“Is that all we can come up with?” Cally said in a small voice. “It’s not very impressive, is it?”
“Oh, we’re not even trying,” Tim said dismissively. “Anyway, does it matter? None of it’s the stuff that’s really important.”
“And what’s that?” she said, picking up the remote and turning down the TV volume.
Tim took it from her and flipped it completely off.
“The important stuff,” he said, moving slightly so that he could look down into her eyes, “is that we really like each other. I’m not going to say more than that yet, because I really want to be sure, but . . .” He stopped and scratched his chin, and his gaze shifted so that he was staring straight ahead.
“Look, when I came back I was in a bit of a mess. Becoming a civilian, well, I’d known it was going to happen eventually, of course, but I thought it was a long way off. I struggled to deal with that.”
Cally wanted to say she understood, but she didn’t want to interrupt so she remained quiet, satisfying herself with lacing her fingers through his.
She felt his grip tighten in response.
“Anyway, setting up the kennels, tending the animals, giving them the same kind of care I’d been given, gave me something to focus on. Seeing the difference I could make to a little dog like Chap, or some of the others that have been brought to me, made me feel useful again. And that was fine. It was all I expected. What I didn’t expect was to find someone like you on my doorstep.”
He dropped a kiss on top of her head.
“I didn’t expect to meet a girl I can’t stop thinking about, who makes me feel good about myself again. Someone who makes me laugh, and makes me feel like her hero – even though I know I do let her down from time to time.”
Cally hardly dared breathe. He had never opened up like this before. She kept quiet in case he was going to say more, but after several moments, he laughed gently.
“So there you have it. You, Miss Cally Tate, basically have my heart on a plate. Do you still think it matters how much we have in common?”
She twisted round so that she could look straight into his eyes. She found she couldn’t speak, and was annoyed to feel tears pricking at her eyes.
“Oh, no, I’ve made you cry again!” Tim exclaimed, and she shook her head.
“No, it’s OK. It’s just I really like you, too, and it’s taken me by surprise. So we’ll take things slow; get used to each other. No doubt I’ll have more hissy fits which you won’t deserve. But don’t worry, Marna’s talked to me about them.”
“Very sensible, is Marna. Which reminds me. She was pretty taken with Wayne and she wants his phone number.”
“Snap. He was bowled over by her, too, and I’ve already given him hers.” He twisted his wrist to check his watch.
“In fact, he should be phoning her right about now. He was trying not to look too keen. But enough about them. Go on with telling me how much you like me!”
She giggled and kissed him.
As they drew apart, her eyes fell on the calendar hanging on the wall, a cat picture above the grid of dates.
“It’s been a crazy couple of months, hasn’t it?”
“It has,” Tim agreed. “But crazy in a good way. And I can’t wait to see what happens next,” he added, leaning forward to press his lips to hers again.
With a happy sigh she surrendered to the sweet joy of his kiss. Somehow she knew it wouldn’t be long before they both revealed the truth of their hearts.
When that time came, of course, they would have to figure out how to reconcile their two lives, their cats and dogs, but together they would do it somehow.