Jesse decelerated down a winding road filled with country style houses that sat on massive amounts of land. He came to a deliberate halt in the driveway of the two-story French cottage. The Tuck home was truly a sight to indulge. The new architecture was spectacular, but held all the original elements of an older home. Winnie's heart skipped a bit desperately trying to hide her insecurities.
"Nice house." Eliza exclaimed.
Winnie could hear the honesty in her voice, which was peculiar considering the Blanc's house was substantial.
"Thank you. It's almost a decade old now. Tuck helped the builders through the whole process. He wanted to give Mae something of her own."
"It is beautiful, Jesse." Winnie breathed from the back seat.
Jesse replied with a smile and motioned for them to keep their seats while he opened there doors.
He immediately felt the familiarity as held Winnie's hand while helping her from the back seat. He gave her hand a soft squeeze. "It will be alright." He whispered, melting her nerves.
She nodded smiling smugly under lowered eyelids.
He proceeded to Eliza's side and helped her out.
"Why thank you, sir." She laughed, "I have never had a guy my age open a door for me."
Jesse laughed and looked at Winnie who now looked amused.
"I assure you, Eliza. I'm just being a gentleman. Besides, Mae would chew me out if I was anything but."
He swept his hand through his soft waves and led the way up the stone path only a few feet ahead of them.
Winnie moved swiftly to Eliza's side as they approached the main door and Jesse.
"Sorry, I was being snippy." She whispered, "I'm just nervous and I'm taking it out on you."
"And jealous," She added with a smirk, "No need. If you can't tell by now. That boy still very much adores you."
Winnie smiled appreciatively and Eliza gave her little nudge.
"Tuck, Mae, Miles…we're home." Jesse called entering onto the open two story foyer.
The foyer opened into a spacious great room that housed inviting furniture and a fireplace nestled on the far right wall. The split staircase in the center was definitely the focal point of the house. On the opposite side of the foyer was a formal dining room splayed with warm colors and dark woods.
They heard rustling on the other side of the staircase, possibly the kitchen.
"Please have a seat, ladies. I will go see what is keeping them."
Jesse directed them toward the great room and Winnie and Eliza took a seat in arm chairs angled to the right of the massive fireplace. Winnie's eyes were fixated everywhere.
The Tucks who Winnie had known nearly a century ago lived so differently than she had expected. Jesse had said that they had wisely invested in stock. The stock market definitely paid well.
Winnie crossed her legs comfortably and clasp her hands together in her lap.
"You seem more at ease." Eliza noted, "There is nothing to be nervous about. You said they were like family. I'm surprise you're not a little more excited. I am, especially about Miles. I think Jesse was trying to scare me.
"What about Miles?" A low masculine voice asked from the other side of the room.
Winnie immediately rose to her feet. She hadn't anticipated his abrupt entrance.
"Well, if it isn't Miss Foster." Miles crossed the room with Jesse right on his heels. "It's been too long."
Winnie blushed with embarrassment for Eliza. Rarely anything caused such feelings from the unconventional woman next to her.
"Miles, it's good to see you..." Winnie beamed.
Before she could continue, Miles pulled her into a friendly embrace. It was so unfamiliar coming from him, but still welcomed.
"Why?" She heard him whisper before he let go.
She hid the confusion from her face as she directed attention to Eliza.
"This is my best friend, Eliza Blanc."
Eliza quirked an eyebrow and extended her hand. What was with the sudden change of attitude?
"It's nice to meet you Miss Blanc." Miles carefully met her grasp and didn't break eye contact.
Jesse smirked at Winnie past Miles, both with the same thought in mind. Who would crack first?
The French doors that led to the attached patio flung open and a winded Mae entered into the great room. She had a tray of barbeque in her hand.
"The temperature is dropping, but I think it will still be nice enough to have dinner outside." She used one hand to hold a beige sweater closer to her skin.
"Mom, Winnie's here." Jesse acknowledged casually.
Mae froze and met all their eyes. She had been out back tending the grill and hadn't heard their arrival.
"Oh, my." She breathed.
The whole room fell silent as she sat the tray of meats on a side table. She quickly turned to face them and stop in the middle of the room.
