Olivia slid onto the barstool next to Heather and stared at the volumes of coffee beans behind the bar. “What are you drinking?” she asked, glancing at the martini glass in front of her.
“A French vanilla bean martini,” she answered, sliding it towards Olivia. “Taste it, it’s to die for.”
“I thought this was a coffeehouse,” she replied and took a sip of the drink. “Wow. That is good.”
“I’m going to try the chocolate espresso one next,” Heather replied, taking her drink back from Olivia. “Simon said he wanted a coffeehouse but then while planning the drinks with Thom and Ross, he wanted to add the liquor in so not only can you get a café latte but you could if you desired get a café latte martini.”
“For once, I think Simon’s little business venture may turnout to be brilliant.”
“Definitely,” Olivia answered as the bartender placed a napkin in front of her.
“What will it be?”
“I’ll have what she’s having,” she answered.
“I thought Gray was coming with you,” Thom said as he dropped into the barstool on the other side of Heather.
“A work thing came up.”
“What does he do again?” he asked, reaching for Heather’s drink.
“He’s in advertising.”
“Creative or buying?”
“Creative, I think,” Olivia answered.
“That’s delicious,” Thom said. “What do you mean you think?”
“I know he’s in advertising and I think it’s creative.”
“How do you think it’s creative?” Heather asked. “You’ve practically been shoved up Gray’s ass since you met two weeks ago. You should know what his colon looks like.”
“I have not been shoved up his ass,” Olivia said as the bartender returned with her drink.
“I beg to differ,” Thom said after he ordered his drink. “How many days have you seen him since you met him?”
“And that includes the morning after,” Heather added.
“Seven, I think.”
“You’ve been shoved up his ass Sweetheart,” Thom replied. “It’s not a bad thing though. I mean with your drought you should cling to him like a flag to a mast.”
“Now, I’m a stage five clinger?” Olivia asked.
“I didn’t say that. I said you should cling to him. Gray seems like a good guy. I mean he might be gay since he hasn’t tried getting into your pants but other than that he seems like a good guy.”
“You guys haven’t had sex yet?” Heather asked with a raised brow.
Olivia downed half of her martini. “None of your business.”
Heather turned to Thom. “Oh, he might be gay. God that would suck.” Turning back to Olivia, she patted her on the arm. “If he is, I’ve been there. I can help with the emotional cleansing.”
“Not funny,” Olivia said, jerking her arm away from her. “If either of you must know it has been hot and heavy but we just haven’t crossed that line yet.”
“What the fuck are you waiting for?” Thom asked. “You like him. He likes you. You guys practically undressed each other with your eyes the first night you met. Get naked and swing off some chandeliers or something.”
Choking back a laugh and her drink, Olivia shook her head at Thom. “You don’t think that’s moving too fast?”
“Sweetheart, you’re not moving fast enough,” Thom answered, moving off of his barstool next to Heather and moving to the one next to her. “Life is too damn short to wonder about all the what ifs in the world. Look at Heather. She’s pined away for years over a gay man. Had she told Dean years ago that she was love in with him, he would have told her that it wasn’t something that was every going to happen and she could be in a happy relationship right now.”
“True story,” Heather said, spinning the barstool slowly around. “Don’t become me. I’m a train wreck.”
“Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from doing anything especially loving someone. The next time you see Gray, you grab him by the lapels, and make him weak in the knees for you. If you move too slowly, life is going to pass you by. Go a little over the speed limit. If it’s too much, life always has a way of giving you a speeding ticket to let you know that you need to slow your ass down.”
Olivia nodded and raised her martini glass to her two friends. “No fear,” she said.
“No fear,” they repeated, “and to more martinis.”
Gray paced back and forth on the sidewalk in front of Lattes & Martinis. Collapsing onto the wrought iron bench, he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs. Taking a deep breath, he let out a sigh as he heard Simon’s voice on the inside thanking everyone for coming to the grand opening. Lowering his head, he stared down at the sidewalk between his feet. Though he had heard every bit of Emma’s advice, he completely ignored it, but now as he sat outside of Simon’s new business venture, Gray could hear his sister’s voice in the back of head urging him to listen to her.
“Gray?” a voice asked to his right.
Looking up, he saw Zane standing near the entrance. “It’s me.”
“Why are you sitting out here? You should be celebrating with us inside.”
Shaking his head, Gray looked away. “I don’t think Olivia wants me here.”
“Are you insane?” he asked and sat down on the bench next to him. “Do you honestly think that she doesn’t want you here?”
Staring out across the sidewalk, Gray sighed. “It’s what she said a few days ago in my office Zane.”
“You’re an idiot,” Zane said, stretching his legs out in front of him. “There’s nothing more in this world that would make Olivia happier than to see you. I don’t care what she said to you in your office. If she knew you were out here right now, she’d be sitting here telling you all this.”
“Please don’t tell her I am here. She asked for three days, I don’t want her to think I can’t handle not seeing her for three days.”
“Well it’s obvious you can’t since you’re here,” Zane said, leaning forward and shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket, “and that’s quite all right.” Closing his eyes briefly, he opened them and knew what he had to say was the final stake in his own heart. “I could let you sit out here and wallow in your self misery, but I’d be stabbing Olivia in the back. I think everyone in our circle knows I have carried a torch for her for years, but I’ve never once had the balls to own up to it. Olivia’s lucky she’s met you. You’ve taken her out of our dysfunctional circle.”
“Your circle is not dysfunctional.”
“Then you really don’t know our circle and I’m sure we don’t even know our circle that well, but Olivia is the only one in the circle not pining away for someone else in the circle. Heather was in love with Dean. Simon’s in love with Heather. Susan’s in love with Ross. Ross is in love with Thom. Thom’s in love with Susan, and I’m in love with Olivia. I’m sure at one point Dean was in love someone but hell it’s hard to keep track of it all. We are a twisted little circle of unrequited love and as much as I would love for Olivia to look at me the way she looks at you, I realize it’s never going to happen.”
