Opening the door to the store, Olivia walked in and then stopped. She scanned the store with a sigh. Walking straight ahead, she maneuvered through the couches and tables until she found Dean.
“How did you know I was here?” Dean asked, watching his best friend walk his way. He picked up a medium sized vase and held it out for her opinion.
“Nice for a focal point and I didn’t know you were here,” Olivia answered, stopping in front of him. “I called your assistant and asked if you were in the office. She said no and told me where you were. I was hoping we could do an early lunch.”
Glancing at his watch and then back at Olivia, Dean said, “It’s ten.”
“Then a late breakfast.”
“I’d love to, but I am almost finished with this design. If I can get everything I need today, then I’ll be set.”
“Please,” she begged. She knew Dean was a stickler when it came to his work schedule. It was what made him successful and was what his clients admired about him.
“We can do dinner or drinks.”
“I slept with Gray,” she said. Olivia watched in slow motion as the vase slipped through Dean’s hand. Lunging forward, she caught the vase with both hands.
Staring down at the vase, Dean sighed with relief. “You almost bought yourself a four thousand dollar vase,” he said, still staring at it.
Straightening herself up, Olivia held the vase out towards him. “Please take it from my hands.”
Dean took the vase and placed it back on the table he had gotten it from. Grabbing Olivia by the elbow, he dragged her through the furniture and out of the store. Once outside, he let his grip on her go. “You did what?” he asked.
“Okay, I really didn’t sleep with him,” she answered. “Not in the sexual sense anyway.”
“What other sense is there?”
“The I slept in the same bed with him sense,” she said, leaning against the wall of the store.
“Well you’ve done that before,” Dean replied. “It was the first night you met him.”
“I was drunk and so was he.”
“And last night you weren’t. So?”
“Never mind,” Olivia said, pushing herself off the wall. “I’m sorry to have bothered you while you were working. I’ll call you later.”
“Olivia,” Dean said as she started to walk away. “Wait.”
Spinning on her heel, she said, “Go back to work Dean.”
“I can talk.”
“You don’t want to talk,” she said as she stared at him. “There’s a difference. I’ll find someone who will want to talk.”
“That’s a bit harsh don’t you think?” Dean asked, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
Shrugging her shoulders, Olivia sighed. “Sometimes the truth is harsh. You’re my best friend and I wanted to share what happened last night with you.”
“Then let’s walk down to the coffeehouse on the corner. You can share everything with me.” Dean walked towards her and took her hand. “Seriously, let’s talk. You don’t ever ask for anything and the one time you do, I make you feel like shit.”
“You’re going to feel guilty for the rest of the day aren’t you?” Olivia asked, putting her head on Dean’s shoulder.
“Of course. Unlike you, I was raised Catholic in this lifetime. I’ll have enough guilt for everyone in the crew.”
“So dinner went well?”
Olivia nodded as they sat down at a small table for two. “It did after profusely apologizing for what Susan did and Ross’ recipes and advice were spot on.”
“Was he upset about what Susan did?”
Shaking her head, Olivia took a sip of her coffee. “No. He thought it was actually funny.”
“That’s good. She still doesn’t know why you were so upset with her.”
Leaning back in her seat, Olivia rolled her eyes. “I don’t even want to talk about that,” she said. “I’m still furious with her but know I need to let that go.”
“Let’s get back to last night. How did you staying come up?”
“We were just laying on the couch talking and then out of the blue he asks. I turned him down because I was thinking he meant in a sexual way, but he said he was going to be a perfect gentleman and that he wanted me to stay because he didn’t want me to go home.” Olivia leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table. As her mind replayed the whole night in her head, she smiled. She could remember perfectly clear how stunning Gray looked standing in the doorway of his bedroom wearing a heather gray shirt with a pair of navy and red plaid boxers. The shirt clung to his chest just right and made her briefly wish she had gone home to her own bed.
“Was he a perfect gentleman?” Dean asked, leaning forward as Olivia had.
Nodding, she reached for her coffee.
“Nothing happened? No heavy petting, making out, anything?”
“We made out,” Olivia answered. “We did a lot of that and then we reluctantly moved to the opposite side of the bed to cool down.”
“So it did get hot and heavy.”
“It got hot but when the heavy part came, he showed great restraint.”
“You almost gave in didn’t you?” Dean asked with a smile.
Olivia sheepishly grinned. “I wanted to too, but I knew I wasn’t ready for that.” As the thoughts of Gray kissing her and caressing her repeated in her head, she felt her skin getting hotter. Every part of her body had wanted him and had questioned why she was waiting, but she knew it was something she had to do.
“So what happened this morning?”
“Nothing,” Olivia answered. “He was gone when I woke up.”
“Gone?” Dean asked, straightening up in his chair. “What do you mean gone?”
“To work. I didn’t even hear his alarm go off.”
“He just left you there.” Dean just stared at her as she took a drink of her coffee.
“He left a note on his pillow.”
“A note. What did it say?”
Olivia reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out the envelope. Unfolding it, she handed it to Dean.
