Authors: Susan Stoker
Dean: Want me to call?
hen she didn’t respond right
away, Crash thought about it and hurried to text.
: Only if you want to. I’m not trying to be a stalker or anything.
Dean: Okay, beautiful, I’m not going to push. I’ll text later this week with details on our date. I’m sorry you had a bad day.
and put his head back. Damn. He hadn’t meant to rush her, or make her feel uncomfortable. But even just by reading her words he could tell she was upset, and he’d only wanted to make her feel better.
His phone dinged with a text.
: If you’re not busy, I wouldn’t mind talking.
, Crash touched the little phone icon next to her name and brought the cell up to his ear.
Dean. Yeah, he liked his name on her lips.
“Hi, beautiful. I’m sorry you’ve had a crap day. If you really don’t want to talk about it, it’s fine. I wouldn’t ever want you to do anything you weren’t comfortable with.
“Thanks. I…I just usually talk to my sister about my boss from hell, and it threw me for a bit when you offered to talk. I don’t—” Adeline abruptly stopped talking.
“You don’t what?”
“I don’t want you to think I’m a downer. Or that I’m always bitching about my job. I usually don’t. But it’s been a trying month or so.”
“I appreciate that. We don’t know each other very well, but even after only being with you for a short lunch, I got that you aren’t one to complain about things.”
“You did?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah, beautiful. I did. Now…tell me about the meeting this morning. You said you had to go in early?”
She sighed hugely and Crash could picture her expression pulled down in a frown. It made him want to do anything he could to wipe it off her face.
“Yup. We all had to be in at seven-thirty for a meeting. My boss screwed up an account…again…and needed us to bail him out. You know James Wolfe?”
“The car dealer guy?”
“That’s him. Well, our company does his marketing, and it hasn’t been going well since Douglas took over the account.”
“Ouch. I have to say, I don’t watch a lot of television except at the station, but the last few commercials I’ve seen have looked pretty amateurish. What’s with the fake shots of the wolves howling while a car drives by?”
“Right. That’s why we had the meeting this morning. Our old boss had been given marketing carte blanche by Mr. Wolfe, so those ads that have been running weren’t reviewed and approved by him and he’s not happy.”
Crash chuckled. “Gotcha.”
“Anyway, I was kinda looking forward to the meeting this morning. I mean, I work with some awesomely creative people, and I knew we’d be able to put together a kick-ass campaign for Mr. Wolfe. The meeting started out good. Really good. We talked about new commercials, radio spots, teaming up with the zoo to get some good cross-promo and stuff. Douglas sat quiet the whole time, taking lots of notes, of course. Then he spent the last thirty minutes telling us how everything we’d discussed wouldn’t work, and how we were stupid to think it would, and if he was smart he’d fire us all right then and hire an all new staff who knew what they were talking about.”
“What an ass,” Crash swore. “Seriously, has the guy taken any leadership or management classes?”
“It gets worse,” Adeline told him.
“One of his interns, who he treats like shit, later told us that he spent the rest of the morning on the phone with Mr. Wolfe pitching all of our ideas to him. Ideas that he’d told us were crap only an hour before.”
“Who does that?”
“Douglas Hill the Third,” Adeline said dryly.
“Can’t anyone talk to
“It’s complicated. He was hired by the Vice President. And
guy is almost untouchable because he’s like, San Antonio royalty or something. Basically we could bitch to him about Douglas, but he wouldn’t do anything about it. As long as our division is making money, no one cares how it’s being done.”
“And no one has confronted Douglas about it?”
“He was fired.”
“Jesus,” Crash breathed. “Please tell me you’ve sent out resumes. I can’t imagine working in a toxic place like that.”
“Sent three this afternoon.”
“Thank God. I’m really sorry, beautiful. It sounds like you need a glass of wine, a massage, and a day off.”
She laughed. “One out of three isn’t too bad.”
Crash bit his lip to hold back the words he wanted to say. That he’d come over and give her that massage. Too much too soon.
“So, how was
day?” she asked, clearly trying to change the topic.
“Busy, as usual.” Crash went on to tell her about the many calls they’d had.
“Is it weird not knowing the outcome of the people you help?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, that accident. You held that woman’s head, but you don’t know if she’s okay or not.”
“Ah. Sometimes, but honestly, I don’t think about it too much. Ultimately, I do the best I can in each situation. We might learn about what happens to people after they leave the scene, but it’s to further analyze the job
did. For instance, if we learn that the woman is paralyzed, I would want to try to figure out if it’s because of something we did at the scene. But generally, we try not to second guess ourselves or our actions. We make a ton of split-second decisions and we screw up, just like everyone does. It sucks, but it happens. It’s why we do so much training, so we don’t have to think so much when we get to a scene, we just act.”
