It’s been a few days since my aunt left for her trip to South America, and I’ve spent most of that time indoors, relaxing, reading, and writing—and avoiding the heat. But today, I need to get out of the house.
Before Jannie left, I asked her for the way to the closest cemetery, and that’s where I’m heading. Some people think I’m weird because I spend so much time at places like the graveyard, but it’s an excellent location to sit down and think when I need inspiration for my book. The quiet and peaceful solitude helps me clear my head and focus on the story I’m writing, and that’s exactly what I need right now.
When I reach my destination, I take a look around. Yes, this is perfect. It’s deserted like a place such as this usually is. But as I make my way through the rows of tombstones, I spot a figure sitting on the ground in front of a grave a few feet ahead.
The closer I get, the surer I am that I know the guy who sits there plucking the grass and rolling it through his fingers before throwing it to the side. He looks deep in thought as he stares at the tombstone in front of him. I almost feel sorry for him with that sad expression on his face, but then I remember how he unjustifiably yelled at me the other day, and my compassion towards him decreases.
Philip came by the day after his son, who I now know to be Aaron, had paid me a visit. He apologized for his son’s rude behavior and explained that the two of them always fight about his eating habits, which made Aaron snap. Philip reassured me he would tell him to make it up to me. But that is silly, of course, as we’re all adults here. No one needs to be told how to apologize.
And that’s why I’m about to turn around and avoid him like the adult I am when Aaron suddenly lifts his head and our gazes meet. He looks away, but his eyes dart back to me, and I see recognition in them. I consider waving and leaving, but he jumps up, wipes his hands on his shorts, and moves a step towards me. So I continue on my way until I stand in front of him.
He clears his throat. “Hey... Kaitlyn,” he says in a soft voice, and he gives me a smile that makes me utterly oblivious to the fact that I’m mad at him.
“Hi,” I say hesitantly. I want to say more, but he holds up his hand.
“I’m sorry about the other day,” he starts. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m not even gonna try to give you some lame excuse for my behavior. It was wrong, and I hope we can start over.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “Did your dad tell you to tell me that?”
He bites his lips before he answers, “Yeah, he did. I’m grounded until you accept my apology.”
I raise my eyebrows at him, and he grins at me mischievously. “Please say you forgive me.”
I study him for a moment, pretending to think about my answer. But to be honest, there is something about this guy with the slightly curly brown hair and hazel eyes that draws me in. Throw in his charming smile, and I don’t even care that he’s way too sure of himself.
Wow, what’s wrong with me? Must be the heat.
“Ah well,” I finally tell him. “I forgive you; I don’t want to ruin your plans for this summer.”
He throws his head back and laughs. “You’re the best,” he says. “That would have been an awfully dull summer.” He wiggles his eyebrows and stretches out his hand. “I’m Aaron, by the way.”
“I know,” I answer when I shake his hand. And just like that, my anger is gone. Yes, I question my sanity as well. But he apologized; that should count for something. And did I mention the dimple that appears on his left cheek when he smiles? A freaking dimple!
When I avert my eyes to prevent my cheeks from turning crimson, my gaze falls on the engraving of the tombstone he was sitting in front of. It says “Eric” and today’s date five years ago. But what shocks me is the date of birth. This guy was only twenty-two when he died.
I turn to Aaron, who follows my gaze and stares at the grave with a frown. I grimace. “A friend of yours?”
He glances at me before he lowers his head. “Yeah. He was my best friend.”
Wow, the mood changed a little too quickly for my liking. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I whisper.
He nods. “Thanks.”
“Overdose,” he says bluntly.
My eyes widen. “Oh,” is all I say.
Aaron takes a deep breath. “Anyhow.” He turns to me with his hands buried in his pockets, lifts his shoulders to his ears, and lets them go with a deep sigh. “Again, I’m sorry I yelled at you. I jumped to conclusions, and instead of stopping me, my dad let me rush headlong into disaster.”
And just like that, the mood changes back to light and playful when he gives me another amused smile. I guess we’re done talking about his friend.
“You kind of got in the middle of it all,” Aaron continues. “I fight with my dad over his health all the damn time.”
I nod. “I know; he told me.”
“But I’m glad you’re providing him with healthy food.” He smirks at me, and I chuckle.
“Healthy, yes. But I admit he gets some treats as well. He promised to be sensible, though, and not eat too many cookies.”
Aaron rolls his eyes with a laugh. “Don’t be blinded by his charms; he’s a smooth talker and will make you believe anything he says. I’m sure he eats way too many of those cookies. Especially the chocolate chips ones; they are delicious,” he adds with his alluring smile.
“Thank you.” This time, I can’t hide the blush that suffuses my cheeks, and I internally scold myself for letting a guy have this effect on me. Yes, Philip is a charming man, but Aaron is in no way inferior to him, and he’s not even trying hard.
“My dad told me you don’t know anyone here,” Aaron interrupts my thoughts.
I shake my head. “No, I don’t.”
“Do you know the ice cream parlor down the street from your aunt’s house?”
