"It’s not what you’re thinking," Aimee muttered, chastising Erin with a single look. She glanced over her shoulder. "Steve, kindly come out here and save my reputation."
"Steve?" Erin repeated, stunned. "You and Steve? You’re divorcing him, remember?"
"Yes, me and Steve," Aimee confirmed. "Steve," she called a second time.
"Honey, if I come out now, I may save your reputation, but it sure as hell will ruin mine."
Aimee actually blushed. Erin couldn’t believe it. Her best friend’s cheeks went a bright shade of pink.
"Steve?" Erin repeated Aimee’s husband’s name, still unable to believe what she was hearing.
Aimee nodded, then walked over to the kitchen counter and assembled a pot of coffee.
"You and Steve are…" Erin motioned with her hand, as if that would complete the sentence for her. A tardy smile quivered at the corners of her mouth. "When did all this get started?"
"Will you kindly quit looking at me like you’re going to burst out laughing?"
"I can’t help it. The last time you mentioned Steve’s name it was to claim he was involved with another woman. What about the white car parked outside his apartment? You were convinced he wore that ugly green tie to the settlement hearing to irritate you, and – "
"That was before," Aimee reminded her. "That car belonged to his brother, and hell, I should have known better. I was eager to leap to all the wrong conclusions."
"As I recall, you two were finished, and you couldn’t wait to sign the final papers."
"We still might."
"What?" Aimee was certainly full of shocking surprises this evening.
"We were talking about it earlier. It might be wise to start on fresh ground – bury the past, so to speak. We haven’t decided yet, but we’re leaning toward staying married for… for a couple of reasons."
"But what happened to change everything?"
A slow, almost silly smile lit up Aimee’s eyes. "About a month ago – "
"A month?" Erin echoed in strained disbelief. It was hard to imagine that she hadn’t suspected something earlier. The two were best friends, and Erin felt she really knew Aimee. "You two have been chummy for a month?"
"Longer, actually," Aimee admitted, keeping her voice low. "Steve called about six weeks ago, needing to come over to the house and pick up some things. The atmosphere was cool between us then, to say the least. We arranged a time suitable to us both. I wasn’t keen on being here alone with him, but someone had to be here. I didn’t trust him not to take more than what he’d come for, and so I gritted my teeth and met him myself."
"You should have asked me." As matters had turned out, Erin was grateful her friend hadn’t.
"I know," Aimee agreed, "but it was shortly after Brand left, and you were still so raw. I didn’t want to burden you with my problems."
"We’ve been burdening each other for a good long time. But go on. I’m dying to find out what happened."
Aimee smiled. It was the same silly smile as before. "It got worse before it got better. Actually, it got a whole lot worse. Steve arrived, and we got in this huge fight about a light fixture, of all things. I told him he could have the stupid thing. He claimed he didn’t want it, but I refused to let that pass. He was still arguing with me when I dragged out the chair and started to remove it from the wall."
"I know, I know. My expertise doesn’t involve anything electrical, which Steve took delight in reminding me. At the moment, I think, he was hoping I’d electrocute myself. Fortunately, I fell before that happened."
"Conveniently into Steve’s arms, and we both went crashing to the floor. I was furious and outraged and blamed him. I started listing his legion of faults, and he kissed me just to shut me up so he could see if I’d been hurt."
The picture that formed in Erin’s mind was a wildly romantic one. Aimee hopping mad, and Steve more interested in making sure she hadn’t been hurt in the fall than in listening to her tirade.
"One thing led to another, and before we knew it we were in bed together."
"Oh, Aimee that’s so romantic."
"Romantic, nothing. I was furious, claiming he’d seduced me. Steve adamantly denied it and said I was the one who’d seduced him. Before the night was over, we’d seduced each other a second time. Both of us were more than a little chagrined over what happened. Steve left the following morning without taking any of the things he claimed he needed so badly. I called him the next day, and he returned for the items… only he ended up spending the night again."
"But what about everything that led up to the divorce? You were miserable together. Remember?"
"Nothing’s really changed," Aimee explained. "Only our attitude has. We’re committed to working out our problems. Steve’s willing to see a counselor. In fact, he’s the one who suggested it."
"So you’ve talked everything out?"
"We talked, among other things," Steve inserted as he walked into the kitchen. Standing behind Aimee, he slipped his arms around her waist and cuddled her close. "Should we tell her?" he asked his wife.
"Nothing’s for sure yet," Aimee said, twisting her head around to look up at him.
"I’m sure of it."
Erin hadn’t a clue what the two were discussing. "Tell me what?"
"Aimee’s pregnant. At least we think she is."
"Steve, I haven’t been to the doctor yet. You can’t go around announcing it until I’ve been in to see Dr. Larson."