For a moment, it looked as if he wanted to argue with her. During their long separation, she had wondered if he thought about her. Now she knew that he had.
"I can agree to that," he said with a nod.
She was just getting ready to nod, even if there was a little disappointment there, when his hand tightened around her back, pulling her forward into a close embrace.
"She's not looking right now," Philip whispered softly.
Her soft cry was silenced as his mouth came down over hers, and instead of protesting, she found her hands coming up to grab him and bring him closer. Even if her mind wasn't sure what to think about him and his intentions, her body remembered him with a clarity that was almost shocking. She remembered how strong he was, and how powerfully he was built. She remembered the way his lips felt sliding over hers, and she remembered how good it felt to take his tongue into her mouth, suckling on it lightly.
They were in public, so it never went anywhere terribly intimate, but with that single kiss, he reminded her of why she had fallen for him the way that she had. He reminded her how good it had been between them and how they had lit each other on fire once upon a time.
Finally, she pushed him away, aware that her lips were red and her cheeks were flushed.
"Point made," she said, glancing around. No one seemed interested in them in the least, so she figured it was less graphic than it had felt for her.
"Are you truly all right with this?" Philip asked. "With me here with Victoria, with you?"
Marnie nodded immediately. "Believe me when I say that I don't really do maybes with Victoria. If something is making me think twice or worry about how it is going to affect her … I don't let it happen. I know you. I cared about you very much."
He tilted his head to one side. "Cared, past tense?"
She made herself nod. "I don't know you now, not really," she said, even though her body and her heart claimed that they knew him very well indeed. "I remember who you were. I look at you now, and I see a man who wants nothing but good for my daughter. That's what matters. For me now? Well, it's going to take some time."
Philip nodded, and it was just then that Victoria came up. She was a little dirty and a little grubby and entirely endearing as she held up her closed hands for Philip and Marnie to see.
"Look," she demanded. "Look at this!"
"The last time she did that, she was holding a stink bug," Marnie commented, but when they leaned down to see, Victoria opened her hands to reveal a golden beetle the size of a ladybug inside.
"Handsome bug," Philip commented, and Victoria flashed a small shy smile at him. She was more used to people shouting or telling her to throw away her insects, and Marnie could already feel her daughter warming to Philip.
"Can I keep him?" Victoria asked hopefully, and Marnie shook her head.
"No, he's going to be happier here where he can go where he likes," she said. "But how about if we find the best flower to leave him on before we go off to grab some food ourselves?"
Victoria brightened at that, and together, the three of them found a lovely pot of pansies where Victoria could leave her new friend.
They mutually decided that such a good day called for delicious burgers, and since there was an excellent burger place just a few blocks away, that it should be lunch time.
If Victoria wondered why Philip came to lunch with them and insisted on paying for all the food, she didn't say. She wasn't quite over her shyness with the man yet, but more than once, Marnie caught her looking at Philip with frank curiosity.
She wondered if her daughter sensed that there was something different about Philip. Marnie hadn't dated since she was born, but she had a few male friends and colleagues. With them, Victoria was polite but more reserved. Here, within a short time of meeting Philip, she was already less guarded, more lively and animated.
It doesn't mean anything, Marnie told herself.
Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay