The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Fourteen: Cindy's Trends, Part II

July 2023
Cindy’s Trends Clothing Boutique
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

Morgan easily sensed Wahya’s distaste for trying on clothes as soon as he shot her that glaring “no,” before finally relenting. Again, she determines that men are probably not that much different between time periods, as she knows very few who actually enjoy shopping for clothes, let alone trying them on.

Even though, talking him into trying on the clothes hadn’t seemed too difficult, and she feels that he’s at least making an effort to be cooperative. Though, could that be because of his inability to communicate his complaints otherwise? She smirks to herself, “Not that I’ve given him much of a choice!”

Though he’d proven himself to be quite self-sufficient throughout the entire day - had it only been one day?! - he still needed assistance with so many things. Learning which things he needed assistance with and when to let him try on his own seems to be the trickiest part of all, Morgan determines.

As is the case with the nice light blue button up shirt he’d chosen from the racks and needs assistance with now. “Ugh! As an Archaeologist, you’d think I’d have remembered snaps are a contemporary invention! Let me show you - they’re easy!” Morgan exclaims, happy to help him with yet another modern mystery.

She’d done well so far maintaining a friendly, but not too friendly atmosphere with the tall heartthrob, but trying not to ogle him as he came out of the dressing room with the most helpless expression and that deliciously hot bare chest was almost too much.

Quickly coming to her senses, she focuses on telling him how the snaps work, while trying to keep herself in check as she moves up his ripped stomach to his broad chest. And before she knows it, she’s reached the top of the shirt.

“Is he watching me?! Did he even see what I was trying to show him?!” Morgan ponders as she catches his gaze, trying to ignore her heart thudding heavier than before.

Backing off to let him do the three remaining bottom snaps, she knows he must not have been paying enough attention to her instructions, as he still can’t snap the first one he tries near his waistband.

“Just pretend you’re helping Curtis, not dressing a man you’d rather undress instead,” she tells herself as she squeezes her fingers over his, feeling the click of the snap under his touch, trying to imagine helping her young nephew instead.

The spell has ended, as Wahya quickly pulls away from her, turning to do the bottom-most snaps on his own from within the dressing room. She knows he’s tired - and rightly so after the experiences he’s had today, so Morgan makes a command decision, pushing her heated thoughts away. “Okay, tell you what! I’m going to help you with the last of the shirts and you can figure out how the right ones work after we buy them.”

Following him into the small dressing room, Morgan stands him in front of the mirror to see how the shirt fits, adjusting the collar. She eyes him in the mirror as he simultaneously takes in his own appearance as well, then frowns looking at his legs, bare from the thighs down, “It looks weird with the shorts on. Maybe you should try on the jeans before you take off the shirt, huh?”

She goes to get the jeans from the cart, handing him the first pair, then motions for him to change out of the shorts and into the new pants, turning to leave him in privacy. Reflecting momentarily on the body part for which privacy was warranted, she suddenly remembers, “Oh! I almost forgot about underwear!”

Wahya remains frozen, watching her in the mirror almost leave, then turning to him again. Coming up from behind him, Morgan explains nonchalantly as though he completely understands her - after all, she’d been looking at the tags of the clothes he’s been wearing since they’d been in the shop. “Let me see what size underwear you’ve got on, then while I go find some out there...”

She proceeds to pull back the elastic waistband of Wahya’s borrowed shorts, expecting to see either briefs or boxers.

“Yeaoww!” Comes Wahya’s surprised yelp as he jerks his hips forward in apparent shock.

“What...? Ohhhh!” Morgan’s eyes go wide. At first, she thought she must have grabbed the waistband of the underwear along with the shorts when she pulled back. But, to her mortification, she realizes too late that there is absolutely NO underwear on the man!

All within a matter of seconds, Morgan lets go of his outstretched waistband, which snaps sharply against his bare skin, making him cry out in surprise yet again. Wahya covers his backside with his hands, turning around to confront his assailant.

She’s sure he’s angry, but his furrowed brows raise upward, and a shocked smile crosses his face as though a realization has hit him.

“Agehya...!” His tone is admonishing, yet flirtatiously teasing at the same time, and Morgan doesn’t need a translation to horrifyingly realize that he thinks she was trying to look at his bare backside - on purpose!

