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Authors: C. Elizabeth

Tags: #Fantasy

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BOOK: Soul Control
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Miranda began sweeping the floor. “My understanding is they just shut it down maybe an hour ago, so that puts it at about six this morning.”

“Wow! I hope Angie and them didn’t stay that long.”

In mid-sweep she stopped and looked at me. “Were you there, too?”

“Only for about forty-five minutes.” A small smile twitched, then the heat rose to my cheeks, immediately giving me away.

Her mouth turned slowly up into a smirk. “Looks like a very interesting forty-five minutes.”

I focused on counting the cash...again. A little chuckle could be heard over yonder.

The annoying bells above the door rang, telling us we had a customer, or should I say customers...three to be exact.

 

 

Seven
 

 

The triplets filed in one by one, all wearing tight jeans. Nathanael had a blue t-shirt on that fit snugly, while one of his brothers wore a white button up shirt and the other had on a green pullover. None was walking as if they had drunk all night. In fact, they looked freshly showered and ready for anything.

Nathanael loitered around the chips, acting like he was reading the backs of them, but at the same time stole peeks at me from under his eyelashes, increasing the temperature in my face. I waited for some sort of anxiety to rise stemming from the dream the night before, but it didn’t. To watch him made me feel safe from anything.

Either Job or Joshua yanked three large bags of chips off the shelf, while Job or Joshua pulled three bottles of Coke from the cooler. Unfortunately, my ease was halted when they approached.

“Hi, Saydi,” one said.

“Hi,” I replied, waiting for them to put all their items down before ringing them in.

He, whichever one he was, placed his hands on the counter, arching forward a little too close for my comfort. “Why is it your mom has long blonde hair and blue eyes and you have long black hair and brown eyes?”

The way he said it while staring at me gave me the willies again. “I guess from my dad’s side.”

It was like he knew he made me uncomfortable and said, “Don’t get me wrong, you’re quite beautiful yourself. It struck me as odd, is all.”

Ignoring his offhanded compliment, I pronounced, “That’ll be six fifty-nine.” Wanting those two to leave, but not Nathanael.

The other one handed me a ten and smiled. “You’ll have to forgive my brother, sometimes he says things before he thinks.” He shoved the other brother, laughing.

I bagged their purchases and held it out to them. It was Nathanael who reached over and inconspicuously ran his fingers across the back of my hand before grabbing it, then winked. “Don’t listen to those two fools. I think you have an air of mystery to you, something I hope to figure out soon.”

When they left, a warmth of tenderness ran up my spine from his touch. It was difficult to explain and was another sensation I’d never felt, along with a jaw-dropping and wobbly leg thing. The whole package left me speechless.

“Saydi, dear, close your mouth. It’s not very enticing to young men,” Miranda teased.

“Wow!” Was the only word my brain could muster up.

Miranda burst out laughing. “I take it that ol’ blue eyes is the forty-five minute adventure yesterday?”

“They’re green/blue.”
How come no one can see that?

She shook her head and with a half grin, rolled her eyes. “Sorry, green/blue eyes!” Then she smiled knowingly. “He seems to be a little sweet on you, too.”

Shaking my head, I fidgeted with the tie on my apron. “No.”
Besides, there isn’t much to me
.

~ * ~

The rest of the day dragged, and Miranda was right. We only had four or five more customers after the triplets graced us with their presence, so she closed at four instead of six.

“See you next Saturday, Miranda,” I called back to her.

“Sorry I couldn’t drive you home, sweetie.”

“That’s okay, I still have lots of daylight left. Besides, I walked home last night in the dark.” My tummy did a happy flip flop remembering with whom I walked home.

“Well, don’t do that often.” Another adult warning.

“I won’t,” I promised, and waved to the back of the store as I stepped outside.

The wind was blowing again, and it was a cool one. Wrapping my arms around myself, I rounded the corner so the chill was at my back. If you paid attention, you could see all the houses were ready for winter with the storm windows on, flower pots put away, and yards neat and tidy, awaiting the first dump of snow. That also meant the streets were practically deserted by the time dusk rolled around. Everyone hunkered down for a cold winter.

Footprints came from behind.

“Saydi, wait up,” Nathanael called.

Think, think, mouth work, tongue don’t tie up
. Whirling about, I managed, “Hi.”

He stopped directly in front of me with a smile, so close I could smell his cologne again, tickling my senses, and...that was it, my brain quit right there. It was only going to let me say “hi,” nothing more after that. There was nothing left to do but ogle.

Chuckling, he ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s a good thing I saw you leaving early. My plan was to be waiting for you outside the store at six when you were supposed to be off. I would have missed you if we hadn’t been over at the hardware store.”

It was interesting he knew what time I got off. It didn’t matter, I was still way too busy...ogling.

His feet shuffled from one to the other and his confidence seemed to be slipping.
Well of course it is, with you drooling over him.
Then he licked his lips. “Okay, well...my car is at the hardware store. Can I give you a ride home? I’d rather do that than walk in this wind.”

It was a direct question, not one that difficult to answer. Now the real question was—would my brain release its grip on my throat? I tried it out. “You don’t have to.” Yup, tongue worked, mouth didn’t...the words practically spit at him.

And even with the close call of almost being spit on, he still smiled sweetly. “I know I don’t have to. Why do you have such a hard time believing I want to?”

I shrugged, looking to the ground.

He stepped forward until he was only a few inches from me and with one finger lifted my chin to meet his eyes. His eyebrows raised as he softly said, “I want to.” Then held his hand out toward the hardware store. “Shall we?” he asked, slightly bowing and taking the first step forward.

