He had fallen in love with Shiloh. The realization hit him like a ton of bricks. From the very beginning, he was aware that he was developing feelings for her but they deepened as they began to spend more and more time together and here he was now. He leaned against the wooden structure and sighed heavily.
What on earth was he going to do? Stop seeing her? He immediately dismissed the thought because he couldn’t imagine not being with her. He would miss her like crazy and it wouldn’t change anything. Besides, Emily had become very attached to Shiloh.
What about Alanis? The last time they saw each other she had said to him, “Something has changed between us.”
Warily, he looked at her and asked, “What do you mean?”
“We haven’t seen each other since we went out for dinner and that was weeks ago.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I’ve been very busy.”
“Too busy to call me, Marc?”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I’ll make it up to you.”
“All right.” And she dropped the subject after that. The following evening, he took her to dinner and then the theater. Afterwards, they went back to her place for a nightcap. He went home afterwards, feeling guilty–guilty because while they were having sex, he was thinking about Shiloh.
Since that time when he had caressed her on the cheek, he hadn’t touched her again and it wasn’t because he didn’t want to. It was all he could think about sometimes. He didn’t touch her for two reasons–her age and Alanis. How fair was it to Alanis, though, with whom he was supposed to be in a relationship and unknown to her, he was yearning for a girl much younger than him?
He had lied to Alanis about being busy. He had been spending more of his time with Shiloh. After he had taken her indoor skydiving, he had taken her to the museum, the Southbank Riverwalk, Indoor go-kart racing center and today, he was taking her, her sister, Raaya and Emily to the zoo. He enjoyed Shiloh’s company very much and couldn’t imagine not being around her anymore.
Dragging his fingers through his hair, he climbed to sandy embankment to where his car was parked and headed home, getting there just before Rachel dropped Emily off and Shiloh and Raaya arrived. Pushing all thoughts of his dilemma out of his mind, he resolved to enjoy the day at the zoo. Afterwards, they drove to a diner where they had veggie burgers, fries and milkshakes.
“Emily’s birthday is next week Saturday and her mother is throwing a little party for her. Can you and Raaya come?” he asked hours later when they were back at his place. While Emily and Raaya were taking a nap, Shiloh and he were in the living-room. He was on the sofa and she was on the floor, facing him. It turned out that she missed sitting on the floor.
“Emily’s birthday is next Saturday and her mother is throwing a party for her. Can you and Raaya come?”
“Sure. We’ll be there.”
“Did you have a good time today, Shiloh?” It was important to him that she did. As much as he loved having Emily with them and getting to meet Raaya, he wished that they were completely alone.
“Yes, I did.” I have a better time when it’s just the two of us.
“Shiloh, would you ever date an older man?” he heard himself ask. His expression was tense as he watched her.
She was surprised at his question. Was he asking in general or specifically? “Yes, I would,” she replied. I would definitely date you if you were single.
“So, if a man in his mid-thirties wanted to date you, you won’t have a problem with that?”
“No, I won’t.” Was that relief she saw on his face?
He stood up and started towards her. “Shiloh–”
He was about to say something when Raaya came into the living-room and he froze. She went over to Shiloh and sat down next to her. “I’m hungry,” she said.
Shiloh looked at her in frustration. Mr. Gladstone had been about to say something very important when they were interrupted. What lousy timing this kid had, she fumed. “You’re always hungry,” she muttered under her breath. She got up from the floor and went to get her satchel. She handed her a bag of oatmeal cookies. “Snack on these,” she said. “They will keep you until we go home.”
Mr. Gladstone watched them. “I’d better go and check on Emily,” he said quietly before he quickly left the room.
With a sinking heart, Shiloh watched him go and then, she turned to Raaya who was happily chomping down on a cookie. “Thanks a lot, Raaya.”
She cocked her head to one side, quizzically. “What for?” she asked.
“Oh, never mind.” She took out her tablet and watched live performances featuring popular pop bands, Succulent sisters and blazing blisters on YouTube. Her friend, Dawn had urged her to check them out. She rolled her eyes. How could anyone call that racket music? She turned it off and put her tablet away just as Mr. Gladstone and Emily walked into the living-room. She encouraged Raaya to offer Emily a cookie and she did which surprised Shiloh. Usually, her sister didn’t like to share her food with anyone.
While they sat on the floor, devouring the cookies, she and Mr. Gladstone sat on the sofa. They talked about different things but at the back of her mind, she couldn’t help wondering what he was going to say to her. Would she ever find out?