She wanted to hug him. She wanted to grab him and kiss him and hold on forever, tears of joy running down her cheeks. The problem was, what Miranda wanted to do and what Miranda actually did…didn’t always connect. Instead she stared at him, trembling and dumbfounded.
“Come on, Miranda,” Declan coaxed, starting to look a little nervous. He shuffled nervously from one foot to the other, almost pleading: “Say something.”
I love you. I always have. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t wanted to be here, now, hearing this… “I…don’t know what to say.” Liar!
Nervousness turned to panic in his eyes, the expressive eyes she’d always adored. “Okay, okay. I’m sorry. Maybe I spoke too soon. I felt bad, I wanted to make things right between us, and it just sorta…came out.”
Miranda clutched the door tighter, her swollen heart suddenly popping like a balloon and every organ in her body sinking. “Oh. Apology accepted.” She started to close the door again.
The door paused.
“Are we…are we okay?”
She forced a weak smile. “Yeah. We’re fine, Declan. You’d better go–you still have to take Peggy home, right?”
Trying not to look crushed, Declan nodded. “Yeah. Okay. I’ll…see you Monday?”
“Monday,” was the only muffled response he got through the closing door.
Peggy frowned, watching Declan as he bounded down the steps of the apartment complex again. The look on his face…it wasn’t promising. Had he finally pushed Miranda too far? And over such a little thing?
“What’s wrong?” she asked as he climbed into the truck. “Declan?”
Her friend fastened his seatbelt, stuck the key in the ignition, and placed one hand on the steering wheel before he acknowledged her. He let out a deep sigh which seemed to be pulled from his very toes. “I blew it, Peg. I blew it.”
“You didn’t apologize?”
Declan shook his head. “I apologized.”
“What, then? Did she not accept it?”
“She said she did.”
“Then what happened?”
“I…got a little carried away,” he confessed, sounding defeated. His next words were almost too soft to hear. “I told her I loved her. Or rather, that I thought I was in love with her.”
Peggy fought not to gasp, her body contracting painfully and her lungs refusing to breathe. Oh God…she’d known this might happen. After Emma left town, she and Miranda had finally sat down and talked about what they would do if Declan ever made a choice between them…or if he chose neither of them. They’d sworn not to let it come between them, especially since Declan could be so oblivious to the effect he had on those around him and would never consciously hurt either one of them. She’d prepared for this…still she hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.
Years of practice of burying her feelings beneath a professional veneer was the only thing that kept her voice calm. “So, what happened?”
“I think I scared her.” He stared unhappily at the steering wheel. “I really did blow it, Peg. It’s obvious she doesn’t feel the same way about me.”
“Did she say that?” Peggy asked, astonished.
Declan shook his head. “She said she didn’t know what to say. Which means she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.”
Or she was afraid to say how she really felt, the psychiatrist corrected silently. Afraid the bubble would pop and you’d take it back… To her dismay, her voice wouldn’t shape the words.
“Maybe instead of jumping to conclusions, you should go back and talk to her again,” she managed.
He grimaced. “I can’t, Peg. I can’t face her right now. Not if I’m right. Besides…” Grim determination crept back into his expression and he turned the key firmly. “I was the one who said we should take one car. I’m not going to leave you out here all by yourself for however long it takes Miranda to work up the nerve to tell me she doesn’t feel the same.”
He threw the truck into gear as another weak protest died on her lips.