Elliot seemed so happy and in just an instant his comment about settling turned him around. From what I’d seen of him I imagined that sure he had some baggage but maybe he wasn’t ready like I thought. I wondered as I drove to Davy’s if he knew what he brought to the table. Sure he was good looking, that dirty blond hair, those whiskey-colored eyes, the shoulders that propelled his chair were killer atop those ripped arms. His personality up till now had been awesome, even with the little anger moments thrown in but if he wasn’t sure what he offered then I didn’t know if I could show him.
I didn’t know if I wanted to be the one to show him. He is smart, funny and caring, he could easily be the total package. But if he doesn’t see that, is it going to be a constant battle to show him? I thought about how he said it’s been years since his last relationship, wondering if maybe this was why. I wasn’t lying when I told him I wanted to get to know him. I did, desperately. Something inside me needed to know him. It was instant that day, standing by his truck him nearly hanging from the handle, his anger radiating off of him, and again when he came to my rescue later that day. I was drawn to him so intensely and I couldn’t even explain it to myself. I shook my head as I tried to kick him out of my thoughts so I could go in without Josh bothering me. It was taco Thursday so the bar was already busy as I walked in. I said some hellos as I walked through and made my way to the back to toss my stuff in Dave’s office and was surprised to find him there.
“Hey Dave, what brings you in tonight?” I asked, pulling my hair into a messy bun.
“Wanted to get some of these accounts settled before I head home. How’s the hand?” he asked, giving me the look.
“Fine. Starting to itch a little so at least it’s healing,” I laughed, as he motioned me to come over so he could look at it.
Turning my hand over in his he looked up inquisitively, “So who’s this doctor guy Tay?”
“His name is Elliot. He’s a physician. We have a date on Saturday,” was all I offered him.
“That’s it? That’s all you are going to say about him? Christ Tay, Josh said he’s in a wheelchair…” he sputtered, as I pulled my hand from his.
“Yeah, and what does that matter?” I said through gritted teeth at his absurd question.
“Is this some charity thing? I mean, you could be with anyone you want,” he said surprising me with his lack of couth.
“Do you hear yourself right now Dave? Think about what you just said,” I spat at him.
“Yes, and I don’t want my talented little sister tying herself down to someone who can’t give her everything she deserves,” he said confidently.
“Don’t. Just, don’t even act like that is okay. It isn’t. You have no idea what Elliot is like or what he can or can’t give me. Have you forgotten what Nathan put me through? How long it took me to even begin to feel any amount of normalcy in my life? Have you forgotten that?” I shuddered at the thoughts just saying that name brought up.
“I just want what is best for you, Tay. No one knows more about what you went through than I do. I was there for all of it. Which is why I want you to be very careful in whom you chose to get into a relationship with,” he said sternly.
“While I appreciate everything you’ve done for me Dave, this is my decision. Listen I am actually not feeling well, I think Josh and Selena can handle things tonight. I’ll talk to you later,” I said with a huff, grabbing my bag before turning on my heel to leave.
“Taylor…wait!” he called after me, but I didn’t turn around.
I knew that he meant well, but it still didn’t give him the right to judge someone based on superficial things. I was boiling mad as I stormed out of the bar, barely hearing Josh call after me, but I wasn’t stopping. Maybe all the shifts were getting to me after all. Maybe the mention of him had me running. Whatever it was, I was not going to go through it in front of Dave again. I was done with that. After getting in my car I didn’t stop until I was home and then I sat there with my head on the steering wheel, unsure of what to do next.
Really, Taylor, I don’t know where that came from, but I told you that you might have to talk me down off that ledge. Welcome to the ledge…
The ding startled me from my dark thoughts. Reading Elliot’s text message though I smiled.
Would you still be interested in dinner?
I typed before I could stop myself. I didn’t want to be alone even though I wasn’t sure Elliot’s house was where I should be either. Not after my mind had retreated to some of the darkest days of my life.
Thought you were at work? Slow night?
Before answering him I called the Chinese place around the corner and placed an order in hopes he was still up for it.
Something like that… well?
Sure princess. Everything okay? Here’s the address, 124 Locust Street.
I’ll be there soon, I’ve got dinner covered.
