“I bet,” Anna smiled back. Tamsan seemed knowledgeable in all the right ways. Anna sipped her drink and enjoyed the silence. “You seem different.”
“The women I’ve dated before. I mean… uh… not that we’re necessarily on a date now, just… uh…” Anna blushed at the verbal hole she’d stumbled into.
Tamsan took a swig of her beer and grinned around the bottle neck, apparently enjoying Anna’s stammering. “Relax,” she said when she lowered the bottle. “I know what you mean.”
“Yeah… uh,” Anna gulped. “So I guess you could say I haven’t had the best of luck.”
“My first girlfriend left me for her ex girlfriend. My second girlfriend was my ex’s ex girlfriend,” Anna said. “Then they got back together again.”
“Ouch,” Tamsan drawled.
“Yeah,” Anna said. “For three years I was a pawn for the two of them. They used me to make each other jealous and to work out their urges when they couldn’t be together. I didn’t realize what was happening until after it was over. They’re married now.”
“So you’ve had two girlfriends?”
“I had five girlfriends. Girlfriend number three cheated on me with everything that moved, girlfriend number four moved to New York, and girlfriend number five was the one I thought was going to marry.”
“We were together for two years,” Anna said. “One day I came home, everything was gone. I mean, everything. I thought I’d gone to the wrong apartment. Turns out she had a secret drug habit. Sold all our furniture to cover our debt.” She gave Tamsan a wry look. “She was the first woman I’ve broken up with.”
“You’ve had a tough run,” Tamsan sympathized.
“What about you?”
“Just one,” Tamsan said. “We were together for eight years. She passed away three years ago.”
“I’m so sorry,” Anna repeated. “That’s awful.”
“It was awful,” Tamsan agreed. “It took me a long time to live again. For a long time I wished I’d died with her. I tried a few times. Eventually I ended up here and somehow I wasn’t dead. And then I figured I may as well live. Dash helped.”
“I bet he did,” Anna smiled and looked at Tamsan with a new found respect, or rather, even more respect. The woman was handy, capable, knowledgeable, actually able to commit, and hot. Qualities Anna had despaired of ever finding in a woman. “So you haven’t been with anyone else since then?”
“I haven’t been with anyone since Lara,” Tamsan said. A cloud passed over her features for a second and Anna’s heart sank. Of course there was a catch, the catch being that Tamsan was unavailable, probably physically, definitely emotionally. Three years wasn’t long enough to get over the loss of the love of one’s life. Ten years probably wasn’t long enough. Hell, a lifetime probably wasn’t long enough.
“Well,” Anna said. She took a long swig of beer. Disappointment made it hard to figure out what to say next. “You’re loyal,” she said, having had a few seconds to figure something else. “That’s admirable.”
“Loyal,” Tamsan smiled slightly. “That’s flattering. Some people just call it hung up.”
“If you can’t be hung up on love, what can you be hung up on,” Anna said sympathetically. “Some people only love once.”
“I hope not,” Tamsan said. “I’d hate to think I’d never feel the way I did with her again. If we really only get one shot at happiness ever, that would be really tragic.”
“I don’t think we get one shot at happiness,” Anna replied. She had a nice buzz going, and the conversation was one of the most rewarding she’d had in a long time. “I think happiness is different with different people, but there’s always more to be found. At least, that’s what I hope. I never found it yet.”
“You were never happy with any of your girlfriends?”
“I thought I was,” Anna said. “But at the end of the day I realized it was anxiety, not happiness. They made me worry about whether or not they really wanted me. I never knew if I was loved, not really. There were too many games. Too many lies. At the end of it all I was just empty…” she shook her beer. “…and so is this bottle. Want another?”
Tamsan hesitated for a moment, then smiled. “Sure,” she said. “But maybe for this next round, we talk about something more upbeat.”
“Deal,” Anna grinned.
She returned with two beers and slid back down next to Tamsan. “So,” she said. “What did you have in mind?”
Tamsan smiled a slow, sexy smile. “I want to get to know you better,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot about you, but you’re not living up to most of the hype.”
“The way your ranch hands were talking the whole place was supposed to be up in flames by now. You have yourself a wild reputation, missy.”