Now he had a chance and he didn't want to ruin it. She was too important for that, too special. He was smart enough to know that she was overwhelmed right now with adjusting to parenthood. Not just being a parent, but a single parent. Now it was Carly who needed time, and he'd give it to her. He stuck the spoon in his mouth, trying to divert his thoughts.
But it was no use. It was why he'd stayed away the last few times he'd mowed her grass. He knew what he wanted. And it was too important to push. Not now.
"What are you thinking, Mr. Serious?" Carly opened her eyes. "It looks as though you're pondering the world's problems."
Not the world's, just his. He needed to take it slowly. He'd known Carly for so long that the idea of wooing her seemed funny. It also gave him a kind of strange, jumped-up feeling. Some might call it anticipation. He wanted her so much he ached. But it wasn't a matter of slaking his thirst for her and letting go. It wasn't anticipation. Gabe called it being scared to death of screwing up.
She laughed a little. "It has to be something. You need to lighten up."
"I don't know what to say."
"You could start with why you've been avoiding me."
He put down his gelato cup. "I haven't."
Nathan's eyes had opened and Carly rocked the carrier seat lightly with her foot. "Sure you have. You haven't even stopped in to say hello lately."
"I was busy," he said, knowing it sounded like a paltry excuse. Maybe he had been avoiding her, but only because he wanted to be with her, not the opposite. But how could he possibly explain that without putting any pressure on her?
"It doesn't matter. I know I'm not the best company these days. I always end up with something on my shirt and my house generally looks like a tornado blew through it. Who knew one tiny baby could cause so much havoc?"
Even with mystery stains and messy hair she was the most beautiful woman he knew. And again he bit his tongue, knowing his compliment would be unwelcome. "You think I stayed away because of some spit-up and dust bunnies?" He crossed his ankle over his knee and put an arm along the back of the bench. "Believe me, that's not the reason."
"Then what is?"
Why had he responded at all? Now she was neatly boxing him in to a genuine answer and he wasn't sure what to say. He looked out over the fields below them and watched an eagle catch a draft of wind, gliding on the current. Maybe the truth was best.
"To give you space."
"You said it yourself, Carly. You have enough to deal with without me hanging around. I know how much the divorce must have hurt you. I know this isn't how you expected your life to be. You're adjusting to a lot. I wanted to give you room to do that. A little yard work--that's just my way of giving a little helping hand to a friend. No strings."
It sounded perfectly reasonable when he put it that way, didn't it? And it was a complete and utter lie. What he knew for sure was that if he'd gone in to see her--again--he'd end up kissing her. Wanting to take her to bed. And probably ruining everything in the process.