“Alright Clive,” I slapped down a ten dollar bill on the bar, “Thank you for the beer, and the talk but I better get home. No change.”
“Later man,” Clive took the bill and nodded his head at me.
I walked out into the cold December night. I reached my truck and heard a women yelling at someone to get off of her. I looked around and saw Riley by the diner trying to push someone off of her. I ran over.
“What the hell is going on?” I yelled and Jeremy turned to face me.
“I think she was trying to tell you to stop man,” I said to him.
“Mind your own business Wes. We aren’t at the shop.” Jeremy turned his attentions back to a scared looking Riley.
I grabbed his shoulder and spun him around.
“Get off me man,” Jeremy gave me a push.
I chuckled and then threw a punch. I hit him square in the nose and he went down.
“Don’t bother coming back to the shop,” I said to Jeremy who was on the ground holding his face groaning. I reached for Riley’s elbow, she flinched and then backed away; I held my hands up so she could see them. Her eyes were clouded with terror and it took all my self-control to not reach out to her and pull her into the safety of my arms.
“Riley,” I looked into her eyes, “It’s me.”
I watched as the fear began to disappear. I held out my hand and she took it. I led her to my truck and opened the passenger door. She got in, crossed her arms and looked down. I got into the driver’s side. I turned the truck on but didn’t put it into gear. We sat in silence for a moment. I watched as Jeremy stood up and walked to his car. He sped off sliding on the slick road as he tried to make a fast getaway.
“Thank you,” I heard Riley’s voice, small. Almost a whisper. But a beautiful whisper.
“Your welcome,” I responded, “Can I take you home to Winnie?”
“No!” she looked at me. Her green eyes big, “She’ll wonder why I’m home so early and I don’t want to tell her.”
I ran my fingers through my hair, “I’m not sure where to take you.”
“Your place?” she asked.
I was surprised that was where she wanted to go.
“Okay,” I replied and put the truck in gear.
We pulled up to my little home. I looked over at Riley who was staring straight ahead, “You want to come in?”
I got out of the truck and walked around to the passenger side where Riley had already started to open the door. I helped her finish opening the door and out of the truck. I closed the door behind her and we walked up the small path to my front door. I paused with my house key suddenly feeling self-conscious at the idea that she was going to see more into my life than anyone had in a long time and looked over at Riley. She gave me a half smile. I unlocked the door and opened it for her to enter.
I flicked on the light and watched as she looked around.
“This is cozy,” she commented as she took her jacket off.
She looked beautiful in the grey dress she was wearing – the back dipped down low and the dress clung to her perfect body.
I took her jacket from her, “It’s home.”
She walked towards my DVD collection. She smiled as she looked at the various titles I had. She pulled one out and giggled as she held it out to me.
“Tuck Everlasting?” she asked.
“That was a great book,” I defended myself.
“I agree, I’m just surprised to see the movie in your collection.” she smiled.
I walked over and grabbed it from her, “I’m known to watch movies based on books I read. I found it did a pretty good job – didn’t you think so?”
“If I’m being honest I’ve never actually seen the movie,” she admitted.
I gave a fake gasp, “Well we need to rectify that situation.” I handed the video back to her.
I walked towards the kitchen and took my jacket off, “I will make the popcorn and you pop that into the DVD player.”
There was no response so I turned around to see her looking at me her mouth open. I looked down at myself and realized that I was wearing a t-shirt and my tattoos were showing. My right arm had a full sleeve and my left had a half sleeve.
“I guess you didn’t know,” I said sheepishly.
“You always look so put together I never would’ve guessed.” Riley replied.
I rubbed the back of my neck a little embarrassed.
“Here,” Riley turned around and pulled her hair over her left shoulder, “Pull the dress to the right side a bit.”
I walked over and I could feel my breathing speed up as I reached out and gently pushed the fabric to reveal a small cartoon like star and rocket ship tattoo. Her skin was so soft and I wanted to touch it forever but I moved my hand. She turned around and smiled up at me. She was close enough to kiss but I knew that after the evening she had with Jeremy I shouldn’t. I looked into her eyes, it was first time that we had been this close that she didn’t flinch or move away.
“Why did you pick that?” I asked.
“I spent a lot of years dreaming of what it would be like to be far far away from Boston.” Riley replied.
My heart was thumping hard against my chest.
“Well, get that movie in.” I backed away and turned to the kitchen, “We have to get you cheered up.”
We were soon settled on the couch watching the movie. Riley seemed to be enjoying the movie and I couldn’t help but smile down at her while she watched. At some point Riley lay her head in my lap.
When the movie ended I looked down to say something and noticed that she was asleep. I grabbed the blanket from the back of the couch and draped it across her. I moved a piece of her black hair off her face and then reclined the seat of the couch that I was on the smell of jasmine wafting into my nose as I fell asleep.
My alarm woke us in the morning. I looked down to see Riley stirring. Her green eyes opened and looked directly at me. She suddenly bolted up.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed, “I’m so sorry Wes.” Her hair was disheveled and her make up smeared but she looked just as stunning to me as she had the night before.
“Riley it’s okay” I tried to reassure her by touching her arm.
She closed her eyes tight and backed away a bit. She looked down at her hands. Any progress I had made in getting her to trust me last night had obviously vanished with sleep.
I ran my fingers through my hair, “I’ll drive you home. Take the day.”
“No,” she shook her head, “It’s not in my job description to miss work because I had a bad date.”
I smiled at her tenacity, “Why do I think there is more than just a bad date?”
Riley let out a little sigh and I could tell she wasn’t going to say anything in response.
“I need to grab a quick shower. Do you need one?” I asked.
“No it’s okay. I’m assuming I don’t smell too bad,” she chuckled nervously.
You smell amazing Riley. You always do. If I had it my way I would spend the day tangled up with you breathing in your beautiful scent.
“You smell fine,” I replied, “There’s cereal in the cupboard and milk in the fridge if you’re hungry.”
“Starving,” she replied.
“Alright then,” I headed towards the bathroom.
After showering and changing into some different clothes I walked out to see Riley eating some cereal and reading a book.
“What are you reading?” I asked as finished buttoning up my shirt.
She held up my copy of “A Christmas Carol”. I nodded with a smile.
“You ready?” I asked.
She nodded and went over to the sink to quickly wash my bowl and spoon she used. She didn’t need to but I appreciated the consideration.
We walked out to my truck and I opened the door for her. She hopped in and I closed it behind her and we drove in silence to the shop. I unlocked the door and opened it for her.
“I’m going to run and grab some coffee,” I told her and she nodded.
I walked into the café and ordered two coffees making sure to make Riley’s to her liking. I felt bad having her work for me considering her encounter with Jeremy. I thought back to our night – it was so perfect but I couldn’t help but remember this morning when I tried to touch her arm. She was so hot and cold. I couldn’t figure out why. I decided that it was time to talk to her about it.
I walked back to the shop but when I arrived I saw Riley laughing and talking to Beatrice. I put the coffee down beside her and walked into my office to call Gus about Jeremy. Maybe today wasn’t the day to talk to her. I had bigger things to worry about – like how I was going to get all the deliveries out next week and keep the shop running. I picked up the phone and dialed.