Professional Boundaries(10)

By: Jennifer Peel

He cleared his throat. “Kelli, I didn’t mean to imply that you are anything but Hermosa?”

I looked up from my menu. “Do you even know what that means?”

He smirked. “Your belly dancing classes have definitely paid off.”

“Hmm …”

“Really, Kelli, I just meant to say you look grown up now.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “Now you sound like my dad.”

His eyes sparkled with delight at my response. “I’ve heard that somewhere before.”

I was supposed to be pretending like I didn’t remember a thing from our relationship. Darn it!

“How is your dad?” he said, still grinning like a fool.

I completely set down my menu and placed my hands in my lap. “He passed away six years ago.”

That wiped the grin right off his face.

“Kelli, I had no idea. I’m sorry.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “How would you have known?”

“I just keep screwing up here, don’t I?” he asked.

I almost felt bad for him, so I threw him a bone. “Tell me how your family is.”

I was honestly very interested in his answer. I had adored his parents and sister. His parents lived on a cattle ranch outside of Glenwood Springs, nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by the mountains of Colorado. I was so surprised the first time I met them. They were so different from Ian. I couldn’t imagine Ian growing up on a ranch, but he had. I really enjoyed the time we spent out there, and I would have liked to have stayed longer, but Ian, at the time, was very busy, and I always kind of got the feeling that wasn’t who he wanted to be. I don’t think he was embarrassed of his parents. They were salt of the earth kind of people, but I think he just always wanted more in life. Being a rancher is back-breaking work, and sometimes for not a lot of pay, but I had never met happier people.

His sister, Noelle, and I really hit it off too. I met her during the one and only Thanksgiving I spent with them. She was home from school. At the time she was attending the University of Texas as a junior. We had actually kept in touch for a while after Ian broke up with me. She thought he was the biggest prat ever for ending our relationship. I think she had even tried to talk some sense into him, but once Ian made his mind up, that was it. Over the years, I had thought about her and wished we had remained friends. She was even more sarcastic and feisty than me; we were quite the pair.

He looked at me thoughtfully. I hoped they were all still alive.

“They’re doing well. My parents still work too hard.”

I smiled at the news. I couldn’t imagine them being any other way.

“Noelle’s married now and lives in Houston. She and her husband Sean have a two-year-old son named Jax.”

I grinned wider at that news. “That’s wonderful. I’m happy for her.”

“She wanted me to tell you hi and that she would love to catch up with you,” he nervously replied.

That was a pleasant surprise for me. “I’d like that,” I said quietly. But then I thought it was weird he would have talked to his sister about me.

Thankfully, by that time Alicia returned with our drinks and was ready to take our order. “Are you having your usual tonight, Hermosa?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I responded as I handed her back the menu with my design work on it.

Ian hadn’t even cracked open his menu. “I’ll just have what the lady is having.”

That was weird and a very un-Ian like thing to do. Anytime we had ever been out to eat, which wasn’t often, he was picky about what he ordered, and he would ask lots of questions of the server. He had liked to cook for me, and of course that was more cost efficient for us as college students. I think he practically fed me for an entire semester, at least for dinner. I smiled at the old memory.

“What are you smiling about?” he inquired.

I quickly put on my I have no idea what you’re talking about look. He would not be getting access to my thoughts, especially any which placed him in a fond light. That was dangerous territory, and I needed to tread lightly there, or better yet, stay away completely. Honestly, I thought I had. We needed to switch gears ASAP.

“So, tell me more about your first day at the office.” I grinned evilly. We needed to get off the personal train.

He raised his eyebrow at me and thought for a moment. I could see the wheels spinning beyond those dark eyes of his. “We’ll get there.”

I didn’t like him taking control of the conversation direction. Hmm …, “Then what do you want to talk about?”

Oddly, he acted like he was reaching out to touch my hand, but he stopped. That was a good thing, too, if he wanted to keep it.