"To think I had all day to prepare for this."
Winnie felt her eyes swelling. This woman, Mae Tuck had been so much like a mother to her after barely even knowing her. After so long, she still held her with the upmost respect. She then realized she had really missed them all.
Mae didn't utter another word and crossed the room until she was standing next to Jesse, who had a look of absolute adoration on his face.
"You have a beautiful home." Winnie expressed. Was that really all she could say.
"Oh, thank you Winnie. Or is it Winifred?"
"It's Winnie. It's always been Winnie."
Mae subconsciously took a step closer, slowly extending her arms, "Is it alright if I.."
"Sure, of course." Winnie hurriedly interrupted and met her warm embrace.
"I've missed you, Winnie." Mae whispered. Her eyes were closed and Winnie could feel the small tears against her cheek.
"Me too. You have no idea." Winnie felt choked on a sob and quickly moved her hand to wipe at her eyes.
Once she composed herself she motioned toward Eliza.
"Mae, this is my best friend, Eliza. She offered to join me. She and I live in Treegap and attended the same university." Eliza stood out of respect and smiled softly.
"How do you do, Eliza?" Mae greeted with a similar grin. "It's so nice of you to join us here in Charlotte."
"Your home really is lovely and thank you for having me."
Jesse rubbed Mae's shoulder tenderly.
"He's out back setting things on the table. You and Miles give me a hand, will ya. You ladies make yourself at home. We're getting everything situated for you."
Miles was the last of them to leave the great room.
OH MY GOD! Eliza mouthed.
"Liza, behave." Winnie countered taking in her surroundings again.
"He literally stared at me the entire time," She beamed, "Not that I mind, he's not a bad sight either."
"I'm just going to ignore you." Winnie muttered. She smoothed out her dress and pretended to remove something from underneath her nail. Unexpectedly, her phone buzzed inside her matching clutch. Isaac was probably checking in again.
She was very happy to see you. It was a text from Jesse.
"If that's my brother tell him to get a grip." Eliza commented, pulling out her own phone.
I was happy to see her as well. Is Miles upset with me?
No. He just doesn't understand. He may be slightly jealous.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Miles's wife took their children and left him once she found out he had become immortal. It tore him apart in the worst way. She died bitter and presumed insane. His children passed as well. He has and will never be the same.
You have nothing to apologize for. Miles will never get over it. He refuses to move on.
Can't say I blame him. He has lost so much.
We all have.
I wasn't apologizing for Miles. I meant Isaac.
Once they know they'll hate me.
I know and I don't hate you.
"What did he say?" Eliza interrupted. "Oh, are you guys sending cutesy texts to each other?
Winnie playfully stuck her tongue out.
You will once I'm married.
No. I won't because that can't happen.
It's happening. I'm meeting with the wedding planner next week. We even have our wedding bands.
Tell Eliza I'm sorry.
She will hate me once you leave her brother for me.
Winnie rolled her eyes and sighed. Why was he making this so difficult for her? There was no doubt in her mind that she loved Isaac. But Jesse…she was positive she is or had been in love with him. He was the reason she was sitting in the Tucks house a hundred years later.
"Winifred Foster." An accented baritone greeted her.
Tuck stood at the entrance of the kitchen looking all the same.
Winnie swiftly rose to her feet, forgetting the phone in her lap.
Everything he had said to her that day on the river replayed in her mind. He did not want this for her. No matter how much he would have wanted her for Jesse.
"Tuck…I…" Winnie carefully paused. No knowledge of what to say, completely speechless. This was the reunion she had feared the most.
He made his way toward her, expressionless.
He slowly embraced her in his burly arms. "Welcome."
She hugged him with equal reverence. That was not the word she was looking for. Something more of the lines of what Miles had said.
"You look well." He documented. The last time he had seen her she was almost fifteen. Physically, she was nearly twenty.
"I've grown up a bit."
"And this must be lovely Eliza Blanc. Jesse said you would be accompanying Miss Foster. It's a pleasure to meet you.
Eliza dropped her phone as well and sauntered over to meet the infamous Tuck.
"Thank you Mr. Tuck. You all have been very welcoming."
Winnie nodded in agreement.
