Chapter 2

A feeling of euphoria washes over me as his hand gives life to me. He usually doesn’t interlock our fingers when he takes my hand, but now, By the Queen. Lighting flashes through my body, heating up all the right parts of me. Or Wrong.
There is another feeling, however. Nerves creep up my spine. It does concern me that Andre is a Captain in the Royal Army. Word has it, to reach that level in the army, you have to be able to do some incredible things. Dangerous things. Looking at him now as I make my way my door, I’m sure his body could do those things, but I find it hard to believe that his mind could. I continue to think as he closes my door and goes to get in on his side.
Looking around in his car gave more reasons to doubt that he could be this beast that everyone makes our army out to be. His sedan is completely spotless. Air fresheners in the vents, change neatly arranged, he even has clean mats. He was too well kept. Someone capable of those unspeakable evils couldn’t be this organized and put together.
Someone that could perform the vicious acts that comes with the small talk of the Drow Army must be evil. And if I know at least one thing about Andre, he was not evil.
He finally makes it into the car, and with effortless motion, he turns the ignition, and we seem to sail. My car has never driven this smoothly before, and it’s automatic. Here he is working a stick shift with such ease. And the only thing I can think about is how good he must be with his hands.
My eyes trail his arm and admire the way the fabric hugs him. They wonder for a while admiring all there was to see. They then land to his face and notice his lips are moving. Queen’s breath, is he talking to me.
“Bunny? You okay?” his voice gives my body a little hum.
“Hmm? Yeah, why do you ask?” shaking the feeling off and paying attention to his lips. His words.
“Well, I asked you how your morning has been, and you didn’t answer.”
“It was just a morning, Andre. Nothing to it?” I lick my lips and hope that he misses that.
“Right, and that look is just a look.”
“I don’t have a look.” I turn to look out the window to avoid his gaze. “And shouldn’t you be looking at the road?”
“Okay, Bunny,” He laughs, “Well, would you please play some music for us?”
“Oh, so that’s why you brought me along? To be your copilot?” I say, turning back to him with a smile and crossing my arms.
“No, you’re my DJ. The music I listen to is trash next to yours. I wanted you to put me onto some new stuff. I have been away for five years. Not many radio stations in the battlefields of the Kelza Republic.”
“Well, since you put it that way. Can’t have your ears rotting off.” I say, not sure which way the conversation would go if I didn’t. I tease him and want to be normal, but I don’t like him thinking about the war at all. He’s been back for a little over a month now, and though I’m sure he’s had his chance to re-transition, I don’t want to bring up bad memories if I don’t have to.
“What’s your password to your phone?”
“You know what it is already.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. If you can’t guess it, then I guess we’ll just have to sit in silence,” He says, making a turn on the highway. This major highway was the fastest way to get to the Corner Cafe, but it was still about a twenty-minute drive.
“Fine, whatever,” I say with a little more sass than usual. I sometimes forget that he can be entirely too annoying. If he’s saying I know the password, then it must be his birthday. 0712. Wrong.
“I told you I don’t know it. It’s not your birthday.”
“Try again, Bunny,” he says with a smirk.
Wait till we get out of this car. I’ll smack that smirk right off. Let’s see. How about 0918? Queen’s mercy!
“Why is my birthday your password?”
“You’re my best friend, right? Kind of hard to forget it.”
I don’t want to let him know how happy that made me. I turn myself in the seat to face him and hold his phone up to keep him from seeing my smile. “I thought you would like that. It’s nice to see you smile.” He always knows.
“Shut up and drive. You probably just changed it before you got to my house.” I say, easing into the sit.
“Seeing as how haven’t been to your house in about five years, sure.”
“Ha, ha,” I say sarcastically. “You know what I mean.”
“Doesn’t change my answer.”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up and drive?”
“Yeah, but when have I ever listened?” he says, getting off the exit.
He irritates me so much.
With his phone unlocked, I quickly go to his music app and pull up a quick search. Once I find a suitable artist, I start a radio on them and let the smooth sounds of R&B ease its way through the car. After a lot of ‘Ohh’s’ and ‘Yeah’s’ the song begins and sets a pretty chill vibe. I place his phone back in its mount. He starts finger tapping on the wheel. I guess he’s happy with my selection.
This was nice. Not only was he doing all the driving in your typical busy Monday traffic, but I also go to chill with my friend. It has been way too long since I’ve had this kind of time with him. I skipped out on his coming home party. I couldn’t stand to be in the room with Ashley again. That and I was avoiding him.
We glide through traffic, and I find it hard not to get lost in this moment. Where I could just be with him. The only problem is that even though this is what we have always been, I’ll always want more. He made that clear very early on in our friendship, and it wouldn’t be fair to him if I take advantage of his kindness and try to push him into a relationship. Like Mammy always told me, ‘whether it be beast or man, if they don’t come to you willingly, then they aren’t yours’.
