Not My Type: Adele Ch. 06byfirstkiss©
Two days later, Rhiannon called me mid-morning and asked if I'd clear my afternoon and come to the cottage for a visit. I'd been trying to give her and Joe some time alone to get accustomed to being parents and she'd only been home from the hospital one night, but patience wasn't in Rhi's DNA.
I picked Lilly up on the way out of town.
Rhiannon sat in state on the sofa in her livingroom looking tired but triumphant, the bassinet resting at her right hand. Inside slept the most perfect little person I'd ever seen. Sophie was undoubtedly her mother's child with smooth porcelain skin, a perfect little nose, and a cap of soft, dark waves.
"Oh, thank god," Rhiannon drawled as she caught sight of Lilly hovering over my shoulder. "You brought the sane Tanner."
Lil and I exchanged a curious look.
"Joe's driving me fuc... frickin' crazy!" Rhi corrected herself with a start. She spared Sophie a guilty glance then let out a dramatic sigh as she slumped back against the couch. "If he doesn't stop worrying over us, I'm going to throw his ass... butt... in the snow!"
"I heard that!" said a deep voice from the vicinity of the kitchen. Joe popped his head into the main room and gifted Lilly and me with a wide smile. "Come to ogle?"
Lilly rushed forward, her pretty face alight. "Can I hold her?"
"You've already held her," Joe reminded his little sister. "Let Adele have a turn first."
She stuck her tongue out at him but generously deferred the honour to me. Rhi and I laughed in unison at the good-natured sibling teasing. Not long ago Lilly would have taken Joe apart for being bossy, now she just plopped down onto the nearest armchair with a facetious pout.
I crouched down beside the bassinet and looked in. Sophie turned her head at the movement. "She's so little."
"Don't worry," Rhi chided, "you can pick her up. She won't break."
Lilly laughed. "She's a Tanner, she's sturdy."
"Some more than others," Joe added from the kitchen.
"Says you!" Lilly shot back.
Rhi rolled her eyes in mock irritation. "Children, if you two can't behave one of you is going to have to leave."
The motherly tone sent Lilly and I into waves of laughter. Who'd have guessed it could come from Rhiannon Barnes?
Joe re-emerged from the kitchen wiping his hands on a dish towel. He leaned down and planted a kiss on the top of his wife's head. "I'll take that as my cue to bugger off. Might go down to Stewart's for a while and see if Matt and Flick need a hand with anything."
"Joe gets bored in the winter when there's nothing to do on the farm," Lilly explained to me. "Our dad does the same thing. Drives our mother crazy for months. How she put up with the both of you in the same house for all those years is beyond me." She turned back to Rhiannon. "And now you get to put up with him, lucky you!"
A private smile flickered over Rhi's face, one which I don't think she even knew she smiled. It was obvious to me that she did consider herself lucky.
"I met Felicity Stewart the other day," I said. "She seems nice."
Lilly gave me a patient smile. "You were able to discern that much? I don't think I've seen her for more than five minutes at a time, ever. Have you met her yet Rhi?"
Rhiannon shook her dark head. "I've heard of her in passing, but no, I haven't met her. A female grease-monkey... what's she like?"
"She's gorgeous!" I told them. "She's this tiny little thing, and she's stunning, really."
Rhi looked to Joe for confirmation. If he hung around the garage he obviously knew Felicity Stewart better than the rest of us.
He nodded. "She's a looker."
"She better watch out for Matt then," Rhiannon laughed. "That boy's a Lothario waiting to happen."
Joe made a grunting sort of noise of disagreement. "She's got nothin' to worry about from him. Matt's my brother, I know what he likes. She's not his type."
I thought about the look I inadvertently caught Felicity giving Matt the other day in the snow. She might not be his type, but he was definitely hers.
I still hovered beside the bassinet unsure of what to do next when Joe bent down, picked up his daughter, and held her carefully up in front of him. He gave her a very loud kiss on the forehead. Sophie only blinked in response.
"You're gorgeous," he murmured to her. "And your Daddy loves you." Then he turned and passed the baby to me.
I let Joe settle the unfamiliar bundle in my arms. I didn't have a lot of experience with babies, especially not ones so new and small. I didn't really know what to do but Sophie fit perfectly into the crook of my arm and I pressed her against my chest where it would be warm. She curled into me, gave a little sigh which was the first noise I'd heard her make, and then closed her eyes.
"Well, that settles that," Joe chuckled. He squeezed my shoulder. "She likes you."
