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Chapter 3

My brother rushed over to me and checked me over.

"Are you, okay? Concern heeps out from his voice. I felt better now that he was here. Less frantic. Someone I knew.

"Yes and no, I think I might be fired. I said things then I threw my apron on the floor and walked out. But now I don't know what to do. Do I go back? What if Sally yells at me?

Tears filled my eyes, and now this man has seen me in my most vulnerable state just being me but this is not usually even the worst of stuff that has happened to me. Sad to say there's been worse and sad to know that I know this won't be the last.

"Take a deep breath, let's go talk to her. He is calming me down.

"Thank you, Erik, for staying with her."

He shook my brother's hand.

"No problem. I really should be going. But I will see you around Sunshine."

"In a while crocodile."

He left with a huge smile that filled his whole face. I can't help but smile back. He winked as he got into his lavish sports car. My dad would love his car.

"Does my sister have a crush? Luke interrupts me lost in dreamland.

"If you mean; countable ​informal feeling of love and admiration for someone but is often someone you know you cannot have a relationship with. Probably just a schoolgirl crush. Then yes!

"Why do you think you cannot have a relationship with him? My brother asks. I know he was still trying to calm me down before we go back inside.

"Cause he thinks I'm crazy and he's a manwhore."

"A man wore, I repeat," it came out louder then I meant to, I placed my hands over my mouth as people walked by laughing.

"Easy sis. First things lets see if you still have your job."

"Okay." I take a deep breath before I head back inside.

"Morning sir, what can I get for you today? Sally plastered on her try to get any guy to see her smile.

"This is my sister was there some issue?

"She was being loud and making our customers uncomfortable." She had her sly smile that I could tell she was hiding from my brother. But I could see the slight curve in the corner of her mouth.

"I didn't mean to," I say.

"She doesn't mean any harm." My brother defends me.

"She's not right for this job."

"She is faultlessly capable of doing this job." He is trying to defend me.

"Okay. She can stay but she can't be loud or act weird."

"Weird is ok. Erik thinks it's cool." I say.

"Can you be nice. Please. I'd like a coffee and I am going to sit here and if I hear you be unkind to her I will be speaking to the owner of this establishment."

I love my brother he always sticks up for me.

"I'll be good. Sorry, Everly." But she sounds insincere. Like it's just a front.

"That's okay. I'll go clean the toilets."

"Really the toilets? He looked pissed.

"Yes, really." She crossed her arms across her chest trying to act authoritatively.

"You should have a cleaning company do that not your staff."

"It's not up to me it's just how it is." She shrugged her shoulders.

"And let me guess it's only when Everly is here? His arms were crossed over his chest.

"We all rotate and take turns."

She's so lying. She doesn't ever clean the bathroom. It's only me.

I walk off and pick up my apron that is still on the floor. I had also dropped the bag that Erik had given me. I take it with me and smiled as I checked out the contents. There was a brand new black sketchbook and package of brand new already sharpened pencils. And he also put in a pink rose that stuck out of the coil binding of the sketchbook.

I pull out the rose and lift it to my nose smelling it. My favourite colour is pink and my favourite flowers are rose and daisies. I tear up feeling special for a moment. Know one has ever given me a gift other than my parents. But a complete stranger just went out of his way to buy me stuff.

I go back to the back room and put my gifts in my cubby and smiled seeing it sit nicely. So pretty. I tied my apron back on and tap my heels then did the bathroom cleaning.

When I was done I washed my hands and then walk out and entered behind the counter. I noticed my brother was still here, I waved him over. He got up and grabbed his cup of coffee and walked over he leaned again the counter.

"You can go."

"Are you sure? He looks me in the eyes.

"Yes. Thank you for coming."

"Shoot I forgot your bag and lunch." He just realized.

"I'll be ok." I have my new pencils and notebooks now so I will be ok. It'll be hard not to have my peanut butter sandwich.

"What about your sketchbook and lunch?

"Here." He pulled out a 20 dollar bill and placed it in my hand.

"Thank you."

"I'll be here a 3 pm."

"Okay, bye."

"See ya." He smiled at me then walked away. I can feel Sally's eyes on me. I helped the next customer. I stared at the floor asking what they want.

"What can I get for you?

"Morning Everly I'll have my usual." Immediately I knew by his deep voice that it's Russo Costa our regular customer. He's a Lawyer at Mariano and Costa Law. He's always nice.

"That's the black coffee with the Cannoli?

"Right! His strong voice spoke kindly.

Cannoli are Italian pastries that originated on the island of Sicily and are today a staple of Sicilian cuisine. Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta.

I know this cause I have been studying baking that's what I want to do eventually. But it's probably a long shot. Mr. Costa roots derived from Italy. He was born in Sicily. He told me when I asked him cause I was curious about his accent.

"I'll get that right away," I say politely.

"Thank you." He said nicely.

I clap my hands three times, it's one of my quirks. I get his coffee I see Sally laughing at me.

"What's so funny? I asked.

"Nothing." She snickered.

