Unfortunately, when he climbed out of his Jeep she stood right there waiting for him. “Why the hell are you following me home? Do you think this is the first time I’ve ever driven in snow? I can guarantee you it’s not, I’ve lived in Denver my whole life.”
“I know you can,” he growled. “That’s not why I followed you. I needed to apologize.”
That set her back on her heels. “Oh,” she said quietly, crossing her arms. Her puffy blue coat seemed to make that a little hard to do, but she managed. Her breath huffed out in clouds in the cold air. In the scant light from the parking lot, her eyes seemed red-rimmed and guarded. Cassandra had one of the strongest personalities he’d ever encountered. The thought that he’d upset her didn’t sit well with him. She deserved better.
The snow continued to fall, landing in her curly hair. Roger wanted to reach out and tug at those curls, but in this mood she’d probably slap his hand away.
“I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you the way I should have,” he told her after a few seconds.
She shrugged, burrowing her chin into the collar of the winter coat. “No skin off my nose.”
He sighed. “Are you always this defensive? Why won’t you let me talk?”
Her mouth snapped shut and she cocked her head at him, as if waiting.
“It’s been a very long time since I’ve been on any kind of date,” he told her finally. “Like, years. Years. I guarantee you that I used to be a very different man. You took me by surprise tonight.”
She seemed shocked at the admission. And even though the sentences were disjointed she seemed to understand what he was telling her.
“I’m sorry I rushed you then,” she said softly.
Roger looked out at the night, and the brightly twinkling Christmas lights around them. They were all alone on the street and the sounds of passing traffic were muffled. Snow covered the streets and houses and cars. Roger suddenly had a childhood memory of waking up and finding out that school had been cancelled. Time was passing, and he’d not realized how fast until tonight.
“I’m kind of glad you rushed me, actually,” he told her. “I think I needed it.”
He turned back to her and dared to take a step closer. “Did you kiss me because you felt sorry for me?”
Her face clouded with anger and impatience. “What?”
He held up his hand. “Never mind. Your response tells me what I wanted to know. I just don’t want to be some man you think needs to be pitied and coddled.”
Cassandra took a deep breath and glanced down at her feet. When she finally looked back up at him, there were tears glittering in her eyes, but her expression told him that she didn’t want pity either. “You know, we’re both defensive and cautious. For a minute I dared to hope that you were the nice, normal kind of guy I’ve always been looking for. I grew up on the streets, literally, I mean. Everything I have, I’ve worked my ass off for. But I got myself away from everything bad. Or at least, I’ve tried my damnedest to. Seems like the bad finds me, whether I want it to or not. You’re the first guy that doesn’t feel bad to me.”