Pieces of Me (A Pieces Novel)

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Chapter 28 - Danica

I’m in love with him. As I sign three of my books for a reader, I can’t help my smile. I was just seconds away from telling Aldrich how much he really means to me. That I am in love with him. No. That I love him. I glance over my shoulder, trying to remain subtle as I look over at my man. That’s who he is, my man. And he stands in the spot where I left him, watching me with protective and caring eyes. I look back to the book I am signing and chuckle softly to myself.

“He is your beloved one, no?” the older woman says with a knowing smile.

“Maybe,” I reply, closing Soul Bond and opening the front of Aching Heart.

“The way he is looking at you,” she goes on, lowering her voice. “So much love are in those eyes. You have yourself something wonderful. Don’t doubt his affections for you.”

I stop writing and look up to meet her eyes. And what I see in them tells me that she knows many things. She reminds me of Gram a little bit as she smiles and winks. I laugh and stack the books as I start to hand them back to her.

“Thank you,” I tell her as she turns to walk away.

Pobrini se za ovo, mladiću!” she calls to Aldrich. “Ona će učiniti da srećniji nego bilo koji drugi devojka tamo.

I turn to Aldrich, wondering what she might have said, because he’s blushing. Aldrich is blushing. And it’s adorable. I smile when he looks at me. He returns a lopsided smile that makes me want to melt. Just as I am about to call out to him, my phone rings. And I recognize the ringtone. I grab my phone from the table and quickly answer.

“Charlie!” I shout in my best British accent. “Charlie, that really hurt!”

“Danica!” he shouts back, and his relief is evident in his voice. “When are you going to come back home! I need my sister!”

I laugh, “Charlie, it’s so great to hear from you right now.”

“Yeah, same, sis. Why haven’t you called since before getting to Serbia?”

I grimace, “Um . . . Right I totally sidestepped talking to you and the Old Ones.”

A hand touches my shoulder and I look up at Aldrich’s concerned face. No doubt he has heard what I just said.

“Charlie,” I say as Aldrich pulls me up from the chair and then back down in his lap. “What I’m about to tell you . . . please don’t freak out, okay?”

“Don’t hold me to it, but okay,” he replies after a moment. “When you say something like that, you know a freak out is inevitable.”

“Touche . . . Okay, well . . . Let’s just say my first day here was not ideal. Just hours after talking to you about Gramps . . . I was kidnapped.”

I hold my phone away from my ear, because Charlie starts shouting at me. Inevitable freak out. Check.

“How could that happen?!” he says, and boy is he furious. “Danica, why wouldn’t you tell us something like that? Were you hurt?! Did you call the police or something?!”

“Charlie,” I say, closing my eyes with a sigh. “I’m okay now . . . Aldrich sensed something was off and got people to look for me when he realized I hadn’t returned to the hotel.”

“Aldrich? Who’s Aldrich?”

“That guy I have been emailing and chatting since my tour started.”

“He was there? He lives there?”

“Yes, and I had briefly met him when I arrived, though I didn’t know it was him until later.”

“Okay,” Charlie says, and I can just see him trying to conjure a possible scenario in his head. “So . . . Tell me the story, don’t leave anything out . . . And thank Aldrich on my behalf.”

I sigh and explain everything. It doesn’t bother me to talk about, which is great. Charlie remains silent. As does Aldrich, except he is holding my waist and resting his head on my shoulder. I smile at the gesture and then he’s kissing my cheek.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Charlie says when I am about to explain Aldrich taking care of me at his place. “But what in the world as that loud smooching sound I just heard? Are you playing a kissing scene on a movie next to the phone, or something?”

I can’t help laughing at how my brother is trying to get info while trying to keep this conversation light.

“Or something,” I say softly, turning my head to look in Aldrich’s eyes. “Aldrich kissed my cheek.”

“Oh . . . He’s next to you?” Charlie asks in a curious tone. “Hmm . . . sounds to me you are repeating history, Danica. Should I alert Gram that you met someone over there?”

“Don’t you dare say a word!” I scold, my cheeks burning. “If anyone is going to tell the Old Ones anything, it’s going to be me . . . And I’m not going to gossip with you, big brother. That’s what my books are for.”

He chuckles, as does Aldrich, who has his ear pressed against the other side of my phone. I blush because he can hear everything.

“I hope he knows what’ll happen if he hurts you,” Charlie says, raising his voice as if he knows Aldrich is listening. “If I have to get on a plane and come over there to make my point clear, I will.”

Aldrich takes my phone from me and puts it to his ear.

“I have no doubt that you would,” he says, tightening his arm around my waist. “ . . . Of course, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to her either . . . It took a few days, but my father has contact with many important figures so . . .”

Aldrich’s gaze never leaves mine while he talks to my brother. He fills in some of the blanks, scenes that took place while he tried to find me. I can see the relief, and the pain, in his eyes. He really did worry when he couldn’t find me, when he thought he would never find me. I kiss his cheek and press my forehead against the side of his head, wrapping my arms around his neck. If I am being honest with myself, I cannot be more grateful for knowing Aldrich. Grateful that he did everything in his power to come find me when something felt off.

I know it is too soon for such feelings, but I really am in love with Aldrich. I thought I was in love with the few guys I dated in high school and college. But what I am feeling right now is definitely not what I was feeling with them. I’ll wait a little longer before saying anything. I don’t want to pour my heart and only to learn that Aldrich does not feel the same way, completely. That would suck.

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