Ryan reached up, taking her face in his hands, mirroring her actions. “I know we’d be better. I know it because I wouldn’t allow this relationship to go anywhere else but up. I meant it when I said I was here for good, Piper. I know you’re scared because of your dad—”
“No, you will listen,” he told her, pulling her face closer and looking into her eyes. “I care about you on a level I didn’t know possible. Don’t compare me to a man who shut you out and only remembers you a couple occasions per year. I know more about you than he ever will. And I damn well care about you more than he ever did.”
Piper closed her eyes. “You’re so good for me, Ryan. But that fear is just part of me. I’ve never lived without it.”
“Then maybe it’s time you started.” He kissed her hard then eased back. “And when you’ve conquered that fear, I better be the first to know.”
Without another word or a backward glance, Ryan made the hardest decision to date. He marched to his truck and got the hell out of temptation’s way because one more look from Piper’s misty eyes and he would’ve gotten all soft on her.
And that would’ve pissed both of them off.
Piper pulled into the TCC clubhouse parking lot and sighed. She was not looking forward to teaching the day-care workers CPR or fixing the vandalized equipment.
Her mind was still on Ryan Grant and last night’s promising kiss and touching words. He was putting it all out there, laying his emotions and heart on the line. The man never knew fear, never considered failure. He’d always been that way: careless, free and courageous.
But he’d never been hurt, never had the stability of life ripped from beneath him. He’d always known what he wanted and he went after it full-force.
And apparently he had his sights set on her.
Nerves settled low in her belly as Piper started up the sidewalk toward the clubhouse. The large single-story stone building with its slate roof was very masculine, very eye-catching. Until recently it had been an all-male bastion, with membership off-limits to women and children not welcome at all.
Such a shame that now when the club was getting with the times and allowing women to join, some members found it necessary to fight overturning the archaic rule.
Piper stepped into the clubhouse and took a left toward the new child-care facility. Perhaps some of the disgruntled men were grouchy because the new day care took the place of the old billiards room. Oh, well, wasn’t her job to judge, only to fix the equipment and help the staff get certified in CPR.
When she stopped in the manager’s office, a petite blonde sat at the desk muttering to herself and working on what appeared to be a spreadsheet.
Piper tapped the back of her knuckles on the doorframe. “Excuse me.”
The lady with a short blond bob jerked her attention toward Piper. “Oh, sorry. I was lost in thought. Can I help you?”
“I’m Piper Kindred.” She stepped into the office, extended her hand. “I’m the paramedic who is supposed to replace the equipment and certify some of the day-care workers.”
The woman shook her hand. “I’m Kiley Roberts, the new manager. So great to meet you.”
Kiley had soft brown eyes and a kind smile. Piper could easily see her working with children and putting worried parents at ease.
“I stopped to look at the equipment the other day, but I missed you,” Piper said. “Is this a good time to get into the facility? I came early since we’re not scheduled to do the certification for another hour.”
“This is perfect.” Kiley came to her feet. “Come on back.”
She punched in a security code and the locked door to the facility clicked open. “I straightened that room up after the police went through it, but I am not sure what all needs to be replaced.”
Piper gripped her heavy duffel full of supplies. “I’ll figure it out.”
“Are you a member here, too?” Kiley asked, flipping on the light in the small utility room where the medical equipment was stored.
Piper laughed. “No. I have too much on my plate to get involved with this he-man, she-man battle.”
“Oh, I’ve already heard from both sides about the women and children. I’m not sure why some of the male members who voted against it feel the need to vent to me, but I listen. Most times when people complain, it’s just to get their emotions off their chest and then they feel better.” Kiley smiled. “But arguing and complaining about it now seems a bit silly.”