"I'm not sure I can do this." Judy stared at the telephone, unable to read the message in Dorothy's eyes.
Dorothy patted Judy's shoulder before rising and taking their used plates. "Start with hello. The rest will take care of itself."
Judy frowned. Her new good friend made reconciliation sound so easy. "What if he's not there?"
"Then, leave a message." Dorothy backed toward the kitchen. "I'll be in here if you need me, but I doubt if you will."
Judy heard the swinging door close with a swish. Oh, boy. She sighed. This shouldn't be hard. Just pick up the receiver and dial the number.
Ringing vibrated against her ear, mocking her. She almost hung up, but Dorothy's advice echoed in her mind. Leaving a message wouldn't hurt. Well, not too bad.
"Um, Tom... It's me. Judy. I was just calling to...um... Well, I was just calling. I'll talk to you later, I guess."
She hung up the phone and released the air that had lodged in her chest. Okay, now the ball was in his court. If he called, maybe they'd find a way to resolve their past. If he didn't call, then it was over.
As soon as the thought formed, a knock sounded at her door. Judy's heart lurched. What if...?
Dorothy appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Are you gonna answer that?"
Dumbfounded, Judy just sat there.
"Never mind. I'll get it." Dorothy gave her an understanding smile. She patted Judy's shoulder as she hurried to the door. "Coming!" she yelled.
A moment later, the door creaked open.
"Dorothy? What are you doing here?"
Judy stiffened at the sound of Tom's voice. Part of her wanted to leap for joy. Another part filled with dread. What if he was coming to tell her goodbye?
"I was just leaving," Dorothy said. "Come in. Judy, we'll talk later!"
Judy slowly came out of her stupor. She stood and turned. Against her wishes, her gaze locked on Tom. His responding stare held her as close as an embrace. Dorothy's exit went unnoticed. The next thing she knew, Tom had her in his arms and she was eagerly hugging him back.
- - -
Much later, they cuddled on the love seat. Tom closed his eyes, inhaling her scent and enjoying the warmth of her slender curves pressed against him. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. Her responding shiver made his chest swell.
A week! How could he let a week pass without holding her and telling her how much he loved her?
"I'm sorry, Jude," he murmured as he opened his eyes.
"I'm sorry, too." She shifted so that their gazes locked. "Are we getting through this? I mean really getting through this?"
"You tell me," he said. "You had so many doubts in the beginning. You didn't want anyone to know. Do you think our relationship is dirty?"
"No!" She lightly punched his chest. "How could you say that?"
"You seemed scared to tell our friends and then the thing with Harry... Jude, he loves you. It's not a crush or infatuation. He's gotten to know you and he's fallen hard."
She nodded. "He's so angry with me."
"He's hurt." Tom smoothed her hair from her face. "He's disappointed, too. One day that may pass and we can all be friend again."
"But it won't be the same."
"No." He swallowed hard. "Maybe not. Time will tell, though. We can't make that assumption, you know. Right now, we need to focus on us."
"I've been so scared."
Her admission surprised him. He'd recognized her fear, but never imagine she'd own up to it. Her confession encouraged him about their future.
"Of what? Fuller finding out and separating us?"
"Actually, Fuller's been the least of my concerns. Okay, that's not entirely true. I value his opinion, but I know he has a high opinion of you. I don't know what he'd say about our obvious differences?"
He frowned, feigning stupidity. "What could that be?"
She rolled her eyes. "As if you don't know." She took his hand and rested it against her face. "Notice anything?"
"Your skin is so soft, and you're so beautiful."
Her blush warmed him from head to toe. "Tom..."
"And your mouth was made for kissing."
He leaned in to claim his kiss. She dodged him and moved back. "Hanson! I'm serious!"
Groaning, he raised himself into a sitting position. "I know you are, and I know what you mean."
"We've gotten stares."
"Stares don't bother me," he said.
"What about comments? What about someone at HQ denying you a promotion because of our relationship? What then?"
"Then I'll deal with it. We'll deal with it together."
Her expression looked doubtful. "I don't know."
"I do. I have faith in us."