“I’m sorry I didn’t wake you,” Dean started to read. “You looked so at peace sleeping I thought I’d let you sleep in. Thank you again for dinner and for staying last night. I think you know I already had a great time. There’s a key on the coffee table to lock the door when you leave. Have a great day and see you tonight. Gray.” Folding the note, Dean slid it back across the table to Olivia with a smile. “Okay, he left a note. A good note.”
Smiling, she put the note back in her pocket. “Dean, I think I’m falling for him. I don’t want to say I’m in love with him, but I definitely like him and spending time with him.”
“I’m happy for you,” Dean said and meant it. “So when do we all get to hang out with him again?”
“I’m going to invite him to Simon’s grand opening. I get to meet his two best friends tonight.”
“Are you nervous?”
Olivia nodded. “Terrified. It’s not like our circle. There are so many of us and only two of them.”
Lighting the candles on the table, Ellie tossed the matches to Chris. “Why didn’t you meet her the other day?” she asked as they both walked into the kitchen.
“Told him I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
Ellie stared at Chris. “You’re not really good at being subtle are you?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he reached into the fridge and grabbed a beer. “Want one?”
“No. Why did you say that to him?”
“There are rules that men have and he’s broken them all.”
“Rules?” Ellie asked handing him a bottle opener. “Like what?”
“Like you don’t show up uninvited to the woman’s house the following night after your first freaking date.”
“It’s been a long time since Gray’s dated. He’s bound to make mistakes. We’ve got to let him. Regardless of what we think, he’s going to do what he wants to do.”
“And get himself in a committed relationship that may hurt him.”
“You’re just upset that he might not want to do every single retarded guy thing you want to do,” Ellie said as her doorbell rang.
“That too,” Chris replied. “I just don’t want him to be a baby’s daddy when he’s not ready.”
Sighing, Ellie shook her head. “Do not embarrass Gray. It’s the one thing he asked us not to do.”
“And it’s surely one thing we’ll manage to fuck up.”
“Don’t be nervous,” Gray said as he gave Olivia’s hand a slight squeeze.
She nodded and took a deep breath. “At least you got to meet all my friends drunk in a bar,” she said as they waited for someone to answer the door. “If anything had gone wrong, you could have made an easy getaway.”
“If you feel anything going wrong, just say the magic word.”
“What’s the magic word?” Olivia asked. Before Gray could tell her the answer, the door swung open and a brunette with sparkling green eyes and stylish short hair smiled at them.
“Come in,” she said, stepping away from the door.
“Ellie this is Olivia. Olivia this is Ellie.”
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Olivia said, shaking Ellie’s hand. “Thank you for inviting me over.”
“It’s nice to meet you too.” Ellie liked that Olivia’s handshake was strong and not a soft shake.
“This is for you,” Olivia said, holding out two decorative bags for Ellie.
“Thank you. You shouldn’t have.”
Smiling, Olivia felt Gray’s hand fall on the small of her back as a man walked into the room.
“You must be Olivia,” he said as he walked towards them.
“I am. You must be Chris.”
“That I am,” he said, shaking her hand. “Nice to finally meet you.”
“Same here,” she replied.
“Come on,” Ellie said, taking Olivia by the arm. “Let’s get you out of your jacket and get you a drink.” Leading her away from the two men, she then asked, “Gray, do you want a glass of wine or a beer?”
“Wine’s fine,” he answered, watching the two women disappear.
“She’s not a troll at all,” Chris said, throwing his elbow into Gray’s side.
“I am begging you to please be nice,” he said as they slowly walked towards the kitchen. “Regardless of what you or Ellie think, I like Olivia and I am the one dating her.”
“So you guys have made that commitment to be dating just each other?”
Sighing, Gray answered, “Not yet, but I hope that talk comes up sooner than later.” Stopping, he grabbed Chris’ arm and pulled him to a stop. “I know you both think I’m moving fast and I’m not even sure if it’s fast but it’s more than either of you have right now so don’t give me crap for at least trying.”
Chris held up his hands in surrender. “We’re meeting her aren’t we? Doesn’t that say a lot?”
“Yeah, but I don’t want you to say a lot to her until you see she’s awesome. Don’t make me kick your ass.”
“Are you single?” Olivia asked as she and Chris sat in Ellie’s dining room alone. Her nervousness had worn off but the moment Ellie and Gray had left the room, she felt all of her nerves stand on end.
“I am,” he answered. “You interested?”
Laughing nervously, Olivia smiled and shook her head. “No. I already have an interest. You know, Gray.” Chris nodded with a smile, but Olivia knew it wasn’t a genuine smile. She had got the very distinct and strong vibe that he didn’t like her at all. “I think you and my friend Heather would get along.”
“Why’s that?” he asked and finished the last bit of his beer.
Shrugging her shoulders, Olivia leaned forward and rested her arms on the table. “Obviously, I know her better than you but from the conversation at dinner, you guys seem like you have a lot of things in common and that you guys could get along.”
“Are you trying to set me up?”
