Love can be hard to find, especially when we spend our time running and hiding in a bubble. Eventually , the soul tires of the chase, stops to rest, love overtakes and captures the heart. POP!
ACT I: LOVE ME, LOVE ME NOT
In this act, we see three scenes of beginnings. The process of awakening.
SCENE I: A Thorne In her Pocket
"Oh no," Bernard self consciously chuckled along with her. "well not as much as this for obvious reasons." With a nod of his head, he indicated the appearance of her hardened nipples, literally naked through the sheer material of her thin white shirt. "Honestly, I'd thought a few drops would have fallen on you and then I could have played the hero and offered you drying materials, and afterward we would have a full conversation instead of the cursory ones we have inside the building. Unfortunately, when I turned the corner at break neck speed, trying to catch you before you drove off, I stopped short at the sight of you on the bottom steps and the water sloshed out of the glass. Stupid me trying to keep it from tilting, dropped a book, reached for it and the glass tilted anyway and here we are."
Ivy, standing with mouth opened, listened intently. She was infatuated and the fact he knew her name and had gone through such ridiculous tricks to get to know her, made her care less how he met her, but so glad he had finally taken the initiative.
"Are you okay? Are you in shock, Ivy? You haven't said a word or changed expression in the past two minutes." Bernard snapped his fingers in front of her face.
"Yes, I'm fine. Kinda glad actually, I was sitting her trying to figure out how to casually' bump into you and now it's done. We can't go out for a cup of coffee with me looking like an advert of a contest. Can we set a date for a rain check?"
"Yes, of course. Give me your phone and I'll put in my number. That way you can call me whenever you're ready to set the date."
With an ease that kept her calm, Bernard took the cell from Ivy's slack fingers, tapped his number in, returned her phone and was stepping back before she could react. "Now, remember, Ms. Ivy Gardiner I'll be waiting." And with that he turned and walked away. Whistling as he went. Sighing deeply, Ivy held her hand to her chest and giggled like a kid promised a coveted gift. If it all worked out, he would be exactly that, tall, very dark, dimpled, courteous, Bernard. The fantasy she'd purposely kept tucked away.
SCENE II: The Cooking Class.
"So Franklin, why are you taking a cooking class?"
He coughed. "Huh?"
"Why are you taking a class? You don't have a wife or girlfriends you're trying to impress do you?"
"Then why take the class? It's not like you ever pay attention." She pushed away from the wall as the door opened on to the basement floor parking garage. "If you were acting like one of the other hundred guys who've taken the class and spent most of the evening trying to hit me up, I would think you liked me, but you say nothing." She walked out of the door, pulling his sleeve as she exited. "Come on. My car is over here."
He followed her without telling her he knew her car, had known it for weeks before he had even decided to take the cooking class. For one thing it wasn't hard to remember her car, no one else he knew drove a little red Aston Martin and for the past year they have attended the same church even though he tried to stay out of her way.
"How can you afford this car teaching people how to cut onions and celery?"
"I cut a lot of onion and celery."
"You know, Franklin." She pushed the required tab on her key's fob and opened the car's door. Sliding into the driver's seat she placed her finger near the button that would start the car and paused. "If you want to wait until you have gone through a few more classes before you ask me out its okay. I won't tell you no', but please ask before you cut your fingers off <'be' /> SCENE III-In All the Wrong Places.
The small taps on her chest by the camera, swinging from the strap around her neck, seemed to revive her stuttered heartbeat. Trying to keep from squealing like a terrified little girl, she placed her hand on the camera to stop its movements, swallowed hard and willed herself to stand calm and analyze the situation.
It wouldn't do to run in panic and without a solid escape plan. Where had he come from? Lowering her arms and releasing the hold on the camera in her hands, Lillie-Rose took a small step forward and adjusted her stance so that she would be standing on a more balanced piece of ground and not at the edge of the mountain. Peering over and beyond the man's shoulders Lillie-Rose tried to gauge the number of steps she would need to take in order to run past him and down the path leading back to the ranch.
"What are you doing out here, alone?" His voice was deep and unhurried, as was the glance he directed down the length of her body.
