Better Late Than Never

Jo was running late. Since Jo was never late—punctuality being one of the virtues that West Point drilled into its cadets—this meant that she was also aggravated.

Of course, even if she hadn't spent too much time pounding the punching bag at her morning workout, she'd still be feeling annoyed. She'd made a decision, a hard, painful decision, but a decision. She'd let go. And then what did Zane have to go and do but kiss her and bring all those feelings boiling to the surface once more? It had meant a restless night of tossing and turning, wishing and missing and rethinking the same thoughts over and over again. And a morning workout twenty minutes longer than usual still didn't serve to stop her brain from revisiting the past.

"You're late."

She stopped in the doorway, and briefly, very briefly, closed her eyes and wished herself anywhere but here. "And you're in my office. What do you want?"

"I want an answer to a question."

She sighed and crossed the room, dropping the file folders she was carrying onto her desk. "I'm not going to tell you anything. I'm not going to answer any questions."

"You know, you really should have changed Grant's last name when you faked his identity. Once Andy let slip that his records were in the archives, it was easy to find out almost everything I wanted to know."

"Zane." Jo placed her palms flat on her desk, and took a deep breath.

"Don't worry, Jo-jo. I'm not going to tell. Not that anyone would be likely to believe me." Zane pushed himself out of the chair. "That is, I'm not going to tell if..." he paused.

She tried to let the silence last, but his eyes were too intent. He was making her stomach churn and not really in a good way. "If what?"

" answer one question."

"What is it?"

He took a step closer, and his voice dropped. "Why don't we fit?"

Why don't we fit? she wondered. And then realized, of course, they were the words she'd said to him when she was hallucinating.

"Because you're a criminal!" she snapped at him, stepping away.

"Nice try," he smiled and moved even closer. "A month ago, I would have bought that. But one of the felonies I committed this month was at your request. So that doesn't really work anymore. You're not as law-abiding as you've always pretended."

Jo took another step back. He was too close. She was having a tough time thinking. And wasn't that always the problem? From the very beginning, from their very first date, they didn't fit because he was too damn smart, and it made her feel stupid.

Zane followed her, closing in again. "Come on, Jo-jo, you can tell me."

She was still backing up but the wall was behind her. He reached out and with one hand, loosely circled her right wrist, with the other, interlaced his fingers with her left hand. Leaning into her, he almost whispered, "Why don't we fit?"

"Because you never let me forget how much smarter you are," she blurted out, knowing with a part of her that she was talking to the wrong Zane, to a Zane that she didn't really know and that she'd never loved, but with another part of her so grateful to be able to have the conversation that she should have had when he gave her his grandmother's engagement ring.

He pulled his head back, with a blink of surprise, "Really?" Then he chuckled, pinned her arm to the wall over her head, bent his head to hers, and-with his mouth a bare inch away from her skin-breathed into her ear, "Does that mean you let the other me forget that you can kick my ass without breaking a sweat?"

Caught up in the incredible rush of sensation from having his hands on her, it took Jo a couple of seconds to process his words, and then with a choke of a laugh, she twisted, angled her elbow, hooked one foot behind his leg...and with a grunt of exhaled air, he was sitting on the floor, laughing up at her.

"That is so hot."

For a second, she couldn't help grinning back at him, before she got serious . "You got your answer, now get out of my office."

He scrambled to his feet. "In a minute."

He pulled the ring out of his pocket, and held it up where they could both see it. "I've never come close to giving this ring away. I've never even considered it."

He held it out to her. "Put it back on the chain." He wasn't laughing now. His face was as serious as she'd ever seen it.

"I...I don't...I can't," she stumbled over her words, not knowing what to say.

"It's yours, Jo-jo. Someday maybe you'll wear it on your finger. But we should start slower than that." Reaching out, he took her hand, tucked the ring into her fingers, and then brushed his lips lightly against hers. "How about Sunday brunch at Cafe Diem?"