His antics made me laugh.

“That’s better. I like your laugh.” His confidence was back, and mine, well...we’d work on it.

We walked to his car in silence. It was a little more uncomfortable than the day before and only because I feared if I started talking, my mouth wouldn’t shut up! I didn’t want to be branded a rambling idiot.

He dug into his pocket and pulled out some keys, then placed his hand on the small of my back, pointing to a cherry red Mercedes. “Over here,” he guided.

When I walked around to the passenger side, the blurp blurp from the automatic door opener made me flinch.

“Sorry,” he spoke close to my ear, while he opened my door. The fresh scent of peppermint wasn’t hard to breathe in.

“Thank you,” I managed.
Good. Now don’t blurt, blubber, or blunder. Keep your cool.

The car still had that new car smell, leather interior and looked to have all the bells and whistles.

He smiled when he got in and put the key in the ignition. “That wind is chilly,” he announced.

I nodded, concentrating on not having googly eyes.

With his hand on the back of my seat, Nathanael smiled right at me before he looked through the back window to back out.

~ * ~

As we passed the front of the hardware store, his brothers stood in the window with someone else behind them, a taller man. The triplets looked just like him, so it had to be their dad. The scene reminded me of my dream as well as the fear. I put my head down and played with the zipper on my coat.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Nathanael take a peek my way a few times. Then he spoke. “How was your day?”

“It was good, thanks. How ‘bout you?”
Good. You’re doing good
.

“I worked, then Father decided we needed new taps in my bathroom.”

It surprised me he worked, and how stupid of me to think he didn’t. “Where do you work?”

“I work for the same company as my father. We can work from home sometimes. It’s quite convenient.”

“Oh. Didn’t you just renovate the whole house? Why would you need new taps already?”
Slow down, Saydi! Too many questions at once
.

He chuckled. “Yes, we did, but Father loves to fix things, so he decided he didn’t like the taps.”

“Oh.”

Our interaction was definitely a little more forced than the day before, him trying to keep the conversation going before it got smothered by the silence. “What kind of music do you like?” he asked.

“Old rock, some country.”

“I like the old rock too, but as for country...” He wrinkled his nose. It was a cute wrinkled nose. “Not a big fan.”

“Most kids aren’t.”

“True.”

More silence.

Trying to break the silence, he delivered, “Apparently, we missed one heck of a party last night.”

Another surprise, he said “we.” I thought for sure he would’ve gone back and partied with the rest. “
We
did?” I asked.

He chuckled, throwing an eye my way. “You seem surprised. I had some errands to run and by the time I got home, I just wasn’t in the mood and went to bed.” Quickly, he glanced out his side window, but not before I caught him chewing on his lower lip with a sheepish sideways grin. He recouped fast and focused back on the road. “I can’t say the same for my brothers and your friends.”

I laughed. “Oh, I’m sure they’re paying for it.”

“I took the ladies home. That’s where we were coming from when we dropped in at the store this morning, My brothers had the munchies.”

“That was nice of you to do that.”

Shrugging, he said, “No biggie, I was up anyway to attend to some work issues.”

“Your brothers seemed okay to drive.”

“They weren’t completely. There was enough alcohol in their system to get them thrown in the slammer if they got caught. It was better I took them.”

To me it made no sense. “Why did your brothers go with you?”

And there came that cute sheepish look again as he tucked his eyes down for a split second, then back up. “You may think it’s corny, but in our house, how we treat women is life or death. Chivalry is taken very seriously. Father taught us how to treat women and if one...” A shy smile molded on his beautiful features. “If one catches our attention, we go to great lengths to treat them as they deserve to be treated, and if we don’t...Father will have our heads.” Clearly he was avoiding looking at me by the way he flashed glances at everything else. “So that’s why my brothers came. They were taking their ladies home...in a way.”

The look on my face must have been one of, well,
something
, because Nathanael laughed.

“Boy,” I breathed. “You guys don’t waste any time. Which with whom? Angie and Job?”
Saydi, slow down.

“How about I let Angie and Becky tell you all the gory details? You ladies like to talk about your men to each other, so I won’t ruin the surprise.”

Putting aside the party, there was something I thought about every so often throughout the day, and though I didn’t know which one of his brothers it was, I asked, “How did your brother know what my mom looked like?”

He burst out laughing. “You can’t tell them apart!”

Looking out the side window. I didn’t think my inability to tell them apart was so out there.

His finger stroked down my cheek. “Don’t be embarrassed. Most people can’t tell any of us apart, even though my eyes are blue and theirs are practically black.”

“Green/blue,” I muttered under my breath.

“Sorry?”

Smiling at him, I shook my head. “Nothing.”

“That was Job being the jerk. He’s also the one who makes everybody’s business his own. He’s been scoping things out around here ever since Father bought the house.” There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye when he looked at me from the side. “You were all being watched.”

Laughing, I asked, “What do you do for a living?”

“I thought by now everyone knew our life story.”

“Most probably do, but not me. The only thing I know is your mom left you when you were babies.” The second the words were out, I regretted them.

Quickly his eyes darkened, the skin on his forehead puckered.

“I’m sorry!” I blurted, folding my hands in my lap.

His body stiffened and his grip tightened on the wheel as we pulled up in front of my house. “Here you are,” he said quietly.

I opened the door and put one foot on the ground. “Thank you and I’m sorry,” I repeated, hurrying away.

BOOK: Soul Control
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