I turned and tripped over Sally's foot I fell on the floor dumping the coffee all over the place, glass shattered on the floor. It was so loud. Great. Tears filled my eyes. What a mess. I can't believe this. This is the worst day ever.

"Oh, dear. Are you alright Everly?

"Yes." I stood up and hurried out to grab the Broom. I came back and Sally served Calvin and apologized for my clumsiness.

"It's quite alright. Have a good one Everly."

"Y-you too." I let out a sob feeling so embarrassed. I cleaned up my mess. Feeling stupid. The rest of the day went alright. I stayed away from Sally and just cleaned the tables. And offered refills to customers.

I heard the belly ring and I looked up and smiled when I see Erik. I clapped my hands excitedly. My stomach felt like it did a somersault.

"You're back?

"I said I would." He walked over to me. I shyly ran my hands through my hair and bit the corner of my lip feeling shy in his presence.

"Yes, you did." I can't help but smile. He really came back. I thought I would never see him again.

"Want to go get a bite to eat?

"Mmm, is it close or far? I asked as I get nervous if I don't know where I am going. I like the routine.

"Close."

"How close, just so I know how much time I have."

"How long is your break?

"20 minutes."

"Okay, then it's about 5 minutes." He confirms.

"Mmm, ok." I can't believe I said yes to him. I don't usually change up my routine but having seen him be kind to me and actually go out of his way to make sure I was ok and he never once laughed at me or made me feel bad.

I want to be more like people where you just do things spontaneously. It just terrifies me. I walked over to Erik.

"Let's go sunshine." He reached his hand out and slid his hand in with mine. I quickly pulled my hand back.

I don't do well with physical contact. Especially with someone, I don't know.

"Sorry."

"I...its...me...s-sorry."

"I get it you don't trust me yet."

"Right. You are still a stranger. Maybe this is a bad idea. Strangers; a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar."

"I shouldn't do this." I didn't know what to do.

"Everly look at me."

"I look up but I avoid his eyes."

"Look at me, please."

I force my eyes to look at him. But it only lasted a moment.

"If you are not comfortable with me I can leave but I think we are over being strangers and what better way to become no longer strangers then to get to know each other?

I ran what he said over in my mind a few times. He's right. If I get to know him we are no longer strangers. And I have heard the strangers as someone you just haven't met yet. But the strangers I have met don't usually amount to anything.

I tend to stay to myself and not look for more than what I have and bringing someone in that could mess up my routine.

"Well. That does sound good. And you are nice to look at."

"Hahaha, you are adorable."

"Is that a good thing, or am I like an adorable pet?

"It's a very good thing. And no you are not like an adorable pet, you are like an adorable girl that I would like to get to know."

He opened the door for me and I step through but my shoe caught on the door ledge and I lost my footing but his hands quickly wrapped around me to keep from landing on my face once again.

"Easy there." his voice is close to my ear as he speaks. "I might have to carry you if you keep on falling."

"That would be weird."

"Or, weirdly cool and less of you getting hurt."

"Okay, so which way?

"Straight ahead." He pointed straight ahead.

I see a horse-drawn carriage out front of the coffee shop. Two beautiful black horses with a white carriage hooked up to them. It was like in the movies or a fairy tale. I felt like a princess. He can't be serious this must be a joke.

"That's our ride like we sit in there?

I looked around to make sure this wasn't for someone else.

"Yeah." He assured me.

"Uh...I don't know." This is different and new. What if__

"Just a little ride. If you hate it we can get off."

"Ok. But you promise?

"Promise."

"Pinky swear?

"Hahaha, pinky promise."

I reached out my pinky and curl it around his. Which was about my extent of physical contact and even this was a stretch.

"Okay." I walked over to one of the horses and ran my hand over his face. The horses were beautiful. I love horses they make me feel normal and safe they don't judge me or make fun of me.

I can touch them. I fell the world stop and this is a moment that makes me feel good. Alive and see this is beauty in the world.

"Hey, beautiful." I ran my hands along the horse's side then back up to its face.

"You like horses?

"Very much. We have a stable and my horse stays there."

"A true cowgirl?

"Just a girl who loves horses."

"Let me help you up." He offers but I don't take his hand I climb in all by myself.

On the seat is another pink rose. I picked it up and smelled it.

"Did you do this??

"Yes."

"Did you know that pink is my favourite colour?

"I did not. But I do know." He takes a seat beside me. His leg was touching mine. I moved over to the end of the seat. I don't do well with contact. Touching and being intimate. The only ones who hug me are my mom, dad and brother.

"I don't bite."

"Oh, good."

"Hahaha. You are quite a treat."

I clapped my hands three times then touched my right ear.

"Excited? He asks.

"Anxious," I reply.

"Would this make you feel better if I told you I was anxious too."

"No way. You? I am very surprised by this. He seems so put together as if nothing could unsettle him.

"Ahuh." He hummed in his reply.

"I don't believe it. You are very well put together." I shook my head.

Erik's POV

Damn this girl is seriously so different but in a good way. She's not fake or trying to impress me or get me into bed to get my money. She's just down to earth and real.