"Well, I would like to escort you two out on the terrace for dinner." He extended both his arms for them to take a hold of.
"Sure, just one second." Eliza apologized. She swiftly moved to retrieve her and Winnie's cell phones that were laid on their chairs.
Tuck led them off the back porch and onto a giant stone patio. They were feet away from an almost Olympic size swimming pool and the most beautiful landscaping. On the opposite side of the pool were an outdoor kitchen and an arrangement of patio furniture that could comfortably seat up to twelve people.
Eliza admired the entire scenery before her and even pointed a few things out. Winnie was just beyond amazed. Miles and Jesse were already seated across from one another. Mae was busy filling the glasses with what appeared to be tea. Winnie reluctantly took the seat next to Jesse and Eliza sat next to Miles.
"This back yard is awesome." Eliza affirmed astonished.
"It is amazing." Winnie agreed.
"Mae did all the landscaping herself," Jesse commended, "she wanted it all to be perfect. She did plant some new things earlier this morning."
"Don't go tellin' all me secrets, Jesse." Mae chuckled.
"All of this for Winnie?" Eliza joked.
Miles slightly turned and gave a concerned look, but didn't say anything.
"You should talk Liza," Winnie countered, "your family lives in a mansion with its own zip code."
"It's not my house, it's my parent's."
"You live there."
"Do you still leave at your parent's house, Winnie." Miles inquired.
"Mind your manners, Miles. These young ladies were having a conversation. Don't you think it was rude of you to interrupt?"
Miles was fixing to object, but decided against it, "Sorry, Winnie.
"It's fine, really." Winnie shared a smile with Mae. "Yes, I do. I just couldn't see leaving. While at school in the city, Eliza and I rented an apartment, but it's not permanent. Only for school."
"What school did you attend?" Tuck joined in, taking a seat at the end of the table opposite of Mae.
"ColumbiaUniversity. We are still attending. We graduate in two years with our MA in Journalism."
"That is an accomplishment. Seeing successful young people bettering themselves. I commend the both of you."
"Oh, that's nothing. My brother, Isaac is way more accomplished. He just finished medical school. He'll be a pediatrician once he finishes his training. He has as internship this fall and he's also trying to balance our family store in Treegap." Winnie felt Jesse shift next to her.
"Has your family lived in Treegap long?"
"Since before either I or Isaac were born. We didn't actually meet Winnie until we all ended up at Columbia. We had no idea we all grew up so close in proximity to one another."
Winnie noted Jesse's hands under the table and knew he was texting something.
OH CRAP! Eliza still had her phone.
She heard it buzz over Tuck's next question. Eliza glanced down not sure if it was her or Winnie's phone that buzzed.
The table fell silent.
"I'm sorry, what did you say Mr. Tuck," she asked looking back up. Winnie tried to hide her curiosity.
"Oh, I was just saying how great it is that Winifred has found such an admirable friend."
"Thank you so much, Mr. Tuck." Eliza grinned softly. "I think she's much more admirable.
"Nonsense." He chuckled.
"Boy, that food sure looks good." Miles interrupted swiftly.
He just wanted to get on with the evening and get back to his secluded room.
"We're so fixed on catching up. We forgot what bought us out here in the first place," Mae reminded, "We can chat over dinner."
"Excuse me, Mrs. Tuck. I wanted to speak with Winnie for a second." Eliza requested. Uh-oh…this could not be good.
"Go right ahead. I'll get your plate together. Is there anything you dislike?"
Eliza abruptly rose from the table, "No, ma'am. It all looks wonderful. A little bit of everything would be nice."
"What about you, Winnie?"
"The same, please."
Eliza rapidly stormed toward the house with Winnie on her heels.
She entered the great room and turned around to face Winnie her phone outstretched.
"What the hell is this?" Eliza interrogated.
"It's nothing, Liza."
"Doesn't look like 'nothing'? Why is Jesse texting you under the table and why is he texting he loves you.
"He said that." Winnie asked dumbfounded.
"Yeah, and apparently that's not all he said. What is this 'thing' you have?"
"We don't have a thing." Winnie exclaimed.
