Small footsteps thudded through a secret garden, hidden behind two houses in Leeds.
“Eddie!” A small voice called out. “Eddie, where are you?”
Olivia found the place near the brook where she and Eddie usually met. Sometimes, they would be there for only a moment. Other times, they would be there for hours. They hardly ever got in trouble for it—his parents never noticed that he was gone; her parents were never home to notice, and Nanny Mel always preferred that Olivia entertained herself.
She sat down on the familiar large rock at the edge of the brook and straightened her blue skirt, tracing her fingers along the pale-yellow lace trimming. Eddie would come—she knew he would. Before too long, there was a rustle in the bushes behind her and a cheeky face, framed with a mop of dark-brown hair, popped into view. She jumped up to hug her friend.
“Oh, Eddie!” she said.
“Hello, Livvy,” he said as they both returned to the rock.
They talked for what seemed like hours. She told him about her ideas for new tricks to play on Nanny Mel when she wouldn’t expect it. Eddie told her of how his dad hadn’t been home for weeks and how his mam didn’t seem well. She knew that Eddie’s dad beat him and his mam whenever he was home—she once made him tell her why he always had fresh bruises whenever his dad was home. At first, she thought that he had another friend who he would go on adventures with, but the bruises looked too big. Besides, they were best friends and spent all of their free time together, so there was never any time for other friends. But that never bothered them—they were OK as long as they had each other.
“I wish I could come on holiday with you,” Eddie said.
Now laying on the rock, they both let out a sigh. Even at twelve years old, they knew what was going on around them—they knew what plans they wanted to follow through with.
“One day, Eddie, we’ll go on the longest holiday ever! Just you and me.”
“Where will we go?”
΅ ΅ ΅
After being in Scarborough with her parents for three weeks, Olivia couldn’t wait to tell Eddie all about her holiday. She stared out of the car window, seeing the familiar trees and buildings as they neared their home. She was so excited to tell Eddie everything, that she didn’t notice the removal van outside of his house. As soon as their car had stopped in their driveway, Olivia jumped out and ran to her best friend.
“Eddie! You have to go to Scarborough, Eddie—it was so wonderful! There was so much to see and do and there’s a castle there too! Well, some of it—it’s really old and damaged but—”
Olivia paused when she realised that Eddie seemed sad. Her eyes followed his mam directing two strong men carrying heavy boxes to the van that was already half-filled—the most recent box labelled Eddie’s things.
“Eddie,” she said. “What’s happening? Why are they taking your stuff?”
In her heart, she knew the answer but wished it wasn’t so.
“We’re moving, Livvy,” he said, pulling his crumpled sleeve down to cover a fresh purple bruise on his arm. “To London.”
“But, why?” She felt hot tears prickling her eyes.
Eddie watched his mam follow the men back inside and he leaned in close to Olivia.
“Dad came back while you were gone, Livvy,” he whispered. “He was worse than before—hurt Mam bad. She was even in hospital for a few days. Then, he left again. So, Mam said that we’re moving before he comes back. Gonna live with my uncle for a while, I think.”
They heard Eddie’s mam call for him to help with the boxes and he headed towards the house.
“I’m sorry, Livvy,” he said.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Where?” A tear finally fell from her eye.
“In Paris.” He grinned, then turned away for the last time.
“Olivia? Can you do that for me?”
Olivia snapped out of the haze of daydreams and memories that drifted through her head and looked at her frazzled friend. Vanessa’s short, brown hair was standing up in an unbrushed mess as she rushed to find lunchboxes and missing shoes. Olivia hated losing focus on her friend’s stressed conversations—she usually ended up agreeing to more than she would prefer.
“Do what?” she asked.
“Liv!” Vanessa moaned. “Can you please mind the kids after school? My boss is having me chase my tail for that promotion—I won’t be able to get to them on time.”
Olivia thought for a moment—she loved her godchildren and enjoyed spoiling them, but, lately, she’d been minding them for a lot longer than the usual hour or two at a time.
“Liv?” Vanessa was desperate.
“Sorry! Yes, all right, I’ll mind them. But promise me that you’ll be back for tea—I have plans.”
Vanessa looked relieved and hugged Olivia as though she was a lifesaver.
“I promise!” she said. “Oh, thank you so much!”
Olivia helped her friend find the last missing shoe, handed her a brush, and hugged her godchildren before telling Vanessa that she had to go.
“I almost forgot,” said Vanessa. “How’s your new man?”