“No.” Olivia wanted to glance towards the kitchen but she knew it would be a sign of weakness. “Just an observation on my part,” she said, feeling the pit of her stomach tighten. Taking a quiet deep breath, she hoped that Chris was just being protective of Gray like her friends had been of her.
“Well if things go well for you and Gray, then maybe I can meet Heather.”
“If?” she asked, feeling a defensive wall suddenly appearing. “I believe things are going quiet well with Gray.”
Chris nodded and leaned forward onto the table like Olivia. “You don’t feel like things are moving at warped speed?”
“No I don’t,” she answered, feeling the heat of anger at her toes. “It’s not like we were in Vegas and got hitched in a night of drunkenness.”
“But you guys did meet in a night of drunkenness.”
Olivia nodded. He did have a slight point, but she wasn’t going to say that to him.
“Can I say something that’s just between you and me?”
“The floor is yours and I will keep it between you and me.”
“It’s exactly like you guys were in Vegas and got hitched. You’ve been attached at the hip to each other since you’ve met. That doesn’t seem natural at all. That seems like things are moving at warped speed. Zero to sixty in less than two weeks and I don’t want to see Gray get hurt by you if this is something you’re not whole hearted about.”
“I really like her,” Ellie said as she placed four dessert plates on the counter. “She’s funny, smart, and just absolutely naturally gorgeous. I see why you’re moving at warped speed with her.”
“I am not moving at warped speed,” Gray replied, opening a bottle of wine. “I am moving at a comfortable pace for myself and hopefully a comfortable place for Olivia.”
“I don’t mean anything bad by that,” Ellie added. “I am just saying she seems like a great person and I don’t think you should let her get away. From what I know of her, which is not a lot, she seems like a nice girl.”
“So the Ellie vibes approve?” Gray asked as she handed him the dessert.
Ellie nodded. “No bad vibes so far. Not even an annoying habit I can pick up on. Did you know she put her cell phone on vibrate and left it on the bed? Who in the hell does that now a days?”
“Olivia,” Gray answered. “If she has it on, she tells me. It’s normally a business call she’s waiting for and afterwards it’s off or on silent. She always gives her attention one hundred percent when we are together.”
“Do you do the same?”
Gray nodded. “She’s the first one that has ever made me want to be a better person.”
“And you know this for sure after what ten days?”
“I knew that the moment I saw her.”
Ellie smiled and picked up the wine bottle and the plates. “Grab the dessert. I’m afraid for her with Chris being so many bottles into the night.”
As soon as Gray rounded the corner, he knew something was wrong. The air was so wrought with tension that you could shape it.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Olivia said, standing as Gray and Ellie entered the room.
“Is everything okay?” Ellie asked.
Olivia nodded. “Just need to use your restroom,” she answered quickly, brushing past her and Gray without looking at them.
“What did you say?” Gray asked Chris.
“Nothing,” he answered. “We were just sitting here talking.”
“Go,” Ellie said, putting the wine bottle down and taking the dessert from Gray. “Go check on her.” She looked at Chris and glared angrily at him. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“What?” Chris asked as Gray left the room.
Gray walked into Ellie’s spare bedroom and saw the light spilling from underneath the bathroom door. Sighing, he sat down on the edge of the bed to wait for Olivia. His mind had already thought of every bad thing Chris could have said to her. He was positive that if he hadn’t left the room when he had, he would have killed him. Hearing the door squeak open, he looked up and saw Olivia. “Is everything okay?” he asked, seeing her phone in her hand and knowing immediately that something had happened between her and Chris.
Olivia nodded and turned off the bathroom light. “Everything’s fine,” she said, stepping out of the bathroom and pulling the door shut behind her.
“Are you sure?” Gray asked as he stood.
Nodding, Olivia held out her phone for Gray. “I just got a voicemail and text from Dean. He and Kyle are engaged to be married.”
Taking the phone from her, he read the text that was on it. O! Kyle proposed! Call me! “Did you call him?”
“They’re celebrating and wanted us to join them.”
“Do you want to go?”
Olivia shook her head and took the phone from Gray. Tossing it on the bed, she looked at him. “This is our night with your friends,” she said. “I told them we could celebrate later in the week.”
“Did Chris say anything to upset you? I know he has had a few too many beers and he gets mouthy when he does.”
“He didn’t say anything,” she lied. What had been said between them wouldn’t be broken by her no matter how bad she wanted to let Gray know that Chris had made her feel as if she was just a speck on the earth. “We were just talking and I said he might like Heather.”
Gray knew she was lying to protect him and couldn’t force her to tell him what Chris had said to her. “If you do want to go celebrate with Dean, they’ll understand.”
Taking his hand, she kissed him quickly on the lips. “It’s not fair to you,” she said, “and it’s not fair to Ellie or Chris. Come on, they’re probably wondering where we are.”
“I don’t care if they are wondering where we are,” Gray said, pulling her closer. “I want do what’s fair for you,” he added and then kissed Olivia.
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is a rough draft and not the final version
Categories: The Dumbing Down of Love