“So,” I said as I dropped onto the couch. “Are you and Octavia doing anything tomorrow?”
“We might go dancing at the Blue Velvet. But you say that like we’re dating or something.”
“Well, actually, I was wondering if something is going on with you two. You’re seeing each other a lot. She comes over to hang out and you go out to places. Last week she took you to her yoga class.”
“I was there, I remember. Have you forgotten that I’m seeing Camille? I was at her place two nights ago.”
I shrugged and leaned back against the back of the couch. “You don’t see her nearly as much as Octavia. She’s never even been over to our house. I’ve never even met her. I like Octavia.”
Shirley glared at me. “Well, I love Camille! I’m not going to break up with her and date Octavia just because you like her better. Why don’t you go find yourself a man so you can keep your nose out of my love life?” She stormed off upstairs.
I sighed and rubbed the bridge of my nose. Great intention, terrible execution.All I wanted was for my sister to be happy, and I knew that Camille wasn’t ever going to get serious. Shirley seemed okay with only occasionally seeing Camille, but ever since Octavia came into her life, she’s been so animated and happy. I know she needs to be with someone who will spend time with her. She’ll never listen to me, though.
I just sighed, shook my head, and went upstairs to bed.
On my next day off, I took a break from painting and headed to the gym. What better place to meet men than where they pump iron? Shirley liked to joke that I had baby fever, but she wasn’t really wrong. I wanted a family so bad it hurt. I wanted a husband to cook for and children to play with; maybe that made me a cliché but I couldn’t care less about that. Mom had always been the domestic sort and that was just how I wanted to be.
After a little yoga and a few laps in the swimming pool, I was just thinking of going home when a tall, blond man on one of the treadmills caught my eye. Drawn to him, I crossed the room and was struggling to find something to say when he spoke.
“Did you need the machine?” He was smiling at me, like he knew that wasn’t why I was standing there. Most of the machines were empty, though, so that was pretty obvious.
I flushed a little but laughed it off. “No, I don’t.”
He stepped off the treadmill and hung a towel around his neck before offering me his hand. “I’m Houston.”
“Hadley.” I smiled crookedly. “And before you ask, it’s a family name.”
He laughed softly. “Noted. I haven’t seen you around before. Did you just join?”
“Oh, no, I just hardly ever make the time to get over here. I’m a painter, so I’m usually chained to my easel.”
“I always wanted to be the creative type. I was never any good at art, though, so I have to settle for looking at beautiful things instead of creating them.”
“Do you ever go to the museum? They have so many lovely pieces there.”
Together we walked out of the gym and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. “I try to go when I can. I’m a detective, so my hours can be crazy.” He glanced off down the road. “I’ve got to get home, but I hope I run into you again soon.”
I smiled up at him and lightly touched his arm. “I hope so too.” He looked down at my hand on his arm, smiled slowly, and then walked away.
I was at the library over the weekend when a familiar voice said, “Fancy meeting you here.”
I jumped and turned to see Houston just taking a seat on a nearby ottoman. “Oh, Houston! I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
“But look, I’ve found a work of art. This is exactly where I should be?”
I started to look behind myself, thinking I’d overlooked a painting or a statue of some kind before I realized he was flirting. Red tinted my cheeks and I rose to my feet. “Would you like to go upstairs? There’s usually fewer people to disturb there. We could talk, if you like.”
He got up, smiling. “I’d like that very much.”
Upstairs, we each sank into a chair. “So, you said you’re a detective, right? What made you go into law enforcement?”
“It’s sort of a family business. My father was a cop and my mother’s father was one, too. I never even thought of doing anything else. What about you? Is art a side thing or are you a real artist?”
“Well, I don’t know if anyone would call me a ‘real’ artist, since I don’t think anybody in the art world really knows my name, but yes, it’s what I do. My mother dabbled in art, but she was a stay-at-home mom.”
“It must’ve been nice, always having your mother around. Both of my parents worked.”
“It was. I think I’d like to be that kind of mother someday. I love painting, but I don’t really need to be the best out there. I’d rather be the best mom.”
He smiled, leaning forward in his chair. “That’s amazing. Not a lot of people would just give up their career to be a family person.” His smile turned flirtatious as he looked at me from heavily lidded eyes. “Are you on the hunt for Mr. Right?”
I mimicked his position, leaning closer to him, and murmured, “I might be.”
He whispered flirtatious, sometimes dirty, things to me as we sat in our forgotten part of the library. We were drawn together, like I was the moth to his flame. We left separately that night, but he promised to call very soon. I couldn’t wait.