of the accident, of Eliot almost dying when he was four, of my parents totally and completely shattered faces when they realized I was the only one to blame, and how I couldn’t possibly drive after that.

“Oh,” he said. He reached over the table again to grab my hand. “You know that wasn’t your fault, right?” It was ridiculous that he was comforting me when he had been through something ten times worse.

I nodded to him. “I know.” I was used to acquiescing to this feeling of helplessness when I talked about the car accident. My hand lifted up to his face and the back of my hand felt his stubble on his cheek, but I couldn’t meet his eyes. “We need to be friends again, alright? I don’t think I can not be friends with you now that I understand so much more.”

“I feel the same way,” I said, suddenly feeling hopeful. I risked looking at his face and he was smiling at me with sad eyes, his eyebrows pulled together, and I knew then that everything would be alright with us, one day soon.

Portland, Part Two

“Hi, I’m Jen,” she smiled at me. “My parents were really original in the naming department,” she added as she stood by Ian’s side and he laughed at her joke. She stuck out her hand and I stared at it a minute before taking it, shaking it and saying, “Aust3n.”

“Oh, I know! Ian went on and on about you. He’s your biggest fan!” Jen said, sitting down in one of the two chairs.

“I’ll, uh, grab another chair,” Ian said, darting across the cafe toward an empty table in the corner.

“So, how do you know Ian?” I asked her.

“We’re starting the same music ed program in the fall, and so we met up when he moved to Portland.”

“Oh, cool,” I said, trying to hide all my efforts to want to know if Ian was sleeping with her. Otherwise, why would he bring her? We were supposed to be talking about serious things, and here he brought an obstacle course to our conversation.

Ian returned with a third chair and sat down, and that’s when I realized I was still standing, also. I sunk into the chair behind me and smiled back at Ian.

“So,” he said.

“So,” I muttered.

“Anyone want a drink?” Ian asked as he hopped up again.

“Nothing for me!” Jen looked up at Ian, all warm smiles and beautiful straight teeth. Ian looked at me and I said, “Drip? Black.” He nodded and left, leaving me to have awkward conversation with his new…girlfriend? best friend?

I studied Jen for a minute. She had a tall, lean body like a model or a dancer, and she didn’t wear any makeup. Her curls were knotted up and her clothes were wrinkled, but she was still unfairly gorgeous. I wondered if she was so comfortable with Ian that she didn’t need to impress him. I looked down at my own pink striped t-shirt and thought of my three coats of mascara and sighed at my efforts that failed before he even saw me.

I took a deep breath and remembered that this was the New Me, the one who was brave and honest and straightforward, who went to therapy, who asked questions. I looked straight at Jen and said, “So, how long have you two been dating?” I didn’t want to use that polite of a term, but I also didn’t want to unleash ALL of the New Me on poor skinny Jen.

Jen nervously shifted in her seat and said, “Oh, we’re not dating. We could never…I mean, you know he’s still hung up on you, right?”

I glanced back at Ian, who was tapping his fingers on the counter nervously as he waited for our drinks. “I don’t think so, Jen,” I said, looking back at her again.

“Trust me,” she breathed, and her eyes shifted. I wondered if she was thinking about him the way I was thinking about him.

I tilted my head and said, “Why would he bring a girl to meet me if he wanted to get back together with me?”

“Because,” she said, letting out a small breath. “Because. To make you jealous. I was going to leave in a minute.” She added, “It was my idea, not his.”

“OK,” I said, not knowing what else to say. Ian returned and gave me a too-big and very uncomfortable smile, and right then Jen stood up and said, “Well, I’m off!” She leaned over and gave Ian a hug, a really friendly hug, and then tapped the table and said, “Nice to meet you, Aust3n.”

“You too, Jen,” I lied. I saw Ian smile at her until she disappeared down the sidewalk, and as he was going to open his mouth, I said, “I kissed your brother.” Who was trying to make who jealous now?

He clamped his mouth shut. Then he said, “Oh.”

“We went on a few dates. I thought you should know. It was nothing,” I lied again. The feeling of Boss’s hand on my back returned to my body and I tensed involuntarily. I glanced up at Ian, hoping he hadn’t noticed the weirdness, but he was just staring at his coffee.

“So, you don’t want to get back together? You…came here to ask my permission to date my brother?” he asked more to the table than to me.

“No,” I said in a quiet tone. “I don’t think we should get back together.” I didn’t know I’d made this decision. “But I don’t want to date your brother either. OK?”

He looked up and said, “Really?”

I nodded. Then I added with as much sincerity as I could muster, “Ian, I really miss you. You were my best friend for a little time there. I’m a little heartbroken now.”

“Over our friendship,” he said, enunciating each word.

“Over our friendship,” I repeated.

“But you’re not going to date my brother.”

“Or anyone else, really,” I said.

“Oh?”

“I think I need some time to figure things out. I don’t think I’d make a very good…anything.”

“So, you want to…what?”

“I want to be honest with you. I want to be friends. And then I want to see if we can be more. I mean, if you want.” I couldn’t look at him. All this honesty was killing me. I’d never been so forthright with a man, not even James.

“That sounds good,” he said slowly.

“Good,” I said, filling with relief. I slumped back in my chair a little, suddenly very tired. Then I added, “But…you can date other people if you want.” Why did I say that? WHY?

“No,” he shook his head. “Let’s just see.”

I couldn’t help the buzzing that went through my entire body at his words. I shouldn’t have been excited for such a small concession, but I was. It was immediately dampened when he said, “But you were going to tell me about why you don’t drive.”

“Right,” I said, realizing my happiness was likely going to disappear any second. “First, tell me what’s going on with you and Jen.”

