I returned to work two days later and explained to the restaurant manager my injuries. Jeff was shocked and was polite enough to ask me if I still wanted a few days off. I declined his offer because I needed the extra money I made through tips. Since my dress was torn, I had to wear my red one, which was even more daring. Jeff also informed me that a tall, handsome man had come to the restaurant one night and asked about me. My heart did a quick somersault since I knew who it was.
When Kathy found out what had happened, she enveloped me in a hug and apologized for leaving Diego and me alone that night. She seemed genuinely embarrassed, and I didn’t want to make her feel any guiltier.So, I told her it wasn’t her fault and that she wouldn’t have known something like that would happen.
“Kiara, can you take the order for table number five?” Diego asked me, his hands full with serving plates.
“Sure thing,” I said, picking up the iPad. I glanced at the table and was shocked to see who it was:
I stood glued to the spot near the kitchen area, drinking him in. Unlike the other day, Jasper was dressed in casuals—dark navy polo t-shirt over khaki trousers—with a five o’clock shadow on his jaw. He looked otherworldly, totally impeccable. He was looking around, and then he called Kathy. I saw him speak to her. She nodded her head and made her way towards me.
Kathy was grinning by the time she walked into the kitchen and grasped my hand. “Who’s that hot guy? And how does he know your name?”
I could feel my cheeks catching fire. “He’s the man who saved me that day,” I said proudly.
“He’s so gorgeous, Kiara. He’s too damn perfect!” I could already feel her mouth drooling. “And he’s asking for you. Don’t waste your time standing here and just go.” She literally pushed me towards the floor.
I stumbled and walked into the dining area. Jasper noticed me at once and passed me his infectious smile.
“Welcome back, sir.” I greeted him. “Would you like to order something?”
He chuckled. “That’s the thing, Kiara Reeves, I’m not here to order anything. In fact, I’m far from hungry. I just want to talk to you.” He placed his elbow on the table.
He wanted to talk to me?
Before I could answer that question, he asked, “What time do you get off work?”
“About an hour from now,” I answered.
Jasper nodded and flipped open the menu card. “I’ll wait. And while I wait, I’ll order for some Chow Mein.”
True to his words, he waited. I noticed his electrifying blue eyes watching me, unabashed. It wasn’t the first time I’d caught a man staring; I had experienced that a lot of times, but I could distinguish between lustful let-me-fuck-you-for-one-night looks and stares that were plainly looking at me with admiring eyes. His seemed to fall into the latter category. From behind the kitchen counter, I watched him eat the noodles with chopsticks. His hands looked beautiful, long-fingered and graceful. I could imagine what those hands could do to—
Snap out of it, Kiara. Since when did you start acting like a hormonal teenager?
Besides, to have Jasper’s hands over me, would be like a dream come true; a man as perfect and sophisticated as him would not date women like me. Women like me only got men like my father.
Drunk. Wasted. Women beaters.
The thought made me melancholic. When I was done with my shift for the day, I noticed Jasper wasn’t seated in the booth anymore. I realized he’d gotten bored of waiting and had left eventually, leaving behind a good amount of tip for me. My heart sank with disappointment. I wanted to talk to him. I hadn’t even gotten the opportunity to thank him properly when he’d gone out of his way to visit this restaurant just to make sure I was alright.
And I hadn’t even returned his jacket yet.
My car was still at the mechanic’s shop, so I either took the local bus or walked to and fro from work. Today, it was extra breezy. I stepped out of the restaurant, and the cool air assaulted my face, and there I noticed a shadow waiting in the dark.
I stepped back for a second until I saw who it was. Jasper stepped forward. “It’s me. I thought I’d wait outside for you.”
I tried to hand him back the money he left as a tip. “It’s a lot. I can’t accept that.”
“It’s your tip. Keep it,” he said with a warm smile, his hands lingering on mine for an extra second.
“Last time I accepted a tip, it didn’t work out that well for me.”
“Trust me, I’m not that guy,” Jasper said. “I won’t hurt you.”
I trusted him.
I shook my head. “You’ve done enough for me already. And your jacket, I still have it.”
“You can keep that as well. I’m sure it helps you sleep better at night.”
I giggled; first, at how funny he was and second, for he had hit the bullseye. I decided to tease him back. “How did you know that I sleep with it?”
“For one, I was right outside your window this past couple of days,” he admitted, “Next time, you better keep the blinds closed. You never know what types of stalkers are lurking in the dark, or perhaps even a psychopath.”
I laughed again. He grinned. I didn’t even remember the last time I’d laughed with someone. He was a hilarious guy. “You look beautiful when you smile,” Jasper complimented.