"The hell you don't he's been texting you since we've gotten here. When I thought you we're texting Isaac. It was him."
"No, Winnie. Stop! Whatever it is that you are doing, please, just stop! I thought this trip was so you could reconnect with his family and invite them to yours and my brother's wedding. Not so you can rekindle some old flame with their son. It's not fair Winnie."
"You don't understand, Eliza." Winnie pleaded.
"I love my brother, Winnie. I don't want to see him hurt. Do not drag him into a marriage and you still have feelings for Jesse."
"I'm not intending too. I really did come here to reunite with them."
"What about Jesse?"
"I…I...I don't know. He just comes with the territory. If you read my text, you would know my side."
"I'm here with you because Isaac wanted me to be. I like them. I can see why you feel secure around them, but still…Isaac didn't want you coming alone for no reason. We both know that and Jesse knows that. The fact of the matter is he doesn't care."
"I don't know what you want me to say, Liza."
"Do you still love him?" Eliza asked pointedly.
"I will always care about Jesse. I love Isaac. You know that."
Eliza was about to open her mouth again and quickly paused staring at the patio door.
"Sorry, to interrupt you. I just came to grab something from the kitchen," Mae Tuck apologized knowingly, "I will be out of your way."
"Please don't apologize Mrs. Tuck. This is your home. Besides, Winnie and I are done here." Eliza stated matter-of-factly.
Winnie wiped at her eyes, fearful that her true emotions would confirm everything Eliza believed. That was not at all how she planned for this reunion to kick off. Also, she was almost certain that Mae had overheard at least the last bit of their conversation. Which meant that she now knew about Isaac.
Eliza headed back out without a second glance in Winnie's direction. Embarrassed, Winnie entered the immaculate kitchen of the great room to find Mae Tuck facing away from her.
"I'm sorry, Mae. It was rude for us to have such a discussion here."
"It's none of my business, Winnie." Mae spoke softly turning to face her, "It doesn't matter."
"But it does," Winnie countered ruefully, "You invited me to your home, not knowing anything about me now. I deceived you."
Mae rushed to her, "Do not apologize to me. Winnie, you have done nothing wrong. We all just assumed. It was wrong of us. I just knew Jesse had waited too long. I'd been telling him that for the past two decades. He insisted that it wasn't time and he wanted to have everything perfect for you."
"I really didn't plan this. I was away at school and I was living with Eliza. Isaac is such a wonderful man. I just…I wanted to wait. I just couldn't anymore. I started having doubts. I'm sorry that I doubted him...and that I doubted you."
Mae took Winnie's hands gently in her own, "Winnie, if you are happy with him. I am happy for you. I love Jesse and I would die to see him content, but this young man is who you want."
Winnie nodded, but her certainty didn't show on her face.
"I am happy with Isaac. He's wonderful to me. He's also been very patient in courting me. He proposed to me at his graduation. It took me nearly two years to go out with him, which is absolutely nothing to me, but everything to him. He wants to get married very soon. At the end of the summer. That's actually one of the reasons I wanted to visit. Isaac knows how close I am to you all. You are practically all I have left. I would very much like for you to attend our wedding."
A supple smile spread across Mae's worn, un-aged face, "Absolutely. If you want us there. We will be there."
"Is everything alright. Tuck sent me in to check on the womenfolk." Jesse casually intruded.
"Everything is fine, son. Take the peach cobbler on the island out there with ya."
Jesse eyed them both curiously and picked up the dessert.
He lightly brushed past Winnie before exiting the kitchen.
"Did Jesse tell you all about the Spring?" Winnie whispered quietly.
"Let's not speak of such things, right now. I assuming your friend doesn't know about it?" Mae asked knowingly.
"No, neither of them do. Someone does…or it could have been a complete accident, but I found it covered when I came home this summer from school."
Mae's eyes widened and then she sighed, "I don't want us to presume the worst. Has anyone you know been acting differently around you?"
Winnie shook her head, "No. Not at all. It did alarm me at first. I wasn't sure what to do. I can't think of anyone who would possibly know. I did tell my mother, before she passed away. My dad was already gone. She didn't really talk with anyone."
