Literally, the minute I woke up I knew that the day was going to be awesome. I couldn’t wait to take Elliot to one of my favorite places. I popped a coffee pod in and jumped in the shower, not even drying my hair before I got dressed. I’d decided on a simple little flowy skirt, some gladiator sandals, and a loose halter tank top. Minimal makeup on and hair just loose I took one last look in the mirror and fixed the travel mug to head out. I wasn’t running late but wanted to make sure I got there first. I didn’t want to chance Dave being there for some reason early and running into Elliot. I grabbed my camera bag and sunglasses off the table by the door and almost screamed bloody murder when I opened the door to Dave, speak of the devil.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, catching my breath.
“I wanted to make sure you were okay,” he answered.
“I’m fine…just heading out actually,” I said coolly.
“Do you have a client?” he asked, nodding at my camera bag.
“No, I’m taking Elliot to the botanical gardens,” I answered, watching his face fall.
“Oh. Is he picking you up?” he quizzed.
“No, we are meeting at the bar and going from there. Why is this so interesting for you?” I asked.
“Just wondering. Listen, I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions yesterday. I just…I want you to be happy…”he said, not looking me in the eye.
“I am happy Dave, and I don’t know if I’ll be happy with Elliot or not, I mean we just met, but I think I could be…” I answered honestly.
“Okay, I’ll try not to jump to any more conclusions then, but if he does anything I hope you know I’m not above knocking out a guy in a chair,” he half-joked.
“Good to know… now can I go?” I said, offering a small smile.
“Yeah. Text me later though so I know you’re alright…” he said, waiting for me as I closed the door.
“Okay, Mom…” I laughed, as I followed him towards my car.
With a little wave, I pulled out, knowing full well he was going to follow me. I didn’t want to even consider what he would do when we got to the bar, though I knew he was going to try and get a meet and greet. Sure enough, when I pulled in he followed behind me.
“Dave, please just go inside,” I whined as I approached his car.
“Why don’t you want me to meet him? It’s making me even more suspicious,” he said, grinning.
As Elliot’s big blue truck pulled into the lot I cringed. As much as I loved my brother he could be an incredible ass and I wasn’t ready to introduce Elliot to that yet.
“Please be nice,” I begged, as we watched Elliot getting out of his truck.
I took in his distressed jeans and converse clad feet, as my eyes made their way up to his arms, his biceps fully flexed as he situated himself in his chair. His shirt-sleeves were straining to remain intact as the muscles contracted. Then I noticed the slight stubble covering his face, and the aviators, I didn’t think he could be any sexier than he was in this moment. I nearly had to force my mouth closed before drool ran down my chin.
“Nice truck,” was all Dave said before walking the short distance to Elliot.
I covered my face with my hands, mortified at the possible scenarios. This could go really badly, I thought to myself as I heard Elliot’s deep, yet uneasy laughter. “I can’t believe this…” Dave chuckled, “This is your Elliot?” Dave said as I peered through my fingers.
“Yes, this is Elliot…” I said, somewhat confused.
“I can’t believe it,” Dave continued.
“Taylor, I never realized that this Dave is your brother,” Elliot said simultaneously, his smile not quite right.
Dumbfounded I just stared at the two of them, “What?” I managed to squeak out.
“Elliot and I go way back. We used to play in the same softball league every summer for Jack’s,” Dave offered.
“I had no idea you bought this place, I mean we used to come in all the time a few years back and do the trivia nights. Right after it changed owners and then well, I kind of fell out of the bar scene for a while,” Elliot said, his smile fading.
“I still have the cleat mark on my shin from when Tony took me out, on second base… remember that?” Dave reminisced.
“So what you’re telling me is that you know each other…?” I asked, still surprised at this new information.
“Yep. Sure do,” Elliot answered, his cheeks a little red.
“Okay great then that’s cool, but we need to get going…” I said, getting the feeling that Elliot, while happy to see my brother, wasn’t keen on sticking around.
“Alright, well you two have fun. Elliot, we’ll have to catch up sometime soon,” Dave said, hopeful as he started walking towards the bar door.
“Hey, nice to see you, Dave…” Elliot said calmly, removing those aviators.
I moved my bags to the back seat, wondering as I did if he was even going to fit into my tiny car. When I was finished, I peered over my shoulder and caught him staring at my ass.
“Really?” I smiled.
“It was a great view, what can I say?” he chuckled, “You look amazing Princess.”
“Are you going to fit in here?” I asked, before thinking.
“I’ll be fine…” he sighed with a lopsided grin.
I walked around to the driver’s side and watched as he lined himself up with the seat and using his hands lifted each of his legs onto the ground. Slowly he maneuvered himself onto the seat and once he was settled, his knees nearly touching the dash, he began taking his chair apart. I wanted to see what he was doing so I leaned in and watched, hoping it wasn’t bothering him. Without a word he turned to me with this look on his face, his eyes dark. I turned away then, feeling like maybe I had been a little too eager.
