Zoe Hamilton thinks of herself as self-sufficient and capable of taking care of herself. However, when her business is broken into, and she finds a dying man at the restaurant, she finds herself relying on Jerald and Rhett for protection.
"Jerald's good," Rhett said quietly, echoing her thoughts.
"Yes, he is. He always was a take charge guy."
"Known him long?"
"Hmm, since elementary school. I moved here in the third grade."
"You two have history?"
"Not much. We dated awhile, nothing of any consequence." She shrugged, trying to act casual.
"Why the third degree?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Can't a guy ask about a girl's relationship with another guy?"
"Not unless he's considering matrimony," Zoe countered with a smirk.
"With the woman or the guy? Cause I assure you, I don't swing that way. Jerald's nice and all, but he's hardly my type."
"He's not really mine either."
"Ouch," Rhett winced when she said that.
They took a booth as far from the bathroom and the other table as they could. Most of the other customers had dribbled out, only a handful remained.
"That's got to be no end of despair for a guy like that."
"What do you mean?" Zoe took a sip of her coffee, looking at him over the rim of her mug.
"He's crazy about you."
"Jerald?" She shrugged. "I guess I never thought about it like that."
"Oh, poor man. He's delegated to the I never noticed he was alive category."
"I noticed. We tried. It wasn't for me. Why are we still talking about this?" Zoe sounded defensive, even to herself.
"'Cause I don't want to tread on another man's toes if he's got any hope in hell of stealing the girl away from me." Rhett smirked, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Don't worry about him. There's nothing. Can we change the subject now?"
"Delighted. So, Tab's daughter all grown up. He used to talk about you."
"Oh? Did he tell you what an idiot I am? How I flunked out of college and blew my ride to the big time?"
Rhett eyed her silently, smiling as she blushed. His expression turned thoughtful and he put his coffee down beside his plate. Folding his hands under his chin, he spoke quietly.
"He was so proud of you, he couldn't stop bragging. Now I know what he was going on about."
Zoe was stunned. She always thought her father had been disappointed in her, but too kind to say so. Now she was hearing something totally different.
"College isn't for everyone," Rhett said. "I went in the military. Took to it like a duck in water. But there's only so much death a man can handle and I had my fill. Did my tours and left it behind me. I met your dad at just the right time. He taught me almost everything I know."
© 2017 Dellani Oakes