Authors: Shawna Delacorte
He turned toward Mac. The intense emotions running through him came out in his voice. “Where could she have gone? Does she know anyone else here?”
Mac seemed as perplexed as Ty. “I don't know. Maybe she's walking back to my house.”
Ty stood riveted to the spot, staring at Mac without really seeing him. His mind seemed to be going in several directions at once, but two conflicting thoughts tried to crowd out all the othersâwas Angie all right and what had she meant by her statement of single-minded determination in procuring a job with Mac?
An uneasy feeling began to rise inside him. Could their being together possibly be nothing more than a ruse to get him to help her? Was she such a good actress that she had been able to totally deceive him? Convince him that she cared about him rather than what he might be able to do for her? Noâhe refused to accept that idea. It was a thought he didn't like, one that he desperately wanted to be able to dismiss. A myriad of emotions became so tightly entwined that he didn't know what he was feeling from one minute to the next.
He tried to pull some logic into the situation. The first thing he had to do was make sure Angie was all right. Then he needed to figure out what was happening, what was real and what was nothing more than his desires overruling the pragmatic side of his nature. Exactly what were her feelings about himâ¦about them as a couple in a relationship?
Thereâhe had finally put the concept of a relationship into a concrete thought, but it didn't make anything any clearer than it had been a moment earlier. It only made him more fearful of what the future held.
“âhome to see if she's there. I'll check the route along the way to see if I can find her.”
Mac's words jerked Ty back to the present. “Uhâ¦yes. And I'll go the other direction and see if I can find her walking along the street. But first I'll check the dock and my sailboat. She might have gone there.”
His mind immediately drifted to the day they had spent together on his sailboatâa day filled with both heated passion and the quiet contentment of just being together. It had been the most perfect day he had ever spent with anyone and something he didn't want to lose. He knew in his heart that she was incapable of
dishonesty, that she had not been misrepresenting herself or attempting to manipulate him to her predetermined agenda.
Only now everything had turned upside down. He and Mac had been at odds for the first time in their lives. Angie had stormed out of his house angry and hurt and he wasn't sure exactly why.
He collected his thoughts and composure. “You've got your cell phone? Let me know if you find her and I'll do the same.”
Ty watched as Mac climbed in his car, backed out of the driveway and started slowly down the street. Ty walked around the side of his house toward the back deck. He then proceeded across the yard to the dock.
He checked the large ketch first, searching the deck then methodically going through each of the areas below deck. When that proved fruitless, he searched the smaller sloop but to no avail.
He had been so sure he would find her on one of the sailboats. Now uncertainty and fear filled him with dread. He tried to analyze her words about the job and it being her only reason for being there. Exactly what type of impact would that have on the futureâ¦on their future together?
Ty returned to the house to get his car keys so he could search for her along the road. He had just crossed the deck and reached for the doorknob of the back door when his cell phone rang.
He quickly checked the caller ID before answering it. “Mac?”
“I just got home. She's not here and I didn't see her anywhere along the way.”
“I've checked the grounds and both sailboats. She's not here, either. I'm putting my home phone on call
forwarding so everything will go to my cell phone. You wait there in case she shows up and I'll make a circle through the village, then continue on to your house.”
He glanced at his watch. It was only eight-thirty, but it felt so much later. He tried to put an objective spin on things. She was an adult, not a child. It wasn't the middle of the night and it was a very safe neighborhood. What disturbed him the most was how upset and angry she had been when she slammed out of his house. Another ripple of anxiety shot through him, then settled in the pit of his stomach where it continued to churn as he climbed into his car.
y drove into the village. He parked and went into several stores, a couple of restaurants and even a bar looking for her, but she wasn't there. She wasn't anywhere. He continued on to Mac's house. He found Mac standing on the front porch, cell phone in one hand and cordless phone from the house in the other hand. Mac started down the walkway toward the street, meeting Ty halfway.
“Well?” The apprehension in Mac's voice was unmistakable. “Did you find her?”
Ty shook his head in despair. “No.” He slumped into one of the chairs on the front porch. It had been a long time since he'd felt so dejected and been so completely at a loss about what to do.
The strained atmosphere between the two men intensified as silence descended over them. Ty knew he should say something, but he didn't know what to say
or how to broach the subject. He and Mac had never argued in their lives and this one was particularly painful because of the personal nature and the fact that it involved Angie.
Mac whirled around and Ty jumped up from the chair at the sound of Angie's voice.
A tinge of embarrassment spread across Angie's face. “Assuming I'm still welcome to stay here.”
“Don't be ridiculous. Of course you're welcome.” Mac quickly moved toward Angie. He put his arm around her shoulder in a protective manner. “Are you all right?”
“I'm fine.” She glanced at the ground, her voice dropping off to a whisper. “I just needed a little time to cool off.” She hesitated as she tried to find the right words, then looked up to meet her brother's gaze. “I'm sorry, Mac. I didn't mean to explode at you like that.”