“Antoine?” Olivia blushed. “He’s fine—but he’s not really my ‘man’.”
“You’ve been dating for a month, right? I’m pretty sure that means he’s your man.”
Olivia said her goodbyes and headed to her favourite patisserie whose name had always changed, but the food and people stayed the same. She had never really thought about where she stood with Antoine—she liked him, and they’d always enjoyed each other’s company. They had been dating for a month, but there had never been a discussion or anything to indicate that they were actually in an exlusive relationship.
Since she left Leeds and moved to Paris, she had never been in a relationship. She had dated—a lot—but for never more than one or two dates. One date only lasted ten minutes before she called it short. She had met all kinds of men—from nice men, to jerks, to men who couldn’t possibly maintain a relationship with anyone. Antoine, on the other hand, was different. She enjoyed their time together and liked his touch. They saw each other most days, but they weren’t always dates. Sometimes, they would just be time spent in each other’s presence.
“Bonjour, Olivia,” the familiar waitress said to her.
“Bonjour, Marie—you’re looking well. What’s the name of this marvellous place now?”
“Michelle’s Fameux Patisserie,” Marie said with a smile. “They say this name is for good.”
Olivia ordered an espresso and a slice of berry tart and looked over at her usual table in the corner—Antoine was there in all of his dark-blonde hair, blue-eyed glory. They exchanged smiles and she headed towards him. One day, she would ask him where they stood. But for now, she would enjoy what they had.
΅ ΅ ΅
Scott ran his worn, calloused fingers through his grimy dark-brown hair as he examined the plans of the building they had been working on. Why weren’t the measurements adding up? He shook his head—Jack had got the figures all wrong and now they were presented with the potential dilemma of a particular room being too large. Before too long, their boss would find out, and he wouldn’t be happy. He felt for Jack—he was a hard worker and a good colleague, but often made careless errors that could cost him his job and potentially others too. He racked his brain for a resolution for the issue—how could someone, anyone, stuff up a measurement by so much? He rolled up the building plans and walked to where the other builders had gathered around to insult Jack for his mistake.
“Imbecile! I’ll lose my job over this!” one of the other builders yelled.
“Calme-toi, mate,” Scott said, defending his apprentice. “It’s not your fault. No one will lose their jobs—as long as it gets fixed before the boss finds out.”
Scott proceeded to announce his plans on fixing the situation. Since it wasn’t yet permanent, it was still fixable—and, hopefully, his boss wouldn’t notice. He liked Jack—he liked all of his builders—and he didn’t want anyone to get in trouble for anything. Ultimately, it came down to him. He trusted that Jack got the figures right; he knew that he should have double-checked them, but he was proud of the confidence that Jack had in himself. Well, he knew better for next time—and hopefully Jack learnt something too.
After what seemed like hours, it all looked as it should and the boss would never need to know about the mishaps of the day. He checked his watch and sighed—time to go home. Just as he expected, the boss came to do his end-of-the-day check and found nothing wrong. Jack had gotten away with it this time, but he had to sharpen up.
Packing up all of his work gear and nodding his goodbyes to his colleagues, Scott paused for a moment to observe the people walking past. Out of all the places he had lived, he loved Paris the most—he knew that he would. He loved the views, the people, the coffee, the environment, everything. The only thing he didn’t like was that he was there alone—but, hopefully, that would change soon. After all, he did have a date tonight. Maybe he would connect with this one.
While he was driving home, he thought about how he had managed to get to where he was now. As a child, he never would have thought that he would be the project manager of a building site, or even in Paris. But now, at twenty-seven years old, anything seemed possible. He saw the traffic light ahead turn red and slowed his car down. He didn’t mind waiting at traffic lights—it was another chance to watch people just passing by.
When he saw her, his heart skipped a beat. He didn’t know why, and he didn’t even notice that, for a moment, he stopped breathing, and all time seemed to slow down. She was like a goddess. Her long, golden locks that were pinned to one side bounced against her shoulders as she strutted across the road. Her blue floral dress draped lightly over her slim body, trailing behind her in the breeze. He watched her in awe as she reached the other side of the road and walked up the pavement as though she did it on a regular basis before she disappeared around the corner.
Scott was jostled out of his trance by the loud toot of a car horn and realised that the light was green. Continuing to drive home to get ready for his date, his mind was hazy and filled with thoughts of the beautiful goddess. She hadn’t seen him, but he had seen her.
