The Soul Mate Page 9

“Oh, uh” —I cleared my throat—“it’s silly.”

“Something about the animals?”

“No.” Damn. Why hadn’t I just said yes? That would have been the perfect out.

“Then what?” He laughed.

I glanced around and finally huffed out a sigh. “This is going to sound stupid.”

“I doubt it.”

“Well, then, if you have to know, I was wondering why you’re still single.”

He raised his eyebrows and I rushed to finish my thought.

“I mean, you’re handsome and successful. You’re a doctor. You must have women falling all over themselves to get to you, and you see hundreds of women in your office.”

“Dating a patient is not an option,” he said. “It’s unprofessional, not to mention unethical.”

“Okay, fine,” I murmured, slicing my hand through the air. “Other than that, though. You have to have had women fawning all over you, and you’ve got these stories about bringing babies into the world and taking care of your sick mom and all that, so, like, what’s the deal?”

“What’s the deal?” he repeated, and his eyebrows hitched slightly higher. Taunting me. Why couldn’t I make sense while talking to him? I’d had just about enough of stuttering Bren and wondered when poised Bren would come out of hiding.

“Yeah. Why aren’t you already taken? You’re what…thirty?”

He cleared his throat again. “Thirty-two.”

It seemed ludicrous. Unless, of course, he was already taken and hadn’t felt it pertinent to fill me in on that fact. I toyed with my fork trying to act nonchalant as I waited for him to respond.

He rubbed at his perfectly chiseled jaw. “Well, I do date quite a lot.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you’re single.”

He eyed me and then took a sip of his drink. “Look, I’ll tell you the truth, but then I’m going to be the one sounding silly.”

“Seems only fair at this point, considering the level of awkward I had to suffer through on your exam table,” I fired back.

“You got me there.” He tipped his head in a clipped nod. “The reason I haven’t settled down with one person is because I’m looking for more than just sex and companionship.” His intense gaze burned into mine as he leaned forward, and I barely suppressed a shudder. “It’s going to sound cheesy, but the fact is, I want a soul mate. Someone who not only loves me, but understands me on my deepest level, you know? Accepts me for who I am, faults and all. After watching my parents all my life—and especially through my mother’s illness—I just think life is too short to waste it on anything less.”

A lump knotted in my throat.

Life was too short.

I thought of my own parents—my father’s illness and after. But then, maybe Mason’s rose-colored glasses only existed because he hadn’t seen the other side of that struggle…the devastation when the struggle was finally over and there were no winners.

I wasn’t sure if my parents had been soul mates, but they’d been in love. And now my mother was alone and heartbroken, so downtrodden that she could barely function without my father around to help her.

So, yeah, life was too short. Too short to fall head over heels for someone and then wind up totally destroyed when that person disappeared from your life in one way or another.

But I wasn’t about to get into all of that. Especially not with him—not now. He already knew more of me, both inside and out, than I’d meant to share with him. It was time to pump the brakes a little and get back on more solid ground. If I could just gain a little more control over an untenable situation, I’d start to feel better.

He talked about his favorite parts of his job, and we laughed over TV shows we’d both seen and books we’d read, but in the back of my mind, I was still replaying what he’d said.

He wanted a soul mate. Someone who knew his deepest self. I’m sorry, but that scared the ever-loving fuck out of me.

I couldn’t deny that I’d felt something the night we’d been together—sure. But that had all been animalistic, greedy need. Sheer, unadulterated attraction. Hell, that was half the reason I’d run out of his place like my butt was on fire.

What were the odds that some random one-night stand he’d potentially managed to knock up would be his soul mate? The one person he’d been waiting for?

Not freaking likely. Plus, add to that the fact that I might be sticking him with a baby, and then what? A guy like this would stay by my side, try to make it work, and settle even if I wasn’t his soul mate. Settling wasn’t an option. Not for him and sure as hell not for me.

He was a catch and a romantic all rolled up into one, and there was no way it could work out. At least, not with someone that had walled off her heart years ago. I couldn’t give him what he wanted. And I wasn’t even sure I wanted to if I could.

The whole idea of what might happen had my stomach tied in knots and before I knew it, we were wrapping the rest of my salad to go and heading through the restaurant’s wide glass doors and into the sunset-lit parking lot. He followed me to my car, the orange and pink of the sky bouncing off the white sedan, and when I reached the driver’s side, he stopped to face me.

“So, what’s the verdict, Bren? Are you feeling okay?”

I knew he wasn’t referring to the queasiness I’d mentioned, which came and went. He was talking about our real first date—he was asking how I felt about us. The truth was, I really didn’t know. He was handsome, intelligent, kind—and amazing in bed. But I didn’t really know him, and this baby would speed things up to an unnatural pace, and that terrified me.

“It was a nice dinner. Thank you for that.”

“Right. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and take that as an invitation to call you again.”

He leaned down and my body froze. I knew I ought to back away—not get sucked in by his sweetened spicy smell, but his eyes were locked with mine and I found myself moving closer, letting my mouth close over his soft bottom lip.

His tongue didn’t sweep out to greet me. Instead the kiss was soft and sweet, but the feel of his skin on mine sent a wave of white-hot energy through me, along with a surge of memories of everything that mouth of his could do—everything he’d already done. Everything I wanted it to do again. And again.

But even as I started to melt into him, he pulled away.

“Good night,” he said, his voice all grit as he backed away and opened my car door for me, waiting as I climbed inside.

I watched him climb into his own car in a daze, my mind reeling.

Jesus, he was like a drug. One taste and I wanted to mainline him straight to the vein.

I had to get a grip. Clutching the leather steering wheel, I closed my eyes. The kiss had been a mistake. This whole date had been a mistake. Jesus, why did the best night of my life have to turn into my biggest regret?

But I would be okay. I was walking away knowing one thing I hadn’t been sure of before—this guy, whatever his romantic intentions toward me, would be a great father. That was more than I could have hoped for after a one-night stand. This baby—if there really was one—would be lucky to have him. That was what I needed to focus on. This wasn’t just about me anymore.

I drove on autopilot, playing the date in my mind over and over until at last I arrived home and put myself to bed. Tomorrow would be a new day and I made a mental vow it would be free from any lingering thoughts about Mason Bentley.

We wanted different things in life. Until I found out if I was pregnant, it only made sense to continue to talk. But I’d spend the time between now and the next time I heard from him shoring up my emotional and physical defenses.

Something told me I was going to need them.


Chapter Nine


“How is it I always find myself standing in front of you, asking the same question?” Trent walked into my office unannounced, almost catching his lab coat as he snapped the door shut behind him.

I set down my sandwich on my desk and glanced at him. “And which question is that?”

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