Don’tthinkaboutthefact that Avery isn’t wearing any panties. Just focus on what she’s saying.
This is going to be a long meal.
“So, tell me all about that dating life of yours, Darlin’,” I say to Avery as we dig into the basket of rolls that our waitress just left.
Her eyes roll slightly as she says, “Well, to be honest, there hasn’t been much of one for quite some time. But when there was, it was a lot of guys who were just… I don’t know.”
I set my hand on top of hers. “Talk to me.”
There’s a sadness in her eyes that kills me a little.
“In high school and college, I was always the fat friend.”
When I start to interject, she stops me. “Look, I’m not being down on myself. It’s the truth. My friends were all thin, and I was the only one with any type of pudge. The guys who ended up getting stuck with me would assume that I was asure thing.” Looking a little embarrassed, she adds, “It’s not like they were wrong. Normally, they would gaslight me into thinking that I should be lucky that someone wanted to take me to bed, so I would just go along with it. I’ve always loved sex, but when you’re doing it with guys who feel like they’re doing you a favor, they tend to be pretty damn selfish.”
She takes a sip of water before continuing. “After college, I had a couple of longer relationships, but it was always with guys who wanted me to be something I wasn’t. They all wanted me to be a model and wanted me to sit still and look pretty, and well, I’m just not that kind of girl.”
“So, I’m learning,” I say with a smile.
“For a long time, I tried to hide my awkwardness and quirks, but after a while, it was just exhausting. I figured anyone who wanted to be with me would like those things instead of trying to change them. And if they couldn’t do that, then, I’d be better happier alone, anyway.”
Sighing, I say, “Men are pigs.”
One side of her mouth pulls up into a crooked grin. “Not all of them. Look, I don’t want some sort of pity party. It’s not like I have never been with a guy who was good to me or who didn’t take care of me in the bedroom. It’s not like that. True, most of them were ass hats, but not all of them. There was always just something missing—like a piece didn’t quite fit.”
She takes another drink and says, “But enough about me and my non-existent love life. Tell me about yours.”
“Not much to tell,” I reply while popping a peanut in my mouth.
“Oh, come on.” She gestures up and down at me. “Someone who looks like that certainly has something to tell.”
“I told you, Avery, I don’t have much of a love life. I’ve been with my fair share of women, but it’s never been anything serious.”
Her eyes widen. “Never? You’ve never had anything more than a romp in the sack?”
“I had a girlfriend in high school, but we all know howseriousthose things really are. I broke it off when I joined the Navy. After that, I was never in one place long enough to settle down with anyone.”
“Do you get lonely?” She asks.
“Sweetheart, I was in the military for twenty years. I was constantly around a group of men, never getting a moment alone. Any time by myself I would get on leave, I would enjoy to the fullest. The quiet doesn’t bother me.”
“Makes sense,” she says. “What do you do with your time when you aren’t being a handyman extraordinaire?”
“I sometimes do work on my own place, and I like to read.” I say the last words a little more quietly.
“You read? What do you read?” She looks shocked.
“Anything, really. But I enjoy mysteries most.”
“You tell me that I’m a surprise, but buddy, you shock me a little more each day.”
“I have to keep you on your toes,” I tease.
She gently tosses her hair over her shoulder, and I can’t help but just stare at her. I can’t get over how gorgeous she is. Half me of wants to go to all of those guys who told her she wasn’t good enough and punch them in the face. The other half of me wants to brag that she’s mine now.
I wouldn’t go that far.