Scott looked all around him. He had brought his date to an Italian inspired restaurant that his boss recommended—and it was, indeed, nice. The atmosphere was warm, intimate, and pleasant, and the tables and chairs were close enough to accommodate a lot of people, but not so close that you can hear the conversation of the people next to you. There was a large fish tank with many exotic fish that shone with brilliant colours and swam patterns around the tank. Soothing classical music played quietly in the background and the food was delectable. Yes, he would come here again.
Usually, he didn’t take recommendations from his boss, but this time, he was glad that he had. He always thought that his boss seemed a bit suspicious. He was usually a nice guy if he was in a good mood, but, once something went wrong, he could be a real hot-head. That was why he didn’t want his boss to find out about the mishaps at work—he had seen the boss unleash his fury on the previous project manager when something went wrong. Scott would have jumped in to try and calm him down if another worker hadn’t beaten him to it. Needless to say, neither of them ever returned back to work and Scott was promoted to be the new project manager.
Since that day, Scott and all the other builders stayed extra wary and extra cautious of everything that they did in an attempt to avoid another conflict with the boss. So far, they had remained successful, but today, it came too close—way too close. Jack, having worked there for only a few months, still didn’t seem to comprehend how much of a hot-head their boss could be. Apprentice or not, the results would still be the same. Thankfully, Scott got to it first.
He gathered his thoughts and tried to concentrate on his dinner companion, Melissa, who perhaps was a bit more excited than she should have been. Since they sat down at the table, she had not stopped talking. She talked about her family, her cats, her hometown, her cats, her whole life story and, oh, her cats. How had he managed to get into this?
“So, Jack told me that you’re the project manager of the building he’s working on and that you saved the day.” She fluttered her eyes at Scott while she spoke.
Oh, that’s right—she was Jack’s cousin. Why had he agreed to come on this date? He nodded his response and she smiled at him and continued talking, twirling her auburn hair between her fingers. Admittedly, she was pretty and pleasing to look at, but he just couldn’t stand her—or her cats. He wished the date was over and he wouldn’t have to see her again.
Right at that moment, the door of the restaurant opened, and a familiar man walked in, accompanied by a brown-haired, nicely dressed lady. Scott didn’t know what he should do in this situation—it had definitely become more awkward than he anticipated his evening would be. If it was a friend of his, he would have no hesitation in calling him over for a chat. But his boss—the very man who recommended the restaurant to him—was a different matter. He preferred to keep his distance from him wherever possible.
Despite trying to hide from view, his boss still saw him and brought his date over.
“Hello, Scott,” he said. “I see you took my recommendations. What do you think of this place?”
“It’s definitely a good one, boss.” Scott now wished he had decided to take Melissa somewhere else.
To Scott’s surprise and embarrassment, his boss asked the waiter to join their tables so that they could sit together. Oh, how he hated Jack right now! If Jack hadn’t set him up with his cousin, he wouldn’t be in this restaurant having a double-date with his boss! He eyed his boss’s companion, Jan, and felt sorry for the girl—it appeared that it was either their first or second date and now she, too, had been lured into having to double-date. Now, whatever escape that he could have had from his single date with Melissa seemed to have vanished. He knew he was in for a long night.
Throughout the evening, the conversation seemed to drift between Scott’s boss and Melissa, while Scott and Jan remained in an awkward silence, observing what was going on around them. He had to smile when he thought he saw amusement on Jan’s face, she was obviously thinking about something else, rather than the topic of politics and cats that the conversation seemed to cover. He, too, allowed his mind to wander again in hopes that the evening would soon come to an end.
His thoughts drifted back to the goddess that he saw on his way home from work, his body aching to see her again. He wanted to run his fingers through her long golden hair and stare into her eyes—he wondered what colour they were, and he imagined that they would be enchanting. He wanted to stroke her cheek and examine every feature of her face before lifting her chin gently to kiss her soft lips. He wanted to feel the shock of her tongue teasing his own as he would lean in to kiss her more passionately, his hands tracing the curves of her body that were hidden by her blue floral dress. He wanted to love her and feel the warmth of her body against his own. He wanted her—he desired her.
The goddess had already taken over his every thought—he just had to meet her.