I pushed a loose strand of hair behind my ear shyly. “I haven’t seen you here before. Do you live around here?”
“I live in the next town. It’s a twenty-minute drive from your restaurant,” he answered as he dug his hands in his pockets. “So why didn’t you call me?”
I was taken aback by that question. “I... uh. I wanted to. I’m really sorry. I should have called you before. Then you wouldn’t have to come here all the way just to make sure I was alright.”
“Oh no. Did you think I came here for you? I was actually craving for some Chinese food.”
“That’s funny because I’m sure I heard you say you came to talk to me. So, what did you want to talk about?”
Jasper sighed. “If you don’t mind me asking, are you dating someone?”
My heart skipped a beat. That was quite an unusual question. “Yes.”
I swear I watched his features register disappointment. “Oh,” he said.
“Chris Hemsworth, that’s who I’m dating. He just doesn’t know about it yet. Neither does his wife,” I joked. If he could tease me, I was good at that game too. “I’ve had a crush on Thor for ages.”
Jasper burst out laughing, and I saw relief cross his face. “Well, I’m not that bad looking, am I? I just don’t have that much muscle and blond hair. I guess I’m lacking in those areas.”
I nodded. “Not really. You’re fine. I guess I can make do with dark hair and blue eyes.”
His brows arched up.
What the hell was wrong with me? I was openly flirting with him. I had never been the flirty type.
I realized that I was a different person altogether with Jasper. He made me feel free, made me laugh and blush, and most of all, he made me forget my screwed up life even if it was just for a while.
“Let’s get to know each other by being friends,” Jasper suggested. “Deal?”
“Sure. It’s a deal,” I said. I liked how he didn’t hold back on anything that was on his mind; he was so different from the men that I’d dated in the past. Those men were difficult to read, and even worse when it came to conversations. Jasper was at a very different level, he might as well be from another planet.
“Take care of yourself, Kiara,” he said before heading towards his car.
“Wait,” I called out, not wanting the conversation to end. He stopped short and turned. “I’ve wanted to ask you. That night in the alley, when...” My words were choked in my mouth. I willed myself to continue. “When that guy was trying to hurt me, how did you know I was there?”
“I had parked my car at the end of the street, near a rundown building, and I heard someone scream, so I thought I’d look, and I found you.”
“What if there wasn’t just one guy. What if there were three or five or more? They would have hurt you.”
“I didn’t think of that. It was an instinct to help someone in need.”
“If it sounds cheesy, I still want to say it. You’re nothing less than a superhero to me.”
His lips broke into a smile. “I don’t think I’m worthy of being a superhero.”
“To me, you are.” I insisted. “You saved me that day.”
Jasper reached his hand out to me. “Show me your phone.”
I stared at him for a moment, then rummaged my purse and retrieved the phone out of my pocket. He watched me carefully as I punched in the passcode and handed it over to him.
He typed away on my phone and gave it back to me. “There. If you need something, all you have to do is call your superhero. I saved his number in your phone.”
I laughed. “Okay.”
“How are you getting home?”
“I’ll take the bus.”
Jasper shook his head. “Come on. I’ll drive you home. It’s on my way.”
“Are you sure?”
* * *
To say Jasper was a nice guy would be an understatement. He had this really charming and endearing quality about him that I wasn’t able to describe. A few nights back, I saw a darker side of him. I saw the way his blue eyes blazed as he pounded the guy and threw punches. It probably had something to do with men hurting women that ticked him off. He seemed like an old friend I never had. Whenever I was within his close proximity, I felt my heart beat wildly, and it never happened before. Not with other men, at least. This was a new feeling.
This time, I didn’t even need to give Jasper directions. He drove to my house like he hadn’t driven there once but a lot of times before. He had a good memory. He stopped right outside my shabby driveway and pushed the gear into park. “So this is it.”
“Thank you for the ride home,” I said.
“If we are friends, you gotta stop saying thank you all the damn time,” he said with a friendly smile.
I liked it when he smiled. It just made the butterflies in my stomach more aggressive.
“If not a thank you, then how about this?” As if possessed by a daring spirit, I unbuckled my seatbelt, leaned in, and pressed my lips gently to his. I kept my lips lingering there for just a second before pulling away.
What was this man making me do?
“That’s something I approve.” He stared forward, towards the empty road.
“Would you like to come inside?”
He seemed to be lost in his thoughts for a while and then nodded. “Okay.”
I invited Jasper inside my home.
I felt a surge of excitement overcome me, the kind of feeling you have when you invite your high school crush over to your place. He parked the car and climbed out of it. I watched him curiously, eyeing the house before he followed behind me.