“Ohhh! Nooo! That’s not what I...” Her face turns bright red and her eyes go very wide, as Wahya leans his massive body forward from the other side of the small room, one hand still covering his behind, and the other wagging a finger at her - his eyes twinkling along with the shocked smirk still on his lips.

“Agehya!” He chides again, the foreign word holding a lot of meaning in the way it lilts off his tongue.

Beyond mortified, Morgan shields her face with her hand and finally finds the latch on the door behind her, exits promptly, quickly closing Wahya in the dressing room. As she spins around, she almost knocks over the motherly woman running the shop, letting out a surprised squelch of her own. All the while, Wahya’s laughter can be heard around the entire store.

“You know young lady, there’s a rule about only one person in the dressing room at a time. If you guys don’t take it down a notch, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Cindy the boutique owner warns an even brighter red Morgan.

“Oh my... I’m so sorry! It’s definitely not what it sounds like!” Morgan tries to explain, but the woman doesn’t entertain the thought either way, going about her business and leaving Morgan to her own devices among the racks of dresses.

Cursing under her breath, Morgan snarls her friend and coworker’s name. “James...! Darn his hide! He should be here doing this with me!”

She pulls her phone out of her back pocket, and finds James’ cell number, madly hitting ‘Send.’ After only two rings, the line on the other end picks up.

“Hey Morgan, how’s...”

“James! What the Hell!?” Morgan loudly whispers into the phone, interrupting his pleasantries.

“Is everything alright? What happened?!” James sounds worried now.

Trying to not bring attention to herself with other customers coming into the shop, she hides behind a larger rack of clothes, “James, you owe me!”

“Why, what happened?”

“What size underwear do you wear?” Morgan wants to spit out but quiets her tone as Cindy gives her a look from afar.

There’s a slight pause on the other end, and James chokes out, “Excuse me?”

Forgetting to whisper she continues, “Oh for goodness sake! Wahya! It’s for Wahya! You didn’t give him any underwear! And I need to know what size and type to get!”

There’s another extended pause, then laughter erupts from over the line as James realizes the problem.

“It’s totally not funny! Disastrous! That’s what it’s been! Just disastrous! The least you could have done is warn me you had him running around commando!”

More seriously now, James clears his throat, “I’m sorry. I forgot all about that. I didn’t plan on changing today since I was going straight home after working out.” Even more soberly, he continues, “Are you okay? He didn’t get angry or do anything to you, did he?”

Morgan breathes out heavily, “No, I’m okay. He’s okay. He just thinks I’m trying to get fresh is all, no thanks to YOU!”

“Do you need me to come help you?” James is quick to ask, and she knows he feels bad.

Sighing again, she looks towards the dressing rooms, “Uh... No. I’m just about done now. All I need to know is what kind of underwear to get and then we’re out of here.”

After getting some suggestions from James, Morgan collects a couple packages of both briefs and boxers and bravely heads back to the dressing room. There’s no sound coming from inside, and at first she worries that Wahya may have run off. Knocking softly on the door, she goes to open it when Wahya unlatches the door himself.

He stands back, waiting for her to come in, and Morgan is taken by surprise when she discovers how well put-together he looks - shirt tucked properly into the nicely fitting jeans! Temporarily forgetting her embarrassment from earlier she blurts out, “Wow! How did you know...?”

Then she sees the framed fashion poster on the wall, featuring a well-dressed man with a button-up shirt tucked into khaki pants. “Very, very nice!” She smiles and gives him a double thumbs up, nodding her head approvingly.

In turn, he looks relieved and a little proud - her little faux pas seemingly behind them. That is until she remembers the packages of underwear she’d brought for him. Taking an embarrassed deep breath, she points to the pictures on each package so that he knows what to do with them. Taking one pair out of both packages, she hopes he understands that he needs to choose which he likes better, and that she definitely didn’t need to be involved. “Maybe I should have had James come help me after all...”

She knows her instructions have been met with success when she sees his irritability about taking off the jeans he’d just got on. She guiltily leaves him again, taking all the other clothes out of the stall. “I am sooo over this fashion show!”