"I am sorry about your family. You had to watch them leave this world. I can imagine how hard that must have been. However, I do want to pass it along to Tuck. He always knows what to do with these sorts of things. Does Jesse know?"
"Thank you. Yes, he does know. I'm surprised he didn't mention it to either you or Tuck."
"Oh, I'm sure Jesse has other things on his mind."
There was a pregnant pause.
"I really am sorry." Winnie breathed kindly.
"No apologies, Miss Foster. I'm just grateful you're here with us." Mae expressed whole-heartedly, "Come on now, we're going to enjoy our gathering."
Dinner with the Tucks was rather enjoyable, despite Eliza's concealed resentment. She did eventually soften later into the night when they had retreated into the great room to talk about their travels and daily events.
Winnie was positioned between Eliza and Jesse on the comfortable sofa adjacent to the fireplace as Miles went into detail about his war stories just a six months before.
Miles has served in many wars to everyone's knowledge, apart from Eliza's. However, on his most recent tour in Afghanistan, he had encountered many unusual circumstances. So many soldiers died with honor for defending the United States. He respected that the most above all. Eliza listened, really listened intently to him describing some of the things he had encountered.
"Sounds fascinating," Eliza declared in awe, "Not the death, but the willing to die. You've seen and experienced so many things."
Miles chuckled solemnly, "You have no idea."
Winnie knew where this was going. Another one of Eliza's many news pieces. Though Winnie found it rather difficult to focus on Miles with Jesse in such close proximity. Her attention was now grasped by the heat of his thigh pressed firmly against hers.
"I wish I had met you a few days ago. I'm trying to get accepted into this internship in July. I had to submit an original piece. I would have loved to talk about the War on Iraq." Eliza acknowledged.
"No offense, Miss Blanc. I wouldn't have been interested in a news piece." Miles said carefully.
Winnie could feel Jesse staring at her out of the corner of her eye, so much for not making her uncomfortable.
"I should get you back to your hotel. It's getting late." Jesse intervened. It was roughly past eleven.
"I am getting pretty tired actually," Winnie replied easily. The proximity was becoming too much to tolerate.
"So soon," Eliza whined, "Come on, Win."
"Well, I...I guess…I could take Eliza back," Miles hesitantly offered, "That is if it is alright with Miss Blanc here."
Winnie's mouth wanted to fall open in bewilderment. What was the world coming to? Eliza's charisma could even reach the most secluded ones. Jesse didn't hide the knowing smirk on his face, while Mae and Tuck exchanged a questionable look.
Eliza was without words. Her face showed all signs of perplexity. Indeed, that was a sight to behold.
"Uh…I…sure, I guess. Only if it's okay with Winnie," she finally countered, "Will you be alright, Win?"
Winnie wanted to shout 'hell no'. Hours before she was giving her grief about Jesse, who still needed to be addressed about the last message he had send her, now Eliza wanted her to drive back alone with him.
He shifted slightly, making Winnie inhale softly. It seems the only person who realized the effect was Jesse.
"Um…yeah. Okay." Winnie added warily.
"Winnie has on a dress. Take the bike. Besides, you'll get back a lot faster." Jesse added tossing Miles his key.
Miles turned to Eliza, "Do you mind riding on a motorcycle?"
"Do I?" Eliza snorted, "Of course not. There's a first time for everything." Somehow Winnie gathered a complete different meaning than Eliza intended.
Jesse rose to his feet, "Alright, so it's settled. You ready, Winnie?"
"Yes," She replied grabbing her clutch bag and phone.
"I'll see you in a bit." She added turning to Eliza, "Come to my room when you get back."
"Okay." Eliza agreed nonchalantly.
Mae and Took stood to embrace her.
"We love having you here," Mae breathed, "If you need anything at all just let us know. Any help with the planning?"
"I appreciate that. Isaac's mother has hired a planner. I meet with her next week."
"Okay. Just let me know."
Tuck patted her back gently, "Goodnight, Miss Foster. Please come back."
"Goodnight, Tuck. I will. I promise."
Jesse walked beside Winnie to the foyer.
"I need to talk to you." She whispered as she exited the front door.
"I hope so." He smiled cheerfully following behind her.
The temperature had dropped again since they had went inside.