I barely heard the remainder of Joe's farewells, nor did I really notice when he left the room. My focus centered on the tiny person in my arms. She felt so warm and delicate. I was in awe.
I sank into a nearby armchair, never letting my eyes leave Sophie's face.
"Everyone gets that look the first time, I'm starting to discover," Rhi teased gently.
I glanced up to find her and Lilly watching me.
"I'm sure you did too," Lil added.
Rhiannon filled us in on the details of her labour and what she remembered of Sophie's birth. She made the whole thing sound easy, but then again, Rhi had a tendency to blaze her way through life.
Once the topic ran its course both Lilly and Rhiannon exchanged a significant glance and then turned to me in unison. I resisted the urge to flee in panic. I could hardly bolt for freedom while holding a newborn, which clearly was part of the girls' plan.
"Spill it," Rhi ordered.
There was no use playing dumb.
"Nothing happened," I opened by saying.
Rhi cocked a perfect chestnut eyebrow. From the corner of my eye I saw Lilly bouncing impatiently on the armchair beside mine.
"Nothing?" the brunette prompted. "You were stranded overnight with the second handsomest man on the island..."
"Third," Lilly interrupted.
We both turned to Lilly. She ticked the options off on her fingers. "Presumably in your opinion Joe is the first... although... ewww..." She giggled. "That makes Adam the second, and Nate the third. Although really Adam is much better looking than Joe... so technically that puts Nate in second place again and Joe in third."
Rhi shot Lilly an exasperated look. "That's not the point." She turned her gaze back at me full force. "The point is... how was he?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't sleep with him."
Both Lilly and Rhiannon snorted in disbelief. In my arms Sophie stirred at the noise but didn't wake.
"Really, I didn't. Do you honestly think he'd do that? He's a minister!"
Lilly bit her bottom lip and smiled shyly over at me. "I mean logically I suppose he shouldn't... but we sorta assumed he did..."
"I mean, look at you!" Rhi gestured broadly. "You're freakin' hot! The man has to be crazy. He had the perfect opportunity and it's clear he wants you."
"And you want him," Lilly added.
I waved away the obvious statement. "Yes well... that doesn't change the fact that we didn't sleep together."
"Well that's disappointing," Rhiannon muttered. She crossed her arms over her chest and frowned at me. "We figured you two would throw caution to the wind. Goodness knows you're about due for a good fu—roll in hay."
The frustrated ache in my groin agreed with Rhiannon.
"Did you at least kiss him?" Lilly asked.
I didn't answer quickly enough to beat the blush blooming in my cheeks.
"Thank God for that!" mumbled Rhiannon. "The man's not a total eunuch!"
Lilly and I shot her a dirty look. I knew damn well that Nate was about as far from a eunuch as anyone could possibly be.
Her casual 'I-didn't-mean-anything-by-it' shrug was as close to an apology as Rhiannon Barnes Tanner ever got.
"On a scale-of-one-to-ten?" she prompted.
My first kiss with Nate came instantly to mind. The oh-so-slow and gentle glide of his lips against mine, ripe with promise and a taste of innocence. "Thirty-seven?" I offered.
Lilly threw back her head and whooped. Sophie stirred in my arms and opened her eyes in time to catch me blushing again.
"Well the man gets points then for knowing what he's doing," Rhi said through laughter. "If he can make you turn that colour, then he can't be too bad. Pretty impressive for a priest."
"Minister," Lilly and I corrected in unison.
Rhi waved her hand. "Whatever he is. Anyway, the problem still stands of how to get him in bed with you."
Sophie wiggled slightly, drawing my attention. Her little fists were clenched and I reached down to stroke one baby soft hand. Her tiny fingers opened and then closed around my finger. Her grip was remarkably strong.
"Bonjour ma petite cherie," I whispered, completely oblivious to Lilly and Rhiannon now that Sophie had awoken. "I'm your tante Adele."
Sophie blinked up at me in acknowledgement. At least I think it was acknowledgement. It's a little hard to tell with a three-day old.
"You're changing the subject," Rhi drawled. She shifted her weight and rested her feet on the edge of the nearby coffee table with a groan. "Oh god, I ache from head to toe."
Lilly giggled. "You did just have a baby a couple of days ago; I don't imagine that's something you just recover from quickly."
Rhiannon gave Lilly's comment a little wave of dismissal. "I'll live. Look, Adele. The man is clearly smitten with you, and really who can blame him?"