Again, I shake my head, and his smile widens. “Let me buy you the best sundae around then.” He starts walking. “If you don’t have any plans, that is.”
“Not really. So I’d love to have the best sundae around,” I laugh.
“Great,” he says, still smiling. “Come on, Kitty; let’s go.”
I stop in my tracks and glare at him. “Did you just call me Kitty?”
“Yeah, I did. Not good? Let’s go, Honeybee?”
“Kaitlyn. Just Kaitlyn,” I grumble. I’m not sure I like his obvious proclivity to give me stupid nicknames.
“Well then, just Kaitlyn. I want some ice cream now,” he says with a low chuckle, “so hurry up.” He rests his hand on my lower back, which makes my skin tingle, and again, I forget about how irritating this guy is. Who cares anyway when he’s going to buy me ice cream?
“Why were you at the cemetery?” he asks.
I cross my arms in front of my chest and throw him a glance. “I like the peace and quiet. It’s perfect for writing.”
He turns to me and tilts his head. “You’re a writer?”
A flush creeps across my cheeks, and I clear my throat. “Sort of. At least, that’s the plan. I just quit my job as an elementary school teacher so I can concentrate on finishing the book I want to get published at the beginning of next year.”
“Wow, that’s awesome. What do you write? Steamy romance novels?” he asks with a smirk, which makes me roll my eyes.
“No. I write mystery and murder.”
“Really? I’m intrigued. Can I read it?”
Aaron nods. “Oh, because. Makes sense.” He leans a little closer to me, and I hit his arm.
“Let’s talk about something else please,” I say with a sigh. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around this whole book thing, and I’d love to take my mind off it for a bit.”
He gives me a warm smile and nods. “Sure. Anything you want, just Kaitlyn.”
I roll my eyes yet again, but I can’t hold back a small laugh. He gently bumps his shoulder with mine, and I’m all of a sudden very much aware of his proximity. I register his spicy scent, and I remember how his hand felt on my lower back. I don’t know what it is that makes me feel so comfortable in his presence. Even in the short ten minutes I’ve been talking to him, he gave me the impression I have his full attention, which feels unexpectedly good.
On our way to the ice cream parlor, we talk about anything and everything, and I find myself enjoying his company more and more, and before I know it, two hours pass, and we return home, where we find Philip working in his front yard.
“Hey, Dad,” Aaron greets him.
When Philip looks up from clipping some small bushes at the edge to my aunt’s property, his eyes widen. “Kaitlyn, Aaron, hey! So I see you two are talking to each other?”
“Yes,” I tell him. “I ran into him, and he apologized. And when he bought me ice cream, I decided to let go of the grudge I held against him.”
Philip crosses his arms and studies us for a moment. “He bought you ice cream? Don’t tell me you’ve already forgiven him for his rude behavior. You shouldn’t make it too easy for him, Kaitlyn. Don’t be blinded by his charm.”
I laugh when Aaron rolls his eyes. “Wow, you two are very much alike. Aaron told me the same thing about you.”
“Did he now?” Philip asks with his eyebrows raised at his son. “Interesting. Well, Aaron, I think she shouldn’t let you off the hook that easily.” He turns to me. “Didn’t you say something about going sightseeing while you’re here? I’m sure Aaron would love to show you around. And he should throw in a nice dinner while he’s at it.” With his arms still crossed in front of his chest, he gives his son a smug smile.
Aaron takes a deep breath and holds it in before he slowly releases it. “Yes, Dad. Thank you for trying to arrange some leisure time activities for us, but I got it. So, bye.” He takes my arm and pulls me after him up to my front door. I wave Philip goodbye with a chuckle, which he answers with a wink.
Aaron only lets go of my arm when we reach the door. I turn to him. “It almost seems like your dad wants to set us up.”
He shrugs. “I wouldn’t put it past him. He seems to like you a lot. Maybe he thinks I should spend more time with nice people.”
I blink at him before I narrow my eyes. “Okay,” is all I say.
Aaron laughs. “But he’s right. If you want to, I can take you sightseeing. It’s been a while since I’ve done some touristy stuff in the city. Should be fun.”
I look at him with raised eyebrows. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” he says with a nod. “I don’t have to work tomorrow. Shall I pick you up at 10?”
Without taking even a moment to think about it, I tell him, “Sounds great.” I take a deep breath and smile at him. “Thanks for introducing me to the best ice cream around.”
He returns the smile with a wide grin. “You’re welcome. And sorry I kept you from writing today.”
I wave my hand. “Don’t worry about it. That ice cream was some pretty good compensation.”
“I’m glad you liked it.” The grin that is still on his face widens when he adds, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Buttercup.”
I press my lips together and frown. “You like that, don’t you? Irritating me with those names?”
“Yeah,” he says smugly as he tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. The short contact causes my stomach to flutter, and when he looks into my eyes, an almost electrical feeling rushes through me. But before I can give those weird sensations any more thought, Aaron turns around with a wave of his hand and walks off.
With a shake of my head, I go inside the house. I close the door, lean against it, and sigh deeply. Damn, I already know it’s going to be hard to resist that charm.