He was a fool.
Jeremy Hamilton realized that fact about five minutes after Rebecca Wilson walked away from him. Still, he’d let her go, figuring that was the best choice all around. They’d been dating for over a year, while he tried to juggle college and work and a life. It had been a crazy year, one where Jeremy felt pulled in a dozen different directions, like he was a giant piece of salt water taffy in a tug of war at a preschool. Rebecca told him she’d gotten tired of being the next check on an ever growing list. She’d kissed him on the cheek, handed over his favorite sweater, then walked out of his apartment and out of his life.
For the first week after she left, he had done what any suddenly single bachelor did—partied like a rock star with his friends, flirted like hell with every leggy blonde that crossed his path, and in general, acted like an idiot.
The second week she was gone, the partying lost its allure. So he threw himself into his job instead, hammering out the hours at the engineering firm that had hired him as an unpaid summer intern, keeping his head down and his nose to the grindstone. Y2K was only a few months away, and while the firm scrambled to prepare for any kind of possible what-if, Jeremy tried to make his mark in a company where most of the other guys called him “kid.”
The third week she was gone, he had to unplug his phone to keep from calling her mother to find out where Rebecca had gone and when she was coming back. He’d taken to making long, meaningless drives across the greater Boston area, which had turned into long, punishing runs that left him exhausted and even more miserable. He was so depressed, he could have written lovesick poetry that would have made Edgar Allen Poe cry.
By the fourth week, he told himself he was okay. And better off without her in his life. He’d asked a couple women out on dates and pretended to have a good time. He and Rebecca were over, and that was what he wanted. What he’d asked for. No more demands on his time or his priorities.
He didn’t have room in his days for a relationship like that, not when he was trying hard to get a grip on the career ladder. Without Rebecca, he could concentrate on finishing his degree and impressing the boss at Griffin Engineering. Yeah, that was exactly why he’d gone to see Star Wars Episode I three times in one week. Because he was fine, just fine.
Then he pulled in his grandmother’s driveway on a Monday night in early September and saw her car parked outside her mother’s house down the street, and he realized everything he’d told himself was a lie. He was a fool for letting her go, and getting her back was the only thing he wanted.
So now he stood on the stoop outside her mother’s house, cursing himself for being here while nerves bubbled in his gut. Damn. He should have brought flowers or something. But then he would have looked like he was trying too hard—
Or would she have liked that? No, Rebecca wasn’t given to overly romantic gestures. She liked things simple, as predictable as straight lines. No need for the fluff of a Hollywood movie. It was part of what had brought them together—him, with his linear engineer’s mind and Rebecca with her no-nonsense approach to everything. She was in business school, for God’s sake. It didn’t get less fluff and flowery than that.
The oak door opened. Rebecca’s green eyes widened when she saw him, and the nerves in his gut became a funny tingle. Her pink lips formed into a little, enticing O, and she raised a quick hand to brush a tendril of dark brown hair off her forehead. She wore little makeup, and had on a Suffolk U T-shirt paired with silky navy running shorts that showed her amazing legs and tanned arms. She’d never looked sexier or more desirable.
And God, he’d missed her.
“Jeremy.” Her voice was flat, as unemotional as if he was the mailman. “What…what are you doing here?”
For a second, his mind went blank. He hadn’t thought beyond ringing the bell. So far, his plan for getting her back scored a giant goose egg. “I saw your car in the drive. I didn’t realize you were back.”
“Just got home today.”
“Oh. Good.” Way to play the lame card, Jeremy. He shuffled his feet. “Did you have a good vacation?”
That kind of sophisticated talk was going to get him his own plaque in the Lame Hall of Fame.
“Yeah.” She glanced back over her shoulder, and he wondered if she had company. A new boyfriend?
The thought pained him. It wasn’t like they were still together, or like he’d been a monk in the weeks she’d been gone, but still the thought of another man kissing Rebecca’s lips, holding Rebecca tight…
This had been a bad idea. A really bad idea.
“Anyway, just wanted to say hi. I’m supposed to be mowing my grandma’s lawn, so I gotta go.” He thumbed across the street, then said goodbye and headed out of there before he got a lifetime membership in the Idiot Conversation Club.
He heard the door shut behind him. The sound ricocheted in his head, and he wondered if he was too late. If he’d let too much time go by before contacting Rebecca. She’d been distant and almost cold when she talked to him, a clear indication that whatever she might have felt was gone.
The logical side of his brain told him to let her go, to move on, to cut his losses. The statistical chances of them working it out were in the low teens. Only a fool took on a lost cause like that. And Jeremy Hamilton had never been foolish a day in his life.