I programmed his address in my phone and turned up the music for my drive to his place. Wondering what his house would be like, I tried to let myself get lost in better thoughts. I picked up the food and the intoxicating smells of beef and broccoli and general Tso’s filled my nostrils as 90’s rock blasted my ears while I turned onto Locust. The houses were all well manicured, not overly big, but impressive with their southern style porches. Each one had a wrap around porch, one of my biggest desires. Who wouldn’t want to wake up and be able to sit on that porch drinking coffee, I thought to myself as I drove further down the street until I was pulling into his driveway.
Beautiful blue siding and white shutters and trim faced me as I sat there for a moment gathering my thoughts. Before it got creepy I slung my bag over my shoulder and grabbed the food with my good hand and forged ahead up the walkway. I didn’t notice it when I first pulled up but there was a ramp next to the steps meeting the sidewalk, which had been widened in that area to accommodate both. I paused briefly to look around the cozy porch, with it’s comfy looking furniture and hanging baskets, I wondered how he watered them after I rang the doorbell. I waited a few moments before panic set in, thinking maybe he changed his mind before I heard movement behind the door. As it opened I was surprised to find him shirtless, water dripping off of his now spiky hair.
“Hi princess,” he said with a nervous smile.
“Hi Elliot,” I responded after a few moments of taking in his shirtless body.
Just as I had suspected his shoulders and upper chest were impressive, I knew enough from hanging around my friend Luke to know that where the muscles began to fade meant it was Elliot’s injury line. As my eyes continued down his body I noticed just above his belly button, the fade of muscle into a softer plane as well as a few scars scattered around his torso. The contrast was stark between the pouchy belly and his hardened arms and chest, though.
“Sorry, come in, I’m just going to grab a shirt… I was just getting out of the shower,” he said softly, catching me staring.
“It’s okay Elliot, really, I did kind of spring this dinner on you…” I tried to ease his nervousness.
“I’ll give you a quick tour and be right back. In here is the living room, dining room, kitchen, the bathroom is the first door on the right through the hallway. Make yourself at home, there is coffee in the pot if you want some. Be right back,” he said as I followed him through the house before he disappeared down the hall.
I hung my bag over one of his chairs and started opening the bags of food, setting them all out on the table in his breakfast nook. His style was a nice surprise. The living room was warm and inviting with its chocolate brown sectional couch and large square coffee table, all focused around a fireplace with a large flat screen mounted above it. A couple of books sat on the table and there were more books calling a large built in shelving area home on either side of the fireplace. I had noticed on my quick walk through that the upper shelves all held framed photographs, while the books occupied the lower shelves. The creamy beige walls brought out the deep cherry wood floor that ran from the entry way all the way through the house. The kitchen I found to be bright and airy, it’s white cabinets and stainless steel appliances offsetting the creamy yellow walls. Did he decorate this, I wondered as I began opening drawers on my quest for silverware.
“Second one on the left by the sink,” I heard from behind me, surprise causing me to slam the drawer in my hand shut.
“Thanks, I didn’t think fondue skewers would really work too well,” I answered with a nervous chuckle.
“It smells really good Taylor. Let me get some plates,” he said as I felt his presence next to me, “I thought we could eat in the living room, watch a movie?”
“Sounds good to me, prince charming,” I replied turning from the drawer and almost landing in his lap.
“Easy pretty girl,” he said with a shy smile, dropping the plates onto his lap to catch me around the waist.
I tensed. Despite the warmth in his voice and the gentleness with which he handled me, I tensed. “I…Uh…” I stuttered out as I moved away, instantly noticing his face fall.
“Are you sure you’re okay princess?” he asked, a defeated tone creeping into his voice.
Leaning down to peck his cheek, I replied, “I will be…”
I was as shocked as he was at my body’s response to his touch and I knew as I watched his face fall a moment before that he thought it was him. But it was the farthest thing from the truth, it was my own demon resurfacing. While I followed him into the living room, Chinese food cartons in my hands, I wished that moment hadn’t happened. I would have given anything to be just a normal gal with her gorgeous man in that moment. Not some weirdo who out of nowhere couldn’t tell the touch of a good man from Satan.
I watched as he took the cartons from me, careful not to touch me and arranged the table so we could reach it from the couch, pulling it in closer and I wondered for a moment if he was going to stay in his chair. Before I could even ask, though, I watched as he angled himself closer to the couch and popped his brake before removing his feet from the footplate. He looked up at me then, his eyes dark and questioning almost challenging with uncertainty.
I winked at him, with a small smile hoping to ease his mind a little and he then proceeded to scoot himself forward, using his hands he lifted himself and propelled himself onto the couch with ease, a small smirk on his lips. He scooted himself back into the couch and arranged his legs which had become twisted, lifting them one at a time before unlocking his chair and pulling it around the side of the couch. Again he looked at me, this time, his eyes were full of desire and a smirk had taken up permanent residence on his lips as he patted the couch next to him.
“Mangiare, mangiare,” he said, reminding me of my Italian grandmother.
I sat down a little way away from him, I was scared that my body would betray me if I got too close, and it killed me. It killed me to keep my distance but it would hurt me worse to hurt him.
“Could you pass me a plate Taylor?” he asked softly.
Wordlessly I held out a plate and a fork, as I watched him lean in towards the table using one hand to brace himself and reaching with the other for the beef and broccoli. I liked to watch his hands, strong rough hands yet gentle in the way he handled things.
“Please tell me what’s wrong pretty girl,” he asked.
“Can we eat first?” I asked, hoping to buy myself some time.
“Sure…” he answered with a smile.
We crushed the food with barely any conversation and as I got up to clear the mess he spoke, “Leave it, Taylor, I’ll get it later. We can start a movie if you want, but I just want to relax with you…”
I sat back down nodding as he pulled up the Netflix. “What are you in the mood for Elliot?” I asked trying to conceal the anxiety in my voice.
“Ladies choice,” he said, handing over the remote.
I had no idea what to choose, we hadn’t really discussed movie likes and dislikes yet so I settled for Begin Again, really it was the first thing I found that looked okay. I put the remote back on the table and brought my legs up underneath me. I was still almost half a cushion away from him and as I felt the couch moving I realized he was moving closer. I mentally begged my body to relax, not to tense up, as I turned to find him studying me as he inched closer.
“I know something is up Taylor…” he stated, “Is it… is it me?”
“No. Not at all Elliot…” I answered.
“Why didn’t you go to work?” he asked.
“I got into a fight with Dave,” I answered, not ready to start this conversation.
“Did something happen? I mean, is there something I can do?” he asked, his hand slowly and softly covering mine on my knee.
“He was being an older brother…an idiot older brother who is a complete jackass,” I answered truthfully.
“I happen to know a little bit about that…” he said, his thumb stroking the back of my hand.
“He just opened up an old wound tonight that I’m having trouble closing back up. I don’t think he meant to do it, but he did.” I said turning to face him.
“Can I kick his ass?” Elliot chuckled, his eyes lighting up.
“No…I can take care of him, but thank you for the offer…” I laughed, bringing my hand up to touch his face. “I’m sorry I freaked out earlier…when…I mean…”
“Princess, it is okay. I am not going to pretend it didn’t confuse me because it did. I just thought maybe we were going too fast…that maybe this,” he gestured to his body, “Was too much for you…”
“I promise you it is nothing you did, and we aren’t moving too fast. Like I said, old wounds…” I tried to reassure him, moving in close and touching my forehead to his.
“You have a ledge too?” he asked before his lips found mine.
Breaking the kiss I answered, “Doesn’t everyone…”
As I let myself melt into him I could feel myself relax, his strong yet gentle hands holding me close until finally, he guided my body to straddle his without breaking our lip-lock. The tension from earlier had melted away. It was as if my body craved his touch and his attention as much as he craved mine. When we settled into the couch to watch the movie I leaned myself against the firmness of his chest, his arm coming to rest over my body. I felt protected and cared for in a way that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. His fingers brushed along the inside of my arm while we half-watched the movie, conversation becoming more important. It was hard for me to leave the warmth of his embrace when I looked at the clock and saw it was well past eleven. I helped carry in the aftermath of our dinner and as he took me to the door I paused briefly letting my eyes follow the steps up to the second floor. His hand found my waist and pulling me onto his lap he brushed the hair from my face and placed his forehead against mine.
“Be careful going home pretty girl…” he said, closing his eyes like he was memorizing this moment.
“I’ll be fine Elliot, ”I teased, planting a quick kiss on his nose before getting up.
“Text me when you get home?” he asked, worry lines creasing his forehead.
“Will do handsome,” I smiled as I walked out the door.
I could feel his eyes on me and sure enough, when I got in the car and looked he was still sitting in the doorway.