“Why are you telling me all of this?” Gray asked, looking over his shoulder at Zane.
“You make her smile like a beacon in the night. I saw it the moment she introduced me to you. Because despite what Olivia said in your office, she didn’t mean any of it. She believed it was something you wanted or needed to hear. She gets in her own way at times. Just go inside and tell her she thinks too much.” Standing, he looked down at Gray. “Despite what anyone may think of the speed of your relationship, the only two opinions that matter are yours and Olivia’s. So you may not know every detail about each other. All that can be learned in minutes, hours, days, and so on. You also don’t need to know each other a lifetime to figure out you got somoene special sitting next to you. I’m sure you both figured that out already.” Zane moved to the entrance and opened the door. “Guy to guy and friend to friend, don’t let that something special slip away because you both listen to friends who are fools.”
Gray watched as Zane disappeared into the bar. As the door slowly closed behind him, he stood and walked away from Lattes & Martinis.
“Who were you talking to?” Olivia asked as Zane stepped up to her.
“Huh?” he said, glancing back at the door and hoping to see Gray walk in.
“At the door,” she said. “You were standing there with the door open and talking to see someone.”
“No one,” he answered, shrugging off his jacket.
“Well obviously it was someone, unless you were talking to yourself.”
“It was no one important Olivia. Just someone asking for directions.”
Sighing, Olivia dropped the subject but also knew inside that Zane was lying to her. “Well, I’m glad you’re here,” she said, glancing around him and towards the door. “I need someone to deflect the Gray questions for me.”
“They’ve been haggling you?”
Shrugging her shoulders slightly, Olivia said, “I guess you could call it that, but I’ve just told them he’s working late. You know me, I feel bad telling them lies.”
“He could be working late so it’s not a lie.”
“It’s not the truth either and that’s what bothers me.”
Buttoning her jacket, Olivia sat up in the cab. She handed the driver her money and let him keep the change. He hadn’t asked her a million questions or wanted small talk like most cab drivers do. He had asked her where she was heading and then was content to let her sit in the back seat of the cab and watch the city pass by her as they drove silently away from Simon’s bar. Shutting the door to the cab with a sigh, she stared up at the night sky but could only make out a few stars due to the haze of the city. Her phone rang loudly in her pocket. Answering it, she spun slowly on her heel and walked over to the green trash bin sitting on the curb. “The cab just dropped me off,” she said, dragging the trash bin behind her. “D, you have to give me time to actually get out of the cab first.” Putting the trash bin in its place, Olivia continued up the sidewalk to her front porch. “Go finish drinking all of Simon’s free vodka for me. Yes, I promise not to throw up in my sleep.” A breeze carried a scent to Olivia’s nose that made her weak in the knees. Looking up, she saw Gray sitting on her steps. “Go have fun. You can tell me all about the insanity tomorrow. Love you too.” Lowering her phone, she just stared at him. “I’m not really drunk,” she said nervously. “I kind of feigned drunk so I could leave the party.”
“I’m glad you did,” Gray said, “it’s getting kind of chilly out here.”
“How long have you been here?”
“For a while,” Gray said as he stood. “Before you say or do anything, please let me say my piece. I know you said to give you three days, but I never got to say anything to you the other day.”
Nodding, Olivia walked closer to Gray. “Do you want to talk inside?”
Shaking his head, Gray stepped aside to let her by. “Out here’s fine,” he said.
Olivia nodded as a pit opened in her stomach. “Okay,” she said, shoving her keys into the door. Turning on her heel, she looked at Gray.
“I know Chris said something to you, but what was said I don’t know. I don’t know if you’re trying to protect me from something he said or if you’re protecting yourself,” Gray said as he took his hands out of his pocket. “And right now, that doesn’t matter at all. I’ll admit I don’t even know that much about you. I don’t know if you like to dance or if you like brussels sprouts, and though I’m sure that ninety-five percent of the population does hate Brussels sprouts that you might be the five percent that doesn’t because you’re great like that.” Taking a deep breath, he stared at Olivia and continued, “I don’t know if you like to travel, if you like to garden, or even if you like animals, but honestly none of that really matters because I want to find out. I hope to find out all about you. I want to find out all about you. I don’t care if it happens over night, in a matter of weeks, or years. All I know is that I want to know everything about you. When I think of you, I find myself smiling and when I’m with you there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. You make me happy to be alive and I know that sounds absurd because we don’t know each other that well or for that long, but I don’t care if it all sounds crazy. If whatever we have moves too fast or too slow, I want you to tell me. I don’t care what my friends or your friends think of us. All I care about is what you think because I’m game for whatever is that you want.”
Olivia walked down and stood on the step that let her see eye to eye with Gray. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she stared into his green eyes. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” Gray answered, swallowing his fear.
“We’ve had this discussion before but are you sure you’re not gay?” she asked, still staring into his eyes. “I don’t think you are of course, but Thom seems to think you are since from his limited observations you’ve never really tried to get into my pants.”
Feeling a sheepish grin crawl across his face, Gray kept his eyes locked onto Olivia’s and absent-mindedly scratched at the back of his head. “Trust me, it’s been very hard to remain a true gentleman around you at times. Especially when I am having very impure thoughts of doing nothing more than ripping your pants off of you.”
Putting her forehead against Gray’s, Olivia felt herself blushing. “How about we go inside and get in each other’s pants?”
“When you put it that way, how can I resist?” he asked, pulling his forehead away from hers and kissing it.
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is a rough draft and not the final version