After a few minutes, his cold hands cupped my face and I realized that, like me, he’d probably given his gloves away. Before I could form a clear thought, he lowered his mouth to mine as if he couldn’t wait a second longer.

I’d fantasized what it would be like to have Drew kiss me, how I would feel if it were ever to happen. Nothing could have prepared me for the strength, the intensity, the beauty of his kiss. His lips were as cold as his hands, but the minute they touched mine, I felt a warmth spread through me like water soaking into a sponge. His touch. His kiss. Everything about him was beautiful.

I parted my lips to him and he groaned softly, deepening the kiss. Wanting to be closer, needing my arms around him, I circled his waist. This felt so good, wrapped in a cocoon of gentle sensation.

When he broke off the kiss, he held me, my head tucked beneath his chin. “We probably should have talked first,” he whispered, “but if I had to wait a second longer to kiss you I think I would have gone crazy.”

I found it impossible to speak. I was surprised at how much I longed for his kiss and how much it meant to me.

He rubbed his chin over the top of my head. I’d given away my hat along with my gloves before half the night was over. It appeared Drew had, too.

“You’re dating an older woman?” I asked.

I felt Drew’s smile against my hair. “I am, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do just about anything to spend an evening with you.”

Smiling, I hugged him closer. “I thought you only wanted me as a babysitter, that you were using me.” Like every other man in my life, I wanted to tell him but didn’t.

“I should have explained what I was doing earlier. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“I’m not—”

He stopped me by kissing me again, leaving me breathless. When he broke it off, he said, “I don’t know what it was you were going to say, but the way you looked up at me gave me a clue. Don’t discount yourself, Shay. If you’re about to tell me that you’re not like other women, then good. I don’t want other women. I want you. You’re the one who fills my head, who makes me feel alive. You’re the one who makes me smile and laugh when I didn’t know if that was ever going to be possible again.”

Closing my eyes, I savored his words, holding them tightly against my heart.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Drew admitted. “I’ve only loved one woman. Katie and I…she was my only serious relationship. The thing is, Shay, I am sort of lost here.”

“If that’s the case, we’re in deep trouble.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“My only relationship worthy of a mention,” I explained, “was with a man who is currently serving a life sentence for murder, so my own experience is limited in the extreme.”

Drew kissed the top of my head. “The one thing I can say is that I couldn’t leave matters as they were.”

The crazy part was that there were often several days when we didn’t have a chance to see each other. Our only communications were random texts or phone calls. I’d missed those and knew he had, too.

“I’ve felt miserable myself.”

“I tried to explain,” he reminded me.

“I know, but I was in no mood to listen.”

“The kids missed you, too. Both Mark and Sarah offered up ideas on how best to win you back.”

I couldn’t hold back a smile. Separating myself from the children had been the worst part of this breakup.

“Sarah believed all it would take was an order of almond chicken.”

A giggle escaped me. “What about Mark?”

“First off, my son told me he found it hard to talk to girls, too, and that the other sex is difficult to understand. He felt I needed to be patient, and then just the other day he thought I should do something romantic to win you back.”

“Something romantic?”

I could hear the amusement in his voice. “I asked for a few suggestions and he thought a Starbucks gift card might do the trick, or leaving you notes at the café so you’d find them when you came in to work.”

“Not a bad idea.”

“I considered it,” he admitted, “until Sarah insisted it would be easier just to order Chinese.”

“And to think all it took was a kiss,” I told him, grinning like a silly fool.

Drew lifted his head and I raised my eyes to his. “Maybe it should take two or three or even more.”

With that, he kissed me again and it was even better than before.

Saturday morning I felt like a new man. After settling matters with Shay, I swear I could have leaped over tall buildings in a single bound. I couldn’t remember any kisses that affected me as strongly as those I’d shared with Shay in the middle of an abandoned parking lot practically in the middle of the night.

When I finally woke and wandered out of the bedroom it was already after nine o’clock. Both kids were up. Sarah had plopped herself in front of the television and was watching cartoons, nestling a bowl of cold cereal in her lap. She still had on her pajamas. Mark was dressed and sat at the kitchen table, reading from his iPad.

Coffee was first on my mind and I headed for the kitchen. “Morning,” I said as I passed my son, ruffling the top of Mark’s head.

He immediately jerked, which was his way of letting me know he wasn’t a kid and didn’t want me doing that any longer. I hated to tell him this, but he would always be a kid to me. I could see myself doing the same thing when Mark was thirty, whether he liked it or not. The thought made me smile.

“Hey, pumpkin, what are you watching?” I asked as the coffee slowly dripped into my cup.

“Minions.”

“Can I talk to you kids for a minute?” I asked, after my first reviving sip of coffee. I cradled the mug with both hands as I leaned against the kitchen counter.

Something in my voice must have alerted them that whatever I had to say was serious. And it was.

“Are we in trouble?” Mark asked, looking up from his iPad.

“Whatever it is, Mark did it, not me,” Sarah piped up.

“Did not,” Mark cried, glaring at his sister.

“No one is in trouble,” I said, holding up my hand. I wasn’t awake enough to deal with their squabbles.

Sarah glared at her brother. “Mark made a face at me.”

“Would you two kindly be quiet for two minutes?” Taking another sip of coffee, I realized I probably should have waited for this discussion, but I was anxious to talk to my children. They knew I liked Shay and was upset that I’d hurt her. I hadn’t been able to hide my feelings. What they weren’t aware of was the way she’d become important to me over the last several weeks since my visit with Joe. Before I moved to the next step, I needed to discuss the matter with my children.

“What’s up, Dad?” Mark asked.

Sitting on the sofa, I gathered the two of them around me. “As you know, I went out last night.”

“With Kevin in the van,” Sarah added.

Before I left I’d talked to the children about where I was going and what I’d be doing. Both thought handing out food and clothes to the homeless was a cool idea. What I hadn’t told them was the real reason I’d agreed to accompany my friend.

“Did you meet a lot of people and give them stuff?”

“I did, but I wanted to volunteer for another reason. Shay was going to be there, too, and I wanted a chance to talk to her.”

Sarah’s eyes widened. “You saw Shay?”

“I did, and we talked.”

“Is she still mad at us?” Mark asked.

“No.” It did my heart good to be able to reassure them.

Sarah tossed her hands in the air. “Oh good. Can she come over today?”

Mark grinned and nodded approvingly. “Good going, Dad.”

“Thanks.”

“Can I call her?” Sarah asked.

“Perhaps later, pumpkin, but first I need to talk to you kids about something else. Something important.”

“Okay.” Sarah climbed back onto the sofa.

I placed an arm around each of my children. “It’s been four years since your mom died. I know how much you loved her and you know how much I loved her. I miss her every single day.”

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