“Cooper,” I say, embarrassed to find myself blinking back tears. I hope he doesn’t notice. “This is so… sweet of you.”
“Well,” he says, looking uncomfortable. “I only got one security collar. I didn’t know we were going to have two pets going in and out—”
“We’re not,” I assure him, glancing at Garfield, who has settled onto the kitchen mat and is glaring at Lucy—still cowering under the kitchen table—with balefully glowing yellow eyes. “I’ll find him a new home in the morning. Besides, he’s an indoor cat, I’m pretty sure.”
“I wasn’t even sure,” Cooper goes on, not meeting my gaze, “how much longer you and Lucy would be sticking around, to tell you the truth.”
I straighten up, and wipe my suddenly moisture-slick palms on my jeans.
“Yeah,” I say. I’m having trouble meeting his gaze. So I keep mine on Garfield, instead. “About that.”
Cooper straightens, too. “It’s just,” he says. I can’t tell where he’s looking, because I’m busy looking at Garfield. But I have an idea he’s looking at me, and feel a corresponding rise in temperature in my cheeks. “When I told you a few months ago that I didn’t want to be your rebound guy—”
“We really,” I hurry to say—because I have a feeling I’m not going to like where this conversation is headed—“don’t have to talk about this. In fact, I have an idea. Let’s just go to bed. We’ve both had a really long, hard day. Let’s sleep on it. Let’s not say anything we might regret.”
“I’m not going to regret saying this,” Cooper says.
I do tear my gaze from Garfield at that.
“You have a concussion,” I insist, checking his pupils for evenness. The EMT told me to do that. They look even enough. But how can I be sure? “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Heather.” To my surprise, he seizes both my hands in his. His gaze, on mine, is steady. Both his pupils look precisely even. “I don’t have a concussion. I know exactly what I’m saying. Something I should have said a long time ago.”
Oh God. Seriously. Why me? Has my day not been bad enough? I mean, really. Someone shot at me. A big orange cat named Garfield bit me. Why do I have to be rejected by the man I love as well?
“Cooper,” I say. “Really. Can’t we just—”
“No,” Cooper says firmly. “I know I said I didn’t want to be your rebound guy. And when I said it, I meant it. But I didn’t expect you to go out and find a rebound guy who was so—”
“Look,” I say, wincing. “I know. Okay? But—”
“—perfect,” Cooper concludes.
I blink up at him, thinking I’ve heard him wrong. “Wait.What? ”
“I mean, I never expected him to ask you to move in with him,” Cooper bursts out. “Or that you’d say yes!”
“I–I didn’t!” I cry.
Cooper’s grip on my hands becomes very tight all of a sudden.
“Wait. You didn’t?” His gaze on mine is intent. His pupils, I note, are still even in size. “Then when you were talking to Tad tonight—”
My mouth has suddenly gone dry. Maybe, I’m starting to think, my day won’t end up being that bad after all.
“I turned him down,” I tell him. I don’t bother explaining to him just what, precisely, Tad asked me to do that I turned down. He doesn’t need to know that.
“What about your dad?” Cooper asks slowly. “The thing with Larry?”
“I turned that down, too,” I say. My heart has started doing something crazy inside my chest. I’m not sure what. But I think it’s the cha-cha. “Cooper, I don’t want to move in with Tad—he’s not perfect, by the way. Far from it. In fact… we broke up tonight. And I don’t want a new recording career. I love my job. I love living here, with you. Everything since I moved in here has been so great. I like things exactly the way they are. In fact, when I was getting shot at earlier, and I thought I was going to die, I was thinking how much I don’t want anything to change—”
“Yeah,” Cooper says. “Well, I wish I could say the same. Because I’m ready for a change.”
Then he lets go of my hands and grabs my waist instead.
And before I can say anything more, he pulls me toward him and brings his mouth down—quite possessively, I might add—over mine.
A lot of thoughts go through my head right then. Mainly, I’m thinking,Whoa. I’m kissing Cooper. I can’t believe it, really. I mean, all these months that I’ve had a crush on him, and never dreamed he might return my feelings.
And all it took to get him to admit it was dating my vegan killer Frisbee—playing math professor.
Oh, and nearly getting myself killed multiple times.
But who’s counting?
Cooper seems pretty serious about this kissing thing, too. When he starts kissing a girl—well, me, anyway—he doesn’t mess around. He gets busy right away with the pressing his body up against mine very determinedly, and the molding me to him. Also with the tongue.Excellent tongue action. I’m impressed. I’m more than impressed. I’m melting, is what I’m doing. I feel like a DoveBar that’s been left out of the refrigerated case too long. I’m going all soft and gooey.
In fact, by the time Cooper lets me up for air, my hard chocolate shell is completely gone, and I’m just a big limp mess.
And I love it.
“In case I haven’t made it obvious,” Cooper says, in a slightly breathless voice, looking down at me with pupils that are most definitely completely even in size, “I think you should move in.”
“Cooper, I already live with you,” I point out.
“I mean, really move in with me. Downstairs. My place, not yours.”
“You’d have to start putting your stuff away,” I say, examining the very interesting way his five o’clock shadow disappears down the collar of his shirt. “No more fast-food wrappers in the office.”
“Fine,” he says. “Well, then no more investigating murders until you have your criminal justice degree. I was thinking October’s a nice month to get married.”