He shifted in his seat before looking at her empty chair and said, “OK. But, Aust3n, if we’re really friends, you won’t care, will you?”

“I want to know,” I said. “I don’t know how I’ll feel.”

“It’s a long story,” Ian said. “Like, really long.” I just looked at his face, trying to figure out how a girl he just met added up to a long story, but I decided not to say anything else, and then he started telling me, and almost immediately I felt sick.

Portland, Part One

“I cannot believe you stopped kissing him!” Molly was screaming to mein the backseat where I was barricaded with hands covering my face and my iPod blasting at coal-miner-loud-levels as she barreled down I-5.

Molly is a scary driver, so scary that most of the time I grab the handles on the side of the car above the window until my knuckles turn white or I pass out, whichever comes first. Sarah is fond of calling those Molly’s “Oh Shit!” bars, because that’s what we’re all thinking when she drives.

“I thought you were all about me and Ian getting back together!” I yelled back, and then turned down my music.

“Well, I like Ian, but that kissing sounded really hot,” she said. Then she fanned herself.

Sarah turned around and said, “I think Molly’s pregnancy hormones are making her extra horny.” Sarah then turned to Molly and said, “It’s not good for decision-making, Molly. You have to get back together with Chris.”

“Whatever. You have Ben. You don’t understand,” Molly huffed as she failed to drive in a straight line down the highway. I covered my eyes again.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea to do anything until I talk with Ian,” I told them both.

“So you’re going to ask his blessing to date Boss?” Sarah asked.

I shrugged at her. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to Ian. I didn’t know if I wanted to date Boss, or if I wanted Ian, or if it even mattered. Maybe it was too late for him.

After we got to the hotel and I had a restorative panic attack in the bathroom, I wore my best jeans and a new light pink striped scoop neck tee, and then put on just enough makeup to appear as though I wasn’t wearing any. I was going for the “I’m not trying at all but I’m just absolutely perfect” look. I stared at myself in the mirror and puffed out my cheeks because I had failed. I was definitely trying too hard to impress Ian. But for what reason?

Molly and Sarah walked me down to the cafe near Powell’s where I was meeting Ian, and then left in a hurry to pretend not to spy on me.

When Ian came in the door, I looked up, and then I stood up. I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating. He looked so different.

“Hi,” I squeaked.

“Hi,” he smiled back at me.

“I like your hair.” I wanted to run my fingers through it. His long shaggy curls were cropped so short that his receding hairline showed. his beard was gone, and so were his glasses. If I hadn’t studied his face for hours, I wouldn’t even recognize him.

“Thanks. It’s my summer hair,” he said.

“Your summer hair?”

“Yeah, some are here, some are there. I now openly admit to my balding tendencies.”

I laughed and then said, “You’re hardly bald.” Really, Ian had the thickest, silkiest hair, and I wanted to run my hands through it, even though I knew I’d lost that right.

“Sure.” He smiled back at me and then I felt an uncomfortable shift. I didn’t know what to say next. I didn’t know what to do next. Should I sit down? Should I order him a drink? Before I could say anything, he said, “Do you mind if my friend joins us?”

And then she walked in the door. She was tall and thin and dressed a lot like Ian in a plaid shirt and tight jeans and Toms. She had on Ian’s big, dorky, hipster glasses, which made her seem ultra-cool. Her hair was in a messy top knot and her blonde curls fell everywhere. She was perfect. I hated her immediately.

“No problem,” I said in an octave too high. But this was a really big problem.

 

The Last Kiss?

Boss was stroking the dip in my spine with just his thumb as he kissed me. I felt my skin tingle and warm right at the base of my dress, and the tingles moved up, then down, then spread over my body. I deepened the kiss with Boss for a minute, not thinking about anything except all the feelings pulsing through me. I pushed him back and he stumbled backward a bit, then kissed me deeper.

His hand moved from my back to my leg. To my dress. To underneath my dress. And that’s when I steeled up every single ounce of self-control left in me, as most of it had drizzled away underneath Boss’s thumb. I broke away and said, “Don’t.”

“What?” He looked dazed.

“I…” Was I really going to be honest with him about this?

He put his hand on my cheek and asked very softly, “What is it?”

I knew there were so many things that were wrong between me and Ian because I wasn’t honest. I wanted to fix it and not be so scared that I wasn’t good enough.

“I…I want to talk to Ian. I need to tell him some things.”

Like how I’m still in love with him and yet I was kissing his brother. How could that be? I thought love was supposed to sweep me off my feet. Maybe I wasn’t in love with Ian after all. Or maybe I wasn’t good enough for Ian. Or Boss for that matter. He was staring at me waiting for me to say more, or possibly just start kissing him again. I felt a pull toward him and wanted to lean into him, but I didn’t.

Because I probably wasn’t good enough for either of them. But there was more than just that.

“Plus, there are other problems,” I said in a whisper.

He dropped his hand and took a step back. “Problems?”

I nodded and he said, “Are you going to elaborate?”

Was I really supposed to tell him that even though I felt a zing of electricity every single time he looked at me, I didn’t want to sleep with him yet? Or possibly ever? Would it even matter if I saw Ian and he miraculously forgave me for all of my dozens of mistakes?

“No,” I said. “Not until I talk to Ian.”

“I guess I should talk to him, too,” Boss said, letting out a slow, deep breath.

“I’m seeing him in Portland this weekend. Please let me do it first?”

“And then?” he asked with his eyebrows quirked upward.

“Who knows,” I said, but I knew that this was likely the last time I was ever going to kiss Boss, that with a clear head, he was going to change his mind about me for so many reasons. The thought twisted me up inside, and I closed the gap between us, put my hand on his collarbone, and tilted my head up to kiss him again.