Say I'm Yours (Page 5)

It wouldn’t be fair to Cooper—or me.

“Cooper,” I warn. “Listen, I appreciate that you’re being very . . . forthright in your advances. I really do. It’s nice being around a man who knows what he wants for once, but I have to be honest with you.”

He takes another step closer as I step back. “I know what the next words out of your mouth are gonna be.”

“I doubt that.”

“You’re going to say that you’re still in love with Trent. That it’s too soon and that you’re not ready for anything new. Am I close?”

Yeah, you could say that. I nod.

“I know all this. I know you’re scared—”

“Hey, now! I didn’t say I was scared.”

He smirks. “You don’t have to say it.”

He has some nerve. I’m not scared. I’m doing the right thing. It isn’t fair to string someone along, I know all about that. Plus, there are a lot of moving pieces in this possibility. It would be foolish to think people wouldn’t get hurt if things went bad. Not to mention I have friendships I could lose, just like he does.

So, now, being sensible is being scared?

I don’t think so.

“You know what?” I huff. “I’m doing the right thing here. You like me, or at least I think you do. And I’ve been the person on the receiving end of lovin’ someone and not having that feeling reciprocated. I’m not scared. You don’t scare me, Cooper Townsend.” I jab my finger in his chest as the words tumble out. “What scares me is the idea of hurtin’ you. Makin’ you think there’s a chance when my heart is so badly broken I don’t even know if I can ever care about another man again. I’m being kind. I’m being a friend. I’m doin’ the right thing for both of us.”

“I’m not lookin’ for a friend,” Cooper grips my arms. “I’m not askin’ for fair or right. I’m askin’ for a chance to show you that your heart isn’t broken. I know you loved Trent. I’m not deluding myself by thinking otherwise.” I shake my head as his eyes hold mine captive. “I know it’s still tearing you apart inside, but you can let him go. You deserve more than what he gave you. We have somethin’ between us. I know you feel it.”

“It doesn’t mean we need to act on it, Coop.” His grip loosens, and my traitorous hand moves to his chest. “The truth is that I don’t know what I feel. I’ve been upside down for so long that I don’t know what right side up is. Can you understand that?”

I wait for my words to settle in, because the last thing I want to do is hurt a friend. Life is short, and the people around you are everything. Cooper has been a part of my extended family for as long as I can remember. I don’t know if what I feel for him is more than loving him like I always have, and until I figure it out, I can’t move forward.

“I’m only askin’ for a date. One that you promised to think about. One that you owe me for writing that crap about me on the wall.”

I sigh and shake my head.

If there’s one thing I know about the men around here, it’s that they don’t quit. Hell, I’m not even sure it was my mama who orchestrated this. For all I know, it was Cooper. The war inside me battles as I try to decide what to do. Do I go out with him? Do I hold my ground and say no?

Then I wonder, why should I say no? Cooper is single, attractive, and Presley has already given me her blessing. Because of Trent? If I’m as done as I say I am, why do I let that man still dictate my happiness?

“One date?” I ask, hesitantly.

“One date.”

“As friends?”

His free arm hooks around my back. “Good friends.”

Oh, Jesus. Okay, one date as friends, which is what I need this to be, and then we can move past this ludicrous idea.

“And then you’ll be patient and give me some time?” I press, needing confirmation.

“And then you’ll want another.” Cooper’s eyes gleam with victory.

“Don’t get yourself too excited about this, Coop. I’m agreeing to a friend’s night out.”

His lips move closer to mine, and my heart races. He can’t kiss me. No way am I ready for that.

“Relax, I’m not going to kiss you,” he reassures me. His lips touch the side of my cheek, and I release a deep breath. “But if you call it a friend’s night out then I’m going to assume you’re refusing to call it a date because we agreed to one and you’re saving it.”

I rear back and yank my hand free. “Fine, a date it is. That way, we can get this over with, and you can see you don’t really like me.”

“Or you can see there’s possibility here.”

He’s freaking relentless.

“We’ll see.”

Needing to make my exit before he convinces me of some other crazy idea, I push him back, grab the envelope, and walk out. Cooper being who he is doesn’t let me leave in grand fashion.

“Oh, Grace?”

I turn to look at him.

“I’m workin’ the next two weekends, so I’ll see you in three weeks.”

“All right.”

“No backin’ out, because I won’t give up that easily.”

Unsure of what to say, I shake my head. I think this is going to be a disaster. My mind spins with all the things that could go bad, and there’s a hefty list. But as I look at Cooper, I see how excited he is. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a possibility of something between us, and I really was wasting my time with Trent.

Maybe Cooper has been in front of me, but I was too blind to see him.

There’s no way to know unless we try.

Cooper’s grin grows as if he can read my mind.

“I’ll see you soon for that date.”

He nods, and I walk out the door, hoping I didn’t make the biggest mistake of my life.

Chapter 3

I stand at the counter inside my family’s general store. I thought I could run in and grab a few things for the weekend, but Mama is here with a basket of bones to pick. Thankfully, none of them are for me, but I still have to listen.

My best friend, Emily Young, arrived in town after her last music tour. She’s visiting her parents, and instead of heading to the local bar, we’ve decided to swear off any chance of seeing Cooper or Trent. My house is the only safe place.

After scouring my kitchen for supplies, I realized I was all out of junk food, and that won’t do. I need all the saturated fat and calories I can get to deal with my life.

However, Mama doesn’t appear to be running out of steam regarding her issues with the clan of meddling women in our town.

“Are you even listenin’?” she asks as I watch the clock ticking.

“I heard you. Mrs. Hennington didn’t call you back, and Mrs. Townsend picked an awful hymn for church on Sunday.”

“Good.” She sighs.

I start making a plan of the fastest way to get what I need and get home within fifteen minutes as my mother prattles on about Mrs. Kannan cheating during their last game of cards. I don’t know why Mama’s surprised by this, she does it every week. “And then, she had the nerve to tell me that I cheated at Bingo. How do you even claim such blasphemy?”

“I don’t know, Ma.” I try to move away to get what I came for, but she doesn’t let up.

“You know, I have half a mind to go over there and demand she gives us our money back.” She nods once in agreement with herself. “And after that, I’ll let Vivienne know that her singin’ needs to be louder when we’re rehearsing. The Lord can’t understand her mumblin’.”

Oh, yeah, that’ll work out great.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Y’all have been friends a long time, but tellin’ Mrs. Townsend her singin’ isn’t good enough for the Lord isn’t going to go over well. Now, what really has you upset?”

My mother loves those women more than she loves my father or me. There’s no way she’s going in there with guns blazing over a few bucks. Mrs. Kannan cheats, Mrs. Hennington bakes, Mrs. Townsend runs the music, and Mama is the trip planner. All of them have their place and each is very passionate about what they do.

She sits back in her chair and huffs.

“Mama?” I push her.

“Your father has lost his damn mind!” She stands and throws her hands in the air. “I’ve had it with that man. If I didn’t think he’d starve to death, I would’ve thrown his sorry behind out of my house a long time ago.” Daddy is always on her list, but he must’ve really upset her this time. “He told me that if I wanted to lose weight, I should stop eatin’ pie. Can you believe that? Maybe he’d look like he did when I married him if he stopped eatin’ everything in my house.”

Maybe my father has become suicidal, because no man should ever say something like that. Especially, when my father could be Santa’s less gray haired brother. His belly is filled with more jelly than a donut.

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that.”

“Always takin’ his side.” Her eyes narrow on me. “By the way, what is this I hear about you and Cooper? There’s a rumor goin’ around that you’re going out with him soon?”