Home > One is a Promise (Tangled Lies #1)

One is a Promise (Tangled Lies #1)
Author: Pam Godwin

My hands shake so badly the lip gloss slips from my fingers and clatters in the bathroom sink. Dammit, the doorbell’s going to ring any second, and I’m wracked with jitters. And other things. The horrible tilting sensation in my chest quakes with apprehension, grief, guilt. All the usual shit.

Breathe, Danni. It’s just one night. No expectations. No promises.

I brace my hands on the edge of the sink and stare at my frazzled, rawboned reflection. Jesus, I haven’t been this nervous since I danced at the mayor’s Christmas party.

Raising my arms, I sniff each armpit—sticky and odorless—and adjust the strapless top of my maxi dress. Am I showing too much skin? I glance down. Too much nipple.

I need a bra. But the straps will show. I’ll have to change the dress. Do I have time?

The doorbell buzzes, and the sound hits me directly in the stomach.

Shit, I can’t do this. I’m not ready.

I’ll never be ready.

I snatch the lip gloss. Dot, smear, rub. Then I roll Nag Champa oil on my wrists and neck. That’ll have to do.

Gathering the floor-length skirt of the dress, I exit the bathroom and pause in the square hall that adjoins the rooms of my tiny one-story bungalow. I close my bedroom door on the left and let my hand linger on the glass doorknob. If I have sex tonight, it won’t be in the bed I shared with Cole.

In the guest room on the right, racks of leotards, tutus, and sequined bra tops line the walls. No reason to shut that door.

Two steps take me past the galley kitchen, and I veer left into the dining room. There’s no furniture in here in lieu of the black Harley-Davidson softail that sits on a rug in the center. Shiny and polished as the day it was rolled in, it’s the only thing in this house I keep meticulously clean.

Out of compulsion, I stroke the soft leather seat and breathe through the deep agony it evokes. I miss you so damn much.

The silver band on my finger glints in the fading light from the window. I yank my arm back and move the engagement ring from my left hand to my right. It’s one of the many ways I torture myself, constantly switching the band from one hand to the other, testing my resolve. I should stop wearing it altogether, but the thought strangles me with godawful finality.

Baby steps.

Forcing my bare feet across the honey-wood flooring, I enter the sitting room and peer into the peep hole in the front door.

Outside, my date shoves his hands in the front pockets of his jeans and squints upward. Is he scrutinizing my droopy gutters? If I remember correctly, this guy installs vinyl siding for a living.

Mark Taylor.

He looks just like the photo my sister sent me. Late twenties. Clean-shaved complexion. Thin lips. Slender build. The setting sun reflects off his jaw-length hair, highlighting blond strands against the waves of brown. He’s handsome enough, but he isn’t Cole.

Stop it.

With a galvanizing breath, I plaster on a smile and open the door. “Hi.”

He stiffens, moving only his eyes as he gives me a full-body once-over. “Danni Angelo?”

“That’s me.” I step back and wipe my clammy palms on the dress. “Come in. I’m almost ready.”

His canvas sneakers remain rooted to the brick porch. “Wow. You’re…” He drags a hand over his mouth. “So much prettier in person.”

What picture did Bree show him? My sister’s been so obsessed with my nonexistent love life I let her set me up with one of her husband’s friends. I don’t know anything about this guy. I really don’t care. I just want to get this over with so she’ll stop nagging.

“I mean, your photo had me agreeing to the date immediately.” He grins and peruses my body again, lingering on my chest. “But Danni Angelo in the flesh is a knockout.”

“Thank you.” I shift uncomfortably.

Why is he staring at my boobs? I barely have enough meat to hold the dress up. Certainly nothing to gawk at. Must be the nipples. A peek down confirms it.

He seems to shake himself out of his stupor and steps into the front room. I twist the ring on my right hand while he takes in the brick fireplace, red velvet couch, orange armchair, and purple rug. He skips over the side table that holds the only picture frame I couldn’t bring myself to put away for tonight’s date.

I stare at the photo longingly. It’s my favorite selfie of Cole and me, taken at Busch Stadium three years ago when he surprised me with tickets to see the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Damn, that’s badass.” Mark approaches the dining room.

“Hmm?” Shoving away memories of baseball and Cole, I trail after him.

He circles the motorcycle and raises a brow. “You know how to ride this?”

I know how to ride on the back of it, clutching tightly to the man who left it behind.

“No.” I arrange my mouth in a smile. “Just holding it for someone.” Straightening my spine, I inch toward the hall. “I’m going to go slip on some shoes and—”

“I was thinking…” He steps toward me with his hands in his pockets. “Maybe we could hang out here? Order in some food and…” The corner of his lips crook up. “Get to know each other without trying to talk over the noise in a bar or restaurant?”

“Oh. Um…”

I actually prefer staying here to going anywhere with a man I don’t know. If this date goes to hell, it would be easier to kick him out of my house than try to catch a ride home.

Other than the blatant way he checked me out, he seems polite and unassuming. But what if I’m missing an undertone in his suggestion? Does staying here mean he expects sex? God, I need that. Like really, really need the hard, consuming sensation of a man inside my body.

Emotionally, however, I’m not prepared for that. The idea of intimacy with anyone but Cole feels like betrayal.

“It was just a suggestion, Danni.” His green eyes search my face. “If you’d rather—”

“I haven’t been on a date in three years.” I touch my flushed forehead, cursing myself for admitting that out loud.

“I didn’t know.” He gives me a gentle smile. “I should definitely take you out then.”

“No, that’s not what I mean.” I run my fingers through my hair, holding the blonde mess away from my face. “I’m just nervous and a little rusty at this. Or maybe a lot rusty. How does this work? Is sex expected on a first date?”

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