You can read the previous parts here.
Adam glanced up at Nick as he placed a pint of IPA in front of him. “So? What?”
“When are you going to tell her how you feel?” Nick asked leaning against the bar.
Adam savored his first sip. It had been a long day and he had been looking forward to this beer for hours. It didn’t disappoint.
He shook his head as he placed the glass on the coaster. He didn’t need to ask who Nick meant. Mary. He’d been in love with her since she and Tammy had met in their first year of high school. But falling in love with your younger sister’s best friend had seemed a little taboo at the time considering he was a junior. Now it just felt like the opportunity had passed. More than once he’d heard her say that he was just like a brother to her. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin. Except. Damn, no woman came even close to being like her. Spontaneous. Full of life. Caring. Funny. He’d had it bad for a really long time.
“You’re kidding, man,” Nick said. “She’s available. You’re available. Ask her out on a date.”
Adam scoffed. “Right.”
“I’m serious. Man, I can relate…” Nick said. His next sentence drifted away as Mary appeared with six packs of Bud Light to put on ice behind the bar.
She glanced between them, her eyes still rimmed with red.
“What happened to you?” Nick asked. “You look like somebody ran over your dog.”
Adam rolled his eyes at Nick as Mary hastily disappeared into the storage, a hiccupping sound following her.
“Crap. Don’t tell me a dog got hit,” Nick said.
“Yep. And she got laid off from the lawyers’ office too. She’s had a helluva day,” Adam said.
“What’s she doing here then?”
“Needs the money.”
Adam sat a moment longer, knowing that he had to check on her.
She sat on a box staring at her cell phone as she swiped away tears. She glanced up as he entered the storeroom, a tremulous smile forming on her full lips. “Sorry about the waterworks.”
“If anyone’s entitled, I think you are. Have you gotten an update?” he asked, gesturing toward her phone.
Her smile reached her eyes this time. “Yep. Baxter’s going to make it. Ethan Donahue’s fiancé is some kind of miracle worker.”
“He’s the guy you have a crush on?”
He watched as Mary shrugged and grinned. “He’s like perfect, you know? And he has a perfect fiancé. They’ll have the perfect two point however many children. And the perfect life.”
“Perfect is overrated,” Adam said, trying to joke, except he didn’t feel at all like joking. He wanted to be that guy–the one that made Mary’s eyes brighten and a flush come to her cheeks.
“Sure,” she said, rolling her eyes but grinning. “Because everyone thinks that.”
“Here, let me give you a hug,” he said. Because he needed one. Even though it pained him, he hugged her as often as he could, immersing himself in the scent of her rosemary-scented shampoo, the fact that she was so tall he could rest his chin against her soft temple, how her body seemed to fit against his perfectly. Perfectly.
She chuckled and hugged him. He stroked her silky red hair, letting his fingers lace through the strands. He pressed his lips softly against her temple. She stiffened and drew back.
“What did you do that for?” she asked.
Crap. Why had he done that? “All part of Comfort Giving 101.”
She frowned, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Right.”
“Go with me to the tree lighting tomorrow. We can have dinner at Lucia’s after,” he said. Damn. Did he really just ask her out?
That shy smile he loved appeared although her eyes were quizzical. “Okay.”
Not an effusive acceptance, but he’d take it. Maybe there was still hope.
12/19/2017 ©Sascha Darlington