I locked up the book shop and turned to face Riley. She smiled up at me, some stray strands of her black hair falling in front of her eyes. I brushed it away slowly lingering on her smooth skin.
“Well I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” Riley said.
“Why wait until tomorrow when we are seeing each other now?” I asked as I shoved my hands in my pockets protecting them from the bitter December air.
Riley smiled up at me; I couldn’t get enough of her smile.
“Come on, I’ll make you some dinner.” I held out my arm and she took it.
I found it hard to focus on the risotto I was stirring with Riley sitting on my couch reading. I watched as her hands softly stroked the pages of Nicholas Nickleby. Her slender fingers guided her eyes to each word; her breathing was even in a state of complete comfort. It felt good to know that she was comfortable here, with me.
I pulled out two plates and placed a pork chop, a scoop of risotto, and ceasar salad on each plate. I placed them on the counter before walking over to the couch and stroking the back of Riley’s head savouring the silky feel of her long raven coloured hair.
“Dinner is ready,” I said.
“What are we having?” Riley asked as she took my hand and walked with me to the counter bar.
She sat down on one of the stools and I sat beside her.
“Just a simple meal for two,” I replied.
“Simple?” Riley looked over at me, “This looks amazing Wes.”
“Well we better not let it get cold,” I said as I stabbed my fork into some of the salad.
With each bite Riley let out a small appreciative moan. I didn’t think she noticed that she was doing it but it was definitely an ego booster. When she was done she politely wiped her lips with a napkin.
“You’re such a good cook,” Riley said, “I’m surprised.”
“The internet is wonderful modern day tool,” I said.
Riley gave me a playful push, “Seriously Wes. I’m trying to figure you out. Guy from Las Vegas with tattoos shows up in small Peterborough to cook and read classic novels; I mean you have them all.”
“They weren’t mine to begin with, they were given to me in a will. Also, I didn’t necessarily come here to read novels.” I exhaled trying to decide what to say next. If ever I wanted anyone to know what brought me to Peterborough it was her but the fear that she would leave me kept me from opening my mouth.
“I guess I’m one to talk though,” Riley said saving me from fully answering her question, “Only you know why I came here.”
I reached out and took her hand, “Your secret is safe with me Riley.” I kissed her hand and her cheeks flushed.
She pulled her hand form mine and started to collect the dishes.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“You made dinner, it’s only polite that I do the dishes,” she hopped down from her stool and walked around the other side of the counter and turned the tap on. I walked around behind her and turn the tap off.
“I don’t think so,” I said wrapping my arms around her waist and kissing her neck.
“My house, my mess, my dishes to do,” I spun her around and cupped her face kissing her deeply.
I stroked her cheeks with my thumbs counting the freckles as the appeared. She pouted up at me, “I feel bad leaving them for you.”
I sighed and kissed her again leading her away from the sink and towards my bedroom gently closing the door behind us.
Riley lay on her stomach perched up on her arms playing with the corner of one of my pillow cases. I gently stroked her naked shoulder.
“This Christmas has been so different than any Christmas I have ever had.” Riley said.
I rolled onto my side and replied, “How so?”
“When I was a little girl my mom used to get so sad on the twenty sixth. Christmas, her favourite day of the year, was over. But my…” Riley paused her smile fading, “My dad used to bring out a gift, one for each of us. And it was always the best gift we would receive.”
“It must have been hard losing your mom,” I said trying to be supportive.
“It was. When she died, Christmas kind of died with her.” Riley said, “This is the first year that I actually enjoyed it; having a Christmas dinner, getting a gift… oh!”
Riley suddenly got up and walked out of my bedroom. I smiled staring at her exposed back soaking in every toned inch of her. Her footsteps padded lightly on my imitation wood flooring. She climbed back into bed and held out a small bag to me. I leaned against the backboard of the bed and took it from her and reached in pulling out a long fabric necklace with a ring tied to it. I looked at the ring and saw a small engraving, At Last…
“I’m sorry it’s a day late,” Riley said, “The ring was a gift to me from my mom. She bought it when I was born. She always called me her miracle baby because of how long it took. Last night I was thinking, and I realized I’ve been waiting a long while to feel normal again. You’ve really helped.”
I kept looking down at the necklace fingering the ring soaking in every word.
“It’s silly, you don’t have to keep it or like it,” Riley said.
“No,” I put the necklace over my head, the metal of ring cold against the top of my stomach, “It’s perfect.” I leaned over and kissed her cheek.
I reached over and pulled her into me so that her head was resting on my chest.
“Wes?” Her voice was small.
“Why did you come here?” she asked again.
I ran my fingers through my hair, “Why does it matter why I came here? Can’t we just enjoy that we both found our way to each other?”
Riley looked up at me her green eyes searching my face, “Beatrice said that even after a year you’re still the same mysterious stranger you were when you arrived. I’m worried I’ll never know you. I have this feeling there is something about you I don’t know, and whatever it is, it’ll break me.”
I stroked along Riley’s jawline, “I can’t promise I’ll never hurt you,” Riley looked down and I lifted her chin up so that she was looking me in the eyes again, “But I can promise you that I have good intentions when it comes to you. You already know more about me than most in this town, and that includes Beatrice.”
Riley nodded her head. I leaned down and kissed her lips savouring the taste of her. I slid down until we were both laying on our sides scared that if I broke the kiss she would walk out the door. I lifted her leg and wrapped it around my waist so that the swell of my erection pushed up against the most tender part of her causing her to let out a small moan. I rolled her on top of me and let her kiss down chin, neck and chest slowly washing away my fears of losing her.