While she waits for him, Morgan takes the other jeans back to swap them out with a couple more pairs of the right size, and picks out a package of socks, wheeling the cart back to the dressing room. He huffs loudly inside the stall, and then after a few moments of movement there’s complete silence.

“Is everything okay?” Morgan calls from outside the door, not daring to touch the door handle for fear of what state of undress the man might be in on the other side.

Wahya finally opens the door, back in the black shorts and still wearing his new blue shirt. He hands her both sets of underwear, and she can’t seem to read his thoughts, his expression painfully blank. “Okay? Well, commando isn’t going to feel good in jeans for long,” she sighs.

Resigning to the fact that she’s going to have to get a little more personal in this department, and any butterflies she’d had regarding visions of him in or out of underwear squashed by her embarrassment, she holds up both types of underwear, one at a time, asking the unyielding man for a simple “yes” or “no” in regards to each. “Boxers or briefs...?”

Finally, he chooses the boxers, with a definitive “no” for the briefs, which she was sort of anticipating since the boxers seem like they would be more airy - like his breechcloth. “Alright, so you’re a boxers kind of guy! Go ahead and get dressed and we’ll go home so you can wash up before we go do dinner with James and Samantha.”

Morgan hands him the white tank top, and points to the shirt he’s wearing, so he knows that he must change back into it as well. She doesn’t leave, and instead waits for him as he reluctantly puts the tank top back on. Instead of James’ too-small sneakers, she pulls the new pair from their box so he can wear those out of the store. Remembering that he doesn’t know how to tie a bow, she tiredly kneels to help him out.

“This was almost as bad as shopping with the boys last Christmas!” She thinks. But as soon as the thought enters her mind she reneges - visions of her four- and six-year-old nephews
terrorizing the department store at the mall, while her sister left to get her hair done, fills her mind. “Nah... that was wayyyy worse! At least Wahya stayed put and tried to work with me. Okay, he really tried hard! And he’s got to have a lot going on in his head about now.”

Morgan stands up again, feeling bad for feeling irritable with him - really feeling irritable with herself - and puts her hand on his shoulder as he sits on the stool still looking at the new shoes. She smiles softly when he turns his head up to face her, his muscles tensing slightly under her touch, and a look of resignation in his eyes.

“You did good! Let’s go, okay?”

Grabbing everything from the dressing room, Morgan guides them to the checkout, explaining to the clerk that he’s wearing the shoes out of the store. Just before the last item is rung up, Morgan grabs a chocolate bar from below the counter, quickly handing it to the clerk.

Exiting the shop with several bags in tow, the two aim for Morgan’s car, and stuff the purchases in the back. Getting in, Morgan turns up the A/C in the now-hot car and waits for Wahya to get situated in his seat. Breaking off a square of the chocolate confection, Morgan hands the piece to the weary-looking brave next to her, hoping to pick up his spirits just a bit and apologize for accidentally harassing him in the dressing room.

“Here you go - you were a good sport in there! Thank you and I’m sorry if I offended you in any way.” Then she proceeds to explain the treat, “This is chocolate! Mmmm!”

Wahya takes the piece, obviously anticipating something good by the look in his eyes. Morgan awaits his reaction as he takes a tiny nibble off the corner of the dark chocolate, then another larger chunk.

“Mm... Mmm!” His lips curl up in a satisfied smile.

“Good?” Morgan asks, offering him another square.

He nods, taking the second square from her, watching as Morgan takes a bite of her own piece, and puts the car in Drive.

“Wado,” Wahya says politely before she pulls away, and Morgan thinks that this must mean ‘thank you,’ from the softened look he gives her. It’s not a sexy, smoldering look, but one of sincerity and gratitude, and Morgan feels those butterflies creep back into her stomach again.

This time she pulls out of the parking spot at a normal speed and they ride in companionable silence for a while before she realizes Wahya has drifted to sleep, probably unable to resist the gentle rocking of the car speeding down the highway. She sees that he’s taken the stone gorget from his pocket, holding it in his lap.

Wondering just what’s so precious about the artifact to him, she spends the remainder of the drive home going over everything she knows about the object and about him, which unfortunately isn’t much at all.

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