“What?” I stared dumbly at Dulcie, her words not making sense.
“I’m pregnant. And it could be yours,” she repeated, slower the second time.
“No,” I snapped and shook my head in denial. “Not possible.”
“Well the thing is…” Dulcie’s voice trailed off and she looked down, her bravado disappearing as red stained her cheeks.
“No,” I said again with the utmost certainty as Poppy’s behaviour suddenly made sense. That crap about me lying, the cold silent treatment. “I’m sorry Dulcie.” I waited for her to look at me because I wanted her to see how serious I was. “It’s not possible. Nothing happened between us.”
Dulcie frowned and I could see her confusion was genuine which just served to annoy me even more. Did she really think an encounter with me would be that forgettable? My eyes cut to Poppy who had moved away when I refused Dulcie’s request to join her at a table. My girl had her head down as she wiped at the clean bar and tried to ignore the conversation I was having with Dulcie.
We both had our voices pitched low but I hoped Poppy could hear us as I said, “What’s going on Dulcie, what are you thinking?”
She looked to her left, to the side of the bar she usually manned and gave a nervous shrug. “I felt sure you and I had, you know.”
No I really didn’t. “You felt, you didn’t know? Dulcie,” I chided. “You know.”
She was a pretty little thing with her blonde curls and deep blue eyes but the only feelings she stirred in me were protection. She was too trusting, too curious, and right now, too desperate. Her eyes flicked back to someone at the other end of the bar then out to the room. I didn’t have to look to know who she was looking at so I kept my eyes on her, waited patiently.
She met my gaze finally and her shoulders slumped then she rolled her eyes and pouted at me. “It would be so easy if it were you,” she muttered and I just stared at her in disbelief.
“It would be a fucking miracle,” I said under my breath then threw back the rest of my drink. I turned away from Dulcie who had slumped against the bar with her head resting in her hands, and held up my empty glass, gave it a jiggle in Poppy’s direction. I didn’t really want another but I did want Poppy to hear what Dulcie was about to say.
She wasn’t happy about it but Poppy did her job, approaching with a bottle as Dulcie looked up at me, thanks to me tapping her arm and growling her name.
“I’m sorry Tate,” she said with a big sigh. “I should never have said that.”
“You know that you and I never…” I trailed off, not wanting to embarrass her and she nodded. “So why say it?” I didn’t let her look away, partly because I didn’t want to look away. Well I did. I was desperate to know if Poppy was close enough to hear us. But I didn’t want her to know that. I felt like a teenager again, ridiculous.
“You’re the safer option Tate,” Duclie said and the whine in her voice made me grit my teeth. Pouting, whining, begging, that didn’t do it for me. Well, maybe some begging might. I heard a strange noise to the side, almost a laugh, but I didn’t look away from Dulcie.
“We never so much as kissed,” I said with exasperation. “How did you think this was going to work.”
“I just.” She shrugged and tried a coy look. “Thought you’d go along if I told you it happened when you were drunk.”
“Dulcie that’s horrible!”
Nothing could stop me looking at Poppy then, as the words that seemed torn from her hung between us.
“Tate’s a big boy.” Dulcie directed her words at Poppy but made eyes at me. Truly, the girl was clueless. “He can look after himself and me if he wants to,” she said suggestively then her eyes shifted to Poppy and she shrugged. “Besides, what do you care?”
Poppy stared at Dulcie, a look of shock on her face as Dulcie turned to me and muttered, “Sorry,” then with an extra swing in her hips went back to her side of the bar. I heard her say, “Who needs a drink?” but my focus was on Poppy now, Dulcie’s deception an annoyance but also possibly a tool I could use.
“Yeah Poppy,” I said curiously, with a little emphasis on her name. She dragged her gaze from Dulcie to look up at me, a scowl on her face. “What do you care?”
She looked lost for words for a moment then she focused her anger on me. “Me? I don’t care,” she snapped. “But you should.”
I did. I particularly cared about how much Poppy cared. “I care about getting a drink,” I said with a smirk and a tilt of my empty glass.
Poppy huffed out a breath as she poured my drink. “You should care about Dulcie telling lies about you.” She placed the bottle back in it’s spot with a hard thud.
I shrugged and took a sip of my drink. “She’s a good kid, just confused.” Poppy made a disbelieving sound but I wasn’t interested in discussing Dulcie. “Forget about Dulcie, let’s talk about something else,” I suggested.
“We have nothing to talk about,” she said shortly and turned away.
I watched her walk away, had to admire her stubbornness and the way she clung to her anger. Irrational as it may be. I hadn’t done anything with Dulcie but Poppy had believed otherwise and been, dare I hope, jealous? It might not be smart to want that but hell, I’d take any sign that she cared.
I’d thought we’d made progress, that the dance we’d shared had been a step forward, a step closer to her trusting me. But Dulcie’s stunt had derailed that. I just hoped we hadn’t gone two steps back. I watched her until I finished my drink, debated if I should stay or go, give her space to think, time to miss me.
“Get you another?” she asked with a wary smile as I set the glass down.
I nearly decided to stay then, bask in the sliver of happiness her small smile gave me, see if I could coax a bigger one from her. “No thanks.” I handed over my credit card to pay my tab, the first time I’d done so. She arched a brow as she took it and a few moments later was back with a slip for me to sign. I did so, adding a tip for her then stood up and shrugged into my jacket.
“Thanks darlin’.” She nodded and I stepped closer to the bar, ostensibly to pick up the card that just happened to be sitting close to her fingers. I made sure to brush against her fingers, tapped the ring that she wore. “This is much nicer than the silver,” I said to myself as she snatched her hand away.
“It’s, I…” she was flustered, floundered for words.
“You know you don’t need it,” I said casually. “It doesn’t matter to me which skin you’re in or the colour of your hair. Beneath it all you’re you and I’m me. Red and her Wolf, we’re meant to be.”
She stared at me, her mouth a perfect ‘o’ of shock and I reached out to lightly tap her chin. She closed up so quickly I heard her teeth snap. I shoved my hand into my pocket and took a step away from her then delivered my parting shot.
“For the record though, I prefer a red headed woman every time.”