“Hey, go ahead and add this to my playlist, will you?” Andre says, floating through the maze of moving cars. He’s enjoying himself just a little too much for my taste.
“Sure thing, sir,” I reach down to get his phone and click that little plus button. As I move, I feel as his fingers slide into mine.
Why does my body heat up just as before? Will his hand in mine always cause this effect? I take a deep breath and try to calm myself and embrace his touch.
The brain takes another trip down memory lane and sends me the postcards of all the times he slept over. From the movie marathons to the late-night study sessions, it usually ended with us cuddling. My heart would race then, thinking that he would do more, but he didn’t. Ever.
Getting a delightfully bright memory of one of our tenth grade nights, when my hormones took over. Under the glow of the night in my room. I turned and faced him. He had a look of confusion when my eyes turned away from the movie and turned to him. My hand landing gently on his strong face and pulling his lips to mine. The spark I felt from his lips had been dreamy, but his actions after were not.
He nearly jumped out of his skin and started apologizing to me. Getting out of the bed and grabbing his things and leaving as fast as I had ever seen him move.
That embarrassment comes to the front of my mind, and my brain starts to remember the events that followed. The awkwardness that followed.
And here we are now.
So now he wants to show affection to me? I can’t believe this. This could possibly be a byproduct of his breakup with Ashley. If that’s the case, I don’t want to be his get over her girl. Especially when I warned him about that very same girl. If he wants to be with me, I want to be his only choice, not his second choice
If he is coming on to me now, I’m not sure I should even give in. Where was this when I needed it? Where was this affection when I needed more than a friend on all those cold nights? Andre knew my feelings for him and made sure to keep me at arm’s length. Even dating my high school rival. So if he wants to play this game now, I will get my way for once.
He will not just walk in my life after I get everything together without him. Where was he when I was working hard to raise the money for my shop? When I was doing the marketing, the hustling, the research? All the long nights I spent alone? He was laid up with a girl who only wanted a good time. It may be selfish to think, but I needed him far more, and I was pushed aside.
I want to see what happens if I give in, but this is not okay. I know I’ve wanted this man for most of my life, but not like this. If I start it off like this, I will set the wrong tempo for the rest of our lives.
At the same time, I don’t want to push him away if his feelings are hurt, and he’s reaching out for comfort. Queen’s mercy, is that all this is? Am I overreacting? It’s very possible that he just needs some physical connection to someone that he knows he can trust. That would make more sense. Oh, by the Queen, what is this? My heart can’t take this.
“One second, Bunny,” he says, shifting gears. Gliding through the clutter, we are nearly there. With all the adjustments he needed, he places his hand on the console. Girl, what do I do? His hand felt so good, but I don’t want to be used, even if it is by him.
I look out the window and pretend that I didn’t see his hand go back. Watching the people go about their day seems to ease me a little. I feel warmth creep up my thigh.
Queen’s breath.
I look down, and he has his hand on my leg, and I need more space from him. Confined to the car, there is nowhere else to go. I scoop his hand in mine and give him a gentle look. This may be bad, but the alternative is much worse.
As our palms touch, he moves his fingers to link our hands. It’s okay to live in this moment for a little while longer, I convince myself. This means nothing. Just two friends, enjoying the company of each other. That’s all. All there is.
“So how long do I have you for?” he says with the restaurant coming into sight.
“Not sure I understand? We’re just grabbing food, and you’re dropping me off, right?” I say, not realizing I was rubbing my thumb on his hand. Stop that! Well, maybe a little more. He finds a parking spot that has a clear view of the homey restaurant.
“Yeah, when have things ever been that simple with me?” he says, the smile can be heard in his voice.
“What did you do?”I turn to him, and my eyes narrow.
“I may have called our food ahead and paid them a good tip to keep us a table for a while.”
“Are you trying to kidnap me? You know I have to open the shop, right?”
“Yeah, but your shop doesn’t open until nine. We can sit and have breakfast.”
“Andre, I have orders to get ready before the store opens. I have to let my employees in, I have to drive to the shop. Do you see this traffic?”
“I’ll help you with the orders to make up for the lost time, and I’ll drop you off and pick you up today. Will that give me more time with you?”
“What if I need my car to make a run?”
“I’ll do it.”
“You have to work.”
“I called off.”
“Queen’s ass, you did. You can’t call off in the Army.”
“You let me worry about that. In case of an emergency, I will leave you my car and get one of those taxis that aren’t taxis? What are those called that you use the app for?”
“You will leave me your car and get a Zippy? Your car cost more than my shop and house combined. Why would you do that?”
“First and foremost, it’s not. I got an amazing deal on it. Secondly, you’re trustworthy enough to drive it.”
“Have you forgotten how bad I am with stick shifts?”
