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Stormy Nights C.M. Steele 2022/8/5 16:57:56

“And you’re still young before babies add stretch marks and the like.” She must notice me turning red, as she adds, “Relax—don’t be embarrassed. You are stunning. Are you going alone?”

“Yes. I kind of do almost everything alone.”

“That’s a shame. I don’t think that’s a good idea. There’s a lot of human trafficking going on, and sweetheart, someone like you who’s traveling alone becomes a big risk.”

“I know. I’ll be careful. I just need to get away.” I sigh, directing my attention to another rack. I’ve said too much. She’s a brilliant woman as well. She’s one of the first editors to work for Knight Publishing.

“I understand that. Anything you’re trying to get away from?” she asks, ducking her head to my face, trying to get my attention.

“No,” I lie, hoping that she believes me.

“My dear, you are running from a guy, aren’t you?” Damn it, the woman is like a spy. I need to use her in a book. The Interrogator. I shake my head because I am, but I can’t tell her that I’m in love with her son. It would be so awkward.

“I’m not running away from a guy. I’m running away from my feelings. Loving someone who doesn’t even know you really exist is hard to deal with. It’s time that I move on with my life, instead of hoping that he sees me as more.” She pulls me into her arms, hugging me like the mother I’ve always wanted. I don’t cry because I’m already uncomfortable.

“Thank you, Mrs. Knight. I promise that I’ll get over him.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he’s got his reasons. Some guys have a hard time making the moves. I remember when my husband hired me to be his first editor. The company wasn’t big, and he needed me, so he refused to make a move until I decided that two years of waiting was enough. I found someone else to take me on a date. He sent me flowers the next day to the office, and Nicholas smashed them against the wall before taking me into his office…and, well, that conversation is best left in our memories.” Her face turns red from the memory, but I’m not sure it’s from embarrassment or fondness. I want to feel that way thirty years from now.

Her phone goes off, and she picks it up on the third ring. “Where are you, woman? I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” Either he’s loud, or she’s accidentally put the phone on speaker.

“I’m at the store. I’ll be home in a little while,” she answers. “I’ve just had a pleasant memory that I think needs revisiting.”

“Then drop the items and come home. I’ll take you to the store tomorrow, woman,” he growls.

“Thank you. You’ve been wonderful. Have a great day,” I say with a wink. She leaves with a wide smile on her face. And that’s what I want years down the road.

Something made me feel like there’s hope for Nicholas and me. A girl can dream.

“Where is she, bro?” I ask, walking into my brother’s place scoping out the room for the mystery woman he’s been pining for.

“What the hell? How did you know?” Ian questions, jumping up from the sofa.

I laugh and shake my head. She’s here, and I’m betting in the bedroom. The lucky dog. I’m a little jealous. I’ve got to claim my woman soon and forget all the reasons that it’s wrong. “Come on, you think I’d let you get away with it. I had your neighbor next door let me know when you got home. That little old lady likes to gossip. I gave you a little time in case you wanted to rekindle the fire, but we waited long enough.”

I called my parents, so they came with me. I’m a dick, and well, at least one of us has someone. “She’s sleeping right now,” Ian whispers.

“It’s okay, son, we’ll be quiet.” Man, we’re going to have to wait to meet the special chick for Ian.

“Ooh look, pizza. Excuse me, I’m starving. We missed lunch being nosy,” I mutter, taking a bite out of the slice I confiscated.

“So, when is the wedding?” Mom asks, rubbing her hands together like an evil villain.

“Whenever she wants, as long as it’s sometime this week.” I can’t blame him. Tie her to him before she gets away again. Lillian’s soft, bright eyes come into my mind, and I want to do the same.

Pushing those thoughts away, I fuck with my little brother. “Ha. Bro, you’re so in love with her. Man, you fell for the girl who took your V-card.” But as an older brother, I have to tease him even though I’m aching to be in the same boat with Lillian.

“What are you sixteen, dickhead? Who cares about that?”

“Wow, so sensitive. Chill out.”