“I know it takes a little while, I’m sorry,” he said flatly.
“I wasn’t making you uncomfortable was I?” I asked softly.
“No, Taylor, not at all. I just wish I could…never mind… If you could just move my wheels a little bit, I’ll pull this frame in and we can get going,” he said, as I saw the frustration then for what it was.
I reached in and pulled his wheels a little more behind my seat as he carefully lifted the frame through my tiny car. I silently thanked all that was holy that everything fit because I couldn’t even imagine how frustrated he would have been if it didn’t.
“Ready?” I asked, sliding into my seat.
“All set.” he said, with a forced smile.
I turned my body to face him while he buckled his seatbelt and when his eyes found me, I flashed him my best sexy smile, hoping it would bring back his.
His lips finally parted into a gorgeous toothy smile. God, he was good looking, I thought to myself as I stared into his eyes, “I’ve been waiting for that…”I said, in almost a whisper
“Pretty girl, you have no idea…” He said, his hand cupping my chin and bringing me to him.
The need in the kiss that followed was overwhelming, not only his need but mine as well. There was something almost animalistic in the way my body craved his touch. Maybe it was the fact that I had never fallen so hard, so fast before. I didn’t want that moment to end. I wanted to imprint that kiss onto my memory and never forget the way it felt. Slowly he pulled back, and as I took a gulping breath I caught a whiff of his cologne, woodsy and masculine in the best way. I searched his features for any signs of frustration but they had melted away into a serene almost dopey smile. His hand was still warm against my cheek when I finally reached up to cover it with my own.
“We should head out,” I whispered.
“Okay, where are we headed?” he asked.
“It will only take a little while to get there, be patient,” I laughed.
“You really are enjoying this aren’t you, Taylor?” He chuckled, pulling his aviators from his shirt and putting them back on.
We got quiet as I drove, the music filling the air between us. I could tell that something was bothering him still, though. His jaw was set tight, his lips just a thin line. I kept glancing over at him, trying to gauge whether he was enjoying the 90’s station or not. His fingers on his left hand tapped along so I decided that it was a good pick. About halfway there he finally broke the silence, “Princess, do you always drive this slow?”
“What?” I asked, looking down at the dash, sure enough, I was going ten miles under, ”Oops.”
“Arrive alive and all that…” he laughed, that deep full laugh I was beginning to love.
“Har-har,” I chuckled, paused, then blurted out, ”So you know my brother…”
The smile accompanying his laughter faded then, “Yeah.”
“I was so worried that he would be a giant asshat to you…” I said increasing the speed.
When he didn’t respond, I looked over to find him staring out the window. His fingers had stopped tapping and from what I could see his expression was one of sadness. I wished I wasn’t driving, I wished that I could turn his face towards me to see what exactly was going on behind those mirrored glasses. I turned back to the road ahead and hoped that I could turn his mood around. I knew he was uneasy, I saw it in the way he fidgeted while Dave was around. The way his hands had rubbed at his thighs when my brother brought up softball, or the way his smile never quite reached his eyes.
“About ten more minutes handsome and then you’ll be gifted with the surprise,” I said trying to drag him back to me.
Finally about three minutes from our destination, I felt his hand on my leg, soft and gentle at first, and then tighter as though he was holding on for dear life. What about my brother had him drowning in his mind, I wondered as I took our exit.
“I knew Dave, princess…” he said softly, “It was a long time ago… He actually introduced me to Meagan.”
As I waited for the light to change I covered his hand with mine, squeezing gently, “Is that…was that…”
“She was my fiance. When… when I got hurt,” he sputtered out before pulling his hand away from mine and began rubbing his thighs again.
“She was Jenna’s college roommate…” I said putting it together in my mind. I knew her. I knew his ex. I didn’t like her then and I wanted to murder her now.
“That’s right. Did you know her?” he asked in a whisper.
“A little. She hung around a few times at the house with Jenna and Dave. Never did like her much,” I answered honestly.
“Not many people could stomach her, she was a lot to take. My younger brother couldn’t stand her, I should have known then that nothing good could have come of being with her,” he said sharply.
“I’m sorry seeing Dave brought that up for you,” I said pulling off the road into a gas station parking lot and turning to him.
He didn’t turn away from the window, his jaw clenched and his body tense until finally, he let out a long defeated sigh, “I didn’t realize… I’m sorry Taylor…”
“Sorry for what?” I asked.
“I don’t know. For not putting it together sooner, for my reaction, for ruining today…” he sighed again, reluctantly turning towards me.
“Nothing is ruined, Elliot. Nothing. We have the whole day ahead of us. As for your reaction, I wouldn’t have expected that it was easy for you to be thrown back into those memories. How could you have known that Dave was the same person you knew…” I said trying to put myself in his shoes.
He didn’t respond immediately just sat there trying to compose himself, “I was a different person then, Taylor. Very different,” he said, looking down at his hands then.
“Elliot that was then, but I’m here with you now. Right here in this car and this you, the one sitting right next to me is the one I want to get to know…” I said softly, laying my hand on his leg.
What he didn’t see in this moment, was that I was once a different person too. Everyone was different. We all have things that change us, some better some worse, but in the end, everyone has demons that will change them. I sat there just rubbing my thumb on his leg in small circles, fully aware that he didn’t feel it, but he could see it. He could see that I was open to him and I hoped it made a difference.
“I can feel that…sort of,” he said, moving my hand a little further towards his inner thigh.
“What?” I asked.
“I’ve got about three inches of feeling, or something like it right here…” he said in nearly a whisper, “I want to get to know you too, Taylor. Probably more than I’ve wanted anything in a long time. When I saw your brother, it just slammed me back there, to her, to all the things I could do before. What if down the road he tells you how I did this or that, how much of a badass I had been. It makes me wonder if it will make a difference, will you think to yourself “Oh poor Elliot, it’s a shame he can’t run the bases anymore, or race his motorcycle?” Or will he try to tell you that I’m not good enough for you?”
The realization of who Elliot was, was starting to dawn on me. I had heard my brother telling stories about his buddy who would throw down two hundred bucks to anyone who thought they could outrun his motorcycle or the one who finally could put up with his girlfriend’s roommate. I thought very hard about what I was going to say next because it could very well end with me driving him back to his truck if I didn’t say it right.
“Elliot. Dave will always think that who I’m with isn’t good enough, that’s something that will never change, so stop thinking he makes those decisions for me, right now. Have I, in any of the times we’ve talked or been around each other, ever given you the impression that, a. I want to run bases or b. Riding a motorcycle is high on my list of priorities? Even if it was, Elliot, even if I wanted to run the bases I would… would I expect you to be there with me? Maybe, rolling alongside me giving me the motivation to do it… but I would never think oh woe is Elliot because he can’t do it. I’m just not into that type of thinking Elliot. Everything happens for a reason, maybe you were some huge douche-nozzle before you got hurt and that’s why you could stand miss wears too much makeup, and now…well you aren’t that guy anymore and it’s probably for the better. Does it stink that you had to lose something to realize that, yes, assuming that’s who you were, which I really have no idea…” I paused for breath and then continued with my rant, “I would never diminish who you are as an individual by thinking that you are simply defined by either a before or an after, Elliot. Everything you have gone through good or bad has brought you to me, somehow in some way it has shaped you into this man sitting next to me in a tiny car in a gas station parking lot dying to know where we are supposed to be right now… This man who is sweet and caring and so sexy with that stubble by the way, who makes me wonder where he’s been and what amazing adventures we can have together. This man, who I want to keep pulling down from that ledge so that he can keep me company on mine… and maybe we share a ledge, maybe not forever, but I’m going to enjoy my ledge for two while it lasts,” I finished, shocked that all of that came out of me as I waited for his response.
Here I sit in the passenger seat of a teeny tiny car in a gas station parking lot, getting my ass handed to me, and all I can think about is that line from Casper “Can I keep you…” She basically put me in my place and looked like she was enjoying it too, well I can say for sure I was enjoying it. She is hilarious, sassy and has a mind of her own that’s for sure and while I was doing my best not to crack a smile I was secretly agreeing with everything she said.
“You done now, pretty girl?” I asked her while she was still working on catching her breath.
“Maybe, but I can’t say for sure based on what could come out of your mouth next,” she answered.
“I can wait if you need more time…” I said allowing a smile to break through.
“Is this funny to you, Elliot?” she said trying to look serious, “Because I have a lot more where that came from, go ahead, tempt me…”
I couldn’t help myself, I laughed, deep belly laughs at the way her beautiful face scrunched up as she taunted me, the redness creeping up her neck. I’d met my match. She’d easily taken me out with her words, the easiness with which they came and the lack of hesitation. She was going to undo me, and I was preparing to let her.
“Princess…stop….I surrender…” I said between laughter.
She continued to look at me, her cheeks now red, but her lips began to turn up into a smile, I took her face in my hands and kissed her then. I was going to kiss that smile right off her pretty little face. My God, I thought, she was absolutely right that everything that happened had led me to her and this moment. No one had ever called me a douche-nozzle before, at least not to my face, but this girl right here had me pegged. I wondered briefly if maybe she knew more about me than she let on but the look on her face when I mentioned Meagan earlier told me that wasn’t the case, she just understood me.
“Please, can we start this date now?” I asked her, breaking the kiss.
“Elliot, really?” She asked almost shyly.
“Yes Princess, did you think I was going to make you take me back?” I said.
“Let’s just say you said all the right things…” I replied, taking her hand and lacing our fingers together, “Now take me on this date before I go crazy woman!”