"I'm not too alone, you're here." Putting a reign on the trembling in her voice, Lillie-Rose did her best to swallow her fear. What she needed was bold faced confidence as her defense. He casually glanced over his shoulder before moving to the side and leaning against a tree, the movement successfully widening the space between him and the path.
He laughed. "Funny, but really, what are you doing out here? This isn't your property and I know for a fact you don't live on the ranch." Gesturing towards the large camera hanging around her neck he continued his questioning. "So, what are you doing on this land taking pictures? Are you spying on someone?"
"Uhm, I know the people who own the place."
"Really? Then why are you hiding in a patch of trees?" "I couldn't have been trying to hide too hard if you were able to find me standing out in the open at the edge of a cliff."
"You have a lot of jokes for a tiny woman standing on her own with a strange man."
Pressing away from the tree and moving back to his first position, the width of the man's body successfully blocked Lillie-Rose's escape route again. Deciding she was making a mistake in being casual and sharp witted in her precarious position, she bent to retrieve her camera bag. Maybe it was best she left as soon as possible and as a precaution she would call for help. Remembering her cell phone was tucked inside the camera bag and out of view of the stranger, she watched from the corner of her eye for any possible attack or sudden movement from him.
Hurriedly pushing the camera in the bag she purposely pushed the programmed button on her cell phone to dial 911. Knowing everyone in town knew where the ranch was; Lillie-Rose purposely lifted her voice and called out its name.
"You're right. I better leave. I often come up here while visiting the Gardiner Ranch and Ruby Barns Mountain. If you move away from the path I'll gladly leave. What did you say your name was, again?"
"I never said. You can go ahead and leave. Don't be afraid. You can go on past. I'm not going to do you anything, even though a woman of your size has no business being in the woods alone."
"Don't let my skin and bone five foot no inch body fool you. I've been known to handle myself pretty well." She could hear snickering from the 911 dispatcher on the other end of the phone and knew immediately who had picked up her call, Justin Whienhiemer her childhood nemesis. The joys of living in a small town meant you pretty much knew everybody, their habits and they knew yours. She'd hated the whiner' all through her school years and had even beaten him up a few times as a child. As an adult she was thrown in jail for a few hours after she broke Whienhiemer's nose in a confrontation at a local club and now the hate was mutual.
There was no love lost between the two of them. Feeling like she would be better off on her own, Lillie-Rose clicked the call off. Taking a deep breath and mentally preparing herself in case she had to do battle, she hoisted the camera bag to her shoulder and walked towards the person in front of her.
As she drew closer she felt as if she were shrinking in size, her bravado disappearing within the gigantic shadow of his presence. He was definitely a foot and a half taller and probably doubled her in weight. She measured the width of his shoulders with her eyes and shook her head to clear the negative thoughts running through her mind. If push came to shove that would be all she could do. Hopefully the shove would roll him down the hill away from her and she would be able to run to safety.
As she hurriedly walked in front and passed him, she looked back over her shoulder and had to catch her breath at his beautiful physique and the musky smell of his cologne. He was gorgeous. Walking a few more steps backwards Lillie-Rose stopped when she realized he wasn't going to follow her. Feeling safe at the distance she decided to question him.
"So, what are you doing up here?"
"Just tryin' to see what you're doing here." He pointed to the spot where she had been. "I saw you from down below and thought you were a kid stuck on a mountain."
"And you came to be my knight on a white horse?"
"Yeah if that's what you want to call it. I prefer Prince Charming." He smiled, showing beautiful white teeth and dimples to get lost in.
Shaking the rush of emotions at the thought of how gorgeous he was from her mind she stepped backed a little. "Well, I'm far from being a kid as you can…." She paused at the sound of sirens approaching and ran past him to the spot where she had been standing on the hill. Stopping at the edge of the precipice she looked down and saw three police cars and the officers rushing out. "Oh, man. I didn't think the whiner' would send anybody. I better go clear this mess up."
Turning quickly, Lillie-Rose ran smack into the solid chest of the guy and knocked him off balance. She hadn't realized he had followed her let alone was standing so close. Without thought she gave a small screech and tried in vain to grab the material of his tight t-shirt and missed.