“What are you thanking me for, beautiful?”
“For doing what you do. I know you get paid for it, it’s a job, but not everyone could do it. I know I couldn’t, and I’ve met enough first responders in my life to know that you’re really good at what you do.”
Crash chuckled. “You’re welcome. Although I have to admit, I didn’t really do anything for you.”
“Sure you did.”
“No, I really didn’t.”
“You got me to a safe place where I didn’t have to worry about being robbed or hurt while I was seizing. I didn’t have to worry about Coco and if someone would steal him. Nobody was pointing at me and laughing, or worse, filming me with their damn cell phone cameras. You let me process when I came to, and didn’t rush or push me to talk. So yeah, Dean Christopherson, you did a lot. And I appreciate it.”
“Damn. Now I want to beat the shit out of anyone who even looks at you sideways. This might not bode well for our relationship.”
He closed his eyes and smiled at her small laugh. He could picture her smile in his head almost as clearly as if she was standing in front of him.
“Can’t help it. I’m a protective kind of man, beautiful, and if I ever see one person with their cell phone pointed at you while you’re having a seizure, I can promise you they’ll never do it again.”
He tried to tone down the intensity in his voice. “You good otherwise after your shitty day? No seizures today?”
Adeline let out a large breath. “No. I’ve felt a bit off all afternoon, but no seizures.”
“Does stress bring them on?”
“Sometimes. I’ve noticed that alcohol can do it too. I’ve pretty much cut it out of my life except for the occasional glass of wine. I really miss being able to have a couple margaritas with my sister when we go out though.”
“Maybe getting a new job will help.”
“I’m hoping so, but not counting on it.”
“Have you decided to have the surgery then?”
“I just don’t know. It scares the crap out of me and I’m not ready yet.”
“Then wait until you
“It’s not that easy.”
Crash laughed. “Now you sound like me. I was asked something today and that was the answer I gave. Adeline, give yourself a break. You know your body. Having the surgery isn’t an easy decision. I don’t think I’d be able to do it for all the reasons you mentioned yesterday. It’s simple for a doctor to tell you it’s what you should do, but it’s not his brain, or his life, that’ll be affected. Besides, even if you do go under the knife, there’s a chance the seizures won’t completely go away, right?”
“So there you go. You’ve got time to fully weigh the pros and cons. Cut yourself some slack.”
“You’re pretty smart, you know that?”
They both laughed.
“Seriously, thanks for calling. I needed this.”
“Anytime. I mean that. I like talking to you, Adeline. You make me feel that there’s more to my life than jumping at the sounds of the tones and doing errands on my days off.”
you do on your days off?”
“The same things you probably do on the weekends,” he told her easily. “Grocery shopping, clean the house, sit on my butt and watch football.”
“I don’t like football.”
“Be still my heart,” Crash teased. “Not like football?”
“Okay, I do like watching the guys’ butts in their uniforms. That better?”
“We won’t watch football,” he declared immediately.
Adeline giggled. “Why ‘Crash’?”
“Why is your nickname Crash? Or is that a secret?”
“Nope. No secret. On my very first day on the job, we got nothing but call after call for car crashes. The others dubbed me that. It stuck.”
“I thought it might be because of your driving habits.”
“No way. I’m the safest driver out of everyone. I promise you’ll be safe with me.”
“I know you weren’t,” Crash interrupted, “but I felt it needed to be said anyway. You should know when you’re out with me, you’ll be safe. If Coco alerts, I’ll get you someplace clean and protected to have a seizure. If you’re in a car with me, I’ll never speed or be unsafe. If we’re walking somewhere, you and Coco will be away from the street. I take your safety seriously, beautiful. No matter where we are or what we’re doing.”
“Okay,” Adeline said in a whisper.
Crash took a deep breath. “On that note, I should probably let you go. I wasn’t aiming to freak you out, and you sound like I did anyway.”
“It’s not that, it’s just…I generally
feel safe. Anywhere.”
“You are when you’re with me. I know it’s not something I can just say and you’ll automatically feel it. I hope that you’ll come to know it as a fact over time. I’m sorry you had a bad day. I was serious earlier when I said you could always talk to me about it. Anytime you need to talk, just call. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I’ll call when I can. Okay?”
