“I guess I could hang around to say goodbye to her,” she said with a sigh as she got to her feet.
“What about your sandwich?” he asked, gesturing to the home cooked meal that he’d slaved over for her.
“I’m afraid that I can’t handle eating something that delicious, Christofer,” she said with a sigh of regret, which somewhat appeased him. “It would wreck me for all future sandwiches.”
That was true, he had to admit. He was just about to offer to make her a bowl of cereal when she took him by surprise and did the one thing that he’d truly never expected. She walked over to him and….
She hugged him.
“Thank you for everything that you did for me last night,” she said softly, pulling away only to pause long enough to press a kiss against his cheek. Then she was moving away from him before he could stop her or at the very least, wrap his arms around her and savor the warmth that she was offering him.
“You’re welcome,” he said softly, not sure what to make of this woman. One thing was for damn sure, she wasn’t like any other woman that he’d ever met.
And he wasn’t ready to let her go.
“May I help you?” Cloe asked, pausing at the top of the stairs even as she made a backup plan just in case the large, grumpy man in front of her decided to play caveman with her luggage again.
“That depends,” Christofer drawled, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned back against the wall and momentarily drew her attention to the bulging muscles flexing beneath the tight gray tee shirt that he wore.
“On?” she found herself asking as she forced herself to look up and focus on the stubborn man that refused to let her quit.
“On where you’re going,” he said, gesturing to her luggage with a slight nod.
“Well first, I thought I’d go to the diner and get a bite to eat before I pass out. Then I’m going to head over to the Senior Center and say goodbye to Marta. After that I thought I’d head south for a while and see where life takes me,” she said, picking up her luggage and moving to take a step down the stairs when, surprise, surprise, he blocked her.
“I made you lunch,” he said accusingly as he pushed away from the wall and blocked her path.
“I know and it was sweet, really, but I really don’t think that I could handle something that delicious,” she said with a heartfelt sigh even as she did her best to bite back a smile.
It really had been a sweet gesture even if it had grossed her out to an unbelievable degree. She’d never in her life seen so much mayonnaise and pepper in one sandwich before. It had oozed out of the sandwich, reminding her of pus and that had pretty much killed any cravings for sandwiches for a while.
“I tell you what,” Christofer said, reaching over and gently removing the bags from her hands and the one on her shoulder, “let me buy you lunch and we can talk.”
“I’m not staying, Christofer,” she sighed, moving to pick her bags up, but instead found him taking both of her hands in his and giving them a gentle tug that had her reluctantly following him down the stairs.
“And we can discuss that while we eat,” he said, giving her a hopeful smile that had her narrowing her eyes on him.
“And if I decide to leave afterwards?” she asked, eying him suspiciously.
“Then you can leave,” he said with that damn smile that did funny things to her. “No worries.”
“Uh huh,” she said, letting him lead her towards the front door. “And why don’t I believe you?”
“Because you’re paranoid?” he offered with a wink as he released her right hand and grabbed his sweatshirt off the coatrack.
“Fine,” she said, pursing her lips up in thought as he released her other hand so that he could pull on the sweatshirt, “I’ll have lunch with you, but on one condition.”
“And what’s that?” he asked, starting to pull his sweatshirt on.
“That you leave the sweatshirt home,” she said, knowing damn well that he didn’t leave the house without his sweatshirt, pretty much guaranteeing that she would never have to see him again.
“H-h-how m-many?” the waitress finally managed to ask after a full minute and a half of blatantly staring at Christofer, who was looking decidedly uncomfortable and making her feel kind of bad.
She still couldn’t believe that he’d agreed to her terms. He hated this kind of attention and honestly, if she’d known that he was going to say yes, she never would have made the request in the first place. Instead of doing what she’d expected, he’d gone completely still, staring down at the sweatshirt in his hands, his life support, before reluctantly nodding and returning the sweatshirt to the hook.
“We don’t have to do-” she started to say, giving him the escape that he clearly needed.
“Two,” he said tightly, cutting her off.
“O-okay,” the waitress said, wide-eyed stare still fixed on Christofer as she blindly reached out and grabbed a handful of menus. “Right this way,” the waitress said numbly, reluctantly turning around so that she could show them to a booth.
Looking decidedly uncomfortable, Christofer gestured for her to walk ahead of him. She opened her mouth to once again offer him an escape, but with a resigned sigh, shook her head and followed the waitress. He was a grown man and if he wanted to put himself through this hell then that was his choice. Who knows, maybe the whole thing would piss him off enough that he’d willingly let her leave without an argument, she hoped as every conversation in the small diner stopped and every head turned to gawk in Christopher’s direction.
She’d be on the road within the hour since she doubted that he’d be able to last more than ten minutes before he ended up making a run for it.
“I’ll give you a few minutes to decide,” the waitress said hollowly, her eyes never leaving him as she slowly backed away from the table.
Christofer did his best to ignore her and the rest of the patrons who were now openly staring at them and focused on the woman sitting across from him. Other than throwing the gawking customers a curious look, Cloe didn’t seem to care one way or the other about their audience.
“What’s good here?” she asked, picking up her menu and turning her attention to ordering food, the rest of the customers clearly forgotten.
Hell, he wished that he could forget them, but the eerie silence that had taken over the small diner made it impossible. He could hear every startled breath taken, every heartbeat racing with excitement, and every subtle shift on the vinyl covered seats as they did their best to get a better view. When the hushed whispers broke through the silence he wasn’t sure if he should feel relieved or pissed.