“So you had both bachelor’s and master’s degrees by age twenty-two, correct?”
“Like I said, certified genius.” Her voice softened. “Your father would be really, really proud of the man you’ve become.”
He lowered his head. He felt it again—that tightening in his chest.
She reached for his hand. “I’m honored that you shared your story with me and want you to know I will keep every word in confidence.”
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “I have no doubts about that, Janae. You’re a very special woman.”
Several minutes passed before either of them spoke. Terrence glanced down at his watch and realized that over two hours had gone by.
“Do you need to leave?” she asked.
“No. I didn’t realize how late it was. I’m not keeping you from anything, am I?”
“Not at all. How long are you planning to stay?”
“As long as you’ll allow me, but at the latest, tomorrow afternoon. Are there any hotels close to where you live?”
“Not really. But...there are two extra bedrooms at my house. You’re welcome to use one.”
“You trust me enough to stay in your home?”
“Strangely enough, I do.”
“Thank you, Janae. I promise I won’t do anything to break that trust.”
“Are you ready to leave?”
“Sure. Can we stop at a store on the way? I’d like to cook for you.”
“You don’t have to do that, Terrence.”
“I want to. Cooking is relaxing for me.”
She nodded. “All right.”
While he drove, Terrence had a hard time keeping his eyes on the road and off Janae. When he stopped at a light, he studied Janae’s profile as she sat with her eyes closed, long lashes fanning out on her cheek. His gaze lingered over the delicate curve of her jaw and the lush fullness of her lips. He had become addicted from the first time he’d kissed her. Her sweet kisses drove him crazy with desire and made him forget all the reasons he should stay away.
A horn blared behind him, and he glanced up to see the light had changed. He shook his head and started through the intersection. He had never been so distracted by a woman. Then again, he had never met a woman like Janae.
“Oh, shoot,” Janae said while searching her pockets. “I think I left the list in the car.”
“No problem. I’ll run back, get it and meet you at the door.”
Janae watched Terrence jog back to the car, then continued toward the store entrance.
“Janae. Is that you?” an older woman exiting the store called.
“Hi, Mrs. Jenkins.” She embraced the older woman. “How’s retirement?” Mrs. Jenkins had retired two years ago after forty years as an educator.
“Great, except that Gordon is driving me crazy. I have to come to the grocery store to get some peace.”
Janae laughed. “I’m sure Mr. Jenkins is glad to have you home.”
“Hmph. How are your parents?”
“They’re doing fine. You know Mama can’t seem to fully retire. She’s a visiting professor this semester at one of the community colleges in Santa Fe.”
“I can believe that. Well, I won’t hold you, baby. It was good to see you. Tell your mother hello the next time you talk to her.”
“I will. It was good to see you, too. Take care of yourself.” Janae made her way to the door and reached for a basket.
“Well, well. If it isn’t the little teacher.”
Janae froze, then turned slowly to face her ex. “Hello, Lawrence.”
“Oh, don’t pretend to be nice,” he said, sneering. “You got me fired from my job.”
She silently counted to ten. “Lawrence, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I had nothing to do with that. I didn’t even know about it until you told me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some shopping to do.”
“Don’t walk away from me, you little slut!” He latched on to her arm.
“Let go of me! Have you lost your mind?” She snatched her arm back.
By now, a few women had gathered and viewed the exchange with interest.
Janae tried to step around him and go into the store, but he blocked the entrance. “Lawrence, for the last time, leave me alone.”
He leaned down close to her face. “And if I don’t?”
“Then you’ll deal with me,” Terrence said with lethal calmness.
Janae hadn’t even noticed Terrence approaching. This is all I need today. “It’s okay, Terrence. I’m fine. Let’s go in the store.” She tried to push him toward the door, but it was like trying to move a mountain.