Sweeter Than Chocolate: A Novella Part 2


Tuesday morning things were back on schedule and Liz nearly forgot about Emma’s mishap until Emma came in for her shift.  Jennifer got to her first and chewed her out.  Later Jennifer approached Liz in her office and apologized for her sister’s actions and claimed that Emma only invited James. Knowing Emma, Jennifer surmised that she was excited about the planned date and told others about it and subsequently seemed to invite Ian. Liz actually chuckled, this was entirely plausible.

Emma knocked on her door around eleven thirty and personally apologized for messing up her date and putting her in an awkward situation. She smiled and revealed that James Riley was there to reschedule his date with her. 

Liz pushed away from the desk and the pile of paperwork she needed to work on and put on her store face. James was talking to Jennifer but smiled brightly when he saw her. She met James with a hand shake which he was reluctant to let go. He wanted to take her to lunch right then. She looked at her watch and smiled gratefully up at him. “I can’t today but Thursday I can, if you’re available.” He was and they agreed on a time. He was pushy but charming and it was hard to resist him. She loved his eyes; they had a very soothing effect on her and made her want to stare into them. They were making some casual conversation and she was actually being social.

Jennifer tapped her shoulder and said there was a phone call and it sounded important. Liz excused herself from James and took the call in the back room. The voice that greeted her startled her. “Ian?” She was surprised by his timing.

“Is this a bad time to talk?” he asked. His voice was rich and intriguing. She thought he could have his own radio talk show.

“For the moment it’s okay. I just never know in a retail environment.”

“I hear you there,” he paused and she speculated. “Can I call you after the store closes tonight?”

“Sure or better yet let me get your number and I’ll call you when I’m done here.” As soon as she said it she knew it was a lie. She would not feel like calling him or she, more likely, would completely forget. She sighed.  She scribbled down his number. They exchanged a few other pleasantries and he made her laugh. “Ian, let me give you my home number, because I’ll probably forget to call you.”

“I can tell that I made a big impression on you the other night,” he teased.

She laughed quietly. “It’s not that. If it’s not part of my daily routine I just forget things.”

“I’ll have to work on that.” he said with a smile in his voice. Liz laughed again and then she gave him the number. “Are you sure this isn’t the number to the Godiva booth in the mall?”

This time she laughed so hard Jennifer came around the corner to see if everything was okay.  Jen wore a shocked expression but she retreated back to the sales floor.  “Yes, I’m sure. Thanks for making me laugh.” Liz poked her head around the doorway. She saw a few people milling about looking at the goodies. A smiling Jennifer was ringing up a flirting James. Liz looked out the glass doors and saw a man on his cell phone looking in. Ian told her to have a great day and try not to forget about him. She hung up the phone, leaned against the door jamb and watched her store. James exited and headed away.

“What are you smiling about?” asked Jennifer.

Liz felt her face. She was smiling. “I just had the funniest conversation with the guy from the other night.”

Jennifer looked her up and down. “I like him if he makes you smile.”

Liz looked out the door again and saw the man pull open the door to the clothing store across the street.  “Jen, have you ever been in that clothing store?”

“Yeah, it’s great. The owner is a young guy and he designs lots of the clothes. They have an awesome selection and cool styles. The sales staff is great. There are a couple of really cute guys that work there.”

“Any of them tall?”

Jennifer looked surprised, “Do you think your mystery guy works there? That would be perfect for you. You both have retail hours!” She seemed excited.

“I don’t want to date a kid,” she said with a frown. The maturity levels would really be skewed plus he might be interested in her for the prospect of money.

That night she walked into the door and flipped on the kitchen light and set the coffee maker to come on at 5 a.m. She went to the living room and relaxed in a black leather reclining chair and turned the satellite TV on to a classical music station. She felt a presence and looked over to see a man standing there. She thought about the options. She could call the police, run or trust him. She relaxed back into her chair.

“Liz, you should never take your guard down. I could be a serial killer,” he said concerned.

“Come here,” she said to him putting her chair upright. He stood next to her and she motioned him closer. He leaned over her and she swiped the cowboy hat off his head and then moved some hair away from his eyes. “There, that’s much better. Now I can see your eyes. They aren’t the eyes of a serial killer,” she said and wondered why he was wearing that hat. He did not have a hat ring on his head so he must have just put it on. “You were supposed to call me not visit. How did you get in my house anyway?”

“Your door was unlocked. You should be more careful. I’ll go now,” he said turning to leave.

“No, wait,” she said not exactly sure of herself. Her mind was not ready for sleep and he was there so they might as well have a talk. She was not threatened by him at all. “Sit down and stay a bit.”

He smiled. “I guess locking the front door isn’t in your daily routine.” He sat down next to her on the sofa and stretched his long legs out.  They talked for about an hour about their little town and neither mentioned work much.

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