Sweeter Than Chocolate: A Novella Part 4
James was admiring the waitress at the table behind her so he did not notice the sudden color. She tried not to look at the man again but could not help but watch him on the way out. Liz realized that the man looked like Ian, cleaned up and dressed up. He held the door open and looked back at her and winked again. She gaped, it was Ian. Color sprang to her cheeks again and she tried to stifle a grin.
The rest of the day she tried to get the handsome, confident, mature image of Ian out of her head but it tugged at her thoughts. Why was he dressed like that if he worked at a casual clothing store? Maybe he had a job interview. The day passed slowly; near closing she thought about home and wondered if Ian would be inside it again. She did not see how it could be possible now that everything was locked.
That night she went into the kitchen and set the coffee maker for 5 a.m. She turned on the lights and walked through the rooms. Ian was not there. She did not know if she should feel disappointed or relieved. She walked back to the kitchen to start turning out the lights and jumped. Ian was leaning against the doorjamb casually. “Were you looking for me?” he asked with a smirk.
“Actually, yes, I wanted to make sure you weren’t trapped in the chimney or some other strange place,” she smiled, happy to see him. “How did you get in tonight?”
“You didn’t lock the door after you came in. Liz, you need to be more careful,” he said chastising her. “I’m glad you added me to your daily routine.”
She blushed ignoring the last comment. “Yeah, you never know who’ll come through my door or windows for that matter,” she laughed.
“I’m serious, you need to be more careful,” he said looking concerned. He had changed from his suit into jeans and a polo shirt. His hair was cut short and she now longer had to struggle to see those brown eyes. He looked very nice. “I won’t keep you, I know you’re probably tired but I just came for my hat.”
They found the hat in the living room where Liz had taken it from his head that first night he found the home unlocked. She invited him to sit a while and asked him about his day. He asked her about the lunch. She raised an eyebrow at his tone; it was playful. “Why? Were you jealous?” she teased.
“Probably not as jealous as you, he had his eyes everywhere, didn’t he? Were you trying to make me jealous?” he teased back stretching out his long legs.
Her mind went back to the luncheon and James’ behavior. “I don’t know,” she said quietly.
“So you were trying to make me jealous,” he teased again.
“What? No, I . . . I didn’t even recognize you until you were leaving. I’m just glad my obligatory date is done,” she said with a sigh and leaned back in her chair.
“Boy, I guess he made quite the impression. One down, one to go, ay?”
She knew he was referring to the two rescheduled dates. She snapped forward in the seat and said mock angst, “I don’t know! That second guy never called me back.” She chuckled. There was a silence that followed and she wondered if he would like to schedule his date. She looked over and he was deep in thought. She hoped his feelings were hurt. “So . . . did you have an interview today?” She wanted to see if he was going to expand on his career as a sales associate.
“It was a very long meeting. I was happy to have the excuse to get out. And when I saw you, I was doubly glad. Sorry to distract you from Mr. Riley’s one way conversation.” He grinned.
Ian was observant but she couldn’t think the worst of James, not yet. She spent less than an hour with him and she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. “He might have been nervous,” she suggested half heartedly.
“You’re so intimidating,” he countered.
“Not everyone may have your confidence, you know,” she snipped playfully.
“I know, that’s why Martha told me I should give James a run for his money,” he said and he chuckled at the surprise on her face.
“Martha? It wasn’t Emma? Oh, no,” Liz fretted over the anger towards Emma. “How do you know Martha?”
Ian leaned forward and his eyes twinkled. “Your home isn’t the only thing that gets left unlocked.” She gasped and he chuckled. “Martha has been very kind to me. She lets me sample some goodies sometimes. Can’t tell by looking though, can you?” He patted his flat belly. “Not too many people are up and clear headed at that time of the morning.” He noted her tiredness and stood. She walked him to the door and he looked down. “Do you ever get a day to rest?”
“The store is closed on Monday,” she said.
“Okay, let’s do a picnic lunch on Tuesday.”
“Monday, you mean.”
“No, Tuesday. You rest on Monday and on Tuesday we’ll have an adventure, I’ll have everything taken care of. You rest on Monday and stay out of the store or I’ll have to kidnap you faraway on Tuesday.” He noted her expression. “Okay, I’ll just plan on faraway then.”
She was too tired to argue so she said good night. Two seconds after she closed the door, he knocked again and pointed to the door lock. She smiled gratefully at him and locked the door.