Her little aside made me smile, but I still didn't take my eyes from Sophie who had a death grip on my finger.
She continued on. "So what we need is a plan."
"To achieve what end?" I blurted out before I could think.
"To make him fall in love with you," Lilly chorused.
"To get him in the sack," Rhi said at the same time.
I took turns giving them both an exasperated grimace. "Neither of those things is going to happen."
Rhiannon looked sceptical, Lilly shocked. "Why not?" Lilly asked.
"Because he's not going to sleep with me unless we're married and he's not going to marry me if he doesn't love me. And both those points are moot anyway because I'm never getting married again. You both know that. So whatever it is that exists between Nate and I is a dead-end. We're just torturing each other. I've got to put a stop to it now, before either of us does something we'll regret."
The argument made perfect, logical sense to me. Rhi and Lil had obviously been expecting it and had counter-arguments prepared.
"You're being ridiculous," Rhi began. "You can't tell me that you're never going to get married again just because Harry was a jerk. You can't deny yourself a lifetime of happiness because of your past, trust me on that one."
"Plus," Lilly added. "You can't control who you fall in love with. Trust me on that one."
I sighed. "Look, girls, it's not that I don't appreciate what you're trying to do for me. I like Nate, really I do. But I liked Harry too, once. I thought he was everything I wanted. I thought I was everything he needed. Look where that got me."
Lilly reached forward and put her hand on my knee. "We should be honest with you Adele—we always thought your marriage to Harry was a huge mistake. We knew he was bad for you, but you were so dead set on marrying him, we just didn't know how to tell you that."
Rhi added, "And we didn't think you'd listen to us anyway." She was right. I had been so caught up in Harry that I might have limited my friendship with Lil and Rhi had they tried to sway me from being with him. What a fool I was back then.
"Nate's not like Harry," Lilly assured me. "He would never hurt you."
"Not intentionally," I conceded, "but that doesn't mean he wouldn't."
"The man is a saint," Rhiannon put in. "He'd treat you better than you can imagine."
Sophie fussed in my arms. Maybe she sensed my frustration. Out of instinct I rocked her gently and she quieted. I stood and began to pace the length of the room.
"It's not Nate that I doubt. It's me." It was easier to confess my fears to Lilly and Rhi if I didn't have to look at them, so I kept my eyes glued to Sophie's sweet little face. "He deserves a wife who can give him a family."
Rhi smacked her forehead and sat back on the couch with a groan. "So that's what this is about? Babies?"
"Just because you and Harry weren't able to have children, doesn't mean that you and another man can't," Lilly added softly. Her voice was tinged with kindness and it made tears pool at the corners of my eyes.
"Maybe you and Harry couldn't have children together for a reason," Rhi chimed in. "I mean really, how different would your life be if you had? Would you have stayed with him even though he treated you like crap? Even if you hadn't you'd always have little reminders of him in your children. You'd have to talk to him all the time and see him on holidays. And you'd be a single mom, that's not easy."
"I could have done it!" I argued, whirling about to glare down at them both. "I'd be a great mom. I didn't need him!"
Lilly rose and crossed the room. She couldn't hug me with Sophie in my arms like I knew she wanted to. Instead she settled for putting her hands on my elbows and giving them a friendly squeeze.
"We know you would have been an amazing mother. And someday you will be. You can't plan your life around an impossibility that might not exist. Rhi's right, there was a reason why you and Harry couldn't have children together. Maybe that reason is Nate."
I looked down at Sophie. She was such a beautiful combination of her parents, a tiny miracle come to life. A not-so-small part of me wished she were mine. Gently I passed her to Lilly, who rose on her tiptoes to accept the precious bundle.
"What happens to me if you're wrong Lilly? I can't go through that again – another couple of miscarriages, another divorce. I can't spend the rest of my life disappointing everyone around me."
Rhiannon rose slowly to her feet and moved gingerly to where Lilly and I stood. In a completely surprising gesture she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a squeeze. "You've never disappointed us, Adele. Nothing you could ever do would."
Lilly couldn't join in the hug so she rested her head against my arm and the three of us – four really, with Sophie there – stood that way for a while, until I felt the tension drain from my body.
"Have you talked to him since Monday?" Rhi asked eventually as she released me from her very uncharacteristic hug, collected the silent Sophie from Lilly's embrace, and sat back down on the couch with a weary sigh.
