Sadly, Monday arrived all too quickly and Anna was once more back at work.
“So, how did Friday night’s talk go Anna?”
Turning from putting her purse up, she saw Renee in the doorway.
“I suppose I should have called you,” Anna said feeling guilty. “It’s a long story though, so can we wait until lunch?”
Renee nodded. “Can I have the short version now though?”
“Okay, um… I talked, he didn’t like my answer, things got ugly, I became a ‘damsel in distress’ and was saved by my ‘knight in blue jeans’. Then I spent the rest of my weekend getting to know said ‘knight’,” Anna told her a smile bursting from her as she thought about her weekend with Eric.
Renee’s eyes were wide. “Oh, boy, you really should have called me. How am I supposed to function and work now after you drop that bombshell on me?”
Anna laughed. “Hey, you asked.”
“Yes, yes I did,” Renee muttered as they walked out of the office. “So, this new guy, friend or more?”
Anna gave a deep sigh as her heartbeat picked up as it had never done with Mark.
Eric had left this morning, after telling her to be careful and to call him if she saw Mark. His concern for her made her feel all warm and gooey inside. Anna told him she would and, as he had stood at her door, he’d glanced down at her lips. He’d looked like a man longing for a kiss, yet he’d refrained from taking one. It was as if he knew she wasn’t quite there yet and didn’t want to rush her.
Anna sighed again as she thought about how hard it had been not to sneak into bed with him Saturday and Sunday night. She’d laid awake for a long time thinking about how good it would feel to snuggle into his warmth once more.
But she wasn’t quite ready to completely let her walls down, not after just one weekend. She was still scared to trust herself and her feelings. Still scared to trust that he wouldn’t hurt her. So, she’d kept things friendly, just as she’d done with Mark, hoping the whole time that things would end differently.
“Well?” Renee’s inquired.
Anna shook her thoughts away at the sound of Renee’s voice, answering, “Sorry. I want to be his friend, but unlike with Mark, I want Eric and me to be so much more.”
“So, you’re ready to move on from Gary?”
“Yeah. Oh, Renee, I want… I want Eric to be the one!”
Renee giggled. “The one?”
“Yeah, the one. You know, my soulmate, my forever love. Don’t you feel that way about Ryan?” Anna asked her.
A dreamy look crossed Renee’s face. “Oh, yeah!”
Anna nodded. “Good, I hope he feels that way about you too.”
Renee looked at her solemnly. “Anna, didn’t you feel that way about Gary, at least at first?”
Anna stared at Renee as she dug deep inside herself for the answer to that question. Had she felt like Gary was her forever love? No.
“No, Renee, I never did. Looking back, I realize there were problems even at the beginning. Gary made me feel like I’d be stupid not to love him. I was young and impressionable, I suppose, and my dad liked him. So, I thought, why not give in and marry him.”
“So, you married him for the wrong reasons?” Renee asked then.
“Sadly, now that I look back, yes. I guess it’s true about hindsight being 20/20.”
“This Eric guy, what about him?” Renee asked, raising her eyebrows.
“The moment I looked up into his eyes I was lost. They drew me in, and I felt warm, cared for as if I’d been waiting my whole life for him. When he put his arms around me, I felt safe and all the lonely feelings I’d been battling for the last few weeks were suddenly gone.”
“Huh, I don’t think I felt that when Ryan and I met!” Renee exclaimed.
“Yeah, I still plan to take it slow though, one day at a time. Now let’s get to work.”
And that’s what they did until lunchtime. Then, she and Renee had their talk about what had happened over the weekend. Renee wasn’t happy, at all, and felt a bit guilty since she’d been the one to introduce them. Anna told her it was all good because, in the end, she’d met someone much better!
Later, at five, after the doors were locked, Anna found Eric waiting for her next to her car. She grinned as her good day became even better.
“Hey, I know you. I’ve seen you working with Ryan!” Renee exclaimed. Then slapped Anna’s arm. “You didn’t tell me he was a co-worker of Ryan’s!”
Anna laughed at her, even as she hugged Eric, so happy to see him. “Must have slipped my mind.”
