16 - "A Guy with a Girl"
When we arrived at The Chocolate Bar, I quickly grabbed one of their little baskets and began filling it with chocolate bars, chocolate covered Oreos, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate caramels, and chocolate covered rice krispies. I could hear Titus chuckling at my actions, but I did not care. I was stocking up while I was here.
“This isn’t a bar.” He commented.
“Well, it’s in the name.” I laughed as I continued to rummage through the various candies.
“You really love chocolate, don’t you?” He asked me when I skipped to the counter to order half a pound of fudge, chocolate turtles, peanut butter cups, and various other chocolates.
“I do but I’ll mostly just freeze a lot of these so it will last me a while. Now that I live with you, I don’t think I’ll be driving out here often.” I explained.
“We can in order to supply your love of chocolate.” He smiled down at me. The woman behind the counter settled her attention on Titus and batted her eyelashes, blatantly flirting in front of me. She was pretty but having her dark hair up in a ponytail and in a visor, with the polo uniform, did her no favors. Still, I thought she was extremely pretty and curvy.
“Darlin’, what did you want to order?” Titus asked, wrapping his arm around me, assuring the assistant and myself, that I held his undivided attention. I smiled at him and turned to the woman, who was clearly disappointed and writhing in envy. I gave her my order and once she had my chocolate wrapped up, I led Titus by the hand to the other side to view the cakes on display.
“The Tres Leche Cake is really good here, they have vanilla, but I prefer the chocolate. There’s also the ‘OMG’ Cheesecake made with Snickers, Oreos, brownie, chocolate mousse, and whipped cream with a chocolate drizzle.” I offered my favorites as he looked at the other fifteen different cakes, mostly all were chocolate.
“Sounds very chocolaty. It may be too rich for my taste.” He replied as he ordered the German Chocolate Cake and a Nutella Mocha. I placed my order of the cheesecake and a Texas Turtle Mocha. He insisted on paying for our dessert and all my sweet goodies, then we took a seat in one of the booths in the corner. Although it was fairly busy, it was not as loud as the restaurant. We managed to reminisce about our childhood and the antics we had found ourselves in.
“No! That is not how that happened.” I laughed as he brought up the time I broke the sliding door.
“I distinctly remember it was you who shot the BB gun, while jumping on the trampoline.” He accused me.
“It was not me. It was Hendrick who was on the trampoline with the BB gun. I was just an innocent bystander.” I gave him an toothy grin, one that showed my purity.
“Right. That’s why you got in trouble for it.” Titus continued and we laughed a little more.
“Hendrick had just gotten in trouble for somethin’.” I defended, “I think it was when he crashed the 4-wheeler into the pool. I didn’t want to add more to his sentence.” I shrugged.
“Considering he was supposed to be mucking the stalls. He still got in trouble.” Titus snickered loudly.
The conversation with Titus was easy, it flowed seamlessly and allowed me to get to know the Alpha version of him. We agreed on several things and although we had been apart for five years, it felt natural to spend time together. When we finished our desserts, I led us to the old bookstore next door. The smell of old novels and new releases in the old building brought memories of the endless hours I used to spend in this store. I noticed Titus’ eyes wondering around the large cases, looking straight at the old spiral staircase in the back that looked like it would break under a feather. To the left of the entrance there were old vinyl records, cassette tapes and CD’s.
“Ellie Mae?” He questioned. “What did we walk into? A time warp?” I could not help but laugh at the comment and walked straight to the romance section. “These books are used. I thought this was a bookstore not a library. The seam on this one is nearly nonexistent.” He commented, lifting an old, battered book up in the air.
“Hey, don’t diss Half Priced Books. There are books here older than you and I combined.” I tried to sound offended, but the smile on my face gave me away. “A lot of these books are previously owned, yes. But there are books here that can’t be found at Barnes and Noble.”
“So, explain the DVD’s, CD’s, and cassettes, when everything can be purchased digitally.” He continued.
“Well, what’s the fun in that? Besides, I would rather purchase the full series of Charmed on DVD for five dollars a season than spend twenty dollars a season digitally.” I argued, reading through the many titles that were on display in front of me.
“Touché.” Titus responded to my comment. “Can I help?”
“I’m not really looking for anythin’ specific.” I answered. “Just lookin’ to see what I find.”
“Okay.” Titus picked up a random book and began to read the back of it. He began to chuckle at the cowboy romance in his hand and commented on how silly it was.
“How dare you?” I whispered, taking the book away from him, keeping it for safekeeping. “That’s Diana Palmer and one of her Long, Tall Texans books. I love these.”
“Darlin’, the whole concept is…” He stopped when he noticed the look on my face. I had my eyebrow raised, daring him to finish that sentence. “Maybe I should look around.”
“Hmm… Maybe you should.” I nodded with a smirk on my face.
I had at least three books in my hand when I heard my name being called by a familiar voice at the end of the aisle. I looked over and found Gabe, one of my classmates and friends, who also worked in the store.
