Nerds & Geeks #2
Tender is the Nerd
Software developer Rylan Krause is under the gun. The
produce app he’s designing isn’t coming together and time is
running out. But a reluctant trip to the grocery store with his
brother’s ex-girlfriend gets him up close and personal with
vegetables and gives him exactly the inspiration he needs.
Miranda Travers is a nutritionist, a four-letter word in Rylan’s
pizza, soda and chips lifestyle, but she’s his key resource for the app.
Miranda may have initiated the breakup with
Frazer, but Rylan always assumed she preferred guys with his
brother’s reserved demeanor. Then the intimacy of a home-cooked
meal designed to change his junk food ways leads to an outcome
he never imagined. When he realizes that Miranda yearns for a
spontaneous guy like him, he’s torn between loyalty to his
brother and desire for his brother’s ex.
“I need to ask you a personal question.”
At first Miranda thought Rylan was about to make a joke, but one glance into his eyes told her whatever he wanted to ask was plenty serious. Her heart began to pound. Maybe they’d talk about their mutual attraction, after all. “Okay.”
“You don’t have to answer it.”
“Why did you break up with my brother?”
Oh, boy. She’d have to tread carefully. “What did he say?”
“Not much. You know Frazer. Holds his cards close to the vest.”
“Did he seem upset?” She’d always wondered if he’d shown more emotion over the breakup with his friends and family. With her he’d acted almost nonchalant.
“Not really, but you can never be sure with him. He might have been a lot more upset than he let on. When he suggested hiring you as a consultant for the app, he told everybody your previous relationship would be no problem. Near as I can tell, it’s the truth.”
“I feel the same way. There’s been no awkwardness. We were friends before we started dating and we’ve reverted back to that point.”
“And that’s why I couldn’t figure out the split between you two. You seem so compatible, even now. I never saw you fight.”
“That’s because we didn’t.”
“Exactly. So although I’ve seen no evidence to support the hypothesis, I’ve thought that maybe because you’re working in the same office you might get back together.”
She experienced a moment of panic. “Has he said anything that makes you think that?”
“Good.” She sighed in relief. “Because that’s never going to happen.”
“Because . . .” Picking up her wine glass, she took a fortifying swallow and thought about how to explain in a way that wouldn’t sound critical of someone Rylan loved. “You said yourself that he holds his cards close to his vest.”
“Yeah, he’s very private.”
“Keeps a lid on his emotions all the time.”
“When we met I admired that about him. He seemed so mature and in control. The strong, silent type.”
“That’s my brother.”
“But after a while I found myself getting impatient because he never seemed to loosen up regardless of the circumstances. Maybe he was different when you were kids, but –”
“Nope.” Rylan shook his head. “He takes after my mom. She’s the oldest in her family, too, and super responsible like Frazer.”
“I only spent a little time with her, but I can believe it.”
“She’s the organizer in our family. When she gets too heavy handed, my dad laughs and thanks her for keeping the planets in orbit. Then she backs off. But she never loses her cool, even when Dad or I have done something terminally stupid.”
“Sounds a lot like Frazer. Did he ever do anything stupid?”
“Once or twice. Not much.”
“But it confirms what I thought when I broke up with him. I can’t be with someone who hardly ever does anything stupid and never loses his cool. I need someone who’s more out there, someone who takes risks and makes mistakes.”
“I see.” He leaned back in his chair and let out a slow breath.
When he moved away from the candlelight she couldn’t gauge his expression as well. She hoped to hell she hadn’t insulted his loved ones by saying that personality type wasn’t for her. “Rylan, I’m not being critical of that approach to life. I just –”
“I know you’re not.” He leaned forward again and rested his arms on the table. He didn’t look insulted. More like turned on. “You’ve been very careful and considerate.” His voice had taken on a husky tone.
He’d never spoken to her like that and it threw her heart rate into high gear. “Because I like Frazer as a friend.” She saw a heck of a lot more than friendship in Rylan’s eyes right now. He’d never stared at her with that level of heat. And Lord help her, she was responding.
He took a deep breath. “I’ve been processing what you’ve said and I’ve come to a conclusion that blows my circuits.”
He held her gaze. “You were with the wrong brother.”