The Mortons finally left their table and Galen sighed his relief. Lydia rolled her eyes.
“There’s one of those in every department, isn’t there?” she asked Galen, taking a long draught of her wine. “I thought she’d never stop talking.”
“I don’t think she ever does,” Galen admitted. “But you handled her remarkably well.”
Lydia shrugged. “I just told her the truth. I got the impression you didn’t want her to know this was a date, so I may have stretched the collaboration issue a bit. But not much. We had mentioned the possibility.”
The chuckle escaped him before he could stop it. Her quick thinking and easy poise were as dazzling as her looks. “So we had. And thank you. The woman is the biggest gossip in the department, so if she’d thought this was some kind of tryst, she’d have blabbed it all over campus by morning.”
“And we wouldn’t want that.”
Ouch. He could tell that comment hadn’t sat quite right but he had no idea how to fix whatever damage he’d just done. So he opted for distraction. “Are you ready for dessert?”
“No thanks.” She shook her head. She accepted the change of subject but a flash of emotion in her eyes let him know she was onto his tactics. “Not if we’re going to a movie. I absolutely cannot go to the movies and not have popcorn. It’s a physical impossibility. And if I eat dessert here, I won’t have room. So you can buy me a big tub of buttered popcorn and a box of candy for dessert. Deal?” She drained the last sip from her wineglass.
The movie was all right, Lydia guessed. She couldn’t to focus on it all that much. Not with Galen’s big warm body pressed up against hers, his hand warm on her thigh or around her shoulders. They didn’t end up making out in the theater but it was a pretty close thing.
Now they were in Galen’s luxurious convertible with the top down, which made conversation impossible and she was determined to enjoy the ride with the wind in her hair even though she was still fretting over the incident at the restaurant.
So Galen still wasn’t ready to let his coworkers know they were dating. She’d known that was an issue for him from the beginning.
Sure, she wasn’t a student any more but she had been not too long ago. And if people knew they were an item, it wouldn’t be long before somebody started wondering just how long the relationship had been going on. Galen was the most ethical man she’d ever met. She could understand why it would flatten him to have his colleagues look at him sideways about getting involved with a student.
But it still hurt. She was in love with the man and she wanted to be with him openly, not just to be his dirty little secret. And it terrified her that she had no idea how to make that happen.
Patience, she told herself. That was what she needed here. Patience and understanding. And it wouldn’t hurt that he couldn’t keep his hands off her. Sex couldn’t be everything in a relationship but at least it kept him coming around so they could work on the rest. And tonight had been a big step. He’d actually taken her out in public. And, she thought, as they pulled into the driveway of a pleasant, colonial style house on the outskirts of Kilkenny, at least she was finally getting to see his home.
“It’s beautiful.” She walked into the living room after he unlocked the door and turned in a slow circle. “I love the gargoyles.” A large and varied collection of gargoyle sculptures and paintings decorated the room which was furnished with comfortable off-white couches and rich mahogany end tables. An antique upright piano stood against the wall, across from the fireplace, a pair of gargoyle candleholders gracing the top.
“Those would be my son’s fault. I made one comment when he was in junior high about liking one we saw on a trip. They’ve appeared for every birthday, Father’s Day and Christmas since. And once it started to be a collection, everybody else got into the act.”
She rubbed her hand along the head of one that looked sort of like a laughing bulldog with wings. “Well I think they’re great. Do you play the piano?”
“Not well. It belonged to my grandmother and she forced lessons on all of us. But both of my sisters already had their own when my parents moved to Florida, so Grandma’s ended up here. Jason plays a little more than I do but his real talent is the guitar.”
“May I?” Her hands itched to try out the elegant instrument. She hadn’t played much in years, not since she’d lived in the dorms where there was a piano in the rec room. But she loved music and had been a decent amateur once upon a time.
“Of course.” She’s never told him that she played and she saw him absorb this new tidbit of information about her. His prodigious brain soaked up facts like a sponge and each new mental note he made registered in his expression. “No point in having the thing if nobody plays it. But right now I’d like to show you the rest of the house.”
She smiled back. “I like that idea too.”
She followed him through a formal dining area that was piled with dusty books and papers—clearly he didn’t do a lot of entertaining—to a family room dominated by a big-screen TV and surround-sound stereo system. The furniture in here was more masculine—an overstuffed sofa and two recliners in rich brown leather—but still pleasant. Medieval art and artifacts graced the walls along with a number of photographs. She could easily pick out his son, both from the quantity of images and from his likeness to Galen. Jason Forsythe was a handsome young man with light brown hair and his father’s eyes. A model ship sat in a place of honor above the television and she’d have bet a week’s pay that Galen and his son had built it together.