“Hey!” I greeted him. He came and hugged me, it lingered just a little longer than it needed to, making me feel uncomfortable.
“I stopped by your apartment yesterday when I couldn’t get a hold of you, but you weren’t there. I was worried.” He stated. I thought it odd that he had been trying to reach me.
“That’s weird. I didn’t get a call from you.” I replied.
“Yeah, with the flooding and school cancelation, then they found Davis’ car completely flooded under the I-10 overpass; turns out he’s wanted by the police. I was wondering if you or Selena knew why?” Gabe explained.
“Oh, I didn’t know they had found his car. Still, it’s not for me to tell why.” I responded, not wanting to give too much away. “How’s your book report for Professor Gutierrez’s class comin’? It’s due Tuesday.”
“You know me, the worst procrastinator ever. I was gonna work on it tonight. Wanna come over and help me?” He asked. Just then Titus rounded the corner behind Gabe. My eyes immediately met his and I smiled widely at him. I could never get enough of his tantalizing features. “Excuse me?” Gabe said as Titus bumped into him down the narrow aisle, at least that is what I told myself.
“I apologize. They don’t give you much room here.” He smirked and turned his attention to me. “We have to go. There is an issue at home that needs my attention. Are you ready to go?”
“Sure.” I said and he reached for the books in my hands and took them in his large one. “Sorry, Gabe. I wish I could help, but we have to go.”
“Well, if you want, I can take you home.” He offered, looking Titus square in the eyes. Titus stiffened at the comment. “If your date...”
“Titus.” He sternly gave his name, interrupting Gabe with authority.
“If it’s important for him to go home, then I can just drive you to your apartment. I get off in half an hour.” Gabe explained. “Like that we can make it a study night.”
“That’s kind of you to offer, but I don’t live there anymore, neither does Selena. We moved in with Titus.” I stated and looked up at my perfect mate, placing my hand on his shoulder to help calm him. It was clear that he was very jealous. “We should go.” I tangled my hand with Titus’ and walked in the opposite direction to the check out desk. Gabe followed alongside and stood behind the desk to ring us up. I saw that Titus had found a book too, one that belonged to a series. I quickly skimmed through the back of it, wondering if it was the first book in the series and what it was about. I approved and handed it to Gabe.
“So, how long have you two been together?” Gabe asked sharply.
“We grew up together. We got back in contact when I moved back to Houston.” I tried to keep it casual, not wanting to get too personal. I was already feeling very uncomfortable, and Titus was more than irritated with Gabe.
“You never mentioned a boyfriend before.” Gabe scoffed as Titus handed him a hundred-dollar bill. I knew he did not trust Gabe and chose to give him cash instead of a card.
“Sorry, I don’t have enough change to break it. I’ll have to get a manager to bring more.” Gabe said but it was clear he wanted to delay us on purpose.
“You know what. I’ll just use my card.” I said and quickly took it out and swiped it on the pin pad before Titus could protest. Gabe returned the bill to Titus, but not before Gabe could inquire about what Titus did for a living.
“Ranching.” Titus said through tight lips.
“That’s not a smart career choice. Being a ranch hand is a lot of work. Not a suitable job to sustain a family, Ellie. What ranch?” Gabe commented, causing Titus’ green eyes to turn dark. Gabe was purposely pushing Titus’ buttons out of pure jealousy. I grabbed Titus’ hand again trying to calm him before Atticus caused a scene.
“Gabe. Can I have my receipt?” I asked in frustration.
“I’m just saying Ellie. Living together is a hard commitment. Do you really see yourself marrying him? Living paycheck to paycheck?” Gabe continued his verbal assault. I felt a blended ball of hatred, jealousy, and anger rise from somewhere inside of me and I could not hold it back.
“Frankly, Gabe, my relationship with Titus is not your business. Titus and I do plan to spend the rest of our lives together and money is not an issue. Your concern for me is rather disturbing. I’m not sure what you thought my feelings were toward you, but if I misled you, it was not on purpose. Truth is, I was never interested in you. Nor am I still interested in your friendship.” I bluntly clarified in a strong tone that I did not recognize. Gabe’s anger was evident and the receipt in his hand was crumpled and torn, rendering it useless. I grabbed the bag full of books and dragged Titus out of the store with me.
We had not spoken a word on the walk back to the truck or in the first half hour of the drive back. Titus and I were both trying to calm our anger, never letting go of our hands except to get into the vehicle.
“What happened at home?” I asked once I remembered.
“A rogue attack. Somehow, they managed to get past all the patrols and rustled some cows. Not sure how many.” He stated.
“Rogues? Cattle rustling?” I was baffled, who knew cattle rustling was still a thing.
"A Guy with a Girl" by Blake Shelton
Sorry for the delay. Recently found out I'm pregnant with my 3rd baby and morning sickness (more like all day sickness) has been rough. Hoping to keep writing soon. Thanks for the support and don't forget to follow me on the Facebook at Valeria Amanda Fan Base for updates. Also my Instagram is tex_mex_inkslinger .
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