Olivia didn’t mind picking up Chad and Vanessa’s children after school. As a florist and the owner of her store, she had the flexibility to work her own hours. There was also Betty, who worked for her regularly and could mind the store when she had errands to run. She was glad that she hired Betty, especially since her store was open every day of the week. She was a hard worker, a nice girl and made it much, much easier for Olivia to have a life outside of her work. Of course, in return, Betty’s hours could be flexible too, they just had to ensure that at least someone was at the store during opening hours. And, as much as her godchildren loved coming back to her store, some days it was just easier to take them back to their home.
Thankfully, for Vanessa’s sake, Olivia’s plans had been cancelled for the evening. She was supposed to be going on a date with Antoine, but he had said that he couldn’t do tonight when they caught up at the café in the morning. They were able to enjoy their morning tea together, but Olivia was still disappointed that he cancelled their date. They did reschedule for another day but for lunch rather than for dinner.
“On Sunday,” he said. “We can have lunch.”
He never did say his reasons for cancelling and, although she kept telling herself that he didn’t have to, she couldn’t help wondering why he’d bailed and wondered how much she actually knew him. In the end, it was just as well that he had, because Vanessa was late home—again. Chad was home early, so he would have taken the kids off Olivia’s hands, but Olivia decided to stay and help.
She had known Vanessa and Chad since she first moved to Paris to attend University. Her and Vanessa were roommates in the live-in dormitories and stuck together like glue. Olivia had already done courses in floristry and went to University to study Business Management so that she could learn the tricks of the trade in running a business. Vanessa studied Journalism and now worked at the local newspaper. She remembered the moment when Vanessa and Chad met each other. Vanessa had recruited her to operate the camera for an assignment she had to do. She was interviewing students about what they thought is most attractive in a partner and Chad was one of the people she interviewed.
“I could show you,” was his response with a wink. “But no cameras allowed.”
You could almost see the electricity bouncing between the two of them. After that, they were Vanessa and Chad. Chad and Vanessa. There was nothing that could come between them and, as far as Olivia was concerned, there never would be. But, as infatuated as they were with each other, they made sure that Olivia never felt left out.
Olivia could hear Chad organising dinner in the kitchen while she played pretend with her godchildren. First it was Princes and Princesses, then they were Pirates sailing the seas, and then the floor was lava. She kept an eye on the three youngsters as each of them jumped from the couch to the wooden coffee table and back again. Joey and Max, who were identical twins, would be seven in a couple of weeks and inherited Vanessa’s brown hair. Emmy was five and inherited Chad’s blonde hair and was usually very shy—except, of course, when Olivia was around.
Vanessa’s return home did not go unannounced. As soon as the key clicked in the front door, all three kids forgot that the floor was lava and raced to welcome their mother home with screams of delight and enthusiasm.
“Sorry I’m late!” Vanessa called out while wrestling with the kids.
Before too long, everyone had settled down at the table and were drooling over Chad’s spaghetti bolognaise.
“How was work?” Chad asked his wife.
“Exactly the same as it was all week,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m starting to wonder if that promotion is actually worth it.”
“I bet you’re glad it’s the weekend, then,” Olivia said, Vanessa nodding her response.
“She’s been counting down the days since Monday morning,” Chad said.
A few minutes of laughter and a rousing up for the kids later, they were able to return to their conversation and their meals.
“You didn’t have to cancel your date, Liv,” Vanessa said between mouthfuls. “Chad is quite capable of minding the kids and making dinner.”
“I didn’t,” Olivia said.
“He did.” Chad made sure to emphasise the ‘he’.
“Again?” Vanessa’s eyes grew wide. “When was the last time he didn’t cancel a date?”
Olivia shrugged and swallowed hard. “Maybe our second date?” she said. “But it doesn’t bother me. We still catch up for coffee.”
Vanessa put her fork down and leaned forward so that the kids wouldn’t hear their discussion although they were too intrigued in a game of pulling faces and stealing each other’s food to make notes.
“Liv,” she said. “I’m telling you this because I love you. You can’t base a relationship solely on coffee conversations.”
“It’s worked so far,” Olivia said.
“It’s true, Liv,” Chad piped in. “Coffee dates last only for the length of the coffee. No more, no less. There’s not enough time to get into the deep stuff and really connect.” He put his arm around Vanessa.
Olivia stared at the plate full of food in front of her. It looked so yummy—and it was. Chad made the best spaghetti bolognaise she’d ever had. But she had lost her appetite and she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. She really liked Antoine, but her friends were right. They needed to go on proper, lengthy dates. The ones where you learn everything about each other. Sure, she enjoyed their little coffee dates, but their conversations were so … superficial … and would usually be spent organising a date that he would eventually cancel. She didn’t know anything about his family or his upbringing. All that she knew was that he worked at a construction company. Not the actual labouring part, but in the offices. Or, so she gathered anyway since he was always in a suit.