I had. Nate had insisted I call after I reached home Monday afternoon just to let him know I'd arrived safely and then he'd surprised me by calling the next day just to say hello. Both Lilly and Rhi seemed pleased when I told them.
"Well it's no secret that he likes you," Lilly gushed as she settled herself into an armchair. "Are you two going to start dating now?"
I chose the spot on the couch next to Rhi. "I don't know. We haven't really talked about it. I think we were both too scared to the other day."
"What's he got to be scared of?" Rhiannon laughed. "He's not the one who's been royally screwed with in the past."
"Maybe he's scared of scaring off Adele," Lilly suggested. "And I'm guessing he doesn't have a lot of experience with women, so that's got to be a little scary too."
I was pretty sure he had more experience with women than either Lilly or Rhiannon dared guess, but I didn't say that out loud. His past wasn't as uneventful as they thought but it wasn't my place to tell them that.
Rhi glanced over at me and smiled. She looked tired and didn't have a stitch of make-up on, nor had she done anything more to her hair than put it in a ponytail. It was the most un-done I'd ever seen her and I don't think she'd ever looked more beautiful than she did at that moment with her newborn daughter in her arms. "So what's the plan?"
I shrugged. "I don't think there is one. I guess we just wait and see."
Rhi stuck out her tongue. "Ugh, I hate waiting."
I did too, but I didn't bother to admit it.
When the phone rang that night I knew who it was before I even answered.
"Hello, sweetheart." His rich, gravely voice shot warmth down to my toes.
"Nate," I practically purred in response.
"And how are you this fine evening?"
I laughed as I settled into my favourite armchair by the window. It was snowing heavily outside. Again.
"I'm thinking about moving to the Caribbean," I teased. "You?"
Nate chuckled warmly. "That's a wonderful idea. No snow. Want some company?"
I pictured Nate on a tropical beach, bare-foot and bare-chested, tanned and smiling.
He laughed again. "Is it wrong that I'm now wondering what you look like in a bikini?"
I was so shocked I couldn't reply right away then giggled. My nervousness couldn't be missed. "I was just wondering the same about you," I confessed.
"I'd look terrible in a bikini."
"That's not quite what I meant," I gasped through my laughter. "You know what I mean."
"I do." His voice dropped to a dark whisper which was still so unexpected from him. I shivered.
"So, you and me on some faraway tropical beach, surrounded by sand and sun and endless turquoise seas..."
"And no snow," I reminded him.
"And no snow. And you're in a bikini... pink, I think."
"Actually, mine's black."
Nate responded with a thoughtful, "Hmm."
I imagined him stretched out on his couch with Esther on the floor beside him and a fire blazing in the hearth. I wished I was there with them instead of home alone. I reached for a nearby afghan and wrapped it around me.
"Black won't do," Nate offered. "How about blue? If pink's not your thing."
I waved my hand dismissively even though he couldn't see me. "It's your fantasy."
Was it wrong to say 'fantasy' to a minister? I blushed and snuggled under the afghan even though I felt warm from head-to-toe.
"Well if it's my fantasy then the bikini is red, but I'd really rather it was our fantasy, so what am I wearing?"
I pushed that initial thought from my mind. "Shorts," I supplied instead.
"Just shorts?" I pictured him smiling on the other end. "I think I'm beginning to like this fantasy..."
"Me too," I couldn't help but admit, even though I felt guilty for having any fantasies regarding Nate, never mind one which involved very little in the way of clothing.
"Look, Nate maybe shouldn't—" I began, but Nate cut me off.
"It's okay sweetheart, really. We were given imaginations for a reason."
"Yes, and I can appreciate that," I put in as I sighed. "I shouldn't be imagining < />you though."
"Why not?" Nate asked in a sharp tone. "I can imagine you easily enough... miles of tanned, sleek legs... a little red bikini... the sun glinting off your blonde curls."
"I'm not going to apologize for wanting you," Nate insisted. "For wanting to feel you warm from the sun, to taste the sea on your skin, or for entertaining the idea of making love to you on a beach."
I swallowed. His honesty left me speechless.
"I'm human sweetheart. There's no sin in desiring the most beautiful woman I know, not when I know she wants me too. Not when we're both free to feel that way about each other."
An ache settled in my chest, twin to the one between my thighs.
It wasn't a question, but I answered him anyway because it seemed cruel not to.
There was silence for a moment on the other end of the line.
"I don't understand the problem. I mean, I know you've been hurt in the past, but you can't let that control the rest of your life."