“I had no idea you felt that wayâ¦” A teasing grin played around the corners of his mouth. “Or that you had such a temper.”
A sheepish look crossed Mac's face. “And I didn't realize I was treating you like that. I've always wanted what was best for you, Angie. You know that. I would never want to hold you back or make you feel like you needed to settle for less than what you could be or what you wanted out of life.”
Mac pulled her into a warm, brotherly hug. “Forgive me?”
She returned his warmth with a smile. “You know I do.”
It had been an outburst of emotion, but Angie had finally managed to tell Mac what her original plan had
been. Only now she wasn't as sure exactly what she wanted or what the future held. It was the uppermost thought that occupied her mind as she walked from Ty's house toward Mac's house, intentionally taking a roundabout route. She wanted the time alone without either Mac or Ty finding her as she walked down the street. She needed to be able to think without either one of them pulling at her emotions.
And what about Ty? She was aware of the new problem she had created with her outburst. Had he misinterpreted what she said? Did he think she had been using him? Manipulating him for her own selfish purposes? Had she irreparably damaged her relationship with him? She caught a glimpse of Ty, noting the combination of relief and confusion that covered his face. She stole a brief moment of eye contact with him. A whole new level of uneasiness welled inside her.
Ty looked away. He tried to put everything Angie had said into some sort of cohesive picture. Her explosion had stunned him. She had arrived from Portland with a predetermined plan. Had he been part of that plan from the very beginning? Was what had been happening between them part of that plan as well? Her angry outburst in the foyer of his house showed a whole new side of her, one that harbored fire and determination. Even though the entire matter had him bewildered, he liked the sparks she generated. She was definitely a woman who knew her own mind, someone with substance rather than the clinging vine that so many of the women he dated seemed to be.
He felt the frown lines wrinkle across his forehead as he turned his gaze toward Mac. After all of this, where did he and Mac stand? Would this strain on their
working and personal relationship end up being a permanent rift that would cause future problems?
Ty wasn't sure what to do or what to think. “Uhâ¦wellâ¦since everything seems to be okay here, I guess I'd better be heading for home.” He needed time to sort things out and determine exactly what it was that he wanted. He had two major problems to resolveâpatching things up with Mac and setting his priorities about Angie. Maybe things would look better in the morning after a good night's sleep, but a sinking feeling told him it wasn't going to be that easy.
Angie's voice broke into his thoughts. “I'll walk you to your car.”
She glanced at Mac. “I'll be right back.” Mac hesitated as if he wanted to say something, then turned and went inside the house.
“Are you okay, Angie?” Ty reached out and grasped her hand. Her touch was warm and inviting and sent the same feeling of life fulfillment through him that he found so reassuring whenever he was with her.
A touch of irritation crept into her voice. “I wish everyone would stop asking me that.”
She took a calming breath, then held his gaze for several seconds before speaking. “I think I owe you an apology. I had no right to lose my temper like that, especially in your home. It's just that I couldn't stand listening to you and Mac at each other like that, especially knowing it was my fault.”
“You don't owe me an apology. And nothing was your fault.” But he knew that he and Angie did need to talk. He wanted to know about her plan for a job and howâor ifâhe fit into that plan. He wanted to know where things stood between them, but he wasn't
sure how to find out without delving into his anxieties and squarely confronting his fear of commitment and relationships head-on.
He squeezed her hand and gave her a confident smile. “We can talk tomorrow. I'm sure things will look better in the morning.”
He still didn't believe the words even as he said them out loud. He simply hadn't known what else to say to smooth over the awkward situation. And the harsh words he and Mac had exchanged still loomed large in his mind. The one thing he did know was that he couldn't allow the problem to fester until it became insurmountable.
He stole a quick glance toward the house in an attempt to see if Mac was watching them. He leaned forward and placed a loving kiss on her lips, but not one that could be misconstrued by anyone looking on. “I'll call you tomorrow.” He climbed into his car and drove away.
Angie returned to the house where she found Mac nervously pacing up and down the living room. He looked up as she entered the room, offering her a tentative smile.
“Do you feel like talking? I'm all yours if you want to discuss this job thing.”
Angie sank into a large chair, curling her legs under her. She leveled a steady look at her brother. “I think right now I'd rather discuss what you and Ty were arguing about. I heard him say you told him not to see me anymore. Is that what you told him?”
Mac nervously cleared his throat and attempted a teasing grin. “Does this mean we're going to have our first adult conversation?”
“Don't you think it's about time? And you're patronizing me again. Stop it.”
Mac drew in a deep breath, then slowly exhaled as he shook his head. “You hit me with a lot of stuff all at once, certainly not what I was expecting when you arrived a little over a week ago. I thought I'd finish my design project, help you get a job with one of our clients and assist you in getting moved into your own apartment.”
