Chapter 13 - Olivia (Part 2)
Damn, he looked fine. He wore dark wash jeans with a crisp off-white button-up T-shirt that exposed his strong arms. His face was freshly shaven and hair combed neatly back. She was already missing the scruff that made him look sexier but he didn’t need to know that.
Careful, Olivia, she reminded herself as she stepped up to the front doors and opened the door for herself—which he quickly grabbed and pulled open wider for her to step in.
She mumbled her thanks before stepping up to the hostess’ station, which was a podium stacked with menus, and waited to be seated.
A petite Japanese waitress saw her from across the room as Cameron stepped up next to her, brushing against her arm and sending a shiver to shoot up her spine. Stepping away, Olivia put a couple of inches between them as the waitress approached to seat them.
She led them to a small round table with a white cloth draped on it with a layer of glass on top.
Cameron immediately moved to pull out Olivia’s chair. She frowned at him and raised an eyebrow, to which his eyes pleaded back with a shy smile.
She allowed him to seat her before taking his own across from her. The waitress handed them their menus and told them of the daily specials before leaving.
“Smells good in here,” he commented as he opened up his menu. He peeked at her over the top of it before looking down. “You look amazing.”
She shifted in her seat and crossed her legs underneath her. “Thank you. You look not too bad yourself.”
He flashed her a smug grin as if to say, I know, before looking at the menu in his hands. “I’ve never been here before. What do you recommend?”
“Depends on how hungry you are,” she replied. “Their mandarin salad is good. That’s what I usually get.”
“Salad? Hey, wait, where’s the meat?”
Olivia looked up from her menu and saw his furrowed forehead peeking over the menu. “It’s a vegetarian cafe. Why? Are you a carnivore?”
“Damn right, I am,” he grumbled, lowering his menu and setting it on the table. Propping his chin with his elbow, he looked depressed with the options as he continued to scan over it.
“The wraps are good. Soups too. You could try the tofu stir-fry if you’re looking for protein? Or the bean salad?”
“Beans give me massive gas,” he grumbled. “First time I ate a bean burrito was a disaster.” He shook his head. “Never again.”
“What about tofu?”
“I don’t know…” He sounded almost dejected.
“I’ve had the stir-fry before. It’s not bad. The sauce is delicious and the tofu doesn’t have much of a taste anyway. I recommend you try that,” she suggested.
“I guess… Why did you want to come here of all places?”
She smiled. “Because they have the best tea.”
He perked an eyebrow. “Tea?”
She hummed with a nod of her head and set her menu down. “You can get it by the cup or by the pot. Want to share a pot or have your own?”
He brightened at the suggestion. “You’d like to share with me?”
Despite the rush of warmth to her face, she shrugged. “Sure, why not? I always share with Chloe. Her favorite is the mandarin orange tea. It’s more like light fruit juice than anything.”
“Is it served with little teacups too?” he asked.
Olivia laughed. “Yes. That particular one is always served in a glass pot with a blooming white tea in it and glass teacups. Chloe loves it. Makes her feel like a princess. She’s so careful with the teacups. It’s adorable.”
A look of longing passed over his face as it fell. He brushed his fingers through his hair as he looked away.
“Maybe next time, I’ll bring her and we can drink tea together,” she suggested.
“So, there will be a next time?” he asked, catching her gaze once more with a smoldering look.
Crap. “Maybe,” she reiterated, looking down at her menu to hide the added warmth to her face.
“I like the sound of that. Just wish she was here now.”
She peeked up through her eyelashes at him. He was looking away again, sadness pulling on his features.
What was he after? Every guy she went out on a date with since Chloe’s birth fled as soon as she mentioned having a kid, except for the last guy, which was why he stuck around for more than a couple of dates. However, she never felt ready to introduce him to her. Olivia didn’t want to bring any stranger before her daughter unless she felt he was good enough to be a father for her.
But Cameron actually looked like he wanted to be around Chloe. He wanted to be a part of her life.
Sure, he was her biological father, but he didn’t have to take an interest in her because of that. Most decent guys probably did due to a sense of obligation, but he genuinely looked pained by the thought of not being able to spend time with her too.
“You know, I’m only trying to do what I think is best for her,” Olivia uttered in a hushed voice.
He swallowed and nodded, still not meeting her gaze. “I know. Does she ask about me?”
She looked down again at her menu. “Sometimes. I wish you hadn’t said that you’re her father.”
“Why? So you had a reason to push me away? When were you going to tell her? She deserved to know the truth.”
“Yeah, when I was ready to tell her the truth,” she replied a little more forcefully than she intended.
The waitress appeared between them. “Are we ready to order now?”
Olivia raised her eyebrows at Cameron and he gave a half shrug. She gave the waitress a polite smile. “Yes, I’ll have the mandarin salad, dressing on the side, please. And we’ll share a pot of milk oolong, lightly sweetened with honey. For you, Cameron?”
“The stir-fry,” he grumbled.
“Tofu or veggie?” the waitress asked.
“Tofu, I guess.”
“Thank you,” Olivia said as the waitress took their menus and bowed slightly before departing.
“I thought you were going to get the mandarin orange tea?” he asked.
“And I said we would have that next time with Chloe,” she said and quickly added, “maybe.”
A crooked grin had him leaning back casually in his chair. “Right. Maybe.”
“That depends, of course, on where we stand after this,” she said.
“Right. And what do you hope to gain from this… meeting? Since you made it clear that it’s not a date.”
She heaved a sigh as she leaned back in her own chair, regarding him and his open posture. “The truth.”
“Everything you need to know is in that letter.”
She hummed, thinking about how to counter that, when he said, “I don’t think it’s the truth you’re after. I think you just don’t trust me. No matter what I say, you don’t know whether to believe me or not.”
She stared at him as his words rang true. He grinned at her, confirming his own assumptions before she looked away.
“I’m right, huh? But I don’t blame you. That’s why I needed you to give me another chance. Nothing I say will ever sound true if you don’t trust me.”
He was right. She couldn’t deny that fact. While what he said made her sound like a horrible person, she couldn’t simply tear down the wall she built up all these years protecting her heart from getting hurt again. Especially when Chloe was involved as well.
“Some things still don’t add up though. Like I said on the phone. Why me?”
“I told you in my letter. Do you remember what I wrote?”
She nodded, looking down at her hands in her lap.
“It’s true. And deep down, you know it is too, you just can’t see it for what it is and it scares you,” he said in a low, soft voice. “We are soulmates. And in my world, that makes you and our children the most important beings in my life. I cannot abandon or disregard you. Ever. What happened five years ago shouldn’t have occurred the way it did, but I cannot change the past. I can only try to correct the present so that we can both achieve the future we should have received.”