But those eyes! She wouldn’t be able to concentrate on holding a conversation when she was gazing into those striking blue eyes and hearing his soothing accent. He was everything that she dreamed a handsome French man would be like. And he was interested in her, it seemed, since they continued to see each other.
“I’m sure he had a good reason for cancelling,” she finally said, more for herself than her friends.
΅ ΅ ΅
There she was, in her blue floral dress with her golden locks illuminated by the sun. He couldn’t quite picture exactly where she was, but she was standing near a fountain. A steady wind moved her hair to one side, exposing her elegant neck, and pressed her dress against her so that the curve of her body and the shape of her legs could be seen. He could almost smell the strong perfume that she wore, mixed with the sweet smell of the cherry blossoms that fell around her. She lifted her hand from her side, the sun glimmering against a silver coin as she tossed it into the fountain. He wondered what her wish might be. He hoped it was the same wish that he would make. He stepped closer and saw her body tense and her back straighten. She knew he was there. She heard him. He thought he heard her heart pounding as he stood behind her. Or perhaps it was his. She turned around.
Scott woke to the sound of someone knocking at his door. He looked around him, observing the ray of sun shining through the slit between the curtains, and the dust motes that danced in the light. It had been two days since he saw the goddess walking across the street, but it seemed she now inhabited every thought and every dream that his mind dared to have.
He heard the knocking again. He groaned as he stood out of his bed and pulled some jeans on. He wished that the dream didn’t have to end.
“I’m coming,” he yelled, plucking his shirt off the back of his couch, pulling it over his head, and opening the door.
“Jack?” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“Don’t you answer your phone?” Jack said, walking past Scott, and flopping onto the couch.
“Oh sure, come on in,” Scott muttered under his breath, closing the door, and facing his colleague. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Your phone.” Jack pointed at it. “I’ve been messaging you for the last two days and you haven’t replied. How was it?”
“How was what?” Scott replied, rubbing his head as he started making some coffee.
“The date with Melissa,” Jack said.
Scott stood still. Of course, Jack wanted to know how the date with his cousin went. It all came back to him, the memory of the four of them sitting at the table. The night seemed to go on far longer than Scott intended on staying. If it wasn’t for the waitress topping up his glass every time he emptied it, he wasn’t sure how he would have gotten through it. Though, that did result in a killer headache that was only now seeming dull. He wasn’t even sure what time he did manage to get home, but he did know that he managed to avoid bringing Melissa with him.
“Well?” Jack prompted.
“What did she say?” Scott asked, not sure if he should tell him the truth.
“She said that she had fun.”
“Did she tell you that the boss joined us with a date of his own?” Scott raised his eyebrow.
“Our boss?” Jack’s eyes widened.
“At our table.”
“Awkward?” Scott said. “Yes, it was. But serves me right for taking my friend’s cousin to a restaurant that my boss recommended.”
Jack stared at his hands folded in front of him. He opened his mouth and closed it as though he wanted to say something but decided against it.
“What?” Scott handed Jack a coffee and took a sip of his own.
“Do you plan on seeing her again?”
Scott stared at his friend. He looked like a child that just found out he wasn’t going to get his way.
“We’re two very different people,” he said slowly, easing himself into the seat across from Jack.
“They say opposites attract.” Jack’s eyebrows lifted, full of hope.
Scott let out a sigh and shook his head. “Jack,” he said. “I don’t want to lie to you. Melissa is pretty, but she’s not my type. I mean, she talked about her cats—a lot.”
“You don’t like cats?” Jack raised his eyebrow again, this time in surprise, like it had never occurred to him that anybody wouldn’t like cats.
“I despise them,” Scott said with a smile.
Jack bent his head to stare into his coffee, silent for a moment, then his body started to shake. Scott leaned forward in his chair, surprised that his acquaintance could be so disappointed about his decision. Then, he heard a chuckle that soon turned into rambunctious laughter, filling the room that was silent only a moment ago.
“What’s so funny?” Scott asked, downing the rest of his coffee. He was going to need another one, it seemed.
“You should have seen your face,” Jack said between breaths. Scott stared at him for a moment in puzzlement then stood to get more coffee. “You seriously thought that I would be disappointed,” Jack’s laughter subsided slightly, “that you didn’t want to see my obnoxious cousin again.”
