Ben settled himself on a stool at the island and glanced around the kitchen, seeking a suitable topic for conversation. Gemma’s laptop sat on the desk near the fireplace. “How’s the writing coming along?”
Holding her wine glass in one hand, she slid a plate of cheese and crackers toward him and claimed the other stool. “I didn’t have time to write much today.” She reached over the plate and gave his hand a squeeze that left it tingling. “I had to prepare for special company.”
He smiled at that.
“And,” she said, “I visited your mother this morning. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Why would I mind? The woman loves company, and she did invite you for tea.”
“We had our tea. I met your daughter. She’s beautiful, Ben.”
“She is that. Knowing my mother, you heard about our spat, my daughter and me.”
“I don’t approve of the boyfriend.”
“So I gathered. According to her, he’s only a friend, not a boyfriend.”
“The only one she’s seen since she came home from school. I’d like her to diversify.”
Appearing thoughtful, Gemma sipped her Gavi. “No harm in that.” She spread cheese on a pair of crackers and handed one to him.
Their fingers touched. He didn’t want to talk about Maura, or Joan, or the man in the moon. Gazing at Gemma, he chomped on the cracker.
She nibbled and swallowed. “Tell me about your whistles.”
Double feck to hell and back! He’d have a word with that daughter of his, and with his mother as well. “What about them?”
“Maura and Joan said you were good. I’d love to hear you play.”
“It’s been years, Gemma. I’m out of practice. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back in the game.” Angry, or maybe embarrassed, he finished the cracker and swallowed a mouthful of wine to hide his confusion.
Her touch this time, a gentle stroke to the top of his hand, subdued his agitation. “I didn’t mean to start trouble, Ben. I think it’s great that you’re playing again. Whenever you’re ready, if ever, I’d like to hear you. In fact, I wanted to talk to you about the same sort of thing.”
“What sort of thing?”
“Getting back in the game. Being out of practice.” Her cheeks blazed. She fiddled with the cheese knife. “It’s been years,” she said, intent on the knife, or so it seemed. “I’m out of practice.” She glanced at him and looked away. “I’m not sure I can get back in the game.”
What a dolt he was, he and his condom-packed wallet! Here he was sulking over whistles, while Gemma was struggling to cope with the death of a man who’d treated her poorly, whatever the reason. If Ben wanted this to work, and he had an inkling he might, he had to give both himself and Gemma time to unpack their baggage. So what if nothing happened tonight? They had the whole summer—or they would, if he didn’t bollix things.