He stopped her. “One confession at a time. I owe you an apology.”
She looked up. “For what?”
“For being an ass the day of Patrick’s funeral. I was mad at the world, and I needed somebody to blame for what happened. I didn’t care who I hurt in the process. You. My dad. Hell, I probably said something nasty to my mother, too, but I don’t remember.” He glanced toward the door. “Don’t ask her, okay? I’m a Kelly. Humbling myself once a day is all I can take.”
Her lips curved upward but only for a moment. “Why are you bringing this up tonight, Joe?”
“Because ever since you picked me up at the airport I’ve felt like there was some ponderous weight between us. Patrick. The past. Our past. And, of course, my asinine behavior at the funeral. I was hoping if I apologized we might find a way to get past it.”
“Why? Because we’re going to be working together—well, in close proximity—for the next few weeks?”
Her tone sounded contentious. “Yes, partly.”
“Because you’re already bored and need a little romance to spice up your stay?”
Momentarily stunned speechless, he watched her tap the corner of the envelope to her lips. “Well, I hate to disappoint you, but it isn’t going to happen. I may be a small town girl who is too afraid of life to risk leaving Worthington, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plans. I do. And you aren’t part of them.”
Too afraid of life to risk leaving Worthington. His words came back to haunt him. The night by the lake, after they’d made love, Joe had asked Lisa to go with him. She’d refused, and he’d accused her of being too afraid to take a chance on a bigger life outside of Worthington.
“I was eighteen and full of myself. I thought I had all the answers when, in fact, I didn’t even know what the questions were.”
He shook his head and made a gesture toward the bar where the sound of laughter filtered under the door. “You proved me wrong, didn’t you? You’ve met your goal of graduating from college. You have a lot of friends who think you’re fabulous, and your son has turned out great—despite a few little age-related glitches. You have a lot more to show for your life than I do.”
She set down the card and took a step closer. “How can you say that? You’re a successful filmmaker. You’re living your dream.”
“I left here convinced I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg. That didn’t happen.”
She smiled the way she would have if Brandon had said something self-effacing. “So neither of us has set the world on fire,” she said with a shrug. “I’ve decided there comes a time when you either embrace your life—flaws and all—or give up.”
She shook her head and a lock of golden-red hair escaped from her fancy updo and danced across her shoulders. He took her by the wrist and pulled her a step closer. There bodies weren’t quite touching, but he could reach her by leaning forward.
He moved slowly, giving her a chance to back away, but she didn’t. He put his mouth on hers. She didn’t respond right away, but after a heartbeat her mouth opened. At first, all he could taste was the tangy flavor of the wine she’d been drinking, then her tongue touched his and memories poured into his mind. Even after all these years, she still tasted like Lisa.
This, he realized, was what he’d wanted all night. All week. Ever since he’d walked out the doors of the airport and seen her standing beside her perky little car. He needed this. He needed her.
But Lisa apparently didn’t need him.
Stepping back, she held on to the table with one hand and used the other to touch her lips, as if making sure they were still there.
“I stole a kiss, not your lips,” Joe said, trying to lighten the moment.
She didn’t smile. “I can’t do this, Joe. Not now. Not until… There’s something you…” She didn’t finish the thought. “I’m sorry. I have to get back to my guests.”