“Can’t, sorry.” She did sound genuinely regretful. “I’m finishing up this costume for the Halloween dance. Not sure I should have agreed to go as Dione. Tyler suggested we go as Greek gods, and, not knowing what I was getting myself in for, I agreed. Worse, I decided to sew my own costume.”

“Can I stop by?” He felt like a fool needing permission and had no one to blame but himself.

“Of course.” She sounded surprised. “You don’t need to ask, Sam. You’re welcome anytime. We’re friends, right?”

Sam arrived less than thirty minutes later and found Beth busy at her sewing machine with yards of diaphanous fabric gathered on the kitchen table.

“I’m sorry I don’t have time for a movie tonight, Sam,” she said, and sounded genuinely apologetic. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I chose this costume. The instructions didn’t look that complicated.”

“I didn’t know you could sew.”

“As you can see, I’m not that great at it. I learned years ago in Girl Scouts. My leader was a seamstress by trade and she insisted every girl know the fundamentals.” She puffed up her chest and used a high-pitched voice that apparently imitated her leader, causing Sam to smile.

He wandered around her apartment, lost, forlorn, ill-at-ease, and, in a word, miserable.

Finally, he couldn’t remain silent any longer. “So you’re going to the dance with that Tyler guy you mentioned.” Nothing like stating the obvious.

“Not going going,” she returned, as if that explained everything.

Sam narrowed his eyes. “What does that mean?”

She looked up from the table, her hands still braced against the frothy fabric she fed into the machine. “He’s not picking me up at the house like it’s a date or anything.”

“Oh.” That made him feel slightly better. Not much, but some. Then he had another question. “Who is Tyler dressing as?”


“Oh.” Zeus? Apparently, Tyler had a high opinion of himself.

Beth scooted back her chair, stood, and placed her hand against the small of her back, elbows sticking out as she relieved the pressure in her spine.

“I’m happy to see you taking my suggestion.” He’d feel a lot better if she hadn’t taken it up with quite so much gusto.

“Me, too,” she said, sitting back down and returning to her project. The portable sewing machine buzzed like a chainsaw as she continued to feed the cloth through. “You made a good point.”

He was beginning to regret the entire conversation. He’d overreacted and now he’d dug himself into a black hole. One week out and he was miserable and feeling more foolish every minute.

“Zeus,” Sam muttered mockingly, thankful he couldn’t be heard over the noise.

Feeling like he was more in the way than being helpful, he headed for the door.

“On second thought, you could order us that pizza,” Beth suggested, her back to him as she sat at the table.

You’d think she’d offered him a lifeline from the way he reacted. “Happy to.” He knew what she liked, sausage and black olives on one half and meat lovers with anchovies on his side.

“I’ll pay my share, though, seeing that we’re no longer dating.”

“The pizza was my idea,” Sam insisted. “Let me pay for it.”

She stared at him. “You sure you want to do that?”

“I’m sure.”

She smiled back before twisting around and racing the fabric through the machine.

“Thirty minutes,” he reported, once he’d finished placing the order.

“Great. I’m starving.” She shuffled the half-sewn gown onto the table and turned around to face him. “Did you have a good week?”

Here was his chance to tell her he’d been even more miserable than he’d been the week before. The easy way Beth had accepted his suggestion had dented his ego. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it hadn’t been that. She seemed almost eager to see other men, and that was just plain wrong. He’d imagined there would be tears, accusations, anger. He had to say, this woman was full of surprises. Pride wouldn’t let him get anywhere close to the truth. “I’m okay,” was all he was willing to admit. “What about you?”

“Busy! The entire week has been hectic. I’ve had something every night, which explains why I’m putting this costume together at the last minute.”

Sam pinched his lips and hoped she didn’t notice. If she was going to be dating so much, he certainly didn’t want to hear about it.

“I’m sorry to miss our jamming session,” she admitted. “I had a meeting with a group of music teachers in the area that night.”

So she hadn’t been out on a date after all. Sam brightened immediately and his ego slid comfortably back into place. Actually, it felt as if a hundred-pound sack of cement had been lifted from his shoulders.

“Do you remember Jazmine?” Beth asked him. “She was one of the nurses’ aides at the rehab center?”


“She was one of my favorites. I admire her so much.” Beth was excited and nearly rushed the words together in her eagerness to explain. “She’s a single mom with two little kids, working hard to make a decent life for herself. She got good news this week.”


“After completing all the paperwork and going through several interviews, she’s been accepted by Habitat for Humanity. That means she’ll be building a home for herself and her children. A real home with her own two hands. She didn’t want a handout, she was looking for a hand up and she got it. When she told me, I swear she was nearly bursting with excitement and joy.”

“I know someone who did that,” Sam told her.


“Nichole’s sister. Rocco and Cassie’s husband are good friends. It’s a great program.”

“From everything Jazmine said, it sounds like it. She asked if I’d be willing to volunteer to help and I said I would.”

Beth looked happy and excited for her friend, and when she smiled he found it nearly impossible not to smile back.

“I’ve never had an active social life before, Sam, and I’ll admit I like it.”

“It’s good of you to volunteer to help Jazmine.”

“That’s not all I’ve got going. Doug is taking me out to eat after church on Sunday and then Monday Nichole and I are getting together. I have friends, my own friends, people I choose to associate with. Although”—she paused to inhale a deep breath—“I have to tell you, I don’t know what Mom would say if she heard I’m working at a construction site.”

Beth continued to chatter away like a magpie at dawn, but all he heard was that she would be seeing this Doug guy she’d mentioned a week earlier. Sam bit down on his back teeth so hard he was convinced he’d cracked a molar.

“And then there’s my date with Tyler.”

“You’re dating Tyler? I thought it was chaperoning the one dance. You mean there’s more?”

“He asked me out for next week, too.”

Sam’s jaw was clenched so hard he feared a thin-line fracture.

“He wanted to take me to …”

Sam had to turn away before he said or did something he’d regret.

Beth stopped, and when Sam glanced back she looked at him as if she’d missed something.

“You’re right, you are busy these days,” he muttered, stuffing his hands in his pockets. A week. All it’d taken was one week: seven measly days. Beth couldn’t be accused of letting any grass grow under her feet.

“Everything all right, Sam?” she asked, looking concerned.

Another word about the men she was dating and Sam was going to lose it.

“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not discuss the other men in your life.”

“Of course, but you’re the one who suggested I get more experience, spread my wings, so to speak.”

She was right.

Beth lowered her hands on her thighs and released a long, slow sigh. “There’s no need to be jealous.”

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