Chapter Twenty Four
Something was wrong but he didn’t know what.
There was something in her eyes that wasn’t tiredness.
Mia was playing with her princess castle. She said something to him but he missed it because he was thinking about Roxy.
“Is the prince going to rescue the princess from the tower?”
She shook her head, curls bouncing around her face. “The princess rescues the prince.”
It made James smile because he knew who would have suggested that game.
He glanced toward the kitchen where Roxy had fled muttering some excuse.
“I’ll be back in a minute, Mia.” Checking that the little girl was safely occupied, James did what he needed to do and then strolled into the little kitchen.
Snow fell past the windows, obscuring the little garden.
Roxy had her back to him and she didn’t turn to look at him.
“Roxy? I need to talk to you.”
“This isn’t a good time.”
He saw her knuckles whiten on the countertop. “What’s the matter, honey?”
“Nothing. Why would you think there was something the matter?”
“I’ve worked with you for almost a year, Rox. I know when something is wrong.”
“Then you’ll know when to leave me alone, too.”
“I’m not leaving you alone.”
“Then you’re an insensitive oaf.” The thickness in her voice made him frown.
Was she crying? “You’re exhausted, Roxy. What time was Mia up this morning?”
She was working two jobs, studying and raising her daughter. Even thinking about it made him want to lie down.
“I’m not exhausted. I have the stamina of a horse. That’s not what’s wrong.”
“So there is something wrong. Tell me.” He closed his hands over her shoulders and turned her to face him. “Rox?”
“We should probably go. By the time I’ve put Mia’s coat and boots on and we’ve walked to Romano’s it will be time for lunch.”
“Not yet.” He trapped her in place, an arm braced either side of her. “We’ll go when I’ve said what I wanted to say.”
She pushed at his chest, her eyes exasperated. “You’re so stubborn.”
“When there’s something I need to say, yes.”
“What if I don’t want to hear it? I know what you’re going to say, James, but I don’t want you to say it on Christmas Day.”
“I—” He was thrown. Had he made a mistake? “Roxy—”
“What? You thought I wouldn’t care when you did it? No girl wants a guy to break up with her on Christmas Day.”
It took him a moment to absorb what she was saying. “You think I’m breaking up with you?”
“Of course. It’s obvious. You’ve been acting weird ever since that night we…you know…” She glanced over his shoulder, instinctively checking on Mia. “I know you don’t feel the way I do, and that’s fine.”
“What are you talking about?”
“These last few days…since our date… Sex. I know it was sex. You don’t need to make a big deal out of it.”
He was stunned. “You think that’s what this is? Sex?”
“I don’t know what this is, James. I thought maybe that you might—” She stumbled. “It doesn’t matter. I know I’m not an easy person to love.”
“Why would you say that? Why would you think that?”
“Maybe because no one ever has loved me! Not my parents, certainly not Eddie—and don’t say anything, because whatever you say I’ll just think you’re only saying it because I told you that. I mean, you’re a great friend and I know you have feelings, but they’re not the right ones and I totally understand.”
“You don’t understand anything.” His voice was raw. “And I think it’s time you took a look in your bedroom.”
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