She glanced up at him, caught the curve of his lips and her mind went blank. So much so that she passed Rhonda, her faded blue hatchback, and had to back them up a few feet. If Jake noticed, he didn’t say anything.
They stood beside each other for a moment. “I’ve tried a thinner sock, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. I haven’t pushed it, but kindergarten starts in a few weeks so…that’s a problem. On top of Casey’s recent decision not to go at all. She’s going to meet her teacher soon so I’m hoping that helps, and…Sorry. I’m just…I’m rambling.”
“I don’t mind. You can ramble.”
“No. I’ll stop. I want to stop.” Shut up, Paige! For the love of God.
He pressed his sexy lips together, maybe so he wouldn’t laugh. “Why don’t I take a look? Just to make sure it’s not the device.”
“Um…That would be really great. Her next appointment isn’t until after school starts.”
“I could come back and look at it here, make minor adjustments if needed, but I could do more in my office if it turns out it needs it. There’s a therapy and testing side that might be fun for her to see.”
He pulled his wallet from his back pocket and handed her a business card. Simple with black and white lettering. JT MCKINNEY, EVOLUTION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. It had an address and phone number.
“Thank you. That sounds great. I’d love to see it.” She mentally ran through her schedule, going over her shifts, her class. There was never extra time; adding one thing meant cutting something else. “I could do Monday at—No, Tuesday. I get off at three on Tuesday.”
“That’s fine. I’ll add your name to the gate list.”
“Okay.” She gave him her last name and spelled it, like he wouldn’t know. She was really outdoing herself in the embarrassing-chatter department.
A long moment of silence passed as they stood in the mostly empty parking lot. When was the last time she’d stood in the dark with a man? He was a big man, more than a foot taller than her, with wide shoulders and lean muscle. The faint hum of the streetlights and light traffic didn’t cover the pounding of her heart and it wasn’t from fear.
“Okay, then. I’ll see you next week,” he said.
He waited while she got in and turned the key. She winced as the engine came to life with a grinding squeal, but she appreciated Rhonda’s effort. He waved and she watched him walk away, heart still pounding and a smile on her face.
JT twirled a pen through his fingers at one end of the conference room table as a monotone accountant droned on at the other. The sleek, dark table separated them by several seats. This monthly meeting he had to sit through was every bit as excruciating as usual.
As the initial funder and one of three out-of-the-box-thinking founders of Evolution R&D, he should probably care more about the money side, but he didn’t. As head engineer at one of the most renowned prosthetic research and development companies in the world, he’d rather be in his lab, putting his time to better use.
Simon, who oversaw the therapy and testing side, sat to his left, drawing what appeared to be a…mermaid? JT shook his head. Not even a mermaid could swim with boobs that big. Simon scribbled Do your own at the top of his paper.
Their CFO and friend, Lynn Summers, sent them a warning look. Of course she sat attentively, further solidifying her position as the grown-up of their trio, a fact she reminded them of on a regular basis. Smart and honest, Lynn had been in rehab with them after a jealous ex had purposely burned a third of her body. She was married now and pregnant, and one of the strongest people he knew.
He didn’t even want to draw a mermaid. If he drew anything, it would be Paige.
After sitting with her at the diner he wanted to sit with her more. He wanted to ask her questions, listen to her talk, make her smile. But then what?
The meeting ended, and the last of the financiers filed out of the room. Lynn leaned back in her chair, her massive belly protruding like a ticking time bomb. “You’re both grounded.”
JT shrugged. “Hey, I wasn’t the one doodling the Playboy version of The Little Mermaid.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Lynn peered across the table, laughing when Simon slid his hand over his paper.
An odd threesome, but they’d bonded through circumstance: the statuesque blonde, the Polynesian giant, and…not quite sure what he was. But when he’d sold his first biomechanics patent, he’d used the money to make the place the three of them had dreamed up one afternoon after rehab a reality.