Authors: Susan Stoker
Adeline relaxed into her seat as well and nodded. “Alicia. She’s younger than I am and married her high school sweetheart.”
“And your parents?”
“Both alive. Like your parents, they’re still very much in love.”
They smiled at each other for a beat before Dean said, “It’s nice to have good role models, isn’t it?”
“Very,” Adeline agreed. “But I also know that sometimes people grow apart.” She shrugged. “I would never want someone to stay with me because he thought he had to. I’d be happier divorced than married to someone who didn’t love me.”
“Agreed,” Dean said immediately. “I didn’t mean to imply that anyone who gets divorced has done something wrong. But after seeing my parents’ love for each other, I know that I really want that for myself.”
“Me too,” Adeline said softly, amazed that she and Dean seemed to have so much in common.
“I want to—”
Adeline wouldn’t hear what Dean wanted as the pager clipped to his belt suddenly went off, the loud tones pealing through the semi-quiet restaurant.
“Shit. I gotta go.”
Adeline had figured that out as soon as she’d heard the device’s loud beeps. She opened her mouth to say something, she wasn’t sure what, but didn’t get the chance.
Dean stood up, keeping hold of her hand. He took a quick step to her side of the booth and leaned down and kissed her. Not on the cheek. Not on the forehead, but right on the lips. And it wasn’t a quick peck, either.
His lips caressed hers and he slanted his head slightly. Adeline felt his tongue swipe across her lips and she gasped. He took the moment and licked inside her mouth once, before capturing her lips with his own once more. It was a bold move. Extremely so, but not out of place either. They’d connected on a level Adeline hadn’t with many people.
Dean reluctantly, it seemed, straightened and smiled down at her. “I probably should apologize for that, but I won’t. Take your time, finish your sandwich and fries. The bill is already paid; we have a tab and everyone here knows us and won’t take your money. So don’t even try to pay. I’ll be in touch soon, Adeline. It was my pleasure to meet you.”
“Be safe,” she managed to get out breathlessly.
“I will.” As if he couldn’t help himself, Dean leaned down and kissed her once more, a brief touch of his lips to hers this time, then he was striding out of the restaurant.
Adeline kept her eyes on Dean’s muscular butt as he jogged across the street and disappeared inside the fire station. Within minutes, the big bay doors were opening and a fire truck was pulling out with its lights on and sirens blaring.
Adeline sank back against the plastic booth seat and let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Feeling Coco’s hot doggy breath against her leg, she looked under the table and murmured to her dog, “Wow.”
His tongue lolled out as if he agreed with her breathless statement. Smiling, Adeline absently picked up a french fry. The day hadn’t started out that great, but had ended up being one of the most exciting days she’d had in recent history. Who would’ve thought a seizure could actually bring about something good in her life for once? Not her.
Licking her lips, and remembering how Dean’s had felt against her own, Adeline sighed. Good Lord, just the quick taste had her more turned on than she’d been in her entire life, but she refused to get too excited.
Lots of men had said they’d call, and hadn’t. Yes, she had Dean’s number, but she firmly believed, maybe old-fashionably, that the man should be the one to make the first move.
She sent a silent prayer up into the heavens that Dean “Crash” Christopherson wasn’t just messing with her. She wanted nothing more than to get to know the gorgeous firefighter.
: You get home all right?
down at the text on her phone for a moment, then grinned. Dean. She hadn’t really expected to hear from him so soon, but couldn’t deny that she liked it.
: Yup. Thanks. Your day go okay?
utting the phone down
, Adeline finished getting Coco’s dinner ready. She didn’t cook for herself, but she had no problem cooking for her dog. Coco had given Adeline her independence back; there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for him.
Emptying the can of chickpeas into the pot already full with green beans, carrots, chicken, and water, she stirred the mixture together. The only other thing it needed was the rice, which was simmering on the stove. This batch would last for about a week and was full of protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates to keep the Lab happy and healthy. She’d started cooking for Coco when he was younger and they’d had an experience with a tainted bag of dog food. Adeline wasn’t willing to take a chance like that again with her beloved dog’s life. At least she knew exactly what was going into her baby’s body if she made his food.
Her phone vibrated with an incoming text.