“Have a good night, beautiful. I’ll text tomorrow and let you know where to meet me Friday night.”
“Good night, Dean.”
Crash clicked off the phone and groaned. He hadn’t meant to say all that shit about her being safe with him, it’d just popped out. He couldn’t be sorry it had, though. No woman should feel uncertain or unsafe when she was with a man. It didn’t matter if they’d just started dating or had been together for years. The world was a harsh place, even more so for people who didn’t fit societal norms.
Adeline was not only pretty, she also had a disability that was more than evident at times. It couldn’t be easy. Crash made a vow right then and there to do whatever he could to make her life easier. He couldn’t be with her at work, but he could be there for her after.
Plans for their date swirled in his head and he suddenly knew exactly where he wanted to take her on Friday night. He smiled and scooted back down on the mattress getting comfortable once more.
* * *
, no, no!
Yelling doesn’t work. She doesn’t like yelling. She scowled and wrinkled her nose. She thought you didn’t see, but you did.
She needs to be courted. Treated like gold.
She’ll like you if you talk nice to her. Get her to go on a date. Women like that.
Take her to lunch.
Then she’ll be yours.
You can keep her forever and she’ll love you.
her phone for what seemed like the hundredth time to make sure she was in the right place. She was.
Dean had told her to meet him at an address in Southtown, an area just south of downtown San Antonio. It was generally known as the creative part of the city. There were a lot of eclectic shops and smaller specialty restaurants. She wasn’t really the creative type, even though she worked in marketing, but Dean got points for doing something outside the norm.
The rest of the week at work had been relatively uneventful. There hadn’t been any more run-ins with Douglas, thank God. He’d been tied up in meetings or out of the office. Which was fine with her. Adeline had lunch with her sister one day and told her all about the goings on in the office as well as about Dean.
Alicia, of course, had cautioned her to take things slow, picking up on the fact that Adeline really seemed to like Dean. Adeline had reassured her that she actually knew more about Dean than she did some of the men she’d met online.
After Adeline promised that she’d call Saturday morning to let her know how it went, Alicia had finally stopped nagging. But Adeline had a feeling she’d probably get a call or text Friday night from her sister, checking up on her and making sure all was well. Even though Alicia was younger than her by a few years, she was the worrywart of the family. Adeline’s health scares didn’t help the matter any.
Adeline hadn’t spoken with Dean in the last few days, but they’d had a few chatty text conversations. He inquired about her day and health, and Adeline did the same. On Thursday afternoon, she’d received the text asking if she’d be able to meet him around five in Southtown. She’d had to leave work a bit early, but Adeline didn’t have any issues with that, considering how Douglas had made them all come in before eight for that meeting earlier in the week.
It was now 5:05 and Adeline nervously made her way with Coco to the address he’d given her. She saw Dean before she realized what the address was, and had to swallow hard. Lord, the man was good looking. Tonight he was wearing a pair of dark jeans, cowboy boots, and a button-down white shirt, the stark white against his tanned arms making him all the more handsome. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and Adeline decided there was nothing sexier than the sight of a well-built man’s forearms.
He smiled at her as she neared him and Adeline’s knees almost buckled. Somehow she’d forgotten how his smile lit up his face. How it made her want to make him keep smiling, if only to see the joy on his face aimed at her. Laugh lines around his eyes deepened as his lips quirked up. Adeline felt like the most important person in the world as he looked only at her as she approached.
“Hey, Adeline. You look great.”
“Thanks. Sorry I’m a bit late.” Adeline had changed out of her work clothes before she’d left the office. She wasn’t one to get dressed up that often, but she’d made the effort for Dean. She was wearing a knee-length skirt that swished around her legs as she walked. It was purple with white flowers and had several light layers. It made her feel feminine and pretty. She’d paired it with low dark purple heels, knowing better than to attempt to wear anything over a couple of inches. She used to wear heels all the time when she was younger, figuring the extra inches they gave her were a good thing, but after too many sprained ankles to count, not to mention how she used to have seizures without any warning, she’d learned that two inches were now her physical limit.
She was wearing a cute lilac-colored, cap-sleeved knock-off designer blouse, which matched her skirt. It had a scoop neck both in the front and back. It hugged her breasts and even though she wasn’t model thin, her lingerie kept all her bits tucked in and pushed up in the right places.
She didn’t wear them a lot, but something about wearing a corset made her feel sexy and confident. It held her stomach in and pushed her boobs up…and when paired with a silky tank top couldn’t really be noticed under her shirt. Win-win-win in her book.