After I left her I went down the street and grabbed a new sketchbook and pencils. She was so distraught I felt I needed to do something. She was so cute being all shy. Then she called me a hunk. I liked she just said whatever came to her mind.

She was on my mind all day. Like I couldn't concentrate on my work. So I decided to try and impress her, especially after she had quite a bad start to her day. I wanted her to keep smiling. I called her brother and asked him what her favourite colour was and my favourite flower was.

I'm not usually this nervous being around a woman. Usually, I just walk right up and flirt and do my seductive charm to get into there pants or skirts. But Everly isn't that girl that I can tell. She's shy and innocent. She does these cute quirky things I noticed. Like she talks really fast and she knows a lot about things and I can tell her wheels are turning with all this information.

Like when she tied my shoelace that was so cute and then she rambled on about how unsafe it was.

Which is kind of funny as she's tripped like twice today.

Her brother seems nice and he told me I should stay away if I'm using her. I promised him I wasn't. He asked me out for drunks tonight he wants to get to know me to make sure I am a good guy I guess.

I've never been grilled before or been brought home to meet the parents. I'm never with a girl longer than a few nights.

I've had a woman just use me for my money, nothing substantial, oh and the one girl I did want more than a fling with stole money from me and was giving it to her and her husband. That was three years ago. I have not been a relationship since.

I am so nervous that Everly will not accept my past and how I have been with countless women.

But I get nothing from these women. Maybe I want more.

Hopefully, I don't blow it with the brother. Cause he doesn't seem like he would let me near her if I had bad intentions.

And honestly, I don't have any bad intentions. Yes, my dïck goes hard when I see her. And I think she's beautiful and her body is drop-dead gorgeous. She's slender and curvy. Her hair is luscious and long.

I gently reached out as she had moved away from me. Usually as a sign to stay back. Fuck. I've never had trouble getting woman, why did I want this one so bad? Cause I've never met anyone like her.

"I don't bite."

"Oh good!

"Hahaha, you are quite a treat." She really was I wanted to taste her sweet lips that had me hoping she was feeling the same way.

"You are a treat too." She's not looking at me. Her hands are trembling and her legs were bouncing up and down like she's nervous.

"Everly do you want to get off? I feel bad if she's stressing this bad. I thought she might like this, but obviously, I was failing so badly.

"No. This is fun." She clapped her hands again.

"Are you sure?

"Yes. Yes...

"Ok."

"How old are you? I asked, my guess is she's young about 21/22.

"I am 22 years old."

"Wow, just a young thing, huh? Damn, she's young but somewhere inside me, I want this one. Like she's amongst all bright stars in this world and she's the one that shines the brightest. Fuck what is going on with me? I rake my hand through my hair feeling overwhelmed and scared as shit.

"I am an adult just like you." She says and finally looks up at me briefly then averts her eyes again.

"Yeah, you are."

"How old are you? She asks me.

"28," I reply.

"Oh wow. You are the same age as my brother, you could be friends with my brother." She smiled so big her fingers tapped on the seat rhythmically.

"Cool."

"I made some lunch if you want it?

I pulled out my brown paperback with two sandwiches I made. I asked her brother also what she liked to eat he said peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crust cut off and cut onto fours. I thought it was cute so I made us both for us.

"Wow...you made me food? She asked alarmingly. Like she doesn't trust me.

"Yeah."

"I only eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch and I like it with...

I placed the sandwich on the seat and slide it across.

"Wow. How did you know? She asks me suspiciously. I could see she was trying to solve it.

"Just a guess." I tease her.

"This is so weird. You know a lot about me. Are you psychic? She giggled.

"Nah. Just resourceful."

"Like a spy? She turns slightly toward me.

"You could say that, yeah."

"I know." She said loudly as she jumped up and fell back losing her balance.

The driver shook his head.

"Easy there."

"What do you know?

"You asked someone about me? She looked up at the sky like she's trying so hard to figure this out. It was adorable.

"You are getting hotter."

"Did you look at my Instagram? She guessed.

"I asked your brother," I admit nervously hoping she's mot weirded out or upset that I asked him.

"Ohh...you are sneaky." She tapped her finger against her temple.

"I Just wanted to impress you," I admit to her. Hoping she take this as I was trying.

"Why?

"Because I like you." Shit, what if she doesn't feel the same way? Now my legs were bouncing nervously.

"Like me how? She seemed perplexed...like she doesn't get guys asking her out all the time. Look at her shes stunning. Her cute button nose her chipped nail polish her beautiful blue eyes thst I wish would look at me longer than a fluttering second.

"I don't know I just feel something." I rubbed my hands on pants they felt sweaty and they were trembling. Now, who's shaking like a leaf.

"Politely I have to stop you before you fall head over heels in love with me."

Hahaha, damn shes probably right.

"Hahaha, oh yeah?

"I can't be with you." She says matter of factly.

"Why not? Damn, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

"Cause I am not normal. I'm not like other girls."

"That's why I like it."

"STOP!!! She shrieked loudly. Her voice was shaky. The driver of the horses stopped abruptly. He looked pissed.

She climbed out of the carriage and was mumbling something. I was trying to talk to her but it's like she couldn't hear me.

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