Fringe Benefits
no idea where that statement had come from. “For what?”
    “When I was little, I had a bad habit of inviting myself places. If I wanted to play with some other kid, I’d trot right over to his house and talk myself inside. I’m doing the same thing to you now. If you prefer running alone…”
    The way he hung his head as though the memory made him sad made her heart clench. “No, that’s fine. We can go together.”
    “You don’t have to say that just to be polite, Dani.”
    “It’s okay, Nate. You’re right. I can show you some good places to run.”
    Raking his fingers through his blond hair, he frowned. “No, I’m imposing. You want privacy, not the new guy in town tagging along like a puppy dog.”
    The forlorn tone of his voice and the image he’d invoked made her beckon him with a flip of her hand. “You’re not imposing. C’mon. Let’s get going before I wake up all the way and talk myself out of it. You’ll have to forgive me if I need to listen to music.”
    “Running doesn’t lend itself to great conversation.” He pointed to the armband for his iPhone. “I have a great mix to help me keep my pace up.”
    With a brisk nod, she shoved her earbuds in her ears and headed for the trails.
    A glance over her shoulder saw him mimicking her actions with his own headphones before he took off after her.
    *   *   *
    Smiling to himself, Nate fell into step with Dani. He truly had no shame. When he wanted something, he went for it. And right now he wanted to see where the connection he felt with this beautiful woman would lead.
    Did she gravitate to the sport of running for the same reason he did—to be a part of a team without having to get too physically close to people?
    He’d been too lanky for football, and the idea of getting stuck under a pile of sweaty bodies was about as appealing as grading six classes’ worth of research papers. Baseball? Boring. Swinging a golf club felt unnatural.
    So back in high school, he’d run cross-country. The sport appealed to him since he’d always been a bit of a loner. When he went to Indiana University, he’d kept running as a way to handle the stress of college—stress that had risen to a crescendo once he’d started dating Kat. She’d always thought of running as a waste of time and energy.
    But Dani loved to run—just another thing that made her so appealing.
    The woman was quick, her pace bordering on brutal. Nate had to push himself to keep up with her. After that fifth mile, he came close to stopping. Thankfully, a second wind kicked in, so he made it back to the house. Tomorrow, his muscles would be screaming.
    Back in the driveway, he walked in circles, hands on his hips as he panted for breath.
    “You okay?” She might not be as breathless as he was, but at least she sounded a little winded.
    “Fine.” With a groan, he gave in to the urge to flop onto the grass, spread eagle. “Fine for a guy who’s having a heart attack.”
    Her laughter made him smile. She came closer, standing over him. “Need me to perform CPR?”
    “Nah. But I’m fine with mouth-to-mouth, if you’d like to give it a whirl.”
    With a shake of her head, Dani stepped back. “Seems like you’re breathing fine—a little fast, but fine. How about I make you breakfast instead?”
    Getting back on his feet was more difficult than Nate had expected, and it was a bit humiliating that he had to take the hand she offered to help him up. He’d have to get in better shape if he was going to keep up with her. “Breakfast sounds great. Starting with coffee.”
    With a sparkle in her eye, she tossed last night’s teasing back in his face. “Absolutely!”
    *   *   *
    Dani folded the omelet in half and set the spatula aside. “Cheese?”
    “Sounds good,” Nate replied. He took the full cup of coffee from the Keurig, set it aside, and popped a fresh canister in place. “Love these machines.”
    “Amen to that.” She used the spatula to cut the omelet in

Similar Books

Queen Unseen

Peter Hince


Charles Fort

Cover of Darkness

Kaylea Cross

Where We Belong

Hoda Kotb

The Flicker Men

Ted Kosmatka

Jennifer August

Knight of the Mist