"Wha..?" Startled by the shove she gave him, he lost his footing, slid backward on the loose soil and tumbled head over feet down the edge of the hill, stopping only when his head collided with the base of a large tree.
"Oh my God." Scampering after him as quick as she could without losing her own balance and falling right along with him, Lillie-Rose prayed for his safety. All of her life she'd moved quickly and without thinking and caused many accidents with her impetuousness. As was usual, someone else was always the victim. When she neared his side she could see he hadn't been knocked unconscious, but he was visibly shaken and scratched up by the bramble. "I am so sorry. Don't move." She pushed him back down.
"I'm fine. I used a little survival training I learned and just hit my shoulder. I'll be fine, maybe a little sore tomorrow."
"I'm so sorry. Are you okay? I could swear you hit your head. Let me check." She rubbed the entire perimeter of his skull and found a small knot rising with a small amount of bleeding. "There's a small knot. You may need to go to the doctor."
"What happened? Why'd you push me? Who did you see?"
She pointed to the men standing at the top of the hill peering down at them.
"The police have come."
Wobbling a little, he pushed himself into a standing position and reached back to use the tree as support.
"Why are they here?"
"Well, when you were standing in the path I dialed 911 from my cell, but this jerk I hate was on the other line so I hung up. I'm sorry I didn't think he would put the call through. I thought I would just make it back down, get in my car and leave. Look I'll help you up and clear everything and then you can go into town and to the emergency room."
"I'm fine." He shook her hands off his back. "Go on up, I can probably make my way up there better by myself than trying to lean on you."
"Are you sure? I can walk behind you in case you fall."
"And then if I fell again, I'll feel bad because I smashed you on the way down. Go on up, I'll be okay. And while you're up there be sure you make it clear I'm not an abductor, rapist or anything like that. I'll be behind you as soon as I can get my breath."
"I'll explain the entire situation. Don't be surprised if you don't see me when you get up there. I have to leave because I'm already late for work. Are you going to tell me your name? "
"There's no need."
"Well, I'll leave my card with one of the officers so you can send your medical bill to me. The amount won't matter. I am responsible."
"Don't worry about it. Look go on up before one of them comes down." He pointed to one of the three chubby officers that were testing the ability of the soil to hold his weight. "I don't want any one of them falling on my head."
She laughed softly. Looking back at him one more time before she started her climb, Lillie-Rose silently and with a huge regret, hoped she would never see his beautiful face again.
~ Nathaniel Henry stood slowly. As the ringing in his ears subsided to a tinkling, he brushed the contents of his surroundings from his clothes. He could already feel the beginnings of a headache forming. He'd hit his head pretty dammed hard on the tree. So hard he'd thought his eyeballs would pop out at the pain. When he'd looked into the concerned eyes of the woman and saw she was on the verge of tears, he'd immediately lied about using some physical maneuver to save his body from more damage. Why his first instinct was to comfort her he had no idea.
Lifting his head slowly, he watched her as she struggled to climb up the small hill. Again his instinct was to rush over and help her. Maybe it was the enticing way her compact little body fit into her jeans or maybe it was the combination of the way she threw her hair over her shoulder in false confidence and the stark vulnerability that showed in her eyes. She talked a good game, but all of her movements proved differently.
Stepping away from his perch against the tree he moved to follow her, stopped quickly and let out a sudden profane filled gasp at the sharp jab of pain in his ankle. Lillie-Rose immediately turned to look at him. The concern and urge to render aid evident in her gaze.
"I'm okay. Go on. I'm coming." Purposely steeling his face from any reaction to the expected pain from his entire weight being placed on an obviously busted ankle, Nathaniel took quick steps towards her, the action bringing him within inches of where she was perched. "Do you want me to give you a push up?" he smiled and lifted the corner of his brow. "I'll do anything to help us out of here."
Looking from her bottom to his hands that were poised in pushing position, her eyes widened. She stuttered her rejection. The idea of his hands-on her butt plainly not what she wanted. Chuckling under his breath at the speed in which she moved, he followed slowly behind.
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