“Let’s do this, do I get more time with you? Yes or no? The reasons for one or the other are unimportant,” he says, leaving me speechless. I am not used to a man being so forward with me and not going along with all the back and forth. He had an answer for everything I could throw at him. I … I just.
“Listen, you can’t get your way all day,” I say and reach for the door.
“You open that door, and we will have issues,” he says and gets out of the car. I’ve never been so turned on and mad at the same time. A part of me wants to open the door just to be a little rebellious and sees what happens, but the other part of me is loving being in this fantasy where I am Andre’s woman. Quicker than I can finish my thought, he has opened my door. I get out of the car, and once he closes the door, I push him against the car and point in his face.
“Let me tell you something. You aren’t going to keep bossing me around all… ” I don’t see what happens. One second I was in front of him with my hand on his chest. The next, he has me backed up against the car. The coolness of the car and the warmth of his big body on mine. Queen’s breath, what have I gotten myself into?
“I’m not? You seem to be going along with it so well.”
“Let me go, Andre,” I want to say, but it sounds more like a whisper. He didn’t hurt me, but he did make me a little weak in the knees.
“You say that, but you’re holding on to me.” I realize that I have a tight grip on his suit sleeves. I try to let go, and almost fall back into the car, but his arms are there to catch me. He should have just let me fall; I can’t take much more of this. I regain my balance and push him gently off of me.
“You good?” By what definition here, sir?
“Yes, I’m fine,” I say and straighten myself out. “Let’s go in so I can sit down. You made me a little dizzy.” Amongst other things.
“Yeah, sure,” he responds and gets to my side, closest to the street. Always the gentleman. Of course, he opens the door for me, and we go into the humble little cafe.
The waitress at the counter does her usual questions of pick up or dine in. Andre informs her that he was the one that called in earlier, and she’s more than eager to get us seated.
She takes us to the back corner booth and asks us what we want to drink. I’m fine with lemonade, but I’m thrown a little off when Andre asks for hot lemon water. I think the waitress is a little put off too, but she jots down our request and scampers off with a skip in her step. How much extra did he pay?
“Hot lemon water?”
“It’s something I picked up from the Orcs.”
“Hot lemon water?”
“Yes, they believe that it’s healthier to drink the water hot.”
“Hot. Lemon. Water,” I say again, not really grabbing it.
“You see, they believe that …,” he explains, but I grab his hands to get his attention.
“Easy, I will let you explain everything in time, but tell me. What has gotten into you?”
“Not sure I know what you mean,” he says, taking my hands in his.
“Like this,” I say, adding attention to our linked appendages.
“Do you want me to stop?” He says, his eyes fixed on my face. He no doubt sees me bite my lip and throws out that smile again. “I didn’t think so.”
“Of course it’s not that it’s too much, just don’t know what brought this on. What made you want so much time with me? Why are you reaching out for so much affection?” I say. He lets go of one of my hands and reaches out to my face, I can’t move again, and when he brings me closer to his face, the looks into my eyes and makes sure that he has all of my attention.
“War changes a man in more ways than one, Bunny.”
“Excuse me?” I start, but he quickly answers.
“Do you think I don’t know that you’ve always wanted this. Us?”
“What about us? There has never been an us, other than friends.”
“And who’s fault is that?” His words tug at my heart and soul. This couldn’t be the conversation I’ve wanted with him for most of my known life.
“Wait, are we doing this now? Is that what this is all about? The alone time?”
“Yes, Bunny. That’s what this is all about. I’ve known for years about your crush. I was always afraid of what that would do to our friendship. I thought that if I kept you as a friend, it would be better. I started to think that if we were in a relationship, and something went wrong, it could damage us forever. I couldn’t imagine a world without being able to talk to you. Be around you. Spend time with you.”
Those red eyes of his burn with so much passion and care it can be felt in my soul. I want to look away to check if all of this is real. He must be reading my mind. His lips go forward and meet mine.
The flame of the deepest desires kicks in my as his lips pull mine and cause them to part. Driven by instincts and lust, I give my tongue to him as he shatters my curiosity about a kiss with him by being better than I dreamed of. When our lips part, he is still looking at me with a sense of belonging.
“This is real, Bunny.” He says. I catch as his eyes look at my lips and make there way back to mine. Since I don’t protest, he continues. “You know, the funny thing is, everyone has been telling me that they are sorry to hear how things happened with Ashley and me, but the truth is, I kind of broke up with her.”
“How? She was cheating on you before you even got back?”
“Yeah, about that. Sure, I was on the surface fighting, but I had plenty of time to write and call. I even had leave time I could have used to come back and spend with her, but I just didn’t.”
“Why?” I say, my heart starts to take flight. If he didn’t care about her, could… could it be.
“Because, when a person is facing the fact that at any moment, they can die, they really start to look at what’s important in their life. In all of my moments of realizations, not one of them had Ashley in it. But every one of them had you in it.”
Queen’s Mercy! Did my heart just stop? I can’t breathe.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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