“Pft, right,” Renee said with a snort.
“You’re Renee, right?” Eric asked.
“That would be me,” Renee answered.
“I’ve heard Ryan, and now Anna, talk about you. Nice to finally meet you. I’m taking Anna to the Steakhouse to eat, perhaps you and Ryan would like to join?”
“I’ll take a rain check. We’re meeting up with his parents and mine tonight to iron out our wedding plans,” Renee replied. Then with a wave, she was gone.
Eric pulled her into his arms. Giving her a tight hug as he breathed in deeply, his nose buried in her neck. It seemed like a strange thing to be doing, but she didn’t complain because she was in his warm embrace.
“I missed you today.”
“I missed you too,” Anna told him back.
Pulling back, he asked, “Dinner?”
And that’s how things went for the next couple of weeks.
Eric would surprise her at work most evenings, though he had been called away a couple of times due to security issues at the construction company. He explained it to Anna after the second time it happened though.
“Tanner Construction is a huge company. We get calls for our builds all over the US.” Eric had told her.
“I understand big, but security?”
“We buy a lot of our supplies and have it in surplus. We also have some expensive equipment. We have surveillance cams and someone who monitors them 24/7. Security alone employees twenty people.”
He chuckled. “I’m the head of the department and very seldom am called but…”
“Sometimes they just need the big dog on campus,” She said with a chuckle.
“Yeah, sometimes,” he agreed with a chuckle of his own.
So, even with him leaving sometimes, they still had fun. Eric always made it up to her somehow later.
It was Friday again, and Eric was going to be out of town.
Oh, lonesome me. Anna huffed. Earlier today Eric had left for some big meeting out of town he couldn’t get out of going to. So, tonight she was on her own and the thought almost had her pouting.
“So… any plans for tonight?” Renee asked.
“No, I’m thinking pizza delivery and a good book,” Anna answered.
“But it’s Friday night. Ryan must be at that meeting along with Eric so… I was thinking girl’s night?”
“I don’t know Renee,” Anna said, giving her a long look.
“Come on! We haven’t seen anything of Mark, and Ryan said he quit after telling them he was moving back home cause his mom needs him or something,” Renee said almost in a whine trying to make Anna see things her way.
“I know that because Eric told me but… as I told him, something about it doesn’t ring true. Not from the little Mark told me about himself,” Anna argued.
Renee continued to stare her down with a pouty face.
“Okay, fine! Tell Ryan where you’re going, just in case.”
“Yay! I know just the place. You know that little club on the outskirts of town?”
Anna wrinkled her nose. “A club, really Renee?”
“Don’t be a stick in the mud! They’re having a live band there tonight and I want to hear them. I’ve heard they’re really good,” Renee wheedled trying to get her way.
“Fine, now back to work,” Anna agreed with a resigned sigh.
Renee almost skipped away as Anna pulled her phone out of her pocket. She quickly texted Eric telling him what Renee had talked her into. He told her to be careful because the club was out in the middle of nowhere and to make sure she had a full tank of gas.
Anna giggled at his worrying over her. Regardless, she told him she would before putting up her phone and going back to work.
Five o’clock rolled around way too fast.
“Oh, Anna!” Renee twittered as she almost skipped along on the way to their cars. “I’m so excited about tonight.”
Anna shook her head because she was not excited at all. She’d never been into the club scene and the thought of the two of them going alone? It gave her a bad feeling in her gut.
“Can’t we just do dinner and a movie or something?” Anna asked, trying one last to change Renee’s mind. “Better yet, how about a movie at my house and a sleepover?”
“No! We are man-less tonight and I’m going to take advantage,” Renee said mulishly.
Anna threw up her hands in an ‘I give up’ gesture. She knew when she was beaten.
“Now, wear something sexy, we don’t want to look out of place,” Renee demanded as they reached our cars. “We’ll meet up there about seven-thirty. The band goes on at eight.”
“Sexy? Renee, I’m not looking for a man,” Anna argued then, only to be ignored. “Sexy, as if.”