“So, do you know Lola Boots? I went to see her singing last night. She seems pretty talented.”
The woman’s face turns into a glowering expression which suggests she doesn’t like me discussing another female in front of her. "She’s okay, I suppose,” she tells me pettily. “Everyone thinks she should be famous, but she can’t be because she has to care for her dad.”
My blood runs cold, I realize my mistake. I’ve already decided that I don’t want to pry until she wants to share things with me, but it seems I’ve done that by mistake anyway. I press my lips tightly together, trying desperately to keep any other words inside, but Erica doesn’t take my silence as a plea for her not to continue. Subtle hints are obviously not her strong point.
“And after losing her mom so young, I guess she feels that she doesn’t have a choice but to stick around to run the farm as her dad’s MS gets worse. She doesn’t want him to lose the only home that he’s ever known. The link to her mom too I suppose. It’s all a bit sad, really.”
I don’t know what she’s trying to achieve here. Maybe she thinks I’ll start seeing Lola as someone to be pitied rather than attracted to, but it doesn’t work. It just makes me see how big her heart is. I knew that she worked on the farm, but she didn’t tell me that she runs it to keep her dad happy. I know she sticks around for him, she told me that without even needing to use words, but I didn’t know she was his care giver. This just makes me want to treat her more, it makes me want to make our time together, however short it might be, even more special. I know now more than ever how much she deserves it.
“Right, well this is what I’m going to get,” I say while dumping a selection of things on the counter. “Thank you for… you know, talking with me.”
She scans the items, still popping her gum. “You interested in Lola?” she asks briskly. “Because if you are I think you should know you’re barking up the wrong tree. She very much keeps to herself. A couple of the guys have tried to crack on with her, all with no luck. She’s just… I don’t know, empty, I suppose.”
I don’t say anything, even though the words are bursting to get out of my mouth. Clearly these guys, whoever they might be, were nothing compared to me. That’s why I was the one who managed to win her over in just a few short hours.
“Maybe they just weren’t the ones for her,” I say through gritted teeth. “Maybe she’s waiting for the one.”
“Oh come off it,” Erica scoffs. “No one believes in the one. We all just settle for someone we can put up with, that’s all. You aren’t idiotic enough to believe in all that crap, are you?”
“No,” I admit as I hand over some bills to pay for the food. “I don’t. Not really.”
It takes me a few more moments, but eventually I manage to tear myself away from Erica and her reasons for why we all just settle – a lecture I find very depressing actually – and I start the walk over to the farm. It isn’t far because everything is close together in this place, which also eliminates a lot of the traffic. That’s one good thing, I suppose. On the journey over I can’t stop smiling to myself at the thought of seeing her face again. She’ll be surprised to see me, I know that much, I just hope it’s a pleasant shock.
I spot her long before she sees me and I’m stunned with how rapidly my body reacts to her as she stands with a hoe in one hand and petting one of the sheep from the farm with the other. She isn’t in her sexy hot pants today, she had what looks like sweat pants covering her sexy, luscious legs, but she is wearing a checked shirt and an actual cowgirl hat which is interesting. I might have to get her to wear the whole outfit for me at some point, if she’s feeling particularly kinky…
“Lola!” I cry out happily to her. “I’m here. How are you doing?”
I turn in shock to see the man I’ve been daydreaming about all day long smiling back at me as he clutches onto to carrier bags in his hands. He’s like something from a damn fantasy staring back at me with those warm, inviting eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and broad shoulders. All I want is for him to wrap me up in those arms of his once more. I love the sensation of him towering over me, taking control of my body, making me feel the things that I didn’t even realize I’d shut off.
“You’re here,” I gasp in shock with my hand clutching in shock to my chest.
“You sound surprised.” He cocks his head and examines me through narrowed eyes.
I don’t know how to tell him without offending him that I am surprised that he’s back. Much as last night was amazing, and the best night of my life, there was never any suggestion between us that it was going to be more than a one time thing. But if I say that aloud, I’m basically calling him a man whore. I don’t know how well that will go down!
“I just have to finish up here,” I change the subject instead. “I hope that’s okay? It shouldn’t be too much longer.” I glance down at myself and cringe when I see how grubby I am from a long, hard day in the dirt. It certainly isn’t my best look! “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting company.”
He leans down and gives me a soft and gentle kiss on my lips. It’s so romantic that my heart flutters as we connect. “I have brought some food and I wanted to use your kitchen to make you something for dinner, if you don’t mind?” He sends me a wink so I know his comment is made in jest… not that I feel offended anyway. I know my kitchen is basic, that’s just how I like it. “You’ll have time to finish up here, have a shower if you want, maybe even check in on your dad if needs be…”
I freeze. Does he know that my dad is sick? The whole town knows, it isn’t one of those things that can be kept secret, but I know that my father is a proud man who wouldn’t want everyone to be talking about him. This illness he has kills him mentally more than anything else. It just isn’t right. His pride is the main reason he still lives alone and I’m in the cottage. I’m near, so I can help him, but he doesn’t feel like a burden on my life.
“What do you mean?” I ask slowly and carefully. It’s instantly obvious from the expression on his face that he knows. “Who told you?”
His eyes flicker downwards towards the ground before he answers me, but at least what he says is honest. He knows that I won’t like it, but he says it anyway which makes him quite a rare breed. The men I know, even Rory to an extent, will just say what they think you want to hear. The honesty is refreshing.
“Erica, from the shop, but I promise I wasn’t asking after you. I just mentioned that I saw you playing and she started spouting all this stuff.”
Erica… someone I barely know. I don’t even speak to her much more than a ‘hello’ when I go into the store, but she thinks that she has a right to tell a stranger these private things about me. That’s what I hate about everyone knowing everything, they think my life is their own too. Sometimes it’s nice, but sometimes it’s suffocating
“I’m sorry,” Brandon says again, making me realize that I’m pumping my fists by my sides in sheer anger. “I didn’t mean to involve myself, I know it isn’t right.”
“It’s not your fault,” I reply through gritted teeth. “Actually it’s fine. It doesn’t matter. I do need to pop to see Dad anyway. Maybe I’ll take a shower at his and be back down shortly.” I dip my hand into my pocket and pull out my keys. “You go inside, help yourself to whatever you need and I’ll be there soon.”