Winnie hadn't though to bring a pull over or shawl. Jesse noticed her goose bumps immediately started to remove his leather jacket from his arms.
"Put this on. It's a little chillier than I thought."
She eyed him hesitantly, but didn't decide against it.
He raised it up for her to put her arms through. She welcomed the feel of it. Leather didn't suit her as much as it did Jesse, but it was a kind thought regardless.
He ushered her into the passenger side and closed the door behind her.
Once he started the car up, she had his fully attention.
"Why did you send me that?" Winnie started.
"You know why, its how I feel. I needed to say it. And I'll say it again. I love you, Winnie Foster." He affirmed turning to glance at her.
"Stop, please." She entreated.
"Why?" She regretted the twinge of hurt in his word.
"You said you wouldn't make this uncomfortable. I don't want you to say things like that. Besides, Eliza had my phone. She saw it."
Jesse paused and turned his head briefly to glance at her again, seeing the concern on her face.
"I'm sorry, okay. I didn't know. Do you think she'll tell Isaac?"
Winnie shook her head, "I don't think so. She was pretty pissed about it if you didn't realize. I think Isaac has his own assumptions."
"What do you think he thought would happen if you had come alone?"
"That I wouldn't come back." She replied sadly, "I can't hurt him like that, Jesse."
"Like what?" He countered, "By listening to you heart…by being honest with him and yourself."
"Well, he isn't a moron, which is why he wanted Eliza to come. I know he doesn't trust me. It appears he doesn't trust you either."
"Why would you say that?"
"Um, his sister is with you. Now on the other hand, he could have offered to come himself. That would have been wiser."
"He wanted to." Winnie added.
"If it were me, I wouldn't have let you out of my sight."
"Well, you and he are very different."
"You don't say."
Winnie rolled her eyes mockingly, "You know I admire this new found sarcasm that you have. It suits you so well."
"You should talk. What was that earlier with Eliza? I was seriously afraid for my life." He joked.
"Eliza can be a busy-body sometimes."
"It doesn't bother me. I had half of mind to think that you were being jealous."
"I was not." She had definitely not hid her emotions very well.
"You were. It was kind of cute. You don't have any reason to be jealous. I'm not the one who is engaged. Besides, I like Eliza, but she isn't my type."
"And what is your type?" Winnie asked curiously.
"I forgot. You're a journalist too." He laughed.
"I'm serious. You mentioned other girls. What did you mean by that? I know what Eliza meant."
Jesse paused and met her eyes, "Uh…when we lived in Maryland for a little bit. There was someone."
"Were you close to her?" She inquired under lowered eyelids.
"I wasn't in love with her." He reminded.
"That's not what I asked. You know about me. Isaac is as far as it goes."
"I know…it's just…should we really be having this discussion." He criticized shifty uncomfortably.
"Did you sleep with her?"
"Does it matter?" He countered somberly.
"I just want to know. Times have changed, remember?"
There was another idle pause.
"It didn't mean anything." He finally spoke.
"Sex always means something," Winnie whispered, "It probably meant something to her."
"She was a fisherman's daughter. She was in her twenties. I was around her all the time. I had never…I…I didn't want to be inadequate."
Winnie sighed softly, "Inadequate?"
"Yes, inadequate. These things are different for men or…Eliza. I am still physically seventeen, remember. I've been alive for two centuries, Winnie."
"Was it as frightening as Eliza makes it seem?"
"I'm not sure what it's like for women, especially a first time. I wasn't her first. She was somewhat of a free spirit if you know what I mean."
Oh, Was the only thing Winnie could say.
"Did you…were you…"
"Adequate?" Jesse finished with a chuckle. "Um, let's just say she didn't complain."
He laughed again, "I never thought I would be having this conversation with you. I've only discussed this with Miles."
"Miles wants to hear about your rendezvous'?"
"He is my brother. Men talk about things like this. Don't you and Eliza. She doesn't strike me as a person who keeps secrets."
"No, she doesn't. She sometimes shares too much with the class. I don't know. I guess it's just…It just didn't seem like something that interest him."
"Um, I hate to break this to you Winnie, but Miles has meaningless sex all the time."