She’d put a bit of makeup on, lipstick, blush, mascara, and a light dusting of purple eye shadow to round out her look. Her hair she’d left down, but had brushed it out and sprayed some volumizer on to give it a fresh look after the long work day. She could’ve been more creative if she’d had the time, but she thought she looked pretty good.
Without hesitation, Dean placed his hand on her hip as he leaned into her. He kissed her on the lips gently then pulled his head back, not removing his hand. He looked into her eyes as he said, “Hi.”
Dean licked his lips and his eyes darted down to her mouth, before coming back up to meet her eyes again. “You’re beautiful.”
Adeline knew she was blushing, but tried to be suave. “Thanks. You clean up pretty well yourself.”
He squeezed her hip at her words and leaned in again, brushing his lips against her cheek this time and then moving to her ear. “Thank you for agreeing to meet me tonight.”
“Thank you for asking me out,” Adeline returned.
“You’re welcome.” And with that, Dean finally let go of her waist and crouched down to greet Coco. “Hey, handsome. How ya doin’?”
Coco’s tail wagged in response as he sat at Adeline’s side wiggling in excitement.
“Go on,” Adeline told her dog, releasing him from duty.
As if he’d been physically held back, her words were the signal he’d been waiting for. Coco leaped up at Dean and the force of his ninety-pound body knocked Dean over onto his butt on the sidewalk.
Adeline would’ve been horrified, but Dean immediately laughed and shifted to his knees. Taking her dog’s face in his hands, Dean play-wrestled with Coco and tried to keep the dog’s tongue away from his face. After a couple moments of roughhousing, Dean finally stood up, patting Coco on the head.
“Coco, heel,” Adeline ordered, pleased when the dog immediately came back to her side and sat, as if he hadn’t been drooling all over the man now standing in front of them.
“God, I miss having a dog around.”
“You had one?”
“Yeah. She died last year. A Rottweiler. I got her from the pound. The staff estimated she was ten years old and told me she’d been dumped by her family. They decided that they just didn’t want her anymore.” He shrugged. “She was the most gentle, loving dog I’d ever met. All she wanted to do was lie around and sleep…oh, and get pets. She had a level-four heart murmur and her ol’ ticker just gave out. I found her one morning in her doggy bed, not breathing; she’d passed away during the night. I miss her.”
“I’m sorry.” Adeline put her hand on Dean’s forearm.
He immediately put his hand overs hers and turned them to head down the sidewalk. “Thanks. You ready for tonight?”
Adeline smiled at him. “Depends on what you have planned. Ready to go skydiving or street race? No. To eat? Yes.”
“How about a quick stop first?”
Adeline shrugged. “Sure.”
“Good. Here we are.” Dean gestured at a small shop they’d stopped in front of.
She looked up and saw a sign that said Garcia Art Glass, Inc. Through the windows, she saw shelves upon shelves of beautiful glasswork. Glasses, plates, vases, and sculptures. All in different vibrant colors. Inside the store, there was an ornate chandelier hanging from the ceiling. She looked up at Dean in confusion.
“It’s a hand-blown glass store,” he told her. “For some reason, I thought you might enjoy it. They’re going to do a demonstration for us.”
“Really. Is it okay?”
“It’s perfect,” Adeline breathed. “I’ve never seen it done before. How fun!”
The worry lines on Dean’s forehead smoothed out. “Good. Come on, they’re waiting for us.”
Dean held open the door for her and Coco and Adeline gazed around in wonder as she entered. Everywhere she looked was beautiful, colorful handmade glass. Stained-glass windows hung on the walls and row upon row of glasses were displayed as well. She wasn’t sure where to start.
“Mr. Christopherson and Ms. Reynolds, yes?” a woman asked from the back of the store.
“That’s us,” Dean replied.
“I’m Clarice. You’re right on time. We’re all set up and ready for you.”
Dean put his hand on Adeline’s lower back and urged her forward.
As if in a daze, she followed the woman through the store to a door in the rear. They entered a room with a few large ovens along the far wall. There were benches set up in a semi-circle in front of them and the woman motioned for them to sit in the middle section in the front.
“This is Andres. He’ll be demonstrating how glass-blowing is done for you tonight. It’ll take about forty minutes or so, then you’ll have some time to browse the store if you’d like. Enjoy.”
Adeline nodded, but her eyes were fixed on the Hispanic man in front of them.
,” he stated in a warm, friendly voice, holding out his hand. Adeline and Dean shook his hand and he got right to it.