: Had lunch with a woman I can’t wait to get to know better. ;)
. God, she felt like a teenager again, getting a note from a boy she liked. She wasn’t sure how to respond, so she put down the phone and finished cooking and packaging up Coco’s food for the week. When she was done, she washed her hands and was drying them when her phone vibrated again.
Picking up the phone, she walked into her living room and plopped herself down on the huge armchair. She had a couch, but much preferred to curl up in the buttery-soft leather chair. It was big enough that she could sit with her feet tucked under her and lean against the large arm. It was one of the first things she’d bought after she’d started working at her first “adult job.” It was old, and probably needed replacing, but Adeline wouldn’t part with it until the stuffing was coming out and it couldn’t possibly be repaired.
Expecting the text to be from Dean, she frowned when she saw it was from her boss.
At one time she might’ve been interested in Douglas. He was fairly good looking. He had light brown hair that he kept short. He was always well dressed and well groomed. But there was just something that had rubbed her the wrong way from the moment Adeline met him. Something that just seemed off about him. And that was before he’d shown what an asshole he really was.
He’d insisted on getting all of their cell phone numbers when he’d been hired. He wanted to be able to have immediate access to all of them, “just in case there was an emergency.”
Adeline shook her head. The only emergencies he’d had were ones of his own making…and they’d all had to deal with the consequences of his actions.
: Meeting tomorrow. 7:30am. Wolfe portfolio needs complete overhaul. Don’t be late.
her eyes and sighed. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been expecting it. James Wolfe was a demanding customer—rightfully so. He owned a chain of car dealerships across south Texas. Douglas had acquired the account from the person whose job he’d taken over. Except their old boss had regularly held meetings with all of his employees to get their input and ideas on marketing campaigns in order to keep them fresh and hip. He’d regularly shared some of the profits from those campaigns with his employees as well.
Douglas hadn’t once asked anyone for their thoughts, and if the last couple of radio spots and television commercials Adeline had heard and seen were anything to go by, Mr. Wolfe had a right to not be happy. They were awful. Corny and cheesy, they sounded like something a novice would put together, not an award-winning marketing firm like theirs.
She’d been expecting something like this for a few weeks now. And while she might not be happy the reputation of the company was suffering because of Douglas Hill the Third, she felt a bit of excitement that she and her coworkers might get a chance to turn the Wolfe campaign around.
She shot off a quick affirmative reply to her boss—he expected his employees to acknowledge his texts—then sat back with a sigh. She felt okay, a bit dragged out, but she was used to the feeling on days when she had a seizure. Unfortunately, those days were coming more and more frequently.
Not wanting to chat on the phone, but wanting to touch base with her sister, Adeline thumbed a quick note.
: Hey sis. Had another seizure today right when I sat down with my blind date. He was an ass, but a firefighter helped me out and let me go to his station across the street to lie down. Nothing out of the ordinary with it though, no worries. Coco was awesome and let me know it was coming. Jerkface called us in for an early meeting to fix his mistakes. No surprise there. Hope all is okay with you. I’ll call tomorrow night and we can chat. Luv ya.
send and bit her lip. She really wanted to respond to Dean’s message, but wasn’t sure what to say. Out of all the men she’d met for a first date from the dating website, no one had inquired as to whether or not she’d made it home all right. Not one. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t really clicked on their dates; it was a matter of being polite and considerate.
But Dean hadn’t wasted any time checking on her and it made her feel good inside. Adeline typed a response to him, smiling all the while.
: Anyone I know? :)
on the television and turned to the Science Channel. It was her new favorite station. Some of the shows were extremely interesting…thank goodness for the DVR.
Within moments, her phone vibrated.
: Maybe. She’s got black hair, a well-behaved dog, and can make me laugh with only three words.
deline immediately typed out a response
. Usually she was a bit more reserved with men. When she chatted with them online, she kept to the basics and didn’t let her true self out, figuring she needed to be polite and hold back some of who she was until she really got to know the person. She wasn’t sure what it was about Dean that made her want to be completely herself. Maybe it was because he’d been there for her when she’d needed him. Maybe it was how he had put her at ease. Or maybe it was because she was more attracted to him than she’d been to anyone in years. Whatever it was, she felt more energized than she had in a long time. More wired. More…excited.
: It took three?
is response was immediate
: Lol. How was the rest of your day?
Adeline: Good. Until my jerk of a boss texted to tell me and some of my coworkers that we had to be in thirty minutes early tomorrow for a meeting to discuss how to fix his screw-ups.