He looked up at her. “Instead, you've been dating my business partner. You inform me I've been treating you like a child. Instead of finding a job in Seattle, you tell me that what you really wanted when you arrived here was a career position with our company.” He studied her for a moment. “What I've found out is that the kid sister I thought I knew has turned out to be a woman I don't know at all.”
He flashed an engaging and sincere smile. “Yes, I think it's probably about time for us to have an adult conversation.”
Mac and Angie talked long into the night. She told him about her work experience in Portland, why she left the company and what she wanted to do with her life. She gave him her ideas on the type of position she thought she could most effectively handle in the company if they went ahead with their expansion plans and also where she thought she could fit in if they didn't. She made it clear that she had given it a lot of intelligent thought.
For his part, Mac filled her in on his thoughts for the expansion. He explained what the design project was that he had been working on and how it related to the expansion. They exchanged thoughts and suggestions on various facets of the company.
Everything about their discussion excited her. It was as if she had gotten a new lease on life and discovered a new side to her brother that she had never known. Suddenly he didn't seem to be that same larger-than-life person she had always been in awe of and who slightly intimidated her. He had become just her brother again, someone she still looked up to and respected but at the same time someone she could now talk to on an equal levelâas an adult.
However, as favorably as the conversation had gone the one thing they did not discuss was her relationship with Ty. It was almost as if everything was going so well that neither one of them wanted to introduce a topic that could cause a whole new area of dissension and put a damper on what they had accomplished.
Mac glanced at his watch. “I don't believe it. Do you know it's almost two o'clock in the morning? We've been talking for hours.”
Angie stifled a yawn as she rose from her chair. “I don't know about you, but I think they've been some of the most positive and productive hours I've spent in a long time.”
Mac offered a slightly weary smile. “Is it okay if I still hug you from time to time or is that too childish?”
“I'd be disappointed if you didn't.” She put her arms around his waist. “Thank you, Mac.”
“For listening to me. For letting me air my frustrations.”
“In the future, if you have a complaint with me don't let it go until it becomes a huge problem. Let me know.” He smiled at her. “Even if you have to hit me over the head with a sledgehammer to get my attention.”
Angie flashed a big grin. “You've got it.”
They said good-night and she retired to the guest room. One problem still remained, one they had not discussed but she knew the day would come when they would have toâTyler Farrell. She still didn't know specifically what Mac and Ty had been arguing about other than it had to do with her dating Ty and Mac disapproving.
Even though Mac had professed his acceptance of her as an adult, he had carefully steered the conversation away from Ty and she had let him do it. Other than to tell Mac that who she chose to date was her business and not his, she didn't know what to say to him. Until she knew exactly what type of a relationship she had with Ty, there was nothing for her and Mac to talk about. She couldn't tell her brother that she loved Ty when she didn't have a clue about Ty's real feelings toward her.
It was a topic she knew she should be discussing with Ty, not with Mac.
Thoughts and concerns continued to swirl around in her head leaving her as confused about where she and Ty were headed as she had been before. If only she could get a handle on what was in Ty's headâ¦and in his heart.
Ty paced up and down his office floor, glancing at his watch and pausing to stare down the hallway each time he passed the door. His impatience grew with each passing minute. He had made a point of arriving at his office very early that morning in hopes of catching Mac before the other employees arrived.
He had endured a restless night, his mind filled with conflicting thoughts and confusion. It seemed that he
had spent a great deal of his time lately wrestling with confusion. The only time he truly felt at peace was when he and Angie were together. Whenever they were apart his inner turmoil would once again take charge in an attempt to cripple his logic.
After what felt like an eternity he finally heard Mac unlock his office door. Ty took a calming breath, then a second one. He and Mac had to talk this out and now would be best, before either of them became involved in the day's work and while the events of last night were still fresh. He took a third deep breath, held it for several seconds, then slowly exhaled. He headed down the hall, the anxiety churning in the pit of his stomach.
Ty paused at Mac's office door. “Do you have a few minutes?”
Mac turned around at the sound of Ty's voice. A look of caution spread across his features. “Uhâ¦sure.”
Ty entered the office and closed the door behind him before settling into the large chair across from Mac's desk. He had been giving it a lot of thought and had decided that straight out was the only way to handle what could turn out to be a volatile situation. He also knew it had to be done now before things became even more strained to the point where it could start having an impact on the business.
Ty nervously cleared his throat. “We need to talk.” He held up his hand to silence Mac when his partner started to say something. “And don't ask me what we need to talk about. You know as well as I do that we need to talk about your objections to me dating Angie.”
“Yesâ¦well, Angie and I talked until almost two this morning.”
“Did you discuss your own problems or did I become part of that discussion?”
Mac glanced at the floor, his voice becoming less sure. “Weâ¦uhâ¦didn't get around to you.”
“Then perhaps you and I should
get around to me
now. You've made it very clear that you disapprove of me dating Angie, although you haven't given me a specific reasonâ¦just some generalities about different lifestyles. I feel compelled to repeat what I said the other day. Angie is a grown woman who is capable of making her own decisions. You mayâ”