“I’m sure she’s a nice girl,” Scott said, allowing a smirk to flash across his face. “And I think the boss has his eyes set on her after last night.”
Once more, the room filled with laughter and Scott was glad that he managed to get out of a very awkward situation. From now on, he would refuse any dates that were set up. And, he would certainly not take restaurant recommendations from his boss ever again.
Scott watched as the goddess closed the book she was reading and checked her watch. She had been sitting right by the window at the table in the corner for at least an hour and had ordered nothing more than a cup of coffee. Scott looked down at the cup in his hand. This was his third—or maybe fourth—refill. He was ready to leave after his first cup but found that he was practically glued to his seat once he saw her walk in.
Her hair was as golden and bouncy as he remembered in his dreams, but it wasn’t pinned to one side. Today, she had her hair completely out and it framed her porcelain face perfectly. He still hadn’t seen all of her face, but he could see her side profile. The way the tip of her small, delicate nose caught the sunlight and how her pink lips shimmered in the light. She wore tight-fitting jeans and a loose t-shirt with a scooped neckline, enough to let his imagination run wild.
She placed some money on the table, paused for a moment, glancing out the window once more and rose to her feet. Scott downed the rest of his coffee, plucked some money from his wallet and placed it on the table. He watched as she left Michelle’s Fameux Patisserie. He rose to his feet and followed.
΅ ΅ ΅
Her friends had been right—she was sure of it now. They had to have the conversation, she knew that too. In fact, she was ready to have that conversation today. Planned it, even, and had stayed awake for most of the night wondering what he would say. She was going to be confident. She was going to take charge of the situation. She was even going to look over the fact that she never once dreamed of having the conversation with anyone before. She liked Antoine, but she wanted them to be on the same page. She’d be damned if he didn’t even bother to show up.
Olivia was furious. She felt the hot blood rushing through her veins and she wanted to let out her frustrations on him. He’s the one that said to meet him there for lunch on Sunday. And she was there. She was there ten minutes early like she always was and waited like a lovesick school girl pining for her crush. Her cheeks reddened, and she felt flustered. Well, she wasn’t going to wait anymore. She laid some money on the table, picked up her bag and stormed out of the café before stopping briefly outside to decide which way she would find him.
She didn’t know. She didn’t know where he lived, or where he worked, or even what he was doing. She laughed to herself. She must look like an idiot, standing outside of a café trying to decide which way she would go. Who is at home or at work for Sunday lunch anyway? This is Paris, after all, and it’s a beautiful day. Granted, she usually worked on a Sunday, but she was a florist and business has always been good on the weekend. She didn’t even know where to start or what she would say to him if she did manage to hunt him down.
Olivia snapped out of her thoughts and spun quickly on her heels to see who was calling her, tripped on a crack in the pavement, and bumped into a hard wall she was certain wasn’t there before. She was also sure that walls didn’t have arms to help her regain her balance. She tore her gaze away from the solid wall and looked up into two striking, hazel eyes.
She studied the man in front of her.
His short hair was a deep brown, framing a very manly face and his defined jawline was shadowed with two-day stubble. He looked the very opposite of Antoine. One could easily tell that this man was hardworking. His build was strong, Antoine’s was lean. He looked rugged, though his clothes were neat. Antoine always wore a suit. But there was something about this stranger that she found alluring and attractive. She felt his arms tensing under her hands.
“I am so sorry!” She blurted out the apology while tearing herself away from this incredible creature and took a step back, stumbling on the crack again. But the stranger caught her, again.
“You’re not very good at this, are you?” He laughed.
“Excuse me?” Olivia shook off the stranger’s hands and crossed her arms. “If you hadn’t been so close to me I wouldn’t have bumped into you in the first place.”
“If I hadn’t been so close to you,” he said with a smirk, “you would have landed face-first on the pavement.”
Olivia pursed her lips and stared at the pavement where she would have landed.
Olivia shot him a look. This man was not only an incredible creature, but a rude one at that.
“For cushioning your fall.” He extended his hand towards her. “And for returning your book.”
Olivia stared at the book he held in his hand and let her arms fall to her sides. Now it started to make sense. After all, why would he be so close to her if she hadn’t forgotten her book? The last book her mother gave her before the accident. She let out another laugh.
“Thank you,” she said. “I can’t say it enough. You don’t know how important this book is to me … uh?”