Dean: Ugh. Sucks. You sent out that resume yet?
. He wasn’t saying anything she hadn’t already thought about.
: It’s on my to-do list for tomorrow.
Dean: Good. You deserve more than that.
Adeline: How do you know? Maybe I’m the troublemaker in the office. Maybe I’m the bitch and my boss is the one who has to deal with me.
Dean: Nope. Not buying it.
Adeline: Why? You don’t know me.
Dean: You’re right, I don’t. Want to go to dinner with me this Friday?
down at her phone in shock. She really shouldn’t be that surprised, he’d flat-out said earlier that he wanted to get to know her. But he’d actually asked her out on a date. It was right there in black and white on her phone.
Did she want to go out with him? Yes. But for some reason she hesitated. Maybe it was because she had a feeling saying yes would completely change her life.
As much as she
to find a man to love and to love her back, her life was a mess right now. Between her increasing-in-frequency seizures, her work situation being up in the air, and the fact that she was just coming to terms with the realization now might not be the best time to jump into a relationship, it was jarring to have a man like Dean literally pop into her life out of nowhere.
: Too fast?
he words blinked back
at Adeline as she contemplated what to say. Friday nights she and Alicia usually got together, but that was just an excuse. Her sister wouldn’t mind in the least if she canceled on her. She’d been on her case long enough to get back into the dating pool. She’d be ecstatic if she broke off their standing get-together for a man.
As she was about to text back and tell Dean that, yes, it was too fast, and she already had plans with her sister, a message popped up from Alicia.
: When do you go to the doctor again to discuss surgery? I hate that you’re having to deal with the seizures so much now. And gah, what an ass Douglas is. You need to hurry up and find another job. Oh, and before I forget, I need to cancel for Friday. Matt made plans for us to go to that Brazilian steakhouse. Next week for sure. Love you!
t was official
. Fate was conspiring against her. She shot off a quick return text to Alicia, telling her it was okay about Friday and telling her she was sending resumes out tomorrow. Then she went back to Dean’s text.
: Yes. And no. It does seem fast, but at the same time, I was more comfortable with you today at lunch than I’ve been with any guy I’ve met in a long time. I was going to tell you that I couldn’t go because I go out with my sister every Friday, but she just canceled on me. As long as we go somewhere I can take Coco, and I can meet you there…I’d love to go to dinner with you Friday.
hovered over the send button then quickly hit it. She didn’t know what it was about Dean that made her want to throw herself into his arms, yet at the same time run as fast as she could away from him. It was ridiculous. She was way too old to feel this up and down about a man.
: Whew. You had me worried there for a bit. Thank you. I promise to be on my best behavior. And I wouldn’t have asked you out if I didn’t feel the same way about you. Are you sure I can’t pick you up?
Adeline: I’m sure.
Dean: Not even if I promise to leave my pager at home and not do anything creepy so you feel the need to get away from me?
Adeline: Lol. Not this time. Maybe next time.
Dean: Deal. And I’m holding you to that.
Adeline: To what?
Dean: To a second date. You just asked me out and I said yes.
Adeline: Wait, what? I didn’t ask you out.
Dean: Yup. You said next time we go out I can pick you up.
deline laughed out loud
. She totally had.
: I guess I did. So where are we going?
Dean: I’ll text ya later. I gotta plan something epic.
Adeline: You mean you didn’t already have it planned?
Dean: Nope. I wasn’t sure you’d agree. And I don’t presume to know the answer to anything I might ask a woman.
Adeline: Probably a good life plan.
Dean: Right? Thank you, Adeline. I can’t wait to see you again. I feel extraordinarily lucky I was there at the right time today to not only help you out, but to get to know you a little afterwards too.
Dean: I’m serious.
Adeline: I’m glad you were there too. I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later.
Dean: Sweet dreams, beautiful.
at the television blankly for a moment before a huge smile crept over her face. Beautiful. She didn’t really believe it, but merely imagining the word coming out of Dean’s mouth in his deep voice sent warm shivers through her.
She had no idea where they might go, but she hadn’t been this excited for a date in a long time. Not even the thought of having to meet with Douglas and hearing exactly what ridiculous thing he had planned for her and the rest of the team could diminish her happy thoughts.
Friday couldn’t come soon enough.