"Excuse me?" Winnie questioned flabbergasted.
Jesse boyishly smirked, something that she was finding to be quite familiar with him.
"You heard me. Why do you think I told Eliza to go easy on him?"
"OH MY GOD!" Winnie exclaimed.
Jesse laughed, "Winifred Foster, do not take the good Lord's name in vain."
"Do you think…?" Winnie asked covering her face completely embarrassed.
"I'm not sure. She is your best friend, which means he kind of has an indirect connection to her. He may not want to. However, it does seem he was somewhat taken with her."
"I cannot explain that to Isaac." Winnie laughed, "I just…I never thought of Miles that way…and with Liza." Her amusement radiated through the entire car and Jesse joined her.
"Okay. Please change the subject. I'm getting a visual I just don't need." Winnie joked.
Jesse's laughter exploded repeatedly and he ran his free hand through his hair, more out of habit.
"I love your laugh," He stated catching his breath.
"Jesse?" Winnie whined mildly.
"No, Winnie. While you're with me, I can say those things." He eagerly moved his right hand that rested on the gear stick to gently place it on hers. She wanted to shy away from the current, but didn't move it away knowing he would need to shift gears again soon. She felt the heat that surged from his tender fingers.
"There's tension," Jesse evenly acknowledged.
"I am aware of that."
He had to recoil his hand to switch gears again and ran his fingers through his hair once more.
"I won't overstep my bounds. I said I wouldn't kiss you…unless you initiate. You don't have to be afraid of my intentions. You already know what they are."
"I'm not afraid of you," Winnie corrected, "I probably shouldn't say this, but…I don't trust myself when I am alone with you. There's just too much history between us."
"That's good to know." He teased, "Did you know you fidget when you're nervous?"
"It's sexy." He smirks.
She sharply patted him with the back of her hand.
"Ow!" he winces in mock pain, "What was that for?"
"Jesse Tuck, you have turned into a downright ass."
"Excuse me?" he laughed, "I have never been accused of such things."
"Well, you are."
"You need to watch your mouth, Winifred Foster."
"No," She continued, "don't tell me what to do."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
They were nearing downtown Charlotte, they were just minutes from the hotel.
"I could get use to this." He commented half-serious.
"Get use to what?"
"You. This. Us."
Winnie sighed and shook her head slowly. He's not going to give up, she thought. He turned to glance at her once more and grasped her hand again, this time intertwining his fingers with hers. She didn't object when he began making soft circles along her thumb.
As they entered the massive circle drive of her dwellings, she immediately missed the contact.
"I would walk you up, but something tells me that wouldn't be a good idea." He warned seriously.
"Your something is right. I can take it from here." She nodded.
"I'd like to show you and Eliza around Charlotte tomorrow. If you are up for it."
"If you hadn't noticed, Eliza is always up for anything. Sure, what'd you have in mind?"
"Let's play it by ear. I wouldn't want you to commit to anything." He joked. Way to take a shot at her engagement.
She mouthed the word 'ass' and shook her head. He chuckled softly.
"I'm usually not like this. I have to apologize."
"You must be planning on doing a lot of that this weekend."
"Not at all. I have other things in mind I'd rather be doing. Apologizing isn't one of them."
He swiftly exited the car to open the door for her. She stepped out and began removing his jacket from her arms.
"No. It's fine. I'll get it tomorrow. It's still cold on the way to the door." She shifted out of the way so he could close the door behind her.
He leaned toward her and softly whispered in her ear, "Goodnight, Winnie. You really couldn't have made Mae happier."
Winnie blushed feverishly and leaned away from his lips. Why must he be so close? The side of her face burned mildly where Jesse has almost grazed her.
"Tell her thanks again. I would like to come back anytime she'll have me."
"Of course." He agreed
He started toward the other side the car and Winnie gave a small wave.
"Winnie?" He called once he was situated inside.
"Yea?" She asked still recovering from his subtle words.
"I wasn't going to kiss you." He was definitely messing with her and she was letting him.
Winnie wasn't sure what expression her face displayed, but she knew better not to react.
She turned and gradually stepped toward the expansive entrance, all the while smiling quietly to herself.