Thirty minutes later, with more information than she’d ever need about how to blow glass, Adeline watched as Dean took a shot. The room was warm from the furnace and Adeline knew she was perspiring but didn’t care. There was something so erotic about watching Dean manipulate the pipe.
He gathered the melted glass from the furnace, turning the pipe in his hands over and over, the muscles in his arms rippling with his movements.
Andres told him he had enough and Dean moved to a steel table and began rolling it. Andres instructed him on how to blow into the pipe to make a bubble in the molten glass. Dean went back to the furnace and gathered more glass, then returned to the steel table to repeat his earlier steps. Andres then began to shape the hot glass with a piece of soaked newspaper.
Dean and Andres discussed something for a moment and the instructor took the pipe from him. They nodded at each other and Dean thanked him.
He came back to her side.
“That was cool. Was it hard?”
“Well, let’s just say if it was left solely up to me, I’d end up with a blob of glass that didn’t resemble anything but a blob of glass.”
Adeline laughed. “This was fun. I don’t think I’ve ever even thought about how that works before.”
“I agree. I figured I’d try to impress you with something you might not have done. Want to browse a bit before dinner?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “I think I saw about ten things I had to have just at first glance on our way back here.”
Dean laughed and took her hand in his. “Well, come on then. Far be it from me to keep you away from your treasures.”
They walked back into the small storefront and the woman who’d originally greeted them smiled. “Like it?”
“Oh, yes,” Adeline told her. “I can’t believe everything in here was handmade.”
“Yes, it’s all been created by artists in the area. They sell it on commission. So take your time and see if anything strikes your fancy.”
“Oh, I can tell you right now, all of it does!” Adeline said with a laugh. She walked to the front of the store and told Coco, “Sit. Stay.” He did as asked and followed her with his eyes as she wandered around the displays.
Adeline seriously wanted to buy about fourteen things, but limited herself to two small sculptures and a beautiful multi-colored vase. Dean wanted to pay, but she absolutely refused, saying that just because he’d asked her out, didn’t mean he had to pay for her baubles.
Surprising her in a good way he didn’t argue, simply holding his hands up in a surrender gesture and backing away. Adeline laughed. “Thanks. I get that you’re a guy and you want to pay, and it’s appreciated, but it’s not right.”
a guy, and I
be paying for dinner; as long as you understand that, we’re good.”
Adeline rolled her eyes and shook her head, smiling. Saying in exasperation to the lovely woman checking them out, “Men.”
Clarice chuckled and continued to wrap up the fragile pieces. When she was done, she handed them to Adeline, but didn’t let go of the bag when Adeline grabbed hold of it. Leaning forward, she said in a stage whisper, “He’s a keeper.”
Beaming at the woman, Adeline simply nodded and allowed Dean to take the bag out of her hand once they were on their way to the door. “I’ll carry it. You take Coco.”
The bell over the door tinkled as they left. When they were on the sidewalk again, Adeline turned to Dean. “What now? I’m not sure you can top that.”
“Dinner, of course.”
“How adventurous are you?”
“Um…if we’re talking do I want to bungee jump out of a helicopter over the Alamo, no. If you’re talking trying new things, then I’ve been known to do crazy stuff now and then.”
Dean laughed. “No bungie jumping, that’s for sure. There’s a wonderful Belgian Bistro across the street that has delicious
. But if you don’t eat seafood and don’t like mussels, they have other things like chicken and steak as well.”
“I’ve heard great things about that place,” Adeline exclaimed. “But I’ve heard it’s hard to get in.”
“I have reservations, beautiful,” Dean chuckled.
“Oh. Then yes, please. It sounds great.”
Dean made them walk down the street to a crosswalk rather than simply jay-walking, and he kept his word, making sure she walked alongside the storefronts rather than on the other side of the sidewalk next to the street. It was a small thing, but the fact that he made a concerted effort to put himself nearest to the cars went a long way toward making this a perfect date.
They were quickly seated when they got inside, and even though it wasn’t that crowded at first, by the time they’d received their appetizer, it was packed.
The small restaurant was loud and Dean pulled his chair closer to hers at the table in order to hear her better. Coco lay sleeping at her feet, and Adeline couldn’t remember a better date. Dean got the mussels and she got the hanger steak. The
were to die for and they ordered a sampler of dipping sauces so they could try them all.
Feeling replete, Adeline sipped a glass of Rombauer Merlot and relaxed in her seat, wishing the moment could last forever.
“What’re you thinking?” Dean asked, putting his hand over hers on the tabletop and idly brushing his thumb over the back of it.